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Interlude - Fallout
NOTICE: I will be gone on holiday from June 2nd to June 14th, so don't expect the schedule to hold up during that timeframe (I'll try to get a few out, so you can most likely expect 2-3). The normal schedule will resume from June 16th.


Cynthia Collins sat in a dusty office full of spreadsheets, ledgers and reports. After a heavy breath, she stood up, paced around the room and stretched. These chairs had terrible lumbar supports and were killing her back. Aaron and Lucian were with her, of course, as they'd been for the few days. In fact, they'd been together so much that both of them had stopped their endless bickering. Alakazam peered over a levitating piece of paper with his usual angry sneer.

And by bickering, it was mostly Aaron trying to get under Lucian's skin and him being completely immune to whatever the youngest Elite Four member threw at him. Aaron had a brilliant mind, but he was distracted very easily, which made creating a plan to solve Solaceon's economic crisis a headache-inducing process. Sometimes, Cynthia wished she could take another year off like she'd done when she had gone to study Unova's political system for inspiration when she'd been trying to reform Sinnoh's. It was where she had caught her last few Pokemon, more than a decade ago now. Her diplomatic trip to the region had been a monumental event at the time and Sinnoh still had very good relations with Unova because of it. Of course, the same couldn't be said with Kanto-Johto, but things were slowly improving and were nowhere as bad as they had been under her predecessor. Maybe a trip to Hoenn would do her some good when Team Galactic was finally dealt with.

Oh, to be on those beaches…

"Look, I'm no economist, but Solaceon's got to diversify first and foremost," Aaron said, tapping at a paper. "We've cut spending across the board, but we're still in the red by… how much?"

Four point five billion Pokedollars, Alakazam's voice rang out. I have already laid out my two-hundred-and-fifty-six-step plan to fix this deficit. Any more time spent here is a waste of my time, and you know I despise it when people waste my time.

Cynthia smirked at the psychic type. "Your plan treats people like numbers, not like living, human beings. Take step five… putting Solaceon on lockdown to force people to stay? Your plan is unrealistic."

It is not unrealistic, you just lack the will to implement it, The psychic said. Since I have done my piece, I will take my leave. I must get back to studying the Unown.

"Feel free to," Lucian shrugged.

Aaron shrugged. "Talk about getting—"

Silence, pest. Just breathing in the same air as you makes me sick, Alakazam complained before teleporting away.

Well, all of Lucian's Pokemon tended to be disinterested in human affairs, so they would be of no help. Some parts of Alakazam's plan were sound, however, and she would still be able to make use of it.

"He must still be angry about that time I got him with that neat Super Speed trick with Yanmega," Aaron said.

"Stop bragging about things that happened six months ago and get back to work," Cynthia said. "Lucian, what do you think about Aaron's idea? Diversifying?"

Lucian shook his head. "That's more of a long-term plan. To put it in words, it would be like trying to dock a sinking rowboat while in the middle of the ocean instead of plugging the holes. Right now, we need to fix what is broken."

Aaron sighed and Cynthia nodded. Lucian and Aaron were both smart in their own ways. while Flint and Bertha were the heart of the Elite Four, they were the brains. Lucian was better at looking at the bigger picture and creating long, intricate plans while Aaron focused on granular details and ran a lot of the day-to-day at the League.

"I've already called Vernon. He will start hammering out an emergency package for the city," Lucian continued. "The plan is to cover the city's costs for a year… which will be a heavy burden to bear, especially when it won't pay for itself, but it must be done. We'll have Hearthome and Veilstone bring in engineers and construction workers for the repairs. I have a list of companies that might be interested in the work, and they'll have to bid on a contract."

Lucian typed on his computer and printed out another piece of paper before handing it to Cynthia.

"I recommend to only let these three companies in on the bidding process. We could just award the contract to one of them, but…"

"But that's dictatorial-ish, so we think it'd be a better idea to let the process go on as usual with negotiations and all of that— to at least give the illusion of deliberation," Aaron finished the sentence. "You've used quite a lot of political capital already. Might want to cool off on that for a while."

Oh, Cynthia knew that already. It was strange to her, how people could only see the faults in her actions after she'd saved Solaceon from an even worse tragedy. She had fired the entire political apparatus in the city and replaced it with loyalists, but that was only temporary, and it was needed for them to implement her plan without a fuss.

But Bertha had warned her when she had first become Champion. Dabbling in politics for too long changed people, and it made you see the world completely differently than the average person. Cynthia lingered on the thought for a second, but she knew that what she'd done was correct. Democracy was an ideal that she'd had her entire life, but it was often too slow at dealing with crises. Without her loyalists in the City Council, Mayor's office, and Treasurer's office, it would have taken the politicians there weeks to decide where to allocate the funds that the national government would give them. Cynthia had already seen it happen multiple times.

"Underhall Construction, Veilstone Holding, Timburr Co.," she read out. "I've heard of the first two, but what in the world is Timburr Corporation?"

"They're rather new and trying to make a name for themselves. They use a lot of Pokemon-based labor, so they'd be the cheapest option on the list. Underhall construction is based on Hearthome, and they'd be the safest, but slowest option to get the city rolling again. Veilstone Holding is the middle-of-the-road option, both in price and time, but with what's been happening in the city, they'd be happy to get a chance at the job."

"Maylene would appreciate it as well," Aaron chimed in.

"Have you been speaking?" Cynthia asked.

"Nah, not really. I just get people," he said.

It was true. Aaron's ability to understand how people thought was better than even hers, which was why she considered him one of her possible successors when she retired. Of course, someone could also beat her in battle, but she doubted that would happen. Flint was out of the question. He was too rash, hotheaded and unserious to be in her position. Bertha was too old and would probably retire in the next ten years. Not every Elite Four member clung to power as much as Agatha. Lucian had no desire to rise any higher. She had to butter him up for months for him to even accept joining the Elite Four.

When a Champion retired willingly, they got to choose who would replace them, although it almost always was a member of the Elite Four that did so. Unova had more checks and balances to their system, but Cynthia wanted to keep the civilian government out of affairs as important as picking the Champion. Aaron might have been the weakest member of the Elite Four right now, but he was also the youngest. He was only nineteen and was progressing at a rapid pace. If age calmed him down and stopped him from getting distracted so easily, then Cynthia would have no doubts.

Time would tell what Aaron would become.

"Underhall Construction was in charge of building Canalave's canal, correct? And Veilstone Holding ran the last expansion efforts for the city. What have Timburr Co. done?"

"Their most notable projects were building a new Contest Hall in Jubilife and renovating the city's port."

Cynthia hummed. "Well, contact the companies and start the bidding process. I trust that you two will be able to cooperate in evaluating the bids with the city officials?"

"It's not like they'll go against what we say. I said illusion of deliberation, remember?" Aaron said. "That's step one. Now for step two."

Lucian nodded. "You've called for diversification, but first, I think that we need to lean into wheat—"

"Hold on, I got a banger idea when you said wheat just now," Aaron lifted a finger. "I agree with what you said, at least for the short term, but Solaceon's not playing to its strengths. Sure, they've been selling, but not as much as they could be. Shipping things by plane and teleporting goods is expensive and inefficient. Hearthome and Oreburgh can do it because they're rich, but Solaceon can't exactly afford to do so, especially now that they're going to be losing so much money. There's the river system south of here that leads to the ocean, right? Why not use that to ship their produce?"

Cynthia thought for a second, visualizing the rivers he spoke about in her head. Hearthome and Solaceon had often rattled their sabers over the water rights there. Lucian was seemingly already done, however.

"Ah, that's actually a great idea. Freight shipping will ease a lot of Solaceon's burdens, but we'd have to invest in building a port… more bids, I presume?"

They were right, Cynthia mused. While air travel was a large part of how cities exported goods abroad, shipping was the majority thanks to its low costs and ease of transport. Jubilife had done the same thing a century ago. Even while landlocked, they built a port to the west to facilitate trade, first with Canalve, then the entire region and the world.

"Place that in the bid," Cynthia nodded. "Prioritize farming, tell Vernon to put more modern farming equipment in the emergency package as well. We'll have to buy them from another company, but we're spending money for a good cause. Salvaging the situation will restore a bit of my political capital for when Team Galactic eventually strikes and I have to take the gloves off again."

Cynthia let out a heavy sigh. It wasn't like she enjoyed taking rights away. They had Porygon scouring the forums to censor information faster than any human moderator could see, and they had twisted the media's arm to keep the story about Shiftry leading the Hunters contained. There had thankfully been no leaks due to the fact that they were content to simply chew on the massive bone that Grace Pastel, Cecilia Obel and their group had given them. They'd exposed Shiftry's existence and his involvement in the events that took place a few weeks after Cynthia's ascension, but the fact that he'd been pulling Solaceon's strings could not be known. Solaceon being quasi-independent would not be a good look, both nationally and abroad.

"I'll be leaving then," Cynthia said. "Keep hammering out the details and keep city officials in the know. Samantha's going to hold a press conference in two and a half hours, and she needs to give the talking points in a natural way, or she'll come off as robotic."

"Very well," Lucian agreed.

"I mean, she didn't even want to be Mayor," Aaron said. "But I guess that means she'd good for the job. Isn't there a saying about that? The best leaders are those who don't want to take the position?"

"There is, but it's nonsense," Cynthia said as she left.

With the economy now sorted out, it was time for her to get her daily reports about the happenings around the region that was curated for her every day. The League Trainer had already been waiting for her outside of the office, and he handed her the report.

"Thank you, Kenneth. I hope you didn't mind waiting around too much," she smiled.

"Not at all ma'am," the young man said. "It's an honor to serve."

"And it's an honor to work alongside you," Cynthia said. "Here."

The Champion handed him an empty signed Pokeball and placed it in his palm.

"For your little sister Morgan," she continued. "She's turning fifteen next year, right? You told me she wanted to be a trainer the other day."

Kenneth blushed before stammering. "T—thank you! I can't wait to see the look on her face… she'll be ecstatic."

Cynthia smiled. It was the little things like these that kept her going. She began to read her report and focused in on the Veilstone section immediately. There were still no Team Galactic members captured there, but there had been a few sightings or reports coming in from the tip line. It was like Team Galactic in the city had gone radio silent, but Cynthia knew better. They were waiting for the right time to strike. The question was when? She already had Lou constantly monitoring Maylene for her protection, but she was still worried about the young gym leader.

The moment the crisis here was resolved, she'd focus all of her attention on the matter of Veilstone.

Other than that, things were going well, although there were reports of a young girl shaking up the Contest scene by exposing someone who'd worked with Team Galactic on social media that they'd somehow missed. A certain Antoine Nguyen that had slipped through the cracks. Cynthia committed the girl's name to memory and made a mental note to tell Fantina about her.

Kenneth released a Bronzong and Teleported them to their next location— the Pokemon Center. She wasn't here to visit Grace Pastel's friends. Some of them had already left, and only three of them remained. Instead, she waved at the bewildered trainers and smiled for their pictures. She had a meeting scheduled with Craig Goodwill. The events of the Darkest Day had made him fly to Solaceon to see his sister Lauren, and she used the opportunity to sit him down for a discussion. Trainers of his caliber were very busy. Kenneth waited at the door and saluted as she entered. The raven-haired man didn't even spare her a look.

"Champion Cynthia," Craig dejectedly said.

"Craig," she smiled. "You seem sad. Did something bad happen?"

"Well my sister left and gave me the finger while she did so."

Cynthia chuckled as she sat. "She's a teenager, she'll grow up. My sister hated me when we were younger. Everyone knew her as Cynthia's sister and not Celeste. We grew apart for quite a long time."

"That didn't help at all."

"Well, you have to let children grow up," Cynthia shrugged. "Have you considered my offer?"

"I have, and it'll have to be a no, I'm afraid," Craig said.

"Interesting. May I know why?"

"Being a League Trainer sounds nice and all, but I want to make it to the end of the year and challenge you first. That was always the plan."

"Then we can work out another agreement," Cynthia immediately said.

Craig Goodwill was too good of a trainer to pass up on. When the time came, Cynthia wanted him in the League to help against Team Galactic. Trainers were not beholden to the League, and therefore would not be forced to join the fight, which Cynthia found perfectly acceptable, but she had assessed Craig a while ago. He wasn't the best at anything, but he could do everything extremely well. His approach to training had been slow and steady growth since he'd been fifteen, and today he could beat most Gym Leader's teams without breaking a sweat, and she was relatively confident in saying that he would win the Conference this year.

If she had to guess… Cynthia thought he would beat Aaron and Bertha, but Flint's explosive battling style would prove too much for him.

That meant that she had a trainer as powerful as an Elite Four member right there. She would be a fool not to try to poach him.

"What agreement?" Craig asked as he fiddled with an Ultra Ball. That was his… Elektross, if Cynthia remembered correctly. She had one of her own that she'd caught in Unova, although they both had completely different battling styles.

"Come on Craig, you're smart. You know what I want," Cynthia smirked. "Join the Internship Program so we have the option to call on you when the time comes. That way, you'll still be able to participate in the Conference. You want to be the Champion, don't you? That comes with responsibilities that you should be able to face."

Craig chuckled, then rubbed his chin. "Fair enough. I was mostly waiting to see how long it'd take for you to be straight with me."

"I thought it wasn't necessary, but I was clearly wrong and I apologize," Cynthia said. "Do you still only own your usual six Pokemon? If you're going to Mount Coronet, the League will have to issue you a Teleporter. It'd be skirting the rules, but you're too important."

"I have a new member that I'm keeping hidden for the Conference," he said. "Already knows Teleport, and I've been to every city with him. Routes would be a problem though. I just fly over them these days."

"That's fine," the Champion nodded. "Even if Team Galactic strikes off-route, so long as you can get to the nearest city, League Trainers will get you there."

Cynthia shot up.

"I'll have Lucian send you the papers immediately," she continued. "Thank you for your service."

"Gotta keep the region safe, right?" Craig said. "It is what it is."

Yes, Cynthia thought. It was what it was. He would not enjoy his coming duties, and neither would she.


Cynthia left Kenneth soon after their meeting. Only a few eyes had seen where she was going next, and he did not have the clearance to do so. League Trainers were not uniform. They were divided in a few categories. There were Recruits— people that had only recently joined the force and were still in training. Privates were trainers that had completed their training and only had a few years of experience. Corporals usually had five years of service, while Sergents usually had around eight. Commanders were veterans that had the highest authority below the Elite Four, and had often been in service for decades. There wasn't exactly a set number of years that guaranteed your promotion. Some people shot up the ranks in a few years while some were stuck at the Private rank their entire careers.

Of course, there were auxiliary forces as well. The Teleportation Squads that Cynthia used a lot due to her lacking a Pokemon with the move, ACE Trainers that were focused on more covert operations, the Air Force, the Aquatic Squads, Dark Type Specialists that focused on shutting ghosts and enemy teleporters down… there were a lot.

Your rank determined your clearance level. Commanders knew about threats like Regigigas, the Regis, or what had happened a few years ago in Hoenn. Groudon and Kyogre's fight had threatened to destroy the entirety of Hoenn until Rayquaza intervened. Gym Leaders were actually not privy to most of that information just because of the fact that they were a separate entity. While they did work for the League, they were closer to their respective civilian governments and almost never came to the Lily of the Valley Island. There were a few other Legendaries contained by the League with intricate procedures and ancient rituals. New Moon Island and Stark Mountain housed one each. Some Legendaries were well-meaning and ran free through the region as well.

But these? These were not Legendaries.

In front of Cynthia sat a cave whose entrance was blocked with an intricate seal. At its core, it was simply an enormous stone slab, but there were small indentations on the stone that had been carved into it like conduits. Dark type energy pulsated through the conduits until it converged in the center into a singular point.

Beyond that wall, hundreds of thousands of Unown slept. They had been lucky that Shiftry had still kept the seal sustained during his tantrum. If he hadn't, then they would have broken out and wreaked havoc on the entire region.

"Andrew! How's she taking to the job?" Cynthia asked a large, gruff League Trainer.

He turned toward her, showing medals lining his uniform. An Absol lazily preened her fur and stared at Cynthia with utter contempt. She couldn't exactly blame the dark type. Her new job would be incredibly boring, even if she'd be allowed to roam Solaceon whenever she wished. Unfortunately, they tended to show up close to when disaster struck, so the civilians would no doubt panic.

"She's angry, but she knows it has to be done," the Commander said, crossing his large arms.

"Thank you, Absol," Cynthia said. "We'll try to get another dark type trained so you can work in shifts. We were going to do so anyway in case anything ever happened to you."

Absol brightened at that. Training her had taken a lot of trial and error, but the process had sped up exponentially when they got their hands on a lone Unown a few years ago. Alone, they could do nothing at all. They were barely a threat to humans, and Absol could simply tweak her dark type manipulation until that Unown fell asleep. Together? They could warp reality to their liking, and they'd function like a hive mind. Even summoning weaker versions of Legendaries was on the table. Cynthia had studied the Great War, and Johto had used the Unown for that very purpose, creating a clone of Entei, Raikou and Suicune in an attempt to win the war. There hadn't been enough Unown for them to be powerful enough, and the experiment failed miserably.

The Unown were a hive mind, but they could also bend to a human's will. No one knew what exactly it was that they looked for, but if a person was chosen, they would essentially become a god.

Which was why Johto had only experimented with a few thousand. They weren't foolish enough to use a large number. Still, finding someone to be chosen had taken hundreds of attempts, and when they failed, the person would suffer an unknown fate depending on what the group of Unown felt like.

It made death look pretty.

Now that they knew exactly how to contain the Unown and put them into a daze, training more dark types would only take a few months at most. Even Shiftry was not foolish enough to let the Unown loose despite knowing that he would die.

She would never have expected his answer to her question to make so much sense. Why had he reneged on their deal and cooperated with Team Galactic? Why risk everything when he knew that he could not stand up to her, let alone the entire League?

Cyrus promised him something.

Cynthia did not know much about Shiftry's life, but she did know about his relationship with Ediva Hunter. She'd been his first and only trainer, and he'd never stopped mourning her death. The only way he managed to cope was to dull his emotions, and it had an effect on the people around him as well. Cynthia had no doubt that in the end, there had been an element of control to it too, otherwise he would not have let the Hunters' loyalty to him remain. He would have shut down every single emotion.

But at the beginning? It had been about a Pokemon being unable to mourn his trainer's passing.

Cyrus' goal was to create a new world. A new world that he would be able to rule and shape to his liking. In exchange for help, he had promised Shiftry to bring Ediva back and to bring him into this new world.

He would have abandoned the rest of his family to do it.

Cynthia cracked her neck, released her Garchomp and flew back toward Solaceon. The motivation of Team Galactic Commanders' had eluded the League until now. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn's motivation still remained shrouded, but Charon? Cynthia's talks with Mira Compton had been very productive in that regard.

He too, wanted to bring someone back.

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Chapter 169

"Okay, so you're looking for the battery compartment, right?" I told Honey as he confusedly twisted our camping stove around. I grabbed the battery and handed them to him. "See that little indentation on the side? Open it and put them in there."

The electric type hummed, and after a few seconds, he managed to get the stove powered.

"Now you want to select temperature, and bam! You can just put a pot on there and start cooking. Not the most exciting process since you're starting small, but it'll do for now. Baby steps, right?" I smiled, tapping his shoulder. "You watch me cook the pasta for now, okay? Tomorrow, you can do the same."

Electabuzz excitedly whirred as I grabbed my small pack of pasta. I called Buddy over and asked him to spit water into the pot. Water types' water was perfectly healthy to drink, but most trainers didn't exactly like to imagine drinking something coming out of someone else's mouth. I wasn't most people. When the water came to a boil, I dumped the raw pasta in.

"Now with pasta, it's pretty simple I think. I mean, it's one of the few things my dad taught me how to cook, so I'm alright at it," I continued as I twirled the noodles around. "You wanna wait until they're soft… which is, uh, a certain amount of time that I forgot. I guess we can taste test as it goes!"

After a few minutes, Honey tapped on my shoulder and grunted, nodding toward the salt.

"Fuck," I sighed. "I forgot."

We were currently camping on route 210, and we had made it halfway through. Denzel had been right. The grass here really was taller than all of us— even Sunshine and Angel. Luckily, the Rangers had forged a path through and we were simply following it. There had been no accidents or even attacks so far, which was good news.

I usually didn't cook that much outside of cities, but Honey did want to get better at it, so I figured why not pack a bunch of stuff to cook on the way to Veilstone? That way, I figured I'd be able to share his hobby and we'd get better at it together. Pasta and sandwiches were about all I could make right now, but it was a work in progress.

After dumping what might have been way too much salt into the bowl, I strained the pasta, dumped the water in the bowl and put the pasta back in.

"Guys! Dinner!" I yelled.

Sweetheart rolled toward us first, although I had to yell at her to stop herself before her momentum built up too much. Pupitar weren't supposed to move like that, and she was still slowly getting better at moving properly, but it was more of a temporary solution to her current handicap. It did remind me of when I used to train Princess with Rollout back in our apartment.

"You can taste a little, but there's not enough in here to feed you," I said. "You've got to eat dirt to grow up properly, okay?"

The ground type let out an echoing roar. I was slowly learning her body language again, and she had that same thing that Angel had going on with his eyes, but more muted. I was pretty sure she'd smiled right there. Princess was off in the distance, creating a lifesized statue of Sunshine, who was sleeping in his usual curled-up position. Unfortunately for her, the fire type shifted positions and ruined her work— at least in her eyes. She angrily reduced the half-finished statue to dust and blew it all over Turtonator's body before joining me.

I waited to see if he'd retaliate, but aside from a roar that caused a few Starly to flee in fear and him heating up the surroundings by a few degrees, he didn't do anything substantial. Still, I told him to stop, not wanting to scare trainers traveling through. There were a lot because of the tournament, but we mostly kept to ourselves. Buddy let out a heavy, otherworldly sigh and washed away the dust with a warm jet of water. Angel skipped across the floor with a huge smile in his eyes.

"When did you learn to do that?" I asked amusedly. I had never seen him skip before. He shrugged with his vines, not remembering the answer.

I prepared everyone's usual meals, along with a side of pasta. Yeah, kibble or berries with pasta was weird, but they seemed to like it enough. Except Princess, who kept to her Oran Berries and left the rest of the food untouched. I'd anticipated that and only put the vitamins on there anyway, so it worked out regardless. Sunshine hated my pasta and complained that there was too much salt in it with an exasperated groan.

"I tried my best, you grouch!" I yelled. "You sound like my dad. Oooh, look at me, there's too much salt in my food, I have to eat healthy. Just give it to Angel or Sweetheart if you hate it so much. Hmph!"

Honey reassured me with a worried grunt, saying that the food was fine and that he enjoyed it very much, and that cheered me up some. Angel passed on the food, not because he hated the pasta but because he liked to feed Pupitar. He'd gotten a lot more into his caretaking thing since she evolved, and he couldn't go five minutes before worrying about her. Sweetheart rolled over, and the grass type dumped the remaining contents of Sunshine's bowl into her mouth. Then, she turned back and began munching on dirt. It was all she did most of the day, along with sleeping. She needed all the energy she could get to grow strong and evolve. Hopefully I'd be able to get her some of that premium dirt in Veilstone.

I chuckled to myself. "Premium dirt. Heh."

After cleaning everything up, I set up my tent and got ready to sleep. I wouldn't clock out right away, but it was nice to hide away from the elements. Plus, making a fire was annoying and I no longer had to do it thanks to Sunshine being there. I could even sleep in short sleeves and I would feel completely fine so long as he slept to the side of my tent which he didn't mind. Buddy sneaked into my tent, becoming a misshapen thing that was more water than Pokemon to be able to fit inside. Only his bright red eyes were recognizable. Princess slept inside of the tent because she was a mommy's girl and could actually fit, but everyone else kept guard outside. The reason Jellicent was here was because we had these nightly chats, just him and me. Princess sometimes chimed in of course, but she was content to listen most of the time.

"Welcome," I said in a dramatic tone, causing him to roll his eyes at me. I lifted a hand in the air and softly plunged it inside of the water. Jellicent quivered and shook around my arm. "Sorry. I know it tickles, I just think you're really cool when you do this."

When I'd caught him in Sandgem, I never expected him to be able to do this stuff. The water solidified into a gel-like substance and he flashed his 'not actually angry, but I have to look angry' face at me that he liked to use when dealing with Honey, Princess or Sweetheart's antics.

"I'll behave," I smiled. "How about we start with what's been bothering you? When I said that you wouldn't be able to understand me."

His eyes dimmed, and he stared silently at me.

"I wanted to tell you that it's not true. Pokemon and humans, well, we have our differences and our similarities, and to be honest, isn't that fine? Our thoughts won't align sometimes, but that doesn't mean that we can't understand each other. Hell, I'd say that you're capable of understanding how I think almost perfectly already. I've been slacking in that regard… I've been expecting you all to just become like me, and I know that's not realistic."

Jellicent let out a series of clicks, each one at a different pitch, length, or resonation. It was a complex sentence, but I understood it perfectly. Cynthia couldn't explain my strange ability, and there was apparently no one else like me that she'd found, so why? Why was I so good at understanding Pokemon?

I blinked and snapped back to the conversation. "No, look, everyone in the family has a different moral code, and we've just been following mine because I'm the mom. We have Sunshine and you on one end, and Honey and Angel on the other."

The water type stared at Princess and huffed. She innocently snuggled into my arms.

"Fine, Princess is on your end too," I added. "Anyway, the point is, you're fine. Don't let what I said bring you down… it was a stupid statement, and I'm sorry. Just be you, alright? It's okay to disagree with the decisions I take, even if you feel forced to implement them. I'm not perfect."

His eyes softened and he floated to the tent's ceiling, becoming a small pond that clung to the roof. He was basically able to do what Vaporeon could now, so that'd be very useful against Crasher Wake when the time came.

"Now it's your turn. Shoot."

Jellicent whistled deeply, asking if this journey alone was doing me any good.

"Well, it only just started, but so far, I feel like I'm enjoying myself. Sure, it won't be the end of all my problems, but it's nice to just be with everyone for once. I miss my friends, but it's not the end of the world. We'll meet again soon, and when we do, I'll be ready to tackle their problems and help them out."

Princess chirped. She was already starting to doze off. From the way she'd explained things to me, a major problem with her leaking fairy type energy had been because of our way of using Fairy Wind as a move in the background. It hadn't been the only reason, but it had been one of the main ones. She had figured out how to fully stop it now though.

"My turn again. Did you like the pasta I cooked today? Don't lie."

Buddy suddenly made himself very small.

The next day, we stopped when we reached the end of the tall grass. A large hill sat to our left, and I could see the start of Mount Coronet up north, covered by a strange, never-ending fog. The Café Cabin was a few hours away still, but before going there, I decided to take an executive decision.

"Let's take a break here," I said before releasing Sweetheart. Since she wasn't able to walk yet, she was the only one that traveled in a Pokeball. Everyone else was already out, although Sunshine had relentlessly complained about me having him walk.

I had just told him that he needed to stop being so lazy if he wanted to get as strong as Cynthia's Pokemon, and that seemed to light a fire in him.

I dropped my bag on the floor and rolled my tired shoulders.

"How about a little training?" I asked the team. "All of us against Sunshine?"

My Pokemon froze, although the dragon excitedly heated up. No doubt, memories of the last time we'd fought him flashed back into their minds, but it was different now. He was a part of the team.

I crouched next to Sweetheart. "I know this is going to bother you, but you can't fight until you learn to move, okay?"

The rock type's eyes twisted in frustration and she jumped in place, shaking the floor below my feet and creating tiny fissures on the ground. Then, she proceeded to roll on the floor and throw a tantrum, bellowing louder than I'd ever heard her.

"Stop it."

Pupitar slowed down at first, and then came to a halt.

"I know it's not fun, but we've got to be responsible. You've been getting better at moving around, and by the time you get to Veilstone, I'm sure I'll be able to use you in battle. Just focus on improving for now."

She grunted with teary eyes and began to reflexively munch on some rocks she had kicked up.

I felt my heart wrench at her tears, but I knew that I needed to nip her bad behavior in the bud soon. When she'd been a Larvitar, it was cute, but now it could actually cause a lot of issues. And when she became a Tyranitar? Well, I wouldn't be allowed to release her in most city areas anyway, but she'd be capable of bringing an entire building down because I refused to let her hog the television. Luckily she'd still be able to be out in Pokemon Centers since they were made of some kind of super expensive hyper-resistant material, but she'd struggle to fit in my room. I knew there was a standardized list of Pokemon allowed to hang about everywhere on a government website, but I'd never really looked it up. In Sunshine's case, it had just been really obvious.

Of course, League Trainers and above were able to bypass this rule. And I did mean trainers. Interns like me would still be subject to them.

"Let's lay down some ground rules before you get ahead of yourself," I told Sunshine. His nose flared in anger. "You can raise the temperature, but not too much. We don't want to burn this entire area, and the fight wouldn't even be fair. No matter where we go, there's a small risk of trainers being around, so make sure not to let your attacks get too far. Are we clear?"

Turtonator reluctantly nodded, eager to get the battle going. The rest of the team grouped up around me after I called them for a strategy meeting. We huddled up and I began to whisper.

"Angel, you'll be at your worst during this fight, so try to just support the rest of the team from afar. You'd be a lot more powerful if you could use Sunny Day, but we won't do that for obvious reasons. That'd be shooting ourselves in the foot," I muttered. "Princess, you're going to be attacking more than usual. We can't win on defense against Sunshine. He'll choke us out and eventually blow past any wall you can make, so you're going to try to get close and Dazzling Gleam. Honey, you're going to feint him out. Keep attacking at a distance until I give you a signal. Buddy, you're the key to winning this. You can take a lot of hits and dish it back. Try to utilize Night Shade if you can, but other than that, focus on attacking with everything you've got. And this is important for everyone: watch the shell. Anticipate Shell Trap and move accordingly."

Turtonator impatiently slapped his tail against the floor and beckoned us to come at him.

He'd let us have the first move. I walked away as fast as I could, not wanting to get caught in the crossfire and prepared to observe the battle with Sweetheart. I'd give out orders as well, of course, but I wanted to see how the battle would go if I let my Pokemon fight semi-independently. In a normal setting, that wouldn't be necessary, but in a fight with no rules like my battle against Harry?

They needed to get used to it.

The temperature dropped as shadows intertwined with each other next to me, forming into a Night Shade. Jellicent turned into water and sunk into the floor just as his shade spat out a low-powered Whirlpool. Flames erupted from Turtonator's shell and the water immediately turned into mist.

Electabuzz whirled his arms until my hair stood on end, shooting out Thunderbolt after Thunderbolt, but Turtonator simply shrugged them off. The electricity harmlessly bounced off his beige scales. He grinned, blasting a metallic burst of energy toward Honey, who barely had time to put up a Protect. The Flash Cannon bounced off of Protect and crashed against a nearby tree, cutting it in half.

"Princess, build up a Fairy Wind. Force him to come to you!" I ordered.

On its own, Dazzling Gleam would be a lot more powerful, but if we could charge Fairy Wind up enough, it wouldn't even be a contest, especially because she was a lot more used to that move than the other. Pink mist began to swirl around Togetic, and Turtonator spat out a stream of bright orange flames toward her. The attack only grazed her, but it was still enough to break her concentration, and the wind went loose toward Sunshine.

Jellicent appeared at his side, barely in a coherent form, but Sunshine had been ready for it. A Dragon Pulse disintegrated his entire body and blew up a precharged Shadow Ball, hurting both Pokemon, but the Night Shade surprisingly stayed active even without Buddy keeping it going. It kept pestering Turtonator with weak Shadow Balls, since those couldn't just be burned away.

"Angel, Ancient Power!"

An enormous rock shot out of the ground and rolled in Turtonator's direction. He destroyed it with Flash Cannon, but Princess reformed the rock with an Ancient Power of her own before the shards came too far apart and kept it going. Sunshine's eyes widened in surprise, but he immediately turned, letting his shell absorb the damage and creating an explosion that scattered Jellicent's remains once again.

That was our opening.

"Honey, go in now! Cross Chop!"

The electric type dashed forward, becoming a blur. His arms bulged and lit up as he entered the smoke generated by the explosion. Not wasting a single second, I ordered Princess to go in right away.

I heard Sunshine grunt, but much to my dismay, Electabuzz was thrown out of the smoke with his fur smoking from some type of burn. Then, instead of dissipating, the smoke began to build up, glowing with a menacing red and burned the grass in its path. I whistled sharply, stopping Togetic and ordered her to keep her distance. Jellicent finally reformed next to the rest of the team and awaited my next command.

"Throw your shade into that," I said, pointing toward the smoke.

Before I was even done speaking, Buddy's shade was already floating toward Turtonator. It was slow, but that was fine. I knew that the fire type was planning something, but he had surprisingly not used the smoke as an element of surprise for Flamethrower or Dragon Pulse like he'd done in Mount Coronet.

The Shade entered the smoke and immediately blew up. Angel sent another Ancient Power, and Togetic tried to dissipate the smoke with Fairy Wind, but nothing worked. Turtonator's Smokescreen was too cohesive to simply send away with wind.

A giant beam brighter than the sun emerged from the smoke and hit Jellicent directly. Solar Beam. That was why he'd taken so long to use the move! And I had just waited because I'd thought that we could anticipate anything he'd throw at us. The move was so energy intensive that I hadn't expected him to be able to use it without the power of Sunny Day— much less with his smoke blocking out the sun entirely, but I'd been completely wrong. Somehow, even through the smoke and ash, it had been enough.

Buddy was down for the count, barely able to come back together into a weird goo. I recalled him and snapped back to the battle. Turtonator appeared somewhat wounded by Honey's Cross Chop and the multiple Ancient Powers he'd taken, so winning was still a possibility. I needed to find an opening for Princess to use Dazzling Gleam or Honey to use Cross Chop again, but fighting a fire type close-up was frustrating. There was so much care and planning needed that by the time you figured something out, the enemy had already attacked ten times.

"Air Cutter, Thunderbolt and Ancient Power!" I yelled.

Togetic's wings fluttered and the air in front of her sharpened into blades. Electabuzz brought his hands forward, sending an enormous surge of Electricity toward Turtonator, and Angel did the same with Ancient Power. The dragon type grinned, turned around and slammed his own shell with Iron Tail. The explosion was so strong that I felt the shock wave fly through my body. I shielded my face as dust and dirt flew everywhere— even toward me. All three attacks had been dissipated by the explosion, but there was no choice.

"Everyone, go in! It's all or nothing!" I yelled. This time, Turtonator wasn't keeping the smoke around. He simply watched with a curious eye.

Honey was first in line, his arms full to the brim with power. He threw himself to the floor, dodging a Flamethrower that only managed to scorch his tail. He rolled forward and nimbly hit at Turtonator's right leg with Cross Chop. Sunshine roared in pain and reflexively used Dragon Pulse to retaliate, but a vine from Angel saved the electric type in the nick of time. Princess used another Air Cutter, slashing across the fire type's tough scales, but as soon as she got close enough, she exploded with Dazzling Gleam.

I shielded my eyes from the blinding light, but my heart dropped when I saw that Turtonator was moving around now. It was silly, but he had stood completely still during the entire battle. It was a part of his lazy personality, but we'd forced him to move. The fire type angrily sprinted toward Angel and Honey, his eyes still dazed and his skin still slightly burned from the Dazzling Gleam. Each step he took burned the floor under his feet.

"Angel, stop him! Use your vines and Ancient Power!"

Fifteen vines shot out of Tangrowth's body, and he erected a boulder from the floor in Sunshine's path. The fire type retracted into his shell and began to spin so quickly that he just tore through the rock. Tangrowth struggled to stop his motion, especially since his vines were sizzling away, but Turtonator ended the struggle when he let his tail out of his shell and slammed it while he was still using Rapid Spin. The explosion spun, creating a super heated tornado that rose high into the sky and completely disintegrated any vines leftover.

Electabuzz had no hope of stopping him, but maybe Princess could—

"Create a slope!" I yelled.

The floor incrementally rose until it became a ramp, and Sunshine flew above Angel and Honey's heads and slammed into the ground with a heavy thud. He quickly got on his feet and shot out a turquoise stream of draconic energy at their back, and it was too fast to dodge. Princess and Angel both combined their strength with Ancient Power, but the attack simply broke through and hit both Tangrowth and Electabuzz. The electric type fainted, and I recalled him.

Angel staggered Sunshine with heavy Power Whips, leaving Princess enough time to build up a Fairy Wind. Every time Turtonator would try to hit her, Angel would interrupt and throw himself into him, not caring for the burns he'd suffer. Turtonator let out a frustrated roar, and his vines caught on fire, but he kept him still, spreading Stun Spores and Poison Powders all over both of their bodies. The few spores that didn't burn away had an effect on Turtonator, however little, slowing him down and dulling his senses.

When the dragon type finally finished off Angel with a heavy grunt, Princess let her Fairy Wind loose. It was so thick that I could barely see anything. She was getting faster at charging them to their maximum power, and it showed. My hair flew in the wind, partially blocking my view.

"Another," I exhaled.

She nodded sharply and executed my command, but I was surprised to see that even though the attack dealt very real damage on Turtonator, he simply bore with it and grazed her with a Flash Cannon. She cried out, but my eyes widened when I saw that the wind only lost form for a single second. It snapped back under her control and flew out toward Turtonator again.

They traded blows like this for a few minutes, and Princess used the lowered visibility from the mist to her advantage, occasionally swapping Fairy Wind for Ancient Power, but it wasn't enough. Turtonator was too strong, even while holding back, and after catching her offguard and escaping the Fairy Wind with a speedy Rapid Spin, he quickly finished her off with another Flash Cannon.

We had lost.

That wasn't to say it had been completely one-sided. Sunshine clearly had to push himself more than he'd expected, even if we hadn't come close to beating him. I stared at Sweetheart, who was looking on in awe. When she would be able to join the fray, we'd have a better chance at taking him down, but right now, he'd proven how strong he was compared to us still, and that was while holding back.

"Good job!" I smiled at him. He watched me with heavy breaths, like he hadn't expected me to praise him. "You've got a lot of cool techniques I didn't know about before, but when you get too angry, you resort to just hitting things with a really big stick instead of thinking— metaphorically speaking. Flamethrower, Dragon Pulse and your body heat are your sticks."

Like against Weavile, or me in Mount Coronet, I omitted. I started to approach him.

"You're a really powerful technical fighter when you put your mind to it," I continued. "You did great."

I placed a hand on his hot arm and smiled when Sunshine couldn't even look me in the eye. It seemed that he hadn't been used to praise and didn't know how to take it.

"Just take the win, big guy," I said.

I released the rest of my Pokemon again, making sure to heal them with potions. Their wounds were all superficial. Turtonator had held back well. Of course, Buddy just needed time to come back together. He was disappointed at his performance, but it was also partly my fault. I really hadn't expected Sunshine to hide in Smokescreen to conceal himself while he charged Solar Beam. He knew that Jellicent would be the most annoying opponent to deal with, so he prioritized taking him down as fast as possible, and it worked.

Now that I had a frame of reference for what Sunshine was actually capable of when he had time to think, I'd be able to counter him better in the next fight. There were a lot of things I could have done better, but the largest problem was that my Pokemon were simply too weak to deal any real damage. Ancient Power, Dazzling Gleam, Cross Chop, and a charged-up Fairy Wind had been enough, but the rest of our attacks only tickled him. Buddy's Shadow Balls or water type moves would also be enough, but obviously he hadn't had the opportunity to use them. I was planning on focusing on moves my Pokemon already knew during this trip to remedy that. The only new move I was planning on teaching was Giga Drain to Angel, but that'd be relatively easy seeing as he already knew Mega Drain.

Buddy and Princess groaned at me when I told them that we'd be doing this again tomorrow, but Honey was excited to grow stronger. I had Princess fix up the destroyed terrain as best she could, and after a one-hour break, we were on our way again.

Now, it was time to get to the Café Cabin.

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett Turrell, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett Turrell, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie
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Chapter 170

The next morning, I reached the Café Cabin.

The Café was a lot smaller than I'd expected. From the outside, it seemed that it was barely large enough to fit a few dozen customers at a time. A decorative sign with a happy Milktank and a glass bottle of milk sat above the entrance, and there was a huge enclosure full of them further in the back. I hadn't seen one since my short stay in Twinleaf, but they seemed a lot larger than what I remembered. Some lazily grabbed tufts of grass with their hands and calmly ate while others just hung among themselves.

What I hadn't expected was for a small town to have sprouted around the establishment. It wasn't much, just a few homes, a store and a Pokemon Mart. Most of the homes were inhabited by the Café Cabin employees, but I couldn't deny that I was witnessing the early birth of a city here or something close to it. Unfortunately, there wasn't a Pokemon Center, but that would probably run the Café Cabin out of business, since they doubled as an inn. In the distance, the ever-present fog hid the rest of route 210 away from human eyes. It was a wonder how people actually lived up here. Celestic was the most isolated city in Sinnoh— even moreso than Snowpoint. Later in the year, thousands of trainers would brave the route to get there and challenge Candice.

I stepped inside of the Café Cabin and I was immediately hit with the smell of freshly baked goods. The place was packed with trainers after the mass exodus from Solaceon, and for a second, I was wondering if I'd have to sleep outside. Luckily, the crowd meant that people were too busy to recognize me. I pushed past the sea of people and walked past the bar, opting to go to reception instead to see if a room was available.

"Hi. Can I have a room for one night?" I asked.

The girl over the counter didn't even look at me and kept typing on her computer. She looked frustrated, and for a good reason. Having to do work in this loud house was probably torture. I asked again, and then she shook her head after staring at me like I was an alien for a few seconds. She'd recognized me.

"We're full, sorry," she finally said. "If you want, we can put you on a waiting list and take your number? We have service and WiFi all around Café Cabin!"

"No, it's fine. Thanks anyway," I said disappointingly. I'd have to camp out tonight, but with Sunshine around I didn't really care anyway. I would have enjoyed a bed, but—

"Are you sure? We'd love to have you at our establishment! I'm sure someone will leave soon and we'll give you one right away."

"Uh, no," I said. "I'd feel bad if I was given special treatment."

I awkwardly waved at her and left. A few heads were turning my way now, but I ignored them. The poor girl had probably wanted me to stick around because it would be good publicity for the Café. Business was booming, but they could never have enough customers. Their waiters and waitresses seemed to be handling the boom rather well, carrying dozens of drinks or six plates in their arms at a time and weaving in between customers like it was nothing. They'd been well-trained.

I opted to buy some orange juice and a cheese bagel to go. There was no way I was going to stick around in this suffocating place.

I would have never guessed that I'd come across Chase on my way out. He didn't seem surprised at all to see me. The tears in his cap had been hastily stitched back together, and he had bandages all around his hands. I stood there, gobsmacked until he finally spoke.

"What happened to you? You look like you've seen a ghost," he said with a confident smirk. "I thought I might run into your little group by coming here."

"Uh, hi," I said. "It's— it's just me. Have you heard what happened to Solaceon?"

Chase raised an eyebrow at me. "Huh?"

"What the fuck? Some moron Shiftry was the cause of all of this?" He asked incredulously.

