Chapter 19: Conquering The Bridge
“Hang in there, Shuckle!” Lillie called out. “Just a little more!”
“Shuuckkkklllleeee!” was the response to her words of encouragement as the Mold Pokémon clung to a log, his appendages coiled around the hefty hardwood as it spun in the air. It was shrouded in the cerulean hue of psychic energy as Bill’s Kadabra, Bard, moved his hand in a circle and the log followed the motions.
It was part of his training, having finally learned how to use Wrap by maintaining his grasp on the log. Not that Bard was turning it that fast to begin with, but the fact that it was moving meant that he needed a stronger grip to hold onto it than Constrict. Though in the event he was going to fall, they did have some soft materials laid out beneath him.
Since Lillie could only bring three pokémon into the battle against the former Gym Trainer to conquer Nugget Bridge in a few days, she had thought long and hard about who her choices would be. The fact that a Gyarados was their opponent basically meant all of her pokémon were pretty much at a disadvantage due to how small they were and how well-trained it most likely was, given who raised it.
But Shuckle was easily the most durable of all her pokémon. He had weathered a hit from Bewear and remained conscious, plus he knew Protect. With his help, they could come up with some way to win. Hence why he was her first choice.
“You’ll be able to rest after this,” Lillie promised. “I’ll give you as many sour pokéblocks as you want too, so just hold on for a little longer, okay?”
An elongated sound of affirmation escaped as he continued spinning while Lillie turned her attention to the next of her choices—Bellamy. Her Flower Pokémon was currently holding a small cup with his vines and drinking water from it, taking a break from his own training while watching Viri watering her lovely berry trees. He would also be a lynchpin in her plans.
“Bellamy, are you ready to keep going?” Lillie called out to her Flower Pokémon. The shy Bellsprout bobbed his bell before setting down the cup and rising onto his tiny roots. “Okay, let’s go with Sunny Day again!”
“Sprouuttttt—” His beady eyes furrowed in concentration as he raised his leafy appendages towards the sky. He had been diligent in trying to learn how to use the technique from Viri, and as proof of his hard work pale white sparkles of light rose from his frame and gathered up into the air, clumping together into a bright and shining sphere like a small sun.
“Now, use Growth!” Lillie ordered. The miniature star shone down upon him, and sparkling beads of light swaddled his body until it was shining like morning dew. Lillie clapped before turning to Viri, who gave a nod to show she was ready. “Good job! Now show me your moves!”
Bellamy then proceeded to move while under the influence of Chlorophyll, showcasing how much faster he was as he bounced around when Viri sent small leaves woven of energy, Razor Leaf, flying towards him. His lithe and slender frame nimbly avoided them all, leaving him to wriggle in pride at the improvement.
“Don’t get too complacent, Bellamy,” Lillie warned as the leaf of the Viri’s tail began to shift between hues with an almost kaleidoscopic effect. “Heads up!”
On cue, the Verdant Pokémon released the shimmering, whirling projectiles like miniature saws toward the Flower Pokémon. He attempted to dodge them, only for them to curve around after passing him by before closing in. He then began to flail his leafy appendages around as he ran in a circle while they gave chase. “Sprout, sprout, sprout!”
“Magical Leaf won’t stop until it hits,” Lillie said. “Try hitting them instead with Acid Spray.”
Bellamy turned around, his tiny roots sliding around the dirt before he reared back and fired purple globs of acid at them. They managed to catch three of the four of them, leaving one heading towards him. He panicked and sent his vines lashing out at the ground, launching him into the air and thus leaving him aerial as the remaining whirling leaf curved towards him until he managed to get a final Acid glob out and hit it…
Right as the artificial sun winked out. The period of hyperactivity was replaced with lethargy, born from how unfamiliar it was to him. Thus, exhausted while in the middle of the air, he could only let out a cry as he was left plummeting to the ground. “Sprouuuuuuu—”
His cries were cut short when the cerulean veil of psychic power shrouded him. He levitated slowly to the ground where Shuckle had been set down, his elongated head slowly turning in spirals while still wrapped around the log sitting upright. It was safe to say he’d learned Wrap at this point as Lillie came over and checked on them both.
“…Good job, both of you,” she said after making sure neither were injured. A bit tired, scared, and dizzy, but unharmed. As they got their bearings again after being sent for a loop, she presented them with their treats. “We’ll still need more work before we can say you’ve mastered your moves and abilities, but it’s safe to say we might have a shot of beating Gyarados if everything goes well.”
Bellamy’s expression turned doubtful as he carefully held a pokéblock between the tips of his leaves. His being frightful was natural given his disposition. But she saw he was probably the one who had the most potential to shine if everything went right because of how helpful he was.
She gently brushed him on his bell. “I have faith in you, Bellamy. Just do your best and I’ll be proud, no matter what.”
He nodded, beady eyes gaining some measure of bravery in the hopes of living up to her encouragement. “Sp-Sprout.”
She smiled at him and left the two of them to get some rest before heading to check on her third and final choice. Sliding down the hillside that housed the trees under Viri’s care, she came to a stop at the base of the incline and spotted Koko bouncing up and down on the surface of one side of the pond that had been frozen along with Glacian. “Koko, how’s practice going?”
The Alolan Vulpix whirled around and then darted over to her trainer. Her icy blue paws nestled against Lillie’s legs as she stared up with her crystalline eyes and barked excitedly while wagging her tail. “Pix! Pix!”
“Okay, I’ll come to look.” Lillie obliged her by picking her up and then heading over to see that the layer of ice was thicker than when she first managed to perform Icy Wind. That meant she had used it at least twice, back-to-back. It was praiseworthy progress and the bundle of white fur wriggled as Lillie brushed her affectionately in the process of doing so. “Good job. I’m so proud of you!”
Their playing came to a standstill as the sound of a distant, semi-muffled explosion came from the side of the building and out of view. “Looks like he’s woken up from his nap and started practicing again, huh?”
“Pix.” Koko nodded before the pair ventured over towards the edge of the house and peered around the corner to spot the Fairy Pokémon already hard at work after his brief nap.
“Snnnnubb…” Snubbull growled and his pink fur bristled as he stared down what was left of a log that was nearly as tall as her several meters away. It had been set up as a training post for him to practice Fire Fang on and he had been nothing if not diligent on that part. The main body was blackened, charred bark and splinters resting around it as smoke rose from places where there was a dull, orange glow.
Flames began to lick at the corners of his mouth as he snarled, embers drifting off the side before he took off into a sprint towards the log. Not a direct line, but rather zigzagging as though avoiding invisible attacks while the flames grew more intense to where his entire mouth seemed encased in flames. Then, once he was within lunging distance, the flames seemed to expand from his mouth and push out a mold of fangs that were slightly larger than his own as they crashed together against the bulk of the log’s body. “BULLL!!”
The explosion knocked loose charred splinters and gouged out pieces of it as the entire thing trembled from the force of it. Snubbull himself emerged from the resulting smoke with his fur covered in patches of soot from the burnt bits. Panting, he wobbled back towards his starting point and took deep breaths to ready himself to try it again.
He’s going to need a bath before bedtime, Lillie thought to herself as she watched him. Snubbull had been her third choice for the match, partly to synergize with her other two choices but also because of his own insistence. He was so prideful that even the thought of facing down Gyarados wasn’t enough to shake him.
Even so, there wasn’t enough time for him to learn Thunder Fang from Arks and he was insistent that he used Fire Fang. She had conferred with Professor Kukui on the subject of refining his favorite technique and he had suggested that instead of forming it solely around his own fangs, he should visualize the fangs that he wants them to become. That seemed to be having an effect given the results, but part of that could also be how much he’d been throwing himself into his training.
Lillie looked down to Koko and smiled. “I guess we should get back to our own training, huh?”
The Fox Pokémon yipped. They still had three days of training left. It would have to be enough for them to conquer the bridge.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie and her pokémon trained. And trained. And trained some more.
Then the day of the match approached. The neophyte trainer returned to the Nugget Bridge and found herself standing at the end of the bridge where the former Gym Trainer stood with an expectant grin on his face. There was an audience as the other bridge trainers and spectators had gathered to watch from just beyond the bridgehead, the flower-strewn field nearby serving as the seat for the small crowd.
I didn’t think there’d be so many people… Lillie found it a little awkward having so many eyes on her even as she tried to keep her focus on her opponent. At least with Lt. Surge only her mother and Astra and her grandfather had been there to see her defeat. I hope I don’t embarrass myself.
“Don’t focus on the crowd,” Azuria said, placing a hand on Lillie’s shoulder as she came to a stop next to her. It seemed that she’d decided to come along for moral support. Lillie wouldn’t be surprised if she managed to pick up from her body posture just how nervous she was. “Instead, focus on the ones cheering for you to have a good match.”
Lillie followed her gaze back to where Lilligant and Koko were off to the side with Rotom, since they weren’t participating this time. The trio cheered her on in their own way and encouraged her. She felt her lips forming into a soft smile as she placed a hand on her chest and took a deep breath, settling her nerves as the Coordinator went to join them. “Right. We can do this.”
The brown-haired man with glasses who had given her the card at the start of the gauntlet took to the center of the field. It seemed he would be acting as the referee for the battle. His voice came in loud and clear as he declared the start of the match. “Then let the final battle of the Nugget Bridge Gauntlet begin!”
“It’s your time to shine, Shuckle!” Lillie said as she tossed his ball out and the Mold Pokémon emerged on her side of the field.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a match, so let’s make it a good one!” Kado said in an enthusiastic tone as he enlarged his partner’s ball before tossing it up into the air. “Gyarados, let’s get started!”
The ball broke open, light spilling out and swelling to comparatively massive size as the details filled in once the conversion was done. The long, serpentine body of the Atrocious Pokémon landed on the Gym Trainer’s side of the field with its blue scales reflecting the sheen of the morning light off its back, while its yellow underbelly cast a shadow that stretched over Shuckle’s tiny frame. Then those piercing red eyes fixed onto his beady black ones and it let out a roar.
Gyarados used Intimidate!
Shuckle promptly (and understandably) withdrew into his shell.
“I-It’ll be okay, Shuckle!” Lillie tried to reassure him. “Just do like we practiced!”
“Sorry, but the match has started, we’re not going to hold back just because he’s holed up in his shell,” Kado said. “Gyarados, Water Gun!”
“Shuckle, it’s coming!” Lillie shouted as the cheeks of the Atrocious Pokémon swelled until they were bulging. “Protect yourself!”
If there was one thing that Shuckle didn’t really a prompt on, it was protecting himself. No sooner than what came from the Gyarados mouth was a lancing stream of water did it hit a solidified wall of air that cracked beneath the force of the impact. But it managed to hold against the attack long enough to leave the water scattered before the barrier itself shattered.
“Whew.” Lillie let out a breath of relief as Shuckle stuck his head out of one of the holes to reveal he was okay. “Now, Sticky Web!”
His tiny cheeks swelled as he spat out a glob of bug glue. It expanded into a web towards the massive Gyarados that promptly avoided it with contemptuous ease using its serpentine body. The webbing then smacked into the bridge behind it, where it remained.
“Sorry, but he isn’t so slow something like that could hit it,” he said. “And that weak Protect won’t stand up to an attack that has our full power behind it. Close the distance and use Bite, Gyarados!”
The Atrocious Pokémon’s fangs grew luminous and then multiplied. Rather than four fangs, there were instead glowing teeth running along the length of its upper and lower lips. Then it did as told by using the muscles beneath its scales to not slither but lunge at the tiny prey.
“Withdraw!” Lillie called out as Shuckle naturally tucked his head back into his shell out of fear. The shell then grew luminous right as the similarly hued fangs came crashing down upon him. Then Gyarados reared back, leaving Shuckle’s shell stuck between the fangs that were clenching like they were trying to bite into Rock Candy. “Now, Wrap!”
To the surprise of the Gyarados, Shuckle’s appendages burst from four of the holes and stretched so they could coil around its head in similar manner to a muzzle, leaving it unable to let go. The moment of confusion as it shook its head to try and get him to let go turned to anger when it was clear that Shuckle wouldn’t budge. It began to clamp down its grip tighter on the shell. “Grysshaa!!”
“It’ll be okay,” Lillie called out to Shuckle as his concerned cries emerged from the confines of the shell even as he held firm. That shell was hard enough to take a hit from Bewear without using Withdraw back when they’d first met. Strengthening his naturally high defense meant that it wouldn’t crack under the pressure, and as long as he held on it couldn’t toss him away—locking down one of its strongest weapons.
Now it was time to lock down the other advantage it had. “Now, use Sticky Web below!”
Shuckle’s head emerged from the rear hole, lips tinged by the hue of his Berry Juice that he’d probably drank after getting bitten—he probably hadn’t taken nearly enough damage to warrant it, but such was his nature. His tiny cheeks swelled before spitting out another glob of natural adhesive, only this time it aimed straight at the base of the bridge where Gyarados was touching it. There was a squishy sound as the Atrocious Pokémon pressed into it further inadvertently, thus leaving it stuck as it tried wrestling itself free.
“So that’s your gimmick,’” Kado said as the realization dawned. It brought a smile to his face. “Clever, but we’re not out of the fight yet. Water Gun!”
Gyarados’ extra fangs dissipated as its cheeks began to swell again, leaving Shuckle to crane its head back in concern and meet with the red, narrow eyes of the Atrocious Pokémon. Then he promptly tucked his head back into his shell as the Gyarados let loose the attack. One second there were sharp streamlets of water going around the shell.
Then next Shuckle was launched like a cannonball and slammed into the surface of the bridge. His shell bounced off the hard surface once, four long limbs trailing after him before their natural adhesiveness tethered him, and he promptly snapped back down. His head emerged from the top-most orifice in the shell, swaying after being thrown for a loop. “Shuuuccckllllee….”
“Don’t let up, Shuckle!” Lillie called out, leaving the Mold Pokémon to shake his head and regain his senses. “Stick with the plan and keep going!”
Shuckle proceeded to do just that as he took aim at the Atrocious Pokémon that was struggling to pull itself free of the gob of bug glue on the right side of its body, where its underbelly met the bridge. He then reinforced it by firing yet another glob on the opposite side, the left side it was leaning on to try and get free. It smushed into it and glued him there further.
“GYASSHHAAA!!” Gyarados screeched in fury before reeling around towards Shuckle in time for another Sticky Web to come flying towards it, this time expanding from the air resistance and covering a portion of its upper body. In retaliation, its cheeks swelled.
“Shuckle, Protect!” Lillie ordered. The protective wall went up just in time to meet with the streaming blast of the Water Gun that smashed into hard enough this time to shatter it whole, leaving the blunted hit to reach Shuckle. But he weathered the assault and returned fire with yet another Sticky Web, coating the Atrocious Pokémon with another layer on the center and causing it to start struggling more violently. “Just a little more!”
“Gyarados, calm down!” Kado commanded. “If you get angry and start thrashing around, you’ll only send up stuck further until you can’t move. Temper your rage and then wait for your moment!”
It was as though the atmosphere shifted in a single moment. The Gyarados quelled its furious motions and went stock still as its eyes focused on Shuckle as the Mold Pokémon’s cheeks swelled once more. Then it clicked. “Shuckle, wait—”
Gyarados used Dragon Rage!
No sooner than the Sticky Web came flying outwards did its maw opened wide. Then, in a manner that was too akin to how Koko would charge a Moonblast, but much faster, what formed from its maw was a reddish-orange sphere. The sphere was launched from Gyarados and cut through the air towards Shuckle who hastily attempted to weave his Protect once more to act as a bulwark against the onrushing attack. The two met and the air howled as the half-formed shield shattered under the concentrated essence of a dragon’s rage—
—and Shuckle was swallowed by the flash of red and orange as the force contained spilled out with a shockwave that knocked him loose and sent him flying. There was a loud conk as his shell hit the bridge’s surface, spinning in place upside down while his limbs and head were splayed out.
He was out cold.
“Shuckle is unable to battle!” declared the referee after observing his supine form. “Challenger, choose your next pokémon.”
We didn’t manage to get enough of the Sticky Web on it to stop it completely, but that should at least slow it down, Lillie reasoned as she recalled Shuckle back into his ball. Then she pulled out her second choice. “Your turn, Bellamy!”
The Flower Pokémon emerged onto the field and took stock of the situation, somewhat nervously fidgeting as the Gyarados glared at it, and then turned back to his trainer. “S-Sprout?”
“We have a little time while he’s still stuck!” she encouraged him. Then the referee announced they could begin, so she gave her order. “Use Sunny Day!”
Bellamy raised his leaves to the sky and began to gather energy into a sphere above him. Once it was a fairly modest size, he launched it further up transforming it into a miniature star. It shone down upon the battlefield and radiated strong sunlight.
Bellamy used Sunny Day! The sunlight turned harsh!
“Oh, that might be a problem,” Kado admitted. “Gyarados, use Dragon Rage!”
Obeying orders, the Atrocious Pokémon spat out another orb of concentrated rage at the Flower Pokémon. However, the moment it left its mouth, Bellamy was on the move. Shrouded in the viridian veil of Chlorophyll his tiny, root-like legs moved surprisingly fast and carried him out of the range of the blast as it hit the surface of the bridge and the shockwave made it tremble a little.
“Good job!” Lillie praised him. “Now, stay at a distance where you can dodge if it tries that again and start using Growth!”
“Sprout!” Bellamy bobbed his bell and then raised his leaves to the artificial sun, drinking up the light. Unlike when they fought the Bronzor and Geodude, they knew that it would be a lot faster when Sunny Day was in effect and it would be twice as effective if he had enough time. Strong enough to even take out a Gyarados.
Unfortunately, they would have the time to get that strong as Kado turned his attention to his Gyarados that was struggling to get free, and commanded, “Use Ice Fang on webbing holding you down and then close the distance to attack!”
Ice crackled as dense, glistening frost encroached over its lips and formed a jutting maw composed of two rows of razor-sharp icicles as it craned its head towards the base where it was stuck and then plowed them into the adhesive. The ice froze the globs of bug glue keeping it pinned down, leaving the Atrocious Pokémon to break free of its binding. It then lunged for Bellamy as sparkles danced off his frame from the Growth-in-progress.
“Bellamy, go up!” Lillie shouted as she saw the ice-laden maw closing in on him like a rushing train while he seemed stuck in place like a Stantler caught in headlights. Thankfully, he roused at her voice and shot his vines at the ground, using them to send him into the air as the maw of ice slammed shut where he’d been and sent shards spraying everywhere.
Bellamy winced as some of the shards slammed into him as he retracted and then launched his vines downwards again to land behind the Gyarados some distance away. It naturally reared upwards to turn and then attack him, but it began to strain as the webbing that had been layered on its underbelly caught the surface of the bridge. Bellamy took the chance to go on the offense, dredging up some of his natural gastric juices and suddenly spitting out a Growth-imbued Acid Spray towards the Gyarados. “Sprout!
A Critical Hit!
“GYASSHHAAA!!” Gyarados screeched as the moment it hit the scales covering its backside, the caustic fluids began to froth. It strained harder against the thin layer until the bond gave way under his muscles, right as another Acid Spray from the Flower Pokémon splashed against its massive body and left it in even more infuriating pain. It whirled around onto Bellamy as the Flower Pokémon began to ready another Acid Spray and fired a Dragon Rage in retaliation.
In the midst of launching another attack, Bellamy wasn’t prepared to move as the reddish-orange sphere of draconic rage closed the distance—
—and ruptured, consuming the Flower Pokémon as Bellamy’s short cry of pain was drowned out by the violent release of the condensed fury. Smoke billowed up from where the attack had landed, obscuring Lillie’s pokémon until a breeze thinned it out and revealed his prone form as tendrils of smoke wafted off of him.
“Bellsprout is unable to battle!” the referee declared after a moment. “Challenger, choose your final pokémon.”
Lillie returned Bellamy into his ball before pressing it against her forehead and whispering, “Thank you, Bellamy.”
He had done a marvelous job considering that they hadn’t managed to completely pin down the Gyarados. Just from the way it was wheezing and tremors ran along its body she could tell he managed to do a lot of damage thanks to Shuckle’s webbing holding it down long enough for him to strengthen himself a little. And the sunlight was still harsh so Gyarados’ Water Gun would be hampered for a little while longer.
We still have a chance, Lillie believed with all her heart as she enlarged the ball of her final choice and tossed it out. “It’s all up to you now, Snubbull!”
The Fairy Pokémon emerged onto the field, landing on his hind legs. He met the fierce gaze of the Atrocious Pokémon without flinching or fear. Instead, he fell on all fours and barked in defiance.
Gyarados snarled in response.
Then the referee announced, “Let the final match begin!”
Snubbull took off running towards the comparatively massive pokémon that had taken down two of his peers without fear or even waiting for Lillie’s command.
His weapons were his fangs. He couldn’t use those without getting closer to his enemy. Even if it put him directly in threat range of the Gyarados, all he could do was approach the enemy and attempt to tear it apart regardless of what kind of pokémon it was.
Likewise, in the presence of an approaching enemy, Gyarados attempted to defeat it with the same method it had done the others. It let loose the reddish-orange sphere that was its rage made manifest and sent it flying towards Snubbull. The resulting explosion swept up his tiny body entirely…
Snubbull was unaffected!
Only for Snubbull to emerge from the smoke unperturbed while flames began to crawl from between his lips with a fiendish vigor until they completely shrouded his maw. Unhindered by the ineffectiveness of his attack, the Fairy Pokémon quickly closed the distance until Gyarados was within lunging range. Then he pounced with a roar. “SNUBBULLL!!”
The temperature spiked as flames that had been caged were unleashed. They shot out and took the form of a pair of fangs that were almost twice as large as Snubbull. Then he snapped his maw together and the Fire Fang slammed down upon the surprised Gyarados.
I didn’t think it’d be that strong, Lillie thought as the sudden flare of intense heat enshrouded the pair with such intensity that she had to avert her eyes while the sound of the explosion was deafening. Snubbull had been practicing with his Fire Fang, specifically on concentrating the intensity of the flames. But the addition of Sunny Day had intensified them a lot more as the artificial sun slowly faded as the last of its energy was expended.
