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Written Story Kalos Teen Gijinka Showstoppers; an X/Y Gijinka Duallocke

Thread Description
Two very different Trainers compete in the glamorous and dramatic Kalos League; updates weekly

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
223
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
So the idea for this run came to me when I was watching the new seasons of Raven (basically it's a physically-oriented kids' game show with a thin layer of 'in-story' narrative glazed over the top) a few years back; it amounts to 'okay so how would a world where Pokemon are basically humans with physical traits and powers matching their species still look loosely like the Pokemon world of the video games?' although it's been kinda metamorphosing into long rambling worldbuilding sessions at times as I've been writing it (so, uh, sorry if some parts seem to drag on I guess?) As you might be able to tell from the rather convoluted ruleset, I had the outline of the story written before I ever started the games!

The chapters here are probably going to be mostly between 500-1500 words and given how much my brain has refused to let me do anything but write this I'm hopeful I can maintain a pace of 2/week updates. Also this is gonna be a lot more off-the-cuff-ish than CotD was probably, chiefly because that's kinda the style I was going for. Let's see if it works.

1) Catch only the first thing encountered on each route.
1a) Dupes clause; 5 attempts to catch a non-dupe per route
1b) Pidgey clause; forced encounters don't count as encounters, for better or worse
2) Pokemon that faint are considered 'dead' (from a gameplay perspective, not so much a story one) and must be released
3) All Pokemon must be nicknamed.
4) Immediately preceding each rival battle, a Link Battle is held between the two different playthroughs. Obviously Pokemon that faint here do not count as dead in the story!
5) There Can Be Only One - Trade and Gift Pokemon can only exist on one game, unless the Pokemon can be acquired multiple times in a single game normally. The same is true of the Mega Ring; only the victor of the Link battle at the Tower of Mastery (which in-game is ostensibly for the sole Mega Ring) may use Mega Evolution until the in-game rival gets a Mega Ring too.
- The bit where Korrina just kinda foists a Lucario on you and forces you to Mega Evolve it to progress is exempt from this rule for the duration of that fight and that fight alone; whoever lost the prior rival battle must immediately release their Lucario after the fight (though this does not count as a 'death.')
6) Play Fair - Level limit of the next Gym leader's ace, or the Elites' aces after beating all the Gym leaders. Pokemon that exceed this limit must be boxed until the limit catches up with them.
7) Champion Perks - Except for rules 1-3 above and There Can Be Only One, all restrictions and rules are removed once the Champion has been defeated.

Eurwen (Pokemon Y)
No Remote Items - Cannot use items from the bag on own Pokemon in battle. Can use items on foe Pokemon (ie Pokeballs) or the battle in general (ie Poke Doll) freely.
Nothing But Training - Cannot increase the Affection of her Pokemon.
No Sponsorship - Cannot purchase items, except for immediately after each Gym Battle, where she can spend 1000x her current Badge total in the settlement she just won the badge in
Ace Trainer - Has a total of three levels' leeway over the level limit - this may be one Pokemon three levels over, three Pokemon one level over, or anything in between.

Julian (Pokemon X)
Focused Trainer - Restricted to using two Pokemon in a fight, not including Pokemon dragged out by opposition moves or if he immediately switches out and his original Pokemon isn't hurt by Pursuit etc. If he's forced to send out a new Pokemon due to all his 'front liners' dying, the new Pokemon is locked in until it dies or wins.
Grow Closer - Maximum Affection from Pokemon-Amie is capped by the number of Gyms beaten since that Pokemon was caught (it doesn't have to have been in the party for the Gym battle.)
Essence Amateur - No held items allowed except for Mega Stones, if applicable.

Learn From Your Battles - Eurwen and Julian benefit from relaxations of their game-specific rules after each rival battle.
- Eurwen may benefit from Pokemon-Amie the same as Julian, but with Affection additionally capped at the number of battles they've had.
- Julian may use one extra Pokemon in a fight and one held item per battle they've had.

Part 1: Beginnings
1.1 - Below!
1.2 - Below!

Part 1: Beginnings

It was a peaceful night on the outskirts of Vaniville.

Or, at least, it had been. There had, however, been the deep rumble of a big vehicle making its way down the road outside, which had left Julian awake at an obnoxiously early hour in the morning.

There were not supposed to be two two o'clocks in one day.

The rumble had stopped now, but only to be replaced by a loud beeping meandering its way slowly back down the road.

He sighed, sitting up and swivelling around so he was sitting on the edge of the bed. An arm reached around him and tried to pull him back down. "Mmmmmppffghhr," Shauna complained, eloquently. After a moment she gave up on him and stole the duvet instead, cocooning herself in it with a pillow over her head in an attempt to drown out the noise.

Judging from the fact that she joined him by the window less than a minute later, it didn't work. "What is it?" she grumbled.

He crouched slightly to let her see over him, and she leant against him, head resting on his shoulder, arms wrapped languidly around him. She was still mostly asleep. "Some big truck." It had finally come to a halt - outside their house - letting a smaller car drive around it and pull up at the house next-door, before starting up with the infernal beeping again as it laboriously moved forwards and back until it was at about a thirty-degree angle (totally blocking the road in the process.) "Ohh, I think these must be our new neighbours," he realised. He was going to blame the rude awakening for the amount of time it took him to figure that out.

"Who thought it was a good idea to move in at half-two in the morning?" Shauna's voice had a distinct Tone. This was going on her status page, he knew it.

"I have no idea."

The driver and passenger of what must have been - it was so obvious now - a moving truck got out and opened the back of the truck, while the occupants of the car - three figures, though he couldn't see much of them in the darkness - got out and started clustering around the front door of their new house.

A sudden glow from the two movers caught his attention, and both of them got noticeably bigger and a lot more muscular, reddish-brown Essence shimmering over their bodies. So they were Pokemon. In the dim light and from this distance he couldn't see any physical traits that might have identified them, so instead he tried wracking his brain to figure out what move that was - Strength? Maybe Harden? Or perhaps something like a controlled, drawn-out Superpower? - rather than staring too much at them. He was really not awake enough to deal with this.

One of the three new neighbours obviously got bored of watching the other two struggle to unlock the door, because they headed back to the car.

And...he could see it happening, like it was in slow-motion. The way one of the movers didn't see, in the dim light, that she was closer to the truck's platform than she thought and lost her footing while they were trying to carefully move a dresser out of the truck, the way the other struggled to hold it on his own and failed, losing his grip, the way the much smaller figure of the homeowner shifted slightly as if they saw it coming but didn't know what to do -

- and then there was a loud crash and splintering of wood and the figure disappeared beneath the dresser as it toppled over.

Julian jolted back in shock, frozen for a couple of moments before he instinctively found himself half-running, half-stumbling down the stairs in the dark as a loud male voice started shouting something loud and incomprehensible, pulling at the chain that held the door shut and running out to find...

He breathed a massive sigh of relief. It must have just been the angle he was looking at. The figure he'd thought had been crushed under the dresser must have just been knocked over by it, because although she - it was a woman, he could see now, probably not much older than he was, with messy blondish-brown hair down to her shoulders - was lying on the ground, she was a good foot or so away from the dresser, and she was already sitting up.

He could see the origin of the shouty voice too, now - a big man who probably rivalled the two movers in height and bulk even after their Essence enhancement, with a large grey horn protruding from his forehead and two ridges running down the back of his skull, who was bellowing at them in...what was that, Kantan? They probably had no more idea what he was saying than Julian did.

Shauna caught up with him a moment later at the front gate to their house, the first aid kit from the kitchen clutched in her hand. "Oh, thank Arc," she muttered, all but unheard, when she saw the scene. "Um...h-hello?" she asked, skirting around the argument, carefully, Julian following her automatically. He wasn't entirely sure any of the three noticed - the two movers were now arguing back at the big man - or at least shouting arguments at him that he probably couldn't understand any more than they could his. The last of the three figures had now abandoned the front door too, crouched down by the figure who'd been hit (?) by the falling dresser. She was older - maybe the first one's mother? "Um, I don't know if you can understand me, but I'm a qualified first aider, so if you're hurt, I can look at your leg for you?"

The older woman looked blank, but the younger woman said something and her expression spread into a smile. "I, uh...thanking you!" she responded, haltingly, adding something else in...yeah, Julian was pretty sure that was Kantan. "...much good at Kalosian than me."

"Much better," the younger woman corrected her, in Kalosian. There was another rapid exchange in Kantan that neither Julian nor Shauna could follow, but the reluctance in the younger woman's voice and body language was easy to see. "I'm fine," she added to Julian and Shauna.

"I just want to make sure you're okay," Shauna protested, a little put out.

The younger woman frowned, but the older woman - almost certainly her mother, or at least a mother figure - nudged her and said something else before darting away towards the argument, which was steadily getting more and more heated. "Look, I'm fine," she repeated, getting to her feet smoothly. "But...sure. Better than staying out here, I guess," she admitted, looking over to where her mother seemed to now trying to bring a halt to the argument (not an easy feat when she only understood half of it.)

Even if she was standing fine, Julian still moved over to support her, pulling one of her arms around his shoulders so she could lean on him if she needed to - they were much the same height, which made it easier. She didn't stop him, but she didn't put any weight on him at all, not even resting her arm on him. It did make him feel a little silly, but there was no reason not to be cautious.