Somehow, Chase hadn't heard about anything while he was in Celestic. I knew that the fog was too thick for him to have seen the darkness in the distance, but apparently he was completely out of the loop. I would have expected him to hear something about it! It was all anyone could talk about these days! I shuffled on the grass we sat on and nodded.

"He'd been controlling Solaceon this entire time, and when we exposed him he threw a fit," I said. "We were all targeted… it was terrible."

"Well, you made it out alright, so it can't have been that terrible," the boy shrugged. "I'm surprised you're traveling alone. You never seemed like the type."

"I needed time to figure things out. I did a lot of things that made me discover a lot about myself."

"Sounds mopey as hell, but fair enough," he said. "Whatever happened down there, it was to defend yourself, no? I don't see that much of a moral conan— conun… what was it again?"

"Conundrum," I said. "And you—"

I sighed. I was going to fight him and say that he didn't know what it was like, but I honestly didn't feel like it. Chase was a lot nicer than he'd been months ago, but he was still very rough around the edges. Pauline definitely would have agreed with him.

"What happened to your hands?" I said, staring. "That looks pretty gnarly."

"Oh, it was this whole thing," Chase waved dismissively. "I got into a fight with an asshole Klawf and then I fell into a hole with this entire ancient city—"

My eyes almost fell out of their sockets.

"—there were a bunch of old Sigilyph there, but they were weak enough. I ended up catching one who saved my life too, but the real issue was some kind of weird, fucked up ghost that had a hard-on for hating humanity."

"H—hold on, can you say that again?"

"Which part?"

"The entire thing. Go into vivid detail, please."

Chase ended up explaining his entire ordeal, from falling into the ancient city to battling an illusionist ghost through the entire place. What really caught my interest, however, was the way he described a certain mural. It had depicted Sigilyph in large numbers, and Claydol in smaller numbers, but higher in the food chain, so to speak. If I wanted one, then I knew where to look.

"You shouldn't go down there, at least not yet," Chase warned. "That ghost? My Pokedex doesn't even know what it is. It said that there was insufficient data somehow, and it was strong enough to take my entire team. Fighting it without a dark type or some kind of anti-ghost tactic is suicide."

"I wasn't going to go there right away anyway," I said. There was no way I was going to take that risk and break my promise to Cece. Plus, I wouldn't be allowed to have more than seven Pokemon until I passed that test in Veilstone anyway. "But I just want to know for the future— you didn't end up seeing any Claydol or Baltoy there?"

"Nope. They were nowhere to be seen, but I didn't exactly stick around that long."

"Okay… did you warn people, at least? That ghost sounds dangerous."

If I wanted to go there in the future, it'd be after Sweetheart had evolved so I could make use of her dark typing. Tyranitar weren't exactly known to be subtle, but I was sure that I'd be able to create something to counter ghosts. Plus, Buddy would be able to put up a good fight as well. That was a long-term plan, though. Right now, I just wanted to relax and do nothing life-threatening.

Part of me wanted to keep the information for ourselves. If teams of rangers— or the League, if the ghost proved strong enough— made it down there, then there was a possibility that I'd miss my chance to capture a Claydol, but people's safety was a lot more important than my desires.

Plus, there was always Beheeyem.

"Well, the hole was sealed back again and it didn't follow me, so I didn't really see the need to."

I slapped my forehead. "Arceus… you need to tell someone right away. What if another trainer falls down there somehow and dies? As soon as you get to Veilstone, you need to tell someone about this. Am I clear?"

Chase clicked his tongue, but reluctantly agreed.

"Why would you even hide it to yourself anyway?" I asked.

"I didn't want the city to be sullied," he said. "It was like a time capsule… you'd think that it was only a few decades old and not however old it actually was. Maybe a few thousand, if I had to guess. I'd feel bad for my Sigilyph. She's a little attached to the place. When we walked by there again, she just stared at it for a while."

"I get it, but it's got to be done," I said. "If you don't say it, I will. It's a wonder you even survived against that thing."

A ghost that could turn into a human? Was it like Mathilda and Ruth? From the way Chase had described it, I couldn't place any name on the Pokemon, and the internet wasn't of any help either. Maybe it was an undiscovered, ancient species that formed in a specific way and not like the ghosts in the Lost Tower?

"I said I would, sheesh," he said.

Silence settled in for a few seconds as we watched the Milktank go about their day. I wanted to ask to meet his new Pokemon, but first… I couldn't help but be curious.

"How did your meeting go? With your grandparents?" I asked. I hoped I wasn't being overbearing, but he'd opened up to me before.

Chase gripped something on his chest, and I saw a hint of a golden chain around his neck.

"It went alright," he said.

I had never seen him smile so widely.

"Just alright?" I teased. "I told you they'd like you! Did you get to do everything you wanted?"

"I saw my mom's grave and hung out with them a bunch," he said. "They were cool. My grandpa stitched my cap back up for me and they gave me a picture of my mom too. It was probably the best it could have gone."

"I'm happy for you," I smiled. "Feels like a weight's lifted off your shoulders, right?"


"What about Ri? You told me he belonged to your mom first right?"

"He's doing great. He evolved too."

"Excuse me?"

"He evolved," Chase deadpanned.

"Why do you drop the most insane information like it's nothing?" I asked exasperatedly. "Why don't we meet each other's teams? It's been a while."

"Sure, why not," he shrugged.

Chase released his entire team, and I did the same with mine, although I made sure to release Turtonator a little ways away. The fire type's eyes narrowed at the presence of so many unknown Pokemon, but I spoke him down.

"They're friends. Friends," I emphasized. "You've got to seriously fix your anti-social ways. You're behaving like a kid— ah!"

He blew a plume of smoke in my face, causing me to cough. Princess tripped him up with Ancient Power, but he comically fell over and used the situation to just lie down. He forced us to leave by raising the temperature around himself, even though we'd been here first.

"That's some serious attitude problem," Chase said. "I think I could take him."

"I don't know about that," I chuckled nervously.

Zangoose and Houndoom seemed to hate him already, so he was doing us no favors. Angel was busy rubbing Sigilyph all over, seemingly fascinated by the new sensation. It was my first time seeing one in the flesh, and they were even weirder than in the pictures. Unova had an ancient, buried civilization in their weirdly called desert-resort. Cece had spoken to me a little about it, but apparently it was chock-full of Sigilyph and Golurk, which made it one of the deadliest places in their region, and that wasn't even counting the hostile environment. Trainers usually didn't go there, opting to go straight to Nimbasa instead.

Still, they were interesting. Every single one had a different pattern on their torso, and hers was a green, wavy one along with a touch of red and blue, but its center was dark. The wings were also surprisingly not wings, but just some kind of decoration. They could move, but not very much and were also made of tough material. Sigilyph kept themselves afloat with their psychic powers.

After Angel finished rubbing her all over, she got mere inches from my face until Togetic cried out in protest. Her pale eye was somewhat unsettling. She never blinked, and it was as if it was constantly having these micro-vibrations that were barely visible if you stared for long enough.

She was pretty cute though. Her little beeps made it sound like she was a machine. Angel moved onto Zangoose, who angrily slashed his vines away and hissed. His vines dropped and he anxiously wrapped one around my ankle.

"Let her have her personal space," I said. "Not everyone is fine with touching, okay? Remember my dad?"

The grass type nodded sadly, but he kept his hold on me. Princess clung to me as well, seemingly uninterested with socializing with Pokemon outside of the team. She was only fine with Denzel or Cecilia's Pokemon.

Were… were my Pokemon all considered weirdos? I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that Honey and Buddy seemed to be mingling well. They were both speaking to Lucario and Abomasnow—

Yes, Chase's Snover had evolved, but in his defense, he'd been surprised at my Pupitar too. She was curiously eyeing Lucario but stuck to Sunshine. Her tough shell meant that the temperature didn't bother her whatsoever, and she was even eating some dirt. Vikavolt seemed content to fly around and observe. It was like flying was the funniest thing in the world to him, and he was making full use of his wings. He was loud, however, and Sunshine was clearly annoyed at the incessant electric buzzing.

Lucario had grown a lot. He was a head taller than me now, and there was a hint of wisdom in his eyes that hadn't been there before. It was weird to understand exactly what Buddy and Honey were saying, but not Abomasnow and him, although I got the gist of the conversation. They were recounting their travels through route 210, while my Pokemon were telling them of what happened in Solaceon.

"Your team's grown in strength since I last saw them," Chase said. "You don't disappoint."

"Same to you. Sorry about them, by the way," I said, nudging my head toward Sweetheart and pointing at Togetic. "I guess it's been a while since they really hung out with your team, so they didn't react like I thought they would. Sunshine reacted a lot better than I thought."

"You called him Sunshine? Still terrible with names, I see," he said. "What did you think he'd do?"

"Worst-case scenario? He might have thrown a fit and attacked your Pokemon— but I would have recalled him instantly!" I hurriedly added. "He's really sweet, you just have to get to know him."

"I didn't expect you to lie to my face."

"I'm not lying! You just have to work past his barriers! He's kind of like you, actually."

Chase seemed to take great offense at that. Sigilyph had moved onto analyzing both Buddy and Honey. The electric type felt obligated to let her get close, but Jellicent's body literally shrunk and reflexively avoided her until he couldn't take it anymore and sprayed her with a jet of water. Sigilyph let out a few panicked beeps and took refuge behind Zangoose, who was lazily preening her fur on the floor. The normal type grumbled, but let her stick around.

"Your Zangoose and my Turtonator are kind of similar," I noticed.

"Are you kidding me? Zangoose is nothing like your dragon. She's a stand-up Pokemon."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I angrily asked, placing my hands on my hips. Just when I was about to launch into a tirade about all of Sunshine's good qualities, Lucario strode up to me. "Oh… hi."

"You can still call him Ri," Chase said.


The fighting type grabbed onto my hand and I felt a cold energy rush into my arm.

Thank… care… Chase.

He'd meant to thank me for taking care of Chase. I had completely forgotten that Lucario could speak even though Cynthia's had done so right in front of me.

The voice was there, but it was faint, and unlike with psychics, I felt no pain at all! When Slowking had spoken to me, the voice had been completely smooth and almost void of emotion, which was how every psychic spoke (with a few minute deviations between individuals), but Ri's voice was deep and full of life. It was as if a human had been speaking to me.

"No problem," I stammered. "He's my friend."

"He's been talking my ear off to practice speaking through aura," Chase explained. "It's a work in progress."

"I mean, that's great progress if he's only been a Lucario for a week," I said.

Chase's team had always been full of dedicated and hard workers. Princess chirped a greeting at Lucario, who replied with a respectful nod. Every single one of his movements evoked a certain elegance.

Sweetheart couldn't resist anymore, and she crawled toward Ri faster than I'd ever seen her move in her new form. She could have been faster by rolling, but I could tell that she hadn't wanted to embarrass herself. Sweetheart liked strong individuals, and she seemed to think that Ri was a Pokemon she could admire just like Sunshine, which surprised me.

"Hey, do you want to battle?" I asked out of the blue. I'd been thinking about it ever since I'd seen that Ri evolved. After seeing what Cynthia had done with her Lucario twice now— once at Valley Windworks and then against Shiftry— I wanted to battle him. "Not a full six-on-six obviously, but what about a three-on-three?"

Chase lit up for a second, but then he hesitated. "Uh, I'm not sure. Maybe when we get to Veilstone."

"You seemed happy enough to do so," I frowned. "What's wrong? I can't imagine the Chase Karlson being nervous about battling."

"There's no Center here," he muttered.

"Yeah, but it's just a friendly battle. Obviously we won't go too hard, and—"

Lucario shot me a look, and I understood. He was struggling with money again, wasn't he? He'd emphasized his lack of potions very clearly while recounting his travels, both during his stay in Mount Coronet and route 210.

"Listen, I can hand you some potions if you want."

"I don't need your pity," he said.

"It's not pity, it's just being a decent human being. My friends lent me potions all the time before the Poketch Company sponsored me—"

"We can battle," he finally decided. "But I won't take any of your shit. Three-on-three's fine. No substitutions?"

"No switches is fine with me," I nodded.

"But we're doing this right away. I don't want to leave you time to start planning shit like you usually do."

"Sounds like you're scared," I teased. "But alright."

I didn't need to plan. I already knew that he'd use Ri in the battle, but he wouldn't lead with him. From the way he'd spoken about Sigilyph, they were relatively weak and there was no way his had already overcome that, so she was off the table. If I had to guess, then he'd lead Abomasnow, using his massive strength and bulk to play it safe. The last Pokemon was still up in the air, but guessing two out of three wouldn't be bad. It'd possibly end up being Vikavolt if I lost the first bout.

As for me? Chase was probably preparing to face Turtonator, but he'd unfortunately be disappointed. The fire type shot me a look that instantly let me know there was no way he was rising from his nap for this. Honey, Angel, and Buddy would have to do some work.

But I was also considering using Sweetheart if the opportunity arose and Chase used Houndoom or Zangoose. It could be a stupid idea, but even when unable to move, there was no way those two were breaking past her cocoon.

Chase and his team faced us while my entire family was at my back.

"In three seconds, call out the first Pokemon you're sending out," I said. We were improvising, since we didn't have a referee. "Three, two, one— Jellicent!"


I took a deep breath as both Pokemon stepped forward. I was working with the type disadvantage, but I was confident it wouldn't matter that much with Buddy's survivability. It would have been a lot worse if it'd been Vikavolt.

Chase began to count down from three, and I braced myself for the coming battle.

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett Turrell, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver
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"Right, it's not like you'd understand," I sadly chuckled. He was a Pokemon and a ghost type at that. He didn't see what I had felt as wrong—

I stared up into his eyes. They were quivering.

I hurt him.

"I'm sorry, it's not— I didn't mean it like that."

He relaxed slightly, but I could tell that the words would stick with him for a long time.

Fucking... fuck.

I'm a bit upset at this, sigh...
Chapter 171

Abomasnow was a mass of frozen bark that looked almost impenetrable, but I could guess a few things about it from its body type and the way it moved. One, it was on the slower side of things. Two, it was inclined toward physical defense, so Buddy's attacks would actually penetrate past that armor. What worried me was actually his ice type moves, because Buddy was entirely made of water and he'd get frozen very easily. I didn't know how that would affect his regenerative capabilities, so I wanted to avoid getting hit with something like Icy Wind or Ice Beam at all costs. It seemed that it wasn't confident enough in its control to activate its Snow Warning ability out of fear of harming Chase or me, so we had that going for us. The best way to proceed forward was to play it safe and scout.

"Night Shade, keep your distance and harass him with Shadow Ball," I calmly said.

"Ice Shard—"

"Get in front of the shade!"

Buddy's Night Shades were still too frail to withstand even one attack, and being so close to the explosion would cause him a lot of harm.

A noxious shadow appeared next to Jellicent, who hurriedly pushed himself in front of the shade and got stabbed by too many Ice Shards to count. The ice buried himself inside of his body, but they only dealt a minimum amount of damage. His face twisted, sunk into itself and then bounced back like a spring as the few cuts easily regenerated, although slower because of the ice. The Night Shade finished forming, and both it and Buddy began pestering Abomasnow with Shadow Ball. The ghostly energy given form flew at high speeds toward Abomasnow, who braced himself.

"Get up close," Chase said.

Abomasnow took a deep, rumbling breath right before the first Shadow Ball hit. Buddy's were strong and quicker than his clone's, but two were still better than one. Abomasnow broke into a run that lightly shook the earth as he simply bore with the hits. It didn't even try to dodge.

"Keep your distance and fly up!" I ordered.

"Razor Leaf!"

Abomasnow brought his massive green hands forward and sharp leaves flew toward Buddy, who dodged with Water Sport. His clone wasn't so lucky though, and the purple, cold explosion engulfed both he and his opponent.

I smiled. It had taken six leaves instead of one. Steady improvements.

Buddy broke away from the smoke and immediately summoned another Night Shade. I heard Chase audibly groan on the other side of the arena.

"Poison Sting," I continued. I couldn't let him think. Chase was faster on his feet than I was. "Send the shade to the end of the arena and make it use Shadow Ball."

Dozens of sharpened rods flew out of Buddy's tentacles, but to our surprise, seeds broke through the smoke and stuck to his body. They broke apart, revealing snaking, thorny vines that wrapped all around his body and clung to him like a vice.

That was Leech Seed, and we couldn't have avoided it when Abomasnow was hiding within the smoke. I hadn't expected such an intelligent play without Chase's guidance.

"Good shit," he grinned. "Icy Wind, freeze it!"

"Run away! Harass him!"

The Night Shade suddenly stopped going away, instead opting to attack now. Abomasnow was so large and slow that he struggled to avoid most attacks, but he didn't appear to care. The ghostly smoke finally broke apart after he spat out an Icy Wind, revealing the purple darts covering his entire left arm and pumping poison into his body. My eyes narrowed at the speed of the Icy Wind. It was narrow and almost as fast as Louis' Ice Beam with Prinplup. The speed caught us so off-guard that Jellicent didn't manage to get away in time and half of his body froze over. The vines continued to squeeze the life out of him too, slowing him further.

"Now Razor Leaf! Finish it off!" Chase yelled.

Six leaves to blow up a Night Shade, I instantly thought. That's enough for Buddy to buy himself some time and then get out of the way with Water Sport now that he knows what to expect.

My thoughts were fast enough, but my voice was not.

"Use the Shade to—"

The leaves tore through Jellicent, destroying the frozen half of his body. In a way, that was a blessing in disguise. He'd be a lot faster that way. Buddy immediately sunk into the floor to retreat from further attacks, but the shade kept attacking. Abomasnow was getting close to his limit, but he still fought like he'd just been sent onto the field. His body was covered in purple bruises and his eyes were milky, but there was still a ferocity to them that I'd only seen in a few Pokemon.

"Blow up that shade," Chase said.

Another set of Razor Leaves blew up Jellicent's clone. This time, they were out of range of the explosion.

"Now start freezing the floor—"

"Get back up!" I yelled.

The ice type got on all fours, and frost began to seep into the earth and spread all throughout the arena. It took two seconds for Jellicent to emerge from the ground with his body half-frozen into some kind of weird slush, but he immediately hit Abomasnow with a powerful Hex. Smoke rose from his body, but he wildly turned with his eyes filled with determination and blew another Icy Wind at Jellicent. The water type solidified his body right away, gaining in weight, but also in constitution and he withstood the ice, hitting Abomasnow with another Shadow Ball.

I breathed a sigh of relief when Abomasnow fell to the floor, his eyes still open. Buddy wasn't doing much better. Leech Seed was slowly but surely draining his energy, and he had very little left in the tank.

"You did great," Chase said, recalling his Pokemon. There was no snarky comment, no complaints, just focus. He sent out his Zangoose and not his Vikavolt, which caused me to almost gasp in surprise. The normal type grinned as she walked toward the arena.

He'd caught me completely off-guard, and he knew it. Still, I didn't have time to hesitate.

"Whirpool! Trap her!" I yelled.

"Quick Attack."

Buddy released gallons upon gallons of water that began to twist and spin, but Zangoose was a lot quicker than I remembered. She circled the water, buying herself time with clawed attacks that could only have been Night Slash. I knew Chase's plan now. He wanted to finish Jellicent up in one attack, and luckily I'd caught a glimpse of it.

"Fly up and stay there! She's going for Night Slash!" I yelled.

Jellicent pushed himself upward with a weakened Water Sport, spraying Zangoose with water in the process. He began to direct the Whirpool toward her, but it was smaller than usual now that we had no water to source from. Moves like Surf and Whirlpool would always be weaker than usual in a dry environment. She jumped and managed to Night Slash two of Jellicent's tentacles. His eyes began to flicker.

He was almost out.

"Water Pulse," I said. If he was going down, then I needed him to deal as much damage as possible. "Corner her with Whirpool!"

Zangoose easily avoided the first two Water Pulses, but she couldn't escape the hastily drawn demarcation of the arena without being disqualified. Jellicent used his last ounce of strength, and the normal type hissed as the ring of water hit her. The Whirpool dissolved, Jellicent slowly sunk to the ground into a small pool, and I recalled him.

He'd been perfect. If I'd been better during that first fight, he could have fought longer still.

I smiled. This battle would be a nail-biter. I considered sending out Princess, but she would never be able to stand up to Lucario if she won the fight. What I needed was...

"Honey, you're up."

He whirred, flexing his muscles as he strode into the wet arena. I was going to need to keep Angel for last.

"She's quicker than you, but you're stronger," I warned. "Hit her with all you've got."

"We'll see about that," Chase retorted. "Crush Claw!"

What I had really meant by hit her with all you've got was Cross Chop. I was hoping to catch Chase off-guard, and I was glad my comment had rattled him too. Up until now, he'd been completely focused, but he was starting to slip, and I hoped that would cause him to make mistakes.

Zangoose was already quite close to Electabuzz, so she closed the distance in a flash, attempting to slash across his chest with her hardened claws. Honey barely managed to twist his body, so she cut his right arm instead, leaving herself open to a hit. His fist crackled with electricity, and all of Zangoose's hair puffed up until she quickly jumped backwards, narrowly avoiding a hit. Electabuzz turned to me and I nodded. He hadn't been in a position to use Cross Chop and opted for Thunder Punch instead.

"Keep threadin' the needle," Chase said. "Fury Cutter!"

An exchange of blows began. Zangoose quickly stepped forward but feinted hitting Honey's face, causing him to shield it with his arms and then slashed his torso instead. The electric type retaliated with a quick Thunder Punch, which Zangoose narrowly dodged again, but then exploded with a Discharge that engulfed her completely. She hissed, doubling in size due to her smoking fur standing on end and continued building up Fury Cutters, slowly growing her strength. We needed to switch the tempo.

"Protect!" I yelled.

A thin barrier appeared mere inches from his body and Zangoose struck it with a loud clang. The Protect deflected her claws away, leaving Honey enough time to use Cross Chop. His arms bulged, lighting up with a bright white and he hit Zangoose right on the shoulders. The normal type coughed, clearly in pain and staggered from the attack.

"Again!" I quickly ordered.

Once again, Honey's arms flexed, but Zangoose surprisingly jumped and dropped kicked him away, sending him sliding across the wet floor. The normal type snarled, shaking her head to get back into the fight and extended her claws further.

A drop kick? With how powerful it was, I guessed that it had to be Double Kick. If I'd known, I wouldn't have gotten greedy. Chase being caught off-guard by Protect meant that he hadn't watched my gym battle against Fantina, so I could use that to my advantage. Just the move being there fundamentally changed how he'd battle and would stay in the back of his mind with every action.

But he couldn't play it too safe either. If he thought for too long…

"Thunderbolt," I said.

Electabuzz whirled his arms until a quick burst of electricity shot out toward Zangoose. The attack hit her dead in the chest, and she convulsed, unable to move until it ended. Before we could order another one, Chase already screamed at her to go in, and he was right. Playing it slow wouldn't work. Not when we had an advantage at a distance.

I hastily yelled out for another Thunderbolt, but Zangoose got on all fours to dodge. That didn't end her run, however. In fact, she didn't even slow. The normal type sped up, and now it was a matter of who would blink first. Me with Protect, or Chase by averting his strike. Zangoose kept running like there was no tomorrow, her eyes flashing with excitement as she jumped over another Thunderbolt. She slid across the floor and went back to get out of range of a Discharge, but then kept going.

She was too close!

I blinked first.


Electabuzz summoned the barrier, but Zangoose did not hit it like before. She calmly waited for it to end, and the electric type strained to keep it going.

"Crush Claw as soon as Protect goes down," Chase ordered.

I only had a few seconds to think of a way to counter the barrage that was coming. Zangoose would get the next hit for sure, but it was a matter of controlling the situation. A quick Discharge was possible, but it would only delay the inevitable. What I needed was to create a situation to open Zangoose up to another Cross Chop, but how—

Time had run out.

"Discharge!" I yelled.

As soon as Protect went down, another Discharge burst outward. Zangoose took the hit, breathing a ragged breath as she immediately stuck back with Crush Claw. Her claws hardened like iron and she slammed them against Honey's head.

"Keep him on the backfoot!" Chase yelled.

And she did. Slamming her claws on every part of his body over and over again. This time, he was slower to retaliate, but he managed to do so with Fire and Thunder Punch. Still, at this rate, we'd lose. Zangoose was too quick to overwhelm.

But I had a plan. There was no need to overthink. All we needed was one more Cross Chop, but any good hit would do.

"Grab her!" I yelled.

In a second of clarity, Electabuzz snarled, flashing his sharp teeth and grabbed Zangoose's arms under the armpits. He awkwardly struggled with her, taking two hits from Double Kick.


Both Electabuzz and Zangoose became nothing more than a flash of bright yellow lights. The sound of electricity drowned out any other noise, and the attack kept going for ten seconds. A memory flashed in my mind. Crobat's screams. It dying in the exact same conditions.

I shook my head and chased them away.

Honey let out heavy breaths as Zangoose dropped to the floor. I swallowed as Lucario immediately stepped forward, not even waiting for Chase to call out to him.

"Good shit, but we've got to work on your speed," Chase smiled as he recalled Zangoose.

It was Honey against Lucario now, but he was tired. I couldn't afford to get fancy and hope for a Cross Chop. The move would leave him open to all kinds of counterattacks.

"Thunderbolt," I muttered.

"Vacuum Wave."

His antennas twitched, and he sent out a quick flash of electricity toward Lucario. The fighting type punched the air with an open palm, sucking all the air in front of him until there was only a vacuum left. The electricity fizzled out into nothing. It needed air or a conductive material to propagate.

It couldn't work in a vacuum.

"Wait for him," I breathed out. I already knew what was coming.

"Get in there and Bone Rush!" Chase yelled.

I bit the inside of my lip. A bone glimmering with a pale blue light grew out of the fighting type's hand just like Cynthia's. Unlike hers, however, Lucario wasn't particularly fast, but he wasn't slow either. His evolution had slowed him, and even though I knew it would be temporary, it would still help us for this battle. If I had to guess, two hits from Bone Rush, and Honey would go down.

Lucario could probably do that in a second. I waited until he grew closer and smirked.


Lucario's eyes widened as it failed to use Vacuum Wave a second time. Not only did it have less time to react, but no one would expect me to use the same move when it'd been countered so easily. Lucario grunted as the electricity consumed him, but he merely stopped for a few seconds.

"Wait… Protect!"

Once the steel type got close enough, Honey summoned a Protect, and the bone's impact rang out across the field. Chase and Lucario probably expected me to maintain it for as long as possible like I'd done the two previous times, but predictability was complacency.

"Drop it and Fire Punch!"

Unlike Cross Chop, Honey had known Fire Punch for months. It was his bread and butter, and Lucario's reaction time was slower than Zangoose's. His fists lit ablaze while Protect went down. He uppercut Lucario in the jaw, but he easily recovered with a backflip.

"Thunderbolt!" I yelled.

"Throw the damn bone," Chase said.

Lucario quickly threw his bone, which caught us completely off-guard. The two attacks crossed each other and both Pokemon dodged with a sidestep, but unlike Electabuzz, Lucario was still fresh. He quickly grew another bone and kept throwing it at him until one hit him in the arm, and that was all he needed. Honey took a few steps backward, but Lucario was too quick to run away from in this state. The fighting type ran forward and used Vacuum Wave to dissolve another Thunderbolt.

"Fire Punch!" I ordered.

My eyes narrowed when Lucario's palm lit up with that same blue color and a burst of aura hit Electabuzz at a range. It hadn't been from too far— just far enough to be outside of his reach. It seemed to be a modified version of Force Palm or something like it. Electabuzz fell to the ground and I recalled him with a soft smile.

"That guy's tricky as hell," Chase commented. "Good going, Ri."

"Thanks," I said. "Angel, you're up."

From every angle I could think of, Angel was at an advantage here, but I couldn't get confident. I needed to use everything at my disposal to win.

"Sunny Day," I ordered.

"Fuck that! Aura Sphere!"

A ball of blue energy flew out of Lucario's palm at high speeds and snapped Angel out of his focus. The damage was negligent, especially since it hadn't broken through his thick layer of vines, but it was enough.

"You do that every time she tries that shit," he continued. "Go in, but be slow. Vacuum Wave or use a bone every time it tries to grab you."

Use a bone? How would that even work?

I'd have to watch out for that, but either way, Sunny Day was out of the picture for now. I considered waiting for Lucario to make its move since the fact that it could counter vines rattled me, but Chase took the decision for me.

"Bullet Punch!"

This time, he was quick— quicker than we could even react. Lucario dashed toward Angel and punched him so many times so quickly that his fists were just a blur.

"Power Whip!" I yelled.

A vine burst from his body, hitting Lucario in the shoulder and then burying itself against the ground. The steel type finished its assault and placed a palm against Tangrowth's body. The same burst of aura hit, and it traveled through the vines like they weren't even there. All of Angel's vines wriggled as one as he squirmed in pain.



"Get the fuck out of there!"

Lucario jumped back, but one of Angel's vine wrapped around his ankle and slammed him against the floor. He quickly sprung to action, growing an aura bone and slashing across he vine before Angel could smother him.

So that was what he meant, I thought. He had a way of hitting us up close with that Force Palm attack and two ways to counter Tangrowth's vine. Legendaries, he was tough. We'd have to try to brute force our way through to win, but Lucario didn't look tired at all. Only bruised in his jaw due to Honey's Fire Punch.

I took a deep breath. "Ancient Power in front and get in range!"

Earth rose from the floor, consolidated into a hard boulder and rolled toward Lucario.

"Cut it."

The fighting type slashed the rock down the middle, splitting it in two perfect halves. Angel was already treading forward, pushing himself with as many vines as he could. He was barely touching the floor with his feet.

"Bind him! Overwhelm him with vines!" I said.

Tangrowth redirected the vines he was using to walk toward Lucario, who summoned another bone and twirled it around like a baton. The vines helplessly washed against the bone.

"Go around!"

Another set of vines shot out from Angel's body, this time circling Lucario. He couldn't be everywhere at once—

"Go in now!"

He didn't even need to use Bullet Punch this time. Lucario's Force Palm hit Angel again, this time angled toward his face. The grass type hastily retaliated with a Power Whip, but that wasn't right. We needed to grab him instead of hit him.

"Bind and Mega Drain!"

I grinned. This time, there were too many to ignore, and he was too close. Lucario tried that same jumping trick, but we were ready. Tangrowth snaked a vine behind his back and killed his momentum, allowing him to finally wrap him with as many as he wanted.

I relaxed with a sigh.

"Vacuum Wave!"

And immediately tensed again. The air around Lucario's fists became a vacuum and some of Tangrowth's vines expanded, swelling uncontrollably before withering away like dust. It wasn't over, however. Lucario kept using the move, forcing Angel to replace his vines to keep a hold on him.

But then, disaster struck.

Using the slight lapse in time that Vacuum Wave bought him and us being taken off-guard, a blue bone slipped out of Lucario's hand. The fighting type twisted it upward and managed to cut apart almost all of Angel's vines, although he hit himself in the rush. One last Vacuum wave was enough to escape, and he slipped out of our hold.

I had learned a few things from that interaction. One, Vacuum Wave was annoying as hell, and if it hit Angel directly, then the sudden change would cause his vines to expand, then wither and die. It was almost a direct counter to us, and Chase had no doubt figured that out too. We were both terrible at physics, and we somehow hadn't figured it out until now. Two, Lucario was strong. Ridiculously so. Even beyond destroying the vines with attacks, Angel had to actually struggle to hold onto him, which had never happened with a Pokemon of this relative size.

I should have expected a fighting type to be like that.

Still, Lucario seemed to be tiring, but so was Angel, and we actually had to be on the defensive now that Vacuum Wave was a factor—

"Aura Sphere."

Angel didn't even have to wait for my order. A hastily built barrier sprung from the floor and crumbled to dust as soon as the attack hit. I craned my neck to the right to get around the dust and saw that Lucario was already moving.

"Another!" I yelled.

Lucario crashed head first into a boulder and calmly destroyed it with a Bone Rush. He was getting sluggish. Two minutes ago, he would have caught that. My eyes bulged when he threw the bone forward. Angel tried to stop it, but no matter how many vines he used, the bone simply cleaved right through.

Fighting an aura user was so unfair.

The bone lodged itself deep inside of Tangrowth, but it still stuck out. Lucario became a blur of motion with Bullet Punch. He stopped the attack midway through and smoothly transitioned into Force Palm like it was second nature to him and pushed the bone even deeper with the attack.

Tangrowth shut his eyes tight and lashed out half-hazardly with Power Whip. One of them hit Lucario, but it didn't matter. He slammed another palm, and a smaller vacuum wave destroyed all of the vines on the right side of his body, exposing his dark flesh. The bone that had stabbed him lightly turned to dust, and Lucario finished him off with one last direct Force Palm.

I wiped the sweat off my brow and my shoulders sagged. Even if I hadn't known how aura would interact with different moves, hiding Bullet Punch until I sent out Tangrowth had been a good play by him, and Chase was quick to take advantage of any weakness that he saw. Lucario bowed toward Angel in apology as I recalled him and then sat on the floor with a tired breath. For the first time since I left Hearthome, a trainer had managed to take down Angel. Lucario was just so damn slippery.

Chase had improved. He'd improved a lot. It stung to lose, but I knew that had been a possibility when I challenged him. I had learned a whole lot about aura and that would potentially pay dividends for my fight against Maylene.

"Good battle," I smiled.

"Right back at you."

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett Turrell, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver
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Chapter 172

Chase walked up to Lucario and helped him up. The fighting type grunted when he pulled on his arm too hard. It seemed that Angel's Power Whips had done a number on him, even if it hadn't been enough. I ignored Sunshine's mocking laugh and comforted Sweetheart, who seemed to be the most disappointed at the loss. Really though, her and Princess were especially worried about Angel.

"He'll be okay," I gently reassured them. His vines would grow back within twenty minutes and he'd be as good as new, although I'd have to dig deep within them to apply the potion to his skin if I waited too long.

I directed my attention to Chase.

"You beat me. How about some prize money?" I asked.

"I guess I did earn it," he said, rubbing the back of his neck.

I nodded, requesting to transfer ten thousand Pokedollars onto his account. His eyes widened, and his expression turned into an angry grimace.

"I'm not taking that much. The usual number's five hundred," he said.

"That's nothing. I started this League Internship thing and I'm getting paid extra, so you can at least have some of that. Use it to buy some potions from the Poke Mart."


I tightly grabbed onto his wrist and smiled. "What was that?"



"...uh, fine? Wait what the hell—"

"Perfect!" I exclaimed. "You can't go back on your word. That'd be fundamentally wrong."

"Arceus, you're creeping me out Pastel. Fine, I'll take your money."

Lucario gently bumped him on the shoulder.

"And thank you," he added.

"No problem. I know what it feels like to not want to accept money from friends, but you've got to straddle the line between pride and practicality," I said.

I released Honey and Angel to heal them with potions of my own. Chase still refused for me to lend him anything, even if I said he could pay me back later. I quickly sprayed the cold, transparent liquid on Tangrowth's black skin, and the vines began to grow even quicker. I could see it happen in real time, slowly growing inch by inch. The grass type petted my head in appreciation.

"You were amazing out there," I praised him. "That aura stuff is pretty funky, huh?"

"Tell me about it. I don't even know how it works half the time. My dad used to talk to me a bit about it, but he was pretty hush-hush. I just know that it seems to bypass some stuff sometimes. Like I managed to hit that ghost I told you about even though he could pass through a normal Bone Rush."

"Yeah," I muttered as I moved on to patching up Honey. If possible, I would have liked to ask Cynthia about it, but the opportunity had passed me by. Aura seemed to act independently from type energy, or at least it operated under different rules. "You're getting a lot better with Protect, and you were very annoying to fight. That's a great job in my book," I told the electric type.

He grunted, happy with his performance. I knew that even though we'd lost the fight, what he worried about the most was himself.

"I honestly thought you would have sent out that monster of a Tangrowth against Zangoose," Chase said. "I had a pretty good tactic to beat him."

I raised an eyebrow. "And? What was it."

"Well I ain't gonna tell you now. I'll keep it for next time," he smiled, recalling the rest of his team. "I'll be off, then."

"What? Already?"

"Well, you've got to do your own thing and I've got to buy potions before leaving for Veilstone."

"Huh. Alright, then."

I hadn't planned on asking him to travel with me, but I thought we could hang out for a day at least.

Well… maybe I could just ask him.

"Hey, why don't we go together? It's been a while since we've met, we can't just separate already."

"What's up with you?"

"No ulterior motives," I rolled my eyes. "If I had any, you wouldn't have guessed so easily. I just want to hang out with a friend."

Chase sighed. "Well, I wanted to make it to Veilstone and challenge Maylene ASAP, but I guess I can stay if you really want to."

"You're talking like I'm holding you at gunpoint."

"It's the best you're going to get, Pastel. Take it or leave it."

"I'll take it!" I immediately said.

"You know, you're a tricky fighter, Pastel," Chase grunted.

He was currently doing squats in sets of fifty. I was feeling tired by just looking at him, but he was somehow holding a conversation with me while working out. We'd walked a bit further to the east to avoid attention because our fight had actually brought in a few spectators that had spread the news. I hoped the Poketch Company wouldn't give me a hard time for losing. For the first time, I actually felt good after a loss, and I didn't want them to ruin that. Maybe Cynthia's words about losses being good for growth were resonating with me more than I knew.

"You've said that already," I said. "And I just noticed, but we're back on a last-name basis? What happened to good old Grace?"

"That never happened. Wipe it from your memory."

"No, I'm pretty sure that's stored forever in my long-term memories now," I smirked.

"Well you won't be hearing that anymore. But seriously, it's like— whew, fifty," he exhaled. "It's like, to beat you, a trainer has to find a specific way to go through the battle in order to win, and if they don't, they just slip and start to get stomped," he pondered. "Each one of your Pokemon has a trick to it."

"A trick?" I asked. "Oh, I guess I know what you mean. Like Angel's vines."

"Vines for Tangrowth, regeneration for Jellicent, control for Togetic… the only one with a decent amount of versatility's your Electabuzz. Can't know what the hell you're getting into when fighting him. Can't say for the other two though, I've never seen them fight."

"That's a fair point," I nodded. "I've been trying to work on Night Shade with Buddy, but progress is slower than I'd like. Then again, having a gimmick isn't exactly wrong."

"Oh, it isn't, but you've got to be able to transition into something else when it doesn't work. Well, Jellicent worked in this instance, but Tangrowth didn't."

"So you prioritize versatility then?"

"To an extent. You've still got to focus on something. A Pokemon can't really be good at everything, at least not at our stage. My Zangoose is terrible at long-distance fights, as you saw. I'm still workshopping a training regiment to deal with that weakness. Abomasnow's not the best at them, but we've been working on it," he said, starting his squats again.

I hummed. That was a lot to think about, but I probably wouldn't be able to remedy it by Veilstone. It was true that if someone neutralized Angel's vines, then we'd be completely stumped. The issue wasn't as bad with the others, but I needed to figure something out. He was my most powerful Pokemon discounting Sunshine, but he could also be my weakest at the same time if anyone had a surefire way to counter his vines like Lucario had done with Bone Rush and Vacuum Wave.

Speaking of Vacuum Wave…

"Vacuum Wave is kind of bullshit, don't you think?" I said, half-jokingly. "I mean, I never thought you could use it to such an extent."

"Well, I don't know much about it, but I do know that most elemental attacks tend to fizzle out when I throw that at them, and it pulls all the air out of the Pokémon's lungs— if they have lungs," he grunted. "It's been a bit of trial and error. I'm terrible at that physics stuff."

"Me too. I wonder if there are ways I could use physics and chemistry to my advantage to win battles. Like, fire needs… oxygen to burn, so it'd make sense that Vacuum Wave would dissipate a Flamethrower. Why did it cause Angel's vines to wither though… does a vacuum kill plants?"



"That's kind of nerdy."

"Stop being a kid. I'm just thinking of ways to improve, that's all. You should too."

"Not when I just kicked your ass."

"It was close, you asshole! I want a rematch in Veilstone!"

"Sure, why not. Might as well let me fight that Turtonator for good measure."

"I don't want your Pokemon to die, Chase."

"Huh? Say that again!"

I ignored him. Maybe I'd come to a conclusion about my feelings regarding my loss a bit prematurely. My immaturity came out a bit too easily when my buttons got pushed. I needed to focus on the crux of this conversation.

I didn't know the first thing about physics or chemistry, though. It was at times like these that not paying attention in school came back to bite me. If it was to better my skill at battling though, I was sure that it'd be a lot easier to stomach learning about the periodic table or whatever.

"What was school like in your town… what is it even called?" I asked now that the thought had passed me by.

Chase tensed and stopped his squats. Had I been too forward? "Falkirk," he muttered. "Don't bother looking it up."

"I— I won't."

"Makes sense that you never heard of it," he continued. "There are around 100 mining towns all around the Iron Islands, and most people can't even name one. We're under Canalave's jurisdiction, so they can't really tell the difference."

"Yeah… I don't know much about them."

"At least you're trying to learn, which is more than most. Y'know, when I look around, it's like, where do people think all of that steel that keeps their buildings standing came from? I mean sure, the iron is refined in Canalave, but the point still stands. All those trucks, cars, airplanes, kitchenware, fucking sewage pipes! People work their lives away to provide for the mainland, and they die to do it sometimes. And yet, no one gives a shit about us."

"It's true that I almost only hear about Canalave, but we did cover the Iron Islands in class, I think."

"What? Just thirty minutes of shitty history? That doesn't even matter," he shrugged. "But to answer your question, school is terrible. Teachers hate their jobs since they were sent there by the Canalave government against their will and don't care about us. Even then, there isn't enough and the funding is shit, just like everything else. For all I respect Cynthia, she can go fuck herself for not improving anything there."

"I mean, the position of Champion isn't a one-man show. There are checks and balances—"

"Which are now gone. I'm no politics expert, but she is running a one-man show right now, and not doing anything to solve the situation."

I bit my lip. He was right, but with Team Galactic on the loose, she was probably focused on other things.

"It was always the same thing with Canalave too. Every election, it's 'vote for me and we'll fix all of your problems' and they end up not doing jack shit. Ugh, just makes me sick to talk about it."

"Let's talk about something else then," I hurriedly said. "Like your plans when you get to Veilstone."

"Meh. Beat Maylene, get my flying license and get to Sunyshore ASAP on Sigilyph's back. I want to start mopping up the gyms so I can get a few tries against the eighth."

My eyes widened slightly in surprise. Even the Chase was preparing for a defeat against the eighth gym, which in his case would end up being Byron like me. Expecting to win that battle on the first try was basically a pipe dream, so it was a smart thing for him to do. By the time a trainer got to the eighth gym, gym leaders would know about you and tailor their teams specifically to counter you and give you one last challenge to overcome before the Conference. Not only did that mean that they'd need up to a week to plan their team against yours, but it also meant that you'd most likely end up losing terribly the first time around, and there was no guarantee that they'd keep that same team for your second try.

So not only did you need to fight a grueling six-on-six, you were also going to get specifically targeted and picked apart by one of the best trainers in the region.