That was when the roar of the Atrocious Pokémon shook the air before a pink blur was launched from the dissipating smoke and landed on the surface of the bridge near Lillie, having been knocked away. Lillie saw the Fairy Pokémon was slow to get back onto his feet and asked, “Are you okay?”
He barked in confirmation and turned his attention back to the Gyarados, whose underbelly sported a large scorch mark that was spread out over a large section as it writhed in place from pain. It had done a lot of damage, no doubt due to Gyarados being caught by surprise and Sunny Day. Along with its other injuries, it didn’t look like it could take another hit and remain standing.
But with Sunny Day down now, Gyarados can use his Water Gun again, she realized. Snubbull could only attack any enemy that was in front of him. If Gyarados abused the fact that he had a ranged option, then it could simply wear him out. Then Shuckle and Bellamy’s sacrifices would be for nothing. There’s nothing else we can do but push ahead.
“Go for it, Snubbull!” Lillie ordered. The Fairy Pokémon unhesitatingly charged towards the towering pokémon with the intention of toppling the titan. The Atrocious Pokémon rose straight in response, taking aim at the oncoming threat that had wounded it.
Gyarados used Water Gun!
Water spouted from Gyarados’ mouth towards the small target, spearing through the air to strike it down. But Snubbull bound side-to-side as he had during practice, the imaginary targets now replaced by bludgeoning gouts of water. Though it slowed him down, both were aware that the moment that Gyarados had to take a breath and gave pause to his attack it would be decided.
That was why Kado forewent stalling things out longer. “Meet it head-on with Ice Fang, Gyarados!”
“Fire Fang, Snubbull!” Lillie responded in kind with the attack Snubbull was proficient with the most.
That sound of the crackling ice and sizzling flames filled the air as the two pokémon bared their fangs. Frost-laden mist roiled around the Gyarados’ head as its maw was filled with icicles that glinted in the sunlight. Tongues of flames rolled around Snubbull’s protruding maw that left the air quivering with heatwaves. Baring their respective elemental fangs, the two lunged for one another—
—and the resulting clash filled the air not with smoke but instead steam that left the air hissing as fire and ice attempted to dominate one another. The hissing overtook all sounds as the white veil spread to the edges of the bridge and was slow to thin, thus obscuring the two combatants as trainers and audience alike looked on with anticipation (and a little worry).
But then the steam thinned to where a large silhouette on the ground slowly filled in with color to reveal them. The prone form of the massive Atrocious Pokémon was strewn on the bridge surface, sporting scorch marks anew. As for Snubbull, his tiny body was also prone with his pink fur covered in thick patches of frost as his breath came out in cold puffs.
“Did they knock each other out?” Lillie wondered. Then Snubbull stirred. The Fairy Pokémon’s stubby arms slowly shifted themselves until they were underneath his tiny frame. The patches of ice began to flake as he trembled to push himself back onto his hindlegs. “Snubbull, are you okay?”
“Snn…Snnn…” Straining, he managed to get back up only to nearly fall over once more. But before his legs could give out, he caught himself and stood up slouching. Then he took a deep breath, straightened his back, stuck out his arms, and shouted to the heavens. “BBBBBBUULLLLL!!!”
The referee then took a moment to look over him. And then the still downed Gyarados. Then he declared the match. “THE WINNER IS THE CHALLENGER’S SNUBBULL!”
The nervous silence that had filled the air prior was replaced with clapping and cheers while Lillie approached Snubbull standing there while Kado recalled his partner into his ball. She crouched down as he turned to her with a little smile on his face and saw how badly he was trembling from just trying to stand upright. And then she extended her hands to catch him as he promptly fell over, conscious but without the strength to stand.
“You can be so stubborn sometimes,” she told him as she cradled him against her chest. Honestly, she wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d just stayed down considering how exhausted he was. Yet she gave him a grateful smile because that stubbornness was what let him stand back up again and made it so that Shuckle and Bellamy’s efforts were rewarded as well. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Now that was a match,” Kado said as he approached with the pair with the referee. “It’s been so long since we’ve had a challenge. I felt like I was back in the Gym.”
“Sorry we were hard on your Gyarados,” Lillie apologized. “There really was no way we could beat it without going so far.”
He brushed it off. “Anything less and you wouldn’t have won. It’s an insult for a trainer to not give their opponent their very best, and you managed to make the most out it. Let me see your card.”
She shifted her grip on Snubbull so that she could give him it, and he gave it the final stamp.
Lillie received the Blue Stamp!
After everything was said and done, Lillie made for the Pokémon Center immediately to get her team checked out. The news had apparently reached Nurse Joy as the caretaker asked to see her card after taking her pokémon into her care. Then she produced a small box and said, “Here are your rewards for completing the challenge. We hope that it spurs you into further greatness in the future.”
Lillie opted not to open it until the rest of her pokémon were healed. They were the ones who did the work. It was only fair that they got to see the prize together.
“Great job, everyone,” Lillie began once they were all patched up and gathered around the table for lunch. “We only managed to win because you all worked together. I’m proud of all of you.”
Shuckle took to the praise with his usual stoicism, befitting of his role as the wall that stood the longest and slowed Gyarados down. Bellamy found himself scratching his bell with the tip of his leaf somewhat abashed, still surprised that his contribution made that much of a difference. He was underselling himself considering how effective he’d been thanks to Sunny Day and Growth. As for Snubbull…
“Snub! Bull! Bull!” chuffed the Fairy Pokémon as he stood on the table, posing proudly that his fangs had brought low the mighty water serpent. “Snubbull-snub!”
“Yes, yes, you were wonderful too.” She pampered him with a head pat as Azuria, who had decided to join them, stifled a laugh. Lillie then set the box on the table so they could all see as she pulled the top off and revealed the contents. There was a TM inside of it, along with a badge that had a golden bridge on it.
Lillie received the TM for Hidden Power!
Lillie received the Nugget Bridge Badge!
“Oh, Hidden Power,” Azuria said with a rather amused note in her voice. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen that one.”
“You know what it does?” Lillie asked. Though she had worked under Professor Kukui for a bit, she didn’t know all of the moves that were out there.
The coordinator nodded. “It’s a technique that draws out the inner strength of a pokémon and converts it into a different nature. It, along with Secret Power and Nature Power, made for interesting combinations when coordinators would set the terrain and then make the most of it with their teams.”
“That sounds interesting,” Lillie mused before noticing Snubbull picking up the badge with his stubby little arms and holding it up to the light to get a better look at it. “Do you want to go show Miss Melanie when we’re done with lunch?”
He gave an enthusiastic bob of his head. “Bull!”
That decided, they finished their lunch before heading back over to the Cerulean Abandoned Pokémon Shelter where they rang the doorbell. Melanie answered in her same overalls and apron that effectively served as her own uniform. Snubbull immediately ran inside and held up the badge in his stubby paws to show it off and barked for attention.
“So that’s the badge you managed to earn, huh?” Melanie crouched down while sporting a soft, gentle smile as she patted him on the head. She then looked back up to Lillie. “I heard about how you won over the radio. You can imagine my surprise when I heard he fought a Gyarados and managed to walk away standing.”
Lillie could only nod her head. “It still feels a little unreal. But all of my pokémon did their best in their own way, and because of them supporting each other they managed to make it a reality. I think we might be able to win our next badge soon enough.”
“Don’t tell me you’re heading out to do the Gym Challenge tomorrow or something?” Azuria asked. “The Contest Hall’s grand opening is coming up and I’ve got seats for you, A.J., Miss Lusamine, Melanie, and Mister Bill.”
“I know,” Lillie said. “Mother said that there was some upcoming event on the night of the opening, so we were planning on visiting your show before heading to Mt. Moon for it.”
“That night on Mt. Moon?” She ruminated on the thought before something seemed to click and she smiled brightly. “Oh! I see. It’s around that time now, isn’t it?”
Lillie tilted her head in confusion. “Do you know what is it?”
“Maybe~” Azuria teased. “But if your mother hasn’t told you then she probably wants it to be a surprise, so I’ll keep quiet. But I’m sure you’ll love it.”
Now Lillie’s curiosity was really peaked. She turned to Lilligant who seemed just as clueless, but then they heard the familiar sounds of cooing coming from the gap in the doorway and spotted Mime Jr. now trying to slip out of the door. There was a smile on his tiny face as he tried to reach out for Lilligant, only for Melanie to scoop him up.
“It’s your nap time, Mr. Mime,” she scolded him gently. The child squirmed lightly in her grasp as she brought him back into the main room where there had been a small bed set aside in the little play area where he usually was. “You weren’t too fussy a few minutes ago, so be good and get some rest.”
Mime Jr. writhed in his bed until Lilligant came over and took a seat next to him, speaking in a soft tone. “Lili. Lili.”
He yawned before he could start mumbling and she began to softly brush him with her leafy appendage to coax him into sleep. “Mimi…”
Melanie seemed content to let her do so before coming back over to them and Lillie apologized. “Sorry for the trouble. It seems he really likes her.”
“I don’t really mind. He’s a good boy and it’s clear she’s not inexperienced with nurturing younger pokémon,” Melanie said. And it was true enough that her mother’s Clefable, Mismagius, and Lilligant pretty much took after that side of her. “My only concern is that it’s going to make it harder when he has to say goodbye eventually.”
That was right. The pokémon here were under her care until they could be placed into more suitable locations back in the wild. Eventually, he would be forced to say goodbye once they found a colony that would accept him since baby pokémon needed someone to look after them in the wild. That bittersweet thought lingered as Lillie watched Lilligant rock the Mime Pokémon to sleep until the door opened anew.
“Excuse me,” a young woman that looked around Azuria’s age said as she entered the room. “This is the Pokémon Shelter, isn’t it?”
She was dressed in what Lillie presumed to be rather trendy clothes, a contrast to the young man who entered along with her. His attention immediately turned to the small pokémon in the enclosures as though he were searching for something in particular. Then his eyes lingered on Koko as she looked into the one that had the Paras in the middle of regrowing their mushrooms.
It unsettled Lillie for some reason.
“Yes, it is,” Melanie said, putting on a professional smile as she greeted the pair. “How can I help you?”
The girl clasped her hands together as she asked, “Pardon me if this sounds weird, but we were looking for a particular pokémon and heard that someone spotted it wandering around here.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to be specific,” Melanie said. “If it was an owned pokémon then we would report them to the Pokémon Center so they can be returned to their trainers. But if they were abandoned or stray pokémon then they might have been in our care for a time.”
“It’s a Vulpix.”
No sooner than those words left her lips did an unseen tension thread the room. They all recalled the Vulpix that A.J. had brought to her before dawn and sent off, even though it was supposed to be registered to someone else. The fact that they knew about it when no one else had come looking since then meant…
Lillie snapped out of her thoughts when she felt the air grow chillier and heard the low growl slipping out of the Alolan Vulpix. “Koko, come here.”
Koko kept bristling at them, a sight that caused the young man to frown as he seemingly reached for a Great Ball on his belt. The young woman looked taken aback but it felt forced.
“Now, Koko,” Lillie said in a tone that was far firmer than ever in her life to one of her pokémon. It almost seemed to shock the Fox Pokémon and even Snubbull, who only now seemed to realize something was amiss. She flinched and looked at Lillie with somewhat hurtful eyes before slowly coming over.
I’m so sorry, Lillie silently thought as she picked her up and held her close before she apologized to the pair while keeping her voice level. “I’m sorry. She isn’t normally like this and I don’t know what’s gotten into her.
“Please take her out back,” Melanie said before turning to Snubbull. “You go too, Snubbull.”
Snubbull was just as confused about what was going on but he seemed to register between how the girls were acting, and even how Lilligant had risen up from Mime Jr.’s side that something was amiss. “Bull?”
“Please, be good,” Melanie pleaded with him. He let out a low grumble in confusion as he seemed to pick up that she was asking him something serious. He then let out an affirmative nod and made his way over to Lillie as they went to the back door.
“Now then,” Melanie said, grabbing their attention in an effort to de-escalate the situation. “If it’s a Vulpix then we haven’t taken one into our care as of late. However, this particular one does visit with her trainer often to play with the others, so there’s a chance someone saw that and misunderstood.”
Lillie listened to them until she slipped through the door and closed it shut. Then she went off to the side and crouched down, holding Koko to her chest and apologizing to her softly. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Pix?” Koko inquired. “Vulpix?”
“Just give me a minute before doing anything,” Lillie whispered to them both as she set her partner down hastily and reached for her Pokégear. Something about the situation was off and if something happened then a lot of innocent pokémon could get hurt, so she had to clear out of the way to do what A.J. said when he gave her his number the last time. She had only finished dialing the number and heard it ringing on his end when—
—there was a loud sound from the inside followed by surprised pokémon noises that drew the attention of not only Lillie but the other pokémon out in the yard as she dropped the device. She immediately rose to her feet and went back to the door and opened it to see that an Arbok, not unlike the one that had attacked them in the Pokémon Center in the Sevii Island was glaring down at Melanie and Azuria while Lilligant stood between them and it.
And it clearly belonged to the young man who was sporting a deeper frown. “Enough of this.”
“What. Are You. Doing?” said the woman who looked irritated more than anything.
“We don’t have time for this,” he said in a pointed tone. “There’s no point in dragging this out and you could tell from their reaction compared to the other places they know about the Vulpix. Or do you want to pay the price for losing it?”
The girl rolled her eyes and let out a sigh before reaching into her purse and then pulling out another ball. It burst open and out came a very angry looking Primeape that looked around menacingly towards the surrounding pokémon within their enclosures. “Primeape tends to be a bit jumpy so he’s prone to attacking recklessly. It’d be better for everyone if you just tell us what we want to know.”
“I told you, that Vulpix hasn’t been in our care,” Melanie said in a tone that was both firm and cold despite having the eyes of both the Arbok and the Primeape on her. “Now leave.”
The young woman looked at her with an irritated expression. “Ugh, I hate your type. Whatever. I’ll say that it ended up in a ditch somewhere but that I got her a new one.”
The message carried the moment her eyes fell onto Koko.
“BULLL!” Snubbull might have been slow on the uptake earlier but he recognized a threat. His response was just as reflexive and so he lunged with flames licking at his lips—
—and was immediately hit hard enough that he was sent sailing into the door frame, his small body hitting it hard enough that the wood splintered and he collapsed onto the ground. The hit hadn’t been enough to knock him out cold, but his body trembled in pain and he couldn’t stand up anymore.
“SNUBBULL, NO!” Lillie shouted as she picked him up while the Primeape bristled as though it was going to continue attacking, with all the pokémon recognizing that violence was occurring and started trying to get free of their enclosures to scamper off and hide.
That was when there was a rush of pink petals. So numerous that they obscured the Pig Monkey Pokémon and Cobra Pokémon entirely, the pair were swept up so abruptly that even their surprised and pained cries were drowned out by the sound of cracking wood as they were blown through the door and slammed into the tree there hard enough that it broke under the force of the attack. As the remaining petals slowly drifted down over their prone and unmoving bodies, silence filled the air once more as all eyes turned to the source.
And bore witness to Lilligant slowly striding forward with the air around her quavering from the hue of a Battle Aura.
The two trainers themselves seemed stunned at the reaction until she turned her gaze towards them and then immediately reached for more balls. But without missing a beat, Lilligant aimed her flower towards them and sent out a spume of yellowish powder—Stun Spore.
They hit the ground with their bodies twitching as their muscles went numb. Helpless as Lilligant hovered over the two and looked down at them without any expression while the aura around her seemed to swell…
…Then, as quickly as it came, it vanished as Lilligant turned towards the crying Mime Jr. He had crawled out of his bed and hidden behind it, scared at everything that had happened and thus followed his instinct to hide and go unnoticed. But now that the immediate threat had seemed to have been dealt with, he did what came naturally to scared baby pokémon.
The rest of the pokémon followed suit.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
A.J. braced himself as he strode upon the wind atop a canine that was covered in a pelt of orange with a wild mane that was taller than him. He’d gotten the call and answered but Lille had dropped her Pokégear so he was only able to hear what came through the other end and piece it together. Now he was rushing as he silently chastised himself.
Naïve. I was too naïve. I’d only thought about the main objective and kept their home under watch, but even if they didn’t spot me I should have known they would have started checking the shelters and left a guard!
He could only chew himself out silently as Arcanine came to a stop with a tug on his mane the moment he spotted the broken tree with its sign splayed on the ground, the countless petals, and heard the cries of wild pokémon in a panic from the inside. He dismounted and went bursting in through the broken door where he found them all.
“There, there. It’s okay, it’s okay now.”
“Easy there. No one is going to hurt you now.”
“Shhh. It’s all over now.”
Melanie, Azuria, Lillie, and Lilligant were all hurrying around and trying to calm the pokémon within the shelter. Azuria’s pokémon were all out of their balls, either contributing to the process or standing in alarm as though they were awaiting reprisal. It was only the fact that they recognized him that some of the tension in their bodies left.
“What happened?” he demanded of Melanie as she paced around while trying to round up the pokémon and set them into their cages to keep them safe and take count.
She stopped with a Poliwag in her arms and scowled at him. “Some thugs who owned that Vulpix came in here. When I said we didn’t have it they tried to steal Lillie’s instead.”
He frowned. “Where are they?”
“Tied up, knocked out, and stripped of their pokémon and belongings,” Azuria said, nodding her head towards a closet near a dresser that had a bag and several poke balls of differing kinds on it. She had her Slowbro keeping an eye on them and the balls themselves were covered in a thick layer of ice. “The police are on their way.”
He went over and took the bag, dumping the contents on the table before rummaging through it for a moment. Then he pulled out what looked to a small, miniature ball that was black and found a badge that left him scowling. He held the ball up to the device on his wrist and watched as it lit up before immediately pocketing them and scooping the rest back into the bag.
Then he turned to the Azuria and Melanie who just watched him and said, “When the cops get here, you don’t know anything about the Vulpix or what I just took. I know it’s a lot to ask and I’ll explain later, but if our past means anything to you, don’t say a word to them—”
“If our past meant anything, you’d come clean.” Melanie demanded as she marched up to him with her arms crossed and then stood in front of him wearing one of the coldest expressions that he had seen. “My shelter was just attacked. The pokémon in my care were endangered. My friends were endangered. And while I don’t know why that is, it’s clear you do and you’ve been hiding it from us.”
As he looked into her eyes, he saw the frustration that she felt. She’d had always been caring for abandoned pokémon and valued them above all else. She knew he was asking a lot and knew something was off when he came to her that morning and begged her to keep an eye on the Vulpix. But he knew she’d still do it without reporting it as she should have because he asked.
Because they were friends.
And she’d paid for it. “I know something happened in the last year. I’ve tried to be patient and understanding, figuring you’d tell us. But if you can’t be honest with us about this… I’m going to have to ask you to put back what you took and then leave.”
“…I’m working with the International Police on an assignment,” he admitted before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a leather case. Then he flipped it open to reveal a badge. “And they’re the only lead I’ve got to finding the ones who stole my Nidoking and Tyranitar from me.”
Chapter 18: Doubles and Triples
“Heh, you took some time coming back after your last match,” said a young boy as he stood on his end of Nugget Bridge. Youngster Cole was the current third-in-line of those who served in the challenge, meant to be the opponent that Lillie would face. “Been a while since we had any new blood, so I’ve been waiting for this.”
“Sorry about that,” she told him with an apologetic gesture. “I wanted to train everyone a little more before I came back.”
Indeed, it had been about three days now since Lillie had come to the bridge. She couldn’t say they’d made immense progress in learning their new moves, but they needed practice against actual opponents too. That, and the fact that Snubbull was getting antsy to prove himself while Koko wanted to see if her Icy Wind would work in an actual battle.
“It’s fine. Let’s just get going with a Doubles Battle!” The eager Youngster held up a pair of pokéballs before tossing them into the air. “Come out, Don and Bron!”
The balls burst open and light spilled forth, giving shape to two different pokémon. The first was a Kantonian Geodude. Unlike the Alolan variant, it didn’t have the metal-like skin or protrusions but looked more like a large rock with two arms. It gave an eager smile that could match its trainer as it slammed one fist into its other’s palm.
The second pokémon was one Lillie hadn’t seen before, flat and round and rimmed by six dark blue orbs on the perimeter of its metal body. Rotom floated over toward it and began to fluster the metal pokémon with a snap of its camera, leaving the yellow, round eyes to blink rapidly for a moment. Then it spun around in a quick motion and batted Rotom away before it floated off the surface of the bridge next to the Geodude.
“Rotom,” Lillie said in a reproaching tone as the Living Pokédex bounced upon hitting the bridge and then righted itself in the air, holding one of its appendages to its frame. “I thought you learned your lesson already?”
Zzt… first time seeing a Bronzor, Rotom said, trying to justify its actions as it floated back over to her relatively unscratched. At this point, she could only be thankful those pokédex cases were built to last. It’zzz a Steel and Psychic type, for the record.
Well, at least knowing that makes it easier choosing who to send out then, Lillie thought to herself as she pulled out her choices. “Bellamy, Snubbull, you’re up.”
“Sprout?” Bellamy inquired after emerging from the confines of his ball. The Flower Pokémon took a moment upon being released to take in the sight of the bridge and tried to grasp the situation, his bulbous head shifting back and forth.
Snubbull, meanwhile, stood proud as he immediately faced the pair opposite them and pointed his stubby little arm at them. “Snubbull! Snub!”
In response, the Geodude chuckled. Then it gestured towards itself with its arms before extending them out to its sides. “Dude. Geodude.”
“Remember, work with Bellamy, Snubbull,” Lillie gently reminded the puppy that had fallen onto all fours and was bristling. “It’s a Doubles Battle, not one-on-one.”
His answer was to look at his nervous, willowy partner and give him a gruff bark. “Snub!”
“All right, we got this Don and Bron,” Cole said, his rousing speech filled with passion and youthful energy before he pointed to Lillie. “Now, make your move challenger!”
Lillie obliged. “Okay, then. Bellamy, use Vine Whip on the Geodude while Snubbull goes for the other one!”
The Bellsprout released his sinuous vines from the buds between his stalk and leafy appendages, shooting them out across the gap towards the Rock Pokémon as it hovered there while Snubbull darted forward to sink his flaming fangs into solid steel. The Bronzor that had been floating next to Bellamy’s target was grabbed and used as a shield to intercept the blow, a gong-like sound ringing out as the tips of the vines slammed against the leaf-like marking upon its back. He retracted them as Snubbull lunged, fire popping into existence around his fangs as he prepared to bring them crashing down on the makeshift shield.