"So what's your name?" Shauna asked, once they'd settled the woman on the couch. "And...put your leg up on here."

"Eurwen."

"Arwin?" Julian repeated. No, that wasn't quite it.

It took him a couple of tries to get it close enough, while Shauna poked at Eurwen's leg. "I told you, I'm fine," she repeated.

"I...I saw it hit you," Shauna protested. "It could've done a lot of damage."

"It didn't hit me."

Shauna gave Julian a look that could best be described as demanding, but he had no idea what to say any more than she did. "So, uh...I guess you're moving in next door?"

"Yeah."

Eurwen shifted her leg off the coffee table, sitting back on the couch. For all her reluctance to come in in the first place, she didn't seem particularly inclined to go back out and get involved in the argument, even if she appeared to be the only one of the three who could actually speak Kalosian.

"Sorry if we woke you," she added, after a long, awkward silence.

"'If'?" Shauna repeated. "It's the middle of the night!"

"Rafe insisted he'd got the time difference right. Turns out he hadn't. Who knew?" Judging from her tone, Julian rather suspected Eurwen had probably tried to correct Rafe more than once.

The sudden cessation in the argument outside caught their attention. Rafe had apparently taken it into his own hands to right the fallen dresser single-handedly, earthen-brown Essence flowing over him as he laboriously hauled it back into an upright position.

"Ugh. Idiot," Eurwen muttered.

Julian raised an eyebrow slightly, but didn't press the issue. Eurwen obviously wasn't a fan of...whoever exactly Rafe was to her and her mother...but it wasn't exactly the sort of thing you could push someone on less than five minutes after meeting them.

"Your Kalosian's really good," Julian observed, after a moment. It sounded forced even to him - though it certainly wasn't inaccurate. She barely even had an accent.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess." There was another long pause. "Thanks."

"So are you guys from Kanto?" Julian asked. "That...that is Kantan you were all speaking, right?"

"Yeah." She hesitated for a moment. "You know much about it?"

"Not...really," Julian admitted. "I know it had some...had some stuff happen a few years back. That made the news over here. Trevor probably knows more about it - he took an elective in Kantan at school."

Eurwen tilted her head on one side slightly. "Trevor?"

"Oh, a friend of ours," Shauna explained, airily. "We met in school and...well, stayed in touch. I'm sure we can introduce you, if you want to talk Kanto with someone. We're taking the League Challenge together this year, so we're meeting up pretty often."

That got Eurwen's attention. "You're joining the League Challenge?" she asked, noticeably more animated. "Can...can I ask you something about it?"

"Sure!" Shauna answered for them both. "Julian's going to do amazing! He got one of the highest marks in the aptitude test!"

"Heeey!" Julian protested, blushing. It wasn't like he wasn't unused to Shauna singing his praises to everyone they met but that didn't stop it being embarrassing (which was usually the point, of course.)

"Actually it was that test thing I wanted to ask about," Eurwen admitted. "I took it virtually, back in Kanto, but the mark I got...didn't make sense?"

"Ooh, you're joining, too?" Shauna beamed at her. "We can all take part together!" Julian nudged her and she stopped before bombarding Eurwen with a hundred more questions.

"What didn't make sense about it?" Julian asked.

"The final mark I got was...I think three grades lower than the individual marks for each of the tests. That's...not how averages work." It wasn't much of a question.

It took Julian a moment to consider. "Uh, it happens, sometimes.

"How much do you know about the Kalos League?"
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
223
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #2
By the time Eurwen had left Julian and Shauna's house, the moving company was gone. Glenys was hovering anxiously outside. "Is your leg okay, dear?"

Eurwen sighed. "You don't have to keep doing this, Mom."

Glenys drew herself up. "No matter what, I'm still your mother, and I'm still going to worry about you."

Eurwen couldn't help but smile. "I know." She leaned into the offered hug. "Where's Rafe?"

"Oh, he's gone to bed. I insisted."

Because you wanted him to get some sleep, or because he was making things worse? She bit her tongue before saying it aloud.

"I know you don't like him, Eurwen, but -"

She held up her hands. "Mom," she interrupted, firmly. "You love him. And he was there for you. That's good enough for me."

(And after all, it wasn't as though she'd have to spend too much time with him once she was off on the League Challenge.)

They headed inside, and Glenys frowned when she saw the pile of furniture that had been removed from the lorry. "Ohh..." she groaned. "I thought I'd told them to put it in the dining room!"

"Aren't the stairs somewhere under there?"

"Yes," she grumbled.

Eurwen had to try to suppress a grin at the image of Rafe getting up in the morning and realising he was trapped upstairs. She couldn't help but wonder if the moving company had done that deliberately.

"Hmm..." Glenys mused. "If we can move my old desk to one side, we should be able to get up and get Rafe to give us a hand moving some of this."

"Let him sleep. He needs it." She clambered over a cushy chair that smelt of cats, levering the table in question aside, nodding to the gap in the furniture it formed. "You should get some sleep too."

"You don't have to always do this, dear. We hired the moving company for a reason."

"This is who I am, Mom." She sighed, reaching out with her free hand to help Glenys up. "This is what I am," she corrected herself.

"Is that why you brought that horrible thing with you?" Eurwen paused. She hadn't realised her mom knew about it. "Samuel told me," Glenys added, by way of explanation. "Your...abilities...are one thing, but -"

"It's still a part of that side of me. I can't come to terms with what happened hiding it away."

Glenys sighed. "I know. I just...I wish you could just forget everything. That we could just forget everything."

"Yeah. Me too."

03:42 - Sam: Hey, you arrived!

03:43 - Eurwen: Wow, that was fast.

03:43 - Sam: I may have had this up on my second monitor so I could see when you popped back online. So you're all moved in now?

03:43 - Eurwen: Not even close.
It's the middle of the night here. I only just found my laptop.
Luckily the router came with the house.

03:44 - Eurwen: Oh, and someone told my mom about the dex.


03:46 - Sam: Urrrrrrgh.
I bet it was Bill.
I'll beat him up later for you.


03:47 - Eurwen: My knight in shining lab coat. :p

03:47 - Sam: :p

03:49 - Sam: Seriously, though, E, be careful.
Even if you are in Kalos now.


03:50 - Eurwen: *hugs*
I will, Blue.


03:50 - Sam: >:(

03:50 - Eurwen: :p

03:50 - Sam: And here I thought we were having a touching conversation.
Are you ever going to let that go? :p


03:50 - Eurwen: Nope. :D


Please do let me know if the 'chat' colours are particularly annoying to read, especially given that people might be using different backgrounds.

Also, zephyr_iphis made a lovely banner for Showstoppers! (Just ignore the Eevee gijinka in the corner; she'll show up eventually!)

Showstoppers_sprite_banner.png
 
Last edited:

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
223
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #3
04:47 - Bows: Hey guys

04:48 - Walking Encyclo: This is pretty early for you, Shauna.

04:50 - Bows: Its a long story. U mind if we bring someone along at the weekend? 😇

04:51 - The Queen: Uh...why?

05:05 - Walking Encyclo: 😕

05:09 - Bows: (J) Someone moved into the house next door to us.
Also Shauna's fallen asleep on the chair.

05:11 - Bows: Sorry, just getting Shauna comfortable. So, yeah, new neighbour.


05:14 - The Queen: Beware incoming text wall! 😛

05:14 - Bows: 😛

05:16 - Bows: She and her parents moved in early this morning. Her name's Erawen, I think? It's Kantan, and I don't know how to spell it. But she's taking part in the League this year. I don't think she knows much about it though - she said her grade got marked down three steps after the aptitude tests, and it didn't sound like she knows why, so she could probably use some help understanding what the League is like here. And I thought she might want some friends to hang out with, at least at the beginning, since it's only a couple weeks before the start of the League anyway and I don't think she knows anyone here.


05:17 - Walking Encyclo: It's probably spelt Eurwen.

05:17 - The Queen: So what's she like?

05:18 - Bows: Quiet? It was 2:30, I wasn't exactly in the best state of mind to do a physiological analysis.
*psychological


05:18 - The Queen: 🤣 🤣
And that's why you don't try to use big wods half-asleep. What's that called again, Trevs?
Damn it!


05:18 - Walking Encyclo: You seem to be having enough trouble with the little 'wods.'
And it's a Freudian slip.


05:18 - Bows: 😛

05:19 - Walking Encyclo: (Message deleted by user)
This may seem an odd question - how old would you say she is?

05:19 - Bows: Our age? Maybe a year or so one way or another.

05:21 - Walking Encyclo: (Message deleted by user)
Sorry, just trying to find a good way of saying this.

05:25 - Walking Encyclo:
(Message deleted by user)

05:28 - Walking Encyclo: I know we got taught that Kanto was in turmoil in school, but honestly that's putting it pretty lightly. The government there was basically overthrown by two rogue Gym Leaders. A lot of people fled - some in fear for their lives. Things are getting back to normal, but our government only lifted their advisory not to travel there two years ago, and if Eurwen's our age then she'll be old enough to remember the worst of it.

05:30 - The Queen: (Message deleted by user)

05:30 - Bows: Damn. Why did we never hear about it?

05:31 - Walking Encyclo: Because our government didn't do anything to help the people of Kanto.
There are a lot of theories as to why.