I was looking forward to it.

"You're weird, Pastel. You ask me a question, then you just don't say anything afterward."

"I was thinking, Karlson," I spat. "And I was surprised you were taking things so safely. I was going to get my Pokemon Carry license and get beaten up by trainers better than I am, since the League Internship thing I told you about allows me to do that early. And beat Maylene too, hopefully."

"Hopefully? You're way too good to be that wishy-washy about things."

"No, I'm actually confident about the battle, I just think I should stay humble. Y'know, healthy mindset and all of that."

"So fake humility. Got it."

"No, it's—" I groaned. "It's just that I can't allow myself to slip back into that mindset. Under Shiftry's influence, I was kind of like you in Oreburgh when you spoke out against Cece and called her Unovan trash, or at least internally. I was a lot less outspoken," I sighed. "Why did you call her that? You don't seem like the xenophobic type."

"That?" He shrunk down embarrassingly. "I'm not, it's just the easiest way I found to vent out my feelings. The idea that someone could swoop in from another region with outside money and run through the gyms seemed unfair as fuck to me. Now I obviously know that no amount of money will buy your way to the top."

"Yeah… money matters and can give you a huge jumpstart, but skill matters a lot more," I said. "Plus, you kind of got an advantage with Ri, no? Inheriting a Pokemon is kind of an advantage."

"It is, but Ri was never trained to fight until I got him and we started to work out together. I guess I did get a bit of a head start by getting him early, even though I wish I hadn't," he said, his face grim. "But to address your point, you can still buy your way into a few gym badges, but you'll never get to the Conference that way."

"So my point still stands," I huffed.

"Yes, but I was just adding context."

"Or you just wanted to one-up me. Anyway, watch out around Veilstone," I warned. "There were rumors about a Team Galactic base there, and Cynthia seems to think that they're going to strike soon. You should probably walk around with Lucario all the time. He can sense people."

Had Cynthia given Chase a League bodyguard too? He was less involved with Cece, Mira and I than the others, but he was still connected. I considered sending her a message to check, but she'd said only in emergencies. But what the hell constituted an emergency?

Chase hummed. "Thanks for the warning. I'll beat their asses if they pull something."

"And you'll stay safe, right?"


"That didn't sound very convincing."

"I'm serious. I won't start shit, but if they come after me, everything's on the table."

At this point, I was sure that we were capable of taking down most grunts, but one mistake was all it took, and there was no way we were standing up to Commanders yet. From his story about what happened in Mount Coronet, Sunshine could probably take one of their Pokemon, but there was no way he'd be able to do what he did against Harry. The rest of my Pokemon still needed to catch up.

I was starting to hate the fact that he couldn't go all out because of me being near. Once again, my lack of psychic was biting me in the ass.

Chase finished his fifth set of squats, letting out a satisfied sigh and then downing an entire water bottle.

"Fair enough," I nodded. "Aren't you tired? You're at like a bajillion squats now."

"Today's leg day," he said. "I'm going to run now, so if you want to keep hanging out, you better keep up with me."


"You heard me."

Chase began to run, and I followed.

"You're… fucking… crazy," I breathed out. My lungs were on fire and I couldn't feel my legs. "Now I'm gonna have to… wash myself."

"Just take a shower in the Cabin. I'm sure the people there will give you a room."

"Shut… up…"

How? How was he just talking to me like nothing was happening? He'd been jogging for nearly an hour and forcing me to follow. At some point, I even considered getting Angel to carry me, but he said that he'd leave if I did.

"You've got to get some meat on those bones, Pastel. Being a trainer ain't only about getting your Pokemon into shape. You've got to whip yourself into shape too."

"I'm healthy," I exhaled. "I walk through the routes and climb and stuff."

I couldn't do it anymore. I stopped and collapsed on the floor, rolling onto my back and taking deep breaths. Chase stopped and looked at me disappointingly.

"You almost made it an hour. Pretty good for your first run, honestly."

"Now you're the one… humble bragging."

"I'm not. I used to be skinnier than you back in the day."

Right. I remembered that picture with his dad that he showed me, and he'd been a pale, almost sickly-looking kid, which was a world's difference of what he was like now.

"I used to be kind of a shut-in. My first run barely lasted five minutes, but it's all about steady improvements."

"I used to go on runs," I said, finally able to speak normally. "With my Electabuzz to build up his stamina. We stopped now that he's found better ways to do it, though."

"You got complacent and lazy."

"No, I just had a lot of other things to worry about."

"Whatever. Just know that being so weak will bite you in the ass one day."

"Hey. Why did you start working out so heavily?" I asked.

Chase sat on the floor next to me and leaned against one of his palms. "I thought I needed to be stronger. If I'd been, then… y'know, I could have done more."

More during whatever happened to Falkirk? He clearly didn't want to go into it, so I didn't pry, but I would definitely look up what happened to it later during the day. If I was getting a room in the Café Cabin, then it'd be dumb not to make use of the WiFi there. Plus, maybe I'd be able to start looking at resources for physics and chemistry. There ought to be at least simple interactions I could do during fights, although those type of tactics would work a lot better during double battles. It was a shame that I probably wouldn't fight in one again for a long time.

He stood up and held out a hand. I grabbed it.

"Thanks. I hope you won't force me to do anymore physical activities, because I literally can't feel my legs."

"That's good. It means that you worked hard," he said. "But no, you're fine. I'm done too."

"I feel so icky. I need to get a room at the cabin and go shower. Want to grab a bite after?"

"Do you think they sell chicken and rice here?"

"What? No, they're a bakery!"

"Then no. Too much sugar and shit. Can't be assed."

"Your loss."

"I was going to leave anyway. It's the evening," he said.

"You could use my shower."

"I don't care about that. I'm going to be traveling in the wild, no one's going to smell me."

My nose wrinkled, but I agreed to let him go. Hanging out had been fun, but Chase wasn't the type of guy to stick around for long. He was a loner at heart, and he enjoyed that. He let me say goodbye to his team, and I did the same with mine. Ri issued us a bow while Abomasnow gently huffed, releasing mist and snow out of his mouth. Zangoose grunted, not bothering to look at us, while Houndoom licked my hand. His tongue was so hot it was almost uncomfortable, but he was cute nonetheless. I rubbed his chin until Chase told me to stop babying him. Vikavolt buzzed at me in some weird pattern while Sigilyph beeped, approaching me upside down until our faces barely touched.

Needless to say, Princess hated her guts. She still chirped goodbye to Lucario, and then everyone else when I told her to be polite. Angel gently rubbed all of Chase's Pokemon with his vines, but Zangoose easily dodged and hissed at him. Sweetheart happily clamored at Lucario, who responded with some gentle words that I didn't understand. Honey shook the steel type's hand, and Zangoose actually shot him a respecful look, which was a world's off of how she looked at everybody else on the team. It seemed that their battle had resonated somehow, and Honey bid her farewell too.

Sunshine didn't say goodbye, but at least he was standing behind me now and not a ways off. Chase was probably similar to Kamaile in some regards.

And just like that, he was gone as far as he'd come. Hopefully we'd see each other again in Veilstone.

"Now I need a shower," I sighed.

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver
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Chapter 173

I ended up placing my name on the Café Cabin waiting list, and after begging the receptionist not to give me special treatment, she finally agreed and left me on there. A room suspiciously freed up immediately afterward though, and, well, there wasn't much I could do about that. She wanted to keep me there so badly that I almost considered leaving right away out of spite. It wasn't that I wasn't expecting to be treated differently, it was mostly the fact that she just lied to my face about it. I wasn't going to make a scene though, so I just bore with it and entered the room they gave me. It was only slightly smaller than a Pokemon Center room, but it was arranged similarly, with a tiny bed, a desk and a chair. There wasn't a television though, which kind of made sense. Most kids just didn't watch TV these days, and it was just a relic of an older time in Pokemon Centers, meaning that they could save on costs. There wasn't really a point when everything could be found on a phone. Denzel was the epitome of this, but I still really enjoyed television, especially with my Pokemon, so one not being there was a bummer.

I finally washed all of the muck and grime off of my body and relaxed on my bed with a heavy sigh. My entire team wouldn't fit in such a small room, so I opted to release Princess alone. The rest were either too big or needed to rest from their battle, so some time in a Pokeball would do them some good. The fairy type hugged me with her little arms and I pet her head.

"I'm gonna be looking up some stuff, so— ah, why don't you grab some dirt from outside?" I asked, standing up to open the window. "You can practice your sculpting while I research."

She happily nodded and flew out the window. A few seconds later, she brought back a huge glob of dirt that barely fit through the opening.

"What are you gonna work on today? That's a lot of dirt."

Princess apparently didn't want to reveal what her plan was. She was usually a lot better with a model, so I found it interesting that she was going to sculpt without one.


"Wait is it me—"



Way to crush your mother's heart, I thought with a sigh. I grabbed my laptop, plugged it in and started browsing. The internet here was slow, but it was better than nothing. The first thing on the list was Falkirk, Chase's hometown.


That surprisingly didn't yield any coherent results. There was apparently a famous singer with the last name Falkirk, and it was all the internet showed me. I needed to narrow the search down.

Falkirk Iron Islands.

The first thing that came up was the images. Falkirk looked as bad as Chase had made it sound. Hundreds of rundown buildings huddling the side of a cliff, dirt paths and the rough waves perpetually keeping the entire place wet and eroding the rocks on the side of the cliff. Not even the worst neighborhoods in Jubilife that dad always told me to avoid looked this bad. The only place that looked remotely well-maintained was the small port that I assumed the miners shipped their iron from, where it'd go to Canalave and be turned into steel or other things.

I had to scroll to the bottom of the search page and go to page two to figure out what happened. I never went to page two. There were a few articles about the town having been destroyed by a Steelix slightly more than two years ago.

In a harrowing turn of events, the small mining town of Falkirk in the Iron Islands has been reduced to ruins, as a colossal Steelix wreaked havoc upon its inhabitants. The destructive force unleashed by this powerful Pokémon has left only a few dozen survivors, forcing the abandonment of the town that once thrived in the heart of the Iron Islands.

I felt my stomach drop. That was how Chase's father died? Not only that, but he'd lost his entire hometown and everything he once knew… Arceus. The article said that the city once thrived, but from the way he'd spoken about it, it had always been relatively poor. I scanned the rest of the article.

…mined too close to the Steelix's territory and drove it to attack. The Iron Island rangers were too weak to stand up to the beast, leaving it enough time to wreak havoc upon the town for two hours until reinforcements from Canalave arrived to evacuate Falkirk. The survivors were taken to the city and officials have opened an investigation into Teracore, the corporation running the mining operations in the islands, but also notably in Oreburgh.

Teracore… I'd heard of them a few times, but I hadn't even known they operated in the Iron Island too. The survivors also sued the company, so I wanted to see what ended up happening to them. Unlike with Falkirk, that was easy enough to find. They'd paid off large sums to some of the victims and fought the ones that hadn't accepted the money in court until they ran out of money for lawyers. I clenched a fist. It wasn't only Cece and Louis' fathers that were evil. Teracore had essentially traded the lives of thousands of people for profit. The government investigation proved to do a lot better, or at least it did at first glance. The people in charge of the Iron Island sector were fired and would spend decades in prison, which for most would mean that they'd die in there.

But at the end of the day, Teracore was still chugging along, making hundreds of millions of Pokedollars and were still getting paid by the Oreburgh and Canalave city government to do their mining. It had barely been a slap on the wrist. Surely there could be some kind of better oversight, no? I doubted that the people currently serving their sentence had been acting out all on their own.

"Damn it…"

It was so unfair. I could see where Chase's mistrust of companies and the government in general came from. I wondered if he was planning on going back to the Iron Islands when he went back to Canalave if he had the time. Falkirk itself was still abandoned, but maybe he'd want to see other towns around the islands.

Or maybe it'd be too painful to remember.

I glanced at Princess' statue, and I still couldn't figure out what she was making, so I moved onto the next topic. I needed to figure out if I could use physics to my advantage, and for that, I needed a textbook. A pdf of one would do. I racked my brain, trying to remember the name of my old textbooks, but nothing came up.

"Screw it, new textbook it is."

After a bit of sleuthing, I ended up buying Introduction to Physics and Chemistry 101, which were a lot less impressive sounding than I expected, but we all had to start from somewhere. I didn't expect to create massive explosions or whatever, but it was a good base to build up from. Come to think of it, Sunshine could only create explosions on his shell because of the sulfur there that kind of smelled like a mix of eggs and burned matches. That was chemistry too!

And yes, it had taken a while to get used to the smell, and I barely registered it these days.

Anyway, I decided that I'd do at least one hour of physics and one hour of chemistry each day, and that started… later.

No! I was completely free right now, so I needed to do it! Why was it that I always procrastinated with anything non-Pokemon related? And the worst part was that this was Pokemon related, I just needed to push through and get to the meat of the subjects to see its effects in the way I battled.

Chemistry was first.

"I hate chemistry!"


"You don't get it, Princess. This is mind-numbingly boring! Sure, learning about the three states of matter and how molecules behave as a gas, solid or liquid is nice, but when am I ever going to use that in— well… actually, it's pretty useful now that I'm thinking about it for a few seconds. Heating up water to stop a water type attack's the kind of obvious stuff every trainer knows, but what about turning a gas back into a liquid? The textbook said it was condensation."

Togetic let out a series of chirps, still engrossed in her statue. It was slowly taking form, and I knew now that she was making the entire family— Sunshine included. Of course, she still hadn't created me, and she wouldn't.

"Uhh, you do it by lowering the temperature of a gas. Like, if Chase's Abomasnow used a massive Icy Wind on Buddy's Mist, the attack would just turn into water and ice crystals. I bet Chase would never know about that though."

"Toge!" She snickered.

"He is a musclehead," I smirked. "But you can't underestimate him, I mean, he just beat us, didn't he? Anyway, Mist isn't even proper gas, but steam is. There are all these gases that look like gas but aren't. I wonder if Sunshine's Smokescreen is a gas? It seems a lot heavier than steam. Smog too."

Well, it wasn't like I had any ice type moves to think about doing that just yet anyway, but it was still something to think about. Something like Powder Snow or Icy Wind would work better than Ice Beam, since the area of effect would be wider. Now that my one hour of chemistry was done, it was time to move onto physics. I didn't want to overwhelm my brain and not retain any of the information I was learning.

It ended up being even worse than before, and unlike with chemistry, I couldn't see any applications to anything I'd learned in the hour I had studied and taken notes. The only thing I'd taken an interest in so far was motion and kinematics, but there was no way I was going to whip out a formula mid-battle to calculate the trajectory of an attack like Rock Throw, especially when the Pokemon could just switch the direction of the rock whenever they wanted.

And the target would obviously be my Pokemon.

Where it could be useful was in situations like that interaction between Vacuum Wave and Angel's vines, but I wouldn't be learning any of that for a while. This was just an introduction book. Of course, I could always skip ahead, but I knew I'd be completely lost if I did that.

Arceus, I was bad at this. If anything, I'd have to supplement these lessons with research online, or it would take months for me to come up with any ideas.

But it was a long-term project, so we'd see where it left me.

"Ohhh, it's so cute!" I squealed, looking at Princess' work. "You've gotten so much better!"

Everyone was there, and they were size-appropriate too. I could see Angel's individual vines and the different layers of Sunshine's shell. She'd done all of this in two hours!

"You're so talented," I said, grabbing my phone. "Here, let me take a picture. Stay in the shot! Give me a big, wide smile."

Since we couldn't carry her sculptures, I kept track of them using pictures instead. She was never bummed out about having to leave one behind, strangely enough, but I wanted to keep the memories. Plus, we'd look back on it in a few months and see how far she'd come.

I ended up finally sending a message to my friends to let them know that I'd made it to the Café Cabin and that I'd met Chase there. Everyone but Cece, Denzel and Pauline were on the road though, so I doubted that they'd see it any time soon. Cece actually asked me for a picture to cheer her up, and we ended up sending silly faces to each other for almost ten minutes until I called.

The moment the phone stopped ringing, I almost jumped for joy and excitedly kicked my feet against the bed.


"Cece, I miss you so much!" I whined.

"So do I. It's terribly lonely at night," she said. The sound of her voice felt like bliss. "I've been resting as much as I can to recover as quickly as possible! We'll be leaving Solaceon very soon."

"That's great news, but make sure not to overwork your leg. The Café Cabin's a bit annoying, but the food's great, so I think you can stay there for a day like I'm doing if you need it."

"And be apart for another day? Absolutely not. Have you done anything interesting there? I saw that you met Chase."

"Every time I see him, it's like he matures ten years," I chuckled. "We battled too. He won."

"He did? What were the rules?"

"Three-on-three, no switches. His Pokemon are no joke, especially Ri."

I ended up explaining the entire battle in detail to Cecilia, including Chase's new Pokemon and evolutions. Since he wasn't actively hiding them, I didn't think he'd care at all.

"I've also started learning a bit about physics and chemistry. I figured it'd give me a leg-up on the competition."

"In what way would—" she paused. "Oh of course, I see what you mean. Clarence never gave me any lessons of the sort. The instructor I had kept to arithmetics. I mostly focused on things like dance, music or gymnastics."

"You are flexible…" I muttered. "And yeah, you technically used chemistry when you turned the sand into glass during that one battle in the tournament, so it'd definitely be of use," I explained. "It's better to get started early than late. It'd help a lot down the line when we start creating moves too… hah, man, I hope I make something that can be widely used so I sell the rights to Silph Co. and become rich."

"That's one in a million," she laughed. "I don't know if I'd like to delve that deeply into those two subjects, though. The common sense concepts like the three states of matter should be enough."

"Uh, right, everyone knows about that. Condensation, am I right?" I nervously laughed.

"There's no shame in not knowing. You're smart and pick up on things quickly, so you'll no doubt surpass common knowledge in a week."

I couldn't help but grin. "Thanks. How are Pauline and Denzel doing?"

"Pauline was never bothered, but Denzel's doing better. He took your departure almost as bad as I did— but don't tell him I told you. He wanted to send you off with a smile, so he hid it, but he's been down in the dumps."

"Yeah… I could tell," I sighed. "I'll call him after you. And Pauline too, or she'll throw a fit about being left out. How are Sol and Zerst doing?"

"You know, I thought we'd made a lot of progress, but they've been fighting a whole lot recently…"

"I love you. Have a good rest of your night!"

"You too," she said. "And don't forget to send me Princess' sculpture later."

"I'll have to ask her," I said, looking at her sleeping in my arms. "She's pretty shy about her art."

I hung up the phone, stretched and called Denzel next.

"Hey big guy. I've heard you've been depressed without me," I said, half-jokingly.

"From who? Was it Pauline or Cece?" He groaned.

"You think I'd just tell you? I'm better than that. Now tell me what's been kicking your ass."

I heard Denzel exhale. "Well, it's not just you leaving. It's not even about Justin's mentality being fucked either, it's a lot of things that add up. But the biggest thing is… I feel like things just went from a fun adventure to like, this incredibly serious thing where we'll have to put our lives on the line in the future. It was always dangerous, I mean, we went through Eterna Forest without knowing jack shit about battling. We had to fight and think our way out of Mount Coronet too, but it feels different this time. Like it's just the beginning, and we'll have to fight humans a whole lot more from now on."

I paused to consider what to say.


"I mean, you're right," I finally said after a heavy breath. "But I'd think that you would be able to cope with that. Everything will work out somehow."

"Copying me?" He said. I could hear his smile.

"That obvious?"

"Yup. We'll see what happens, I guess, but know that even though I'm not a target, I've got your back. I won't let Mars do any of her sick shit to you or Team Galactic hurt anyone else."

"Thank you. I mean it."

"I know you mean it," he said. "This Veilstone stuff is stressing me out."

"Me too, but we've got to deal with it. The League will protect us, so just stay vigilant."

"No, no, not even that. I need a lot of money Grace. Veilstone will make or break this year for me. I have nearly enough for a Shiny Stone from all the sponsors and donations from my fans, but I need more."

"For your sixth?" I guessed.

"I looked it up, and they've brought in a new clutch of Dratini at the Game Corner that are close to hatching," he said. "I want one, and I need to win big if I'm going to get one. I'm talking millions."

"A Dratini? It doesn't seem like Dragonite would fit your schtick though."

"What? Pauline told me the same thing! The Dragonite line is great. Have you seen a video of one flying? They're incredibly gracious."

"Dratini and Dragonair maybe, but Dragonite? They look cute, but they're kind of goofy—"

"Absolutely not. They look majestic as hell."

"Whatever you say… oh, Mira wanted to get something from the Game Corner too! She wants a Porygon, and they sell those there too, or at least that's what Cynthia said. I don't have any advice for you though. Aren't most of their games luck based?"

"Some require more skill, but there's an element of luck everywhere, yes. I've been studying up," he said. "If I don't get a Dratini, I'm fucked."

"You could always get another Pokemon and get a Dratini as your seventh."

"II know that would make sense, but I can't bring myself to do that. I've got to keep to my list. It's like, this goal I've set for myself, and if I don't reach it, I'll feel inadequate."

"Just don't lose all of your motivation if you don't get one, okay?"

"I'll try. Thank you for telling me about Mira, by the way. I'll see if we can figure something out."

"Maybe her Kadabra can watch and calculate the odds of each win or something crazy like that," I suggested.

"They've got a no Pokemon rule, otherwise cheating would be way too easy," he chuckled. "Anyway, I hope your trip to the Café Cabin went well? How's Chase doing?"

"Oh, he's the same as always, but more mature," I said. "Ri actually evolved into a Lucario…"

"Well, nothing left to do but relax and wait for tomorrow," I said after finishing my call with Pauline. She was so abrasive that she was already secretly practicing flying on Charizard's back. I told her that she'd better not get caught, or getting her license this year would be impossible, and she would need it if she wanted to get eight badges in time. There was no way she, Louis or Justin were traveling all the way to Snowpoint and then Canalave otherwise, although Justin had seemingly given up on the Conference.

Backtracking to one would have been possible, but two? They wouldn't make it to the Conference if they kept traveling by foot. Even I needed to fly on Togetic's back, or I'd be cutting it too close with Byron. Losing to him and then missing the deadline would feel a lot more crushing than just not making it to the city itself.

By the time I made it to Sunyshore, I'd have enough for a Shiny Stone if I'd calculated things correctly, and Togekiss shared a very common body type with most bird Pokemon, meaning that it wouldn't take too long to teach me how to fly on one thanks to not needing to call in a specialized teacher.

I left bright and early the following day. It wasn't like my nightmares didn't wake me up early anyway, so it'd be better to make use of them however I could. After grabbing some food to go downstairs and replenishing a little on potions, I began my trek through route 215. The transition from beautiful weather to cloudy was so quick it was almost esoteric. I knew nothing about the weather, but—

It was already raining.

"Damn it, I should have been wearing my raincoat right away!"

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver
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Chapter 174

Heavy wind whizzed past my hair as I held down the hood of my raincoat. Even though I was protected against the rain, my entire body still felt wet. Princess had originally created a psychic barrier above my head, but she had gotten too tired to keep it up. The occasional boom of thunder rattled me, but it had been at least twelve hours since making it to route 215, so I'd gotten used to the sudden noises by now.

Strangely enough, there was a peculiar quiet to the route as well. Between the booms of thunder, it was as if everything was muted somehow. It was subtle, but easy to catch when you noticed. My ears felt full, as if I was flying on an airplane and no amount of blowing with my nose pinched did the trick. It was like I'd lost forty percent of my hearing. The sound of rain and thunder were still at their normal level, however. Despite all of this, I knew not to panic. This was a well-known effect of the route, and there was no explanation for it. Trainers just ignored it and made it through with no problems.

I was currently crouching at a distance from Sweetheart and she quivered in trepidation. She'd been waiting for this since her evolution.

"Ready?!" I yelled out. Pupitar jumped in place, excited for what was to come. "Three, two, one—"

A sudden pop, and then a loud hiss escaped from her shell, and she flew headfirst toward a tree, running through and destroying it completely. Splinters and chunks of bark exploded outward, but I was far enough to avoid any injuries. Sweetheart fell back onto the floor and struggled to stop her momentum, so I started to run after her. It took a minute for me to catch up. For a few seconds, I reminisced about the time when Princess had been a Togepi and struggled to stop her Rollout in our apartment. It all seemed so far away now.

"Holy crap!" I yelled. "You went so fast! I'm so proud of you!"

I rubbed her tough stony exterior, and she rumbled under her cocoon. The entire team congratulated her as well. I had released Sunshine for this occasion only, because he never would have forgiven me if I let him miss the first time Sweetheart used the pressurized air inside of her to propel herself. All in all, I'd call it a great success. Tangrowth rubbed her head and creases with his vines, Jellicent rumbled proudly and Togetic clapped to congratulate her. Honey offered a thumbs up and yelled so loudly that for a second, I thought I'd regained my normal hearing.

I recalled Sunshine after he offered the rock type some praise. It wasn't so much that the rain creating steam every time the droplets landed on his shell bothered us, but it was mostly because he was a big baby and the weather bothered him. I'd release him when we found a spot to hide away from the rain. There was a small mountain coming up in a few hours, so maybe there'd be a small cave to hide under.

The route was definitely on the easier side of things, but the permanently muddy floor was tiring me out quickly. And somehow, route 212 was worse than this! I was definitely never stepping foot down there.

"How much supply did that use?" I asked Sweetheart. "Can you go for another one?"

The ground type eagerly nodded. She wanted to fly, and she looked like she was having the time of her life. She ended up propelling herself seven more times until she ran out— seven and a half if I counted that last attempt that barely lasted five seconds. It would take multiple hours for the compressed air to replenish completely. What it did not do, however, was tire her. She was still just as excited as she'd been before, so I wouldn't have to worry about overusing it in battle due to stamina worries. Still, having only eight meant that we couldn't just rely on the technique for mobility in battle, but it'd be very good to use in specific circumstances, both offensively and defensively.

Hell, I was even starting to think that combining the move with Iron Defense would be too lethal for fleshy Pokemon.

Pupitar was getting a lot better at crawling too, using the two small appendages on the sides of her cocoon to drag herself forward. She was slow, and would always be without the pressurized air, but she could at least maneuver now, which did wonders for her self-esteem. Evolution almost always took time for a Pokemon to get used to, but radical changes like hers were a lot worse. To go from being able to walk to crawling would feel crippling.

"Let's keep going," I declared. Sweetheart's eyes saddened, but I smiled at her as I stood back up. "What do you think? You're sticking around, obviously. We're not in a hurry."

Thunder boomed as she excitedly celebrated.


"Finally, no more rain," I groaned as I took cover under the nameless mountain's overhang. Well, it probably had a name, but I didn't know it. "I'm gonna release Sunshine and get started on dinner. Honey?"

The electric type nodded and walked up to me.

"I can't cook without my sous-chef," I grinned, releasing the fire type. "We're cooking some stir-fry. Not the biggest fan of vegetables, but it'll do I think. It's a leg up from pasta, but there's a first time for everything. Uh, I had the recipe saved somewhere. Start taking the veggies out."

I looked through my laptop as Turtonator lazily lay down under the deepest recesses of the overhang. Buddy, meanwhile, couldn't be any happier. He was soaking in the rain and his head had almost doubled in size from all the extra water, which was comical seeing as his head was already way bigger than the rest of his body. Princess was curiously observing Electabuzz pull out all the ingredients, while Sweetheart was already eating some rocks from the side of the mountain. Angel silently lamented the lack of sunlight. He'd enjoyed the rain at first, but he missed the sun shining down on his vines.

"Where the hell did I even save this— ah, there it is!" I yelled. "Oh, Arceus, what the hell is a tablespoon? I don't know how much that is!"

Electabuzz chuckled and opted to just eyeball it.

"Don't make fun of me," I rolled my eyes. "We're in the same boat. Now you've got to heat the stove to medium-high heat and put the skillet on it, then you add the oil. Oh, wait, how much is a pound?"

Maybe I should have kept to pasta. This was going to be an unmitigated disaster. We struggled the entire way through and had no measuring tools, so everything just went wrong.


"This looks really bad," I grimaced. "The picture on the website looked way better than this."

Turtonator snorted and let out a rumbling grunt. Before Princess could even retort to defend me like she was about to, I clicked my tongue.

"We did follow the instructions… sorta. I think we put too much soy sauce and we overcooked everything… but hey, better overcooked chicken than undercooked. The last thing I want to get in the middle of a route is food poisoning."

Electabuzz offered a serving to everyone. Sunshine and Buddy reluctantly accepted. I expected Jellicent to do so, but Turtonator was a welcomed surprise, especially since he'd criticized us so harshly. Honey was over the moon that they'd both accepted. He was dissatisfied with the meal, but no one would become an expert chef in a few days. Angel and Sweetheart were just content to eat anything. Everytime the grass type did so, it was as if he was eating the best meal of his life. He immediately grabbed the bowl, dragged it under his vines and he was done in a few seconds.

"Angel, I didn't add your vitamins yet!" I scolded. "Well, it's okay, I'll just slice up some more berries for you."

Princess perked up at the mention of berries. I spread the vitamin powder over all of their meals and mixed it, then cut up a few Oran Berries for Angel and Princess and did the same.

"You know, Princess, you defended Honey and I's cooking, but you still don't want to even look at it," I said. She guiltily stared at her brother, who nodded with a grunt. "If you want to really show us how you appreciate our cooking, you should have a little taste."

I held out a bunch of mixed vegetables in front of her mouth, and her head immediately turned away.

"Come on… do it for mommy? Pretty please?"

Togetic finally chomped down on the fork and ate something other than Oran Berries for the first time ever, which was wonderful progress. Electabuzz watched for her reaction with bated breath, but I placed a hand on his still-wet shoulder to let him know to temper his expectations. She held out her tongue and groaned as soon as she finished.

"You don't like it, but it won't kill you, right?" I smiled. "I promise you that when Honey and I get better, you'll like it. Here, you can cleanse your palate with some berries and water."

We ate dinner mostly in silence, listening to the soft sounds of the rain pattering against the mountain and its surroundings. The sound of rain had always been good at making me sleepy, and it seemed to have the same effect on most of my Pokemon, especially when it was so much louder than everything else. Tangrowth splayed out a ton of his vines, creating a bed for me, Honey and Princess. Sweetheart was asleep and still eating rocks somehow. Eating was so crucial to their species that they could somehow do that.

Only Buddy was still awake, warding off the few wild Pokemon that dared to approach us. Most of them were harmless, not because they were weak but because I felt like they were friendly and just wanted to sleep somewhere dry.

"Let them in," I whispered, looking at a pair of Lickitung.

He hesitated for a few seconds, but shrunk down to his normal size as his eyes dimmed down. It was just two Lickitung at first, but we were soon joined by a Drowzee, a Kricketune, two Mightyena and a Ponyta. The poor fire type's flames were so weakened. I had no idea what it was doing on a route where it always rained. It was limping too, and its leg had a massive bruise.

"Did something fight you?" I worriedly asked.

The horse neighed with a small, shy nod.

"I've got things to help you," I continued, grabbing a potion from my bag. "It'll make you all better."

There was knowledge behind Ponyta's eyes, so it looked like it already knew what a potion was. It must have seen a trainer use it at some point. The fire type nervously approached me, making sure not to wake up any of my Pokemon and I quietly sprayed her leg with a potion. The flames on its back immediately grew from uncomfortably hot to just warm, and I managed to put my hand in the fire, much to Buddy's worried glances.

"There you go," I softly said. "You can all sleep here. We'll be on our way tomorrow morning, and I'll keep my Pokemon under control when they wake up."

More and more Pokemon showed up as the hours passed, and I could tell there was history and rivalries within certain packs. A group of five Psyduck seemed to be hated by every Pokemon here, although they were oblivious to it. A Staravia was constantly glaring at a Pidgeotto, and Ponyta warily looked at an Elektrike that had just shown up. I guessed he was the one that hurt it, but there seemed to be some kind of truce here.

Of course, my Pokemon were already awake at this point, and aside from being way too paranoid and Sunshine carving out his own slice of the cave for himself and threatening to attack anyone that got near him, everything went rather well. I still stuck by his side for warmth, as did the others. Not even a single fight broke out between the other Pokemon, and it was quiet enough for me to get some studying done.

I ended up feeding the wild Pokemon too, but there were too many now. Somehow, rumors about this little spot spread and the small overhang ended up being completely packed by the next morning.


"Bye-bye everyone!" I waved. "Stay safe out there and good luck!"

They'd been a nice little community. It was a nice reminder that every route had its own history, links between different Pokemon groups and complicated relationships. It was a shame that I couldn't get to know them better. I had a feeling that a few days with them and I'd be able to understand how they spoke perfectly, but my stay in Veilstone would be busy already, so I couldn't afford to waste time.

Not that hanging out with Pokemon was wasting time. It was cool.

I trekked through route 215 for the remainder of the day, using the well-demarked trail to go over the mountain I'd just slept under. There was also a path around, but it would take at least ten hours extra, if not more. It was tiresome, but at least I was training my stamina further. Walking on a flat path was easy— I could do it for the entire day if need be, but walking up muddy slopes and on rocky, uneven terrain was a completely different picture. Angel tried to carry me a few times, but I refused his help, much to his chagrin, although there were multiple instances where he pulled me up small cliffs I couldn't climb. Turtonator and Sweetheart weren't exactly equipped for this route, so they stayed in their balls for the time being. Princess lazily floated above me with her chin on my head the entire time.

"Finally," I groaned as I sat below another overhang— this time on the other side of the mountain. There would only be one more like this to climb, and apparently it'd be possible to see Veilstone from its peak, even though it was slightly smaller.

The rain had assuaged slightly, but it was still pouring. Electabuzz calmly prepared pasta on the stove while I opened my laptop again. I had this idea for a move that had been unable to leave my head, and it had to do with steam explosions.

My PDF textbook had this whole section about how steam behaved under different temperatures and environments that was a few pages long, and I'd learned that it could actually explode under a large amount of pressure. That hadn't even been on my radar when thinking about applying physics to Pokemon battles, but it was certainly feasible.

Pokemon battles at a high level were not just a set of individual, one-on-one fights. It was a team effort, each Pokemon building up for the next. Strategies sometimes only bore fruit after five Pokemon went down, but for this one, I would only need three in a set order.

Sunshine and Buddy had been obvious. One was practically made of water and the other could vaporize it by just standing there, but the process was actually more complicated than I thought. I heard the fire type groan as he strode to my side, and Jellicent chided him to tell him to stay quiet while I was engrossed in my thoughts.

Mist wasn't steam. Mist was water in a condensed phase, meaning it was still in a liquid state, but light enough to float in the air. Fog was similar, but denser. For steam, the water needed to be in a gaseous state.

Or that was what the textbook said anyway.

If mist was still water in a liquid state, then heating it up should in theory turn it into steam. We could have just used the rain for a proof of concept, but I wanted to be sure that we could reproduce this without it. There would always be water in a gym leader's arena and in any tournament worth their name, but using Mist would make a lot more vapor in theory, since Buddy could just fill the arena completely. That would be different against Crasher Wake, since his entire arena was like the Solaceon tournament's Water Field. It was a bummer I'd gotten no practice on it.

"Uh, go ahead and use Mist," I whispered, chewing on my thumb nail. "Not too much. We don't want to blow up the cave and have it collapse on us."

Jellicent rumbled, and a thin mist escaped from his mouth. I let him release it until we had a good amount— around three times my body size. Any amount would do if we pressed down hard enough.

I stepped back. "Okay, now heat that up," I told Sunshine.

The dragon spat out a thin stream of flames toward the mist, and the mist turned into vapor. It was a minute change, but it became more transparent and lighter. Mist tended to stick to the ground, clearly showing that it had some weight to it. Vapor was a lot wispier and easily blown away by wind.

"Princess," I said.

Her eyes shone, and a transparent bubble of psychic energy captured the steam before it could dissipate. She would be the one to squeeze it until it blew.

"Press down on it as much as you can."

I could feel my heartbeat.

The bubble grew smaller and smaller, and the steam denser. Princess clearly met some resistance, narrowing her eyes as she kept pressing.

Until the bubble shattered with a burst of pressure, the sound of the explosion reverberating across the small cave and the steam scattering quicker than I could see. There was no flame or change in color, of course. This was a steam explosion, and it didn't use any kind of ignition. The blast had been next to one of the walls of the cave, leaving only a gaping hole in its place and crumbling stone.

"Holy shit," I breathed out. "That worked. I did a thing! We did a thing!"

Even Sunshine was somewhat surprised that it had worked, and he couldn't help but celebrate with the rest of us. By celebrating, I meant him having the slightest hint of a smile on his face.

"Makes you change your mind about battling with me?" I asked. His smile disappeared, but he didn't answer. "Whatever," I grumbled. I could always create other moves that didn't need him. "Should we name it? I mean, I don't think I'll call it out in battle seeing as how complicated it is to create, but it'd be cool. It's our first custom move, you know?"

Electabuzz excitedly nodded. He was maybe even happier than I was, and wanted a combination of his own now. Unfortunately, electricity came later in the textbook and was probably a lot more complicated than water. I took a few suggestions from the team and Sunshine had less-than-stellar, crude names. Angel moved his vines so quickly that I could barely catch the first word, but his suggestion was an extremely long name that would just be too much to remember. Sweetheart wanted it to be as violent as possible, aligning with Sunshine, and Buddy went with the hilariously boring name Steam Explosion, but that wasn't it.

"No, guys, I need a cute name. No explosion of death or whatever," I said, eyeing the rock type. "How about Bubble Blast? It rolls off the tongue. Princess uses a bubble to pressurize the vapor, and we'd be keeping up the water theme."

Togetic chirped, clapping her hands. She seemed to enjoy that one, and so did I. The others all groaned except Angel, who was happy enough with the name.

"That's three against three," I said. "And you can't even agree on a name. We win," I stuck out my tongue.

Jellicent whistled sharply, more agitated than he usually was. He said that only the Pokemon that could actually create the move should have a vote.

"No, no, we're a family. Everyone has a say," I smugly said. "Right guys? Buddy's saying that your vote doesn't count!"

This time, even Sweetheart joined our side, and the water type just sighed in defeat.

I just really liked cute things, okay? Now that the name was decided, I started to think again.

In a potential battle, it would go like this. I would lead with Buddy and use Mist at some point before he was unable to fight, then switch the Sunshine and heat up the field enough to completely fill it with water vapor. Both wouldn't even need to fight if substitutions were allowed. I would just switch to Princess and have her create explosions next to her opponents, and we'd be able to do so until the steam ran out— meaning that there'd be multiple explosions. Her masterful control would be key here. I didn't know if the type energy that Jellicent infused into Mist would still make the move count as water type or something else, but any explosion would seriously hurt whatever the hell we were fighting. And, we'd be able to adjust their sizes depending on how much vapor we packed together!

She'd always lacked in power, and she would lag behind the rest of the team in that department at least until she evolved, but Pokemon battles were a team effort. If she couldn't use powerful moves by herself, then we would make our own path. The potential with physics was nearly limitless, both offensively and defensively. My previous assumption had been wrong. There were already moves to create with my limited knowledge. I suddenly felt a very real urge to devour my entire textbook right this instant before moving on to more complicated concepts.

My lips twisted upward.

Physics was fun.

And I hadn't even begun to scratch the surface.

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver
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Physics is fun!

i'm not at all biased, even though I did it at university!
Chapter 175 - Sister
CHAPTER 175 - Sister

Another day had passed, and attacks by wild Pokemon had completely stopped. It wasn't like they had the guts to do so anyway, but sometimes a few got a bit rowdy until usually Buddy scared the living crap out of them and they fled. That had stopped since I had let that huge group of wild Pokemon under that overhang with me, nursed Ponyta back to health and fed a few of them. The fact that it hadn't ceased right after made me skeptical that the wild Pokemon had some way of communicating who was a threat and who wasn't, but it was certainly a possibility with how intertwined everyone had seemed when grouped up in the cave. Still, route 215 was long, so I considered it unlikely.

Sweetheart was making good progress with her air control, although mid-air adjustments were still a pipedream. I was almost certain she was ready to battle again, however, and even though she would be at a type disadvantage against Maylene, I was probably going to use her. It was going to be a five against five, after all. I was sure I'd find a strategy to use with her, but I would need to study the gym leader first to be sure. The rumors said she was abrasive, but quick on her feet, meaning that she'd be close to Chase's style. I was sure there would be a lot of differences too though, I just didn't know enough right now.

And even if I could look it up, I'd be too engrossed in my textbooks to notice. I had changed my one hour per subject each day study time to two hours when I had the time, and I ended up going over that by at least thirty minutes last night until Buddy convinced me to go to sleep. It wouldn't do to be tired when traveling on a route, especially when the terrain was so harsh.

I stepped onto the mountain's peak and took a deep breath. The air was thinner here, but still easily breathable. Veilstone stood tall in the distance. Since it was still two to three days away, the only thing I could make out were a few skyscrapers. These little occasions where one could just stop and take in the beauty and size of Sinnoh were always soothing to me. It had been the same when I could see Oreburgh from route 207 south of the Cycling Road. These were the moments that I traveled for, even though walking up a mountain was a pain in the ass— trail or not.

At least the way down was a lot easier on my legs, especially when Honey and Princess were there to give me some moral support. There was probably nothing more motivating than my kids telling me that I could do something.

It took half the time to get down than to climb up, and I opted to take a break near the route's edge, since it was where the trail led me. As I fiddled through my laptop and sneakily took a picture of Angel and Buddy being ridiculously cute due to the former forcefully hugging the latter until he had no choice but to reciprocate as best he could, something incredible happened.

The clouds above me cleared, and the rain slowed until it completely stopped, leaving only a rainbow that arched across the sky and left me breathless. The rain on route 215 intensified or slowed, but it never stopped. It was a constant, like the fog on the northern half of route 210 or the snow on route 216 and 217.

The beauty of the moment was cut short when I heard something approaching from deeper into the woods. It was a distinct sound— like something scuttling across the grass, but it was so quiet. Like a whisper brushing against my ears that I'd miss if it didn't have my utmost attention. We were used to this at this point, so my Pokemon immediately took their positions in front of me and prepared to scare off whatever was coming. I'd probably jinxed not being attacked, but oh well.

My breath caught in my throat when I saw what emerged from the tree line. It was slightly smaller than seven feet tall and humanoid, with a body as thin as a stick that was almost completely concealed by thick pastel pink and blue hair that acted like a cloak and stretched down and hugged the lower parts of its body, which grew thicker at the base. It wore a pointy blue hat that was made out of the same hair, and a thick tentacle-like structure grew out of it, ending into two spheres and three claws that shimmered slightly. Just one look into its eyes made me feel the same things I felt when coming face to face Cynthia's Garchomp or Ruth in the lost tower.

I had no chance of winning this fight. This Pokemon was leagues above mine in strength— and even more powerful than Sunshine. Even if we all attacked it at once, I had no doubt that we would lose.

But what choice did we have?

My Pokemon understood immediately and tensed. Princess grabbed a few sharp spears with Ancient Power. Buddy swelled threateningly and his eyes glowed until his entire body was coated in red. Honey's arms spun as he gathered electricity, and my hair stood on end. Angel wrapped a vine around me and tightened his hold.