Fire erupted and obscured Lillie’s vision for a moment before a breeze wafted and blew away the smoke to reveal that the Bronzor was being held behind the Geodude by one of its hands, while the other was between Snubbull’s jaws. It had pulled its partner pokémon out of the way and substituted its arm, wearing the same grin it had previously as Snubbull snarled while his teeth were still wrapped around the stone limb. Then the Rock Pokémon brought its partner down on his head.
Lillie winced at the resounding metallic sound as he was knocked away. “Snubbull, are you okay?”
The puppy sat up on his rear, lightly rubbing the spot with his stumpy little arms. “Bulll…lll…”
Can you even use another pokémon as a weapon, zzt? Rotom inquired.
“No rule against it!” the Youngster shouted back. “This is just how our teamwork is!”
Snubull managed to regain his senses, shaking his head vigorously and snarling at the pair. The Geodude grinned, spinning the Bronzor on a finger like a disk with one hand and gesturing for him to come again with the other. Riled up, the puppy got back onto all fours and rushed back in to confront the pair. “BULL!”
It was predictably a trap as the Geodude flipped the Bronzor around so that it was facing Snubbull as its eyes shone with psychic power. Hypnotic waves rippled out and made the Fairy Pokémon go from a charge to a sluggish crawl before falling over, asleep. Then, tossing the Bronzor up into the air, the Geodude clasped its hands together before pulling them apart to reveal a sphere of light that transformed into a stone that began to grow until it was the size of Geodude itself.
“Bellamy, help Snubbull!” Lillie called as the Geodude then raised its hands and made a throwing motion that sent the stone flying towards Snubbull. The Flower Pokémon did so by sending his vines across the distance and snatching the sleeping puppy out of the path of the rock that shattered into fragments on impact with the bridge. “Good, now wake him up!”
Frantic in lieu of the pace of the battle, Bellamy then tried to wake his partner up by using his leafy limbs to shake Snubbull awake. But he couldn’t before the Bronzor released a Confusion attack, bundled as a ball of telekinetic energy, towards the pair. The blast knocked them apart, leaving Bellamy to land on his back while Snubbull rolled onto his feet and snarled as he woke up grumpy at taking the bulk of it.
“Snubbull, Bellamy, are you both okay?” Lillie asked. Bellamy made a slight waving motion while as he managed to get back on his tiny roots. Snubbull, meanwhile, bristled at the opposing pair and then ran in again to attack.
Sighing at his brashness, Lillie opted to try to work around Snubbull’s inability to sit still for the moment. “Bellamy, I want you to use Growth like we did in practice. I have an idea.”
The Flower Pokémon bobbed his head before looking up to the morning sun and drinking up the light.
“Rock Throw!” Her opponent bellowed, focused on the immediate threat of the Fairy Pokémon closing in with fire licking his teeth. Geodude clasped his hands again and conjured not one large stone, but three smaller ones. He then flung them towards the puppy with the intention of halting his charge.
But Snubbull proved deft on his feet this time. Even before being picked up by Lillie, he had been fighting for weeks against other pokémon and trainers before he ran out of luck—hitting and running. He dodged the rocks, bouncing from side-to-side as he closed the distance, eyes fixed on the Bronzor as flames licked his teeth. “Bull!”
“Hypnosis!” ordered the Youngster.
The Bronzor’s eyes grew luminous again as it prepared to release slumber-inducing hypnotic waves. The Geodude was already preparing to take advantage of that by clasping its hands together for another Rock Throw—
—but a pair of sinuous vines shot forward from behind Snubbull like arrows, sparkling beads of light gleaming off them from Growth. The empowered vines slammed into the Bronzor hard enough to release a metallic thong and knock the floating Bronze Pokémon astray. That left Geodude staring down a vicious pair of teeth wreathed in flames right before the jaws snapped shut.
Then flames erupted and consumed them both in smoke.
The two pokémon were hidden from view until a meaty thump was followed by a pink bundle of fur emerging from the smoke. Snubbull was thrown out of the lingering veil, having taken a retaliatory punch that hit hard enough he bounced once more on the surface of the bridge. Yet there was a grin on his face as he came to a stop and brought his stubby little paw to his cheek.
The reason why was made clear when the smoke cleared away and revealed the Rock Pokémon shaking in place as flames seeped from its body.
Don was burned!
“Gee…oooo…” Its voice came out strained as it writhed in pain. Fire-types weren’t common around these parts and, for the first time, its shell of stone had become an oven as the flames took root deeply, sinking into the muscles beneath its hard exterior as the Bronzor floated over to check on its partner.
Snubbull had never been one to pass up an advantage. While the Rock Pokémon was battling against the heat searing at its muscles, he eyed the floating Bronzor that turned its back onto him. Then he immediately fell onto all fours to lunge for it a second time with fire licking his fangs in a surprise attack.
But no sooner than he was within biting range did Geodude act in defense of its companion. It brushed aside the vulnerable Bronze Pokémon and crossed its arms to take the hit, a second explosion of heat and smoke coming about to engulf them. This time Snubbull immediately hopped out of the smokescreen and put distance between them.
Lillie took in the sight of the puppy as wisps of flames escaped his mouth. His breath was coming out heavier and it looked like a bruise was forming where he’d been hit. He needed a Potion at the very least, but he was still better off compared to his competition given scorch marks scoured Geodude’s stony exterior as it held one eye open and its arms drooped down.
It had taken a beating. And Bellamy was still in the process of using Growth while Snubbull insisted on throwing himself in front of them. If they acted now, they probably could end things. But Lillie still wanted to offer him a chance to back down before any excess damage was done.
“You’d better call back your Geodude,” she told her competition. “It can’t take another hit like that and remain conscious.”
Her offer was rejected. “Shake it off, Don! You’re not going to let a few flames snuff out your fighting spirit, are you?”
The words roused Geodude’s spirits as it eyed Snubbull and let out a sound. The Bronzor flew into one of its hands and it reeled that arm back, holding its other one out with the fingers spread as if measuring the distance while Snubbull snarled. Then it gestured for the puppy to come with a grin on its face that Lillie felt was meant to bait him in on purpose.
Unfortunately, he bought it. He charged for them as a shroud of energy seemingly blanketed the Bronzor until it was as white as a discus and then flung it at Snubbull mid-lunge. The moment it connected there was a surprisingly bright explosion that engulfed the two of them.
Don used Fling!
A Critical Hit!
Lillie brought her arm up to keep her eyes shielded until she heard a thump hit the bridge and then peered past her sleek arm to see the puppy struggling to stand up once more. “Ah! Snubbull, are you okay?”
“Sn…bu…” he groaned softly, little arms shaking as he slowly got back onto his hind legs. There he swayed, looking pretty beaten from the blow despite the fact that the heat gnawing at his foe’s muscles and the typing alone should have stemmed the worst of the throw. “Bull…”
Who turnzzz their pokémon into ammunition for Fling, zrt? Rotom inquired, limbs moving at odd angles.
“There’s no rule against it after all,” the boy insisted. “It’s like having your pokémon use a move on its partner pokémon that will help them out. Besides, Bron is tough enough to take it.”
“Even if you say that, your Geodude can’t fight anymore.” Lillie pointed to the Rock Pokémon that drooped down onto the bridge as the flames that’d continued to ravage him from the inside-out finally took their toll. It collapsed onto the bridge, unconscious.
“Bu…ll!” Snubbull huffed, victorious. Then it raised a shaking arm towards the remaining pokémon, as if to say it was its turn next. “Sn…Snubull…”
The Bronzor, having recovered from being used as live ammunition, narrowed its gaze towards Snubbull as azure light radiated from them. A ball of psychic energy built up in front of it, the Confusion directly aimed at the puppy that was barely on its feet. It released the blast with a metallic sound.
“Bellamy!” Lillie called out. Sinuous vines speared out across the distance, scooping the Fairy Pokémon up before the bundle of psychic energy hit the surface of the bridge and then came unbounded with enough force that it would have definitely knocked him out.
“Snub!” Snubbull barked towards the Flower Pokémon as it dangled him over his head, supported via his Growth-imbued vines. When Bellamy tilted his bell in confusion, the puppy made a slight circle with his arm and pointed towards the Bronze Pokémon. Bellamy made an inquiring sound, but another bark led to him abruptly spinning Snubbull around in circles with his vines before suddenly chucking him at the Bronzor while he used Fire Fang. “BUULLLLL!!”
The resulting explosion lit up with space between them before the Bronze Pokémon hit the bridge with a loud noise, unconscious. As for Snubbull, he stumbled on his feet for a moment as the smoke cleared and let out a victorious half-bark… before suddenly falling over onto his face.
“Snubbull, you’re not supposed to copy them!” Lillie said as she ran over to check on him. He was coughing out tufts of smoke as he huffed, his flesh bruised from throwing himself headfirst into a pokémon made of solid metal. Yet, as she cradled him in her arms, he let out a proud chuff. “Ah, just rest for now, okay?”
She couldn’t help but sigh as she returned him to his ball. Then she looked over to her Flower Pokémon as he waddled over while looking like he expected a scolding for such recklessness. Instead, she gently patted him on his bell. “I can’t say I approve of that plan at the end, but you still helped him as best you could. Good job, Bellamy.”
He accepted the praise with a delighted sound. Then the Youngster came over and stamped her card. It was her third step in completing the bridge challenge.
Lillie received an Orange Stamp!
Since Bellamy was relatively unharmed and she had her other pokémon wanting the chance to go, Lillie decided to press on to the fourth section of the bridge. This time there was a young woman who looked to be about Lillie’s age, if only a year or two older. She was dressed in a camping scout uniform that seemed native to the region.
She gave Lillie a slight wave and smile. “Good job making it this far. Not many people get here in such a short time. I’m Misa, by the way.”
“Well, I can’t say it’s been easy,” Lillie said, lightly brushing her arm while Koko flicked her tail and chilled the air around them. “Uh, anyway, the battle format is three-on-three for you, right?”
The Picnicker nodded her head as she held up a pair of balls in one hand and a third in her other. “Yep. No substitutions, and we’ll go until one side is unable to battle or the trainer surrenders. Agreed?”
“Sure.” Lillie consented before releasing the Mold Pokémon between Koko and Bellamy. Then she crouched down and smiled. “Win or lose, what matters is that you three remember to work together, okay?”
Koko yipped. Bellamy nodded. Shuckle bobbed his head. That agreed upon, they all turned to face their opposition when the sound of three Poké Balls bursting open reach their ears gave way to light taking shape.
Two of them were small, rodent-like pokémon that had blue and purple fur with darker spots in certain places, larger buckteeth, and spines running over their bodies. It gave the impression of them being different variants of the same species. The last was a yellow duck that stood upright, clutching its head between its paws and had a somewhat blank stare as it quirked its head.
Nidoran (Male) and Nidoran (Female), the Poison Pin Pokémon, Rotom began. The male has a larger horn than the female and is quite powerful, but the female has a more potent poison. Psyduck, the Duck Pokémon. Despite being a Water-Type, it possesses latent psychic powers. However, using them gives it a headache, so it normally passes time doing as little as possible.
Lillie took that information into account against her current team, but felt compelled to ask, “If it gets a headache when using its psychic powers, will your Psyduck be alright in a battle?”
“You’re sweet, but you don’t need to worry about him,” Misa said as she gently patted the Duck Pokémon on his head. “Psyduck trainers usually buy medicine that helps keep the worst of their headaches away until they evolve. So, you’d better treat him as a serious opponent, or you’ll regret it.”
That said, she took several steps back and pulled out a coin. “Now, to determine who’ll go first we’ll use the flip of a coin. You get heads, I get tails. Agreed?”
Lillie nodded. “Sure.”
“Here we go.” The Picnicker proceeded to flip the coin into the air before catching it and then slamming it against the back of her opposite hand. “Heads! Your move!”
“Okay then, Bellamy use Vine Whip on Psyduck!” Lillie ordered, pointing towards it. The Psyduck would be a problem for both Bellamy and Shuckle if it had access to both Psychic and Water techniques. Taking him out first while Bellamy had the advantage would be more prudent.
“Bell-ell!” The Flower Pokémon reared his sinuous body backwards and then swung forward as the little buds near his arm released the lengthy vines. They flew across the distance like lunging serpents, slithering in the air as they made for the vacant-looking Water-Type—
—when both were snatched out of the air by the Nidoran pair. Moving in near-perfect sync, both lunged to catch the vines between their mouths as they crossed one another in front of Psyduck. That left the vines crisscrossed down the middle as the pair then held the vines in place, the lengths going taut as Bellamy struggled to pull them back.
“Good job, you two~” Misa praised with a cheery tone before addressing her third pokémon. “Now, use Disable on Bellsprout!”
The Psyduck focused its vacant gaze down the vines and towards Bellamy before they were made to glow with the hue of psychic power. “Psyyyyy…”
Bellamy went rigid as that same color coated his body from root to bell. The vines that had been pulled taut then went slack, drooping down the center and eventually laying sprawled on the ground as the two Poison Pin Pokémon let go. He couldn’t retract them, which caused him to begin fidgeting with them using his leafy appendages. “Sp-sprout!?”
“Don’t panic, Bellamy,” Lillie told him. It was no different than what the Venonat had done before, meaning it would wear off. “Just give it a little time and you’ll be fine.”
She then looked to Koko as her body shone briefly, recognizing it as Snow Warning triggering to boost the power of her Ice-attacks… except the light faded out and the sky above remained clear, leaving Koko to let out a small whine of uncertainty. “Koko, what’s wrong?”
“That would be Psyduck’s Ability at work,” Misa chimed in, diverting their attention towards the Duck Pokémon as a similar shroud to Koko’s faded from his body. “It’s called Cloud Nine, and because of it the area around Psyduck is shielded from moves that change the weather. That means your cute little Vulpix’s Ability and Sunny Day, if your Bellsprout has it, won’t trigger.”
No sooner than the battle had begun Lillie was at a tremendous disadvantage as the sun and the snow that her pokémon would benefit from were denied to her. And the situation only got worse when her opponent began her counterattack with the Nidoran pair. “Use Double Kick on the Vulpix and Shuckle!”
““NIDORAN!”” The Poison Pin Pokémon broke into a sprint towards Lillie’s group of three with surprising speed. As one they both leaped forward to deliver a set of flying kicks towards their targets, an Ice-Type and Rock-Type respectively, with their legs aglow with power to deliver the Fighting-Type attacks.
Still flustered by having her Ability suppressed for the first time, Koko was ill-prepared to avoid the hit being sent her way by the female Nidoran. The hit would have caught her head-on, had Bellamy not put himself in front of the blow haphazardly. As a result, the glowing kick caught him straight in his bell-shaped head and promptly sent him sailing over Koko until he flopped on the ground.
Ironically, in contrast, Shuckle was the only one who hadn’t been slow on the uptake as he quickly wove a Protect to shield himself from the attack. The male Nidoran’s kick slammed against the fragile barrier and shattered it easily, as he hadn’t mastered the technique, but it dulled the strength and speed of the kick enough that he could Withdraw into his shell that shone in time for him to take the little damage that bled over relatively unharmed.
“Koko, push her back with Powder Snow! Shuckle, try using Constrict on the other one!” Lillie called out. The Alolan Vulpix hastily breathed out a plume of white and blue frost that forced her opponent backward towards her side of the field, while the Mold Pokémon’s own fell back to avoid the sinuous and sticky limbs that began to writhe and stretch. “Bellamy, are you okay?”
Koko gave him an inquiring poke as well. “Pix?”
“Sp…sprout…” The Flower Pokémon waved a leafy appendage upright as if attempting to say he was fine. But it was clear that hit hadn’t been soft from how he swayed in the process of rising back up.
“Don’t strain yourself,” Lillie told him before addressing Koko. “Try to catch them all with an Icy Wind!”
Koko nodded and then turned back to her opponents, inhaling deeply enough that the fur on her chest seemingly puffed out. Then she exhaled and what came out was a surging wave of white and blue frost, air chilled so deeply that it would seep past the flesh and gnaw into the muscles. It rushed down the retreating pair of Nidorans and the vacant-looking Psyduck, intent on washing over them all—
“Bunker down with Light Screen!”
—when suddenly a wonderous wall of light appeared in front of the Duck Pokémon as his eyes shone once more with the psychic hue. “Psyyyyyduck!!”
The Nidoran pair jumped over the wall and above his head before quickly hiding behind the Duck Pokémon. The bulwark forged of psychic energy strained like glass under pressure as it blunted the force of the attack, leaving only the fringes of the Icy Wind to lap at the fur of the two Poison Pin Pokémon until it petered out. The wall then shattered into motes of glowing light that hovered around them all, coating and clinging to their fur even as the Nidoran pair shook off the icy particles that did manage to catch them.
Zzzt, Light Screen will weaken any non-physical attackzzz used against them, Rotom warned. Koko’s attacks won’t be as effective until the light fades, zzrt.
Even Icy Wind won’t work now… Lillie’s lips pursed as her mind ran through the opening exchange. This is really bad. We’re at a complete disadvantage.
Those Poison-Type Pokémon were naturally strong against Fairy-Types like Snubbull, so they’d resist Koko’s strongest attack on top of most of Bellamy’s attacks. And they knew Fighting-Type moves too, which Koko and Shuckle were weak against. Add that with the fact that Psyduck’s Ability meant neither could take advantage of their own, and he knew Disable on top of Light Screen…
“The battles up until now were to teach newer trainers lessons on the different aspects of the battles,” Misa said, wearing a smile as if she’d read her mind. “Luka teaches the timing of attacks, Amaya teaches working under pressure, and Cole teaches teamwork. I bring all of those lessons together to see how well you manage when the odds are stacked against you.”
It wasn’t simply a Triple Battle between the Pokémon. It was a battle of strategy and coordination that relied on how well a trainer could adapt. Misa had the advantage of typing, experience, and even techniques. If Lillie was going to prevail, she needed a way to tip the scales back in their favor.
“Now, attack them again with Double Kick you two!” Misa ordered her pair of Nidoran. The Poison Pin Pokémon darted forward on the command, splitting apart in order to strike from the left and right of the two pokémon that happened to be weak to Fighting-Type techniques. They both lunged with their legs aglow—
—when the sinuous vines that had been lying limp on the ground abruptly flared out and caught the two midair, where they couldn’t avoid it. The Disable had worn out just in time for Bellamy’s Vine Whip to catch them both, smacking them to the side and throwing their attack off before they retracted back to Bellamy.
“Nice save, Bellamy!” Lillie cheered. “Shuckle, try to pin them down with Sticky Web!”
The Mold Pokémon’s cheeks swelled before it spat out globs of bug glue that stretched out into webbing as it met with the air friction. But both of the Poison Pin Pokémon were deft on their feet as they avoided the two bundles of webbing. They bounced around, holding the attention of the gathered until Misa gave the order to the Duck Pokémon to go on the offense.
“Water Pulse!” While she hadn’t said which one to attack, there was really only one viable target: Shuckle.
“Shuckle, Protect!” Lillie shouted as Psyduck opened its bill and water began to pool in front of it into a sphere the size of its head. The Mold Pokémon immediately began to weave its defensive shell, the air seemingly crystalizing in front of it. He barely finished just before the cannonball of water slammed into it, shattering the defensive bulwark while leaving water splashing over him uncomfortably.
“Disable!” Misa commanded. “Nido, Leer! Nina, Double Kick!”
The oppressive psychic shroud veiled Shuckle, leaving him to frown as he felt his ability to use Protect being suppressed by Psyduck. Then came a baleful glare from the male Nidoran as its eyes took on a crimson hue that meshed with the cerulean of the Disable. He shook his head at the unpleasant feeling as the female Nidoran rushed in with her legs aglow before he could shake off having his defenses compromised—
“Koko! Bellamy! Help him!”
—that was when snow-white fur darted in-between them as Koko rushed in and braced herself to release a frost-laden gale with a deep exhale of Powder Snow. Caught in a sudden snowstorm, the Nidoran faltered as it began to drape her in a blanket of encroaching ice. Then came the sinuous vines as Bellamy lashed out to rebuke her, knocking her aside.
“Pin her down, Shuckle!” Lillie ordered and the Mold Pokémon obeyed. Whipping his head around, he spat out another glob of Sticky Web and it splashed over the female Nidoran, leaving her flailing in it but unable to move. With one tied up, the odds were a little more even. “Koko, Moonblast on Psyduck now!”
The Alolan Vulpix was wreathed in a pink aura that pooled in front of her mouth before being let loose as a pink orb towards the Duck Pokémon. Psyduck stared at the incoming attack with a slightly tilted look on its face, seemingly without any intention of dodging the hit. Instead, the male Nidoran threw itself into the attack before it could hit the intended target and the pink-hued explosion wrapped him in a veil of smoke…
Then he emerged through the smoke only lightly singed, taking her strongest attack and still able to stand due to a combination of typing and the lingering glint of the Light Screen. “Nido!”
“Good boy!” the Picnicker praised. “Now, Double Kick on her Vulpix!”
Without hesitation, he rushed for Koko with his legs aglow. Koko tried to let loose a Powder Snow and bury it in the cold winds. But it bound off to the side at an angle, getting off the line of the attack, and then whipped around on its forepaws to throw its hind legs forward before she could react.
The impact was hard enough that Lillie could practically feel it when Koko was batted aside. She could only watch as her small frame hit the ground and bounced off the surface of the bridge, before tumbling to a stop next to Shuckle. Her legs curled as small tremors ran across her body and she whimpered. “Koko!”
“Sorry, but I can’t go easy!” Misa said. “Finish her with Double Kick!”
He moved to do so when the sinuous vines danced. Bellamy waddled over with his root-like legs, his vines flailing about in an effort to keep him from getting close enough to deliver the finishing blow. There was little rhyme or reason to it beyond the panicked efforts to keep her safe, but it served as a deterrent as the Nidoran focused on avoiding them.
Lillie let out a sigh of relief.
“Don’t breathe easy yet,” Misa warned. “Nina, Poison Sting and keep it coming!”