05:32 - The Queen: Why?
Nvm


05:32 - Walking Encyclo: The prevailing one, based on what little information is available, is that they didn't think they could. There's no real evidence for it, but there's a lot of talk about some sort of weapon that was used by the rogue leaders, dangerous and powerful enough to make them virtually unstoppable.

05:32 - The Queen: Kind of makes the narrative this year about an ancient weapon feel in bad taste.

05:33 - Walking Encyclo: To Kantans, it probably is.
But in fairness, it's over now. Kanto's healing. My point was more...
You're probably right that she could use some friends. Just...be gentle.

05:35: And don't mention this to her. She probably doesn't want the reminder.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
223
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #4
A couple of days passed before the meeting Julian and Shauna had arranged with their friends to explain about the Kalos League to her. Eurwen spent most of those couple of days with her new neighbours - the house-moving was going slowly, mostly because of Rafe picking fights with the people from the moving company over every little thing, and Glenys was more than happy to let her daughter stay away from it all even if Eurwen was the only one who could translate for them.

She'd been introduced to the other two members of their little group over video chat, the morning after their rather unceremonious arrival, while Julian and Shauna tried not to nod off and her mother went down the road reciting a badly-pronounced but well-meaning apology to all the people they'd woken up the night before.

Julian was obviously the leader of the four, in so far as they had one, tall and athletic with brownish hair and a thin layer of stubble that he probably took care to ensure remained just that. He was confident and sure of himself, but not so much as to be arrogant, and there was such a tender, gentle side to him in the way he interacted with Shauna that it was hard dislike him.

Shauna took a little more getting used to - the shorter woman was just too chipper, too excited, constantly, and the way she immediately assumed Eurwen was just like her and told the others how happy she was to have "another girl around the place to keep the boys in line" rankled - doubly so when everything she'd seen of Shauna so far suggested that she'd get on much better with the 'boys.' It didn't help that she was very pretty and very uninterested in girls.

Then there was Tierno, an upbeat young man with dark hair tied up in a bun, and Trevor, who she didn't see much of - he popped his video on briefly, long enough for her to see a mop of reddish-brown hair, and then turned it off again, ostensibly for bandwidth reasons, and communicated mostly through text.

It was...strange.

It wasn't as though Eurwen hadn't had friends (and more) back in Kanto, but letting two almost-strangers drive her to the neighbouring city to meet their friends and explain about the Kalos League to her was...an odd feeling. Logically, she knew that she was in no danger - even leaving everything else aside, they lived next door to her and her parents knew she was with them. But she'd never have done the same in Kanto, not even in exactly the same situation.

She'd worn one of her old hoodies - Julian and Shauna had given her some odd looks when they saw the left sleeve ripped off at the elbow, but they didn't question her - and a comfortable, loose T-shirt, pair of jeans, and boots. And then she'd just sat in the back of their little car and let Julian and Shauna talking to each other wash over her, relaxing in the sun.

Also something she'd never done in Kanto.

The drive to Aquacorde was just under half an hour, and Shauna took them the scenic route when they got there, driving slowly over the elegant bridge and letting Eurwen stare at the beautiful, pristine water before taking them back around and pulling into a small parking lot outside a shop that was liberally decorated with pictures of a cartoony ice-cream cone with a goofy smile. Shauna parked in a 'staff only' bay without any apparent concern, and laughed when she saw Eurwen's suspicious look. "We come here often enough we might as well be honorary staff! C'mon!"

The bell jingled merrily as they entered, and the proprietor - a jovial, portly man with a large, red horn protruding through his hair from his temple - smiled warmly at Shauna and Julian as they entered. "Nice to see you two! And, uh...Error-wen?" He blushed at what he knew must have been the wrong pronunciation. "Sorry, Trevor was trying to teach me, but I think I'm a lost cause. He's upstairs with Tierno already, if you want to go on up." Eurwen lingered for a moment, looking at the array of ice creams, before following Julian and Shauna.

It turned out that 'upstairs' was a small apartment, one-bed but with enough room to spread out, and fairly well-appointed. Once they were all up, Julian made a point of introducing all four of them to Eurwen 'properly.'

Tierno and Trevor were almost polar opposites. Tierno was big and tall and most people would probably have said he was overweight at first glance. But the way he hopped up to shake hands with her, quick and graceful as anything, made it clear that a lot of that bulk was muscle - though he shook her hand ever so gently, not falling into the trap of forgetting he was bigger and stronger than most others the way people like Rafe did.

Trevor, meanwhile, was even shorter than Shauna and scrawny, and he went red as a cheri when she complimented him on his (genuinely pretty good) attempt at greeting her in Kantan. Physically he was the least imposing of the group, but he had bright, intelligent eyes that focused on everything going on, all the little interactions, watching her every bit as much as she was watching them. He was the most dangerous of them, by far.

That didn't matter. There was no reason for it to matter.

"So, back to the League," Julian said, once introductions had been made and they were all settled in various seats. "You said you didn't really know much about the League in Kalos. What's it like in Kanto?"

Eurwen gave him a slightly puzzled look. "It's...the League. You know, you beat eight Gym Leaders for the right to face the Elite Four, and if you beat them you can face the Champion. It's a good way of ranking Trainers and their teams."

"The, uh...the League in Kalos is a bit different," Trevor offered. "Tierno, have you still got the thing saved?"

"Of course," Tierno replied, an attempt at an affronted expression spoiled by his grin, as he pulled out a small, red object from a pocket and opened it slightly, causing a holographic interface to appear above it.

"Is that a Pokedex?" Eurwen asked.

Now it was the others giving her puzzled looks. "Well, obviously!" Shauna replied. "You must have Pokedexes in Kanto?"

Shauna's voice was so honestly confused that Eurwen couldn't be too upset at the superiority of the comment. "Not...not ones like that," she answered, simply.

"Well, you'll get one for the League Challenge," Julian interjected. He gave her an apologetic look when Shauna wasn't looking. "Though you might want to think about getting one for yourself anyway, just to keep in contact with people and check for places to eat, that kind of thing."

"Kantan Pokedexes just do...Pokemon," she muttered. Fortunately she was saved from her embarrassment by the TV screen flickering to life as Tierno finished...whatever it was he was doing...with his Pokedex.

"Play the tape!" Shauna demanded, overdramatically.

"Hold up." Tierno raised one finger as if to make a grand statement. "I believe," he continued, affecting a very posh accent that made them all grin, "that we agreed that a showing of the League season trailer should be accompanied by -"

"Ice cream!" Shauna beamed. "I'll go get some! Ooh, Eurwen, what's your favourite flavour?"

Seeing their eyes suddenly turn to her made her shuffle in her seat. "I...I don't know?"

Stupid. Why couldn't she have just said something safe, like 'vanilla' or 'chocolate'? Now they were all looking at her even more.

"Okay, well, what flavours have you tried before?" Tierno asked. "We can just get one of those."

"Uh...I...uh..."

"Have you...have you never had ice cream?"

Of course she screwed something up this quickly. This was why she couldn't risk relaxing around people.

"Are you allergic to ice cream?" Trevor asked, quite sensibly. Thank Arc. An easy out. All she'd have to do is say 'yes' and the matter would be closed.

"No..."

"Okay," Julian nodded, standing up. "Then we only have one option - to find out what your favourite flavour is." He struck a totally unnecessarily dramatic pose that made her smile despite herself. "Scientifically!" With almost perfect synchrony, he and Tierno reached out, and pulled her up when she took their offered hands despite her worry, pretending to march her back down the stairs to the ice cream parlour. For all the mock force behind their movements, neither of them were making any effort to hold her, leaving her plenty of opportunity to pull free if she'd wanted. It was a nice gesture, and she had to admit, she liked the warmth of them around her. It felt...safe. Comfortable, if unfamiliar. Sam was the only real friend she had and he generally preferred to stay away from her the same way everyone else in Pallet did, no matter how much he told her he didn't.

Maybe this was what having friends was always supposed to feel like.
 

llyarden

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  • #5
Julian had been totally serious about finding out what flavour of ice cream was her favourite. They got her to try almost two dozen different flavours - tiny, half-teaspoon-sized scoops - before saving her from Tierno's father's long list of potential pairings of flavours that worked well together.

In the end, she settled on a single scoop of a deep red ice cream that was a flavour called 'Roselle,' which was apparently refined from a berry that was grown in Kalos she'd never heard of before - the proprietor made a point of reassuring her that the berries were treated to make them safe for human consumption, which forced her to remember with a start that humans couldn't ingest too much Essence-infused matter before it hurt them. That was something she'd have to be careful about here.

Julian - perhaps to be companionable with her - passed over all the extravagant options and picked an 'Orano Swirl,' a mix of vanilla and another berry derivative, though he did allow himself the luxury of multicoloured chocolate sprinkles on top.

Shauna went for a sickeningly-sweet triple scoop of apple, chocolate and peach with treated mago chunks on top, all lathered in syrup and in a chocolate-coated cone.

Trevor's order was obviously something of an acquired taste - but a standard for him - because Tierno's father had already fished a tub containing a (rather unappetising-looking) blue-and-grey ice cream out from under the counter somewhere before Trevor had even spoken, adding a scoop on top of the whipped cream that he'd squirted into a small pot.

Rather than make them wait longer, Tierno slipped behind the counter while his father was working on Trevor's ice cream and arranged a medley of small scoops of a half-dozen different flavours into a large cone, with a practiced ease that suggested he'd done this many times before. "I work with my dad during busy times," he explained, when he noticed her watching him. "Kind of my rent for upstairs, 'cos they refused to let me actually rent it from them."