Just as I was about to release Sunshine, I heard a voice.

Well met, sister, the Pokemon spoke, staring at Togetic.

A splitting headache immediately hit me and made my vision swim. I had practiced telepathy some more with Slowking while in Solaceon, but the pain was still excruciating. I could still think, though. I bit down on my tongue and clenched a fist. What had it meant by sister? What Pokemon even was that? I'd never seen it before!

And you, it continued, glancing at me. I feel a kinship as well, but not quite whole. A halfling, then, but a sister nonetheless. How strange. You tread the line between two worlds.

The words were becoming unbearable. It was as if someone was driving a screwdriver into my head. Still, I held Jellicent back. He'd already been creating a Night Shade, but there was no point. I couldn't antagonize this Pokemon.

We would just die. What was it even doing on a route? Where were the Rangers?

Your Rangers cannot hinder me. I am the leader of this area, known as Keeper of the Sacred Woods, or simply Keeper. News of your presence brought me here.

"Hold on," I breathed out. "Let's, uh, just stop talking for a second please. You're giving me a terrible migraine."

Oh, my humble apologies, sister. I have forgotten how sensitive humans can be, the Pokemon said before pausing. Your mind is like a twig that I could snap whenever I wish, but that would be rude of me. I have now altered my telepathy so that it aligns with your fragile mind.

The voice was a lot quieter now, but it was also a lot easier to bear. The headache was still there every time it spoke, but it was muted enough so that I could deal with it.

"What do you want?" I asked, trying to keep myself from shaking. "I'm just passing through here. I mean this place no harm, and if I've offended you in any way, then allow me to pay the price. As long as it's reasonable."

Togetic chirped softly and placed a hand on my shoulder.

The Pokemon didn't want to hurt us. I could feel it too.

It chuckled, and its tentacle softly caressed her own hair. Ah, you have embraced our customs already, sister. It is rare to find a human this polite, and tis' a testament to your understanding of the old ways. That alone is enough to allow you safe passage within these lands, even though your emotions echo with a clamor that stirs within me the urge to beat you until you finally go quiet.

Huh. Strangely enough, even though I'd just been told that it wanted to kill me, I felt completely calm, and this wasn't like what had happened with Shiftry. It was like there were rules at play here, and they were easy enough to understand.

I knew now that I was dealing with a fairy type.

"It's okay guys," I told my team. "We're safe."

Princess began to chat with the Keeper as well, asking it what brought it to us.

You shall address me as her, not it, I immediately heard.

Right, she could read thoughts. "Sorry."

You have treated the inhabitants of my fief with an amount of hospitality, peace, and love that only a few trainers have. I simply wanted to meet such a human, but I never anticipated that you would partake in the ways of the fae, nor did I fathom that a third sister would be among your gathering, she said, eyeing my team. The first condition would have allowed you safe passage in the first place, but now you shall have my blessing. I will join you on your travels until you reach that city full of horrid steel and noxious air.

"I see. What if I told you that a dragon was a part of my gathering?" I probed, my hand protectively touching Sunshine's Pokeball.

The Keeper's tentacle flexed, revealing bulging veins until she lashed out and slammed it against the ground, kicking up dust and rocks.

I sense the wyrm's presence, she said, her face twisting in fury. Its foul odor clings to you like a malignant growth. They are creatures of decay, clinging to past glory. They seek to take, take, and only take, but they never pay. I am a generous host, however, so I shall allow its presence under one condition— that it behaves with utmost respect and refrains from causing any offense. Let harmony prevail as it did in that cave, and let us not let the wyrm taint our journey together.

"I will agree to this proposal," I nodded. If she wanted to see how I behaved, then I'd let her. Sunshine behaving was another issue, but—

I saw the Keeper's tentacle tense once more.

—if he couldn't, then I'd leave him in his ball.

The Pokemon relaxed, seemingly pleased with herself.

"What does everyone think?" I asked, turning toward my Pokemon.

Togetic wanted this more than anyone else, it seemed. She asked the fairy type if she could approach, and she nodded, letting her get close. Princess looked at her with such awe that she reminded me of when Sweetheart looked at Sunshine or Chase's Lucario. Angel agreed as well, although it was surprising to see that even he knew better than to touch the Keeper without her permission. Honey also agreed, although a lot more reluctantly. I knew that he was only doing so because I wanted to travel with the fairy, and he seemed to be nervous around her and couldn't help but glance at her appendage every few seconds. Buddy stayed silent, which basically meant no, but he didn't want to say it, lest he offend her.

Well, she'd probably figured it out already.

I cannot read the ghost's thoughts, but I know it disapproves. Allow me to stay regardless. I will be in its debt.

I nodded. "The exchange was quite equal, but I would say that I'm paying a slightly heavier price. One of my family members might basically be confined to his Pokeball, and most of them either fear or dislike you. If I can't have my Turtonator out, then I lose out on days of potential training and bonding. That could potentially have more effects down the line. For example, the lack of training could make me lose in my next gym battle. These might not matter to you, but to me, that's a heavy cost to bear. A bargain is in order, don't you think?"

Uh, what was I doing? My lips had just moved on their own.

The fairy type smirked, ignoring Togetic grabbing at her hair. No matter how hard she pulled at it, it stayed completely still. The Keeper's hair was tougher than it looked.

You are quite bold, but I enjoy that. Young fairies often yield to those with seniority, letting them enforce horribly one-sided pacts. With age comes power and presence. With those two, respect and subservience follow. It is a pity that your fellow sister has not taken to the old ways as you have. This generation might truly be lost.

Arceus, Pokemon complained about kids too? I felt like I'd heard an old man saying 'kids these days.'

"Daughter," I clarified after stopping myself from rolling my eyes. She could read thoughts, but I knew the effort to respect would be appreciated. "And she seems too fascinated by you to care, at the moment. I suppose her time spent with non-fairies has influenced her behavior some, but that's okay. She's perfect the way she is."

Togetic flew back toward me, trying to hide her embarrassment and I grabbed her in my arms.

Daughter, then, the Keeper smiled. What is it that you desire, halfing? Be careful. I will not take to offense kindly.

I lifted up three fingers. "Three things. Train my Togetic. Talk to me about your life and how you leading this route came to be. Allow my friends safe passage when they go through this route even if they come across you. I can tell you their names and show you what they look like on my phone."

The third point was the most important. I'd never found joy in attacking wild Pokemon to train, even if I'd done it a few times early in my career or when there were no other options, like in Mount Coronet. These days, I mostly scared them away and only attacked if I was struck first and the Pokemon was determined to fight us, but my friends were different. Pauline and Cecilia had no qualms about it, and Denzel was neutral on the whole thing. Meanwhile, Louis' Gible routinely killed wild Pokemon for sport even when it wasn't hungry, and Mira's Haunter was probably no better. I knew that wouldn't fly under the Keeper's gaze. She wouldn't seek them out, but if they were unlucky enough to meet her, they would not be treated kindly.

The fairy type's face twisted into a grin. My, my, sister, you keep impressing me. Very well, then. These demands would tilt the deal slightly in your favor, but I will allow it. Bargain struck, she said, tipping her hat.

I did not know exactly how demands were measured, but the words felt right to me. I responded with a smile of my own. "Bargain struck."

What is your name? It would be impolite to travel with you without knowing.

"Grace Pastel," I answered before introducing the rest of my team, "Do you have one?"

Learning my name would have a price not many could afford to pay. Not even your harrowing Champion knows.

"I'll refer to you as Hatterene or Keeper then."

Somehow, I'd just bargained with a fairy by the seat of my pants.


Hatterene, the Silent Pokemon. It can emit psychic power strong enough to cause headaches as a deterrent to the approach of others. If you are too loud around it or your emotions are too pronounced, you risk being torn apart by the claws on its tentacle. This Pokémon is also known as the Forest Witch.

Type: Psychic, Fairy.

I hummed as I closed my Pokedex.

I'd never even seen a Hatterene in my life, neither online nor in a battle, but according to my Pokedex, they were native to Galar and extremely rare in Sinnoh, so that made sense. The Keeper was completely silent as she walked, using the appendages at her feet to move in a scuttling motion. Sometimes she would drag herself with her tentacle if she needed to speed up or climb something, which ended up looking quite comical.

I would not call it comical. It is simply the most efficient way I have found to move, she said.

Having a Pokemon capable of reading all of my thoughts was something I'd need to get used to as well. It wasn't something mentioned in the Pokedex, and it felt like a complete violation of my privacy, but we'd come to an agreement and going back on it would be wrong unless both parties agreed. Electabuzz kept to my side, nervously eyeing the fairy while Jellicent stared at her with utter confusion. I supposed that he didn't exactly know what exactly she wanted from me, and he hated that. Togetic floated around Hatterene, asking her a million questions about her life— from small to grand concepts. The current topic was how she'd parted the clouds when she appeared before us. Everywhere Hatterene walked, the rain disappeared.

Oh, 'tis not I who halts the rain, dear baby sister, but a companion of old. He may reveal himself at a point in our journey if his heart so desires.

"Is he as powerful as you are?" I asked, jumping over a fallen branch. Hatterene had wanted to keep me off the route, but she swore that no one would attack while I was with her.

Promises were not made lightly.

There exist myriad facets to the essence of power. Alas, your comprehension remains incomplete, but such is unsurprising for a sister nurtured by humans. Your inherent potential lies untapped and is squandered by them. A year with me, and you would become a proper fairy. No longer would you be between worlds.

"I'm afraid I can't accept that," I said, reassuring Honey immediately. "I appreciate your kindness, though."

Togetic jumped at the opportunity, asking what facets of power Hatterene had been referring to. I had questions of my own, but I wasn't going to stop her. We had time.

There is of course violence. The crudest form of power. Simple yet effective in its raw force. But it bespeaks of a narrow mind, baby sister. Glamour is the one I am the most proficient in. It weaves its subtle threads, affecting reality as I deem fit. Its influence, though less overt, holds the potential for greater impact.

That piqued my interest. Glamour. I had heard Denzel say it a few times, so if I had to guess, it was similar to what Sylveon did when creating his armor. That also meant that the concept was relatively well-known, or at least documented.

Using it as a barrier? A pragmatic approach, but still crude.

"What do you use it for?" I asked.

Why do you think that the land here is constantly showered by rain? That it is always so quiet? This region is my fief, and I have altered it to my liking. It is soothing, is it not?

I inhaled sharply. This entire route was Hatterene's domain, just like Shiftry had done, but in a less-pronounced, more sustainable manner. That was why my hearing was so bad here, but the rain, thunder, and wind still sounded perfectly clear. Hatterene were known to hate loud places.

Right, that is what you humans call fiefdoms, she said. The rain softens the sound of my people's thoughts, making it easier for me to focus. I would have gone mad long ago without it.

"But if it's your domain— or fief— why can't you stop the rain?"

Glamour at this scale works slowly, especially if I want to alter what made my fief special in the first place. You made one mistake, however. A fairy's fiefdom does not work like others'. It is slower, but holds more potential. Of course, I know that I must not make this place impassable for humans, lest that horrible child comes after me and ruin everything I have built.

I frowned. "Horrible child? Who?"

That creature you humans call Cynthia. She is a horrifying beast beyond compare, but the wyrm at her side is ten times worse. I am well acquainted with the Togekiss, the only member of her gathering worth speaking to. We bargained for this deal decades ago shortly after her tenure began.

"Arceus…" I exhaled. Cynthia truly had roots everywhere, it seemed, but she was using them to keep trainers safe. The routes seemed like a much more complex affair than I previously thought.

Buddy whispered in my ear, telling me that this could end up being another Shiftry situation in the future if Hatterene ever went rogue. I felt the need to agree, but so long as the pact was fair and equal, then she would not break it. I did wonder what the intricacies of the deal were though. She had acted like she might have attacked trainers that didn't respect her or the Pokemon inhabiting this route when I asked her not to attack my friends, so she couldn't not be allowed to hurt people. The implications of Cynthia negotiating in what situations attacking a trainer was allowed made my head spin.

A deal is a private affair, sister. I will not reveal it no matter how much I like you. Unless you pay an appropriate price, of course.

I felt a shiver run down my spine, and I suddenly remembered one of the graves in the Lost Tower. Tricked by the whims of the fae. Who knew how much she could extract out of me if I wasn't careful? Especially now that I was learning what glamour even was. I didn't actually feel threatened, but it was like a constant feeling of alertness that forced me to stay sharp so I wouldn't not concede anything.

You are wise to be on guard, but fret not. There will be no tricks with me. I will use these few days to tutor you and Togetic both in the concepts of glamour and violence.


The first time Sunshine met Hatterene, I thought a fight would erupt immediately.

We had traveled a few more hours until we settled in a small clearing, and I used the opportunity to introduce Pupitar and Turtonator to her. The rock type seemed nervous, but happy to see another powerful being so soon. Sunshine's snout flared and the temperature rose until I had to recall him.

It wasn't like he'd been the only one at fault. Hatterene had provoked him first by calling him a decrepit creature. For all of her wisdom, it seemed that her irrational hate for dragons was irreparable. Changing a mind grew harder the older the person was, and even though I doubted that she was as old as Shiftry, the Keeper was old. She'd called Cynthia a child, after all.

Wyrms are such simple beings. A few words are all it takes to set them off, the Keeper said with a bloodthirsty grin.

"Don't you think you were rude?" I asked. "He hadn't even done anything yet."

I didn't appreciate the look in his eye. I would usually kill for such a heavy slight.

"You didn't even try to get along, and he did. I think that proves that you were more immature than he was. You just basically ignored all of the rules. Where was your hospitality?"

Such a human way of thinking, Hatterene said. There will be no hospitality for wyrms. It is a wonder that Togetic even tolerates him.

"She learned to appreciate and love him just like I did," I said. "We made a deal, didn't we? So long as he doesn't offend, you will tolerate him. Or are your words worth nothing?"

Hatterene's stare grew sinister, but I knew I had caught her. I ignored the pit of primal fear forming in my stomach and looked right into her eyes.

"Fairies don't lie."

They do not. My apologies for the offense.

Still, I'd need to wait at least an hour or two for Sunshine to cool down. If I released him right now, he'd attack her right away and get himself seriously injured. I still had a few Hyper Potions left, but I wanted to keep them in case Team Galactic attacked me.

You are hunted? Hatterene asked.

"By humans, yes," I said. "They're called Team Galactic— wait, you already read my thoughts. Anyway, I thought you'd know about them."

I don't bother with human squabbles. However, having something happen to an exceptional human such as yourself would be a tragedy. Let us hastily begin Togetic's training. Glamour appears complicated at its core, but manifesting things on a smaller scale is a simple affair…

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver
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Chapter 176

In front of us, a small leaf was being kept afloat by Hatterene's psychic powers. Princess kept squinting at it, groaning as the entire family— excluding Sunshine— silently encouraged her. We'd been loud at first, but both fairy types immediately glared at us. They needed us to be quiet so that Princess could concentrate.

You are doing it all wrong. There is belief, and there is belief, Hatterene scolded. You do not truly believe. Your emotions are too muted.

Togetic sighed, suddenly feeling like she wasn't having that much fun any longer. The goal of the exercise was not to destroy the leaf. Apparently, even that would have been too advanced for a beginner, which meant that Sylveon was just ridiculously talented at shaping the world around him.

There were limits to what they'd both be able to do without staying in one place for years like Shiftry and Hatterene—

Again with this Shiftry nonsense. Do not compare me to the Emptyfolk. I am glad that he is dead. He was a weakling that did so little when he had so much. A pity.

And of course, Hatterene was a psychic type as well, so she could multitask and complain to me whenever I did something she disliked. And she knew Shiftry too, somehow. They were technically neighbors, so that did make some sense. Getting back on track, the goal of the exercise was to make the leaf tremble without psychic powers or wind. Hatterene's companion, who had remained hidden, could apparently stop the wind as well, and he was completely quiet without it. At this level of silence, I could only hear my breath, the slight shifts of my skin against my clothes and the sound of my other Pokemon.

Princess let out a frustrated cry and suddenly crumpled the leaf with Psychic. She couldn't figure out how to do it, and I couldn't exactly blame her. Hatterene just kept saying that she didn't feel enough, but what the hell did that even mean? That wasn't how we usually trained! We used real concepts and—

It is real, the fairy type interrupted. The leaf suddenly uncrumpled and appeared as good as new, or perhaps in an even better condition than before.

Glamour is not a science, nor a concept that is easy to grasp. It is a belief that you are more. That you can cast aside the rules set by our creator and forge your own path.

Jellicent was suddenly more interested now, and he asked how long did it take for her to learn.

I am always learning, ghost, she answered. But this exercise should not be that complicated. Perhaps there is a mental block somewhere.

Mental block… oh! "Princess, remember when you struggled to use Wish when we were first using it?" I excitedly asked. "You had the same problem, where you just couldn't bring out real emotions unless the situation was real."

Her face lit up, and she nodded. We had a lead. She needed to feel threatened at least once, and then she would grow past her mental block.

An inability to properly tap into emotion? A crippling weakness, but the potential to grow once the lid finally bursts is massive. We can work on glamour at a later hour, since we are taking a detour. For now, show me how you execute fairy type moves.


How terribly weak. You call that a Dazzling Gleam? It would barely tickle that wyrm you seem to like so much.

"Well, that's because he's also a fire type…" I said, trying to defend Princess.

You think too rigidly. You humans and your types, she lamented.

Her voice was very emotive, which was usually unheard of with telepathy, but she was a fairy. I wondered if Mira's Kirlia sounded as expressive as she was.

Exploding energy outward is good, but you lack a decent amount to deal any real harm to any but the weakest of foes. Your control with Fairy Wind is excellent, but it is nigh time gathering it grows as easy as breathing to you. I suggest you imbibe the wind to elevate your Dazzling Gleam into something new. Uniqueness is power. Conforming is stagnation. Then, we can move on to more advanced concepts. Perhaps start dabbling in Moonblast.

"You're right that her being able to throw out super strong Fairy Winds while moving around would be a boon," I muttered. "But we've tried, and it requires too much concentration."

So? Will you let a mere bump in the road hinder your path? Belief is the key to all improvements, dear sisters. She shall overcome.

She had not offered any concrete strategy, yet somehow, I believed her.


It was late at night, and I'd just finished studying for the day. My Pokemon hadn't slacked off either, of course. Angel almost had Giga Drain down, and he, Buddy, Sweetheart, and Honey had trained against Sunshine. We'd lost again, which brought the score to 4-0 in his favor, but now that Pupitar was joining in the fights, we were getting closer. She was basically his perfect counter. Her cocoon was too resistant to heat for it to matter, and she could easily take most of his attacks, although we'd been surprised by Scorching Sands. Every time it seemed like we were coming anywhere close to beating him, he suddenly pulled a trick out of his sleeve and finished us off quickly. Sweetheart had already been out of air to propel herself, so I started to wonder if he hadn't baited her all those times she rammed into his shell.

Turtonator had been on his best behavior, despite sending angry looks to Hatterene sometimes. He knew the risks of getting into a fight with an opponent that powerful, especially when a fairy type that strong would probably destroy any kind of protection my team could place on me. I had no idea how I'd even go about fighting her, to be honest. Her weak point must have been her thin body within, but the hair covering it acted like impenetrable armor. She was slow, but I doubted that she'd let us get far away enough to run.

Electabuzz grunted, and my head turned to my left. He handed me a bowl of chicken and pasta.

"Thank you. You're sweet," I said, gently caressing his arm. "Don't forget to give some to the others."

Princess was still training hard with Hatterene, who was being followed by a few admiring wild Pokemon. The entire time we traveled together, she was a magnet for attention. A Wooper had come to ask her something, while a group of Ducklett flew overhead. A Simisage with huge, round eyes hung from the treetops and sometimes chimed in. I could not understand any of it, especially since Hatterene seemed to only speak through telepathy. In fact, I hadn't heard her let out a single sound the entire time we'd been together. She was completely silent, just like Angel.

I'd never seen her this tired, but she was still going, gathering up a Fairy Wind as she flew forward as fast as possible. Hatterene wasn't one for small incremental increases in training. She was all about big, meaningful gestures. Since Princess could keep a very small Fairy Wind going throughout the arena every battle, we decided to build up from there and she was slowly improving. Once she got good enough, then she'd be able to power up her Dazzling Gleam.

The point was, it felt like we were all working harder than we ever had.

Hatterene was having a conversation with Buddy. He seemed to really enjoy speaking to older Pokemon. He'd been the first to really get to know Sunshine, and now he was among the first to try to understand the Keeper too.

My exact age will remain hidden, but know this, dear ghost: we stand as peers, she said before turning toward me. You have a question.

I did have one. "Well, I figured now would be a good time to ask about you. How did you end up… leading this route? Do all the other routes have a system like this?"

No. My fief is unique in our coordination, although all routes have more history than a human would know. Much more, Hatterene explained. The reason I am here is simple. It is where I killed my trainer, so I made it my home.

Everyone tensed, but I did not panic. All of my time spent with Hatterene so far told me that she was a reasonable being, but maybe she'd been different when she was young. Or maybe it was something else. The fact that she had dropped that fact like it was nothing showed that even if I'd been influenced by the fae, I was nowhere near her mentality.

I was captured in my young age by a human who did not care for hospitality or the rules. He kept accruing debt by forcing me to do things I did not want and inflicted pain upon me with his stronger Pokemon when I dared to resist. I bid my time until an opportunity presented itself.

I audibly swallowed. That was basically a few steps from what Cecilia had done with Scyther, except I assumed that it went on for much longer.

Oh, it was lengthy, she confirmed. Of course, I eventually acted like I had joined his gathering and was a part of them. I could easily play the role of a willing companion to bide my time. I have to admit that I had plenty of enjoyable times with them, and I even grew to somewhat appreciate the human's good qualities when he apologized for his past transgressions after his youth had flown by and afforded him newfound maturity.

Her face twisted into a terrifying grin, and her tentacle flexed.

But know this, sister. A fairy always comes to collect. Eleven years after he'd caught me, I killed him. For his small attempt at reconciliation, I made it quick. I never lied to him. I even vowed that I would murder him a few days after he'd caught me, but he had forgotten. The fae do not forgive, nor do we forget, and our prices are paid long.

Her prices were paid long… was that where the concept of the long price had come from? The words had somehow wormed their way into my brain right before my battle with Harry, and I had been unable to stop myself from saying them. I couldn't imagine waiting eleven years to have my revenge on someone.

"Is there anything he could have done to repay you before you killed him?" I asked.

There comes a tipping point when there is no escaping debt. His came before he matured, unfortunately for him. Perhaps if he had released me or started treating me correctly and like an equal sooner, he would have lived.

"But he was just a kid when he did that stuff to you. You said so yourself!"

Should children be absolved of consequences? Do you think that someone of your age cannot tell right from wrong? Are two years of relatively peaceful times enough to offset nine years of hell, slowly building up my strength until I could rebel?

"I don't know the full extent of what he did to you, so I can't say, but from the way you described the situation, he was legitimately regretful. You could have told him and left."

But I did tell him. In fact, I explained it to him in excruciating detail, reciting each time he had wronged me as he begged for his life. I do not account for forgetfulness. That is a human way of thinking, sister. The ghost agrees, but is too shy to say. Even the wyrm believes that side of you holds you back.

I stared at Jellicent and sighed. We'd gone over the fact that we were allowed to disagree on things. I disliked the fact that Hatterene seemed to criticize me for thinking like a human when I was one.

In the flesh, perhaps, but your mind oscillates between the two. No human would theorize on how to systematically take me down when they knew that I can read their every thought. Violence is in your very nature. There is potential within you, and as I said, I could imbue you with enough energy to turn you fully, but I shall not. It is clearly a fate you would despise.

"I would despise it because it'd be against my will," I added. "I assume that you started building up your domain afterward?"

Well, I had to fight off my trainer's entire gathering first. I did not kill any, but I did force them to run. Isn't it pathetic that after eleven years together, none of them wanted to fight to the death for their dear trainer? He was a rotten man, and they all disliked him. None of them had the guts to take that final step. It took me months to heal properly, but when I did, I began to alter this place to my liking, and it slowly turned into what you see today.

"And your companion?" I asked, glancing at the sky.

He is the only one that did not run after the battle and did not offer them any aid, Hatterene specified with a sly grin.

So he'd belonged to her trainer too. Had he been mistreated and wanted to rebel as well? I fiddled nervously and began to eat, but the food had already gone cold. I didn't know of any flying type capable of living that long.

Any more inquiries? Otherwise, I will return to helping Togetic.

"One last question. Are you just a leader? What else do you do on the route?" I said, observing the wild Pokemon around her.

Solve disputes that have gotten out of hand and keep the area clear of outside threats, the Keeper said. I make an excellent mediator.

"So trainers?"

No. What you call route 215 belongs to you humans. Everything around it belongs to me. What do they call it again?

Simisage grunted, and then snickered.

Ah, yes. Off-route. Such a narrow-minded term.

Amidst a few laughs, Hatterene returned to support Princess, and I finished my meal. She had revealed something horrifying to me, and yet something told me it had been just.


I woke up the next day to Hatterene staring overhead with her body hunched over mine and Tangrowth. I'd slept on Angel's vines, and he seemed to be awake already, just caressing her soft but durable hair. The rest of my team slept in their Pokeballs because they were either tired or wouldn't get along with her or the wild Pokemon constantly following her. Jellicent was the notable exception, of course.

"Good morning?" I asked confusedly.

Good morrow. The ghost has brought your prowess for understanding Pokemon to my attention, and I have decided to inquire further.

I shot Buddy a look, and he anxiously nodded. They must have spoken all night while the rest of us were asleep.

"So? Inquire, then," I said after a yawn. I tiredly looked through my bag and grabbed at the first edible thing I saw, a pack of cookies. Since we'd be spending more time than planned with the Keeper, I had to save food that could be cooked.

He has told me that this is not just limited to your gathering, but that you can still quickly pick up what a stranger Pokemon means in a few days. Noble Simisage will be staying with us to prove this, but if it is true… I have never heard of such a gift. Only the hushed whispers of stories of old.

Stories? I was suddenly very interested in her knowledge. Even Cynthia hadn't known anything about it.

"What do you mean by stories?"

A smug smile stretched across Hatterene's face.

"Don't try to sell those to me. You want to know about my gift just like I do."

When a Pokemon you are not familiar with speaks, how does your mind interpret the words?

I hummed, pondering with a hand on my chin and pausing to consider how to answer. The truth of it was complicated, to say the least. For my Pokemon, I did understand their words individually, but with Pokemon I didn't know, it was different. I couldn't get their words, but it was as if I could feel what they were feeling to some extent, and the same applied to my family. It was how I'd been convinced that nothing would happen to us when we were sleeping under that overhang with all those wild Pokemon a few days ago or shortly after Hatterene had first approached us and I got the time to look at her properly and think. It wasn't perfect, but it was there, and all I had to do was stare at a Pokemon long enough and want to know what it felt.

And the nudging feeling I got every time, telling me that I'd be able to fully understand them after a few days? That was a part of it too. It hadn't always been this way. Back when it was just me and Princess in Jubilife, I hadn't been able to understand fully formed sentences. A few words and some of her body language, yes, but that was nothing to how I was now.

And I was getting better at it. Slowly but surely.

Your thoughts are enough to answer, Hatterene said. An empath as I am, then? But again, to prove this, Simisage will accompany us. The myths surrounding your gift will come after.

"I wouldn't lie about this! Can't you tell by reading my thoughts? And Fairies don't—"

But you are no full-fledged fairy, sister. There could be many more explanations for this. I have no doubt that you fully comprehend what your companions are saying and that you learned to do so in a short amount of time, but you would not be the first human to do so. A unique ability, but not a gift. What interests me is you learning to understand what strangers would say in a few days. I do not think you are lying, but it could be a delusion of the mind.

I clicked my tongue. "Fine. Just know that this offends me."

I know.

I finished eating my cookies, stewing on my frustration while Angel gently petted my head with a vine to soothe my anger. Buddy bowed his head in apology, but it wasn't his fault. I stared at Hatterene, who silently looked into the sky, no doubt talking to her companion that kept the rain away from us.

I squinted at her and focused. What was she feeling right now? Unlike with most Pokemon, her emotions were blurry. It didn't make sense, but it was the best way I had of describing it. There was a bit of happiness— or was it pride? Maybe it was because she'd found a person like me. I almost expected her to turn toward me, her usual calm face marred with anger as she asked me to stop analyzing her, but nothing of the sort came. It was as if she wasn't able to tell.

Even while being able to read thoughts.

After a few minutes, she turned back to to me and Simisage and asked us to interact. The green monkey hopped off his vine and jumped next to me, landing on the soft grass, still slightly wet from the rain that had practically drowned it before we settled here.

"We've met, but we haven't introduced ourselves properly. Hi."

Simisage spoke in a flurry of words that I didn't understand and then looked at the fairy type. She was staring at and analyzing me so strongly that I felt naked.

I couldn't understand what he said, but I felt like he'd told me about something he looked back upon fondly. A past experience, maybe? One thing was for sure, he felt good about what he'd said.

Why can I not delve into your mind? Hatterene asked, emotion slipping into her tone. You have no psychic types capable of shielding it, and I am experienced enough to dissolve any paltry protection one of your friends' gathering could come up with within a few minutes. With you, it is like an impenetrable barrier, layer, upon layer… I would have no idea how to even begin to tackle this. The sheer depth of it shatters my understanding…

"Wait, what?" I had never had anything put a shield on me!

And now it is gone, the fairy type said. And there are no traces of it even being there. How is this possible? I do not understand. Is it only active when… but still, how? I curse this lack of knowledge.

"Your psychic type is coming out," I sighed.

Silence! She telepathically yelled, but it came as a furious hiss.

The headache momentarily came back, and I hissed. Jellicent clamored at her to stop, and Tangrowth's vines shook in a panicked frenzy.

The headache left as fast as it came, and Hatterene anxiously tapped her feet appendages on the floor.

My apologies. I have neverIt is the first time I have lost my composure like this.

"That's okay. I kind of pushed your buttons," I said. "Just try to be less trigger-happy?"

I will. It appears there is a hint of truth to the stories after all. I shall tell you about them. Nightstalker? This might be of interest to you, so I assume you want to join us.

A Pokemon fell from the sky so quickly that the force from the impact nearly took my coat off, and it hooked its sharp talons into the soft dirt. It was a tall, avian Pokemon that was almost six feet in height. Its feathers were beige on its torso, stretching down to its legs, but brown everywhere else, and a hood made out of bright, green leaves hid its face. A few dead leaves decorated its body as well, but the most notable ones were laid in an 'X' shape at the center of its hood.

The Decidueye's red eyes stared at me from within its cowl, and the rain slowly began to patter all around us. Nothing about this route made any damn sense. I thought a water type would be stopping the rain, but it had been the opposite.

Meet Nightstalker. My only companion and the one who aided in my rebellion against my old trainer by simply standing by as I tore through six Pokemon on my own, but also the one who beat me to enforce my subservience. He helped me to pay off his debt and clear his conscience, Hatterene said with a mad grin stretching across her face.

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver
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I really enjoy this intrigue and whole interaction. Great writing
Chapter 177

"N—nice to meet you," I stammered at Decidueye. Every time his eyes met mine, I felt a sudden chill. "I'm Grace Pastel."

Nightstalker has been listening to all of our conversations and observing as well, Hatterene explained. He usually keeps his distance, but I knew he would be intrigued by your ability just as I am.

The grass type silently nodded, carefully shifting his wings. He cawed at Hatterene, who smirked.

And I suppose he wants to replace Simisage for our little experiment as well, she said, turning to Simisage. You may go if you wish. Tell your children I said hello.

Simisage jumped, hanging on a branch before waving at us and leaving. At this point, Jellicent was too astonished to even speak or say anything. These last few days had done a number on him, and he probably just wanted to rest.

That would be a first.

"That's fine by me, he can stay."

He would have stayed even if you did not want to. Nightstalker is no fairyhis lack of hospitality can reach astounding levels, Hatterene laughed.

Her words were spoken through telepathy, but her laughter was vocal. It began as a mere whisper, a delicate trill that danced upon the air like the wind. But as it grew, it twisted and contorted, morphing into something deeply unsettling. It carried an otherworldly cadence, filled with an unsettling, twisted rattle. Her opened mouth revealed a row of wickedly sharp teeth that seemed far too long to fit into her mouth, but they somehow did.

What a rude assessment, she continued. But let us get started with the story, then. It was a legend spoken to me by my mother, her mother before her and so on and so forth. It is common knowledge among some wild Pokemon.

Decidueye offered a quiet hoot in agreement.

"Common? None of the Pokemon I caught in the wild know about it— not even Buddy, and he's lived a long time."

Nightstalker whispered a few words to Hatterene, who nodded in response.

Perhaps the stories are lost, then, she said with a hint of sadness. There once were three humans just like you, thousands of years ago when this land was still called Hisui and death lurked for your kind in every corner. When the world's existence was threatened, they all traveled to different domains, gathering a Claw, a Fang, and a Plume. It is said that Pokemon of untold power had laid there. The boy that received the Claw craved for deeper knowledge, the one that received the Fang had enough ambition to fill the world, and the one that received the Plume's heart was pure enough to befriend all living things. They were all chosen for a greater purpose, but what interests us here is the third boy. It is said that he grew more attuned to Pokemons' feelings and was able to understand them within minutes of encountering them for the first time.

"I can't do minutes," I said. "Days at best. And I was never given anything resembling a feather."

It might have been embellished, or you may get better at it in time. It matters not. That was the only part of the story that is of interest to you, but to summarize, the rest states that they went on to save the world from an unimaginable calamity. Afterward, humans flocked into the land, which is a fact that my mother always despised.

Hatterene paused, and I almost scoffed.

"Is that it? That was a lot less than I expected."

Do you recall feeling strange at any point when visiting an area and gaining this ability afterward? She asked after Decidueye spoke.

"No, it came to me gradually these last few months," I said. "It wasn't just instant. I don't even know where it'd be."

A shame.

Still, any information was good. Hatterene seemed knowledgeable, and I knew that she wasn't misleading me— not when she was so invested in this as well. I didn't know why I would get chosen by anything, and I also didn't know any Pokemon with those capabilities. It was the best explanation we had, but I was somewhat skeptical that it was real. And even if it was, this sounded like a typical 'chosen one' story. I didn't feel like I was that.

There was no way someone like me could be pure of heart.

There was also the mental barrier to worry about. The fact that my mind had been protected without me knowing was even more surprising, and for some reason, it was only when I focused on understand Pokemon. That didn't make much sense to me.

Perhaps… perhaps you draw on something to use your gift, and that is a part of it? It is faintalmost not here, but now that I observe properly, I feel a pull. Eat something, then we shall get back to training, Hatterene said. Nightstalker, stop the rain once again for our dear friends, if you will?

My lips suddenly dried as the grass type flew up with a jump until he was but a dot in the sky. The clouds parted around him, clearing the rain with terrifying speed before he landed back with a loud crash, sending chunks of mud flying my way and dirtying my clothes. Angel tried to protect me with vines but unfortunately failed.

"Eugh," I groaned.

Nightstalker is not one for subtlety. I apologize on his behalf.

Decidueye dusted off his hood and shrugged.

Well, it was time to train.

The hours passed us by quickly, and it was nighttime now.

I couldn't help but smile as Buddy easily struck a conversation with Nightstalker. I was forced to stay and listen, and even though only a few hours had passed, I was slowly starting to understand the grass type's words. It seemed that my estimation of a few days to fully comprehend what Pokemon said was correct. Jellicent loved to talk to Pokemon close to his age thanks to them easily relating to each other. Nightstalker was a lot stronger than he was, but he appreciated the company nonetheless. I had asked him to train some of my Pokemon, but he had refused immediately.

I just wanted to see him in action. Decidueye were known to be extremely quick and accurate archers with the ability to pin an opponent to their shadow. They'd be really interesting to battle, and I wanted to know if a flying Pokemon like Princess would be pinned to her shadow too. And would his power be more powerful at noon? Could he not use it at night too?

He rebuked me, saying that I was annoying and asked too many questions, courtesy of Buddy's translation. At least he seemed to not care about Sunshine at all. The fire type seemed to be in a bad mood these days, and it wasn't due to Hatterene. Being next to beings that powerful made him feel inadequate. At least he could share in his lamentation with Angel, who was beside himself at the fact that Sweetheart just stuck to Nightstalker's side like glue.

"She still loves you, you know," I smiled at them both. "She's just excited about her new shiny thing— err, not that you're a thing," I rectified as soon as I felt Decidueye's stare on my back. It was like a tingle below my shoulders. "Sorry Nightstalker."

He accepted my apology and returned to his conversation with Jellicent. obviously, I could only catch half of what was said, but they were engrossed in how the hell had he cleared the rain so quickly. To me, it'd just been him beating his wings strongly enough to part the clouds, but it was apparently different. The grass type didn't want to give up his secrets, though, which was no doubt learned behavior from Hatterene.

A bright light flashed, and I shielded my eyes and felt the force of Dazzling Gleam brush against my skin even from afar. Princess' attack had powered up so much in just two days that it was as if I had been teaching her completely wrong. Not only that, but the attack would also knock enemies away from her using a burst of wind now. My eyes blinked rapidly, trying to chase out the blotches of blindness still lingering after the flash.

Progress on glamour was slow, but it was steady. She was barely capable of moving a leaf on her own now, but anything else was a faraway goal as long as she wasn't put in a real, emotional situation. Still, now that Dazzling Gleam had been perfected so quickly, Hatterene decided that it was time to move on to a new move.

Moves are too rigid, but they are a good base to build up from. If we had a few months, I would be able to teach you a lot more, but alas, your mother is too obsessed with her badges, Hatterene said before turning to address me. Pieces of metal with no inherent value, just like your money made out of paper. Humans are a strange folk.

"If everyone agrees that something has value, then it does," I explained. "It's not that hard to understand."

Wishful nonsense, she dismissed. Let us get started on Moonblast, sister.

Togetic eyed her teacher and excitedly bobbed up and down.

Control yourself. It is unsightly for a fairy to let her emotions show so strongly. Moonblast is a crude technique, but it is among the most widespread. Do not be mistaken, however. It is complicated to weave. You do not simply have to pack energy tightly into a sphere like the Duskfolk for with their Shadow Ball.

The Duskfolk? Mathilda and Ruth had said something about returning to the Dusk when they died.

"Have you ever seen her that focused?" I whispered smugly to Electabuzz. The electric type chuckled but kept silently watching.

The Duskfolk draw from the Dusk for their energy, but that place leaks into our world like a sieve. Unlike ours, it is a clumsy and savage power not borne from this plane. They do not even have to struggle to use it. Our power is scattered among this Earth, but to gather the amount needed for stronger techniques, we draw from the Moon.

I blinked. I knew the move was called Moonblast, but that certainly hadn't been what I expected. Princess had often looked at the moon with wonder, but I just thought that was her being a kid. Hell, when I was a kid and dad drove me around in his car at night I would cry because I thought the moon was following us.

Moonblast is at its strongest during a full moon, but that is not a prerequisite, and it can devastate your enemies during the day as well. The key is to know how to draw that energy. Look at the sky, baby sister.

Togetic craned her neck upward and I mimicked her, but it was not a full moon. I could only see a crescent in the sky that softly illuminated the forest floor. Once she was done, we all stared quietly at both of the fairies with bated breath and awaited for what came next. Nightstalker seemed to be amused, however.

Allow me to demonstrate. I will slow myself down to allow you to see.

Thin, almost transparent threads slowly floated and intertwined. They were so long that I couldn't see where they even began, but they looked to go all the way to the moon itself, stretching far into the sky until they disappeared from view. The threads suddenly shone as Hatterene slowly tied them into intricate knots, each seemingly impossible to mimic. The more I looked, the deeper the structure went, as if I was staring at… there were just no words for it. None of it made any sense. I just couldn't comprehend what I was looking at.

I snapped out of my daze when the entire thing seemingly snapped into place, and then it finally made sense. It was a miniature moon— a perfect recreation with every single crater and dark grey blotch etched into the surface. Faded pink dust and chunks of earth forcefully pulled from the ground orbited around the small moon. Even trees were swerving toward the attack, but the area was still completely silent. If Angel hadn't been wrapping vines around Honey or me, we would have been pulled in toward the attack. Princess herself was being held in place by her teacher's psychic powers.

Hark sisters, Hatterene said. The true form of a perfected Moonblast.

The attack flew forward, and Hatterene summoned a thin psychic barrier all around us, dwarfing what Togetic was capable of without a sweat. The moon trembled and shook as it gathered more and more leaves, dirt and bark around it.

And then it crashed into a large tree, finally exploding with a deafening boom as sound returned to us. I couldn't even see what was going on— it was— it was too bright. I covered my eyes and closed them, but I could still see the light through my eyelids until it was over.

Everything in front of me was destroyed. There was nothing left but a giant crater that was as large as one of the arenas in the Solaceon tournament and a hazy, pink dust that menacingly lingered outside of our protective bubble. And she hadn't even been trying that hard.

"Arceus," I inhaled. My palms were clammy. I'd always know that she'd been strong but seeing it was an entirely different thing. I had negotiated with that.

She had called the technique crude. And it hadn't even been a full moon!

Did you catch it? Hatterene asked Togetic. It is not just pulling the energy, but willing it under your control with belief. You will have to grow better at it if you want to grow past these horrible bindings that humans call moves. Try it.

Needless to say, her first attempt was a terrible failure. And so were her second, and third, and—

You are disappointed? Hatterene asked as I softly pet Togetic's hair. She was sleeping like a log, exhausted from all the training. You cannot learn in a day what took me years to perfect. Even if she succeeds in creating a Moonblast, it will not be nearly as powerful or clear as mine.

I smiled gently and muttered. "Disappointed at her trying her absolute best? Of course not," I said. "Plus, she's learned a whole lot already, and we aren't even done. The disappointment you sense from me is genuine, but it is for a different reason. It's about the story. It raises more questions than answers… and I want answers."

To my right, Electabuzz leaned against a tree and watched the current scene with a sly grin. After pestering him for hours, Sunshine had managed to get Nightstalker to agree to a duel. Sweetheart and Angel cheered for the dragon as best they could, with the rock type screaming her lungs out and Tangrowth excitedly waving a dozen vines around.

He wasn't holding back for this one, and the fight was fully contained within one of Hatterene's barriers. Scorching heat constantly warped the air around the fight, and just looking at it made me sweat. Sunshine roared as a Flamethrower flew out of his snout, and Decidueye easily ran up the barrier, somehow digging his talons into the psychic surface. In one smooth motion, he drew an arrow from his wings made out of a sharpened feather, which was quickly submerged by shadows.

Four arrows buried themselves inside of Sunshine's shadow that had been created by his own flames, and the dragon type reeled as if he'd been hit. Nightstalker was clearly holding back here, but he was still having a decent amount of fun. He spun around a Dragon Pulse and took flight, somehow being engulfed in a sea of ghostly energy and phasing out of reality right before another stream of flames reached him.

Stories are often lacking in substance, but they are still important. The longer a story is told, the more power it holds. And if anything, it gives you a lead.