The female Nidoran trapped within the Sticky Web aimed her opened maw towards the downed Koko and let loose small needles that were a deep shade of purple. The spray was meant to be wide, weak in itself but more than enough to finish off Koko in her injured state. And Bellamy couldn’t keep the male distracted and cover her.
So Shuckle did it instead. The Mold Pokémon stretched its limbs out, wrapping Koko within his grasp and pulling her against his shell as he covered her. The rain of purple needles battered and broke where they met his tough shell, but several found the appendages and then sank in deep, coloring the points of the impacts the same shade of purple. “Kle!”
He’s been Poizzoned! Rotom exclaimed. He won’t last long, zrt!
“Vul?” a muffled sound from Koko, sheltered from the attack and out of view as the female Nidoran continued her attack between breaths.
“Shuuucklle,” he cried as more of his exposed appendages were being shaded purple while reddish wisps began to escape from his body. “Kllle!”
Shuckle is storing energy!
“Ohhh, it’s trying to use Bide before the poison can knock it out,” Misa said in recognition. “But in its current state, it can’t take a solid hit to something its weak to. Water Pulse!”
From its position, at Shuckle’s unprotected flank, Psyduck readied another sphere of compressed water and let it loose. Shuckle was sturdy enough that he could last a little longer against the spray of poisonous needles. But between the earlier attacks and his Protect being disabled, he couldn’t take a hit from that.
So Bellamy took a page out of the male Poison Pin Pokémon’s book and flung his willowy body bell-first into the attack, intercepting it. The sphere ruptured, sending Bellamy flying overhead only to plop down on the bridge, where his head struggled to rise up again.
But after a moment, it lost all strength. The collective damage had been too much. He passed out.
And with the only obstacle in his way removed, the male Nidoran moved to complete his original objective by bounding towards the turtled Shuckle with the intention of delivering its own finishing blow before the blood-tinged aura around it could be unleashed. He threw himself into a kick with both hindlegs present when a gap in-between Shuckle’s purple-stained limb appeared.
Koko used Powder Snow!
What emerged was a nearly point-blank burst of condensed frost, a wintry breath that slammed into the Poison Pin Pokémon full blast. The white veil swallowed the Nidoran’s small body as a crackling sound filled the air. And when it finally petered out, what was left was a frozen statue positioned in front of the snout of the Alolan Vulpix.
Nidoran was frozen solid!
“Pix!” Koko barked. It was a signal from what Lillie could tell, because Shuckle didn’t hesitate to act. He unleashed the built-up power he’d accumulated as he lashed out with the remainder of his strength.
Shuckle unleashed the energy!
His appendage wreathed in red shot forward, slamming into the frozen male Nidoran. The impact was so hard that the ice encasing him shattered and sent him flying. Then he crashed into his bound partner, causing the battery of Poison Stings to cease.
“Nido!, Nina!” Misa called out, but neither responded. Both had been knocked out.
“Shuu…shu…” Panting, Shuckle coughed out some purple bubbles before Koko crawled out from beneath him. Then his head drooped to the ground. The poison finished its work, robbing him of his consciousness at last.
“Bellamy… Shuckle…” They had both given their all to protect Koko when she was injured and, because of that, she was the last one standing. More than that, Lillie realized from around her mouth was what looked to be frozen berry mush that Shuckle must’ve let her eat to heal up a bit. “Come back, you two.”
She returned them to their balls as Misa did the same to her unconscious pair, leaving only Koko and Psyduck on the field.
“It’s been a while since I lost two pokémon in a Triples battle,” Misa said. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re any worse at one-on-one. Confusion!”
“PSSYYYY—” Not deterred at the lack of support from her Nidoran pair, Psyduck’s eyes shone with a cerulean hue as it bundled up into a ball of telekinetic energy. Then launched it towards the Alolan Vulpix with a quack. “DUCK!”
Koko avoided it by bounding to the side, her hackles raised as a pink aura began to build around her—
—the aura faded as she looked back and let out an inquiring, “Vul?”
“Focus on just dodging for now while I think of something,” she said. Koko’s expression made it clear she didn’t understand why. But she obeyed as Psyduck released another telekinetic cannonball towards her.
We’re in a bad spot, Lillie couldn’t help but think as Koko avoided the next Confusion attack. Psyduck was a Water-Type, meaning it had an advantage against Koko’s Ice attacks. Outside of that she only had Moonblast to use, but it could always put up a Light Screen to blunt their collective attacks, and then Disable to stop her from using it again. But… that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still affect it.
Nodding to herself, she addressed her Starter. “Koko, keep using Powder Snow on Psyduck!”
The Alolan Vulpix’s crystalline blue eyes narrowed as she inhaled until her tiny chest swelled. Then she let loose another stream of the frost-laden gale. The breath of winter ran forward and blanketed the Psyduck, who stood there and let it wash over him as a Light Screen appeared and caught the bulk of it before shattering to leave glimmering particles covering it.
“You’re faster than it, so just keep running circles around it and using Powder Snow!” Lillie pointed out. Speed was the one definite advantage that they had over Psyduck, allowing her to release the chilling breath as she closed the distance and left its glimmering yellow body covered with flakes of frost.
“That won’t do much of anything to Psyduck!” Misa said as her pokémon shook off the first flurry and its eyes shone with psychic power. Then it released another Confusion attack, sending yet another telekinetic bundle of energy sailing towards Koko.
The Alolan Vupix managed to hop to the side as it crashed into the bridge, retaliating with yet another blast of Powder Snow. As the frost-laden gale washed over the Duck Pokémon yet again, it was a little slower in shaking it off a second time.
“Once more!” Lillie said.
“PIXXXXX!” breathed Koko as she strained her ice pouch to let out an even strong breath until the sound of crackling ice filled the air.
Psyduck was frozen solid!
Koko stirred. “Vul?”
“Resistance isn’t immunity,” Lillie explained. “Even with Light Screen, a constant series of ice attacks would eventually give it enough grounding to freeze so it can’t use Disable or refresh the Light Screen. That’s why Lynn used Sing to get around Bellamy’s immunity to Sleep Powder, and why Pieri used Safeguard with Lynn.”
It was fortunate they had that training match after all. It was only because she remembered how Lynn had outpaced Snubbull that she opted to even thought to keep going in circles until it stuck. “Now, ready your strongest Moonblast before it thaws!”
Snow-white fur was shrouded in a veil of pink as Koko amassed her most powerful attack, a swirling orb that building up in front of her. The orb swelled until its size surpassed that of the Alolan Vulpix herself, a dense concentration of energy that she fired forward like a cannonball. “PIX!”
A Critical Hit!
The moment the swollen orb connected, it ruptured violently and sent shards of ice flying in all directions. When the pink-hued smoke cleared, Psyduck was laying on the ground while still holding onto his head. He stared towards the sky unflinching as smoke wafted off his yellow coat without making a singe movement.
“…Ahhh, he’s out cold.” Misa said after a moment, pulling out his ball and returning him. Then she sighed. “Looks like we lost this one.”
The tension holding up Lillie’s body fled her with the admission, leaving her to let out a heavy breath and slouch over as her mother’s Lilligant patted her on the back and Koko scurried back in her direction. “That was nerve-wracking…”
“If it wasn’t then I wouldn’t be doing my job,” Misa said humorously as she strolled up towards them. “But look on the bright side: you just have to beat one more pokémon to pass the challenge.”
Lillie received a Green Stamp!
“You mean the final trainer only uses a single pokémon?” Lillie asked after Misa applied her stamp.
“Let me call him so you can see for yourself.” Misa went over the side of the bridge, looking down towards the under-bridge that ran beneath the large one they were on. “Kado! Come introduce yourself!”
Lillie tilted her head in curiosity as she picked up Koko, only for a young man who was maybe a few years older than her to suddenly rise into the air from over the edge of the bridge. He was wearing what looked like a Fisherman’s vest, but with no shirt beneath it, and a pair of swim trunks. There was a pair of goggles on his head as well.
Climbing over the side of the railing, he gave Lillie a bright smile as whatever hoisted him into the air sank back down to the water. “Finally, someone made it past Misa. I was getting bored.”
“You’re the final bridge trainer?” Lillie asked.
He nodded. “I used to be a Gym Trainer, back before Leader Misty got married and went off to join the Elite Four. Not too long ago the Mayor asked me to head the gauntlet and I agreed since I wanted to keep the spirit of it alive.”
If he was a Gym Trainer, then there was no doubt in Lillie’s mind he was talented. The man who gave her the stamp card mentioned earlier that the bridge would act more like an actual Gym by the end. That meant Kado was likely on par with a Gym Leader then—at least relative to her.
“Anyway, the final match will be 1-on-3 the next time you come by,” he continued. “The conditions of victory will be to the knockout or surrender. If you can beat my pokémon with even one of yours still conscious by the end, you get the final stamp and win the challenge.”
Zzzzimple enough, Rotom chimed in before floating in a circle around the former Gym Trainer. What pokémon will you be using, zrt?
To that, Kado only chuckled and then snapped his fingers. Then the water behind him exploded upwards in a spout as a long figure leaped from depths and over the railing of the bridge, streamlets cascading down its serpentine form as the blue scales along its back glistened in the light. A pair of furrowed eyes cast its gaze down upon them, reminding them all that they were very small as its shadow loomed over them and a rumble left its throat.
“Meet my Gyarados,” Kado said, resting a hand against its underbelly. “You’ll have to beat him to win.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Here you go,” Bill said as he set down a cup on a saucer atop the kitchen table for his guest.
In turn, Lusamine’s emerald eyes peered up from the tablet that was in front of her. “Thank you.”
The researcher nodded and then took a seat across from her. “Was the data different than that of the Aether Foundation’s?”
“Not quite,” she said. The screen had the data and reports about her current condition now that the man had finished examining her using the equipment within his home. “I was hoping that the diagnosis would be more positive, but it seems as though I really will have to go through the treatment you suggested.”
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the only way that we’ll be able to completely remove the remainder of the neurotoxins within your body.”
Her merger with the Ultra Beast when she’d tried to do the unspeakable had left her body in its current condition, but the toxins from that point and time had largely been removed. What was most problematic was the fact that she’d been infected from her previous contact with it, back around the time her husband disappeared. That was so long ago that her body had come to consider it something native and would require… drastic methods to remove it.
“With the teleporter and the DNA map that was provided from before you were infected with the neurotoxins, we can remove them safely. But if we were to do it all at once, your body might vehemently reject it to a potentially fatal degree.”
“Which will mean doing it systematically,” she assumed. “Treatment followed by periods of convalescence and observation. Depending on how my body reacts to the process, it might even take longer than originally predicted.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “I hope it won’t be a problem that you might have to stay here with us for a while longer. I know my facilities aren’t quite up to the standards of your own.”
A slight shake of her head was accompanied by a small smile. “On the contrary, I’ve been finding my stay here to be quite… soothing.”
The Aether Foundation had been a technological marvel, a citadel of chrome and sterilized white. The only landscapes within the artificial island were only those that had been crafted by the hands of artisans, to make the pokémon feel comfortable. It had been her home for such a long time that she considered it as much.
Yet, this inlet was gorgeous in its own way. Quiet and spacious with rich greenery surrounding them, a mountain to the north and a river to the south. A little walk to the east would bring them to a coast, and to the west was a forest.
“In addition, both yourself and your pokémon has proven to be quite welcoming,” she finished. “I could think of no better company or place for my convalescence.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” he said, relief threading his voice. “Still, if there’s anything that you need to get through this, don’t hesitate to tell me. I want to make your stay here as comfortable as possible considering how stressful it’ll be once we do start.”
She stared into her reflection in the tea when she considered that and her smile dropped. To be honest, while Lusamine still had her good days, she still felt horrible and it was hard for her to wake up most of the time. Those neurotoxins in her body had been pepping her up more than she realized, and she wasn’t under the illusion that she could still present the strong image that she had when her daughter was around.
“Then…can we put off starting until once Lillie leaves for her journey?” Her voice held a slight tremor in it. “I don’t imagine it’ll be longer than two or so weeks at this point, and I don’t want her to see me in that sort of state before my gift to her has arrived.”
“Of course,” he answered. Then he took a moment to register the last portion of her request. “Ah, by gift, should I take it that you had luck in finding a Ponyta?”
“Somewhat…” She lightly blew at her tea. “Tell me, are you familiar with a region known as Galar?”
“Not very,” he admitted. “They have a storage system in place, but I didn’t personally oversee it and direct trading via the Global Trading System isn’t functional.”
“Well, there’s a regional variant there that caught my eye,” she told him. “I’d like to give it to her at an ideal time to make it a truly unforgettable memory, but I don’t think anything I can manage will be similar to when she received her first pokémon.”
“Hmm… an unforgettable memory…” Bill murmured under his breath. “If that’s the case then, I might have a suggestion.”
Lusamine’s eyes perked up. “Oh?”
“Most people know there’s a colony of Clefairy and Clefable in Mt. Moon,” he began. “But what few people know is that there’s a small, hidden square where they have a sort of ritual dance every month under the full moon. They usually stay out of sight, but perhaps yourself, your daughter, and your Clefable could bear witness to it with Cecilia as a guide.”
“That sounds perfect!” A truly earnest smile blossomed across her face at that suggestion as she reached over and grabbed his hands still on the table. “Thank you for telling me.”
He only gave her a somewhat modest smile as he met her gaze in silence when the sound of Glacian barking and getting a yip back reached their ears through the pet entrance to the door. “Oh, it seems they’re back.”
Lusamine withdrew her touch as she rose from her seat and opened the door, where she spotted her daughter being ringed by the Fresh Snow and Fox Pokémon as they both ran around her. Her Flowering Pokémon was only a step away and waved upon noticing her, an act mirrored by Lillie.
Her heart quivered. It was what she wanted so much. Her family, her pokémon, all together with smiles. It was only possible because she was going through this treatment even knowing that it would be so much harder than what she was going through now.
Lusamine didn’t want to lose this a second time.
So she’d see it through.
Chapter 17: Coordination
It was afternoon by the time Lusamine woke from her slumber the next day, much to her dismay as she stared up at the clock.
This is unacceptable… She couldn’t help but frown as she buried her head into her hands and waited for the headache to settle down. It wasn’t as bad as in Vermillion City, but she still wasn’t exactly in good health at the moment. It would take time for the worst of the symptoms to pass, for her to make herself presentable, and then to ensure her own pokémon were taken care of. Time that could’ve been spent with her daughter if she hadn’t slept in so late.
A sweet scent reached her nose and cleared her mind somewhat, drawing her eyes up to her Lilligant. The Flowering Pokémon stood there with her arms held together and an apologetic look in her eyes. They’d been together long enough that Lusamine understood that it was because she’d tried to wake her up normally and, when that failed, she’d chosen to let her rest.
“It’s not your fault,” Lusamine told her. They all knew that she would have days like this the moment the majority of the toxins were flushed out of her body. The initial contact hadn’t been on purpose, but her merging with Nihilego entirely at the end had been her choice. “It’s nothing more than I deserve.”
“Lilli! Lilli!” The Flowering Pokémon shook her head vigorously and reached over to touch her hands in assurance. “Lilligant!”
Lusamine took a deep and shuddering breath before clearing her throat and putting on a smile. If not for herself, then for her kind and compassionate flower. “Can you help me get dressed for the day? I can’t go out looking like this after all.”
It took an hour to get herself presentable—her body showered, unkempt and unruly hair tamed, a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt for simplicity’s sake. That took care of her own needs. Now all she needed to do was to see to her own pokémon, specifically Milotic and Bewear. The former tended to get a little upset if she didn’t give her enough attention, while the latter needed to roam around at times to alleviate her boredom.
But first she stopped by the entrance to Lillie’s room. “Lillie? Are you there?”
After a pause, during which there was no answer, Lusamine decided to head down the hall to see if she was on the first floor. That was until she heard a strange sound inside. Her curiosity led to her cracking the door open and peeking inside.
“Snnrrr…” The source of the sound was a Snubbull that was currently sleeping in the bed meant for the Alolan Vulpix, on the ground. The excess flesh on its face was pooled beneath its prone body, every breath making it rise and fall. Every now and then it snorted, feet twitching and face scrunching up. “Snubbb…bulll….”
“Aren’t you adorable?” Lusamine couldn’t help but say as she walked over to it. Drawn in by the adorable sight of its sleeping face, she reached out to pet it. Such a cute pokémon. If only it could stay that way for…eve…r…
Her fingers came to a stop inches above its pink fur the moment that thought crossed her mind, shaking. That very same thought had led to her private collection of frozen pokémon. She even had a Snubbull there for that exact same reason, frozen in time to preserve its beauty.
No, that’s not right. She pulled her arm back and held it to her chest as she backed away from the Fairy Pokémon. That’s the remnants of the toxins talking.
With the majority of it gone from her system, Lusamine was mostly rational when it came to her thoughts and actions. But every now and again the remnants did more than just leave her fatigued and in pain from withdrawal. The filters on her thoughts came off, and right or wrong stopped mattering if it was what she wanted.
That was part of why she felt so bad when Lillie had admonished her for hurting that Nurse Joy. It was an accident, which was true enough. But she could have done something differently, like having Mismagius pass through the walls and then assess the situation. It was just that… the moment she learned her daughter was in potential danger she wanted to go for the simplest solution by having Bewear brute force it.
That was what it boiled down to—what was the natural solution to her problem and how to achieve it.
She wanted to preserve their beauty forever. The natural solution was to freeze them. She wanted to find her husband and the Ultra Beasts were in the way. The natural solution was to create a pokémon that could deal with them since training others took too long. Her children kept getting in her way and were trying to stop her from enjoying her own paradise. The natural solution was to make them go away.
And when her pokémon failed… the natural solution was to do it herself.
It stabbed at her heart when she recalled everything she’d done. When she recalled what sort of monster she had become. Even now, with a second chance, she was on the verge ruining it with how jealous she’d felt when she listened to Lillie talk to that woman about her Alolan Vulpix.
That should have been me. The thought was bitter as she sat down on her daughter’s bed and brought her hands to her eyes. Petty and tinged with regret as the knife twisted in her chest because she knew it was her own fault for abandoning the two treasures that her husband had left her.
For two years she didn’t bother looking for her son. She left her daughter alone for several months to be raised by someone else. If the toxins took the filters off, then why didn’t she use the full resources at her disposal to reclaim them?
“You did it!” Her head snapped up at the sound of her daughter’s voice. Peering out of the window showed Lillie was on the bridge, the Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon by her side as they looked to the water on one side of the bridge. A sheet of ice was spread out in front of them, thin enough to be seen through but solid enough that it didn’t sink when they pressed down on it.
Koko learned Icy Wind!
The Fox Pokémon yipped as she bounced up the bridge, excited. Then she turned around to try to freeze the water on the other side of the bridge. A stream of cold air laced with glittering ice particles flowed out, but it didn’t expand and eventually petered out without freezing the surface. It left her tilting her head inquisitively. “Vul?”
Lillie crouched down to stroke the tuft of hair on her head. “You’ve only just managed for the first time, so you probably can’t do it back-to-back just yet. You need to get rest between practicing with your Ice-techniques, so your body can adjust to it. I remember Professor Kukui saying that once when Elio visited to talk about Silkie learning Aqua Jet.”
It was an accurate assessment as far as Lusamine could tell. That Alolan Vulpix was only a few months old and her internal ice pouch hadn’t developed enough naturally to do it so many times on its own, in contrast to the Glaceon. By periodically straining with Icy Wind and then resting, her internal ice-pouch would expand to handle the strain like how muscles grew stronger over time.
For Lillie to have predicted that and told her pokémon that fact before it got sad showed insight on her part, since it could leave them distraught and even ruin their training. She had grown in the time she was away so much, and yet Lusamine hadn’t been there to see it. And soon her daughter would be leaving to go on her own journey—one that would change her even more.
“Do you want to go play with Glacian for a bit until Azuria gets here?” She received a yip in response before Fresh Snow Pokémon tagged her with a paw and started running off. The game was on and the Fox Pokémon gave chase.
If only your father could see the young woman you’re growing into. The thought brought a sad frown to her face when she imagined her husband looking out on this same scene. He would no doubt have loved to see it. I miss you so much, Mohn.
Lusamine pulled away from the window and left Lillie’s room, stirring on that thought. Even now she hadn’t lost hope that her husband was out there somewhere. It was possible to survive in Ultra Space for prolonged periods as the different worlds it led to had different laws of physics governing them, so one day she would find him and reunite their family.
Part of her was worried he would be horrified of the woman she had become, just like their son was. Someone who had abandoned the most precious things he’d left behind in this world and went against the very beliefs that she’d held. But she was sure that he’d forgive her and would convince Gladion to do the same.
Until then she would keep doing her best. She’d keep her thoughts and actions in check until the remnants of the toxins were removed. She’d give her daughter as much help as she possibly could before seeing her off, even if Lusamine didn’t want her to leave at all.
Then she’d find Mohn.
Her resolve steeled, Lusamine proceeded down the stairs when a commotion coming from the backyard drew her attention to the door’s window. In the backyard that rose up a slope into the mountains, she found Bill sitting down at the table and preparing food for his pokémon. She hadn’t intended to interrupt them at all until his Kadabra spotted her and used its psychic power to open it for her in an act of courtesy.
Bill gave her a cordial smile. “I’m glad you could join us. Are you feeling well?”
“Yes, though I didn’t mean to interrupt you when you were busy,” she told him. After all, not only was Bill the one who managed the PC system in Kanto, but he was assisting with her treatment. To take even more of his time would be unacceptable.
“Company livens things up around here, so we welcome it.” He gestured to the bag of pokémon food and jars of berry powder sitting beneath the parasol that was fixed to the table. “It’s actually convenient since we’ve already got the food out and you need to feed your own pokémon.”
“Well, when you put it that way I can’t really refuse.” Taking up his invitation, she took a seat across from him and released everyone except for Mismagius. Milotic, predictably, decided to perch her head into her trainer’s lap and prod her stomach in a bade for attention. She indulged the beautiful creature with a pat. “Give me a few minutes to help the nice man with your food, okay?”