They reconvened upstairs, the four of them squashing together on the couch - they squashed together even further to make room for Eurwen, but she just perched on the arm of the couch instead - and started half-trading, half-stealing bites from each other's ice creams. They were so comfortable around each other, so casual and friendly and so obviously tight-knit that it would've been all but impossible for them to offend each other seriously. And they were trying to include her, not pushy, but consistently giving her an opportunity to join them as just another one of the group - and they barely even knew her.

Julian swiped a scoop of her ice cream while she was thinking. She hadn't even noticed him reaching up. It was so easy, almost frighteningly easy, to relax around them.

But she couldn't help but wonder whether they'd be so kind and inclusive if they did know her.

"Okay, ice cream acquired!" Shauna trilled. "Now...on with the show!"

Tierno tapped a holographic button on his Pokedex and the TV sprang to life.
 

llyarden

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  • #6
At first, the screen was black.

"My name is Professor Augustine Sycamore. And I need your help."

"A great and terrible danger is rising in Kalos. Ancient history threatens to repeat itself." The screen began to fill with figures dressed in white, each wearing odd masks in an assortment of colours, with matching scarves. "My Masked Defenders have held the threat at bay for a time, but now valiant Trainers and Pokemon must unite to face it."

The 'Masked Defenders' disappeared, to be replaced with small snapshots of people - some human, some Pokemon - doing various...tasks? Games? Eurwen wasn't quite sure. "The road will be hard, and filled with trials that must be overcome. Eight great peaks of Kalos hold ancient power, and only by conquering all eight will the challengers be able to face the Elite Four, and the Champion of Kalos." A dozen or so new figures appeared on the screen briefly, only to vanish again.

"But be cautious, my challengers. A new power is emerging - one that only the finest Trainers will be able to master. And master it they must, if they are to confront the foe behind it all." Now the screen was filled with a rainbow-coloured symbol, and a silhouette in front of it that Eurwen all but missed.

She risked a glance around the others. Tierno was boogieing along to the theme tune, totally lost in his own little world, and Julian was leaning back with his eyes half-closed, idly watching the speech and pretending he couldn't see Shauna stealing his ice cream. Trevor was leaning forwards, watching the TV intently.

None of them seemed to recognise the symbol. That was good. But...how was it here?

"Soon, our challengers will be chosen, guided by my Masked Defenders. To them I say...your adventure begins now."

The theme music ended with a dramatic flourish and the symbol and silhouetted figure vanished, to be replaced by the simple words 'The 25th​ Kalos League - Starting Soon.'

"Well?" Julian was looking at her. "What do you think?"

She had to work to make her voice neutral. "I...what was all that? That...wasn't the League, was it? The...rope climbing, and all those other clips?"

"Yep!" Tierno grinned. They were all smiling. How could watching something they must have seen a dozen times over make them so happy? "The Kalos League is more than just pure battle power. It's a way for Trainers and Pokemon to show off what they can do, in and out of battle."

"And to tell a great story!" Shauna added. "The great victories, painful losses...people watch it for the show."

"I guess you could say it's one part reality TV, one part game show, one part standard combat sport," Julian said, after a few moments of consideration.

She was glad to have something else to focus on besides the symbol. "So...are you on camera all the time?"

"Not all the time." Tierno tapped a couple of buttons on his Pokedex, and then paused. "Uh, well, I was going to send the rules to you, but I guess you don't have a 'dex ID either. If you're taking part, you'll want to read them beforehand. A really brief summary, though, is that you're generally 'timed in' - that's League-speak for on camera - if you're taking part in a challenge or in a League event, like the Choosing, if you battle another contestant, or if you specifically choose to film yourself and your team so you can have some filler footage or whatever."

"The main currency of the League is called 'Tokens,'" Julian added. "You're not allowed to use items or services that can have an impact on the challenges and battles from outside the League, so Tokens can be traded in for items, the opportunity to battle other Pokemon to get them to join your team, or paid to take part in some challenges. You get them from winning challenges, or from the League in exchange for real-world sponsorship money they receive, and most of them can be traded between contestants freely."

"Challenges come in, uh...four varieties!" Shauna interjected. "Blue challenges are things like treasure hunts, riddles...stuff with no physical component. Green are ones that require a bit of effort but no real danger. Yellow challenges are physical challenges that are actually...challenging. And then red are the ones that involve battles between Pokemon."

"Don't forget unregulated challenges," Trevor pointed out.

"I was trying to make it simple!" Shauna protested.

"Unregulated challenges - or black, or grey, or white, or whatever other name people want to call them," Julian explained, "are the rarest of the challenge types. Gym matches are the main ones, but there are usually a few others. They're like red challenges - they involve Pokemon battles - but there's the risk of the challenging Trainer getting hurt in the battles too. It's a really small risk," he added hastily, holding up one hand with his fingers pinched together to demonstrate just how small. "Official unregs only ever have League-sanctioned Pokemon with a lot of practice on the other side. They might threaten a Trainer, or if the Trainer is a Pokemon who can handle it they might be a little more aggressive - and things will look scarier in the show than they really are, of course - but someone actually getting hurt is really rare."

"That's true of the whole League," Tierno added. "For Trainers and Pokemon - the risk is higher for Pokemon, of course, because they're battling, but it's still incredibly rare for even a Pokemon to get hurt in a way a couple nights' rest won't fix."

"Okay, okay!" Eurwen protested, holding up her hands before they could continue their 'really brief summary' that didn't seem very brief at all. "You said you were going to explain my score," she pointed out. It probably sounded harsher than she'd meant it to.

"Oh, right." Julian flushed, embarrassed. "So, the final score you're given is based on an average of all your scores in the individual trials, which I guess you figured out - but that average is averaged again, with a score given to you by backstage analysts on...well, how much of a show you put on during the trials, basically. How good you look on camera."

"Wait, what?"

"Did no-one tell you?" Tierno asked.

"No, no-one told me! As far as I knew the League here was just training and battling, the same as back home!" She wondered if her mom knew. "I literally arrived in the country three days ago, you know."

"Well, it's no big deal," Julian assured her. "It's only your aptitude test scores that matter for whether you're allowed to compete, and even then it's only for a couple of them - the ones you wouldn't be safe to compete if you couldn't pass. The final scores don't mean anything inside the League itself - it's just sponsorship stuff for outside the League."

"Yeah, Julian's the only one of us with a sponsorship based on his score," Tierno nodded. "Trevs and I don't have any sponsorships, and Shauna's isn't score-based either."

Eurwen looked to Shauna, quizzically. "Oh, I have one from a beauty company for exclusivity about using their stuff on camera," she explained. "Julian has one like that for potions, too."

"Getting a sponsorship before the League starts up really isn't that important," Julian repeated. "But you will want to try and make a show of things once it starts."

"Make a...what does 'make a show' even mean?"

"Just...relax, you know?" Tierno suggested. "You'll be working with Pokemon who've grown up around this, the way we have, so just...go with the flow. Let them do their thing and roll with it."

"The, uh..." Trevor hadn't said much while the others were explaining. "The League is meant to be enjoyable, above everything. Some people try to springboard off it to go pro or make a career out of what they do on camera, but unless you're really focused - and really good - it's pretty hard. If you want to seriously try at it, there's nothing stopping you, but...you might want to think about what you want out of the League.

"There's nothing wrong with taking part just to have fun."
 

llyarden

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  • #7
Eurwen stayed with them, even after they stopped explaining the League to her. Their conversations ebbed and flowed in a pattern she couldn't quite grasp but which was obviously perfectly natural to them, and they kept leaving gaps for her to chip in if she wanted to.

Why were they being so nice to her? Surely they couldn't treat every new stranger they met this way.

As the morning wore on, they got into an animated argument about where they should eat lunch that they tried to get her to settle, and then insisted on taking her with them once they'd finally decided.

"But I...I don't have any money," she admitted, sheepishly. Getting the ice cream for free had been bad enough. "We couldn't exchange much."

"It's cool," Julian shrugged. "We dragged you all the way out here, least we can do is buy you lunch."

She had to resist the urge to clench her fists. "Why...why are you all being so...so kind?"

She said it louder than she meant to, and a couple of other pedestrians glanced around, and she instinctively shrunk away, looking down at the ground to hide her face, arms folded tight.

"'Cos you're our friend now!" Shauna crouched down so she could look Eurwen in the eye. Eurwen looked away and found her gaze hooked by Julian's instead.

"But...you haven't even known me a week!"

"And?" Shauna retorted, bouncing back up. "You like us, we like you, why does there need to be anything more for us to be friends?" Then she paused for a moment. "You...you do like us, right?"

"Yes!" she replied, oh so quickly. "I just..." She looked back down at the ground.

"I'm sorry if we seem...overbearing," Trevor said, quietly. "We just...want you to feel happy here. To not be alone."

He was the one who knew about Kanto, Shauna and Julian had said. Just how much did he know?

"Do you actually know anyone in Kalos?" Julian asked. "Besides us, I mean?"

"No," she sighed. "None of us do. It's...I do really like being with you guys. I just..." She hesitated for a few moments. "I'm not used to people being nice to me for no reason."