"Power? How does a story have power? Do you mean its value?"

Yes. They are bargained for at heavy prices, among other things. But let us move on to more related, but important matters. Let me introduce you to the concept of presence

"Wait, how do you do that? Like, that word, it felt like it had weight to it."

That is a matter for a different time, baby sister, Hatterene smiled, gently rubbing my hair with her claws. It was the first time she'd even touched me. Presence is not exclusive to fairies, but the knowledge is heavily kept within our circles.

She paused, and I understood immediately. "I won't tell a soul."

When a powerful Pokemon stays rooted somewhere for a long period of time, it will slowly accumulate power and the terrain will change to their liking. That is what you call a domain and what I call a fief, but the concept as a whole is called presence. The more powerful a Pokemon is and the longer it alters an area, the more presence it has. Its existence is etched into reality and becomes a fact.

"Wait, what? Isn't that just a complicated way of saying that the longer they stay, the more powerful they get?"

No. It is a way of explaining why that is the case. They do not grow in power because of battles, but because their very presence becomes a law of the world. I am such a case. I have altered this region to my liking and the longer I stay, the more powerful I will become. Can you take a gander at what the end of it is like?

The end… so her final state? Maybe Mount Coronet—

Hatterene's tentacle tensed. You dream far too big. The forces at play in that blasted peak do not follow the rules and are horrors beyond even my comprehension.

It took at least twenty seconds for me to digest those words, but that certainly lined up with my experience when I had fallen deep inside of the mountain. And we had been relatively close to the exit. It got worse the closer to the peak.

"Uh, what about Eterna Forest?" I nervously asked.

Yes, she proudly said. At the center of Eterna Forest sleeps a being more powerful than I. For all I call that blasted Champion Cynthia horrid, she would beat me quite handily, but I am sure she would have a harder time against the creature that lurks in the forest. It is far older than even Shiftry was, and its roots go back to before Hisui. Luckily for you humans, it seems satisfied to sleep at the center of the forest it has built. I am but a fledgling child gesturing in the dark trying to find a familiar place to anchor myself compared to the scale of the world.

I suddenly felt very nervous. I had walked through there and lived. Thousands of people did so every year. "What Pokemon is it?"

Don't get greedy now. Think of another example.

"The Iron Island seemingly never run out of ore," I muttered, thinking of Chase. "What about them?"

Correct. Another good guess, but you think too rigidly. The fog to the northwest of here, the permanent snowstorm to the far north that ebbs and flows, but never stops. The burning summer heat around Stark Mountain even though it lies at Snowpoint's latitude and should be a frozen wasteland. These Pokemon are the strongest below the Legends of old, having rooted themselves in history and their presence reinforced by the world thinking that they belong there. Reaching their status is my goal.

"And there are more than this?" I asked, thankful that none of them had attacked a city before.

Oh, far more, some big like the ones I described, but most are smaller like I, or even smaller than that. It pains me to admit my irrelevance, but I am no wyrm. My pride can take a hit, Hatterene smirked. Do you see what I meant when I said that stories hold power? The more these tales are told, the more their presence is reinforced.

I nodded silently. All of these unexplainable effects on different routes actually had an explanation. If I had to guess, there was no way that these Pokemon would let themselves be seen by any scientists looking to figure out why there was so much fog on route 210, for example. And it was the same… in every region. Old Pokemon amassing power and altering the world around them, changing entire ecosystems. Thinking about it now, it was obvious, but I had never thought it was possible at such a scale. Routes were so much larger than cities. Shiftry's outburst was insignificant compared to this.

They remain hidden, disinterested in human affairs as I am. It is simply not worth it. They are powerfulincredibly so, but they are not invincible. Many have fallen in the past, and many will fall in the coming centuries or millennia, either to a challenger within their domain or trainers powerful enough that seek them out. And when they do, another will take their place, drastically changing the area in a few years.

Which on an ecological scale was basically the blink of an eye. This was such a fascinating topic— what would a normal type doing this look like? What about a flying or psychic type? I had so many questions, but no answers.

And I do not have the answer either. I know a lot, but nothing beyond what my mother told me in my young age. The old ways are dying out, slowly but surely. Cities grow larger and humans encroach on us, the air is slowly choked by machinery but what can we do but wait? Perhaps one day, a Champion will push back on constant expansion and protect our homes.

I chewed on her words for a few minutes and stroked Togetic's head while Hatterene stroked mine. She'd grown attached to me in just a few days, but I'd lie if I said I didn't feel the same.

"I'm surprised more of you haven't lashed out," I said.

Lash out and get the noose around our necks tightened further? She said. For all I talk about violence, you humans have a monopoly on it. Pokemon follow your every order, each for different reasons. Some see it as a shortcut for power. I cannot deny that a Pokemon will grow faster with a trainer by their side, and not all of them share Nightstalker and I's long lifespan and can afford to take a slow approach, although lifespan is a tricky affair that can be extended if you accrue enough presence. If we struck back, we would be destroyed. We all know it.

"Well I'd like to say that I'll become the Champion and help you, but I know it's more complicated than that. I'd have to convince gym leaders, mayors and the people living in the cities. I'd have to fight corporations that thrive on city expansion… it's just… hard. For all people say that Pokemon are hard to understand, human society's a thousand times harder. Plus, I don't think I'll win the Conference this year, let alone beat Cynthia in five… but I sympathize."

And that is appreciated. Making a promise you are not certain you can fulfill would not be wise.

I sighed. That had given me a lot to think about, but I had one more question.

"Say… is there some way I could use glamour?"

Use it? No. Humans and Pokemon are fundamentally different. You can not pull on the forces we do, Hatterene answered. But thanks to your halfling state, you will be able to understand and see it with enough training. If you can see and understand it, you can potentially train your daughter without my guidance. Unfortunately there is not enough time. We will reach Veilstone in two more days, and the learning process would take months. It would be shorter if you were a full-fledged fairy.

I exhaled and placed my head against her hair-robe.

Don't make that face. You are always welcome, she said. I will seek you out if you come back.

"How about this summer? After the Conference?" I asked. "I could come back before too if I have time after the eighth gym. When Princess evolves, she'll be able to fly me."

I said always, did I not? If it was up to me, you would have joined my gathering. The wyrm would have to go, however.

I chuckled. Sunshine was already on the ground, his chest going up and down as he wheezed heavily. Decidueye had taken him down with a few feathers burned, but other than that he hadn't broken a sweat.

"You love him, don't you?" I asked. "I think I can tell. He's the only one you look at so fondly."

An accurate observation.

I did not bother to ask if it was romantic, familial or platonic, but love was love. I did not need to know. They had a lot of history together. I wondered how he'd gone from attacking her to force her to help his trainer to joining and rebelling along with her.

It is nigh time I properly introduce myself, Hatterene suddenly said, her eyes unmoving. My name is Bellatrix, the Keeper of the Sacred Woods.

I felt pride bubble in my chest. "It is nice to meet you… sister."

To you, Grace Pastel, I bestow the title of Friend of the Forest. It is a title that holds weight and may it carry you far. You are now my disciple. Human, halfling, gifted or whatnot, it does not matter. I declare you an honorary member of the fae.

I stood up, Togetic still sleeping in my arms, and bowed my head in respect. All of my Pokemon were watching now. Even Sunshine.

"Thank you, Bellatrix."

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver
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Chapter 178

"Bella, what do you think about altering the path of electric type attacks using physics? Or fizzling out the attack entirely? I'm stumped, and my textbook won't help. I have to prepare to face Volkner after Maylene."

Simply will it away, she answered. And I do not recall giving you permission to call me Bella.

"We can't just will things away," I rolled my eyes. "And for the nickname, I thought it'd be nice, but I'll give up if you don't want me to call you that."

Sunshine snorted, and I totally didn't understand why. I let out a short chuckle, playfully tapping his scales so he wouldn't give me away. The old dragon was too tired to be angry at fairies. He hadn't worked this hard in months, and even he was learning things from his few duels against Nightstalker and his mock battles against the family. The prospect of him growing stronger than before was terrifying, but also very exciting. The rest of the team were in their Pokeballs to rest up, excluding Princess, of course.

She was growing more and more every day.

Yes, you do understand. This trick that you've learned is irritating, I shall return to helping your daughter.

"You're teaching it to me, it's not my fault."

Don't use it against me. It is rude to resist your teacher, Hatterene said as she shuffled away.

Well, if she hadn't wanted me to stop her from reading my thoughts, she shouldn't have taught me to manipulate how I felt on a whim. Bella— Bellatrix used emotion to read thoughts, so I could essentially counter her by altering them. It was nowhere near perfect, and they were only minute adjustments, such as what I'd just done: hiding my disappointment that Sunshine had nearly given me away. Manipulating my emotions made me feel like a sociopath sometimes, but Bellatrix would scold me every time I was limited by 'artificial human barriers'. It had been this whole process of labeling each state I usually felt and putting them into boxes, practicing relaxation techniques until my mind was clear, and reframing those into what I wanted. Supposedly, my half-state had sped up the process.

There were limitations, of course. There were always limitations. This was no barrier, and would only work with benevolent empaths. If she'd wanted to, she could have ransacked my brain. Still, having a better understanding of emotion would go hand in hand with training Princess and my… gift. I still hated calling it that. Bellatrix had attempted to make me keep the mental barrier standing for as long as I could, but no matter how hard I tried, it only appeared when I focused on understanding. And focus was needed. It did not appear when I effortlessly translated my Pokemon's words.

Pretty shitty, for a barrier, but if what Hatterene had said was true and I was drawing power from somewhere to get started on the translating process, then it made sense. If I understood a Pokemon, I wouldn't need the power any longer.

I could understand Nightstalker perfectly now, although there were sometimes when he spoke so fast that I got tripped up. My ability had been proven in Hatterene's eyes, and she desperately wanted to study me further. It was strange, how emotions slowly morphed into understanding over time.

Bellatrix was a great teacher both to me and Princess, even though her words were harsh sometimes. Two days to reach Veilstone had turned into almost a week due to us meandering around the woods. I had grown used to telepathy now, and the headache from her speaking to me was completely gone. We had stuck around so long that I was pretty sure that all of my friends excluding Denzel, Cece and Pauline were already in Veilstone. I had almost run out of food, however, so today was our last day together.

"Meanie," I said to Turtonator. "You owe me for that."

The fire type pushed me away from his warmth, saying that he didn't play by the rules of the fae. I paused as a slight anxiety took hold. It was so easy to get lost in Bellatrix's ways, but I'd have to go back to society soon. Adapting would be tough. There'd be no more bargaining for everything and anything, no more gentle nights watching Buddy talk Nightstalker's ear off, no more Bellatrix sternly telling Angel off while he rubbed her hair with a thinly veiled smile and happiness radiating off of her.

Nightstalker placed a wing on my shoulder and hooted. It had a slight echo to it, but otherwise he sounded completely ordinary. Nothing compared to Bellatrix's horrifyingly charming vocalization.

"I'm not sad, just… melancholic, I guess," I answered. "It was fun being with you guys."

The grass type silently laughed and observed Hatterene telepathically yell at Princess as she formed a miniature Moonblast. It was nothing compared to hers— a bright pink ball of fairy type energy that sometimes revealed the dull grey that dwelled within. Bellatrix called it impure and imperfect, and it could only go a few feet before unraveling completely, but it was still a force to be reckoned with in battle. I never thought I'd see her wield this kind of power before she evolved.

And we had used it to beat Sunshine yesterday for the first time, after all. He'd been an especially good sport about the loss. Oh, he had still sulked in a corner like a baby and it took hours for him to even let me heal him with my few remaining potions, but deep down, he enjoyed the challenge.

"Say, can I ask you something? Let me know if it offends," I said.

Nightstalker nodded, not even looking at me. He was a pretty chill guy, but it was good to be polite.

"How did you end up standing by while Bellatrix had her revenge?"

He did not tense, nor did he even seem to care about me asking such a sensitive question. Nightstalker calmly explained that he'd been his trainer's first Pokemon and known him for even longer than Bellatrix did. In fact, he still carried the name given to him by his trainer, while Hatterene chose her own name. It had been a point of contention between them in the past, but she'd made her peace with it.

Nohea— their old trainer's name— had not been a good person. He was brutal with all of his Pokemon and kept them under control by pitting their rivalries against each other. Just like someone might feel compelled to stay with their abuser even though they could just leave due to manipulation, they did not dare to fight back. There was a fear that had been instilled within them from young, and they believed that going against him would be impossible. That was until Bellatrix came into the picture.

"There were no laws to protect Pokemon from abuse back then," I guessed. "I mean, not that the laws are very clear and enforceable now. I don't even think what he did would have been punished that harshly today. It's wrong."

The grass type nodded, but kept going. Bellatrix planned in secret at first, but slowly, she involved all of his eight Pokemon into her schemes, including him. When the day of the rebellion came, they all…

"Betray's the wrong word," I interrupted him. "They were scared and couldn't take the plunge. Even you were. Bellatrix told me that Nohea had started to genuinely change for the better in his last two years and apologized for treating them terribly. Things were changing for the better, and they probably wanted to give him a chance. I guess that's why you stood still and watched?"

Nightstalker hooted again, which was more of a sigh. He had called me very perceptive.

"Thank you for telling me. I'll cherish these words," I said, bowing my head slightly. "And thank you for helping Sunshine out for a week. He's burned you quite a bit."

Turtonator growled, saying that he would have managed to get a hit in if he had a few more tries. Well, I'd let him believe that, and so would Nightstalker. The grass type had no pride to speak of and routinely let Bellatrix walk all over him. Honestly, I couldn't exactly blame him. It was hard to fight back verbally when she had her sights on you. She won every single debate she participated in, although Sweetheart did give her a hard time once by just screaming all over her words when she had called Turtonator weak. That had been a fun night.

Decidueye sat next to Turtonator and me as he began to preen the feathers within his wings. They served as his arrows, so he constantly needed them to be in good condition for any battles. They were both stronger than anything on this route and everything around it, but Hatterene had said that the threats came from outside, which meant other areas. Although they did so a lot less than humans, Pokemon often fought for territory and resources, from small-scale battles to large communities like this one. Hatterene kept everyone safe, however, and she wasn't worried about whatever lurked on route 210 and generated all that fog. I'd be terrified if I were her.

Nightstalker cawed, seeing through my worry. He was no empath, but he was still good at reading people thanks to Hatterene teaching him the ropes. He had never seen her this happy since she'd killed their old trainer. After a week with these two, the brutality of those words just went in one ear and out the next. They didn't affect me whatsoever.

Sunshine mockingly jeered, but I playfully slapped his scales, accidentally hurting my palm in the process. My pain sent him into a laughing fit.

"Stop it!" I yelled. "No one saw that! You better not tell anyone. I'm cashing in what you owe me now!"

He immediately refused. Ah, well, that's what I got for getting cocky. I turned back to Decidueye and apologized for getting sidetracked.

"I'm glad that she's happy," I said, leaning against my knees. "What about you?"

For the first time, his eyes dimmed beneath his hood. They functioned somewhat like Jellicent's but with their own quirk. The golden iris around his red pupils was very emotive too, dimming or flaring up depending on what he felt. Sometimes, the pupils grew larger or narrowed— softened or sharpened as well. They were always soft when he looked at Hatterene. Buddy's eyes weren't as complex, but his vocalization was more so.

The grass type nodded as Princess' third Moonblast this time didn't fizzle out and actually reached one of the targets she had raised with Ancient Power. She'd made them look like Sunshine, much to her teacher's amusement and the fire type's anger. He'd been so well-behaved this past week that he deserved a reward when we got to Veilstone. I didn't know what he wanted, but I'd ask him soon. It was probably hard for a dragon to be bullied by two fairies and keep his head down.

"Good," I smiled. "I didn't want you to feel obligated to stick around. She'd hate you for that, and you're good at hiding your emotions from us. She complained about that to me when I started doing the same. I'm nowhere as good as you, though."

Decidueye thanked me for my worries, but this was where he belonged. He couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

"Of course. Hey, are we pals now?" I suddenly asked. He nearly ripped out one of his feathers right then and there. "I want to be your friend. If I'm Friend of the Forest—"

I coughed, choking on the powerful words. It was like all the air had been sucked out of my lungs. The title might have been bestowed onto me, but I could still not say it. Turtonator offered me a bit of support with his tail, and I thanked him for his help.

"If I'm that, and you live here, then I'm your friend, right?" I asked, tilting my head.

Decidueye resigned to his fate, and I patted him on the back.

"See? Not that hard," I grinned. "So, Night. What do you enjoy doing in your free time when you're not hanging out with kids like us?"

Sunshine angrily flared up at being called a child, but I ignored his outburst. I knew he hated when Buddy called him that too, so I had maybe teased him on purpose. I was happy that we'd gotten close enough to have this tongue-in-cheek thing going on.


Nightstalker sighed and began to tell me about how he routinely traveled to Veilstone under the cover of Phantom Force to steal some books to read, and that somehow led Sunshine to talk about how Kamaile taught him how to read too, once.

I listened attentively, hanging to his every word.

I would ask him about his old team soon.

"Well," I sighed. "We're there."

Route 215 stood in front of us, and the gate into Veilstone was extremely close if Bellatrix's constant complaints about the toxic air were anything to go by. She usually never went this close to the city because of how industrial it was. Fairies that had spent centuries in the wild like her were not well-adapted to cities. Princess, meanwhile, usually liked to be in them. This time, however, she was terribly sad. Her head hung low and she held back tears as we stood in silence.

"Maybe I could stay another day," I said, turning toward Bellatrix and Nightstalker. "There's so much to learn still. I'll just go next to the gate so I can send a text to my friends and tell them I'm safe and check on how close my girlfriend's group is to making it. I can—"

Now, now, Hatterene gently said. You shouldn't allow your sadness to leak out that much.

I sniffled and clenched a fist. Tangrowth placed a vine of comfort around my wrist while Honey wrapped his arm around my shoulder.

"Bellatrix… Night…" I whimpered. "I'll miss you."

Decidueye hooted, saying that I would not leave forever.

"Yeah. Yeah, I know," I said with a quivering breath. "But it still hurts."

I'd only known them for slightly more than a week, and yet I felt like I was saying goodbye to family. The tall owl looked at Hatterene as his irises stretched, their yellow glow dimming slightly. He whispered something to her, but I didn't manage to catch the words.

I will accompany you to the gate, Bellatrix said. It is only the right thing for a host to do.

"But shouldn't— didn't you want to stay hidden?" I asked. "Don't—"

Nonsense. I will do as I please, she smiled. Let us be on our way.

"Wait— Bellatrix—"

Bella will do, the psychic type said, pushing me along with her tentacle. Just this once.

We broke through the thick tree line and took our first steps onto the route. This close to Veilstone, it only took two minutes to meet our first trainer. She froze up, trembling like a leaf at the sight of the two Pokemon by my side. Her Breloom and Whirlepede protectively moved in front of her. I would have thought that they might have passed as my Pokemon and not wild ones, but it seemed that just the sight of them was enough to terrify anyone we met.

What I had not anticipated was more wild Pokemon coming to follow us. Hordes of them, simply walking along with me. I recognized Simisage, although he had two Pansage holding onto his massive head while he swung from tree to tree. The five Psyduck that had been with me at the cave, along with the Ponyta whose leg had been bruised, and more that I didn't recognize. Trainers ran away or watched in awe at the display of unity. Something of this scale had never happened before. I chuckled as a Cottonee floated in front of me, causing me to sneeze. A Starly landed on my head and nested there, pecking and pulling at my hair. Not even Sunshine dared flare up at the invasion of his personal space, and he was very careful not to step on the smaller Pokemon. Angel was over the moon, grabbing children and carrying them on top of him. There was even a Tangela on there, and the grass type was happily gurgling and intertwining his vines with Angel's. He'd always wanted to be a caretaker.

Sweetheart crawled on the ground, but a fierce Grotle had taken a liking to her and was walking by her side as she told him about the many battles she had been in. Five Phantump surrounded Buddy and orbited around his head, and he sighed at the attention. Still, I couldn't help but notice a hint of amusement in his eyes. Honey shied away from all of the stares, but he was too big to hide away behind me. And it wasn't like that would help anyway, seeing as we were surrounded from all sides, but he slowly got out of his shell and began to answer questions flying his way. Princess still hung by Hatterene, determined to exhaust every minute left that she had with her teacher for any last bits of insight.

"How is this even happening?" I asked, turning to Bellatrix. Her face was marred by a permanent wince. "Are you okay?"

It is loud, but I will live, she smiled. You are Friend of the Forest, are you not? They have simply come to bid a friend farewell.

I laughed as a Teddiursa pulled on my jeans and her mother, a towering Ursaring dipped her head in respect. When we reached the gate, an army of Pokemon Rangers was standing guard with their Pokemon out. A crowd of people— mostly trainers— behind them were pushing against a psychic barrier that looked ridiculously weak compared to Bella's. Imperfections, shallowness, unstable, it was everything you didn't want a barrier to be. We stopped in our tracks and observed them. There were at least fifty of them, but they weren't going to attack. You couldn't be trigger-happy if you were a ranger. All they wanted to know was—

"You! You, in the middle of the crowd! Can you explain what's going on?!" One of them asked. He stood in the center, so I assumed that he was the leader.

What will you do? Hatterene smirked.

I'd tell the truth, Bella. It was as simple as that.

She laughed, showing her impossibly long teeth and the Rangers all tensed. One of their Pokemon— A Luxray— began to charge up electricity, but its trainer stopped it.

Or him. I had a feeling he was a male.

"What is the problem?!" I asked loudly. As soon as I began to speak, all of the Pokemon behind me stopped their chatter.

"Are you serious? There are hundreds of Pokemon behind you threatening Veilstone. They seem to be under your control, so I will ask again. Explain what is going on," the leading Ranger said.

"Under my control?" I said. "None of them are under my control. They're here out of their own volition to send me off. And why shouldn't they be allowed to do so?"

"The city is right there—"

"But we're still on route 215, are we not?" I said, my voice holding firm. "This is their land. They are allowed to be there."

"But you have to admit that—"

"I will do no such thing. We were just walking. No one was attacked. Once I'm gone, they'll go back to living their lives. I think that you overreacted."

The leading Ranger scratched his head. "Well, we'll stay here until they leave, just to be sure."

"I'd like for you to make your Pokemon stand down first," I declared. I crouched and petted the scared Teddiursa's head. "It's the polite thing to do."

Good. You are asking for an apology after an offense, Bella said.

I was, but I had to be discrete about it. They probably would have looked at me funny if I spoke like her.

None of the Rangers recalled their Pokemon, but they did make them not stare with the intent to harm.

"Thank you," I said.

Now it was time to leave. I turned to Nightstalker.

"Goodbye, Night. I'll buy you books for when I get back," I said, wrapping him into a hug. "Stealing is bad, even if you do it to humans, okay?"

The grass type reluctantly hooted in affirmation but didn't refuse my hug. His feathers were sharp, as if I was touching a thorny bush.

"You wanted artsy stuff, right? I'll see what I can find," I added. "Maybe I can bring some paint too. It'll be tough to fit in my bag, but I'll make it work. We can go to your tree and paint a bunch of stuff together."

Nightstalker smiled for the first time, saying that he'd like that and that Angel was welcome to help. Tangrowth was too happy to even hear his words, but I was sure he'd love to paint stuff with all of his vines. He said his goodbyes to each member of my family, but his stare lingered on Sunshine. It was a respectful one, but also a challenge. Something that would drive the fire type to grow stronger and challenge him again when he came back.



"May I?" I asked, extending my arms.

The fairy type let out an otherworldly groan. If you must.

I smirked, wrapping my hands around her soft hair as she rubbed mine with her tentacle. It was only now that I realized how light she was. I felt like I'd be able to lift her with a single hand.

To be honest, I had never seen her eat.

You have learned well, she said. I am proud of you.

I felt pride well up in my chest. "I had a good teacher."

Stay safe, and do not let these humans walk all over you and offend you without payment. And if you are in need of refuge, our doors are always open. Your title will carry you beyond this route. Pokemon in forests will see you as a friend and an ally, but you will still have to watch out outside of them. If these Rangers try to keep you, I will

"Now who's allowing their sadness to leak out?" I said. "I'll be okay."

Her face twisted in sadness, but Nightstalker was there for her. She turned to my team, offering words of her own.

WyrmTurtonator, she began. Our time together was cold and bore no affection, but I have learned to live and let live. You are not as bad as I previously believed, and I can tell that you made efforts to be cordial. I apologize for the way you were treated at the beginning of our time together.

Sunshine nodded tightly, simply opting to stay silent. That was as good as his accepting her apology was going to get.

Electabuzz. Nightstalker loved your cooking, and I did think it smelled wonderful, she said. Honey smiled widely, flashing his sharp teeth. I see potential in you. Do not squander it by acting less confident than you ought to be.

That made him lose his smile right away, but Bella was right. He was strong, but he acted like he held the team back sometimes.

And you, Tangrowth. Your thoughts are so simple that I believed you were pulling some sort of elaborate trick, but you are truly appropriately named, she said. A strange fellow with occasional flashes of surprising wisdom, but with a hospitality unmatched. We all appreciate your kindness, especially the children.

Angel's vine excitedly wriggled at the praise, but he soon returned to playing with a pair of Wooper.

Pupitar. Obnoxious, loudmouthed, and even less regard for the rules than the wyrm.

She cheered at that as if they were qualities, and the Grotle next to her laughed.

Your evolution will bring an untold amount of rage upon you. Nightstalker and I have seen it with our own eyes, she said. Do not let it take hold no matter how much power it offers. Trust in your mother, and you shall reap the rewards in the long term.

It wasn't hard to fill in the blanks on what had happened. Their trainer had owned a Pupitar as well, and things must have gone wrong when it evolved. Sweetheart chewed on the words, growing silent for the first time.

Jellicent. Our conversations were fascinating, and you offered insight into the ghostly mind that I simply did not understand before today. The knowledge was well-received, and I am in your debt. Say the word, and I shall pay you back.

Unfortunately for her, he insisted on her not owing him anything. He thought that the conversations alone were worth it, simply reminiscing about old times and how different life used to be.

And you, baby sister, Bellatrix looked to Togetic. My words during training were harsh, but you have grown massively. The need to protect your mother drives you. Rarely has Moonblast been learned so quickly, and you are a prodigy of control. Keep practicing with glamour, and you will go far.

Princess nodded, trying not to cry as I finally grabbed her into my arms.

You will be missed, Grace Pastel. You are special.

"I might be," I said as I struggled to stop the tears. "Or not. It doesn't matter. I've learned so much about myself thanks to you. A side of me that I don't feel like repressing any longer."

Lean into my teachings, she said. Become more.

"Thank you for everything."

Thank you for everything. Goodbye, Friend of the Forest.

The wild Pokemon cheered one last time for me and then began to disperse once more. Bella and Night watched as I stepped through the gate, recalling my Pokemon one by one.

Before I could even hope to step into Veilstone, it looked like the Rangers were going to question me.

I couldn't shake the feeling of annoyance I felt when I realized I'd have to deal with human strangers again.

So? Nightstalker asked. How are you feeling now?

Bellatrix mentally sighed as her stare lingered in Veilstone's direction. Not one hour since Grace Pastel had left, and the world already felt dimmer. The Pokemon stared at her companion and blinked rapidly to make the glamour that filled every facet of the world disappear from her view.

She is the daughter I never had. Barely over a week, and it feels like I am losing someone I've known for years. She shines bright.

She was chosen for a reason, but bright ones tend to burn out quickly,
Nightstalker said as he preened his feathers. What shall we do now, Bellatrix? Do you want me to go? I could keep an eye on her from the shadows for a while.

No, she would dislike that. It would be seen as a betrayal. Her independence is too important to her.

The grass type smirked. That, she would. Do you feel them yet?

Her so-called friends, yes,
Bellatrix nodded.

She could see everything that touched her fief, and the three humans Grace had shown her had just made it onto the route. There was the foul presence of another wyrm— two souls for one body, but also a brother. He must have been the Sylveon Grace had told her about, and there was a good deal of glamour around him. The armor.

I promised her to let them through safely, and I will, but they will still be observed.

And their ways with the rules tested?
Decidueye continued, studying the tip of an arrow.

Bellatrix hummed. Perhaps.

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver, Benjamin R
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Interlude - The Test

"Arceus, it's raining like a motherfucker," Pauline complained. "I'd rather be inside of Mount Coronet than this. At least Charizard could warm me up."

"Raining like a motherfucker doesn't mean anything," Denzel said.

Cecilia rolled her eyes, but she was too focused on her leg to retort. It had taken so long to heal that they left the city half a week late and had to rest in the Café Cabin, but at least, they were in the last stretch of the journey. She walked through the forest floor with a slightly pronounced limp, unable to put her full weight on her leg for more than a second before the pain became unbearable. Zerst snarled toward a rustle behind a tree, almost blowing the entire thing up with Dragon Pulse, but Cecilia calmed him down with a hand on his scaly head. It was coarse to the touch.

Sol, for all his usual calmness also felt anxious. He hadn't even rammed his full weight against Zerst to keep him quiet as he would usually do. Sylveon simply stared at the two with a grimace and stuck closer to Denzel, who wiped the rain off his Poketch and squinted at the screen.

"There should be an overhang we can take a break under soon for your leg, Cece. It'd be better if you were fully rested before we climbed the actual mountain."

"Arceus… I bet Justin and Louis already have their badges by now with how late we are," Pauline grumbled.

"I'm sorry," Cecilia said. "I didn't mean to slow you all down."

"Oh, I didn't mean it like that— shut up Gothorita! I know!"

"What's she saying?" Denzel asked.

"That she feels like shit because she can't see the stars in this weather."

"It's daytime," he said. "Wouldn't be able to see 'em anyway."

"She can see them at all times of the day, just not through clouds. Anyway, I'm sorry Cece. I'm just feeling anxious about time running out, that's all."

"No worries," she said.

It wasn't as if Cecilia wasn't anxious too, although for different reasons. Beyond the group separating and being away from Grace, there was something deeper that worried her and had been nagging at her since leaving Hearthome.

Her father was under house arrest. Louis' father was in jail, awaiting his trial. She had enough money to live comfortably— not forever, but for around half a decade, at least.


Now what?

Her entire goal to become Champion of another region had been to escape her family's clutches, but Abel had inadvertently saved her with his phone call and let her expose her father's adjacency to Harvey's criminal links with Galactic. Her entire reason for this journey had been resolved while she'd been halfway there, as if the rug had been pulled from under her. Now Cecilia was drowning, desperately trying to find something to hold onto. Sticking with Grace was one— her promise to challenge Cynthia was another, but these were shallow. They weren't goals that she had set for herself, but goals that had been pushed onto her.

There was no structure to this journey any longer. No meaningful goal to the progress she made each day. Peel away the layers and at the heart of it, Cecilia was quite empty, or at least she felt that way.

"There it is!" Denzel pointed as thunder roared.

An overhang large enough to fit all of their teams and stay dry while they took a break and ate. Pauline broke into a jog and breathed a sigh of relief when she made it under the ceiling, but her small moment of respite was interrupted by a group of wild Pokemon sitting at the corner of the cave. Zweilous roared at the three small Sentret, flames dancing in their mouths and illuminating the dim overhang until they finally ran off.

"They could have stuck around," Denzel shrugged. "I don't think Sentret are that threatening."

"It's better if they leave, or Zweilous wouldn't have let me hear the end of it," Cecilia said.

"Fair enough."

Finally, she could sit down. The rain had seeped into her bandage, but Pauline quickly noticed and helped her change it while Denzel stood guard with Lopunny and Sylveon. The normal type looked to be bothered by the rain as much as them, funnily enough. Sylveon couldn't care less, and it was sometimes disturbing to see the water dripping down his unblinking blue eyes. Pauline, for her part, released her entire team apart from her Vigoroth and Cecilia did the same, leaving Talonflame in her Pokeball. Scyther quickly went to his own corner and worked on sharpening his scythes against a rock. Slowking watched her with a curious eye, clearly wanting to speak, but opted to wait for her to be done with her friends first.

Golett slowly turned on as the hum of machinery began inside of his body. He slowly trudged toward Zweilous, who chomped on his arm like a Lilipupp would with a bone. The ground type didn't care about all of the slobber getting on his limb… and torso, and— everywhere.

"Say… why do you guys want to become Champion?" Cecilia asked.

Pauline stared up as she carefully wrapped the gauze around her leg. "I don't want to be Champion. I want to have fun and battle a bunch of people," she shrugged. "The Conference's the place that will probably bring me the most excitement, so that's where I want to be."

"And after that?"

"After that, I do it again and again until I'm bored," she continued. "Then after another year or two, maybe go to another region to travel until I've got to settle down. It's all about the journey, right? Traveling with friends and my team is fun. Being the Champion sounds like a pain in the ass anyway. Too many assholes looking up to you as if you're perfect, and the moment you slip they come for your throat."

Cecilia blinked. Her friend had given this more thought than she would have imagined.

"What region were you thinking of?"

"Eh. Haven't given it that much thought yet— why are you laughing!"

In retrospect, never mind. Pauline was just like Cecilia had expected her to be.

"Thank you for the help with the bandage."

"I wasn't done! I haven't given it much thought, but somewhere that isn't boring like crummy Galar or Unova. No offense."

"None taken," Cecilia smiled, turning to Denzel. "What about you, Denzel?"

Her friend was staring outside of their refuge, his eyes mesmerized by the rain.

"Denzel!" Pauline yelled.

"Wha— oh, sorry. Can't hear anything on this route," he said, scratching the side of his head.

"Why do you want to become Champion, beyond your aspiring influencer career," Cecilia asked again.

"Well, you say beyond like that isn't a huge part of it," he said. "There's more, but it's kind of embarrassing."

"Spill," Pauline said.

The trainer groaned. "Fine. I want to be someone that, uh, people feel like they can depend on. A figure for young aspiring trainers like Craig is to me."

"So you want to steal his shtick?" She asked.

"A little, but I also want to be more accessible than he is. He does a lot of interviews and stuff, but he doesn't actually speak directly to his fans like I want to do. I want to make guides, give advice in Q & A sessions and stuff like that. It's about time trainers catch up to their coordinator counterparts, don't you think? That way, people who think that they wouldn't have what it takes to make it could get a little boost, and sometimes that's all someone needs, right?"

"You know, if it was someone else, I might have made fun of them, but it's you, so I'll call your goal endearing," Pauline said. "You're a great guy, Denzel."

"Obviously. Look at me," he laughed, flexing an arm.

"Annnnd, you took it too far," she said. "You're a joke."

They both laughed, but Cecilia was stuck to her own thoughts. Denzel's aspiration ran so deep that it made her feel completely inadequate. She didn't feel the need to help people grow like he did, and she didn't really want to walk through what Pauline would call exciting. She might have hated anything ghost related, but she was still the same girl that kept the group's cohesion during their trip through Eterna Forest.

So what did Cecilia have?

After fixing up her leg, Pauline struck up a conversation with Denzel by punching him in the shoulder with her good arm. She was hurt too, and couldn't move the shoulder that had been stabbed properly, but she hid it better than anyone else.

Cecilia relaxed with a sigh. Now she knew what people were subject to when she was alone with Grace. It was no fun being the third wheel.

Lady Cecilia.

The words brushed against her mind, no longer painful to her. Instead, they felt like a comforting embrace.

"Slowking. I believe you wanted to speak to me?" She said.

This talk of goals troubles you, and when you feel this way, I am troubled as well.

"Oh darling, I'll live. It's just something wise to think about. I wouldn't want to become the Champion and feel aimless."

Do you truly believe you could do it in a year after witnessing Cynthia's power and hearing her stories?

It was true that Cynthia had talked to her and shown her one of her recorded battles against Lucian during one of their many talks in Solaceon. The amount of power she wielded was unimaginable, although her brother Mark came close. She'd beaten him three to six, but that was without using her Spiritomb, who she had said would shut him down completely.

She smiled, feeling no hesitation. "If I don't believe in myself, who will?"

I will, he answered.

"Thank you."

Although Cecilia was done running away from her father, she still wanted the power Cynthia had so badly. There was something about fundamentally destroying the arena you battled on that was so appealing to her, but she needed a reason to wield that power. For Cynthia, it was to protect Sinnoh from threats, and the truth was that Cecilia did feel like she would succeed in the political aspect of being a Champion. Cynthia favored slow, incremental change in order not to rock the boat, which was a philosophy that Cecilia agreed with.

The problem was that she simply had no attachment to the region of Sinnoh.

She hadn't even been there for a year. Her true home was still Unova, and she couldn't imagine a life outside of the region.

"Slowking," she said as something began to click into place. "Do you think that it is wrong to take things from family?"

It depends on what that thing is, Lady Cecilia.


That is up to interpretation. Zweilous would say that you deserve anything you desire. Golett would ask about what power is. Scyther would sneer and insult you. Talonflame would say that you should calm down and think back on this in a few months to see if you haven't changed your mind.

Cecilia laughed. "That does sound like them. What about you?"

I say you do what your will desires.

"I desire power to affect change in Unova. I am in a unique position to understand how easy it is for corporations to influence our government, and Mark and parliament is happy to let them do so if they sell the government things for cheap and donate to their political campaigns. Change is needed, but it cannot come all at once."

And so it will be.

"And so it will be," she nodded. "But first, I will finish my time here. I need to battle against Cynthia, and she needs to help me find a Spiritomb, which means I'll have to grow strong enough until she thinks I can handle them."

What if Grace desires to stay?

Cecilia felt her heartbeat quicken. "I love her, but her father once told me that I needed a life beyond her. I will ask her to come with me, but if she says no… then it will be over."

A wise man, her father.

"Yes. Yes, he is."

"Aren't there more wild Pokemon than usual?" Denzel asked as his head whirled toward a group of Budew led by a wild Roselia.

It was true. No matter where they were, Pokemon seemed to be following them. It was the third time they were seeing those Budew and that Roselia after having walked for an entire day. There was no way that this could be a coincidence. Cecilia limped forward, her weight supported by Denzel on one side and Pauline on the other.

"Sylvi's been acting weird too," he continued. "Keeps staring off in the distance when we settle down, but he won't tell me what it is."

"He won't tell you? If he doesn't talk to you, he won't talk to anyone," Cecilia scoffed.

Sylveon barked in protest. It was a smooth sound that soothed her ears and worries some, but only for a split second. Cecilia was worried. The wild Pokemon were coordinating something, which in few numbers wouldn't be that impressive, but with all the different species they'd seen and distance they had crossed? Something was happening on this route. She had to recall Zweilous out of fear that him attacking one would make all of them attack at once, and she was walking with Slowking by her side instead. Pauline, meanwhile, had her Charizard out even in the rain, supposedly to train her resistance to attacks like Rain Dance in the future. The fire type had grown tremendously in power since her evolution, but Cecilia made sure to let Pauline know not to just rely on one Pokemon to steamroll the competition. Even early in her journey when Zweilous used to be able to win alone, Cecilia always let Talonflame and Slowking participate in battles.

"Just smile and wave," Denzel said. "They're not attacking."

"They're annoying."

"Pauline, have you considered the fact that they haven't done anything yet?" Denzel said.

When they passed by a lone Caterpie climbing up a tree, Sylveon froze.

"Sylvi?" Denzel frowned.

The fairy type took a step back and frowned. Something was coming.

"Slowking, do you feel anything?"

I do, but it is a hole, not a mind, the psychic said. And something else, but she is… blurry.

"A ghost and another Pokemon," Cecilia relayed to her friends.

Pauline whimpered, shrinking back behind Charizard. Her tail lashed out and slammed against the floor. Cecilia released Zweilous at the first mention of a ghost, but it was wise not to let her full team out yet. These were coming straight for them, but it wouldn't be different than the wild Pokemon that were apparently tracking them so far.

The first was a Decidueye. It appeared out of thin air, leaning against a tree as it strummed its inner feathers. The second one was something that Cecilia had never seen before, and Pauline had the same look of confusion on her face. A Pokemon made out of pastel blue and pink wearing a hat.

"That's a Hatterene," Denzel stammered a whisper. "Stay quiet and don't panic, or it'll attack."

Well met, travelers, words rang out in Cecilia's mind. Pauline and she were used to telepathy, but Denzel still winced and clenched at his head. You have passed the first section of our test. Foul as I believed you would be, you offered the minimal amount of decency to the inhabitants of my fief.

Zweilous snarled, and Cecilia could feel the primal hatred emanating from his body.

Silence your wyrm. I cannot communicate telepathically with one who is half Emptyfolk.

Cecilia's mind was swimming. She couldn't even understand half of what Hatterene was saying, but she knew when she was outmatched. She grabbed Zweilous' Pokeball, but before she could recall him, Zerst breathed a stream of draconic energy toward Hatterene. The Dragon Pulse harmlessly washed over her.

The psychic type's face twisted, wrinkling with fury and rage unmatched and flashing sharpened teeth that were longer than her entire face. Pink dust appeared around Zweilous and swarmed him, going into his lungs until both heads could no longer breathe. Thankfully, Denzel tapped her shoulder and screamed at her to recall him, and she did.

Finally. You are lucky. Ordinarily, I would have killed for such an offense.

"Sorry!" Denzel immediately apologized. "Look, we'll just be on our way, okay? Zweilous had been growing more aggressive lately."

Hatterene did not speak. Instead, her eyes wandered to Sylveon.

Why do you stay silent, brother?

The fairy type answered with a series of small barks that she didn't understand. Still, Cecilia had never seen him so restrained before. His vocalization was usually a lot more assertive than this, even against threats they had no chance to win against.

Yes. I have been testing you as I said, but worry not, little brother. Someone has ensured that you will have safe passage, she said before turning to Cecilia. Do not release your wyrm again in my presence unless I let you.

She could only agree. "Yes. What do you want with us?"

My inquiry is simple. I will observe you during your stay here.

"Observe? So you're sticking around?"

Yes. I will not speak to you. I will simply observe.

"Fucking weirdo," Pauline whispered under her breath.

"She can feel what you feel, Pauline," Denzel hissed. "And the Decidueye?"

My companion will do the same.

This wasn't what I had in mind when you said you would test them, Nightstalker hummed.

Oh, it is a test. A test to see if they are deserving of her and the Pokemon that follow them.

They are her friends,
the grass type said. She would not associate herself with them if she did not think that they were.

She is too young. I must observe.

You could have observed without showing yourself as you had done during the first day.

They passed that section of the test. Now I must see how they behave when I am looming over them and threatening to kill at every opportunity.

The three children couldn't help but constantly look over their shoulders as Hatterene and Decidueye followed them from afar. She couldn't help but feel irritated at Sylveon's completel lack of respect for her. She did not expect him to know of the old ways, but she at least expected something akin to Togetic. It seemed that he only cared about his trainer and his Pokemon, however.

So what is your assessment, then? Nightstalker asked.

The male is the least offensive. He at least shows respect and knows how to behave, but he is no halfling. He worries about keeping his friends safe and is also planning to stay back to buy time if I attack. He has a good heart, even if he is clumsy with his words.