“She’s quite affectionate, isn’t she?” Bill mused as the Tender Pokémon took that as a cue to settle down for the moment. Then he noticed Haku quizzically tilting his head and making an inquiring sound. “No. Your horn is sharper, so that’d hurt me.”
“It may have been for a good cause, but I did spoil her a bit,” Lusamine admitted. “A very young child wanted a Milotic, so their parents gifted her to the child when she was a Feebas. But they underestimated the time and emotional investment it takes to evolve into one. In the end, she entered into our care and I took care of her personally.”
Imagine what it would be like to be raised knowing that it was because you would be beautiful one day? Imagine that the reason your trainer loved you and valued you above all else was because what you would become? Then imagine what would happen when words alone weren’t enough and you were unable to meet their standards?
It was only recently discovered that a Prism Scale would alter a Feebas’ genetic structure during the trading process, inducing evolution. Serious care and effort had to be put into raising a Feebas to evolve before that discovery. That was far more than an impatient child keeping her sweet Milotic in a fish tank could honestly provide on her own.
“Why won’t you evolve? Why are you still ugly? Why won’t you become beautiful?”
Those words were perhaps nothing more than a child being upset that things weren’t going their way. But pokémon were so much smarter than people gave them credit for. And for her self-esteem to have been built up with expectations only to be torn down…it took a toll on her emotional state and eventually she stopped eating.
The Pokémon Centers were trained to heal physical wounds, but they couldn’t deal with emotional trauma. The parents ultimately agreed to release the Feebas since the child wouldn’t take care of her. And it was when she entered into the Aether Foundation’s care to be rehabilitated that Lusamine found her, staring into the glass at her own reflection…
Loathing herself for the look she was born with.
“Every pokémon is beautiful in its own way. I can see that beauty in you. If evolving is the only way you’ll believe that, then I’ll help you become as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside.”
Lusamine could still remember the promise she made and the time she spent with her Feebas. It took so long to ensure that the Fish Pokémon could be proud of herself, going above and beyond what was necessary or expected. But she kept her promise and helped her evolve in the end.
But was it right for me to do that? That thought haunted Lusamine as Milotic started nuzzling against her leg softly. The members of the Foundation tried not to get too attached to the Pokémon they were rehabilitating because most of them were supposed to be released back out into the wild. Lusamine had done the opposite of that with the Tender Pokémon, becoming her very world instead.
Now she owned a beautiful, powerful creature. One that would never abandon or disobey her. Even if she had good intentions to start with, had she purposely taken advantage of her vulnerable state and raised Milotic to always need her after what happened to her husband? The fact that she couldn’t be sure that the good things she’d done didn’t have some sinister purpose twisted a knot into her stomach.
She distracted herself with preparing Milotic’s food. When she ran the Aether Foundation, Lusamine had imported Pamtre and Bluk Berries to spruce up her diet. It was expensive given they were rare even in their native regions, but no price was too much back then. Now, however, an Oran and Pecha Berry blend would have to suffice. “All done.”
“Miiii~” Milotic sat with her mouth opened, waiting to be handfed as she batted her eyes.
The maternal side of her trainer couldn’t resist the deliberate cuteness of it. “Okay, but only a few. I still have to prepare food for the rest.”
The Tender Pokémon laid her head into Lusamine’s lap and slowly, quietly savored each pellet she was given. Drawing out the amount of time spent between them with an expression of contentment and bliss, it would sate her need for attention for the moment. But she would want more attention later on, as was her usual behavior.
I’ll have to try to get her less dependent on me. Her eyes turned up to check on the others and found Bewear being drawn to the colorful, ribbon-like appendages that made up the Sylveon. The Intertwining Pokémon was hiding behind the Jolteon that was standing vigilant over the younger member of their family. Before she could do anything, Clefable called for Bewear to sit next to her and Bill’s Clefairy.
How innocent Bewear was happened to be attractive in a way, but now Lusamine questioned if not helping her become more mature was also intentional. Bewear was trained so that she didn’t hurt someone by accident because of how strong she was. But she was still basically a child in an adult’s body in terms of maturity.
Lusamine gently brushed the Tender Pokémon’s cream-colored head from her seat and set the bowl next to her. The others needed their food after all, both Bill’s pokémon and her own. The backyard was filled with more than a dozen pokémon happily nibbling away by the time they were both—with one exception.
“Is something wrong with your Porygon-2?” She noticed that it hadn’t moved at all since her arrival. It was just sitting there with its eyes opened. Staring off into the distance with an unblinking gaze as the world went by.
“He’s still integrating his new programming, so he has moments like this.” Bill crouched down and gently touched the smooth contour that made up the Virtual Pokémon. “Normally he fills in for me when I’m not here, or when I’m busy with something else by integrating into the PC System. That was what he was programmed for. However, due to the limitations of the time period he was made, he doesn’t socialize or function outside of his duty very well.”
In other words, it was no different than a machine that existed to carry out a function. Which was strange, considering the Aether Foundation had some under their employment who developed their own traits and personalities. “It—he, must be one of the oldest models then?”
“One of the first, actually,” Bill said. “When Porygon were first created I just had to have one. The benefits to my work and the rarity of Poly’s species were just too alluring for me to resist. It isn’t a stretch to say that he’s probably one of the oldest Porygon alive, but because of that he doesn’t have the benefits the modern ones have in their AI that make them no different than other pokémon. I commissioned a researcher to create an Up-Grade disk specifically for him to be able to match their development and work with more recent computer systems, but it’s taking him a long time to properly integrate it.”
That was one of the downsides to artificial pokémon. In taking the role that nature had to create life, they had flaws of varying kinds due to human-error. To keep a first-generation Porygon still functional and relevant after twenty years was amazing and took no shortage of effort.
She admired him for it. “You really do love your pokémon, don’t you?”
“I always have,” Bill said. “Though it was more that I loved them as a collection until a decade ago. My developing the Box System was a result of my desire to hold onto them all without even leaving my home, since I hated going outside unnecessarily. They never aged or died or changed, preserving them perfectly. The person I was back then would have left him as a Porygon and had a replacement operate the system while he stayed in a box.”
“What changed your mind?” she asked. It was only after her daughter had told her off and she had been ripped away from Nihilego that she had been able to grasp that what she had done was wrong. So she was curious to know what had done the same for him?
“The teleporter accident,” he explained. “I felt what it meant to have the mind of a pokémon and it changed my perspective on everything. I still believe in connecting the world through my network, but I also believe that pokémon should be treated better. That was why I contributed to the recent changes when it comes to their release, among other things.”
That’s also probably why he decided to help us as well. Bill didn’t need money and his time was more precious than anything. Lusamine could only assume the likely the reason he opted to help her was because he had his own revelation and was paying it forward. “I’m guessing you released the rest of your collection then?”
He nodded. “With the exception of the ones here. Poly was a special case since he wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild and someone else would have likely discarded him or kept him as a trophy. I owe it to him to try making sure he can live a life beyond his programming and one of these days it’ll work out.”
“I’m sure it will,” Lusamine agreed with a friendly smile. She felt a small kinship with him, knowing that they’d undergone a similar awakening, and wanted to do something to help him out. Maybe she could have Faba take a look at his Porygon?
Regardless, the conversation between the two former collectors died when they spotted the Living Pokédex approaching them, having flown around the side of the building from the front. It approached them and addressed Bill specifically.
Miss Azuria has arrived. She is requesting permission to come speak with Mister Bill, zzt.
“Tell her that she’s free to come back here if she wants,” Bill said. “It’ll be a minute before I can go out to the front and I’m sure that the others will be glad to see her.”
Rotom hovered back around to the front. Not even a few seconds later the back entrance to Bill’s Cottage opened up again to reveal a bright and cheerful-looking young woman, sporting a trendy outfit. In her hands was a basket from which a sweet smell wafted.
“Hi everyone!” she said, to which she got a response from Bill’s Pokémon. They recognized her from the mixed but mostly energetic reactions. “Sorry if I came at a bad time, but I brought Poffins for everyone. All fresh from the oven.”
“The timing couldn’t be better then,” Bill said before introduced his guest. “Azuria, this is Miss Lusamine. She’s Lillie’s mother.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you,” she said, giving her a polite greeting while extending her hand for a shake. “Your daughter’s been something of an acquaintance of mine, so I came to help her out today.”
“Well, I’m glad to see she’s making friends fast.” Shaking her hand, she found herself impressed at how well the younger woman’s outfit accentuated her azure hair and eyes. “What will you be helping her with?”
“Doubles Battling.” Her gaze fell to the side and froze when they met the pristine beauty that was Milotic. She squealed and dropped down, eyes glimmering as she basked in the presence of the Tender Pokémon. “I haven’t seen a beauty-evolved Milotic since my time in the Hoenn circuit!”
“You can tell that in a glance?” Lusamine asked, while Milotic was preening from the attention being lavished on her. An acknowledgement of her beauty was always one way to get on her good side for a first impression.
She nodded. “You gain an eye for appraising pokémon by their appearance and grooming in my field, and a lot of Coordinators seek out Milotic for the Beauty Portion of the contests. But since it’s become easier to evolve them with a Prism Scale, I’ve noticed there’s a difference in the sheen when it comes to patterns on their tails.”
Azuria reached into the basket and presented a treat to the Tender Pokémon. “Want a Blukberry Poffin?”
Red eyes twinkled with hunger the moment Milotic laid eyes on it, the tantalizing scent of the baked snack carrying the aroma of her favorite berry. She cast an imploring gaze to her trainer and made a soft, pleading sound while motioning with her head. “Miii. Miii.”
“I’m sorry,” Lusamine told the younger woman. “I spoiled her a bit, so she’ll only eat it if I’ll feed her.”
Azuria took it well despite that, instead offering the Blukberry Poffin to Lusamine. “I completely understand. To raise such a beautiful pokémon, you’d have to lavish them with enough care that they’d get attached. My little Lynn was the same too back when she was a little Skitty, and it took a while before she and Gracie got along.”
“Is that so?” She found herself intrigued at the prospect as she allowed Milotic to eat the treat from her palm until a shadow draped them both. It was cast by the bulk of Bewear, holding her paw to her muzzle as she rubbed her tummy.
“Lillie told me all about you this morning, Bewear,” Azuria said with a wink. “I made sure to have some extra-sweet Poffins for you too.”
The Strong-Arm Pokémon seemed elated at the prospect. She sat down, leaving her paws open for the Coordinator to put the small treat into them. Then she plopped it into her mouth and chewed it with her eyes upturned in happiness. “Baooo.”
“You’re like a big teddy bear, aren’t you?” Azuria smiled as she carefully pressed her hand against the fur that made up the large pokémon’s body and felt her fingers sink into it. “And you have Fluffy too from the feel of it.”
Seeing how her two problem children were so easily kept satisfied by the Coordinator, Lusamine watched Azuria go around and hand the snacks out to the rest of the pokémon there. Even her Lilligant seemed familiar with the Coordinator, who mentioned something about one of her pokémon and a Mime Jr. The only one who was seemed to have trouble with her was the shy Sylveon that remained behind her brother, though she bobbed her head in gratitude as the young woman left a poffin for her a modest distance away.
“Thanks for doing this,” Bill said with a good-natured smile as she sat the basket down on the table. “They really do enjoy it when you and the others come over.”
“After everything you’ve done for us, this is the least I could do,” Azuria said. “Besides, I like baking and I got to see a lot of interesting pokémon, so it’s a fair trade. I just hope you don’t mind us using your front yard. I know Haku likes to stay in the pond.”
“I don’t think he minds too much.” Bill pointed to the Dragonair that was now floating in the air in sinuous motions, entertaining himself. “Just try to go easy on Lillie. She and her pokémon are still new to battling.”
“I’m just going to give her some advice with coordinating her pokémon by showing her how my own work together.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll come with you out front to watch,” Lusamine said. In addition to seeing her daughter and letting her know that she was awake, she wanted to see the girl’s pokémon for herself. “Behave yourself back here while I’m gone, Bewear. And try to get along with the others, Milotic.”
Bewear nodded her head enthusiastically, while Milotic gave her a reluctant look. She brushed the Tender Pokémon a final time to placate her a little more before following the Coordinator through the door and back into the hallway. That was when the scrabbling of paws coming down the stairs reached their ears as Snubbull hurried for the front door and out of the pet entrance.
“Look who finally woke up.” They heard through the door. Lillie’s voice. It was followed by a bark, then a pause, and then a response. “Well, you shouldn’t have stayed up all night watching that battle video. How did you even learn how to get it to play in a loop?”
Azuria found herself giggling as she opened the door. “It sounds like Snubbull’s being a little handful already, huh?”
“He just got a little excited, so he stayed up all night watching Elio’s battle and slept-in,” Lillie said, watching as he hastily ate the treat she’d held onto for him. The others had already finished theirs. “He hasn’t caused any trouble so far.”
“Melanie is just happy that someone will look after him.” Azuria crouched down in front of the Fairy Pokémon. “She also told me to tell you that she expects you to be a good boy, not to run off into trouble again, and to take your baths.”
Snubbull looked off to the side as he finished the snack and rubbed his stubby little arm against the back of his head while muttering, “Sn… Snubbull. Snubbull.”
Warrior pokémon do take baths, zzt. Rotom replied. In fact, given the nature of battles they would need to take them constantly.
He glared at the Living Pokédex and let a low grumble bubble up in his throat until Lillie gently patted him on his head. Then he huffed and walked away. “Bull.”
Lillie then addressed her mother who lurked in the doorway. “Mother, you’re awake now?”
“Sorry if I worried you,” she said, stepping outside and taking in the scenery. There were a variety of pokémon present, those belonging to Azuria. She could see a Bellossom waddling just out of view and a Lopunny rolling its eyes, a Delcatty lounging beneath the canopy of one the larger Berry Trees and a Butterfree flying between the ones that were flowering. “How’s your training going so far this morning?”
“Pretty well.” Her daughter looked over to the Alolan Vulpix that was poking at the surface of the water. Testing if her last attempt had succeeded. “Koko finally managed to do Icy Wind. As for Shuckle, he can do Protect pretty well but it can’t take a really hard hit before breaking.”
The Mold Pokémon in question was next to a Slowbro that stared blankly into the distance. If Lusamine had to guess, it was curious as to the nature of the shell clinging to its back. Or the fact that the shell in question was staring back at it.
Lillie then looked over the Bellsprout that was walking towards them. “Bellamy apparently knows Vine Whip, Growth, and Acid Spray already. Rotom suggested that if we helped him learn Sunny Day, they would go well with his Ability. But since he’s not used to battling, I want to get him comfortable with that first.”
“That would be wise,” Lusamine agreed. “A good number of Grass pokémon or techniques rely on strong sunlight, but since the weather in Kanto is relatively mild compared to say… Hoenn, he probably won’t be exposed to it outside of battling. And considering it also strengthens Fire attacks, it would be risky unless he had experience or Protect to cover himself.”
“Well, I’d offer to let Zinn help him adjust to using Chlorophyll, but he’s being… difficult.” The Coordinator looked over to where her Lopunny was holding the second Flower Pokémon that had been trying to go around to the back. “But we can help him with getting used to battling, if you’re ready?”
“Sure.” Lille looked between her two newest pokémon. “I’ll let Bellamy and Snubbull have a go first, since Shuckle and Koko could use a little rest.”
The Flower Pokémon quizzically tilted his head before pointing to himself. “Spout?”
At the same time, the Fairy Pokémon also pointed to the Bellsprout and let loose an incredulous, “Bull!?”
“That’s right.” Lillie gave them both an enthusiastic smile. “The best way for Bellamy to get experience is to try battling. And, Snubbull, you need to learn to do more than attack, so I’ll have to look out for him. This way both of you can grow together since we’re all on the same team. Understand?”
Bellamy nodded before turning to Snubbull and extending a leaf over for him to shake. “Sp-Sprout?”
Snubbull merely huffed at the gesture and fell onto all fours before running over to the bridge. “Snubbull! Snub!”
He’s saying he needs no help to win. Rotom translated.
Lillie frowned slightly upon seeing Bellamy’s dejected face and was quick to comfort him. “Don’t be upset. He’s just headstrong. He’ll grow out of it as we get along, but for now watch out for him. Okay?”
With a nod, the Flower Pokémon walked over to where the Fairy Pokémon stood and awaited his challenger.
“Well, if you’re going to use those two then…” Azuria made a soft thinking sound before turning over towards the trees. “Pieri! Lynn! Come on over for a quick match.”
Lusamine watched as the feline’s purple ears rose from their folded posture before the Prim Pokémon roused at the Coordinator’s call. Raising her head as the Butterfree flew over, those dark eyes stared down at the canine that barked towards it. The smile that came across her face as she stretched out her back, hopped down the tree, and came over, distinctly reminded Lusamine of how Alolan Meowth tended to play with their food.
Her daughter’s Snubbull barked and snarled in an attempt to be menacing as the feline sauntered past him. The Delcatty paid it no mind before brushing against her trainer’s leg and sitting upright before her. The Coordinator affectionately leaned down and stroked between her ears before addressing Lillie.
“We’ll battle until the surrender instead of knockout to avoid any excessive damage,” she said, puffing out her chest in pride. The makeshift battlefield that was Bill’s yard—in specific, the dirt path between the bridge-split pond and the slope that went down to the river. “To be safe, I won’t have my team attack full-force and we’ll give you the first move!”
Her daughter nodded in acceptance of the terms. “Okay then. Bellam—“
“Snubbull!!” The Fairy Pokémon darted in before the orders could be given, seeking to strike first. Flames licked the corners of his mouth as he prepared a Fire Fang and went for the feline that remained seated as she brushed her paw against her cheek. Then he lunged, maw wide and ready to clamp down, when a pair of sinuous vines caught him midway and pulled him short while causing the flames to peter out.
It was only because of that he avoided being buffered by argent winds as Pieri released a Silver Wind. The silver blades broke into glittering powder as they smashed into the ground, scattering as the Butterfly Pokémon allowed the Bellsprout to finish reeling his catch in as he lowered himself between them and the Delcatty that finally rose on all fours.
“Snubbull, you need to wait for me to give the commands,” Lillie scolded. “Remember, if you break the rules of a trainer battle, you’ll be disqualified. Then how will you prove anything?”
The Fairy Pokémon chuffed as he looked away. “Snub-snub.”
He who zzztrikes first doesn’t always win in the wild, Rotom pointed out. In fact, that was exactly how you ended up getting caught, zzt.
The Fairy Pokémon snarled at the Living Pokédex again only to settle down when Lillie pouted, tapping her foot against the ground. Then he huffed and submitted. “Snub.”
“Okay, let’s try this again.” She turned back to their opponents. “Snubbull, use Scary Face to slow him down so Bellamy can use Vine Whip and tie him up!”
Snubbull listened this time, darkness masking his face. The Butterfly Pokémon’s muscles tensed up as his compound eyes met the Scary Face, leaving him to struggle against an instinctive fear. At the same time Bellamy reared back slightly before throwing his vines forwards.
“Pieri, take the lead!” Azuria commanded. “Follow him, Lynn!”
Pieri used Teleport!
Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Teleport!
In an instant both Pokémon blinked out of existence a moment before the attack would have connected, leaving Bellamy’s vines to pass through where the Butterfree had once been. Then they reappeared, one in front of Snubbull and one behind the Bellsprout. Pieri’s compound eyes and wings then began to glow with the hue of psychic energy as he unleashed his next attack, while the Prim Pokémon glowed with a thin shroud of colorless light that took on the same hue as Pieri’s wings.
Pieri used Confusion!
Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Confusion!
Caught by the attacks before Lillie could get a warning out, both Bellamy and Snubbull were hit by bundles of psychic energy that slammed into them from opposing sides. The Prim Pokémon’s Confusion knocked Snubbull in the snout and sent him tumbling back, while the Butterfly Pokémon’s ruptured with telekinetic force at the base of the Flower Pokémon roots and sent him flying forward. Just like that they’d been separated.
Snubbull bounced on the ground once before hopping back onto his paws and snarling as he faced the Delcatty while flames danced from the corners of his mouth. She only made a yawning motion at the implied threat, bringing a paw up to her mouth. In turn, Snubbull lunged for the Prim Pokémon with the intention of letting loose a Fire Fang—
Lynn used Tail Whip!
—only for the feline to spin on her hind legs, using a Tail Whip to slap him away and force his jaw shut. He snapped down on empty air as he staggered to the side, before shaking his head and glaring as the feline followed through with a pirouette that landed her a few feet away. The cheshire smile she wore afterwards only seemed to agitate him further. “SNUBBULL!!”
“Don’t chase her,” Lillie said. It was fruitless though as Snubbull kept going after her as she ran around in a circle, clearly humoring him. She sighed and looked back to Bellamy, who was pushing himself back onto his tiny roots with his leafy appendages. Pieri was fluttering in towards him. “Bellamy, behind you!”
The Flower Pokémon whipped his head around to see the incoming threat and instinctively tried to run away before stopping, as if realizing he was in an official battle. Then he retaliated with a small ball of sludge, gastric juices drudged up and spat out in the form of an Acid Spray.
Pieri dodged the attack with a flap of the wings, letting out a small noise that reached the ears of the feline. The Delcatty then ceased toying around with the Fairy Pokémon and then took off much faster than before as the Acid Spray hit the ground right in front of Snubbull. The splash of the frothing fluids caught his excess skin.
“Snub!” he yelped, before turning towards Bellamy and barking. “Snubbull, snub!”
“He didn’t mean it,” Lillie told the puppy as her meek flower began to wave his leaves and shake his head. “It was an accident.”
“Pieri! Lynn! Wrap this up!” Azuria ordered, grabbing their attention. “Safeguard and then Starlight Lullaby!”
The Butterfly Pokémon swooped in front of the feline and a silver sphere radiated from his soft body, becoming a glimmering forcefield. Safeguard, the gossamer-thin and silver barrier, coated the magnificent coat of the feline as she inhaled. Then Pieri flew above the battlefield, wings aglow with a pale-blue light.
Pieri used Sleep Powder!
Sleep Powder draped the battlefield from above. The luminous powder fell like a blanket over the Flower and Fairy Pokémon. Bellamy only looked confused until he spotted Snubbull toppling over, which caused him to try and wave away the powder with his leaves to no avail.