She was still looking down at the ground, so she didn't notice Tierno moving closer until she found herself wrapped in a bear hug, sudden and strong and so warm and genuine that she leaned against him and hugged him back tightly, almost without realising she was doing it. A moment later Julian hugged her too, and Shauna, and even Trevor - though not brave enough to actually touch her - came closer to stand at the outside of the little circle she'd found herself at the centre of.

She knew she shouldn't trust them. How many times had she been hurt by people acting this way, pretending they were her friends? There was no way Kalos could be so different, so happy, that people could genuinely act like this.

And yet...that chance that they were truly just being nice to her for the sake of being nice, no matter how small a chance it might have been, was enough that she couldn't bring herself to push them away.
 

llyarden

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  • #8
In the end, she let them buy her lunch - though she ordered less than she normally would've, deliberately picking her order so that she was the cheapest of the five. Trevor obviously noticed, but he didn't say anything.

They spent most of the rest of the day wandering aimlessly around Aquacorde, the others taking turns to show her various landmarks around the town that they all must have seen dozens of times before - the old fountain that people said was centuries old, the local public training area for Pokemon, an old-style medicine shop for Pokemon that couldn't call its wares Potions, and the original site of the manufacturing facility for restraint devices used by the Kalos police forces and military, which had now been turned into a museum.

Whatever they'd planned on discussing between the four of them had obviously been abandoned, and she felt bad for taking up their time like this, but she didn't want to tell them in case they stopped.

They ended up relaxing in a park on the outskirts as the afternoon wore on. Tierno challenged her to an arm-wrestling contest with a kind of amused grin that made her suspect he knew exactly who would win, and no matter how much she knew it was a bad idea to take him up on it she was a little disappointed when Shauna totally missed the subtext and scolded him for trying to 'show off' to her.

"By the way," Julian said, "at some point this week you'll get all your League stuff - licence, location for the Choosing, Pokedex and all that. There should also be a letter telling you who your agent is - let us know when you get it, yeah? There's a pretty good chance you'll have the same one as we do."

"My...agent?"

"I think someone forgot you weren't in Kalos these past few months," Tierno observed, smirking at Julian when he looked embarrassed.

She couldn't exactly fault him. It felt like she'd known them for ages, not just a couple of days. She wished she really had known them for months.

"It's something they're trying for the first time this year. Since this is the 25th​ League," Trevor explained, "they want to make it a real spectacle. So rather than hire dozens of actors to play those Masked Defenders, they opened it up to the public. Anyone could enter, no matter whether they'd been in the League before, to play the role of a Defender, and you still get the normal benefit of the government covering your wages, free room and travel and a stipend to cover food and drink - but the cost is you have to handle most of the off-screen stuff for the Trainer, or group of Trainers, you're attached to on-screen."

"But the Defenders aren't allowed to reveal who they are to the public," Shauna added. "So a lot of people who might not have minded doing boring admin stuff in exchange for getting to be on-screen in the League and on tour with challengers didn't sign up."

"Yeah, they massively overestimated how many they'd get," Tierno chuckled. "So they had to group Trainers geographically and assign agents to those groups."

Eurwen frowned slightly. "If it's geographic, how do you all have the same agent?"

"Oh, we signed up as a group," Shauna explained, breezily. "And I'm the technical point of contact for the group, so they used my address. And there aren't that many wannabe Trainers in Vaniville - or Aquacorde, for that matter - so especially when you live right next-door, you'll probably be lumped in with us. So you better get used to us!" she added, with a grin.

Eurwen lay back on the soft grass, looking up at the sky. "I already am," she murmured, more to herself than anyone else.
 

llyarden

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  • #9
None of them were quite sure what to expect from Ms Stephanie Emmerson.

The League packages had arrived a couple of days after the outing to Aquacorde, and Julian and the others had been correct when they'd guessed that Eurwen would be assigned the same agent as them. The League had helpfully booked them an office room to meet their new agent in, so it was another drive to Aquacorde, and now the five of them were waiting in the room.

Apparently, one thing they could expect from Ms Emmerson was tardiness, because she should have arrived ten minutes ago. They were all watching the door intently, as if they could conjure her up by staring hard enough, only pausing to check their Pokedexes (except for Eurwen, of course) to check they hadn't been sent any sort of cancellation.

The door finally opened and someone burst in, panting. "I'm here! Oh, Arc, this is the right room, isn't it?"

There was a moment of confusion among the group. When they'd pictured someone called Stephanie Emmerson, they'd all been imagining someone quite prim and proper. Instead, the late arrival was a woman probably much the same age as them, lithe and toned like a gymnast with long, furry ears poking through her hair and a big, bushy tail that was almost as tall as she was, dressed in a light, short dress. Eurwen tried not to stare too much as the Eevee caught her breath. Judging from the woman's smirk, she didn't succeed. "Ms...Emmerson?" Julian hazarded.

"Ew, Steph, please." She closed the door and leaned back against it, tilting her head on one side so she could regard the group. "Seriously, 'Ms Emmerson' sounds like an old lady who goes around hitting people with a cane for making out in public." Her eyes sparkled with momentary amusement as she regarded the group. "Sorry I'm late. The League apparently forgot to tell the bus company that my ID was meant to give me a free return ticket to get here." She rolled her eyes, letting out a short, sharp breath. "So..." She pulled a Pokedex out of her jeans pocket - an older model than the ones Julian and his friends had - and flicked it open, padding closer to them. "Julian Calme, Tierno Pequin, Trevor Comple, Shauna Vale -" they each nodded in acknowledgement "- and Eurwen Brennan. And her shoes."

For a moment Eurwen didn't know what Steph was talking about until she remembered the shoebox that was sitting on her lap. "No, it's not shoes!" she protested, before noticing the cocky smirk on Steph's face. "It's my Pokedex," she grumbled, opening the box and pulling it out to let them see.

"You didn't say you had a custom 'dex!" Tierno protested.

"That's seriously cool!" Shauna peered over Julian's head to look at it.

"I...didn't realise it was a big deal," she admitted. She glanced over at Trevor. He hadn't said anything, but he was practically bouncing out of his seat. "Want to look?"

It might have been the first time he didn't blush when she addressed him. "Can I? I studied Pokemon-adjacent technology at college," he added, as if that might somehow convince her even though she was already proffering it to him, and gave a startled exclamation when she set it in his outstretched hand. "It's heavy!" He just barely managed to avoid dropping it, and slipped his arm through it briefly. "Was it custom-made for you? It wouldn't fit me at all but you're, um, a lot more muscly than me." There was that blush, even though he wasn't even looking at her. She couldn't help but find it sweet. "I guess these must be the controls, but...this must be really complicated to use in battle. It doesn't look like it has any tactile projectors on it, and the screen is tiny. Um, not that I'm saying it's bad!" he added quickly. "It's, um..." He cast around for something good to say about it. "It's really solid. This doesn't look like the stuff they make even military 'dexes out of. Those edges look sharp, but I guess it doesn't matter all that much if it sits still on your forearm. Uh, you have updated it for Kalosian protocols, right?"

She nodded. "Yeah. Apparently they're...opened sauces, or something -"

"Open source," he corrected her.

"- so someone did that for me back in Kanto."

"So is your theme going to be based off this?" Steph asked, hopping up so she was sitting on the table next to Eurwen while she took her Pokedex back off him. "Retro sci-fi or something? 'I come from a dark future where the big bad threat won'?"

"My...theme?" Steph looked down at her. "No-one told me anything about the League before I arrived in Kalos," she explained. "Barely a week ago."

"Oh, so you're totally new to this, Eurwen?" Steph rolled the R of her name until it became a languid purr that sent a shiver down Eurwen's spine, and grinned mischievously at her reaction. "Well, a theme is...pretty much what it says on the tin. People act differently in front of the camera to fit whatever they want to get out of the League. If they want to be known for being a Trainer, they try to do something related to their team - type-based themes are pretty common, acting spooky if they're focused on Ghost-types or whatever. If they want to be a coordinator they'll focus on a style of performance. People trying to get someone to go out with them usually go for a theme that matches whoever they want to go out with them, obviously."

"Wait, people seriously enter the League to get someone to go out with them?"

The others all chuckled, even Trevor. "Oh, yes," Steph answered, simply, tail swishing along the table. "Sometimes not even a proper relationship, just a more...intimate...connection." Her eyes were fixed on Eurwen's.

"Remember, we're on the older side for first-time competitors," Julian pointed out, sparing Eurwen from Steph's gaze and little, knowing smirk. "A lot of people enter the League right after high school, especially if they don't care about actually using their League record for their career, so you have a whole lot of people round about the same age, from all around the region, without any parents watching them, and emotions running high because of all the challenges..."

"And some people deliberately act out romances on-screen for better screentime," Shauna piped up, "and sometimes they turn into real ones."

Tierno nodded. "It's pretty common for people to have their first serious relationship as a result of the League. And, I mean, because everyone knows that, you get people who might not've cared otherwise entering specifically to try to find someone, so it gets even more common. But, uh, anyway, back on themes - I'm going for a dancing theme," he offered. "And I think...Shauna, you said you were going for a cute theme? We're both aiming for contests, mostly," he added.

"I'm kind of going for a cool theme," Julian added. "I bought a duster from a charity shop, cleaned it up a bit, added some glitter."

"Everyone does like dashing, glamorous heroes," Steph nodded, switching gears back to focusing on the League with a swiftness and ease Eurwen couldn't match.

"But...you know, depends on what Pokemon I end up with."