Hatterene paused and slowly filtered out the boy's thoughts with the help of the rain. His thoughts were not that loud, but anything help to assuage the pain from the deafening thoughts of her fief's inhabitants. When she had described it to Grace, she had compared it to standing at the edge of a cliff, and if she fell, she would fly into a maddening rage that only Nightstalker could bring her out of.

Of course, she hadn't fallen in nearly a century now. Bellatrix knew how to control herself.

The one with the fiery hair hates me, but she is the most scared out of all three. She is good about not letting it show, and her surface emotions are more simple. Hate for me and what I might do to them. She is anguished for her friends' safety first and foremost, however, and that emotion is the loudest.

Another good one,
the grass type hummed. And the last?

She is strange. Her thoughts are the loudest
Rare is a human with thoughts so deafening, Bellatrix winced. Her thoughts lie elsewhere… she thinks of something else entirely unrelated to the current situation. Something related to politics that I cannot afford to care about. Perhaps a coping mechanism to keep herself from panicking… yes, there is more. Deeper. Worry for her wyrm most of all. But all three share one thing in common. They plead for Grace's safe passage.


Good indeed,
she said. But not enough.

It had been two days since the Hatterene and Decidueye had started following them, and Cecilia felt like she was about to go insane. Her being completely silent just kept the trio constantly on edge and thinking about when she would strike. Outrunning her was impossible when she had that Decidueye with her, and nothing they said even changed the look on her face. Pauline was taking it the worst and had routinely thrown insults their way, something which Cecilia and Denzel begged for her to stop. The last thing they needed was for them to get angry, and some of these insults did get to Hatterene if her face was anything to go by. Slowking had attempted to communicate, and so did Sylveon, although more reluctantly, but nothing of substance was said between them. Only platitudes.

It wasn't until today that they made their next move. Hatterene pointed her tentacle toward Denzel and flashed her teeth. Every time she did so, Cecilia couldn't help but close or avert her eyes. Hatterene was just too disturbing to look at. Decidueye's cold stare was pleasant compared to her.

Young one. I must speak to your Pokemon.

"Uh, okay," he nervously said, releasing his entire team.

They had all seen Hatterene at least once, but they were clearly rattled by her presence. Milotic's body coiled and tensed as he averted his eyes away from her. Roselia did not dare do her usual hissing or disrespectful sneer. Froslass' control of the cold was the best it had ever been and no frost leaked out of her body, and Lopunny's ears constantly twitched in anticipation of a fight. Only Sylveon appeared calm.

Very well. We shall go and speak alone.

"Wait, you meant alone?!" Denzel exclaimed. "Why can't I be there?"

Because that would go against the entire point of this test. Fear not, it is only to converse. No harm will come to them.

"Can I at least watch?" He begged. "I don't— I don't have to be close enough to hear, and you can cut off the telepathic link."

The fairy type paused, but then agreed. Very well.

Denzel sank deeper into the forest with his team while Decidueye kept an eye on Cecilia and Pauline. She came back forty minutes later, looking weaker than Cecilia expected. Not because she actually looked beatable in a fight, but because of how tired she looked. Cecilia immediately whispered to Denzel, asking what had happened.

"I couldn't hear. She just spent the entire time speaking to them, and they won't tell me anything about it," Denzel sighed. "I think it's some kind of test. First the wild Pokemon, then they follow us, now this? It feels like Hatterene's analyzing us—"

You with the fiery hair. It is your turn. Do you wish to watch, or will you stay behind?

"I'll watch," Pauline dryly said.

Thirty-four minutes later, Hatterene came for Cecilia.

Five Pokemon stood in front of Bellatrix. Golett, a being of clay and dusk whose stare appeared as empty as the void of space itself, save for a few flashes of individuality whenever someone it cared for was near, including its trainer. A Scyther that had a permanent anger permeating out of him. She could almost feel the intent to kill. He was the complete opposite of the docile Scyther she had once known, centuries ago.

A Talonflame awkwardly hopped through the forest floor, but she worried the most for her trainer, as did the Slowking who had annoyingly attempted to speak to her a dozen times about what she was doing. Bellatrix had thrown her psychic side to the wayside long ago, giving in fully to the ways of the fae thanks to her mother's teachings. She had no time for a psychic playing pretend.

The wyrm was also there, foul and as unpleasant as always. Her time with Turtonator had taught her not to judge a book by its cover, but by the Legendaries, these two were barely coherent enough to understand. It pained her to admit, but they were nothing compared to Turtonator's occasional wisdom.

Cecilia stood far in the distance, fidgeting as she looked to her Pokemon.

DESTROY! DESTROY! KILL! The head that she called Zerst roared. CHEW. CHEW.

Sol, for his part, bit at the dragon's neck to stop him from yelling. Restraint, Zerst. Your anger, too large. Destruction later. Surprise attack.

He was slightly more coherent but just as stupid. Even Tangrowth was better than this.

What do you want with us? Talonflame cawed. For days, you have stalked us like prey. Out with it.


Golett, please let him chew on your arm,
Slowking said.

The ground type silently offered Zerst his arm, and he wasted no time to begin chewing on it. Hatterene wrinkled her face at such a lack of proper manners. Maybe she'd been too quick in offering them the benefit of the doubt.

Scyther hissed, fanning his wings. I grow tired of this. Out with it.

This was… this was the worse team by far. There were no way around it. The boy's team had been dysfunctional and full of bickering, but there was love hidden beneath the insults. The redhead's team had been fierce, aggressive, and she had to stop that annoying Vigoroth from attacking her, but at the very least, Gothorita seemed to keep them under control. All of them seemed to love their trainer and were not victims, so they had been allowed to go back.

With this lot? The two normal ones, Slowking and Talonflame were completely accustomed to their behavior and only enabled it further. It was the complete opposite of Grace's team, but they somehow made it work. Bellatrix was almost too flabbergasted to speak, but she regained her composure after a short pause.

I have gathered you here to speak your mind about your experience with Cecilia Obel. If you were mistreated in any way or forced to do things against your will, you may tell me.

Slowking went first. I don't see the point of this exercise, but I will be the first to tell you that Lady Cecilia's skill as a trainer has only improved, and her care for us grows each day even while she is under mental anguish.

Hatterene nodded, using his feelings to confirm that it was what Slowking truly felt. He genuinely cared for her and almost considered himself a parent— no, a parent was wrong. He still disliked disagreeing with her and would not speak out against anything she decided unless it was a truly terrible idea. Perhaps a butler, then? Nightstalker had told her about those once from one of his books.

My feelings are the same, Talonflame chattered. She is not perfect, but nobody is. She has cared for me and I mirror her feelings. It is love.

Very well. What about you, young Scyther?

I hate her,
he responded. I hate her fuckin' guts. I hate how she treated me when she first snatched me from my territory. She forced me to train against my will for weeks and those three shmucks used to help her do it, he hissed, pointing a scythe toward Zweilous, Slowking and Talonflame.

Hatterene absorbed the information and immediately prepared to execute her plan. The goal of this questioning had been two-fold: first, examine the relationship between the Pokemon. A trainer that did not foster a good relationship in their gathering would be an incompetent one. Cecilia had barely passed this section of her test. Second, see if there was any mistreatment taking place. If there was, then she would offer the Pokemon to stay with her and live in her fief.

She had failed— but Scyther's feelings were conflicted, which confused her. It reminded Bellatrix of how her old gathering used to feel when her old trainer started to treat them like people again. A penchant to forgive, but also lingering dislike.

I despise her, you hag. But I don't want your fucking pity. I'll kill you if you keep looking at me like that. She has gotten better, and I don't feel the urge to kill her every time I see her damned face, so I guess that's an improvement.

Bellatrix hummed. Cecilia was heavily indebted to this Scyther, but unlike Nohea, she had righted the ship in a few weeks instead of nine years. Did she deserve forgiveness? Would she repay the debt?

She has gotten better, Hatterene repeated his words. But do you feel like she is enough? Does your relationship with her feel fulfilling?

That's a lot of meaningless drivel. Has anyone ever told you that you sound so full of yourself every time you speak?

Scyther's words sent Zweilous into a laughing fit, and Hatterene had to place a barrier in front of him to avoid getting spit on her.

Be careful, she warned. Her tentacle flexed, and the bug type finally began to feel fear. Answer the question, young Scyther.

He sighed, and his eyes drifted toward the floor. I don't know yet.

There it was. That doubt that familiar doubt that had infected Bellatrix's old gathering and spread like a cancer. But she could not afford to be biased. A fairy was fair in all things, and like all others, this human deserved fairness.

I see. I assume you seek to find out, then.


Then your trainer passes.

Cecilia breathed a sigh of relief when Hatterene motioned at her to come closer. She quickly ran through the forest floor and laughed as her Pokemon surrounded her. Golett let out a small beep and his head spun around, which was a neat little trick he did when he was happy. Zerst and Sol screamed, demanding her attention until she scratched the scales on their necks. Talonflame cooed and rubbed her head on her hand.

Scyther rolled his eyes at the entire display.

You have passed her test, Lady Cecilia, Slowking said with a smile. And Zerst and Sol are hungry.

"Thank the Legendaries. I don't even know why this happened, but at least it's over."

She could breathe lighter now. Cecilia hadn't known the consequences for failure, but with this Hatterene, she imagined the worst.

Cecilia Obel. You have passed, Hatterene said. I will no longer be tailing you and your companions. Your group's emotions were pure and your thoughts were not nefarious. You have treated the Pokemon on this route with… an adequate amount of respect, and you cultivate a relation of love with your Pokemon. You are free.

Her eyes bulged. All this time, she could read thoughts? Cecilia scrambled to remember what had even passed through her brain these last few days.

Worry not. Like I stated, you have passed. Nightstalker.

The ghost type appeared in a rush of wind so powerful that Cecilia struggled to keep her two feet on the ground.

We are leaving.

The grass type nodded, disappearing into the sky once more. Hatterene crawled away, but turned before Cecilia decided to leave.

And one last thing. Tell Grace Pastel that she has good friends.

"Thank Arceus, it's over," Pauline whined. "We definitely need to report this to the Rangers. I don't want anyone else to be a victim of Hatterene's sick games."

"Guys…" Cecilia said. "I think she knew Grace."

"What?" Denzel yelled.

"She told me to tell Grace that she has good friends before she left," she continued. "I think they came across each other while she was traveling through the route."

"Arceus," he sighed. "We'll have to ask her about it when we get to Veilstone. At least it sounds like she was friendly with her."

"By the way," Pauline asked. "How did you know what the hell that even was? I'd never even heard of a Hatterene before."

"I used to want one a few years back. I had one on my list."

Pauline wheezed. "Of course you did."

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver, Benjamin R, Jon, Patrick, RosaC, TsukiNoNeko
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Chapter 179

Like every Ranger Station in cities, Veilstone's had been built somewhere near the gate. It had only taken ten minutes for the Rangers to take me, and I was immediately taken to a neat office room that looked like the one I'd been in back when I had told them about catching Sunshine. There was a simple metallic desk, a computer monitor that looked like it was from the 90s, and two chairs in front of it, where I currently sat. I could see Veilstone out of his window. It was a city of concrete, stocky buildings, and the sky was clouded by pollution. There was a reason Bella hated the city. Veilstone was known for its heavy industry and was probably the worst offender of city expansion. Even Hearthome, Jubilife and Sunyshore knew to control themselves. Oreburgh was polluted as well, but it was small and self-contained within a valley. Veilstone had none of the charming architecture that other places were known for, and its noxious air could easily spread to the other routes. Only Snowpoint looked worse than this, and that was because of its harsh environment. The same Ranger leader that had spoken to me sat down with a heavy sigh.

He was probably having a terrible day.

"Let's get started. You can call me Ranger or Mr. Gibbs. Can I see your ID first?"

"You know who I am," I said. "But you pretend not to?"

"They're just the rules. Procedure. I have to verify your identity no matter how obvious it is."

I paused. "Fine."

I handed it to him and he mulled over it, his eyes drifting over the card.

"Thank you, Ms. Pastel. I'm going to need you to sign something— just an oath that you're telling the truth. Again, procedure."

I nodded as he handed me the paper and a pen. While I was still capable of lying if needed, I felt like doing so would be horribly wrong just because of how ingrained Bella's teachings had been. I'd rather obscure the truth or go around it if needed. I'd called it a weakness, which had sent her into a thirty-minute rant about the superiority of fairy types and how that reputation made it easier to trick people.

Good times.

"So, Ms. Pastel. Can I know why you had an Arceus damned army at my gate and how the hell so many Pokemon followed you?"

His tone was harsh and snappy, which I didn't appreciate.

"I told you already. They were just sending me off. I befriended them during my stay on the route."

The Ranger irritatingly drummed his finger against the steel table.

"Befriended hundreds of Pokemon in that short of a time?"

"Yes. Just because you can't fathom it doesn't mean that it's impossible," I shrugged. "I've done nothing illegal, and I know you can't keep me here."

"Will this happen again? Do we have to put a permanent presence on the route because of this?"

"You aren't listening to what I'm saying, and I'm starting to take offense."


"They are harmless. Don't intrude on their home because you feel insecure about having them close by in large numbers. They know better than to attack the city."

"Look, the truth of the matter is, we just want to know how you communicated and coordinated so many Pokemon around."

"I stopped and listened."

He sunk slightly deeper into his chair. "Let's move on. That Hatterene and Decidueye aren't normally species seen in the wild in Sinnoh, and it doesn't take much to know that they're special. Powerful beyond what we'd be able to contain without League backup. Do you know if—"

"They're the same as the other. Harmless."

"You should look at the videos going around. The Decidueye seemed calm enough, but she made some threatening faces while we spoke."

"That's just like her," I smiled fondly. "She was just feeling protective, I think."

"Oh boy," he groaned. "So you confirm that they won't be of any danger to Veilstone? Can you be sure?"

"Yes, I promise."

Looking at his face, this meeting hadn't gone the way he thought it would. He was probably going to call the League since there was no way he was going to just trust anything I said. Rangers usually did so when something too powerful struck, but he'd be out of luck there. Bellatrix technically hadn't broken her deal with Cynthia by just revealing her existence. I wondered what Cynthia's reaction to all of this would be, but unfortunately for me, there was no way to figure it out. If I had to guess, she had her head deep in Team Galactic matters, and I wasn't about to call her. If she wanted to speak to me, she'd do it herself.

Ranger Gibbs just stared at me as a heavy silence settled into the room.

"Look, I'm in the League Internship Program," I said. "Cynthia invited me into the program herself. I wouldn't do something stupid or lie about this."

Arceus, it'd be so much easier if they had an empath around. We were just both wasting our time here. The Rangers' job was to keep people safe and I had just done something very unusual, so I knew where he was coming from, but it felt like he'd just brought me here with the expectation that I was going to reveal something big. Like a planned attack instead of it just being friends saying goodbye.

Which made no sense anyway. If they wanted to attack, they wouldn't have done something so obvious.

But I was worried about something else. Not Bella or Night's safety, but what if the Rangers encroached further on the route for the sake of 'safety' if I messed up here? I knew that I wasn't detained and I could just leave if he annoyed me too much, but I owed them better than that.

All the Pokemon on that route.

"That's a fair point," he said, his face tightening. "Can you go more in-depth? Tell us how you ended up connecting with Hatterene and Decidueye in particular?"

Well, I could answer that, at least.

"They sought me out and befriended me. We spent a week off-route together with my team," I explained. "Ranger Gibbs, they really want nothing to do with Veilstone. Give them the benefit of the doubt here. They're both just living their lives and— look, they haven't endangered any trainers either, right? Route 215 is weird, but it's certainly nowhere near the most deadly route. It's actually one of the safest."

"I see your point," he nodded after a pause. "We'll let you go."

"You had no right to detain me in the first place," I shrugged. "Erm, sorry. What will you do now?"

"Keep a few more guards posted at the end of the route and see if whatever happened with you happens again," he said, pinching the bridge of his nose.

I smiled. That was basically the best I was going to get.

"Thank you. Uh, I know I kind of sprung this whole thing onto you, but I really did only tell the truth."

He irritatingly waved his hand at me. "Go. Have a good day."

I stood up and left as Bella's complaints about human encroachment rang inside of my head. It might not have been much, but today, I had helped the wild Pokemon of route 215.

Veilstone was an ugly amalgamation of concrete and cement, but it also had a surprising amount of Pokemon out and about. Every city had a number of Pokemon that walked the street, but Veilstone especially so, and a lot of them did so without a trainer by their side. A Machoke curiously stared at me, and I dipped my head in return. Even though Pokemon would only feel a link to me in forests, it seemed like they could all sense there was something different about me. I grabbed my phone as I walked past a set of massive warehouses that must have altogether been the size of Floaroma. The port to Veilstone's northeast exported the majority of what they produced in the city and imported goods from abroad.

There were a few messages from people. Louis' group and Justin saying that they'd made it to the city almost a week ago, but also Emilia. I felt a burst of excitement. I hadn't seen her in what felt like a lifetime. Denzel, Pauline and Cece had apparently just entered route 215 as well, so they'd be here within the week. Knowing Bella, she'd probably subject them to some kind of weird test, but I'd secured their safe passage, so I wasn't too worried. Chase was also here, but he'd already signed up to battle Maylene. I probably wasn't going to have enough time to see his battle in two days. Justin, for his part, didn't want to meet. It was a miracle he'd even sent a text at all. I couldn't help but feel hurt when remembering how he used to be, but there was nothing I could do. Shiftry was already dead.

I spotted the League's office where I'd have to get my Carry License, and I also tried to find the League Trainer that was supposed to be tailing me, but to no avail.

"I guess they'd be bad at their job if I could find them," I muttered. "They'll probably talk to me at least once."

Because of the people behind the line of Rangers that had filmed me, the news of what I'd done at the edge of the route was already spreading and Melody had already attempted to contact me numerous times. Before talking to her though, I decided to find a Pokemon Center to room there and shower. Being in the wild was nice, but there were only so many times that I could wash with a wet cloth without feeling dirty. Plus, a general check-up for my Pokemon was in order.

I sent a message to the group chat to let them know I was safe, and a flurry of responses arrived immediately. Luckily for me, they didn't know about what had happened at the route yet, but they definitely would within the hour.

I arrived at the Center the closest to the gym, since I assumed that was where everyone was. After giving my Pokemon away and ignoring the stares as I had learned to do by now, I finally entered the quiet of my room and showered. Veilstone was loud after getting used to the muffled sounds of route 215. The car horns, the hum of the city, the people talking, it was all overwhelming but I didn't let it show.

My room was the same as usual except it was slightly older fashioned, with a ceiling fan instead of air conditioning. It wasn't like I'd need it anyway because of how cold it was. I had a view of the gym, which was as massive as always. The large stadium stood on an elevated part of the city's southwest, and it was themed orange. I would do my research soon, but not today. The first thing I had to do was call Melody and assuage her worries. The Poketch Company was definitely angry with what I'd done, and it could easily be spun negatively.

It could also be spun positively, though.

"Eleven missed calls, huh," I sighed. "Must have gotten grilled by her bosses."

I clicked on her name, and she picked up immediately.

"Grace! Finally, I've been trying to reach you since you entered Veilstone!"

Her voice was confident, but there was also a hint of anxiety. They were probably tired of me being so unpredictable.

"Sorry. I needed to speak to the Rangers and get to a Center first," I said. "I know what you're calling about, and I'll tell you what I told them. The wild Pokemon didn't hurt anyone and just wanted to say their goodbyes. They're friends."

"Legendaries," she exhaled. "It's my job to work with you, and I feel like I've failed."

"It isn't that big of a deal, Melody. It's probably going to be out of the news cycle in a few days."

"You're right. I think that this is actually good and that we can exploit this, and some of my colleagues do so as well, but we have to run it to the head of the sponsorship department, but he has his bosses upstairs breathing down his neck as well. He wanted to shake things up by working with you, but you're actually doing that too much."

"And he's lashing out at you because of it. I can tell that you're tired."

The liaison manager paused. "We're obviously not going to drop you. If there's one thing you're good at, it's staying in the news, and that's more promotion for us. Clearly this girl-next-door thing isn't working though, so we'll have to go back to the drawing board. Just… be normal for a little while so we can regroup. Fight a few battles, win against Maylene and do some of those online promotions I've sent you, okay? I'll keep in touch. I have a few ideas of how to spin this, but I have to convince the men in suits first. If they approve, I'll talk to you about it."

"I will. Sorry, again. I'll pay you back someday."

"It's okay. I know that you're trying your best."

"One other question. I had a plan to battle trainers above my level, and that implies losing, probably publicly. Is that okay?"

"Yes, obviously that's okay, but try not to go overboard with the losses. If you could limit yourself to one or two trainers to improve, we'd like that."

That was… not ideal. Losing against different styles of battling would make me improve faster.

"I've put you in a lot of trouble, so that's fair," I resigned. I owed her this, at least.

She hung up the call, and I lay down on my soft bed until my phone blew up again. News had spread, and my friends wanted to meet for an explanation. Unfortunately, they were outside, and League Protection or not, I wasn't going to go out without my family there in case things went south, so I asked them to come.

Time passed slowly as excitement budded and flourished inside of me, but thirty minutes later, they arrived. Emilia's forceful knocks nearly broke down my door and she tackled me into a hug as Mira, Maeve and Louis entered the room. Her chestnut hair was shorter and wavier than before, only going down to her neck.

"Emi!" I laughed. "I missed you so much!"

She stared at me with tears in her eyes and sniffled. "Me too. It was lonely without you guys! I've been here for a week and a half!"

"Where's Vincent?" I asked, staring at the others. Louis looked as tired as always, his Combee flying overhead. One of the faces stuck out its tongue at me, but the others just stared, whispering at each other as they analyzed me.

"Not coming. He said that he's sticking to Hearthome until he at least gets into the second round of a Contest. So the top sixteen."

"Your friend's turned into a badass coordinator, by the way," Mira said. "She's been in the top sixteen twice."

Mira appeared to be better, but there was no way for me to know if that was how she really felt or not. Her lips stretched into a child-like smile as she offered me a warm greeting.

"I never seem to make it past the battle rounds, though," Emilia smiled awkwardly.

"Wait, you made it?" I gasped. "Emi— that's great! Why didn't you tell us? You didn't even send a text about it. Pauline's going to be livid."

"I wanted it to be a surprise. I have a few others too. Plus, with everything you guys went through at Solaceon, bragging about Contests didn't seem appropriate," she said.

"Come on. You're our friend, you deserve to celebrate things too," Maeve said. "Right Louis? Louis!"

"Yes. Obviously," he nodded. After a brief pause, he stared at me. "Grace, we heard about what happened on route 215. What in the world was that?"

"It's not as crazy as you think it is."

Mira doubled over and wheezed. "E—excuse me? Girl just walks up to a gate with a ton of Pokemon and acts like it's not crazy?"

"Well okay, it might be a little crazy," I acknowledged.

I chewed on my following words and considered what to say. I didn't exactly feel like going in-depth about the old legend of the boy with the Plume because of how unbelievable it was in the first place. Plus, they already knew I had a knack for understanding Pokemon, although it had probably grown past their expectations.

"Be— Hatterene found me while I was traveling through the route after I let some wild Pokemon under an overhang with me, fed them and healed an injured Ponyta," I explained. "Err, from there, she and Decidueye kind of took me under her wing."

I breathed a sigh of relief. Bellatrix would definitely scold me if I gave her name out like that. Nightstalker definitely wouldn't care, though.

"What does that mean?" Maeve said.

"She taught me and Princess a bunch of stuff. It was a lot of fun."

"So let me get this straight," Emilia exhaled. "You go and befriend a Hatterene, which are known to be incredibly dangerous and she becomes your teacher?"

"Well, also a friend," I added. "And don't forget about Night."

"Night?" Louis asked.

"Oh, Decidueye, sorry. I got used to calling them by name."

"Take a look," Mira smirked, showing me her phone. It was a video of me taken by a trainer in the gate and posted on the forums. "You're the talk of town."

"Right, it still doesn't explain the whole wild Pokemon swarm," Emi nodded.

I held back a shiver as I heard the sound of my recorded voice.

"This is going to sound a little crazy," I said. They all laughed. "I'm serious. Keep this a secret for now."

I didn't know how common it was for titles to be given out to trainers, and I wanted to at least wait until I spoke to Cynthia again to reveal that entire thing.

I waited for them to agree, and started again. "Hatterene gave me this title that makes Pokemon in forests look to me as a friend, so they came together to say goodbye."

"Title…?" Maeve muttered. All four looked somewhat confused.

"I know, it sounds weird, but it's true," I said. "I traveled alone to figure myself out, and that was exactly what I got from my time with her."

Emilia sighed. "I still can't believe the stuff you all get up to sometimes, but I'm happy for you."

"Thank you. And by the way, how are your Pokemon?!" I asked her. It'd been so long since I'd seen Beldum, Aipom and Rockruff. "They must have grown a lot with how you're this big deal coordinator now."

"Well, I wouldn't call myself a big deal," she shyly said. "I'm no rising star, but I'm good."

I blinked. I'd usually never seen Emilia this confident. Her voice had been steadfast when saying it.

"I don't know if you've seen, but I managed to catch Antoine Nguyen's old links to Team Galactic. He was someone the League had missed, which is where most of my fame came from. I've got… three hundred thousand subscribers. I'm doing pretty good."

"Told you she was badass," Mira said. "Hey, tell her how you caught him."

"Arceus, don't make it sound so crazy. I was looking for corruption first… there were rumors about him altering his scores for people he liked and disliked, but they'd never been substantial. I managed to sneak into his office at night and looked through until I found some old documents linking him to some weird packaging company that I had never even heard about, and I know business. That screamed shell company to me, so I looked deeper until I found out the whole entire thing was fake… that was the extent of my involvement, really. I warned Fantina about it, and it turned out that was a Team Galactic shell company, so they caught him. People keep saying it was me who did it, like I confronted him or something. Metang pointed me in the right direction, and Vincent helped a lot with research—"

"Wait, you said Metang?" I gasped.

She bit her lip. "Well dang it, my surprise is ruined, isn't it?"

"You have to show him to me!" I demanded. "I bet you have something crazy like a new Pokemon too."

"Or some new evolutions," Mira added.

"That is… scarily perceptive," she said.

She opened her purse, pulling out four Pokeballs. She teased us, releasing only her original three. Her white and golden Metang appeared as pristine as ever, his red eyes flashing in surprise as he saw me. I had seen a few in the Solaceon tournament, but I'd never really been close to one.

"Long time no see!" I said, expecting some words back.

He stayed silent, however, opting to simply bow using his entire body.

"Metang's a little shy. Well, I call him he, but he has two brains," she said. "It gets a little confusing when they both talk to me at once."

"Metang are actually real interesting," Mira mused. She touched at the cold steel, and the psychic type let out an eerie mechanic resonance in irritation. "They can either form naturally after a Beldum's psychic powers are put under enough stress and forces itself to split in two to add to those powers, or when two Beldum meet in the wild and decide to fuse into one being. It makes 'em more likely to survive. A lot of Pokemon eat steel where they live."

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. "I assume you went with the first option?"

"Yeah… it was when I got into my second top sixteen during my first Grand Contest. I, uh, got crushed. Temperance's Dragonair and Meowstic combo destroyed me in style, but Metang still evolved, so I wasn't too sad."

She is lying. She cried.

I almost jumped in surprise at the voice.

"Metang! You're so annoying!"

The steel type didn't care to entertain Emilia's antics. She released Ambipom as she grumbled under her breath.

"Ambi. Say hello."

The monkey greeted the entire room with a snicker, then presented one of his tails to Louis.

"He wants you to shake it," I said. Louis looked to Emilia, who nodded.

Louis brought his hand forward, but Ambipom sneakily stole his Poketch from his backpocket while he was doing so. He quickly tried to grab it back, but the normal type jumped over the desk, hanging onto the ceiling fan as she laughed and looked through his phone.

"Ambi! Give it back!"

Unfortunately for her, it was locked behind a code. Ambipom's grin twisted downward as he threw the phone back at Louis' face. The poor man just couldn't catch a break.

"I'm so sorry, he's been getting more and more mischievous," Emilia apologize, helping the blond man up. Ambipom stuck out his tongue and spun himself around on the ceiling fan until Metang clicked annoyingly and grabbed him with a Confusion. "Thank you, Metang. I promise he's not always like this. He was my first evolution. It happened a little before the Solaceon tournament started during one of our training sessions after he learned Double Hit."

"He seems fun enough," Mira said, much to Maeve's annoyance. "What?"

"Read the room."

"It's okay. I just hope he'll mature soon," Emilia said. Ambipom shook his head. She released Lycanroc next. He'd grown a lot, but still had that light brown fur. His lean muscles flexed and his rocky fur rustled as he lazily stretched across the floor. "Lycan's the same as always."

I crouched, petting the rough fur around his neck and he flopped on his back with his tongue hanging out. I obliged him and rubbed his belly instead.

"He's been a huge help raising my new Pokemon. Without him, she'd be like Ambi already."

"Enough teasing, just show it to us already," Mira complained with a childlike pout.

"Well, you can't blame a coordinator for enjoying the spectacle a little bit," she smirked.

Her new Pokemon was a small yellow fox with red fluff coming out of her ears that I immediately recognized as a Fennekin. She was pretty young, if I had to guess, with how she quickly hid behind Lycanroc, Ambipom and Emilia. Maeve was over the moon, though, and she desperately tried to pet the little Pokemon. Fennekin's eyes settled on me, and I could tell she that she felt my title. She only spent a few seconds doing so, though, and quickly returned to dodging Maeve's advances.

"I got her as an apology gift from my parents," she said with a pained smile. "That was always how they thought I worked, and they haven't changed at all."

"Your parents are in Hearthome?" Louis asked.

"Hmhm. They desperately want me to go back to the meek little girl I was before, most likely because they can feel their control over me slip. I knew it was bad when they didn't blow up at me when I told them I was pan and dating Pauline."

"Well, at least you told them, right?" Louis said. "Imagine telling your old self that."

"I know, right? But you know… I still love them, and they're trying, I guess. And I'm happy that they gave me Fennekin, even if I wished they'd let me do my own thing. But anyway, enough doom and gloom. You've got to go more in-depth with this Hatterene business! What'd she teach you?"

"Well, let me go back to the beginning. First, she scared the crap out of me…"

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver, Benjamin R, Jon, Patrick, RosaC, TsukiNoNeko, NPM
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Chapter 180

Telling my friends about Bellatrix in-depth kind of made me realize how abnormal the entire experience had been. Maeve looked pale throughout the tale, especially when telling her about her Moonblasts which hadn't even been at full power. Louis and Emilia were just nervous, but Mira was actually quite interested in Bella's capabilities, especially the perfect barriers she easily created that were of better quality than even the ones in the gyms. She was interested in replicating them with her Kadabra and Kirlia, but without her direct teaching, she was out of luck. Bella already despised her psychic side and did the bare minimum with that power, only using it to shield herself or move things around. If I had to guess, she probably did know powerful psychic attacks, but she would never use them unless she was forced to.

They all stuck around my room for two hours or so until Maeve and Louis decided to go out and train. Maeve was trying to get her Monferno to evolve before challenging Maylene while Louis was introducing his Combee to battling, so they could cooperate with each other during training. I was sure that they'd battle against Maylene before me because of time concerns. They'd already spoken about spending very little time in the city in the first place to go to Sunyshore right away. Plus, Maeve had her flying license to work on. Her Staraptor was absolutely massive and could very easily carry her far, but that would imply splitting from her group.

They'd have to talk about it soon.

Mira, Emilia and I weren't that concerned. Mira and I because it was just February 10th and there was still plenty of time, and Emilia because she didn't exactly care about ribbons. She just wanted to improve this year, and from her fantastic performance netting her the top sixteen twice, she was quickly becoming a great coordinator.

"Mira, did Denzel talk to you about the Game Corner stuff?" I asked.

"You guys are going to the Game Corner?" Emi said as she typed away on her phone. "I wouldn't step anywhere close to that building. The casino always wins."

"Way to be a downer," Mira rolled her eyes. "He did message me. I actually went inside to scout a little bit. It's not like I have much money to play with, but it'll be good to at least know how the games work and if we can figure out a way to cheat."

"Cheat?" I frowned.

"Yeah, no need to make that face. They've got an Obstagoon as a bouncer that'll detect any kind of bullshit you have going on and psychics inside that patrol the entire premises, so that option's off the table. Denzel wanted to do it by the books anyway… so I don't think I'll manage to get my Porygon."

"Oh, you want a Porygon?" Emi asked. "I haven't really seen them used in battle. You hear a lot about them being produced in Sunyshore, though."

"Yeah, they mostly live in computers, but they can come out too and get inside Pokeballs," she said before grinning. "There's a lot of funky stuff you can do with them. Bummer I probably won't win."

"Eh, I mean, you won't know until you try, right?" I said, trying to cheer her up.

"I do know, and that's alright. I was thinking of just going all in with all of my savings on one spin," she laughed, throwing her head back.

Emilia's mouth gaped. "You're crazy."

"Well, some might say it's the quickest path to the 750k I need to buy myself a Porygon. Fuckers inflate the hell out of that price for profit, by the way. It's nowhere near as expensive to code one. Anyway, we'll see when the big boy himself gets there. Hopefully he's not getting grilled by your fairy friend."

"He'll be fine. They all will," I firmly said. "Err, Mira, how are you doing beyond all of your Game Corner plans?"

I knew from the moment that she'd stepped into this room that she hadn't given up on finding Charon. In fact, I suspected that she hadn't only snooped around the Game Corner. If the League couldn't find that Team Galactic base, I doubted that she could.

Still, I didn't want to talk about that with Emilia here, so I would just ask about her mental health for now.

The pink-haired girl silently stared at me and pursed her lips. "Been doing great," she said, innocently lifting her hands in the air. "I'm not as sad as usual, and that's a win in my book. I'm focused on other things right now."

Other things like her uncle, I guessed. Even if part of me internally screamed that she had the right to look for Charon, the rational part of me worried for her safety.

"Okay. Well, so long as you're sure of what you want."

"I think just coming somewhat close to achieving my goal would unwind a lot of tension that's been building up," she smirked.

"Are you speaking in code right now? Because it feels like you're speaking in code," Emilia frowned.

"What, of course not!" Mira said in a very sarcastic way. "Anyway, I've been trying to meet up with Chase, but he's ignored all of my texts. I can't find him in a city this big."

"Wait, you're still on that? I thought you were just pretending?" I scoffed.

"What? Obviously not!" She yelled. "Have you seen him? Anyway, I'm off."

My face fell. "Already? I thought you were gonna hang."

"No, I've been trying to teach myself how to code and progressing leaps and bounds. Think of it as a plan B for my Porygon," she exclaimed as she closed the door.

"Then why would you spend everything you have on one spin?!" Emilia groaned. "Arceus, this girl is crazy."

"A little," I nervously laughed.

I had no idea how to even begin to code, but I did know that creating Porygon was among the most challenging tasks out there. There was just no way that she was going to succeed in a few weeks what took most people years. If Kadabra had been interested in coding, then maybe, but he wasn't, and from what she'd told us about the species, they weren't about to do something they didn't want to, even if it was to help their trainer.

I spent a few hours talking to Emilia about everything and anything, although it was mostly me asking about her contest stuff. She'd made a few friends aside from Vincent in the scene mostly through her influencer stuff, and an eccentric judge had taken an interest in her. Like always, just the judge stuff just didn't seem right to me. If a judge took an interest in someone, how could we be sure that they wouldn't be biased in their scores? Well, even Emilia wasn't so sure anymore, but all she could do was keep going. She was having the most fun she'd ever had in her entire life.

This was what she'd always wanted to do.

But I had things to do myself as well. First and foremost, my team needed direction. After picking up my Pokemon from Nurse Joy and bidding Emilia goodbye, I decided to go down south toward route 214. I had considered going back to route 215 on the off-chance of seeing Bella again, but something told me the rangers wouldn't take too kindly to my presence there. Veilstone's south was actually very pretty compared to the hulking factories of the northern side. The further south I went, the more expansive and big the homes looked. I made my way through a sprawling network of suburbs until I reached the city's gate and went through, although some Rangers there did shoot me a look and whispered behind my back like children. It seemed like I was building a pretty bad reputation with them, or at least the ones in and around Veilstone.

I'd remember their faces—

"Arceus. That's the Bellatrix in me speaking."

No, there was no need to feel that antagonistic. Most of them were just kids slightly older than me. Younger rangers tended to be stationed in Sinnoh's east due to how much safer it was. It was difficult to compare the cozy plains of route 214 with the rugged Iron Island, Mount Coronet, or Eterna Forest, and trainers often complained about the double standard. A few close brushes with death would let them know how immature they were being, but they'd most likely have to wait a few years for that.

Yes. An appropriate price, even if I wasn't the one collecting.

"Woah," I gasped as I exited the gate.

Route 214 was truly stunning, especially on a bright day like this one. To my right were mountains taller than the ones I'd had to scale on the previous route, but still paled when compared to the towering Mount Coronet, ever present in the far distance and dwarfing them completely. Beyond the smaller mountains was Solaceon, which I'd be able to see if I climbed them. There was no way in hell I was going to do that, though.

The beginning of route 214 actually had a road. Not just a dirt path or a trail, but a fully paved road that stretched on beyond the horizon. Civilians driving there wasn't allowed, but Pastoria, Veilstone and Sunyshore transported a lot of their goods through trucking, so some freight companies had the right to use the road. Other than that, it was reserved for government use.

There were trainers almost everywhere, but no Pokemon to be seen. I felt a twinge of pain at the notion that they'd been kicked out of their land, but I didn't dwell on it. I made my way west toward the ridge's flank, where I'd be able to get some peace and quiet. It felt good to be out of the city. It wasn't like I didn't like cities, I just disliked Veilstone in particular. The tension with Mira, Team Galactic, the League and the fact that it was polluted to all hell just made the entire city unpleasant to be in. There really ought to be some regulations on how much greenhouse gases a city was allowed to emit…

I released my entire family with a wide smile, and they all returned the gesture in their own ways. Jellicent boomed, his eyes softening slightly at my touch. Cold water dripped down my arm and then onto the ground.

Pupitar yelled happily, but there was also a loud crack when she jumped in place. She was currently molting for the first time, which mean she'd grow a few inches when she was fully done. Her rocky armor appeared weaker than usual, and the few cracks that revealed the new one within showed that it was a lot shinier than what she currently had. It glimmered under the sun and had a slight blue tint to it, while her current one was just a dull grey. It was also slightly soft to the touch, but I knew that'd go away a few hours after she was done molting completely.

Well, I'd go easy on her today and allow her to eat the rocks here and molt in peace. It had started a few days ago while we were still with Bella, and she hated the entire process. According to her, it made her feel dirty, as if she wasn't crawling around dirt all day.

Not that I said that, though. She'd make a whole scene otherwise.

Electabuzz grinned, happy to be back out of his ball. After greeting me, he teased Sweetheart by making fun of her half-molted form, and the rock type threw a tantrum by jumping up and down. The ground shook under my feet, but Angel quickly helped by wrapping a vine around me.

"You knew she'd do that, didn't you?" I groaned.

The electric type proceeded to belly laugh until he was out of breath. It really wasn't that funny, but I couldn't help but giggle too. Much to my annoyance, Turtonator encouraged her, yelling at her to bring down the entire mountain. Thankfully, Sweetheart stopped after a few vines from Angel soothed her by caressing the little crevasse between the jagged spikes on her head. We both knew it was her favorite spot.

"You relax and eat, okay? I'll see about getting you your special food when I come back to speed up your evolution," I said. I still had to look at the prices in-depth to see how much I'd be able to get while still saving for a Shiny Stone.

Sweetheart let out an echoing roar from within her cocoon.

"When we get to Sunyshore, I'll see about letting you swim. Veilstone is close to the water, but it doesn't really have beaches. So just hang in there, okay?"

She begrudgingly agreed. She was cute when she acted spoiled like that. Princess was spoiled too, but it was a different kind. She just wanted me to give her most of my attention, which was evident with how she'd immediately asked to be picked up when I released her. Meanwhile, while Sweetheart did demand attention, she mostly wanted everything that caught her eye no matter how unrealistic it was, and that was reinforced by how Sunshine kept telling her that yes, that was an entirely reasonable way to think.

Yeah… I had two spoiled girls, and it was entirely on me. At least Honey was reasonable despite enjoying pushing Pupitar's buttons.

I placed my hands behind my back and walked back and forth between my team as they formed a line.

"Listen up everyone! Our time with Bella might have been very productive, but we can't rest on our laurels! You've all improved leaps and bounds, but there are still plenty of glaring weaknesses we need to address before the fight with Maylene— Sunshine, pay attention. This is good for team cohesion even if you aren't fighting. You want to beat Night, right?"

The dragon's nose flared, but he turned back my way. It was crazy how quickly he just found a spot to lie down when he was too lazy to walk anywhere for more than an hour. My eyes drifted toward Sweetheart's mouth, and I saw Angel sneakily bringing her large pebbles and rocks so she wouldn't have to move around too much. I silently thanked him by dipping my head and kept going.

"She's a fighting type gym leader, and even though I haven't done my research yet, I know that implies fighting at close quarters. Angel, remember what happened to you and Lucario?"

The grass type's vines instinctively retracted further into his body.

"Right? That was scary. I don't think we'll have to fight a Vacuum Wave user again, but since Maylene's Pokemon are fighting types, I think that they'll have a lot of ways to rip out your vines and escape from Bind. That means that we're going to focus on long-range attacks for this gym. Leech Seed, your powder moves— we'll add Sleep Powder to that mix, by the way. If we had enough time, we could get started on Solar Beam, but that's a long way off without a TM, so we'll stick to that for now. If you can weaken them enough with those moves, they'll have a harder time countering your vines."

The grass type nodded and happily petted my head by extending one of his hand-vines and tightening the one he already had around my ankle. I needed to take what had caused Chase to beat me into account, so adding onto Angel's toolkit was a must.

"Princess, you're going to play a huge role. Keep practicing with Dazzling Gleam and Moon Blast. I know you want to get better with glamour, but we'll work on the fundamentals first."

Togetic nodded but noted that Bella would be very angry hearing that.

"She would," I acquiesced. "But her mind doesn't work with time constraints. She's centuries old, and I don't exactly know how long Hatterene live for, but she seems to think she can keep going for a long while. We just think about these things differently," I explained to her.

Togetic sagely nodded, adding that Bella wouldn't care about losing to Maylene anyway.

"Exactly. You're gonna pack a punch at the gym, just keep working on what Bella told you," I said. "Now Sweetheart, you can take it easy today— hey, don't start yelling, I haven't even finished yet! Tomorrow, you're going to work on your precision with your flight. Fighting types are strong enough to crack your cocoon, but Bella taught us that the type advantage isn't everything. No Pokemon would be able to shrug off 350 pounds flying at them. Add Iron Defense onto that, and you're one of the biggest threats as long as you've got air stored in your vents."

She shivered in excitement, letting out a burst of air that kicked up a bunch of dust in Honey's face, which was something she took great pleasure in. The electric type looked at me and complained, but he had made fun of her earlier, so he owed her at least this.

But he definitely wouldn't like hearing what I was going to say next.