Meanwhile, the Delcatty sat amidst the falling powder while shielded from the effect due to the mystifying Safeguard coating her fur. The blend of silver glimmering amidst the sparkling blue made for a beautiful display as the light of the sun reflected. Then her soft voice rang out in a melodic song, releasing multicolored music notes.
Lynn used Sing!
Floating due to being lighter than air, they padded out the falling sedative powder and spread wide. One met with Bellamy as he tried to drag Snubbull away by the pond and popped on contact. The Flower Pokémon drooped, swaying on his thin little feet before falling over on top of Snubbull.
“That’s that,” Azuria said playfully as her Butterfly Pokémon flew back over towards her. “Pieri’s Sleep Powder is more than enough to put down a small-sized Pokémon if they aren’t prepared for it. And, while your Bellsprout is immune to Sleep Powder, the moment Lynn’s notes connected it was off to dreamland for him too.”
“Bellamy! Snubbull! Wake up!” Lillie called out fruitlessly. It was no good in the end as both remained within the sweet embrace of slumber.
“We should call the match here,” Azuria said when it was clear they wouldn’t wake up. “Pieri has Dream Eater and Lynn can Copycat it. Not to mention they’re both still pretty green. Snubbull was too aggressive, so he got baited by Lynn easy enough that she could lead him by the nose. Your Bellsprout, on the other hand, panicked and so he blindly tried to fire and didn’t consider where his partner was.”
Lillie ultimately consented to the assessment as Rotom snapped a set of photos. “I surrender.”
“Great.” Azuria clapped her hands twice as the manifestation of the Sing dissipated from existence and the remaining Sleep Powder thinned out. “Lynn, wake them up.”
The Prim Pokémon smoothly sauntered over to the sleeping duo before taking a seat. Her body grew luminous with a soft, pale glow. Then she released it in waves that rippled a short distance from her with a pleasant, bell-like sound. The two sleeping Pokémon were roused by the Heal Bell.
“The match is over you two,” Lillie told them. “We lost, so come back.”
“Snub!?” Snubbull pushed the Flower Pokémon off himself and then pointed to the Delcatty. “Snubbull! Snubb!”
Zzzleep counts as a knock-out in this case, Rotom explained.
“Sprout…” Bellamy waddled over to his trainer with his head low.
“You’ll do better next time, Bellamy,” Lillie told the Flower Pokémon. Then the sound of Snubbull snarling again grabbed their attention. They saw he still wanted to fight, facing the Delcatty that remained as unbothered as before as flames licked the corners of his mouth again. “Snubbull, don’t you dare attack her!”
Lusamine watched as he disobeyed her daughter, lunging for the Delcatty to salve what she imagined was his wounded pride—
—only to immediately be smacked aside by another Tail Whip as the feline spun again and promptly sent the Fairy Pokémon into the pond for the attempt!
“No!” Lillie shouted when he started frantically splashing and struggling to stay afloat. “Snubbull can’t swim!”
“Pieri!” Azuria called out for her Butterfree. He immediately used Teleport to displace the puppy next to Lillie, causing Snubbull to cling to her with his tiny arms while shaking. She ran over. “Is he going to be okay?”
“Snubbull’s bodies aren’t built for deep water,” Lusamine explained as she came over as well and crouched down to check on him. “They can’t even paddle until they evolve, so if they get into water that deep without some kind of floatation device they can drown easily.”
“I’m so sorry,” the Coordinator said. “We’d never want to put him in danger like that.”
“Accidents happen, though it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t attacked her like that.” Lusamine managed to wrest him from Lillie’s leg and gently patted him on the back as he whined softly in her grasp. “Poor thing’s quite shaken. I’m going to take him inside to dry him off and calm him down. You can continue with your training.”
“Just take a few deep breaths,” she told the Fairy Pokémon soothingly as she carried him back inside of the house. It was important to be gentle with frightened pokémon, something she knew quite well. “It’ll be okay. We’ll get you nice and dry.”
Lusamine carried the Fairy Pokémon into the house and made for one of the closets that were close by. Given that his Dragonair and Vaporeon could live in the pond and were constantly playing in it, Bill kept towels for them to dry off with nearby. She grabbed one and then began to tenderly rub his coat down as he shook like a leaf in the wind.
“You’re okay now,” she said in as soothing a tone as she could. “It was scary, wasn’t it?”
“Sn-Snubbull…” The puppy tried to deny it from what she could tell. The fact that he was shaking didn’t make it any more convincing.
She played along with it regardless. “Oh, my mistake. Of course you weren’t scared. You’re too brave to be scared of a little water. You were just surprised by it.”
He nodded his head, giving a little wave of his stumpy arms. “B-Bull.”
“But you know that Lillie was scared when she saw you fall in,” Lusamine pointed out as she took his tiny arms between the towel and dried them. “You must’ve heard how she felt so helpless watching you enter the water like that. She’s brave too, but she does get scared for others.”
He quickly wriggled in the direction of the pet door, a slight aggression in his bark. “Snu. Snubbull.”
“Yes, it was the Delcatty that pushed you into the water. But what we saw was that Lillie told you not to attack and when you tried, she pushed you in. Was that wrong?”
He looked away.
She’d expected it. Even though she hadn’t known the Snubbull for long, her daughter had given her an account of how she met him and the time she spent previously with the caretaker. He wasn’t even a year old from what she could tell from his teeth and size, making him a child in both body and mind.
Like most children he wanted to acknowledgement and affection. He wanted to prove himself and so when something bad happened he would shift the blame, rather than learning from what went wrong. And that would cost him dearly if things kept up as they were.
“Snubull, can you answer me something?” she asked, grabbing his attention again. “What would you have proven if you had managed to hurt her in that surprise attack? Would it have made you feel better because you would have knocked her out?”
“Even though it would have meant upsetting everyone else?”
He quirked his head in confusion at the question. “Snub?”
“Sometimes winning in the wrong way is as bad as losing,” she pointed out. “They would all be fine with things if you managed to knock her out in the match before it was called because that was the rules they set, but once the trainers state the match is over you have to stop or you’ll break those rules. It’s only if you manage to win while still acting in the bounds of the rules that you’ll prove that you’re the strongest in a way that everyone can be proud of. Understand?”
He grumbled contemplatively in thought. “Snnn…”
“You know, you remind me of my son when he was younger,” she confided. “He always wanted to do everything on his own, even if it meant putting on a brave face. But sometimes I wished he’d just ask for a little help instead of rushing to grow up.”
Then again, what choice did he have after I left him on his own? The more that thought haunted her the tighter her throat got and the more her eyes stung. So she pushed it away to keep consulting Snubbull. “I know it’s hard to endure when you feel like you’ve been wronged. But you don’t want to worry Lillie, right?”
He was silent for a moment before nodding with a small, resigned chuff. “Bull.”
“Good boy.” She delicately rubbed his head before the front door opened. It was Lillie, with Azuria accompanying her.
“Is Snubbull okay now?” the former asked.
Lusamine nodded as she finished drying him off. “It’s fortunate that he got out of the water quickly enough that he didn’t ingest too much. He just needs a little rest.”
Her daughter let out a relieved breath before taking the puppy into her arms and holding onto him tight against her chest. “Snubbull, you have to listen to me so things like that don’t happen. We were so worried about you.”
“I scolded Lynn since she could have dodged the attack instead hitting him back,” Azuria said to Lusamine. “She took playing with him a little too far. But she and I didn’t know that he couldn’t swim.”
“The anatomy of a pokémon you aren’t familiar with isn’t something I’d expect you to know off-hand and accidents do happen,” Lusamine told her. “But keep in mind that while pokémon can do amazing things, they still have physical limits. Snubbull have dense skulls and strong jaws, but their arms are short and can’t support them for very long. That’s why their hind legs are so much more developed, and they often stand upright.”
“It also means that they have trouble sticking their heads above deep water and struggle to stay afloat,” Lillie added in, rubbing her own’s head as he rested against her chest. “Professor Kukui warned me when I walked his Snubbull not to let her near shore because of it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind from now on,” Azuria promised. “I’ll also understand if you want to cut the training here because of it.”
Lillie shook her head. “Koko still wants a turn and Shuckle needs practice as well.”
“Snub! Snub!” Snubbull barked, wanting to have another go at it.
Lusamine said otherwise. “I think it’d be best if you sat down for a little while in the sun. Rest up and think about what we discussed.”
He grumbled with discontentment and pouted as Lillie carried him back outside with the Coordinator following her.
Left alone inside, Lusamine finished wiping away where the water had dripped down to the floor before she folded the wet towel and moved it over to a storage bin with other used cloths. That done she made her way back outside.
The Alolan Vulpix’s crystalline-blue eyes locked onto the compound pair of the Butterfree that fluttered its wings slowly on the opposite side of the field as glittering particles of ice were falling from Snow Warning. Shuckle, on the other hand, seemed unsure as he stared at the Delcatty that was sitting up and brushing her paw against her cheek.
“Constrict on the Delcatty, Shuckle!” Lillie declared, taking the lead with Snubbull by her feet. The Mold Pokémon’s sinuous appendages stretched, crossing the space between them at a sluggish enough pace that the feline easily avoided it with a hop. “Koko, try a Moonblast!”
“Copycat, Lynn!” Azuria commanded in retaliation, resulting in the Prim Pokémon opening her mouth and imitating Koko as fairy-aspected energy swelled and took the form of a sphere of equal size. The two released their attacks at the same time and where the orbs met, they ruptured in a pink-hued explosion. “Now, Disconcerting Duet!”
Pieri used Supersonic!
Lynn used Disarming Voice!
The Butterfly Pokémon released a ring of blue soundwaves from his antenna while the Prim Pokémon braced herself on the ground and then let out a rather cute cry, sending out pink soundwaves woven into the shape of hearts. They grabbed the Supersonic soundwaves as they expanded, leaving them intermingled as they struck both Lillie’s pokémon like a physical force.
Shuckle, anchored to the ground, only had his head bounce backwards on impact. But Koko ended up being sent staggering backwards, her eyes screwed shut on impact with the ground. Then she staggered as she tried to rise up, paws crossing one another while Shuckle’s head was moving in small circles as he made bewildered sounds.
“They’re… both confused?” Lillie guessed at a glance.
Rotom spun in place, a question mark flashing on his screen. But using Supersonic offensively involvezzz using a dense and tightly focused ring of sound waves to confuse the zzzenses. If it was spread out then the potency would be reduced and only be useful for echolocation, zzt.
“Soundwaves can superposition with each other,” Azuria explained as she watched the two younger pokémon in the midst of their confusion. “Pieri is smart enough to adjust the frequency of his Supersonic so that it can ride Lynn’s Disarming Voice, so that the effects of the former can be passed onto the latter. Hence why it’s a duet made for double battles.”
Shuckle began to swat the air as if trying to grasp something that was floating around while Koko pounced on nothing and ended up crashing into the dirt. The sudden movement caught Shuckle’s attention and his beady eyes narrowed. Then his cheeks began to swell.
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Lusamine winced as Shuckle spat out a glob of bug adhesive that expanded from the air resistance, forming a net that landed right in the path of Koko’s staggering. It caught her blue paws, leaving her to collapse in the webbing as she landed on top of it. Looking to Lillie showed she had made a similar expression, while Snubbull held a stumpy arm to his head as if embarrassed for them and then barked as loud as he could. The call seemed to do the trick as Shuckle snapped out of his confusion, along with the entrapped Fox Pokémon that whimpered while trying get herself free.
“Shuckle, look out!” Lillie yelled, pointing towards Pieri as he released an argent crescent towards Shuckle. The Silver Wind ended up breaking against his shell as he followed his instincts and withdrew into it, leaving Lusamine to assume it had been intentionally made weak as to not hurt him seriously. But it still served as a suitable distraction for the Delcatty to rush in.
Delcatty used Covet!
The Prim Pokemon pounced, paws covered in a white veil as she put her momentum to use and flipped him over while landing on her back. She then toyed with him like a ball of yarn before batting him away and sending him tumbling through the air. Shuckle hit the ground rolling until he stuck his limbs out and his head emerged, a frown on his face as he glared at the ball of fluid in-between her palms. “KLE!!”
Still wrapped in that white veil like a bubble was the Berry Juice he’d been fermenting, stolen by the feline that began to sip it down while he looked on with narrowed eyes—
Koko used Moonblast!
It’s a Critical Hit!
—only to then be blasted by a pink orb that closed the distance and then exploded against her, sending her tumbling away while the pilfered liquid splashed all over her face and coat before she knew what hit her. “Mmraw!?”
Lusamine turned to see the Alolan Vulpix that had been thought to be out of the fight was back on her feet. The webbing that held her in place was shattered, covered in a layer of ice. If she had to guess, it seemed like Koko had used Powder Snow to freeze it and thus take away it’s adhesiveness.
“Good job, Koko!” Lillie praised her, blissfully unaware of the smile on Snubbull’s face as he snickered upon seeing the feline knocked about. “Now, get Pieri with Powder Snow while your Snow Warning is still working!”
The Alolan Vulpix whirled on her feet as she faced him and exhaled a stream of cold, ice-particle laden air towards the Butterfly Pokémon that ascended with rapid flaps of his wings before teleporting right behind her. His wings then began to scatter Sleep Powder once more, only for a bundle of bug glue to send him sprawling onto the ground, pinned to it by his wings. He struggled to try and get free while Lynn got back up on her forepaws and was hissing with hackles raised at Koko.
“That’s enough.” The declaration was followed by a clap of Azuria’s hands, grabbing the Pokémon’s attention before they could continue. “Don’t struggle, Pieri. That webbing is too tight on your wings because Safeguard wore off, and if you Teleport wrong then you might damage them. Lynn, you can’t beat both of them without actually harming them, which isn’t what we’re here for.”
The feline gestured to herself and let out pitying noise from where the spilled Berry Juice had painted her coat.
“I’ll give you a bubble-bath later to get your coat back nice and clean, but for now go wash your face while we get Pieri free. Okay?”
The Delcatty glared at the snickering Snubbull for a moment before nodding. Then she dashed over the side of the bank towards the running water below, leaving the rest where they were as the light snowfall ceased along with the match.
“…That was harder than I thought,” Lillie said, crouching down as Koko came over and yipped. Even with the surprise attack that Koko got off, it hadn’t done nearly enough to hurt more than the feline’s pride. But she was still proud that Koko managed to free herself and get the attack off, so she smiled down at the Alolan Vulpix and brushed her hair. “Good job.”
“Lolo, can you help Pieri get free?” Azuria called out to the Slowbro sitting away from the group, who stared vacantly in her direction for a moment. Then he pointed towards the downed Butterfree and his eyes shone with a cerulean hue. Psychic waves flowed from his finger and washed over Pieri until the webbing seemingly dissolved. “Thanks!”
“Oh, that’s fairly impressive use of Psywave,” Lusamine noted as she looked over to the Hermit Crab Pokémon that proceeded to stare off into space again. “He has that much control over it?”
“Yep,” she said. “Despite how spacey he looks, Lolo’s really good at using psychic techniques. He can regulate it well enough that it wouldn’t harm anyone but still tear the adhesive apart.”
The Coordinator then watched as her Butterfree tested his wings once more to satisfaction before turning back to Lillie. “So, on the subject of Double Battles, I think that Koko will probably be the most difficult of your pokémon to find a partner with.”
“What do you mean?” Lillie asked. “I think she gets along well with the others, so they would make a good team.”
“It’s not her personality, but rather her Ability,” Azuria clarified, pointing up. “Right now, Snow Warning is underdeveloped, so it’s more of a light snowfall than anything else. But eventually that snow will become hail that will start actively hurting the Pokémon around her who aren’t like Glacian.”
The Alolan Vulpix tilted her head at that before turning over to her playmate and giving an inquiring yip. The Fresh Snow Pokémon answered back with an affirming nod. Her ears fell slightly, and she lowered her head. “Vul…”
Lillie comforted her with another pat to the head. “I can’t stop her from doing something that comes instinctively. And she likes battling a little too much for me to not include her because of it.”
Azuria agreed with a nod. “That’s why you need a workaround. Fortunately, the solution is something Rotom suggested already when he said to try and learn Sunny Day for Bellamy.”
Not only would it remove the damage from Hail, but Bellamy possesses both Chlorophyll and Growth, zzzt. Rotom floated over and displayed a graph with a Bellsprout on it, along with some diagrams. And Snubbull has Fire Fang, which would also benefit from strong sunlight.
“Speaking of Snubbull, he’s…” The Coordinator took a moment to consider her words carefully. “Headstrong. He’ll rush right into battle, but that also means he doesn’t watch out for himself or his partner. And considering that one of the most common tactics in a Double Battle is to gang up on a single pokémon, he’ll most often end up being taken out first. Especially since his favorite technique, Fire Fang, is also underdeveloped.”
Snubbull frowned at that. “Bull!”
“Sorry, but it’s true,” she told him. “You can only use it with your fangs as the foundation, which is fine for now. But a fully formed Fire Fang is done completely out of fire, just like with how Ice Fang and Thunder Fang are made out of ice and electricity. Right, Glacian?”
At the prompt, the Fresh Snow Pokémon bobbed his head before turning to Snubbull. Then the temperature abruptly dropped as the formation of jagged rows of crystalline teeth took place in less than a second. The construct jaws that were even larger than Snubbull pantomimed the Glaceon as he snapped his mouth shut and they crashed into one another, erupting in a spray of white and blue frost.
Snubbull shook his head and brushed his tiny arms over his fur to get rid of the ice particles before pointing to the Glaceon and barking. “Snubb! Snubbull! Snub!”
Lillie left it to Rotom to translate that he was demanding that he ‘give him his fangs’ before she sighed. “Snubbull, that’s not a nice way to ask someone to teach you a technique. Besides, he’s still helping Koko and you should work on what you have first.”
The Fairy Pokémon chuffed and grumbled under his breath. “Bull…”
“And as for your Shuckle, he can actually be a good supporter for the others,” Azuria continued. “For example, if he managed to learn Bind like AJ said or catch others with Sticky Web, he can tie them down so they can’t run away or dodge attacks that take time like Koko’s Moonblast. And, since he can defend himself with Protect, he’ll be able to stand his ground and play to his strengths.”
“That’s a great idea,” Lillie said, before noticing the Mold Pokémon was still looking down to where his Berry Juice had been wasted. Despite Bellamy’s awkward attempt at consoling him over the loss of his snack, he was still upset. “It’ll be okay, Shuckle.”
“Kle,” was the only response he gave while still hanging his head downcast.
“Aw, now I feel even worse about what Lynn did.” Azuria crouched down in front of him and gave him a gentle smile. “Tell you what, how about I give you a sour pokéblock now and bring you back some really sour berries the next time? You like those, right?”
His limp head perked up immediately as she pulled out a Pokéblock Case and offered him a snack. He tentatively brought it into his mouth and relished it before making a pleased sound. Azuria took that to mean he liked it as the girls continued to talk about developing their pokémon.
Overall, from what Lusamine could see, Azuria was a very caring and intelligent Coordinator. It was great that Lillie made such a wonderful friend in such a short time. She would actively try to get to know her better before she made her decision about Milotic, should the worst come to pass.
Chapter 15: More Bark Than Bite
A soft inhalation gave way to a broad sweeping gust that stirred the wind, laced with sparkling grains of ice that left the surface of one side of the pond covered in a thin veil of rime. Bringing his exhale to an end with a huff and then sitting on the bridge that split the water in two, Glacian turned to the Alolan Vulpix sitting next to him and extended a sweeping paw towards the frozen surface. “Gla?”
Koko reached down at the prompt with one paw, teetering on the edge of the bridge. She poked at the layer of ice and then bobbed her head before turning around to the other side of the pond, where the ice hadn’t spread. The Alolan Vulpix inhaled deeply until her little chest was puffed out and then let out as strong of an exhale as she could.
Unlike the Bill’s Glaceon, Koko’s attempt remained confined to a relatively narrowed stream of chilled air, glimmering particles of ice threading it as it went straight down the middle of the pond. The layer of ice that it was forming, paper-thin and transparent, ended up sinking beneath the surface as her breath petered out and left her crystalline eyes to fall.
“It was a good try, Koko,” Lillie assured her Starter, crouching down next to her as the Glaceon gave her a small pat on the back. Unaware of the events happening in Alola at present, she instead focused on training with Koko and Shuckle to help them learn their new moves for the impending Doubles match. In Koko’s case, she was attempting to learn how to use Icy Wind.
Rotom, who was currently floating around Shuckle as he tried to get the hang of Protect, explained that the technique was a natural expansion of Koko’s Powder Snow technique. Rather than breathing out a steady stream of cold air, she would be able to exhale it out over a wider area while maintaining the same level of power. Because it wasn’t as concentrated in a narrowed area, the technique would never really be able to freeze an actively moving Pokémon like Powder Snow could, but the accumulating cold slowed them down and made them more lethargic.
Koko would learn how to do it naturally as she continued to battle, since Pokémon grew stronger due how fast their bodies adapted to match the amount of trials and experience they went through until they reached a limit. That was what AJ meant by training his Pokémon through exposing them to their weakness. But Professor Kukui had once told her that Pokémon had the potential to use a lot of different techniques to surpass those limitations if they met the requirements and pushed themselves hard enough—whether through Technical Machines or guidance in the form of training with Move Tutors.
Even so, while it was possible to teach her how to use Icy Wind prematurely by using Glacian as a Move Tutor, Glaceon as a species were naturally capable of using Icy Wind from the moment they evolved. While he could try to show Koko firsthand, there were still gaps to fill in. The best they could hope for was, with enough practice, her body would adapt to using it since it was a natural extension of her present abilities.
The problem was the fact that, among her many lovely traits, Koko was naturally energetic and eager—hasty, in other words. She didn’t have the patience to sit still for long periods of time and she wanted to grasp it quickly. So, with every failure, she became more disheartened and upset, which was something Lillie hated to see.
Lillie gently brushed Koko’s head to try and alleviate some of that sadness. “I’m sure you’ll get it soon if you keep practicing.”
It was then an audible shattering sound caught their ears and drew their attention further away. At the base of the slope leading to the Berry Trees, Shuckle sat with a slight frown as he shook his head while Lusamine’s Clefable stood next to him with a hand extended, the protective shield woven from Protect covering her frontside. Surrounding them were Razor Leaf that Viri had launched, slowly breaking apart on the ground.