"I don't really have a theme either," Trevor said, perhaps in an attempt at solidarity with Eurwen. "But, then, I'm mostly wanting to do technology and logic challenges, so I guess that's sort of my theme."

"I'm beginning to think my theme ought to be 'foreigner who doesn't know what she's doing.'"

"Nah, that's no fun!" Steph countered. "Hmm..." She studied Eurwen intently for a few moments. "I think you could work an athletic theme. Or...how about a tough battling kind of theme? You know, 'only by training one's own body can one learn to train others'?"

"That quote's from a League Champion a few years back," Shauna added, helpfully.

"Yeah - I mean, he was a Medicham, so he kind of had an advantage in that he really could do all the stuff his Pokemon were, but at least early on you oughta be able to keep up with Pokemon. You've got the rugged, retro 'dex and the ripped hoodie already - it shouldn't be too hard for you. Especially if you're as tough as you look."

"You're pretty good at this," Julian remarked. "Are you actually a pro agent or something?"

Steph laughed. "Well, I'll take the compliment, but no. I just...love watching the League. Ever since I was little. But I'm...I'm not much of a battler, and I don't think I'd have the guts to tell other people what to do in a battle, so this Masked Defender thing was perfect."

She gave a soft, slender smile, before seeming to jolt herself back to the more exuberant persona she'd been putting on. Evidently it wasn't only the trainers that made a show out of things, as Julian had put it. "So, okay, themes...mostly done. Next thing - groups. Uh, they said the four of you had registered as a group already - so are you a lone wolf?"

"Does it matter?"

"There are basically two tiers of grouping you can have. Being part of a group, like we are -" Julian gestured to the other three "- means you can register for multi-person challenges more easily, but it also means that we're expected to spend a lot of on-screen time together so there's not much opportunity to go off and do your own thing - and it means that if there are certain rewards that only exist once, narratively speaking, only one of us can get them. The second option is to register as rivals or teammates, which is basically like being a group but much stricter - some challenges you literally won't be allowed to do if you're not with your rival." He paused for a moment to consider. "How about you and I register as rivals, Eurwen?"

This seemed to take the others by surprise as much as it did her. "Wait, seriously?" Shauna exclaimed, sounding more than a little put out.

"...why?" Eurwen asked, simply.

"You showed us your marks, remember?" She had, while they'd been chatting the day after her first trip to Aquacorde. "You've gotta be a really great trainer to get marks like that on the aptitude tests, even if you did take a big hit for your style grade. It would feel pretty rubbish if people didn't get to see that, just because you haven't grown up around the showbiz of the League."

Eurwen was still always lost when it came to how to handle the kindness the others were showing her. "I...uh, thanks."

Julian chuckled. "Oh, I'm not being totally selfless here. Having an awesome trainer to bounce off is gonna help me, too."

"C'mon, say yes!" Steph purred, deliberately flicking her tail around herself so Eurwen couldn't see Shauna glaring at her. "Rivalries are great for getting focus - for both of you."

"Sure." If they were going to be sticking together anyway, she couldn't see much reason not to. And besides it was...rather difficult to say no. "Rivals it is."
 

llyarden

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  • #10
The League's coach network started up the day of the Choosing, saving Shauna and Julian the bother of having to drive to Aquacorde with Eurwen. Vaniville and Aquacorde, Julian had explained, were the 'least League-y' part of Kalos, and it was fairly uncommon for people growing up there to take on the League. (He and his friends had all grown up in Lumiose and studied there before moving south after graduating college.) Nonetheless, Aquacorde did have one small League facility - not a proper training facility, but just an administration centre - for the few Trainers from the southern parts of the region, so Vaniville and Aquacorde tended to get treated as a single district for most League purposes.

Given all that, Eurwen was more than a little shocked to find the 50-seat coach that had been put on by the League to take the Trainers of Vaniville into Aquacorde for the Choosing almost completely full.

Steph was standing at the coach stop, tail swishing excitedly behind her, ears twitching as she waited for them to disembark, hopping and bouncing to try to see over the Trainers (and Pokemon) moving past her. "Hey, guys!" she beamed, when they finally managed to get to her. "Trevor and Tierno are already in the theatre."

"I feel kind of underdressed," Eurwen complained. She'd put her Pokedex on this time rather than keeping it in a shoebox (and had got some rather curious looks from the other Trainers on the coach), but that was her only real concession to League fashion. Julian was indeed wearing a long, brown duster with some sort of glittery gold paint on the collars and cuffs, and she had to admit he could definitely pull it off. Shauna had done something weird to her hair so it was in about four different pigtails, though Eurwen personally thought that her very short shorts and high heels came off more as 'sexy' than the 'cute' theme she was supposedly going for. And the other Trainers on the coaches all had various affectations ranging from a smart business suit to what she suspected was meant to be an Eevee-coloured onesie.

The real Eevee at the coach stop interlinked her arm with Eurwen's before she realised what Steph was doing. "Nah!" she grinned. "Casual clothes scream confidence, messy hair like you've just left a battle yourself, the ripped hoodie is still great, heavy-duty Pokedex you could brain someone with...you're perfect!" She twisted briefly, flashing Eurwen a grin that bared sharp little canines, and tugged her on after Shauna and Julian before Eurwen could quite figure out how much of that had been her professional (so to speak) opinion, how much of it had been trying to reassure her, and how much had been...something else.

The Choosing was taking place in a large theatre that the League had rented for the week and redecorated somewhat. They showed the League officials at the door their IDs and were waved through, but Eurwen was immediately approached in the hallway. "Ms Brennan?" She paused, looking over at one of the League officials. "Says here you have a custom 'dex, so it'll need to be checked over and approved before the event."

She nodded. She knew this was going to happen - it had said so in the letter she'd received from the League giving her permission to use it in the first place. It was fine. There was nothing suspicious they could find there.

"Sure," she nodded.

"You want us to wait?" Julian asked.

Yes. "No, it's fine. It should only take a couple of minutes, right?"

"Yeah, there's just a few tests - basically to check the comms protocols are implemented correctly and that it meets safety standards for impact and strain."

As it turned out, it took more than a few minutes. The League technician examining her Pokedex obviously hadn't been told beforehand that her Pokedex wasn't just a standard one in a custom frame, because he looked almost affronted when she showed him the cable that attached to registration chips to authorise further wireless communication, and the sharp edges that Trevor had remarked on caused further examination. "Well, you'll have to sign a waiver waiving any responsibility on the part of the League if you cut yourself, but since they're only really dangerous to you - and it fits snugly enough that there shouldn't be much risk - I can sign it off. Though...you do realise that you're going to be at a massive disadvantage over other Trainers, don't you?"

"Huh?"

"The wireless biostatus interface is read-only. Your 'dex can't digitise and transmit Essence," he explained, when she gave him a blank look, "so you can't deploy items remotely."

"Oh, yeah, I know that. That tech was pretty rare in Kanto." And it wasn't like healing allies had been foremost on the designer's list of priorities in any case. It had never hindered her before.

The technician gave a shrug. "Well, if you're fine with it, your 'dex does meet all the mandatory requirements, so if you take this -" he handed her a slim tablet computer "- for browsing League data and comms and just sign here..."

She barely made it to the audition hall in time. Steph had completely ignored Eurwen telling them to go and find a seat, and she was glad to find the Eevee waiting there, hustling her off to a pair of seats in between the other four just before the League official in charge of the event came up to the stage to speak.

"Morning, folks. A lot of this'll be pretty obvious, I hope, but it being the first event of the season for you all means we have to go through some stuff in detail. So, first off, you are all, obviously, here for the assignment of your first Pokemon, also known as starters. If any of you aren't here for that, though I don't know why you would be given that you're all registered for this event, now would be the time to leave. Volunteer agents, you guys are welcome to wait here and chat to your Trainers while we get things set up, and help record scenes after the assignment of Pokemon, but you don't have any part to play in this event." He ran his finger down a clipboard. "There are eighty-seven of you, so there are eighty-seven Pokemon here. You'll be given five minutes to look through the species data of the Pokemon on your Pokedexes or tablets and to create a shortlist of Pokemon you'd want to team up with. These shortlists will then be used to create four groups of fifteen to twenty Trainers and Pokemon, and you'll be split into your groups and watch short auditions that have been recorded by the Pokemon in your group before having quarter of an hour timed-in to interact with your potential starters. From that, you'll have five minutes to privately register a list of Pokemon you'd be willing to work with and Pokemon you don't want to work with, while the Pokemon do the same for you. Then there'll be ten minutes for us to make and announce the pairings."

He looked away from his clipboard for a moment. "Bear in mind, the Pokemons' choices get priority. It doesn't matter how much you want to work with a specific Pokemon, if they don't want to work with you, you're out of luck. Similarly, if there are two of you both want to team up with the same Pokemon and they'd be good with either of you, they get to choose who they go with. Now, where was I..?

"Once you've been assigned your partner, the next two hours are mostly your own, but you have to be available to film filler scenes if someone wants. If you want to film a scene with a Pokemon that you weren't paired with and you can't find them, get in contact with one of us and we'll pass the message on.