"Honey, this gym is kind of your biggest weakness," I started. "I'll still use you, obviously— the fight's going to be five-on-five, but Maylene's Pokemon will be better than you at close combat. We've kind of been neglecting your ranged attacks, so we'll start working extensively on those again for the gym. If you can't beat them at their own game, then change the way you play. Was that the saying? I forgot."

My Pokemon looked at me confusedly. Right, if I didn't know the saying, there was no way they'd know.

"So keep working on Thunderbolt, Discharge and Protect for when you're in a pinch," I said. "But you know, since we're trying to impress Volkner next, your long-term project will be working on Thunder."

His eyes glimmered at the move's name.

"I don't think it's realistic for you to expect to learn it in time for the fight. You'll need to essentially tire yourself out by draining out all of your electricity over and over to build up the amount of electricity you can store, so it goes hand in hand with your training. Remember when you could only use a few Thunderbolts, but now you can use a whole lot? It's basically like that— like working out."

I patted him on the shoulder and then moved on to Jellicent.

"Bud, you're obviously working on Night Shade," I started. "But we've been neglecting your water side lately. Whirlpool is good, but it's easily countered unless you're fighting something in a water arena. It's about time we get you decked out with something stronger than Water Pulse."

Jellicent silently stared and awaited my following words.

"On one hand, we've got Hydro Pump. On the other, we've got Water Spout. These techniques are extremely demanding and they'll drain you of most of your water right away. Hydro Pump is like a much more powerful Water Gun that can cut through just about anything. Water Spout is kind of like Honey's Discharge. You use the water inside of you and explode it outward. I've seen it used in a single direction too, but that requires a lot more control. Control that you won't have yet. I'm letting you pick which one you want to learn. Start working on both and mull over it today."

He nodded, letting out a few resonating clicks.

"Sunshine. Don't look at me like that, yes, you," I groaned, playfully kicking his leg. "Stop being such a lazy old man. I thought Night lit a fire in you today."

The fire type grumbled and closed his eyes. It was a relatively warm day today, so he wanted to laze around in the sun and rest. He was clearly exasperated with me.

"No new moves. You already have an incredibly diverse pool, so just stick around and stay active. Help the others when they ask for it and battle them too, okay?"

He waved an annoyed hand at me and reluctantly agreed.

"Great! But hey, if you really don't want to train, don't feel forced to. You go at your own pace."

He opened a surprised eye at me and I grinned.

"I know how hard it is for old Pokemon like you—"

I coughed as a mouthful of smoke surrounded my face.

Yeah, I kind of deserved that.

Well, I'd downloaded a few of Maylene's fifth gym battles, so after coughing for what felt like an entire minute, I plopped myself down next to a rock and opened my laptop. I was surprised to see that even on this route, there was internet access. The government had really built up this side of Sinnoh. Not as much as Unova, though, since according to Cece, they had internet and service on almost all of their routes.

Well, more videos for me. After doing some shameless promotion for the Poketch Company, of course. I also posted something else. A challenge to trainers with six or seven badges in Veilstone.

The board filled up with hundreds of answers immediately, and I just knew that ninety percent of them were lying.

"How the hell am I going to sort through this? Picture verification for proof?"

I sighed and opted to go and study Maylene for now instead.

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver, Benjamin R, Jon, Patrick, RosaC, TsukiNoNeko, NPM, Jim A
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Chapter 181

People thought I was good at Pokemon Battling, and these days I tended to agree. I had grown past being a meek girl with no confidence in my skill even though I did keep that confidence level-headed. Maylene Suzuki? She was a prodigy. She was fifteen now, but she'd been a gym leader since the last Circuit, and even if the rumors about her being a puppet that simply did whatever her handlers told her to were anywhere near true, that didn't stop the fact that her true team was good enough for her to be a Gym Leader at her age.

It hadn't been by luck, either. Maylene's father— the old Gym Leader had tutored her in Pokemon Battling from the day she could speak. The ways that she was trained were pretty hush-hush and were a tightly held secret by the Suzuki family, but I was sure that it involved some physical training. The story went that Maylene's father retired after remarrying and left the gym to her with the government's approval thanks to her incredible skill. She'd been raised with the role in mind and had no interest in actually journeying like the majority of Gym Leaders did at least once.

Another special thing about Maylene? She was an Aura user.

I remembered from history class that Aura users had been plentiful in ancient history from the many texts and primary sources from the time, which was a big part of how humanity managed to survive in olden times when there weren't that many trainers, but these days? There were barely any left and the gene came completely randomly. Her father or mother hadn't been one, and neither had her grandparents. She was unique, and the only Aura user Gym Leader. No one in Elite Four or even Cynthia could draw on that power.

Not that it meant much anyway. Despite the stories about some humans slinging Aura Spheres or standing toe-to-toe with Pokemon thanks to Aura in ancient times, we couldn't do anything with it these days. It just wasn't concentrated enough in a body to use it for anything substantial, but it was common knowledge that Maylene did strengthen her body with it. Not enough to face down a wild Pokemon, but enough to pretty much manhandle any human facing her without breaking a sweat.

She could also do some funny light tricks with it if that counted for anything.

Princess called out to me, causing me to lift my head just in time to see a Moonblast crash into a boulder she'd raised.

"Good job, baby! Keep going!" I praised.

She chirped and excitedly flew in a loop. Training was going well, even if it had only been twenty minutes. No one was struggling with what they had to do. Angel was practicing the range of his powder moves, Buddy was trying to figure out how to forcefully expunge the huge amount of water needed for Hydro Pump or Water Spout. Honey was already panting, having released an incredible amount of electricity.

Uh, Sweetheart was trying to ram into Sunshine further down the route and he was easily avoiding her antics by turning and exploding on impact. I'd grown so used to the explosions at this point that they didn't really bother me either, but trainers nearby might think differently. Hopefully they wouldn't investigate and bother them.

Maylene's threats were plenty, but the ones who caught my eye immediately was Lucario. At first, I thought that she'd been using her ace and starter against some poor guy with four badges, but as it turned out, she owned two. This one had recently evolved at the start of this year and knew Vacuum Wave, so I had jinxed myself and Angel.

I groaned, putting a palm against my forehead.

"Just my luck."

If I had to place Lucario somewhere, it'd be slightly better than Chase's. Having evolved months ago meant that it was a lot more confident with its movements in battle than Ri had been, and it was also slightly stronger across the board with a wider variety of moves like the elemental punches— and kicks. I thought Buddy or Princess would be a good match here, but I'd have to study up what a vacuum would do to a being made out of water. I was so tired of that damned move. I already thought that I wouldn't have to face it again until a rematch against Ri, but alas.

Or maybe she wouldn't use Lucario against me! That'd be great.

"Might have jinxed myself again," I muttered.

Lucario was probably what most trainers like me would consider the biggest threat, but what worried the crap out of me was actually her Falinks. It'd be like battling six Pokemon while you only had one, and each one of them could use moves independently. Even if they were weaker than when they combined their strengths for a move, it'd be a lot to keep track of. Luckily for me, there was a trick to beating them. Take down the leading Falinks, and the rest would forgo all strategy and start panicking, even with their trainer's orders. Maylene had trained hers to keep that panic at a manageable level, but the advantage was still there.

But then, something else began to catch my eye.

Machoke, Mienshao, Sawk, Throh, Medicham… they all had a similar way of fighting with some quirks, like Mienshao's weird whip-things and elegant demeanor. It was as if they all trained together as a unit rather than as individuals. On one hand, it made studying for most fights easier, but on the other, I was just getting into what made Maylene special as a battler.

First, most of her Pokemon at my level could use Aura to some extent. Medicham and Lucario were known aura users, but Machoke? Throh? That was new, and I bet that she and her ace Lucario had something to do with that. For example, her Mienshao could coat its whips with Aura to increase how powerful its hits were, and Hariyama's Force Palm also used Aura. Normally, for Pokemon that weren't Lucario or other known Aura users, Force Palm was just a powerful shock wave, so it was a pretty mediocre move.

Unfortunately, Maylene wasn't normal. I'd have to do some more studying on Aura after figuring out her shtick. She was a very intense trainer. Yelled out all of her orders like it was the last one of the battle and didn't take well to 'dishonorable' tactics, so there was a dash of Pauline there. The problem was that she'd actually start to go harder in the battle if she felt like you used too many dirty tricks. A proper Gym Leader could stay impartial, but she was a teenager, which meant that she got emotional easily.

Ugh, look at me, psychoanalyzing her, I groaned.

It seemed that like Chase, she was a fast-paced battler that was quick to punish any mistakes, but her Pokemon also knew human fighting techniques. Before going on this journey, I'd had this image in my mind about fighting types being Pokemon that just hit things hard, but it was apparent that all of her humanoid Pokemon had been personally trained by her, or her father before her. I licked my dry lips when a video of a Zebstrika struggling in Machoke's clinch played. The poor electric type had been locked up and the life out of it squeezed until it fainted. Its trainer had been out of switches.

If I ever let one of her Pokemon approach mines, the battle was over. Only Jellicent, who was able to liquefy his body would be safe.

A single sound escaped from my lips.


I felt a fire ignite in my heart and clenched a fist. I could already tell that this wasn't going to be like the Fantina battle. This was going to be incredibly difficult and one mistake could cost me the entire battle.

Maylene was a prodigy.

"Gonna have to watch for Stone Edge… ugh, this sucks. I think Princess can stop that attack…" I muttered as I chewed on my nails.

Maylene was a real tough nut to crack. Whereas with previous Gym Leaders, I'd been able to naturally create a plan for every Pokemon, there was just no way to be sure what I was doing would work here— well, I'd never been sure about these gym battles, but the scaffolding for my plans felt a lot shakier here than what I'd done against Gardenia, Candice and Fantina. Hopefully I'd be able to remedy that with how much I'd improved at improvisation.

Denzel would definitely have an easier time in this gym than Cece or I thanks to Froslass and Sylveon's ribbons. Zweilous and Golett would be at a heavy disadvantage, the former because of the type disadvantage and the latter because of how slow and unresponsive he was. Maylene also had a few ways to counter psychics like Slowking. Talonflame would be her best bet, being fast enough to dodge counters like Stone Edge or Rock Tomb.

I placed my laptop down and hugged my knees. I missed her.

Chase would struggle as well because of how much focus he'd put on close-ranged battles. I was already starting to feel the excitement build up, but I wouldn't sign up just yet. First, I had to get back to this trainer battle business. There were thousands of responses, and I didn't feel like browsing through them and verifying who was real or not, so I created a new message telling people to DM me pictures of the badges on their trainer ID.

That did the trick, and the thousands of messages suddenly narrowed down to sixteen. Eleven people with six badges and five with seven. It was fun to see the different paths that they'd all taken. Almost all of them were missing Maylene's badge, since they were in Veilstone, but they all had different badges. One of them even beat Candice as their sixth badge.

Now, I could either pick a six-badger or a seven-badger, but I still didn't know what I wanted. On one hand, I didn't really want to get completely dominated, but on the other, I felt like I'd be able to get more valuable advice from someone with seven badges.

"Screw it. Seven badges it is."

The person I replied to was a second-year called Zachary Gallagher. My standards may have been screwed by being surrounded by so many talented first-years, but getting that many badges during your second year still meant that you were a very good trainer. I didn't know if I should commit and research everything I could find, try to improvise or do a bit of both.

But if I was trying to get better, it'd be a good idea to come at him at my best. That meant intensive research. I nodded to myself, content with the decision.

Zachary— although he told me to call him Zach— had lost to Maylene for his eighth badge recently. According to him, he'd saved her for last because he thought she'd be the easiest Gym Leader to battle for an eighth badge, but he'd lost 4-6. As a result, he was stuck in Veilstone for the next two weeks. He'd be able to battle me in two days when his team was healed.

Okay, that had been a lot easier to set up than I thought. I messaged Melody to let her know what I was doing and went back to studying. Apparently being suddenly shoved into a vacuum would make Buddy's head expand and boil until a decent bit of his body evaporated, so that was fun.

I hated Vacuum Wave.

It was evening when I made my way back to Veilstone. My Pokemon were all exhausted from training and they deserved a good night's rest, so I was planning on going to the Center right away to let them relax there. On my way back, I actually walked across a mansion with dozens of League Trainers guarding the place, and it was only then that I remembered that Cecilia's dad was currently being kept in Veilstone while under house arrest. I felt my lips twist into a smile as I walked past his home.

He got what he deserved.

Jellicent shadowed me the entire way back, his form loose as he lazily floated behind me. He had used a lot of water, and the route wasn't exactly close to any rivers or the sea, so he'd have to wait to regenerate on his own. He had come to a decision and opted to learn Hydro Pump, though. Water Spout proved too difficult and erratic to work on while he at least knew how to wrangle with Hydro Pump, although at this point, the move was more of a glorified Water Gun since we'd only had one afternoon to work on it.

"I know, I'll draw you a bath in the shower," I said as I turned a corner. His misshapen form caused some poor civilian to almost jump out of his skin. After apologizing, I turned back to him and walked backwards. "Cold, just like you like it. You can sink into it and dissolve all night if you want."

Buddy let out a pleasant whistle in agreement.

"Gotcha. You'll have to let me shower first though. And I also have to wash Honey and Princess today. Sweetheart is gonna complain, but she's too heavy and too big to get into the shower."

The water type boomed, and I nodded.

"I guess I could just drag the showerhead out and wash her that way, but the entire bathroom's going to get so wet… ah, I'll do it anyway. She deserves it."

I grabbed some food from the cafeteria to go and then got to taking care of my team. Honey hated showering so much that I had to help him do it even though he was capable of doing so himself while Princess just enjoyed the whole process. Sweetheart, though? She went crazy for water, and showers were no different. She finally finished molting while I washed her and partially inundated our bathroom, revealing a resplendent new cocoon.

I had to throw the slimy remains of her disheveled shell in the trash. Trainers never told you this when they brandished their Tyranitar.

Today had felt like an entire week, and after chatting with my friends through text, I eventually drifted off to sleep to the soft sound of Turtonator speaking to Jellicent through the bathroom door, bragging about the fact that he was technically still in his prime and that he'd only grow from there.

He was such a kid sometimes.

I was horribly thirsty when I woke up.

I let my Pokemon sleep as I grabbed some bottled water from the fridge and calmly opened up my laptop. Nothing could escape Jellicent, however, and he quickly dripped under the bathroom door. A cool gust of air softly blew on my hair as he reformed behind me.

"That's new," I whispered.

The water type didn't answer. He wasn't that talkative in the morning, not because he was tired but because he was scared of waking up everyone else. He'd been quiet as a Frillish, but he was loud now, even when he didn't want to be. Today, I'd study up more on Aura and how it interacted with type energy and Pokemon in general, but first, I wanted to at least get research done on Zachary. I knew I'd lose, but I wanted to at least put up a fight. Finding his team was pretty easy. He was sponsored by a few companies and was pretty famous name around Floaroma— his hometown. He was the best trainer from there in decades, and it felt good to see a change from the usual Sunyshore, Hearthome or Jubilife natives.

"Guilty as charged," I mumbled. Maybe Denzel would eventually become a household name in Twinleaf too, although he wasn't the only rising star from there. There was that Barry kid people couldn't stop talking about.

Either he'd never told me about him, or they hadn't exactly known each other, which would be strange in a small town like Twinleaf. I hadn't really pushed for information though.

I whistled as I browsed through Zach's team. He had seven Pokemon and they were obviously all fully evolved. I blinked when I saw Vespiquen, though. Those were rather rare with how weak Combee was, but I took note to ask him for tips on raising one for Louis. Today was going to be quite busy with all the studying I'd need to do, but I was still excited. It had been a while since I had researched trainers so in-depth.

The morning flew by, and I only took a break to eat. While I analyzed more of Machoke's battle to make sure that I wasn't missing moves available on video, I heard an irritated knock at my door.

It was Chase… and Mira, although I was pretty sure she was just along for the ride.

"Hi?" I frowned.

Mira beamed. "Chasey and I were just swinging by—"

"Pastel. Nice seeing you," Chase said dryly. He was annoyed as hell, and I didn't even bother asking him how Mira had found him. His eyes settled on my desk full of notes and he dipped his head. "I'll swing by later."

"Wait, you can stay," I said, recalling my Pokemon to give them space. "What's up?"

"He's salty he lost to that Lauren chick," Mira smugly said. "Should have seen him after the battle. He almost turned completely red."

"Is that how you found him?" I asked.

"I was just doing some investigating and I noticed that one of the arenas was packed. I haven't left his side since."

"I hate you. And the battle was close, you asshole."

"You've stopped insulting me every sentence. It's only every other sentence now, and I consider that a win," she cheered.

"Go back to school, grow a few inches and I'll start swinging."

"Hold on, hold on," I interrupted. "You lost to Lauren Goodwill?"

"Yeah. Now my team is all screwed up and I won't be able to attend my gym battle in time tomorrow, so that's two extra weeks in here for me."

"Yay!" Mira laughed.

"Fuck you."

"What was the score?" I asked, shivering in anticipation.

"5-6. Like I said, close," he shrugged.

"Well, her Sceptile barely took any damage, so you're inflating the numbers," Mira added.

"What was the issue? How'd the battle even happen? Did you record it? What Pokemon was her biggest threat? Rhydon?" I asked in quick succession.

"Calm down, Arceus. I didn't even come here to talk about how mediocre I was, I came here to tell you that she wanted to battle you too along with your pals Williams and Obel. I told her to send a text and stop bothering me, but she said that it was more appropriate this way. Normally I would have told her to fuck off and left, but I knew you'd be interested."

"Not me?" Mira pouted.

"No one cares about you, pest," he waved his hand dismissively. "That Lauren chick is crazy. She's even more obsessed with battles than you," he pointed at me. "She has a one-track mind."

"Cool. Answer my questions, please," I said.

"Meh. Her Rhydon was pretty easy, and she led with it. It's tough, but dumb as hell and Ri easily dealt with it after hitting it enough times. Aggron was a problem, though— actually, all of her Pokemon are problems. I just couldn't compete with the amount of destruction she brought onto the field, it fucking blows. Anyway, I'm off. I have to cancel my flying lessons with Sigilyph. She got pretty beat up. Then I'm gonna blow off some steam by running across the city. Fuckin' Lauren…"

"Okay…? Stay safe—"

"Bye-bye Chasey!" Mira waved.

The fact that she wasn't going to follow him was enough to get him to run out of the room.

"You're not following him?" I asked.

"Nah. It'd be fun, but I'm busy. Hey, listen to this: my League Trainer bodyguard actually had to tell me to stop snooping around so much because it made it hard to protect me," she laughed. "I guess I am kind of annoying."

"You should stop self-destructing. Is Maeve not around?"

"Oh, she's busy training with Louis and trying to lock down where Justin is. I don't want to involve her with this."

"You're involving her by just doing this," I snapped. "Stop acting crazy because you're hurting, it's not good for you."

Mira's eye twitched. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"If you drag us into this and force us to have to save you—"

"You worry too much, Grace. You didn't try to stop me when we were risking our lives in Solaceon. Oh sure, you acted like a good old reasonable gal, straddling the middle ground, but you wanted it just as much as I did."

"What are you implying?" I hissed, biting my lip.

"That you're a hypocrite. I know you want revenge on that fucked up Mars chick too, but you only act like you don't. I know how people like you function. I've seen it."

"You don't know what you're talking about," I mirrored her words. "I think it'd be best if you took a breather and got out of my room. You've offended enough," I said dryly.

"Ah, offended," Mira mused. "You've changed— or at least stopped hiding. I was waiting to see if you'd tell us anything, but hey, to be honest, you don't owe me anything. Funnily enough, you expect to know everything about me while you get to keep your secrets."

"What do you—"

"Kadabra's studying TE, remember? He's taken quite an interest in how it affects humans, and he's close to figuring out everything he wants to. You gave him the breakthrough he needed," she said.

I froze for a split second. "Just go."

"You're the one that started this, but fine, run away from the tough conversation," she said after a short pause. "Remember this, though. I think that out of everyone in the group, we might not know each other the best, but in terms of understanding each other?"

She left the rest of the sentence unsaid.

"Toodles!" Mira waved. "I'll be looking forward to our cooperation in the near future."

I almost expected her to slam my door, but she just closed it gently. I… I didn't know what to make of this. I was angry at her, but I just couldn't even begin to understand how she thought, and I was supposed to be good with people. Nothing she said made any sense— or it did make sense, but why now? Because of the stress she felt due to being close to her uncle? I thought that we'd been on good terms and had gotten closer after the entire Solaceon debacle, but she was acting as if I had wronged her.

And I had told people about Togetic's leakage. I'd told Cecilia about it— but she had no way to know that. Or no, maybe she'd just think the fact that I'd only told her was worse.

Arceus, I couldn't wait for the rest of the group to get here. I just wanted to cuddle with Cecilia right now and for her to comfort me. Even after all my time spent only with Pokemon, I still felt like I needed her. Hopefully, Denzel would get Mira back on track while they did their Game Corner stuff. I sent a text to Maeve asking her to check up on Mira, just in case. I felt like she was just trying to antagonize me for no reason, but maybe it'd be different with her best friend.

I spent the next hour or two studying, but I couldn't get my head in the game. As if the situation couldn't get any worse, the text I got made me feel dread I thought I could only feel when my life was threatened.


Hi Grace! I know this is sudden, but I'm actually visiting Veilstone with your grandma right now and I heard that you were in town. I was wondering if you were free to meet? It's been a while and I want to try to mend things further, but I feel like that's impossible without meeting again. Let me know!

I was sweating buckets before I even finished reading the entire text. How in the world had she gotten here? Had they fucking walked to Sandgem and taken a plane from there? I just had too much going on for this!

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver, Benjamin R, Jon, Patrick, RosaC, TsukiNoNeko, NPM, Jim A
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Chapter 182

Damn it, damn it, damn it.

I had been staring at this text for twenty minutes, writing paragraphs worth of words and erasing them because I couldn't bring myself to press send. The worst part was that I had left my mother on read and that she'd started to type messages multiple times and just not sending them because of the little speech bubble, so I knew she was dying inside too. I just wanted to collapse into myself like a dying star.

Didn't she know that you just didn't drop on people like this without warning? If we had had a better relationship, then maybe it'd be justified as a surprise, but most of our exchanges were just small talk via text when I reached a new city or was about to leave one. We didn't even call like I did with my dad, I hadn't heard her voice since I had been in Snowpoint. Meeting her today was the furthest thing from what I wanted. Did Dad even know that she was here? And meeting my grandmother? I knew her even less than my mom, and my first interaction with her back in Twinleaf was her calling my father a son of a bitch! No thank you!

I might have forgiven my mother slightly before leaving Twinleaf, but now that the whole thing was resurfacing after I'd changed so much? I didn't care for a meeting at all, especially when I knew I'd blow up at her and start talking to her about things like debt or prices, something she wouldn't understand whatsoever. She had cheated on dad and lied to him until he'd find out. That deserved nothing but scorn from me. I took a deep breath and gripped my phone.


Good morning, I'll have a lot on my plate during my stay in Veilstone, so I'm afraid we won't be able to meet. I'm a member of the League Trainer Internship Program, I have a lot of obligations to the Poketch Company, and I have a lot of things planned. My schedule is going to be packed for the foreseeable. Sorry, but maybe next time.

My finger hovered over send until I forced myself to press the button. I technically wasn't lying. Sure, the LTIP didn't actually force me to do anything, and my obligations to the Poketch Company weren't that exigent at the moment, but I had just weaved the words in a way that'd make her think I was too busy to meet by listing a bunch of important stuff. Plus, from what I knew, my mom knew nothing about Pokemon battling, so it wasn't like she'd be able to tell.

"I am busy," I snapped at my phone screen.

And I was free from the burden of lies.

There was no point in studying when I wouldn't retain any of the information I was watching, so I cleaned up my notes and decided I'd come back to it later. It was still early, but I didn't want to let my family train until it was the last thing I'd be doing outside. The less time I spent out and about with wiped-out Pokemon, the less risk I was under. I knew I had a League Trainer shadowing me, but even that wasn't enough. I wasn't leaving anything to chance.

What I needed was to clear my head and just reset my mental. Just like what Bella had taught me. I took a deep breath and loosened my body. I needed to look at things from a detached, rational point of view. This wasn't happening to me. It was happening to someone else, and I was looking at her through a screen. Able to be as objective as possible no matter the answer.

What did the girl want?

To make it through this town with all of her friends safe and sound.

What did the girl need to do to reach that point?

She needed to grow stronger to keep what was hers safe by force, because running away was admitting that she was not a proper fairy—

"What the hell…?" I muttered, slowly opening my eyes. All of a sudden, I was the girl again. Tired, ragged, and with no idea of what to do.

I groaned, sitting on my bed and clenching at my hair. It wasn't working. Or it was, but not the way I wanted it to. I couldn't stop myself from thinking a certain way, and it hadn't bothered me when it had just been me, Bella, Night and my team, but I knew that it was abnormal now that I was back in human society. People were not possessions to be hoarded. Putting my head down while the League dealt with all of this was the smart thing to do.

Maybe if clearing my head the way Bella had thought me wouldn't work, something else would. After all, I had a few hours to kill.


"What the hell? A four-move limit? Talk about narrow-minded," I sighed as I tapped my Trainer ID against the machine's sensor.

"I mean, there has to be a limit somewhere, right?" Emilia said. "If it was up to me, I'd do five, but four isn't bad."

Emi and I were currently in the less-known Pokemon Game Arcade, which was a few blocks away from the Game Corner. It was a more… family-friendly establishment that didn't involve losing all of your money, but it was run by the same company. It was a bustling hub of activity with all kinds of games and obnoxiously loud music playing in the background. In the corner in the distance, a group of kids huddled over a Voltorb pinball machine. The main attraction was a row of Pokemon fighting games that had caught my attention. It was different than the one we were currently getting ready to play and less strategic. People picked a character Pokemon and could make them in different stages, and it was a pretty big hit, being sold on handheld consoles as well.

"You're interested?" Emilia asked as she inserted her money into her own machine. She stood opposite of me and had to crane her neck for me to see her. "Pauline goes crazy for the game. She used to force me to play it."

"I didn't know Pauline played games," I said.

"Oh, she does. She's gotten banned from quite a few because of how toxic she gets. I never got into them though. What about you?"

"Me neither," I shrugged.

"So what made you decide to invite me out there?"

The game began, and I was given a random team of six Pokemon, each with four moves. I led with a Raichu and Emilia led with a freaking Quagsire.

"Just my luck," I sighed. "I got into a fight with Mira about stupid stuff, it's okay."

I switched to my Torterra and somehow got hit by an Ice Beam. Why could she just do that? Things weren't fair with arbitrary turns!

"You could tell me more too. I'm here to listen."

"It wouldn't be right to involve—"

"I want to be involved," Emilia said as she took down my Torterra by going faster than him somehow. "I'm tired of being a meek girl that has to be protected. Even Pauline won't tell me anything. I've come too far to be relegated to a damsel in distress."

"You have," I acknowledged. Emilia knew about what happened in Solaceon, but she didn't know about the dangers that lurked in Veilstone or that she possibly had a League Trainer guarding her. I couldn't help but stare at any adult I saw in the arcade as the potential culprit.

I explained everything to her all while she wiped the floor with me in this stupid game. She listened to me without a word, simply acquiescing with small grunts.

"You aren't scared?" I asked.

"I am. But I'm also okay. So the fight with Mira…?"

"She blew up at me— well, I blew up at her first because of how reckless she's being. If I had to summarize it, it was like I stepped on her toes and she retaliated by going for my jugular. If you're going to go after Team Galactic, at least have a damn plan or something," I exhaled. "Another round?"

"Sure thing," Emilia nodded.

"I don't know, I think at the end of the day, we both made some good points, but I know that I was more in the right than she was. She's acting like she doesn't value her life because of how close to her goal she is."

"Could it have been a cry for help?"

"Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know, I think that all she's thinking about is reuniting with her uncle. She knows that she won't be able to bring him back, but I think she still wants a confrontation. I don't know if that's a battle or just a conversation."

"She wants catharsis," Emilia added.

"Exactly. And she doesn't care what she'll have to do to reach it. Some of her words stuck with me, though. Revenge."

"Against Mars? That's a terrible idea, Grace."

"Obviously. But I can't help but worry about what would happen if I was in front of her again. I know I'd have no chance to victory, but would I collapse and cry? Would I shut down emotionally? Or would I want revenge?"

Of course, Emi still didn't know about me being half fairy beyond the title Bellatrix had given me, but I could still skirt around everything and just give her the dilemma without context.

"Revenge doesn't exactly lead to anything good."

"I fundamentally disagree."

"You know what? Fair enough. Just don't go and become another Mira."

"I said I wouldn't, so you don't have to worry about it. I just don't know how I'd react is all, and it kind of scares me."

"So are you and her, uh, fighting, then?"

"I don't know. I think so?" I contemplated. "I'll let her cool off and hope Maeve and Louis help her solve her problems."

Replaying the argument in my head, I didn't really know what she had expected out of me by telling me that she'd gotten scolded by her League bodyguard if not me telling her to just stop. Since Kadabra had told her about my change due to fairy type energy, maybe she'd thought I'd be willing to help her in her search, or at least give her words of support. If that was the case, she'd clearly misread me. Under Shiftry's influence, that might have been the case, but that wasn't me any longer.

Emilia finished off my Steelix with her Dragon Danced Garchomp, handily winning the battle again. I just couldn't work with arbitrary numbers like stats.

"Another round?" I asked.

It took me fifteen tries to beat her once, and that was because her randomly generated team had been really bad against mine, but by the Legendaries, did that win feel good. I turned quite a few heads by cheering like I'd just won the lottery, and Emilia laughed at the entire spectacle.

"Why are you so sweaty? We were just playing a game," she chuckled.

"It might have been a game to you, but that was the fight of my life," I joked. "On a more serious note, um, I've been keeping something from you."

She raised an eyebrow. "Another secret regarding your fight?"

"No, no, it's just that…"

I sighed. How could I say this?

"The way I think's been changed on a fundamental level by fairy type energy," I said.

"D—did that Hatterene do that to you?"

"No. My Togetic did without realizing it, and Cynthia stopped her from doing it for me," I explained.

"What does that imply? Can it be fixed?"

Her face fell right when she saw me flinch. This was why I hadn't wanted to tell anyone. The fact that they'd want to fix me just left a terrible taste in my mouth, but Mira had been right. I couldn't expect to know everything about all of my friends while keeping secrets of my own. It wouldn't be fair. All this time, I'd been enforcing an unequal pact without realizing it. First, I'd tell her, and then everyone else.

But I wasn't the only one who had to sort out our dispute. She had to try too.

"Sorry. I didn't mean it like that," Emilia said.

"You did, and that's okay. It doesn't really happen to most people," I smiled thinly. "It makes me more abrasive, extremely protective, I hate unfairness and I think that people should pay for their actions. I don't want to be fixed, but I do need to figure out how to live with it. I like this side of me, Emi, but there are times when I need to catch myself and draw a line. I'm still trying to figure things out."

Emilia paused for a few seconds to catch her breath.

"Remember when you just caught your Turtonator? You vented to Cece a lot about… uh, prices. She told me a little bit when she talked about how worried she was for you. I thought that was just how you were."

"Oh. Right," I said, shuffling along the floor.

"Thank you for telling me, Grace. It means a lot."

"Thanks for listening. And then you know, there's this entire thing with my mom suddenly appearing like some horror movie jump scare."

"Your mom? What's she like?"

"I don't really know, but let's talk about it over some more games. I need to let out some steam."

"Are you letting out steam if I'm constantly beating you?"

"Oh, Emi's got the trash talk now, hm? Let's try a game that doesn't arbitrarily restrict you to dumb stat and four moves and see how it goes."

She beat me.

In every. Single. Game.


Unfortunately, my time with Emilia was cut short when I decided that it was time to go train, but hanging out with a friend had helped me out somewhat. I actually took a taxi to route 214's gate because of how terrified I was of suddenly running into my mother and grandmother. It would be unlikely in a large city like Veilstone, but I wasn't taking any chances. Hopefully, I'd be able to avoid her the entire time she was here.

She had answered my text already, saying that it was a shame and to let her know if I had a spot in my schedule, and I said I would. Now that I was with my family again and had cleared my head with Emilia, I could focus enough to study Aura first, and then Zachary for tomorrow's battle. I still dreaded the next time I'd see Mira because there was a lot of unresolved tension there, but I knew it was only a matter of time.

Aura was… well, this was just how I saw how it interacted in the videos, but it was a lot more fluid than I thought it could be. First of all, this didn't apply to me, but aura attacks and even Aura Sphere could hit true ghosts like Haunter. That poor trainer's reaction had been quite agitated.

Secondly, although it could be stopped by attacks using pure Type Energy attacks like Thunderbolt or Flamethrower, it was a very inefficient way of doing so. You were better off either stopping it with physical objects like Princess' Ancient Power or Sweetheart's Rock Slide, otherwise chances are the aura attack would just slip through your attack like it wasn't even there unless there was a huge disparity in power. It could also shatter psychic barriers easier, although it wasn't foolproof, and Protect was still immune to it. Like ghost type attacks, moves like Aura Sphere couldn't be redirected using Psychic or Extrasensory either. Thankfully this was a battle for my fifth badge, so there weren't exactly advanced techniques that she would use against me. For Maylene, Aura was her main way of brute forcing past a tough opponent like an annoying psychic or ghost.

Princess would be my main counter there. If I ever got into a Pokemon deficit during the battle, she'd be my ace to be able to catch back up. Using Dazzling Gleam on anything that gets near and then dealing with threats using Air Cutter or Moonblast would do well, but I'd still have to watch out. We'd only have Ancient Power for defense against Aura, so she'd have to stay low to the ground.

Overall, I'd done good progress today, so I decided to move on to the rest of Zachary Gallagher's team after making rounds to make sure everyone was progressing okay on their moves or if they needed any help. Sweetheart was having issues trying to redirect herself mid-air, but I couldn't exactly help there. I had no idea what being in her body was like, so she'd have to figure it out alone— with moral support, of course. Angel and Honey were currently sparring against Sunshine, but he was easily handling both of them while still going somewhat easy and not using his body heat.

"Ampharos, Vespiquen, Infernape, Donphan, Ferrothorn, Pidgeot, Gyarados…" I muttered. "Sheesh, these are tough. Sunshine, c'mere for a sec!"

My voice caught the fire type's attention and caused his face to get hit by one of Angel's vines. He profusely apologized, rubbing Turtonator's cheek in an attempt to make the pain go away. Sunshine grunted and waved his vine away, letting him know that his 'weak' vines weren't even close to painful, but Tangrowth couldn't help himself. His vine around my ankle tightened anxiously.

"It's alright Angel! It was just training!" I exclaimed.

And yet he still felt like he'd done wrong by hitting him when I'd called down. Electabuzz scratched his head, wondering what to do until Pupitar quickly intervened with Princess and offered him some supportive words, after which he promptly joined in. I smiled as the grass type's vine loosened and I turned to Sunshine.

"You could use some more tact. Anyway, I'm battling a big shot tomorrow, and his Pokemon look to be all around your strength. Surely that should be a battle of your caliber. Want to join? A six-on-six is a lot more fun."

Sunshine pondered for a second, asking me why I was so happy to go into a battle that I had no chance of winning.

"Because that's how I learn, goofball. So are you in or not? That Ferrothorn is going to be a pain without you to help out."

The fire type agreed, with much less reluctance than I expected. It seemed that so long as he considered the battles worthy of him, he wouldn't mind helping out. Still, even with him, the playing field was far from even. I would have needed six Sunshines for me to stand a decent chance.

"Cool. Don't forget to listen to what I say, though, or it'll go terribly."

He rolled his eyes and strolled away to resume his training. He once again told Tangrowth that his vines didn't do anything to hurt and that even if they had it was just training.

"By the way, can we talk about your old team soon? I'd like for everyone to learn more about them."

This time, I could only see the faintest of nods. I smiled softly and returned to my planning.

I excitedly tapped my feet against the ground. I had my six-on-six, but I needed to figure out what Pokemon he'd use against me. He had seven, after all. The fact that there was no way I'd make it through six of his Pokemon was everpresent, but I wanted to come at this like I'd do for any battle. Unfortunately for me, there wasn't any real way to tell which ones he'd use or even lead with, because I was pretty sure anything he had would just destroy anything I had unless I led with Sunshine, which wasn't my plan. Still, even though I'd lose, the true value of the battle was the advice he'd offer me afterward.

Zachary's team was designed around two things: hard hitters and precise battlers.

The hard hitters like Donphan, Gyarados, Pigdeot and Ampharos were the muscle that helped him deal with tough, bulky Pokemon while his other Pokemon were more focused on taking down trickier opponents. I noted that he had three flying types, meaning that maybe Honey would have a chance to shine here.

I'd analyzed the two styles, but facing both would be troublesome. What that Vespiquen was capable of was truly mind-boggling and her control over attacks made Princess look like an amateur. She was his biggest problem, and I'd need Sunshine to hope to break her, because I knew that unlike with Pokemon like Ampharos or Donphan, all of my Pokemon would never be able to even touch her.

Vespiquen wasn't his starter, but she sure was his strongest, at least in how annoying it was to battle. I was starting to realize that every trainer at a relatively high level had a Pokemon that defined— no, maybe defined wasn't the right word. A Pokemon that stood a step above the rest of their teams and was a crutch that their trainers could always rely on in any battle. Craig had his Salamence, Lucian had Alakazam, Aaron had his Drapion, Cynthia had Garchomp… it could technically be said that mine was Sunshine, but that was almost entirely off the work of another trainer. If I didn't count him, I didn't really have that. Angel or Buddy could theoretically count, but they weren't at that level. Even Cecilia didn't any longer, her team having caught up to Zweilous. I didn't exactly know why that was a common phenomenon, but for better or worse, I didn't have that just yet.

Anyway, all of that to say that Vespiquen was awful to battle and I was looking forward to somehow figuring something out.

The afternoon quickly went by and I took another taxi back to the Center. Part of me almost expected my mom to just be at the entrance to catch me. Finding out the Pokemon Center I stayed at wasn't at all difficult anymore, but luckily it seemed that she at least had her limits. Tomorrow was going to be packed… I wanted to get started on getting my Carry License too, which I'd go do before the battle itself because I knew my Pokemon would need to go to get healed right away.

I was so excited I barely slept.

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver, Benjamin R, Jon, Patrick, RosaC, TsukiNoNeko, NPM, Jim A
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I'm expecting that a mother will be kidnapped (due to the fact that she didn't meet her), which will result in blaming herself.
Chapter 183

The League was represented in most cities through the gyms and their leaders, but that did not mean that was their only presence. Almost every city had a few other government-owned buildings, including the one I was currently standing in front of. It wasn't that impressive— an apartment block nestled in between more apartments, but with a large League flag with its usually large stylized Pokeball and a few grizzled League Trainers standing guard. Needless to say, the troubles with Team Galactic had them on edge and they had me go through this entire process to allow me in. First, I handed them my ID and then was looked at by a towering Gardevoir. I couldn't help but notice her slight nod when she'd been done making sure I had no nefarious intentions. I dipped my head in return and was allowed in.

The corridor was narrow but in pristine condition, as if it had just been cleaned. I walked on wood beautifully laid out in some kind of crisscross pattern that didn't even creak under my feet. There were five floors in total, but luckily the room I was looking for was right there. I stepped into the cold office and it retained much of the corridor's decoration, although the floor was tiled instead of wooden and paintings of locations of the Lily of the Valley island adorned the walls. I recognized one of the huge stadiums that I'd seen so many times on television along with the League Building itself, its architecture still ancient and reminiscent of many of the older buildings in Hearthome. A tired-looking government official lowered her glasses and stared at me. An older-looking trainer sat on one of the bright plastic chairs, nodding off as he browsed his phone— which surprisingly was a Retani Industries model. I couldn't help but cringe at the fact that I'd almost gotten scammed by them once.

"Good morning," I said as I approached the woman behind the glass. I didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know that it was made out of incredibly resistant materials. "I'm here for my Carry License!"

"ID?" She simply asked.

Having already shoved it back in my bag after entering, I restrained a sigh and dug for it again.

"You don't have eight badges."

"Oh, right. I'm in the LTIP, so I should be able to circumvent that," I said.

"Oh. Just hold on a second."

She peered over at my card again, this time paying a lot more attention. After typing in something her computer, she nodded.

"Right, that checks out. Please sit on one of those chairs and wait for one of our examiners to call for you," she smiled.

"Oh. Okay."

She noticed my confusion and explained further. "Everyone's got different Pokemon, right? We just want to make sure we have someone that can make sure you're taking care of all of them correctly."

"Thanks," I nodded.

I went and sat on one of the uncomfortable chairs, anxiously looking at my phone for the time. I didn't really want to be late for my battle in three hours. My eyes drifted toward the older teen and I bit the inside of my cheek.

"Hey— hey, how long have you been waiting here?" I whispered.

"An hour and a half. Government stuff like this is always hilariously slow," he shrugged, keeping his eyes on his phone. It didn't look like he knew me, which was something I appreciated. "It might be quicker for you depending on your team, though. I've got a Glimmora, so it's taking a while to get someone here who knows how to take care of 'em."

I raised an eyebrow. "I don't even know what that is."

"Paldean. And they're only born in a few select caves in that region suitable for them. She's a headache to take care of."

"So you're Paldean, then?" I asked, suddenly interested. I knew that he'd had a strange accent that wasn't from anywhere in Sinnoh, but I hadn't know where to place it.

"No, I'm from Galar, actually. From Motostoke. I just traveled through Paldea for my second year. Funny thing is, I thought my Carry License from there would be valid, but Sinnoh is kind of backwards. Turns out I needed to get another license to technically be allowed to carry more than six Pokemon here. Same for my ID. A useless rule, if you ask me."

He stared at the League employee to await her reaction, but she didn't even look in his direction. She was typing away at her keyboard and occasionally answered calls.

"That does seem redundant," I said.

"Yeah. It'd be okay if they just handed it to you after verifying that you had one from another region, but they want to make sure that I adhere to their specific guidelines. It's just a waste of time, but whatever. I was free today, and at least they give you a few months to get your documents sorted before the government starts breathing down your neck."

I chewed on his words, but ended up agreeing. It wasn't often that I saw someone with an outside perspective on Sinnoh. Only Cecilia had offered me certain tidbits about Unova and the differences there, but at the end of the day, she'd started her trainer career here, so her expectations were only slightly less biased than mine. People tended to look at Kanto and Johto like relics of the past, but it was only now that I realized that other regions looked at Sinnoh the same way.

I didn't feel too bad about it when the facts were all laid out in front of me. Denzel definitely would have fought back, though. I couldn't wait to see him again.

I ended up only waiting an hour and bid the unnamed trainer that had kept me company goodbye. He'd reminded me that the world was a large place and got me thinking about what I'd do after this year was over. Do another round of the Circuit, or go somewhere else? I was sure the Poketch Company wouldn't mind some recognition abroad, and I had already vowed to battle through every region, but I didn't know if I wanted to try Sinnoh again at least once.