The time length sustained was 1.4 seconds under fire from the Razor Leaf, zzrt! Rotom stated as Clefable dropped the Protect, pointing his appendage to his screen where an hourglass was shifting digital sand from top to bottom inside of a progress ring. Prepare for the next attempt in thirty seconds, zzt.
Clefable nodded before she turned to Shuckle and made a circular motion while speaking. “Clefa. Clefable. Fable?”
Shuckle bobbed his head before bracing himself in front of Viri. His beady eyes narrowed, and his mouth pursed in concentration as he moved his head in a small circle while he gathered the energy needed for Protect. It crystalized slowly, forming a half-dome over the front of his body with ragged, uneven edges.
Clefable then held out her hand and the glass-like shield formed in front of her as the last grains of sand in Rotom’s display hit the bottom and a ‘ding’ sounded, signaling the Leafeon to unleash another barrage of Razor Leaf by whipping her tail around. The leaves smashed against the pair of protective shields, the difference in their strength being evident in how Shuckle’s began cracking like glasswork under pressure, leaving him to turtle within his shell to avoid any real damage when it broke, while Clefable’s remained unblemished until the attack ceased once more.
The time length zzzzustained this time was 2.7 seconds! Rotom commented. The next attempt will be in thirty seco—
Shuckle popped his head out of his shell to shake it. “Kle. Shuckle.”
Oh, you’ve run out of energy to do so? Shuckle bobbed his head. Too bad, zzt. You’ve made excellent progress since this morning by my records!
Lillie watched as Clefable gave the Mold Pokémon a warmhearted pat on the head with a slight smile. She presumed that because Shuckle as a species were naturally defensive he could make strides on learning the technique. Then she heard Koko’s whimpering and turned back to see the Alolan Vulpix looking downcast in comparison at her own lack of progress, due to her lack of strength more than her nature.
“Why don’t we take a break?” Lillie suggested. “You must be tired too after trying so hard.”
Glacian watched for a moment as Koko began to trod off the bridge towards the house, a disappointing frown on her face. Then he put on a mischievous smile and then darted after her, cutting her off. “Gla-gla!”
Koko tilted her head. “Vul?”
“Ceon!” He pointed over to towards the woodlands and then made a jumping motion. “Glaceon!”
Koko perked up at that and then turned to Lillie. “Pix?”
“I’m not really sure what’s going on,” Lillie said before turning to Rotom, who was floating over from where Shuckle and Clefable were. “Rotom, can you translate?”
Rotom did so. She wants to go to a flower field within the forest that Glacian knows about, zzt.
It must be to cheer her up, Lillie figured before giving Koko a bright smile and nod. “Sure. We’ll go for a walk.”
She then turned to her mother’s Clefable and Shuckle. “Clefable, Shuckle, will you come with us for a walk?”
The Fairy Pokémon nodded to the offer, whereas Shuckle shook his head and then withdrew into his shell to take a nap.
So, the four of them went off to find the field, led by the Fresh Snow Pokémon. Glacian darted through the forest with a practiced stride, quickly getting ahead of Koko and then turning around to sit in place, baiting her to catch up with him. Koko tried her best, racing towards him only to lunge when he was within range. She would then end up missing as the Glaceon dodged at the last moment and then continued running ahead.
Lillie, Rotom, and Clefable followed, with the young trainer observing how the frustration that Koko had been suffering from seemed to melt away as she gave chase after the Fresh Snow Pokémon. She made another lunge when they neared a tree that had a Pineco above, observing them playing rather passively as she missed and landed by a bush.
“Koko looks like she’s having fun now,” Lillie said. “I’m glad.”
The Fairy Pokémon nodded in response. “Cleffa. Clef, Clefable.”
He makes a good playmate for her, zzzt. Rotom translated until the shuffling of the nearby bush drew Koko’s attention, leaving her to freeze in place.
“Vul?” Her nose twitched, and she tilted her head as she took slow steps towards the bush even as Glacian looked on in confusion. Then a pink figure burst out of the bush with a bark, leaving her to jump back with her hackles raised in defense.
It was a Snubbull. The second Fairy Pokémon eyed them warily for a moment before sneezing hard enough that it fell backwards and onto its rear, leaving it to try to brush its nose with its forepaws. “Snnnn…”
“That’s strange. Snubbull aren’t native to the north of Cerulean…” It clicked as she noticed all of the scratches that spoke of battle on it, contradictory to their usually passive nature. “Oh, are you the Snubbull from Miss Melanie’s place?”
He didn’t answer her, instead pressing his nose to the ground and rubbing it against the grass and dirt to the confusion of Koko and the others. Lillie recalled that Snubbull as a whole had quite keen noses, so chances were that something was bothering his sense of smell. She made to go over to him when she noticed the Pineco above now looking somewhat wary of having a trainer and so many non-native species around it, and then decided otherwise. “Snubbull, come here and I’ll look at your nose. There’s something in it bothering you, isn’t there?”
“Snubb…” He lightly grumbled as he waddled over and away from the Pineco hanging overhead.
Lillie gently patted his head as she crouched down and took a look at his black, short nose. She noticed there was some kind of glimmering orange powder, a small amount but still present. Given the local Pokémon, she could hazard a guess. “Did you breathe in some Stun Spore earlier?”
“Bull,” he answered with a nod.
“A Cheri Berry would help you clear it out due to the spiciness, but I don’t have one on me. But I do have my Refresh Kit.” She pulled him onto her lap and reached for her waist pack that was the travel-standard Pokémon Refresh Kit, which she had in case her Pokémon got messy or wet during training, pulling out the medicinal sprayer and towel. She also pulled out a bottle of Fresh Water she’d placed inside of it as well. “This is going to be a little unpleasant, but you’ll feel better when I’m done.”
“Snn?” The warning was followed by a light spritz of the medicine that got into his nose, causing him to flail around. “Snubbull!!”
“Just let me flush it out and then your nose will be good as new.” Lillie stroked his head to soothe him until he settled down, only to then lightly pour a cap full of water into his nostrils. He ended up sneezing a lot more onto the ground next to her until she rubbed the towel over his nose gently. “How does that feel?”
Snubbull rubbed his face with his forepaws, cutely shifting the excess skin around before he sniffed the air and barked. He then wriggled in her grasp to get free, immediately sniffing the ground and barely paying Lillie any mind when she let go. The moment he caught whatever scent it was that he was looking for, he took off to go chasing after it. “Snubb!!”
“And there he goes,” Lillie said with a sigh as she put the kit away and cleaned up. “Miss Melanie mentioned that he picked fights with others, but I hope he won’t get into anything serious before he gets healed up—”
Her words were cut short as a small explosion went off overhead and she noticed two figures drop down. The Pineco proceeded to bounce away on the ground, its body singed as it left charred pieces of bark it had glued to itself behind. The Living Pokédex, on the other hand, was lying face down and smoldering with thin wisps of acrid smoke.
“Rotom, did you take its picture up-close without permission?” Lillie asked as Glacian prodded the casing until the red appendage made to brush him away.
I just wanted to add its data, zzztt… Fortunately, Rotom’s Pokédex was made to be rather tough. It managed to fly back up under its own power and took shelter within her hood once more.
At least Rotom will learn to keep its distance now, Lillie thought to herself before turning back in the direction that Snubbull ran off towards for a moment. Try not to get into trouble either, Snubbull.
Then she proceeded to follow after the two Ice-types once more.
A good walk later, Glacian finally led them past a break in the trees around the north of the forest. It placed them in a meadow that had thick trees to the east and south. Combined with the mountainside to the north, it formed an isolated the field where flowers stretched out a good distance to the west beneath the azure sky above.
“Oh wow.” Lillie was amazed as she took in the sight of everything. Because of the flowers and their aroma the meadow naturally attracted a variety of Pokémon, not unlike the meadows on Melemele Island. She could see fully-evolved Butterfree circling low to the ground to feed off the nectar of the flowers, one even passing by an Abra that laid slumbering amidst them. There was even a Slakoth that was perched in the tree next to them and slowly munching on a leaf.
It took Koko pressing against her leg to snap her out of the sight. “Vull?”
“Sure, you can go play for about an hour. Just don’t bother any Wild Pokémon since we didn’t come to battle,” Lillie told Koko as she felt Rotom stir in her hood. She grabbed it before it could fly off, leaving the Alolan Vulpix to run into the flowers with Glacian. “The same goes for you, Rotom. Keep your distance this time.”
She released it with the promise and it flew off to collect data, starting with the Slakoth that didn’t pay it mind while continuing to nibble on the leaf in its mouth with the speed of a glacier, when her Pokégear rang. Lillie expected it to be her mother, calling to check up on her. But, to her surprise, the ID registered the call coming from Astra.
When she answered the call, the screen popped up to show Astra on it, “Hi Astra. How have you been?”
“Jet and Blysen and me challenged Miss Karen’s Gym!” she answered with an excited smile.
“Already?” Lillie watched as Clefable bounced over into the flower field and towards a Butterfree. Unlike Rotom or Koko, she wasn’t the type to cause problems, so Lillie was sure she’d be fine. “Did you win?”
“Nope!” Astra said with a far more cheerful tone than one would expect. “It turns out Dark-types are immune to Jet’s Torment because of his Ability and Blysen got really scared, so I’m going to catch some new friends before I try again. What about you?”
“I’m taking a break from training with Koko.” Said Alolan Vulpix was playing tag with Glacian again, the two rolling around over one another in the bed of flowers. “She and Shuckle have been working on learning some new techniques, so we can beat the Nugget Bridge challenge.”
“That sounds fun—oh, that reminds me! Auntie Ann sent me a video of the Alola Championship match since she’s gone there for business, and near the end the guy with the open shirt called out this really pretty Ninetails. Will Koko evolve into that too?”
“Yes. Once she’s grown out all of her tails, I’ll let her evolve if she wants to.” It would be something that she couldn’t take back afterwards, so it was ultimately Koko’s decision. But it was better if Koko had the chance to finish growing as a Vulpix first, rather than prematurely evolving for the sake of power.
“Hey, don’t eat that, Jet! That’s Grandpa’s Ghost Gem!” Astra abruptly said over the line, suddenly shaking the phone as she reached off-screen for something. It was followed by some disgruntled Sableye noises when she pulled back and had a jewel in her hand. “Geez, I’ll pick you up a snack in along the way, so just wait a little bit.”
Lillie couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. “Are you heading out now?”
“Yeah. We’re going to head down Route 10 now. Wish us luck.”
She did. “Good luck. I hope you make a new friend.”
“And I hope you can beat your challenge soon, cause when we meet again we’ll have our first badge. Bye, bye!” Click.
“Sounds like she’s been keeping busy too,” Lillie said as the line went dead and the screen went black, leaving her to close her Pokégear as her mother’s Clefable returned with a crown of flowers.
The Fairy Pokémon set the ring around her head and smiled. “Faaable.”
“Thank you.” Lillie reached up to feel the crown, brushing her fingers against the stamens to see if she would have to wash her hair later to get rid of the pollen. There was none to be found. “Oh, did you have the Butterfree clean them first?”
Clefable nodded before making a compressed motion with her hands and then pointing to herself.
“You have an egg…no, I think Mother would have mentioned that.” Lillie took a moment to try and grasp the meaning since Rotom was still elsewhere. She had known her since she was a Cleffa, so she could vaguely understand the gestures…oh, right. “When you were a Cleffa, I made one for you, didn’t I?”
The Fairy Pokémon clapped her hands at that. It was indeed the correct answer. “Clefable!”
“That’s back when we were both little, just before we found Nebby.” She brought her hands together horizontally until she had what she felt was about the right height. “You were so tiny that you’d fit right between my hands. Now you’re as big as I am.”
Clefable rubbed the back of her head with a small smile, as if proud and embarrassed at the same time. “Clef, clef.”
“How did Mother find you again?” Lille placed a finger in her chin as she looked to the sky and thought. “She said that she found you on the mountain one night, didn’t she?”
The Fairy Pokémon brought her finger tips together and then broke them apart to make a half-circle before reconnecting them. Then she pointed to the sky and then made downwards motion to the ground.
“Right, she said you fell down from the moon and into her arms.” It sounded a bit silly now that she was older, but there was a lot of things that they didn’t know about her species at that point. Like being able to store moonlight to float, or their attraction to star-shaped things. Most likely she clung to a Minior and ended up falling as it flew up. “You haven’t seen too many others like yourself aside from Mister Bill’s Clefairy, have you?”
She shook her head. “Faa.”
“Well, from what I’ve heard, Mt. Moon has a Clefairy colony somewhere inside of it,” Lillie said. “Of course, we’d still have to find them. But I think it’d be lovely if you got to meet them at some point. Don’t you?”
Clefable seemed delighted at the prospect, which made Lillie glad. She had been working so hard in looking after Lusamine in her time of need, so anything that would brighten her up was worth doing. But there was the question of if her Mother could even make the trip before whatever Mister Bill did to help her was done.
When she’d talked to him after getting back to his home yesterday, he mentioned he’d need some kind of device from Saffron City. He tried to explain how it would help him get a better read on her body, but the explanation went a bit over her head. She knew a lot of things about Pokémon, but hard science was still something of a mystery to her.
Lillie then stretched her arms out and turned back to watch Koko playing around and Rotom flying about. She’d let them enjoy themselves until the hour was up before heading back.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Separated from the rest of its horde, a Bellsprout had found a spot that seemed appropriate and buried its roots into the ground to drink the moisture while waiting for a Combee to pass by. It didn’t know Sweet Scent to lure one in, but the scent it naturally gave off was still capable of allowing it to pass as a flower if it stood still. And, if one didn’t come by, the sun was out so photosynthesis could fuel it for the day if it didn’t move so much.
Then it heard the shaking of leaves. The rustle of the green as something went through the bushes. Too loud to be one Tiny Bee Pokémon, but not one of the other pollinators. It remained motionless with one beady eye fixed on the shaking bush to see what it was that would emerge.
“Snubbull!” barked the Fairy Pokémon as he popped out. Aggressive and hostile. He growled on all fours, excess skin quivering as he stalked forward.
The Bellsprout waved its leaves to express non-hostility as it began to pull its roots up. It didn’t want trouble. But the Snubbull lunged forward and the Flower Pokémon panicked and attacked. “Be-Bellell!”
The sinuous vines that sprouted from tiny buds between its leaves and leathery stalk of a body lashed out, only to miss as Snubbull jumped to the side. The vines cracked down where he had been and were then caught as he darted back in to snap down on the vines with his teeth.
“Sprout!!” cried the Flower Pokémon as the pain transmitted and it tried to retract the vines back to end the pain. They took time to heal and even longer to regrow if cut, which was a problem since they were the primary way it gathered food among other things. Snubbull waited until they were taut, making it a tug of war between them until he suddenly darted forward with the vines in his mouth and then went past the Bellsprout, dragging it along the ground as he ran in circles. “Sprout! Sprout!”
“Snnn—” Snubbull kept running despite its pleas until he neared a tree, whereupon he spun around hard and fast, allowing the momentum to slam the Bellsprout into the hardy bark. He then spat out the vines before lunging forward and Tackling its supple body while it was pinned against the tree. “—bull!”
“Spr…out…” Its body buckled under the hit, leaving it to collapse on the ground and twitch in pain as Snubbull hopped back for some distance. Rising up slightly, until the curves of its split stalk touched the ground and its leaves were supporting its weight, it shot out an Acid Spray from its bell in an act of desperation.
The Fairy Pokémon jumped back to escape from the small ball of sludge before it could touch him. His nose then scrunched up as the acid began to froth where it hit the ground, the scent of it breaking down the grass rankling him. He cursed his excellent sense of smell and then he looked up to see that the Bellsprout had started running away and gave chase. “Snubbull!!”
“Bellsprout! Bellsprout!” The panicked cries of the Flower Pokémon could be heard as its fibrous feet darted across the woodlands, leaves shaking in terror as it fled from the terror that stalked it as it tried to get back to its horde. Surely they would protect it.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
The beeping of Lillie’s Pokégear’s Alarm App signaled the passing of an hour. It was time for them to head back to Mister Bill’s house for Lunch. Lillie rose to her seat on the grass next to Clefable and stretched out before brushing away any stray blades of grass.
“Koko, Rotom, Glacian! It’s time to head back!” The Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon both came running at her beckoning. Lillie crouched down and brushed Koko’s head affectionately as Rotom slipped back into her hood. “Did you have fun?”
“Good then let’s head back so we can all have Lunch.”
“Glae! Glae!” Glacian hopped forward and turned once, his tail flicking before he started running ahead of them. Koko yipped and then gave chase, wanting to continue their game until they got back.
Lillie and Clefable followed them on their way back until both Koko and Glacian abruptly stopped at a turn that would have taken them back towards Bill’s home, instead turning their heads off to the side in a southwest direction. “What’s wrong?”
“Vul…vul…” Koko took a few cautious steps with her head raised before pointing in that direction. “Vulpix! Vulpix!”
Koko said she heard Snubbull’s cry in that direction, zzt. Rotom translated.
“His cry?” Lillie tried to listen for him, but it was no good. Her sense of hearing wasn’t nearly as good as Koko’s or Glacian’s. In the end, she was only human. “Is he in trouble again?”
Glacian sniffed the ground as he walked further ahead and then gestured for Rotom to look at it. The Living Pokédex hovered over a spot. Tracks identified, zzt. These tracks indicate many Bellsprouts have traveled recently in this direction, zzrt.
“Hmm…” Lillie brought a hand up to her chin in thought. “You don’t think he would have picked a fight with an entire group of Bellsprouts, do you?”
Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive and he had Stun Spore in his nose before. That was a technique stronger Bellsprouts learned, along with a few other Pokémon. But, short of Butterfree, most of those Pokémon were nocturnal.
“Now I’m getting worried about him,” Lillie admitted. It was probably nothing, but if he got himself into trouble because she had helped him clear his nose then that would be her fault. “Let’s see if we can find him to make sure he isn’t getting in over his head.”
She followed Koko and Glacian as they guided her, feeling some anxiety at the situation. That feeling only doubled when she got close enough to see a Bellsprout pushing its way out of a bush that was nestled between two thick trees, tripping over its own feet and then using its leafy appendages to cover its head in fear. Lillie came to a stop at the bush and crouched down to check on it. “Are you okay?”
“Sp-Sprout. Sprout.” It said, leaving Rotom to translate it as apologizing for bringing it there.
“Snubbull!!” they heard past the trees and bushes. It was followed by the sound of fire popping and a pained cry from another Bellsprout that got swallowed up by an explosion, leaving the scent of smoke to reach their noses.
Lillie stood again and pushed her way through the bush, leading into what amounted to a small clearing with several Bellsprouts. Some of them were already unconscious on the ground, some that had burns on them. There were still seven left standing though.
Snubbull snarled before making a terrifying face that seemed almost like something out of a nightmare, darkness seemingly warping it and his eyes folded like he was rabid. Fear struck the instinctive part of several of the Bellsprouts, leaving them frozen in place. Then he darted towards one that was apart from the group, bearing his fangs with the intention of attacking them.
The targeted Flower Pokémon swallowed its fear to let out an Acid Spray, coughing out a ball of corrosive sludge. But he dodged it with a hop to the side and then hit it with a Tackle, the momentum bowling the lithe Pokémon down and leaving it open for the fangs that had a dark tint that followed as he then used Bite to clamp down onto it.
“Sppprroouutttttt!” The pained cry that slipped out was stretched and grew tighter as he then spun it around and tossed the poor thing into the semi-frozen group. Six left.
The Fairy Pokémon then charged for another one that tried to use a Vine Whip, only for fire to sudden flare from Snubbull’s mouth and then wreathed it. The Fire Fang burned the vines, causing the sinuous appendages to retreat and the Flower Pokémon to try fleeing instead. Turning its back on Snubbull left it open as he lunged and then clamped down, causing the separate flames that wreathed the top and bottom of his mouth to smash together and then rupture in an explosion of smoke and embers.
This is horrible, Lillie thought to herself as she watched Fairy Pokémon toss the beaten and burned Flower Pokémon that dangled from his mouth away and then fell on all fours to bark at the remaining five. No matter how she looked at it, Snubbull was the aggressor here. Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive, and that he’d pick fight with trainers before running away, but I didn’t think he was this aggressive to wild Pokémon. Not with how playful he had been yesterday.
“Bell! Bell!” the Flower Pokémon in the center shouted, pointing his leaves in the opposite directions. The others began to spread out, their dark eyes never leaving Snubbull even as they split apart and forced him to look between them. Then one on the right stepped forward and released a Vine Whip, sending it right for Snubbull.
The Fairy Pokémon jumped out of the way of that one, only to get caught in the back by one that lashed out and wrapped around his waist, pulling him back even as he braced himself. He then turned around and lunged in that direction as flames shrouded his mouth for a Fire Fang again. That’s when the one he’d been targeting before released its vines to wrap around his torso, pulling him in the opposite direction to hold him still in the air and unable to bite down.
“Sprout!” ordered the leader Bellsprout, pointing to the ground in front of them. They promptly slammed Snubbull into the grass headfirst, snuffing the flames around his mouth, and the other two then proceeded to fire Acid Spray directly onto him while he couldn’t fight back.
“BUUUUUULLLLLL!!!” Snubbull screamed out in a cry that sent a chill up Lillie’s spine as she watched his skin began to smolder. He struggled to get free to no avail as the leader Bellsprout raised his arm and they fired a second volley. “SNUUUBBBUULLLL!!!”
“Stop it!” Lillie said, drawing their attention to her as she walked closer before they could fire a third time. Koko and Glacian were immediately in front of her, while Clefable was right behind her. In the face of the additional threats, they stopped to assess the situation and so Lillie tried to reason with them. “That’s enough. He’s beaten!”
“Sprout! Bellsprout!” the leader said in response, pointing to the fallen Bellsprouts that were injured and unconsciousness. “Bellell!”
Rotom translated. Snubbull apparently attacked them when they had done nothing, zzt.
“Bu…bulll…” Snubbull muttered weakly, trembling as the acid continued nipping at his flesh. Poison hurt more than anything for a Fairy-type, and that was a corrosive acid that softened the flesh. Pokémon could handle a lot of damage, but too much of it was still harmful enough to be lethal.