"Last thing - this whole event is considered a blue challenge, so talking only. If you want to compete with your Pokemon or others' in a race or a tug-of-war or whatever, you can do it in a filler scene after the Choosing." He gave an overdramatic sigh. "Okay, that's my bit done, so I'll get out the way and let you get going with the important stuff. Enjoy the League, and let your adventure begin."
 

llyarden

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  • #11
The way Julian and Shauna had described the Choosing, it had sounded...intimate, almost - quiet, individual conversations that led to firm partnerships forming. Not all this shortlisting and acceptance and refusal.

She made slow progress through the list of Pokemon - thankfully there was a search function, but when she didn't recognise the majority of the species and had to read through the data on them it became a tedious process. In the end her shortlist only contained a half-dozen Pokemon rather than the ten to twenty that the others seemed to be picking.

It turned out to be somewhat irrelevant anyway - because the five of them were an 'official' group, their shortlists were merged together and they were sent to the same quarter of the theatre, along with a dozen other Trainers.

The auditions were...mixed. Some of them were stumbling introductions that had been recorded in bedrooms, others slick, professional adverts set to music that looked more like a dance routine. "Couldn't all that be fake?" Eurwen asked quietly, while they were watching someone fling pinpoint-accurate icicles at targets that had been set up in what looked like a disused warehouse.

Julian shook his head. "If you want to include a feat of power or skill in your audition, there has to be a League official watching to ratify it. It might have taken multiple attempts, but it's guaranteed to have happened."

The other Trainers in the room were paying rapt attention to the auditions, occasionally making notes on their Pokedexes. Eurwen felt like she should've been doing the same, but what notes were there to make? How could they so easily judge the Pokemon, pick a Pokemon to compete in the League with, based on thirty-second clips? Especially when there was no guarantee that that Pokemon would even be interested in working with them?

In the end she just spent the auditions looking through the species data, trying to memorise at least some of them, and pretty soon it was time for them to actually meet the Pokemon they'd been seeing on the screen for the past ten minutes.

"First time on screen," Julian observed, while the final preparations were made for them to meet their potential starters. "Ready to show the world the future stars of the 25th​ League?" It took her a moment to realise he meant them. That assumed she could even convince one of the Pokemon to work with her. The others reached out, putting their fists together for a moment. "Hey, get over here." He beckoned her over with his free hand. "You're a part of the group too, y'know." She forced herself to smile, reaching out and adding her clenched fist to the group. Julian nudged her fist with his, giving her a much more genuine, warmer smile than she was giving him.

The organisers had told them beforehand that the portion of the building they were going to had been dressed up to look like a flowering field, one that could've fitted neatly into the outskirts of Aquacorde. She could only assume that it would look much better once the League's editing department got to work on it with CGI, because it definitely didn't look realistic at the moment, with plastic flowers glued to the walls and green carpets in place of grass. About the only part that did look professional was the doors, which had evidently been replaced with specially-made doors that were made partially out of transparent plastic so they looked like they were hip-height swing gates. She had to catch herself from pushing them open by the plastic more than once.

It took her what must have been five minutes aimless wandering before she finally managed to find a Pokemon who wasn't already deep in conversation with someone else - and when he turned around and she saw the lightning-bolt tail she realised it was the Pikachu, the one Pokemon that was common in Kanto in the group she'd been assigned to. It would be so easy if she could start with him.

She really wished she'd asked Julian and the others what they were actually supposed to talk about in here.

"So, um...hi?" she tried. "I'm Eurwen."

The Pikachu looked at her, and there was a hint of an eye-roll there. But he offered her his hand to shake anyway. "Nice to meet you." He didn't introduce himself back.

"Nice to meet you too." Before she could embarrass herself by saying anything else stupid, one of the humming drones that did all the filming for the League flew closer to her and she flinched away instinctively.

She knew she shouldn't have - that was one thing that had been drilled into her. Don't pay attention to the camera drones. But no-one had warned her that the things would almost fly into her face.

She tried to cover her flinch and returned her attention to the Pikachu - but his eyes were hard, whatever sympathy he might have had vanished. "Well, it was nice talking to you," he said, as though they'd spoken for more than thirty seconds, and turned and left.

Great. The one Pokemon she stood a chance at being able to train properly and she'd managed to screw that up. And after everything Julian and Steph and the others had done to help her prepare.

"Are you okay?" She jumped when she heard the voice, deep but almost...lilting in its intonations. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."

The voice belonged to a man with youthful features and what appeared to be a half-dozen green leaves growing from his skull and chin and a stubby tail that only just avoided dragging along the ground, shorter than her but a lot bulkier. She remembered his audition, every bit as awkward as she felt now - but when he'd stopped talking and shown off his powers, that had caught more than just her attention. She'd already seen a couple of Trainers talking to him when she'd been wandering around, no doubt impressing him a dozen times more than she could. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just...got off on the wrong foot with someone, I guess."

His eyes flicked to the camera drone still watching them, and he gave her a little sympathetic smile. "That sucks," he said, genuinely. "Well, I think you got off on the right foot with me. So now you have one right foot and one left foot."

"That...that's doesn't even work!" she complained. "I said wrong, not left!" But she couldn't help it - she cracked a smile.
 

llyarden

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Pokédex No.
169
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Jun 30, 2019
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Lonely
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  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #12
Having at least one semi-passable encounter with a potential teammate in the bag, so to speak, encouraged her - even if she knew he was probably just talking to her because he could afford to, since he'd already made connections with some of the other Trainers.

She managed to talk to a couple of other Pokemon without totally failing, and caught up with the others as well. Trevor and Shauna were virtually impossible to talk to - Trevor deliberately overplaying his nervousness, Shauna acting even more ridiculously excited than normal and almost singing instead of speaking. Tierno was a little more tolerable, though he seemed to be slipping a dance-related pun into every other sentence - she couldn't help but be reminded of the young man she'd spoken to after her disastrous failure with the Pikachu. Julian, thankfully, was the same on camera as he was off it, though after a brief hello she decided to steer clear of him to avoid ruining his chances of recruiting anyone.

In the end, the half-hour went by quickly, and then they were back out in the main auditorium, registering their choices. Realistically, of the Pokemon she'd spoken to, only the Pikachu and the Grass-type - Chespin, she realised, when she'd looked back at the list - were ones she thought she could properly train, but she marked all six of the Pokemon she'd spoken to and a couple more just on the off-chance.

But honestly, she couldn't see any of them being willing to join her. She'd made a complete fool of herself with the Pikachu and barely done any better with the others. The Chespin was the only one she'd really managed to talk to in any sort of reasonable manner and while he wasn't quite the most impressive of the seventeen Pokemon in their group, he would still easily be able to pick a Trainer more competent than her at all the acting and running around on camera.

What happened if none of the Pokemon in your group were willing to join you? The organisers hadn't said. Maybe it meant you just weren't allowed to join the League at all.

One by one, Trainers were called up by League officials and taken to meet their new teammates, the room getting emptier and emptier. Julian, then Trevor, then Tierno, then Shauna...even Steph was gone, working on filming the 'partnership' speeches between the others in the group and their new Pokemon.

"Eurwen Brennan?" She snapped back to reality in time to jump to her feet without it being too obvious, looking around for the source of the voice - a woman in the League's outfit, expression unreadable. "This way, please."

She was led back through the faux fields and through a door that had been closed before. Why was she this stressed? In comparison to everything that had happened back in Kanto, this was like a children's party game - and yet the idea of having to go to Julian and Steph and the others and tell them that after all the kindness they'd showed her she wouldn't be able to follow them...that was harder than anything.

The door opened to reveal Steph, the Eevee woman grinning broadly, and she felt her heart all but leap into her mouth -

"You?"

Steph broke the tension with an easy laugh. "Wow, what a way to greet your new teammate."

Eurwen couldn't help but laugh too. "Sorry, I just...I'm kinda surprised you chose me. You could've gone with half a dozen other people from our group." She hesitated. "Can...can I ask why?"

The Chespin shrugged. "Why not? You seem nice. And honestly I didn't want a Trainer who was going to be super intense about acting and filming."

"'Kay, before you two get talking too much, we only have a couple minutes to film here." Steph tossed up a camera drone and it whirred to life and focused on the two of them. "Remember I'm not here in the narrative," she added hastily. "And...go."

Eurwen floundered for a second before deciding to go with the question she'd been planning on asking before Steph interrupted. "So what do you want from a Trainer?"

"I...I don't know, to be honest. Someone who wants the same as me, I suppose. To keep going until we reach our limit, and have fun doing it." He looked at her. "That sound like you?"

Fun. That was one thing she hadn't found much of during this 'Choosing.' But he obviously thought that was who she was. It was certainly who she'd like to be. She tried to give him a smile. "Pretty much," she nodded. He waited, expectantly, and she remembered with a jolt. "So, uh, d'you want to be my partner?"

"Sure!" he grinned. "So what are you gonna call me?"

"Wait, what?"

He blinked at her, confused. She blinked back, equally confused. Steph came to the rescue, pausing the recording on her drone. "Pokemon get stage names when they're competing," she explained, "because...well, generally they tend to be the ones that end up in embarrassing situations if their Trainers screw up, so screentime can be harsher to them - and if they do well, they can easily tell sponsors their real name off-camera. It's a kind of tradition that Trainers give their Pokemon names - at least, if the Pokemon hasn't been on a competitor's team before."

"Okay, I swear that's not in the rulebook."

"Uh, it isn't." Steph blushed so prettily it was impossible to be annoyed at her. "Sorry. Kind of forgot you wouldn't know."