Well, I had a few months to decide.

The examiner was a gentle, thin-looking guy that was the antithesis of what you would think someone that worked at the League was, but not everyone was a trainer. He led me to a large courtyard behind the apartment building and after releasing a Probopass, no doubt for his protection, he began to read a document in his hand.

"Grace Pastel…" he muttered as he flipped through a few pages. "Your file is clean, so that's good."


"That means no incidents with your Pokemon, although there's a footnote there about your Turtonator. No incidents since you've caught him, though. The first thing we look at for these things is if your Pokemon are known to be aggressive or violent to others. If they had attacked humans or wounded other Pokemon beyond what's appropriate during a battle recently, your chances to pass would have been pretty slim. Oh, I'm Jack O'Hare, by the way."

I sighed in relief. "Cool. Do you mind if I ask you questions about things? To report to my friends."

"Sure. I enjoy talking about this job, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it," he smiled.

"One of my friend's had a few accidents with her Haunter," I said. Even when feeling bitter about Mira, I couldn't help but look out. "But she's also in the LTIP like me. Does that mean she's screwed?"

"Well, we typically look at a period of six months. If any incidents took place more recently, she'd have to show the examiner that her Haunter's turned a new leaf in a shorter time span, and that's usually not the case."

"Okay. So will you just take a look at my Pokemon, now?"

"Soon, soon," he said, holding out his hand. "Are you nervous?"

"Just kind of impatient," I said, fidgeting in place. "I've got somewhere to be in two hours, so…"

"Income is good too… a long-term sponsorship with the Poketch Company, so good security there."

Right. If I hadn't had enough money, then there was no way I'd be able to feed or care for more than six Pokemon, especially when they tended to need more resources as they evolved.

"Before we start, are there any of your Pokemon's quirks that I need to know? Aversion to being touched, hates loud voices, being stared at for too long… anything that would interfere in my examination?"

"My Jellicent doesn't like being touched by strangers, but my Tangrowth likes touching strangers in a really intrusive way. My Pupitar gets excited or angry really easily, but she should be safe-ish. She just makes the floor shake a bunch," I listed. "My Electabuzz and Togetic are completely fine with anything, though."

"Well, you've passed all preliminary screening," he smiled. "I'll be looking at your team now— one by one, please."

I released Sunshine first, since I wanted to take care of the biggest hurdle first. I had warned him to be on his best behavior this morning and that he'd most likely be getting looked at by a stranger. The fire type shot me an annoyed look as soon as he materialized into the world, but he thankfully didn't injure or hurt the examiner in any way. Mr. O'Hare circled around him, and Sunshine thrashed his tail on the ground as he carefully analyzed the contents and condition of his shell.

He also smelled it by taking a huge whiff. I knew he had to assess how healthy Turtonator was, but sulfur did not smell good.

Satisfied with his shell, Mr. O'Hare moved on to his plastron, and then his face. I actually had to intervene and scold him for blowing a plume of smoke at the examiner's face when he attempted to shine a light down his snout. After a twenty-second-long coughing fit, he was well enough to speak again. Probopass surprisingly hadn't reacted at all, but I assumed that… he was used to a lot worse.

"Your Turtonator's in good shape. The sulfur content on his shell's lacking, but that's almost always the case with trainer-owned Turtonator since they can't go replenish their contents by volcanos."

"Is he going to run out?" I asked, feeling a slight surge of anxiety.

"No, no, he isn't. They have a way of naturally creating sulfur, but they usually supplement that. You're alright," he said.

I sighed in relief and released Buddy next. I wasn't actually sure of how he was going to assess a ghost. Sure, he still had a corporeal form and had been born from an egg, but he didn't need to eat and could recover from just about anything. The examiner stared into the water type's eyes for a good minute and then nodded.

"I'm done. You can move on."


"Well, he didn't attempt to kill me right away," Mr. O'Hare chuckled. "That's mostly what we look at for ghosts. But I could tell that he was doing well with you from his calm demeanor and mostly his eyes. The eyes of a Jellicent are very expressive—"

"I know, right?! He was actually feeling nervous about the entire thing because he didn't want to mess things up for me. Thanks Buddy!" I exclaimed, gently rubbing one of his tentacles.

The water type rumbled, his eyes flashing with love before I recalled him. That had been underwhelming, but in a good way. I released Pupitar next, and since she'd just molted, she looked in pristine condition. Her blue-shaded cocoon glittered in the sun.

"She's just molted?" He noticed.

"Yeah. It was her first time."

"Her first time? That's a large Pupitar you're going to have on your hands, then."

The rock type excitedly yelled, jumping in place until I hurriedly stopped her with a shout. The last thing I wanted was for her to upturn this entire backyard or accidentally hurt the examiner.

"How tall is she?"

"I haven't measured since she evolved."

Mr. O'Hare grabbed some measuring tape from his bag, and Sweetheart ended up clocking in at 4'10. She'd been 4'6 when she had evolved. I could almost feel her smugness radiating from here.

"Four inches in one molt? She's probably going to end up at around 6'5 and then gain another foot during her evolution. That's going to be a big headache for you. Tyranitar eat a lot."

"She'll be fine," I reassured. "I'll have enough money to feed her."

"Sure, I don't doubt that. Just warning you so you're not caught off-guard," he said. "Her cocoon's in a good state. If she wasn't eating enough, it wouldn't have come out that pretty. Can you have her let out a bit of air for me?"

"Sweetheart, you heard him. But don't fly anywhere!"

The examiner held out a hand next to his ear as Pupitar excitedly let out a burst of the gas compressed inside of her.

"Good sound," he nodded. "Your Pupitar's doing very well. The chambers inside the cocoon can sometimes get messed up after a molt if they don't eat enough, because they're supposed to grow larger each time."

"Thank you," I smiled. I recalled Sweetheart and released my next Pokemon.

Angel didn't immediately rub him, but his Probopass instead, feeling at the thick mustache under his red nose. The steel type was content to just let it happen but drew a line when Angel tried to grab at one of his turrets. He shot out some kind of low-powered ray attack that destroyed one of his vines. Tangrowth recoiled, his eyes rapidly blinking.

"Sorry about that. Probopass' Mini-Noses are his most vulnerable spots. He doesn't like it when you touch them— even me."

"No, no, Angel's just like that. I'm sorry," I said. "And I'm sorry to you too."

Probopass let out a screech-like metallic sound. I hadn't been with him long enough to know his words, but I felt like he had accepted my apology.

Mr. O'Hare grabbed one of Angel's vines and steadily pulled on it, squeezed it and attempted to cut it with a pair of scissors. It didn't even cut past half of the vine.

"Good vine condition," he nodded.

"He gets a lot of sun."

Next, he looked at the red tips of Tangrowth's hands, noting that they were in good condition too. Angel easily passed his assessment.

Honey's neck craned toward Mr. O'Hare as he placed a number of test leads on his fingers. mostly analyzed the amount of electricity he'd accumulated by using some kind of modified voltmeter and the number that came up was several tens of thousand of volts. I didn't see the exact number because of the sun shining on the screen.

"Satisfactory, but it could be better. Are you using a battery to get him his electricity?"

"A solar-powered one, yes. Uh, the model is… Lumina PowerCell. I've had it since he was an Elekid."

"Get him a bigger one. Or a solar generator you can carry. It might have cut it when he was small, but he needs more and it'll be better for his growth. Sunyshore sells really high-quality ones if you swing by."

"Will do. Thanks."

He studied the sharpness of Honey's fangs and finished up his assessment. I finished with Princess, who was on her best behavior as always. He dug deep into her fur to see her skin and flashed that same bright light into her eyes. Everything was in order, but he did notice one thing.

"The wings haven't seen much use, have they?"

"Well, no, she uses her powers to fly, so…"

"Get her started on that, just as a routine. The benefits will carry over when you get her a Shiny Stone," he said.

Princess reflexively flapped her wings and huffed. She had clearly expected to get full marks, but it was really my fault, not hers. Mr. O'Hare finished writing his report on a clipboard he carried separate from my file he'd put back in his bag, had me sign on the bottom of the form and then clapped his hand when all was said and gone.

"You qualify," he smiled. "Go back to talk to Rosie and give her your form— that's the girl at reception."

I beamed. "Yes! Thank you!"

I had expected to pass, but I still hadn't shaken the feeling of anxiety I'd had before the inspection. Now that I was done, it felt liberating. Finally, I could go past that annoying six Pokemon limit! If I had come across a cool psychic type before today, I would have been royally pissed.

As I handed Rosie my form and watched her 3D print my Carry License, I began to wonder what my final number of Pokemon would be. Seven was a given, but did I want to go past that? I didn't know yet, but it was good to start thinking about these things early. I knew that Cynthia had ten Pokemon and every Gym Leader or Elite Four member had at least seven— with the exception of Lucian, who was content with his six psychics. Having a decent amount would keep your opponents guessing about which Pokemon you would bring into an official match, but more than that, I wanted my family to grow larger still.

Yet, I had no plan beyond a psychic type. Maybe I'd let whatever caught my eye and agreed to come with me join my team beyond that seventh capture. It wasn't like any of my current Pokemon had been planned apart from Angel, so he was more the exception than the rule.

"Congratulations. If you lose it, you'll have to come back here or any other League Offices and pay a 10,000 Pokedollars fee to get it renewed."

I nodded silently. That wasn't a huge price, especially since only people with eight badges were supposed to be able to get this. By then, they didn't have to be rich, but 10,000 was a fee that almost everyone would be able to afford.

"Good luck with your wait," I told the unnamed trainer.

"Thank you. Have a good day."

At this point, I knew I should have asked him for his name and that I'd been rude not to do so, but it would be too awkward to do it now. I exited the building as I checked the time again. There was an hour and twenty-three minutes left to my battle, but Zachary Gallagher had actually sent me a text asking to meet early to talk. Now normally, I would have done this no problem, but I decided to meet him in a public place so there could be no funny business. The words that we'd exchanged seemed genuine, but there could always be another Harry Rodriguez. Someone masquerading as a trainer to infiltrate the League.

I also sent a text to the group chat telling them where I'd be and that they'd possibly have to come pick me up early. Since we were going to battle six-on-six, the plan had been to have one of them (preferably someone with a psychic type) walk me back to the Center. It'd only be a ten-minute walk since the arena we'd be battling at was the closest one available.

I wanted as few risks as possible even with the League Trainer tailing me.

I recalled Honey as I stepped into the… well in my rush to find any public setting, I had thought that it'd been a restaurant, but it was more like a food court. I could even see Arlyle's chain selling food at one of the stands. It was still morning, so I wasn't hungry and got to finding Zachary, but it took me a while to spot him. The dark-skinned teen waved at me from afar until I finally noticed it had been me he'd been looking at and not someone behind me.

"Heyya," he said with a lazy wave. "Glad you could meet."

He wore thick glasses that made his eyes look bigger than they actually were and sported a buzz cut that was no doubt useful for traveling. My hair got tangled in a lot of things.

"Hi. Shouldn't we just battle now if you're free?" I asked. It didn't take much for me to notice the seven Pokeballs on his belt.

"Aren't you eager? We'll go early if you want, but I had a few questions for you," he said before sipping on some sort of soft drink. "You said you're coming at this to improve, right? Is there a particular Pokemon you want me to not use?"

"No, no, I don't want any special treatments or for you to give yourself handicaps. Actually, this is great! I can tell you that we can actually fight a six-vs-six instead of a five-vs-five. My Turtonator agreed."

His eyes flashed with interest. "Ah. That makes this a lot more interesting," he said. "I'm good with that, then. Since you don't want any handicaps, I guess we can get going. I was going to ask you if you wanted to have unlimited switching or things like that."

"How about three switches? That's pretty standard for a six-on-six."

"Sure thing."

He took the top off his drink, poured the rest of the contents into his mouth and loudly crunched on the ice cubes as we exited the food court. That had ended up being sort of a waste of time, but at least we were going to battle early for my troubles. I walked with Princess by my side and she eyed Zachary with a suspicious eye.

"What do you expect coming into this?" I asked him.

"Like my impression of you?"


"Well I didn't pay that much attention to you until news got out that you got into the LTIP. Congrats, by the way. Lots of trainers would want to be in that position."

"Yeah…" I muttered. If he knew my circumstances, he wouldn't have said that.

"I ended up watching your battle against Fantina and a few of those Solaceon tournament battles too. The event might have been ruined, but that only made 'em more popular. Wish I got to see that Turtonator in action, though. They say he's around the seven-badge level," he smirked. "I think you're talented. More than I was at this point in my journey, but you still lack a lot of things. I don't want to sound like a pretentious asshole, though. I'm sure I'll look back on myself in a year and think I was garbage. That's the universal Pokemon trainer experience right there."

"A lot of things like? Actually, don't tell me yet. Tell me when we're done."

"Fair enough. You really don't want any handicaps, huh?"

"Of course not. That would defeat the entire point," I said. "Say, I actually do have one request, though. I don't care when you use her, but use your Vespiquen against me."

"Vespi's the one that caught your attention? Most people talk about my Gyarados," he laughed.

"Anyone worth their salt knows that Vespiquen's the true threat on your team," I said.

"That's a fair assessment. Okay, I'll use her," he said.

The words came easy to me, as they always did when I spoke to someone about Pokemon battling. Zachary Gallagher had begun his journey in Floaroma with a single Pidgey but quickly caught his Combee in the honey trees that littered the fields north of town. From there, he'd gotten five badges his first year and now stood at the cusp of getting his eighth. That meant he was a potential opponent I'd have to face at the Conference.

"I've got my folks in Floaroma calling me every day and telling me how proud they are," he fondly said. "I can't let 'em down. Did you know there's never been a Floaroma native that made the top sixteen of the Conference?"

"So that's your goal?"

"Hell no. I'm gonna win the whole thing," he said. "But I'm not only doing it for them. I'm doing it for all of Floaroma— ah, there it is."

We'd made it to the arena, which was obviously seeing a lot of use at this time of day. These weren't as large as the ones in Jubilife, but there was still plenty of space for us. Some poor Kadabra fixed up the barrier after a battle. I sure hoped that all of these League Kadabras were getting proper treatment when they weren't working. Pokemon didn't care to be paid in cash, but I at least wanted them to be able to study whatever they wanted in their free time. Being a barrier Kadabra was a thankless job.

We took our positions opposite of each other with dozens of eyes staring at us. They'd no doubt turn into hundreds soon. We counted down to three and sent out our first Pokemon. Since he had three flying types, I decided to send Honey out first.

His usual confidence evaporated and his hair stood on end when Zach released his Vespiquen.

Buzzing. Constant buzzing somehow louder than my own thoughts echoed through the arena. Her exoskeleton appeared smooth, but upon closer look, it was glimmering slightly as if she was covered in a thin layer of honey at all times. More honey dripped from her six combs, but it did not fall to the ground. Vespiquen's gem shone as she manipulated the liquid to spin around her as if she was a water type weaving water, or somehow even better than that. She was the honey, and the honey was her. Things crawled all over her— and also infested her honey— not alive, but with purpose and answered to her every thought. They were shapeless, horrible minuscule things that were linked to her consciousness itself.

My legs felt heavier as I stared into her piercing red eyes. There was this pressure that was pressing down on me, a weaker version of what Cynthia's Spiritomb had done to me, but it was there nonetheless and made it harder to focus. My mouth and eyes suddenly dried up and I blinked rapidly to moisten them. I was aware of my breathing, of my tongue in my mouth, of the continuous tingles running up and down my spine telling me that this Pokemon was dangerous.

"You told me to use her, right? Well, here she is in all of her beauty."

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver, Benjamin R, Jon, Patrick, RosaC, TsukiNoNeko, NPM, Jim A
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I'm looking forward to the improvements in future. Thank you for the chapter.
Chapter 184 - Punching Up
CHAPTER 184 - Punching Up

Honey continuously spun around Vespiquen, and it would slowly build up until she wasn't even visible in battle. I only had two days to study her, so I knew only her moves and a few of her tactics, but none of that mattered when she didn't even fight with moves most of the time anyway. She was too skilled for what she did to be put in a box as rigid as that.

I couldn't afford to stay still no matter how heavy my entire body felt. The longer I waited, the more we were at a disadvantage. Vespiquen excelled at prolonged fights and her survivability as a bug type was second to none.

"Thunderbolt!" I yelled.

Electabuzz whirred, his arms spinning around until electricity burst forward. Zachary didn't bother responding. Instead, honey coalesced in front of Vespiquen with a single thought from her. The Thunderbolt simply fizzled out inside of the liquid as the small screams of hundreds of… drones that infested her honey rang out throughout the arena. The center of the honey cooked, darkening until it turned to black sludge, but it was quickly replaced with fresh supply. Arceus, this thing was disturbing to fight.

"E-Swift. Protect when it attacks you," I exhaled.

A dozen electrically-charged stars appeared above Electabuzz, and he sent them forth with a grunt. If honey was enough to block electric type attacks, I wanted to check if Swift would break through. Vespiquen's gem shone, and honey packed itself so tightly together that the stars simply stopped and disappeared with a small explosion, as if they'd hit a brick wall.

"Attack Order. Scatter," Zachary said.

I bit my lip and immediately ordered Electabuzz to Protect. I knew what attack was coming, and it'd come so fast that nothing else would work.

The solid honey exploded outward in thousands of pieces that glittered under the arena's harsh lights. Vespiquen screeched, and the fragments shed any extra weight, becoming sharpened spikes mid-air while the waste liquified again and returned to orbit her. The spikes whizzed directly toward Electabuzz, but the electric type didn't waste any time. The first shards broke against Protect, but Vespiquen kept them coming, simply opting to exhaust us until she could break through.

Of course, I knew that was the most likely scenario. They would have been dumb to just stop attacking right away, which is why I'd had Electabuzz work on this ever since our battle at the Café Cabin for this in case we ever got overwhelmed again.

"Discharge!" I yelled.

Unlike the battle with Chase, this one was instant. As soon as the Protect fell, electricity burst out of Electabuzz. Vespiquen couldn't control honey itself, but she used the things that swarmed inside of it as building blocks to do whatever she wanted with it. The damage from Discharge fried all of them up and I ordered Electabuzz to get close. Keeping our distance was the safest play, but it wouldn't work in the long term so long as Vespiquen could use Defend Order so expertly.

The electric type blurred forward, but he inexplicably began to slow around halfway through the arena. Honey that had scattered on the floor clung and solidified around his feet, forcing him to free himself using more bursts of electricity.

"Attack Order. Scatter and delayed Pillar," he said.

They were less, but they were still many. More fragments of honey sharpened and hurtled toward the electric type, but that wasn't what I was worried about. An enormous amalgamation of honey built up into a ball in front of Vespiquen and then elongated toward Electabuzz. With little time for Protect, he hastily threw himself to the right to dodge the massive attack. Sharp needles burst out of the pillar, some stabbing him in the leg while others liquified and crawled all over him, just overwhelming him with its sheer weight.

"Don't panic! Discharge!" I hurriedly yelled.

Electabuzz's eyes sharpened as he found my voice amidst the incessant buzzing and another wave of electricity surged out of him. The honey lost its life, but the pillar was still raring to go. There were too many shapeless drones inside of it to make it lose form, and Vespiquen constantly renewed its supply from her combs. More honey continued to slow, stab or simply block Electabuzz's way as he desperately struggled forward. Each time, a Discharge or a Protect would buy us a few seconds. Sometimes, I would order a Thunderbolt in hopes of catching the bug type off guard, but she was always ready to block any attacks. By the time Electabuzz made it ten feet away from Vespiquen, he was covered in a mixture of honey and blood from head to toe.

His fist lit ablaze for a moment, burning away the liquid on his hand, and then he collapsed below her.

I gulped as I recalled him with a small apology. I could have switched him out for someone else, but I needed to save them for when I would use Sunshine and I had really thought that we'd at least manage to get a few good Fire Punches in. I could have pulled on the dragon type here, but I wanted to try one last thing.

I sent out Pupitar onto the field, and she announced her presence with a yell, seemingly unaffected by how disturbing Vespiquen was. The bug type ignored her outburst, content to keep pumping out as much honey as she needed.

She would never run out.

Being cautious would never work, and Zach's Vespiquen would shut us down no matter what we tried to do. We had to try something new.

"Fly!" I yelled.

Like a jet, Pupitar expunged some of the compressed air inside of her and flew toward Vespiquen quicker than they'd both expected. She had never fought in public since evolving, so I knew that I was catching him off-guard.

"Defend Order. Layers."

In an instant, ten thick walls of honey grouped up in front of Vespiquen and anchored themselves against the floor for structural support.

I quickly yelled. "Iron Defen—"

But she was already doing it. Her cocoon shimmered, becoming harder than steel as she easily destroyed every single wall in her way and rammed against Vespiquen's abdomen, crushing it and tearing it completely. Honey and things poured out of the huge, gaping wound as Vespiquen screeched in agony. Unable to stop herself, Sweetheart crashed against Kadabra's barrier, kicking up dirt and rocks.

"Focus! Heal Order!"

The drones grew more and more numerous, crawling out of her every orifice and building her body back. The honey solidified around her and plugged the huge hole as the dark drones sewed it all back together until the bug type was as good as new, albeit the portion of her abdomen that had just been healed appeared fragile and paler than the rest of her body.

I felt a glimmer of hope bud inside of my chest. "Again!"

"Fill those vents, Vespi."

The bug type hissed as more honey dripped out of her comb. Pupitar took a few seconds to situate herself, but she was quick to get back in the air before the liquid could clog her vents. This time, there were no barriers to stop us. Pupitar flew forward and—


The bug type angled her abdomen forward and a glob of poison splashed against Pupitar's shell. It would go away if the fight lasted long enough thanks to Shed Skin, but right now? The poison dripped inside of her cocoon and into her eyes. Pupitar missed Vespiquen by a large margin and honey slowly filled her vents, grounding her permanently. I'd been tunnel visioning so much on the honey that I hadn't expected him to do anything else.

I recalled her before more damage could be done. I couldn't be stingy with my swaps. Not after what she'd done to Electabuzz.

I exhaled as I wiped the sweat off my brow. She'd taken only a single hit and could regenerate herself plenty of times if she wasn't overwhelmed. I didn't have much of a choice any longer. I grabbed Sunshine's Pokeball and sent him out. The honey at his feet immediately burned as enormous flames ignited on his shell and he raised the temperature, leaving only squealing drones that he stepped on without remorse.

This was our first real battle, and I couldn't help but feel somewhat nervous.

"There he is," Zachary grinned, his innocent face twisting with excitement. "Power Gem!"

Turtonator was slow, so dodging her attacks was out of the question, but he was durable.

"Shell Trap and Smokescreen!" I ordered in quick succession.

Eight bright orbs appeared around Vespiquen. With a screech, the bug type sent the gems hurtling toward Turtonator. In a quick, smooth motion that I knew would surprise Zach, Sunshine spun around as his shell glowed with a sinister red, all while he continuously spat out huge quantities of smoke that soon surrounded his entire body.

I didn't see the Power Gem hit him, but I heard them. Each created a subsequent explosion that spread the Smokescreen across our side of the arena.

"Now Flamethrower!" I yelled.

"Defend Order!"

The stream of flames emerged from the smoke. Its speed took Vespiquen by surprise, but she didn't hesitate to clog its path with honey. The liquid caught on fire, first turning dark brown and then into a charred black as it crumbled and bubbled on the floor. The heat had an effect on Vespiquen, but she'd managed to block the attack. I clicked my tongue and ordered another one not to let them rest, and each Flamethrower came from another location through the smoke in order to not let them track us.

Flamethrower was powerful, but it didn't have the extra oomph needed to break through that many layers of honey. If we tried to approach, then Vespiquen would no doubt hit us with Toxic, Power Gem or Air Slash. That left me with either Flash Cannon or Dragon Pulse, but I knew there was only one right answer—

"Gust. Clear the smoke."

I usually had a lot more time than this to think, especially with how quick I'd gotten at it. Vespiquen fanned her wings and the powerful Gust easily started to blow the Smokescreen high into the sky.

"Dragon Pulse," I ordered.

We needed to strike before it was all gone. The red-tinted Dragon Pulse broke through the remaining Smokescreen, and this time it easily broke through all of Vespiquen's hastily erected barriers. The bug type's arm's entire body was engulfed in the hot draconic energy and caught aflame, but a shout from Zachary got Vespiquen to extinguish the flames with Heal Order. It wasn't a pretty affair. Honey wasn't water, and it wasn't working that well, only slightly attenuating the flames.


"Defend Order. Encase yourself and stop his attacks!"

I bit my lip as honey rose from the ground and surrounded the bug type into a solid circle, leaving only a few small holes at the top for her to breathe as her eyes flashed with a twinge of purple. The Dragon Pulse crashed against the barrier, causing it to melt, but the attack somehow began to sputter. Vespiquen emerged from her cocoon a burned mess, and her angered screeches angered me to no end.

"What's happening?" I asked.

Sunshine's roared with an untold amount of fury as he finally unclogged his nose with a huge Flamethrower. Even if the majority of honey simply cooked away the closer it got to him, the sheer amount that Vespiquen was using was enough to at least interrupt his attacks in short intervals.

It had only afforded them a little respite, but the fact that I was struggling against a bug type with Turtonator didn't bode well.

Vespiquen was a master of precision and control, but she wasn't very good as resisting fire. Just the flames having burned her barrier and getting near her had affected her. Zach yelled, and another set of gems zipped toward Turtonator, who angrily retaliated with a scorching Dragon Pulse that warped the air around it. His usually impenetrable scales peeled off everywhere Power Gem hit, and the honey was annoying him to no end. Still, she continuously healed herself from the burns even if Heal Order grew weaker each time.

Something had been bothering me, however.

Zachary hadn't ordered Toxic since using it against Pupitar when he could easily have used it to equalize the playing field. Now, he could have been holding back, but I had explicitly told him not to, so that theory didn't make any sense.

A simple mistake, then? Tunnel vision? He could have switched already, but he clearly wanted his ace to take down Sunshine. Was it his ego? A self-imposed rule? I held out a hand in front of my face as another explosion from Shell Trap rocked the arena. This time, flaming bits of shell flew outward and penetrated deep inside of Vespiquen's abdomen. Was it a trap, then? Waiting to take me down with Destiny Bond? He hadn't called it out, and I hadn't noticed anything odd. Using the move took a lot of energy and it was impossible to miss. I couldn't afford to be indecisive!

"Finish her off! Flash Canon! I yelled.

Flash Cannon was weaker than Dragon Pulse, but it was also quicker to create. A thin line borne of metal cut across Vespiquen's entire body, causing her to quite literally bleed honey. Her wings sputtered as she slowly lowered herself to the ground and fainted with grace, bringing her arms together and slowly closing her eyes.

Turtonator's eyes widened, and he roared in agony as a cold, purple flame consumed him. He thrashed around and slammed his shell with Iron Tail in an attempt to relieve himself, but nothing worked. I gasped in utter confusion. That was Destiny Bond, but when had he used it? I recalled Sunshine and clenched a fist around his warm Pokeball.

"When?" I asked.

"When I encased her in that ball of honey," he answered.

"I didn't even notice anything. In your other battles, her entire body was surrounded by those same flames," I said.

"No space for them in the shell," he said. "I'll send my next Pokemon since Vespi went down first."

This was really bad. Okay, it had always been bad, but now I pretty much had zero counters to his Ferrothorn if he sent it out. I watched with bated breath, but breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Ampharos emerge from in a flash of red. Arcs of electricity rose and fell as the Ampharos let out a very cute but threatening bleat, and it didn't stop there. They soon took over the entire field. It was an automatic Electric Terrain that didn't consume anywhere near as much energy to sustain and the electricity would jump at anything that it could, causing damage in the process.

I knew that Sweetheart was our best shot at dealing with him. The Toxic was still running its course through her body, but she was finally starting to shed her outer layer of skin and would soon be rid of all of the poison. Arcs of electricity harmlessly washed over her.

"Get close and ram him! Stomping Tantrum when you land!" I ordered.

With a burst of speed, Pupitar blasted toward Ampharos. I knew from what I'd seen that it was slow and wouldn't be able to dodge something like this.

"Cotton Spore and Guard."

A single ball of cotton grew from Ampharos' gem, and then multiplied like cells undergoing mitosis, clinging tightly to the electric type's skin and then packing themselves as solidly as they could. Pupitar rammed into Ampharos with Iron Defense and he grunted in pain, but it hadn't done as much damage as I expected and some of the cotton clung to Sweetheart and grew on her too.

The floor shook when she landed, harming Ampharos further, but Zachary didn't seem to care at all.


I frowned, thinking that he'd be wasting a lot of energy for no reason, but Sweetheart wasn't their target. Thunder clapped with a deafening boom and electricity lashed out across the field, tearing it apart. Gashes opened, rocks flew off toward Kadabra's barrier and long ravines stretched across the arena. Some of the rocks didn't land, however. They clumsily floated across the field as electricity flashed in between them and kept them in the air.

There was iron in those rocks. Not enough for him to exert full control, but enough for this.

"Hit them," Zach said.

Still surrounded by cotton, Pupitar struggled to clear her vents enough to fly. The smaller rocks didn't do much against her cocoon, but the large ones did have some effect. I knew that Zach's primary goal hadn't been to use magnetism to control rocks, however, but to destroy to field enough so that Pupitar wouldn't be able to navigate it with her air vents closed by cotton.

Dodging wasn't an option any longer.

"Stomping Tantrum!" I yelled again. "Make a hole!"

"Cotton Guard below you and Dragon Pulse."

The floor under Ampharos' feet split and shook and I expected him to fall down a chasm, but cotton somehow formed into a bridge linking two ends of the ravine and was solid enough for him to stand on. A turquoise stream of draconic energy washed over Pupitar, and she screamed out in pain. Ampharos' Dragon Pulse was extremely powerful, for something that wasn't a dragon. I bit my lip, wondering on if I should switch or not, but I had no choice. Pupitar was our best shot.

"Rock Slide! Bury him!"

I didn't care how much iron was in those rocks, Pupitar would send too many his way for him to simply use electromagnetism to avoid them. Sweetheart tore up dozens of rocks from below the ground and joined them to the current ones that were just sitting next to her. The Rock Slide rushed forward like a wave in the ocean.


Again, the electricity was so bright that it left blindspots in my eyes and it crashing against the enormous amount of rocks was so deafeningly loud that it caused me to cover my ears. When I opened my eyes, a large part of the Rock Slide had fizzled out into dust, broken apart or missed its target. The rocks that did reach Ampharos simply hit his Cotton Guard, and the electric type quickly retaliated with another Dragon Pulse, bringing Pupitar down.

It wasn't just Vespiquen. Every one of Zachary's Pokemon was an unsurmountable mountain that I'd be lucky to even bring down, and I hadn't even forced him to switch with a massive type advantage.

Jellicent and Togetic were out of the question here. I only had Tangrowth to deal with this. Things were looking down, but now that the terrain had been altered so much, there might have been a way for me to beat Ampharos. Angel's eyes widened at the devastated state of the arena. Chasms, ravines, massive holes and boulders littered the entire field. What we had that Ampharos didn't was maneuverability in this terrain.

"Jump into that ravine!" I yelled.

Tangrowth pushed himself with his vines, carefully lowering himself into the ditch with his vines, but a Dragon Pulse from Ampharos disintegrated the vines he used as support and he fell deep into the hole and out of view. That was fine, however. He was out of Ampharos' line of sight as well.

"Sunny Day!" I yelled.

In five seconds, a harsh, otherworldly light bore down the arena. Angel pulled himself out of the ditch and into the air, then landed on the ground and began to run toward Ampharos. Zachary ordered another Dragon Pulse that grazed the grass type, but before he could reach him and begin restraining him with vines, Zach used his first switch of the battle.

Then I realized how he had been trapping me all along when he sent out his Infernape. The fire type perched himself on a tall, jagged rock and the flame on his head intensified as soon as he spotted Tangrowth.

He hadn't switched out with Vespiquen, so I had thought that he'd be stubborn again— but wait, that wasn't even it.

Ampharos destroying the arena, him only using simple attacks to stop Sunny Day instead of pulling another sophisticated technique out of his ass had all been bait. Infernape now had the power of the sun on his side and this destroyed field was the perfect environment for him.

I hadn't felt like this since I had battled against Gardenia. And I never even had to consider someone planning that far ahead since my fight against her. I bit on my tongue and grinned.

It wasn't just his Pokemon that were powerful. He was just really fucking skilled too.

Not even wanting to risk this fight, I recalled Angel and swapped him out for Buddy. His water type attacks would be weakened, but he was our best bet. Without Tangrowth here to keep it up, the Sunny Day would fade in a few minutes, but Infernape would reign on the battlefield during that time. That meant that I had to stall for it to end.

"Night Shade, and then into the floor!" I ordered.

Before the shade was even halfway formed, Infernape opened his mouth and a massive Flamethrower destroyed it in the blink of an eye. The explosion rocked Buddy to his core and the sun slowed his regeneration. I hurriedly called for him to just liquefy and get under the floor.

The water type quickly acquiesced, his misshapen form slipping into the many cracks on the floor left by the rampaging Ampharos.

"I reckon you can give Blast Burn a try with the sun at your back," Zachary said.

Infernape grinned, and I suddenly felt a chill. Fire overtook the fighting type's form as he punched the floor. Cracks of fire and molten rocks emerged in front of him as the air became sweltering, soon warping over the entire arena. Infernape yelled as enormous pillars of flames erupted from every single crack he had created and rose high into the air.

Water type or not, Buddy wasn't going to resist that. Even if the Blast Burn hadn't spread throughout the entire arena, the ground was being heated up to the point of melting. He escaped from one of the cracks. At this point, he looked more like vapor than his usual self, but he was trying his best to Recover.

Stalling was out, then.

"Get close and Hex!" I yelled.

The Water Sports sputtered and died out from the heat as Jellicent approached Infernape in a wide berth. He opted to pester him with Water Pulses as he went, but those were barely still liquid by the time it reached his opponent. It was the same issue we had with Sunshine, and unlike Vespiquen, we had neither incredible control over our respective liquid or the quantities needed to overwhelm the heat from both Infernape and Sunny Day. Infernape covered his face as the last remaining bits of Water Pulse hit him and then quickly jumped from his rock.

"Thunder Punch!"

Infernape was incredibly quick, jumping over rocks with unmatched agility. The fire type slid across the floor and front flipped over a chasm, climbed a small hill that had been erected and then jumped toward Jellicent as electricity sparked around his fist.

I had thought that we'd been high enough in the sky for Infernape to only be able to hit us with ranged moves, but I was almost wrong. The Thunder Punch barely missed Jellicent, but Infernape's proximity allowed us to strike quickly with Water Pulse. The fire type grunted in pain, but he had barely suffered any damage. If only we'd started training Hydro Pump earlier…

Infernape spat out another Flamethrower on his way down. Jellicent was constantly evaporating and losing enormous quantities of water that he couldn't regain all that quickly, especially when the two ponds had been utterly destroyed by Sunshine's heat and Ampharos destroying the arena.

The sun was still shining, although slightly less.

"Shadow Ball and keep your distance. If they hit us with Thunder Punch, it's over!" I ordered.

Zach seemed content to keep hitting us with Flamethrowers. The problem was that our Shadow Balls were too slow at this height for them to hit an opponent as fast as Infernape while his attacks were quicker than Sunshine's and easily reached Jellicent. Luckily for us, the sun finally went down and Water Sport came back online.

But even then, I was at an impasse.

Infernape hid behind a boulder as another Shadow Ball crashed right where he'd been a second ago. He was threading the needle, but showed no signs of even tiring. Jellicent's body compressed as a powerful Water Sport shot him away from Flamethrower, now weakened by the lack of sun. We couldn't hit each other— but they would still eventually win. We couldn't approach out of fear of Infernape jumping up and hitting us with Thunder Punch, and he was too fast and nimble to outrun. We couldn't create a Night Shade or escape below ground either.

I was just stuck, but Princess would probably fare a lot worse than this. At least Buddy had survivability against fire type attacks, and I wasn't willing to bet that she'd be able to stop Infernape's attacks with Psychic when the heat was so potent.

Zachary was slowly winning and he knew it.

I had to do something.

"Get low," I said. "Whirpool to buy us time."

In a second, Jellicent solidified, deactivated his levitation and fell limp toward the floor. Infernape's face split with a wild grin as he hopped one-handed over a massive rock like it was nothing and then leaped over a ravine on all fours. Buddy released a thin stream of water that quickly grew into a massive Whirlpool.

"Ride it," Zachary said.

Infernape jumped into the water, content to be carried by the current and then ignited with such intensity that the attack could only be Flare Blitz. The water ten feet around him simply evaporated and a burst of electricity overtook Infernape's fist.

I hadn't expected him to do that, but we still bought enough time.

"Now!" I yelled.

A Night Shade emerged from below a chasm and hit Infernape with a weakened Water Pulse. The attack was too weak to send him flying, but caught the fire type so off-guard that the attack missed and crashed into the floor—

And he used it to pivot like a spinning top and hit Jellicent with his feet instead. The electricity ransacked through the ghost type's body and he let out a loud booming scream as he quite literally cooked from the inside.

There was only a pile of goo with two gleaming red eyes left. I bit my lip and recalled him. The leftover shade disintegrated, unraveling with a silent scream as the knots slowly untied themselves and the shade slipped back into nothingness.

Well, it was up to Princess now. I released her and she immediately rose high into the air once she saw the state the arena was in. Her small Fairy Wind already settled into the arena and would continuously chip at Infernape.

"Don't get close, he just took down Buddy with Thunder Punch," I warned. "Keep a barrier around yourself and Ancient Power. Spears. Make them spin."

Fifteen spears rose from the ground already half-formed and with a vicious spin. One by one, they flew toward Infernape, who broke into a run as he nimbly made his way back toward our half of the arena. The first two spears crashed against the floor, but it didn't take long for Princess to adjust her pitch. The third and fourth spears missed as well, but each got closer to Infernape as he closed the distance between them.

At the tenth spear, Togetic faked out Infernape by striking at his right to force him left and two other spears struck his leg and shoulder, still spinning to dig deeper. What I hadn't expected was for the fire type to simply pull the bloodied spears out of his body and chucked them at Togetic with incredible precision and strength. He surprised her so much that she almost got hit, but she quickly took back control right as the spear grazed her stomach. It did force her to abandon her last five, though.

Zachary ordered a Flamethrower that washed over Princess' barrier but still burned her. Her thin fur caught on fire and she began to panic, falling toward the ground like a meteorite. Her pained shrieks broke my heart, but I had a plan.

"Focus on my voice!" I yelled.

Beyond the flames, Infernape's never-ending grunts, the noise of the ground and the loudness of my own thoughts, I heard a single yes.

"Thunder Punch," Zachary said.

I waited. Waited and waited for the last second.

"Dazzling Gleam!"

Pink Mist was sucked into Togetic's body and then burst outward in an explosion bright enough to rival Ampharos' Thunder. The shock wave from the explosion threw Infernape back into one of the ravines, and the Dazzling Gleam had also somehow extinguished the flames. Princess tiredly rose back from the ground and gathered another set of spears, but Infernape didn't emerge from his hiding place.

What were they planning? Blast Burn could work, but was impossible without the sun at Infernape's current level. He didn't know Dig, so that was out too. Was he going to travel across that ravine and emerge from somewhere else to catch us by surprise?

"Watch that ravine," I warned. "Stay sharp."

Twenty seconds passed without a sound until Zachary called out for his Infernape. Twenty seconds was an eternity for nothing to be happening in battles. The fire type emerged from the exact same spot he'd gone down in with a Flamethrower already flying out of his mouth. They'd caught us off-guard again. The fire covered Togetic completely, but she freed herself with another Dazzling Gleam.

Infernape had already closed half of the gap by the same the attack was done.

"Finish her off, Thunder Punch."


The fire type's fists hurled against Togetic's cheek, but a half-formed Moonblast hit him right in the chest. The bright, pink ball was full of impurities and small, but it was still Moonblast. The attack sent Infernape off, but my face fell when Infernape struggled back on his feet and Togetic did not. The flame on his head suddenly grew to a massive size, towering far in the sky as his eyes turned bloodshot. Infernape slammed his fists against the floor and yelled, demanding his next opponent.

Blaze had just come into play.

Tangrowth appeared in a flash of red and the battle immediately began again. Infernape had moved around a lot and gotten hit plenty, so his movements were sluggish. Angel rolled a massive boulder in front of him with Ancient Power to stop a Flamethrower and slowly surrounded himself with the attack in hopes of protecting himself from the flames.

"Flare Blitz. Break through the rocks," Zachary said.

"Bind your vines together and Spore attack!" I commanded.

Vines tied themselves together into structures thicker than my torso and pushed back against Infernape as tons of spores coated the surroundings and caught on fire. The grass type slammed his vine against Infernape with a powerful Power Whip, but the flames took hold and quickly spread. Tangrowth detached it before it could reach his main body. The vines writhed against the ground as Infernape burned everything in his way and rammed into Tangrowth with everything he had.

Angel rolled backwards, a quarter of his vines blackened and turned to ash, but Infernape struggled to keep going. He'd breathed in Poison, Sleep and Paralysis spores and they were no doubt having an effect now that he was so weakened.

The fighting type screamed, pointing at Tangrowth and then gave him a thumbs up as his voice slowly faded.

He was finally unconscious.

"Good job," Zach praised as he recalled his fire type. He'd probably thought that Infernape could finish us off with Blaze.

He sent out his Pidgeot next, but it was only a matter of time now. The bird was an absolutely massive specimen. Pidgeot large enough for their trainers to fit on them were rare, but this one was slightly larger than Maeve's Staraptor and I was confident that she'd be able to fit two of me.

Zachary muttered something under his breath

"Ancient Power!" I yelled.

I knew that Zachary always used Pidgeot's superior sense of hearing to take his opponents by surprise, and I would go down fighting.

Arcs of air broke against Tangrowth's rocks, but Pidgeot wasn't idle. She flew at a comfortable pace and was easy enough to track, but after her trainer whispered something, she suddenly sped up and spun around Tangrowth with incredible agility. It was like she could combine Talonflame's speed and Staraptor's maneuverability all at once.

A Twister formed, and Angel was stuck in the middle. He attempted to launch a few rocks into the sky with Ancient Power, but he didn't have Togetic's control. Even his vines had better range than his psychic powers. The Twister overtook him, kicking up dirt, dust, and rocks.

The end of the attack revealed his unconscious body. I took deep breaths as my heartbeat slowed and the tension in my body loosened. In the end, I'd taken down two Pokemon and slightly injured a third, but that was fighting with the type effectiveness at crucial moments…

There was a long way to go, still, but Arceus, that had been fun.

Thank you to my Patreons - Spandaz, Alex Walters, androide, ObsidianOlive, A Ferret, MKK, Oblige, Joe, Emilowish, Sean, Tim Schmidt, Dim, Violett T, Dom Noct, yesnomaybeso, Sean M, Cypha, Daniel, Ryan T, Kail H, Bridie, dragonslaver, Benjamin R, Jon, Patrick, RosaC, TsukiNoNeko, NPM, Jim A
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