Knowing that, even if he was the aggressor, she couldn’t let that keep up. “Then I’ll take him and make sure he won’t come back. Just don’t hurt him anymore.”
Pushing past the bushes, the cowering Bellsprout from before came in. It walked to them, gesturing to Snubbull and then her. “Sp-sprout. Bellsprout. Bell?”
Yes. That would work best for everyone. Right, zzrt? Rotom translated.
“Sprout!” The leader sent a vine out that wrapped around the Bellsprout and then tossed it out of the way. “Bellsprout! Bellell!”
Lillie didn’t need the translation to know it was telling the other Flower Pokémon to be silent, but learning that, apparently, he led Snubbull here did explain why the Bellsprout was apologizing afterwards. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the time to figure out the chain of events before the leader of the Bellsprout Horde turned back to Snubbull and drew his head back.
He was going to attack again and, given that wild Pokémon tended to be a lot more brutal when dealing with a threat than trained Pokémon, Snubbull wouldn’t get out of it without serious injuries… or worse. She had to act. So she pointed to the leader and gave the command, “Koko! Powder Snow!”
The Alolan Vulpix obeyed. A chilling gust that flowed forward hit the leader Bellsprout head-on, leaving it to writhe as the ice particles left the leathery texture of his stem covered in frost. It bowled over, shivering, and the other Flower Pokémon looked onto them with hostility.
“Th-That was a warning,” Lillie said, feeling both guilt and nervousness as they fixed their eyes onto her. “I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, and you’ve already got wounded Pokémon within your care. So please, let us take Snubbull or… or else!”
“S-S-Spr-Sprout,” the leader murmured, glaring at her as only a Bellsprout could. The ones holding Snubbull down then released their hold and instead went to grab their fallen kin. Then they began to leave, eyes fixed onto Lillie’s group in fear and anger alike. Once they were safely behind the leader and the two flanking it, the leader then pointed a final time to the cowardly Bellsprout and said, “Bellsprout! Sprout!”
She didn’t need Rotom to translate that either as the remaining Flower Pokémon was left behind. She could tell by the way he collapsed in place and then began to cry that he’d been kicked out of his horde, either for bringing the trouble to them or trying to interfere. Lillie couldn’t help but feel pity for the poor thing, even as she looked down at Snubbull.
He was still breathing, but he’d lost consciousness. This… was partly her fault for helping Snubbull earlier. He wouldn’t have run off if she hadn’t cleaned his nose, and then this wouldn’t have happened. It honestly felt like she was bullying them for defending themselves, but she couldn’t visit Miss Melanie again and say that she let it happen either.
She pulled out her towel and gently picked him up, since the acid had lost most of its caustic properties now. But he still needed to have it washed out and him healed. She then turned to the exiled Bellsprout. “Will you come with us? You’re hurt too, and I want to know what happened here.”
His dark eyes glistened as he brought one leafy appendage up to wipe the tears away. Then he nodded. “Sprout.”
The six then headed back to Mister Bill’s home.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Snubbull shifted as his consciousness surfaced from the depths of unconsciousness. The scents that reached his nose were mostly artificial, human-made surroundings with a spattering of other scents that belonged to more Pokémon. The shelter? He sat up and looked around to find that wasn’t the case.
He was in a bedroom, laying on a pillow on top of a bed. The scent of the foreign Fox Pokémon, with the nice-smelling female trainer’s scent, were all over the bed’s sheets. But he also noticed that their scents were woven with another one and brought his tiny arms to his nose to find that it clung to his own skin—soap, like the one the female caretaker covered him with before the… unpleasantness.
Snubbull huffed. He hated baths.
His ear flaps twitched as he caught the sounds coming from the window and he waddled over to the windowsill to watch the scene below. The female trainer was having the fox practice with breathing out cold air over the water. The sun was on the verge of going down too, meaning he had slept for more than six hours.
The Fairy Pokémon turned and leapt down from the windowsill to the floor, making his way to the door. It was cracked so he could open it wide with enough effort, allowing him to walk out of the room and into the hallway. More Pokémon scents could be smelled coming from above, but he ignored them to head down the stairs to get outside, where two more humans were talking.
“Still no luck in finding a breeder with the Pokémon you were looking for?” asked the human male as Snubbull peered around the corner and into the kitchen. He looked scrawny with brown hair and held some kind of tablet.
“Not in the Kanto region, at least,” answered a human female that looked like an older version of the nice-smelling trainer, sitting at a table with a mug. From the scent Snubbull presumed it to be hot leaf juice—the kind that the human child once tried to make him drink. “I had hoped one of them at least had an Egg, but it seems like that wasn’t the case.”
“Well, once the Global Trade Network is back online you may be able to find one from a breeder in a different region. Sinnoh has colder weather naturally due to being higher north, but Hoenn has more tropical weather due to being closer to the equator. I know a few reputable ones in each region that I can ask.”
“If you wouldn’t mind, thank you.”
“Still, I have to say I’m impressed by the strides your organization has made in exploring Ultra Space. Being able to travel the space between a network of dimensions is one avenue I haven’t explored before.”
“My husband was the one who pioneered the study of it. We were simply the ones who followed in his footsteps along with the conservation—”
Once it was clear the humans weren’t going to say anything interesting to him, Snubbull decided to continue onwards. He quickly darted for the door and then went through the hole at the bottom that had a flap, allowing him to get outside at last, where he noticed the scent of the poisonous flowers that had attacked him. One was close, but before he could sniff it out for revenge the ice fox gave away his presence to the female trainer.
She turned and came over, crouching down. He noticed she smelled of the Flower Pokémon as well. “Snubbull, are you feeling better now?”
He nodded. “Bull.”
“Thank goodness. I was worried when you wouldn’t wake up even after we used Mister Bill’s healing machine, but he said that you must’ve been tired on top of hurt. You didn’t get any sleep since I left Miss Melanie’s place, did you?”
He huffed. Sleep was for the weak. He was strong, not tired. He could stay up all night, no matter what his pack-mother said.
Of course, that didn’t stop his blasted instincts from leaving him relishing when she gently caressed his head. A pleased grumble bubbled up in this throat before he realized it and he was leaning into the touch. Once he caught himself, he broke away and turned towards the woods again. The sun was going down, meaning there were others to hunt and do battle with to become even stronger. He fell on all fours to begin—
—when he was promptly picked up as the female trainer stood, leaving him an uncomfortable distance off the ground. He demanded his release, flailing his arms and legs. “Snubbull!”
“If I let you down, will you go back to picking fights with wild Pokémon again?” she asked.
“Bull,” he admitted without shame. That was how one became stronger. The weak will become prey to be beaten up so that he could become big and powerful, with mighty fangs that could crush boulders.
“Miss Melanie told me you picked fights with other Trainers and then run away,” she said. “And you were previously owned before, yet you’re running around north of Cerulean when your pack should be south. Is there a reason you’re going around fighting so much?”
It izzz peculiar to see a Snubbull with such an aggressive demeanor, the flying machine said. Normally, they are playful, if not somewhat timid, zzzrt.
“Snubbull!” Snubbull barked vehemently at that, snapping his jaws at the flying machine. How dare it compare him to those weaklings, content to be pampered and lay around! Not him. He was a warrior, he needed challenge, not the luxury of a pack.
That was why he departed on his journey to become a mighty Pokémon… only to get caught by a human child, who then tried to make him a house pet that was dressed up like a toy and made to wear accessories. The shame of it still burned him to this day.
That was why, once he had his freedom, he vowed to become stronger on his own. No matter the costs or risks. For he was the mightiest of all Snubbull, and all would know of it!
“Oh, I see,” the female trainer said after the flying machine translated his tirade. “Most Snubbull are passive, so they make for good companions for non-trainers. Same with the Meowths that can be found there too. And, since they’re being taken care of, they don’t have to worry about things like gathering food or defending their territory. But you don’t want that kind of life, do you?”
He nodded enthusiastically. Finally, someone who understood.
“But, you know, you probably won’t be able to become known as the mightiest since most wild Pokémon don’t fight for sport,” she added. “Not to mention, trained Pokémon are taught to work within rules of engagement, whereas wild Pokémon fight to drive off a threat. I’m sure your parents probably told you not to go to certain places as well once you hatched, so that you didn’t enter their territory, right?”
Admittedly, his pack-mother had. Hence why he stayed away after attaining his freedom from the human child who’d trapped him in that boring life before. Totally not because he ran away stating he would become great and didn’t want them to see him before he managed to prove his point.
“Well, since you told me about you, can I tell you a bit about me now?” she asked.
He nodded. It was only fair that he gave the nice-smelling trainer some of his time since she did help him. Not that he wouldn’t have been fine on his own once he got free.
“In the past, I watched someone I love dearly try their hardest to get something precious to them. But the way they were doing it was dangerous and reckless, among other things. I knew that, but I was too scared to say or do anything to stop them. And because of that, I nearly lost them forever if not for a dear friend. I don’t want to do nothing as I watch that happen again, which is why I have to say that you can’t keep doing this, Snubbull.”
A low rumble bubbled up in his throat. “Snnn…”
“That said, I actually admire you, Snubbull,” she continued, causing his ears to perk. “Seeing a Pokémon like you doing your best and being brave is really inspiring, so it would make both me and Miss Melanie sad too if something bad happened to you. That’s why I want to take responsibility for you and make it so that you can reach your dream safely. So, I’m challenging you to a battle.”
He blinked, tilting his head. “Bull?”
She nodded, her ponytail bobbing. “That’s right, a battle. One-on-one. And, if I win, I’ll become your trainer and bring you along with me on my Gym Challenge.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie watched as the Fairy Pokémon considered her offer. From what she could tell due to their little talk, Snubbull was a bit on the younger side—probably a few seasons older than Koko. He didn’t seem to consider the consequences of his actions and seemed to go headfirst into whatever challenged him, so she didn’t think he would reject her offer outright since it involved a battle. That meant she had to decide which Pokémon to use.
Koko was a little tired from training, not to mention Fire Fang would hurt her a lot if it connected. Like AJ had said, Vulpix were fragile on the defensive side of the things. And, while Koko could probably outpace Snubbull, he was even more aggressive than her judging by that battle earlier so if he caught her it’d end badly.
Better not to risk it, she decided as Snubbull began wiggling his arms around and made cute, inquiring noises.
He’s asking what’s in it for him? Rotom translated.
Lillie counted off the benefits. “Well, you’ll get to travel. You’ll get to face off against a bunch of different Pokémon to improve yourself in a relatively safer manner. Not to mention Gyms have stronger opponents for you to face, and if we beat all eight then we can challenge the Elite Four, who have the strongest Pokémon in the region. If you beat them, then that means you’re one the strongest Pokémon in the entire region and everyone around the world will know it.”
A low rumble slipped out of his throat and his eyes grew distant as he pondered it over, the visions likely playing out in his head as a fantasy. Then he shook his head and made more Snubbull sounds that Rotom translated. He wanted to know what he’d get when he won instead.
He’s like a child who believes he’s invincible, Lillie figured. It did much to explain his personality though, and it was good to be enthusiastic. Even so, it only solidified her resolve that he needed someone who could help him direct that enthusiasm in a more positive direction.
“What about all the Pokéblocks you can eat?” she offered. “I’ll be visiting Cerulean tomorrow to make some, so I can make whatever kind you want to take with you then, while tonight you can have dinner with us.”
He made a huffing noise, as if that was nearly enough for his compliance. But then his stomach grumbled loudly enough that even Lillie could hear it, leaving him to stiffen up and then look away in embarrassment. “Sn.”
Lillie couldn’t help but giggle a bit. “So, can I take that as an okay?”
He awkwardly nodded, so she let him down. Snubbull then ran to the path opposite the bridge, fell onto all fours and barked. “Snub!!”
“Koko, this is Shuckle’s battle,” Lillie said when she noticed Koko getting ready to fight. The Alolan Vulpix seemed reluctant but sat down as Lillie pulled out a Pokéball and tossed it out. Light took the form of the Mold Pokémon as he landed opposite of Snubbull. “Shuckle, do your best!”
Shuckle turned and nodded his head before turning back to face the Fairy Pokémon and see that he was already rushing for him.
Snubbull used Tackle!
“Hey, we didn’t say to start yet!!” Lillie shouted as Snubbull lunged, only for Shuckle to Withdraw into his shell reflexively, leaving him to only roll back a bit without being seriously hurt. “Shuckle, use Constrict!”
The Mold Pokémon stuck his head out, frowning, and then thrust out two of his appendages to grab the Fairy Pokémon. Snubbull jumped to the side to avoid one and then exposed his teeth that had a dark-tint to Bite down into the other, causing Shuckle to flinch. “Kle!?”
“Snnn—” Snubbull snarled as he tried to pull Shuckle along like he had the Bellsprouts, only for Shuckle to anchor himself to the ground with his other gooey limbs. Between that and the weight of his shell, he tugged to no avail until Shuckle went for him with the other appendage and forced him to let go or be caught.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked. The Mold Pokémon’s waved his bitten appendage slightly to see if it was severely harmed before nodding his head, keeping his beady eyes on Snubbull. No more ambushes this time. “Okay, then let’s try pinning him down from a distance!”
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Shuckle’s mouth shifted as it bundled its saliva, turned it into bug adhesive, and then spat it out towards the Fairy Pokémon. The glob expanded only to miss as Snubbull darted to the side, leaving it to cling to the ground as a net that would ensnare whatever was caught on it until it dissolved organically or was removed. He got ready to spit again when—
Snubbull used Scary Face!
—a terrifying face was put onto display, draped in shadows and glowing eyes that seemed to stare into the dark pit that were Shuckle’s. It caused him to tense, involuntarily swallowing his bug glue in order to Withdraw back into his shell. That allowed Snubbull to run in with embers licking at the sides of his mouth.
“Shuckle, use Bide!” Lillie ordered. A red hue began to shroud his shell as the embers around Snubbull’s mouth blossomed into flames that wreathed his mouth. Then she could only watch as he lunged for the Mold Pokémon and brought the flaming fangs down!
Snubbull used Fire Fang!
The resulting explosion when the two halves of the flames met each other didn’t do much. His shell was among the strongest natural one a Pokémon could have after all. But the wave of heat still left Shuckle to cry out in discomfort from within his shell as the red energy thickened.
Shuckle is storing energy!
Snubbull jumped back, exhaling embers before more began to wreath his mouth for another attack. Then he lunged again, allowing the second Fire Fang to be let loose ruthlessly. “Bull!!”
A Critical Hit!
The flaming jaws slammed down with the glowing shell in between. The explosion was head-on and at its strongest, allowing the force and heat transferring through the shell to hurt. “K-Kle…!”
Then the Fairy Pokémon to leapt back to form a third Fire Fang, the flames smoldering beneath his eyes as he was intent on breaking through Shuckle’s defenses with overwhelming force. He lunged for Shuckle once more—
Shuckle unleashed the stored energy!
—when all that pent-up pain and fury was converted to power and then released in the form of a single mighty blow. Shuckle struck out with his right appendage that was launched once more from his shell like a cannon. And, when the collective power met that of the flames, the Fire Fang lost its cohesion and ruptured directly in Snubbull’s face.
Detonation. From the smoke flew the Fairy Pokémon, a thin plume flowing from his mouth until he hit the ground and tumbled back into the Sticky Web net on the ground. “Bu…bull…”
“Good job, Shuckle,” Lillie said as she crouched down to check on the Mold Pokémon. She gently stroked where he had been bitten as Shuckle held it up. Then, picking him up, she went over to the downed Fairy Pokémon. “It’s over, Snubbull.”
“SNUBBULL!!” Snubbull said in defiance, trying to rise again. He struggled for a tense minute, pulling hard enough that it almost seemed like he would rip himself free… only for his strength to give out and the elasticity to snap him back into place.
Hungry, stuck, and helpless for the second time that day, Snubbull exhaled and finally submitted. “Snub.”
He surrenders, zzt. Rotom translated.
Lillie took that as cue to pull out a second ball that she set into its active state. “Sorry about this in advance.”
Snubbull tensed up, as if preparing for the impact of the ball. But instead she held the ball out and triggered its Return function. In an instant, Snubbull was pulled into it in an energy form and the ball snapped shut without a struggle.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
An hour later and one empty bowl of food, Snubbull was sitting apart from the rest of Lillie’s Pokémon in her room with his arms crossed. Miffed. He hadn’t taken it well that she had already caught him while he was unconscious as a matter of pride.
In order for him to be properly healed as quickly as possible, they needed to use Mister Bill’s portable healing machine. Given the amount of Pokémon he had under his care, it was only natural that he had one. But they all required the Pokémon to be in balls to use, so she put him in a ball to do so.
“Don’t be that way, Snubbull. I would have released you if you had won,” Lillie told him as she crouched next to him. Mind you, it would have been to Miss Melanie’s place or to Route 5, since she promised those Bellsprouts he wouldn’t bother them again. “I wanted it to at least be fair, and to show you that you can’t keep fighting like you would in the wild. After all, Shuckle isn’t nearly as aggressive and he managed to beat you.”
Snubbull let out a dismissive snort. He still didn’t see how he lost to the Mold Pokémon that was currently eating an Oran Berry Purée for dessert.
Shuckle’s species are among the strongest Pokémon in termzzz of defensive strength because of their shells, Rotom explained to clarify that. To make use of this and fend off predators, they have instinctual understanding of the move Bide, which compounds all the damage they receive for a short time period and allows them to return it two-fold, zzt.
“Snub. Snubbull,” mumbled Snubbull as he nodded sagely in understanding. “Snubbull. Snubbull.”
I don’t think you should try rationalizing it as it being only natural that your own attack would do so much damage, zzt.
“What you should take from it is that you’ll have to learn not to be so aggressive, Snubbull,” Lillie told the Fairy Pokémon as she picked him up and looked him in the eyes, her own somewhat disapproving. “Blindly attacking fast and hard might work out in the wild, but that won’t get you too far from now on. We’re going to try working on that, so you can make it all the way to being a Champion Pokémon, okay?”
Snubbull huffed in reluctant acceptance and then pointed to the other side of the room with a questioning noise. “Bull?”
In response to his inquiry about a certain other Pokémon here, the Bellsprout in question raised his head up nerviously. “B-Bell?”
“Bellsprout is coming with us, since he was exiled from his horde only because he pleaded for me to be allowed to take you to end the fighting,” Lillie explained. That and, like Bewear had left Shuckle without his home, Snubbull had left Bellsprout without his horde. The moment she decided to save Snubbull, she was willing to accept the consequences and responsibilities of that. “You two are going to be working together, so let’s all get along from now on.”
Snubbull only snorted and turned away, leaving Lillie to sigh again she set him back down. She didn’t expect them to get along right away given what happened earlier, and the fact that Snubbull wasn’t trying to attack him was better than if he was. But she still wanted them to be friends with one another.
Fortunately, Koko came over to her side after she’d finished eating and then distracted her by pointing a paw to the monitor. “Pix. Pix?”
“You want to watch the battle video again?” Lillie guessed before Rotom chimed in. She got a nod in response. “Sure.”
Snubbull’s ears perked up at that. “Snub?”
“One of my friends is the current Champion of Alola, the region I’m from,” Lillie explained. “The other became strong enough to challenge him, meaning he defeated the Elite Four as well. Their match was a little while ago and showed how they both became the strongest trainers in all of Alola.”
“Vulpix!” Koko bobbed her head and yipped, going on about the match that she’d seen according to Rotom. Snubbull seemed wide-eyed at how vividly she was apparently describing it. When she was done, he jumped up and pointed to the monitor as well.
Lillie set up the video to play on the monitor and occupy the two of them before she went back to Shuckle and Bellsprout. The Mold Pokémon was finishing up his dessert now, running one of his little appendages over his mouth to scoop up anything he missed and then sticking it into his mouth. She gently stroked the length of his head. “You did very well today, Shuckle. I’m proud of you.”
Shuckle accepted it without complaint but compared to Snubbull and Koko he wasn’t as receptive to it. Likely because his interactions with humans was far more limited and he was just naturally relaxed by nature. He would probably prefer to just lounge around and ferment the berries in his shell rather than fight, but he was at least keeping to his part of the deal they made, and Lillie was sure he would warm up more to her in time. The same went for Snubbull as well.
As for Bellsprout, she noticed that a good portion of the food she’d set aside for him was untouched. Like Shuckle, he didn’t exactly have teeth, so soft foods or those he could break down quickly with his acid was best for him. But he didn’t seem to have done so. “Are you not hungry?”
He waved his verdant appendages back and forth to state otherwise, moving the tips to his stem-like body. “Bell. Bellsprout.”
He’s full at the moment, zzt. Rotom chimed in. Bellsprouts don’t have a central stomach, but instead a very long digestive track that connects to their mouthzzz. To make up for the lack of prey at times, they also draw in nutrients from the ground and create energy through their leaves. Since the sun has gone down, he isn’t as active and so he won’t digest it as quickly, zrt.
“Sp-sprout,” the Flower Pokémon nodded in agreement. Then he began tapping the tips of his leaves together. “Be…Bellell, Bellsprout?”
Rotom translated. He’s asking if you’re going to name him now, zzt.
“Do you want me too?” Lillie asked him. She didn’t name Shuckle yet because she was waiting for him to be more comfortable with them, given the circumstances they met under. Though, truth be told, her family rarely nicknamed their Pokémon to begin with—Nebby was an exception, and Koko was her Starter from Professor Burnet.
He brought his leaf to the rim of his bell before nodding slowly. “Bell.”
“Hmm…” Lillie’s brows folded in concentration as she tried to figure out a name for him. For Koko, her species has a legend behind them to use as a basis. And Nebby looked like a small nebula for her to go off of as a small child. So maybe something with a part of his name in it? “How does Bellamy sound?”
“Bellsprout… Bellsprout…” He tilted his drum-like head, one leaf placed on the side as if he was tapping his cheek in thought. Then he bobbed his head. “Bell.”
“I’m glad you like it.” Lillie smiled and then offered him her hand. “I hope we can get along together from now on, Bellamy.”
He extended a leaf in agreement and they shook on it, bringing the long day to a close.
Chapter 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.