The Chespin was looking at her, confused. She took advantage of the camera being off to explain with an exasperated sigh. "I moved from Kanto less than a week ago. I registered for the League here when I was back home, and no-one told me there was going to be all this...acting and drama - or that Pokemon got stage names. So...what sort of names do people use?"

"It depends on what they're going for," Steph answered. "Gym Leaders, the Elites and the Champion use species names, so generally no-one else does that. People with a theme tend to go for the theme - you know, 'Blaze, Burn, Ignite' for Fire-types, or whatever. Trevor's going for myths from thousands of years ago, Shauna's just going for names she thinks sounds cute." She glanced down at her Pokedex. "Oh, dist, we're running out of time to use the room. Just, think of something quick in about ten seconds."

Steph clicked her fingers and the drone sprang to life again. The Chespin - no matter how much he might have said he didn't want to get too involved in all the drama - carried on as if nothing had happened, with a casualness that could only have come from years of practice. "So what are you gonna call me?"

"I, uh...how about 'Cyr'?"

Cyr - Chespin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
 

llyarden

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Pokédex No.
169
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Jun 30, 2019
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  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #13
They reconvened outside the League building. Eurwen could still barely believe she'd actually got a partner.

Her mood was somewhat dampened when she discovered that Trevor was accompanied by the Pikachu - 'Zeus,' as he was now called - who gave her something of a snooty look.

The other three Pokemon were more reasonable; Shauna and Tierno had both ended up recruiting Water-types, who they'd called Jolie and Senyu respectively. Julian had - perhaps unsurprisingly - managed to recruit a Fire-type who'd had an impressive audition video, who'd been given the stage name 'Sam.' Eurwen was somewhat relieved to discover that Julian had gone with normal-sounding names too (though that particular name was going to be confusing to deal with. It was bad enough that her Sam had the same name as his grandfather.)

While Sam was introducing himself to the others, Steph slipped up behind her and whispered "How many gallons of shampoo do you think he has to use each morning to get his tail so sleek?" and Eurwen barely managed to stop herself laughing out loud.

She did have a point - the Fire-type was indisputably well-groomed despite having even more fur to groom than Steph - but that didn't stop Eurwen whispering back "What, have you got tail envy?" which made the Eevee hiss at her playfully.

"I had an idea, Eurwen!" Shauna piped up, cheerfully. "How about Cyr and Jolie battle? It'd give you some nice footage to use."

"Uh..." Eurwen couldn't quite bring herself to ask whether Shauna realised that Cyr had a type advantage over Jolie. She wasn't entirely convinced. "Sure?"

"Great! C'mon, Jolie, let's go find a spot!"

Aquacorde might not have been much of a League-focused town, but there was certainly no shortage of space to battle on its outskirts. Shauna showed Eurwen how to set up her tablet to register the battle, and it - along with Shauna's Pokedex - projected a holographic ring to mark the edge of the battle area. While the four battlers connected the microphones and earbuds that they'd been provided by the League, Steph released her camera drone again, and it was promptly joined by two League drones that flitted off to get footage from other angles.

"Okay!" Shauna declared, with a dramatic pose for the cameras. "It's time for me to make my Pokemon-battling debut!"

A computerised voice issued from their respective devices, counting down to start the battle.

"Okay, Jolie! It's our first battle! Let's win it with style!" How could she sound so genuine? She must realise how absurd she sounded. But the Water-type - Froakie, she knew now, after it had popped up on her tablet - was already running forwards. "Go! Hit him with a Pound!" Jolie leapt up, her outstretched fist glowing with Essence as she hit Cyr squarely, using the recoil to push off him as he staggered. "Yes!" Shauna congratulated herself and her Pokemon before glancing down at her Pokedex and realising that the blow hadn't made much of an impact on the Chespin's Essence. "Okay, well, go again! Pound!"

Eurwen didn't say anything, watching as the Froakie landed another hit on her new partner. He glanced back at her, briefly, and only just saw Jolie springing at him again. "Oh, yeah?" he retorted, rearing back to throw a heavy punch at her. "Well, take this!" But the agile Water-type just reached out and caught his arm, bouncing off before he could catch her and striking him on the side of the head with one foot as she flipped over him, leaving him off-balance. Eurwen frowned.

"Now, get him!" Shauna crowed. Jolie rolled to her feet, blue Essence shimmering around her neck and forming into a wreath of delicate bubbles. "Bubble!" The Froakie gave an elegant twirl, tracing one finger through the bubbles and collecting a trail of shimmering water behind her, which she cracked at Cyr like it was a whip before he could turn to block them, hitting him in the head and almost sending him sprawling.

Eurwen raised her hand to cover her mouth and whispered something as Cyr tried to recover his balance. "Wha- ?" The Chespin glanced back at her. "Uh, okay?"

"One good last hit'll finish it!" Shauna declared, without even checking her Pokedex to see how much Essence he had left. Jolie felt kind of bad for him, but that didn't stop her jumping up into the air to land another kick on his shoulder.

"Now."

Before Jolie struck him, Cyr turned, putting his back to her and hunching down. She didn't realise why until her heel slammed into his back, and then she remembered the Essence flow of a Chespin naturally hardened his back. Supposedly, they could withstand a speeding car crashing into them - even if that was just an urban legend, there was no denying how tough he was. She wasn't entirely sure he even felt what should have been a finishing blow. The recoil took her by surprise and she brought her other foot down to kick off him before he could capitalise - and he turned, green Essence shimmering on vines that were spiralling around his wrists and she realised that he'd hidden them from her by crouching down the way he had, and her attempt to leap away was brought to a sudden halt when they wrapped around her, coursing with Grass Essence that burned through her Essence rapidly, and then he yanked her back down, let his vines fade and shoulder-tackled her while she was still in mid-air, an Essence-infused blow that shattered what was left of hers.

She heard the computerised voice announce that the battle was over almost before she'd tumbled to a halt.

"Wha..?" Shauna seemed as stunned as Jolie was. Cyr reached out to help her up, an apologetic look in his eyes.

She just looked up at him for a moment before taking pity on him. "Wow, you're tough," she laughed, accepting the offered hand up. He certainly didn't look like he was as low on Essence as Shauna had made it sound. "Did you even need the type advantage?"

If Cyr was honest, he wasn't sure he had. "You almost took me down with that Bubble even with my resistance," he lied.

And then Shauna was there, fussing over Jolie's clothes and wreath of bubbles as if she was the world's most fragile ornament and not a Pokemon (albeit a Pokemon low on Essence.)

"Does she even know where she is?" Zeus asked the world at large, giving Eurwen a scornful look.

Eurwen could've handled him being rude. But they were all looking at her like she'd done something wrong. "You guys wanna record something?" Tierno asked, and the others nodded. Julian had the decency to give her an apologetic look, but she didn't try to follow them. Whatever mistake she'd made this time, it wasn't fair to foist it on the others too.

Cyr - Chespin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Sam - Fennekin, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
 

llyarden

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Pokédex No.
169
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Jun 30, 2019
Messages
223
Nature
Lonely
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He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14
"What are they so mad about?" Eurwen grumbled. "We won. You won."

"Well, yeah, but..." The Chespin twisted one of his leaf-like head quills about his finger. "It wasn't very...League-y. You know, whispering in the middle of the battle behind your hand. I mean, even pro battlers tend to showboat a bit."

"How was I supposed to tell you what to do, then? Without Shauna or Jolie hearing or reading my lips? If I'd told you to use Vine Whip she'd have had ages to move out of the way before you ever landed the hit."

Cyr frowned slightly. "Well, normally, people set up code words, ones that seem normal as the start of a command. It sounded like Shauna was using 'go' for Pound and 'now' for Bubble."

She had to admit, she was a little impressed he'd managed to figure that out even in the middle of the fight. "Another thing no-one bothered to tell me," Eurwen muttered, bitterly. "Great." She sat down on the grass, hands behind her to support herself. "Regretting picking me yet?" she asked Cyr.

"No way!" he retorted. "That move was awesome! Shielding and hiding my attack at the same time. I bet that Zoss guy is so angry because he didn't see it coming any more than Jolie did. You just...you know, need to have fun with it."

Eurwen sighed. "Fun. Sure. And next time, can you not use attacks randomly?"

"Wha...oh, right." He was back to twining one of his head quills around his finger. "Well, you weren't exactly...battling. You were just kind of standing there."

"What was there to say?" Eurwen countered. "You're way tougher than her, and she was putting too much Essence into her Pound attacks. You could've just outlasted her and let her burn through her Essence trying to break yours - if you hadn't let her get you off-balance."

Cyr hesitated. "Can I...can I ask you something? And...I swear I don't mean it rudely." He was obviously stressed enough that his Essence was beginning to surge the way it would in a fight, because his quills hardened and snapped straight. "Have you...have you ever battled before? With a real Pokemon, I mean, not one of those training robots the League use?"

"Yeah, of course I have!"

"Well, then you ought to already know we aren't just robots that only do exactly what you say and nothing else." She looked up at him, and he met her gaze squarely. "We know how to fight - I mean, I know Jolie got the better of me when I attacked on my own, so I might not be the greatest example, but Shauna didn't tell her to counter me like that. We don't need Trainers to tell us every single move we should make."

"Why do you think Trainers are there, then?"

"Well, because...because they are. Because that's how the League works, because it looks cooler and tells a story of partnership."

Eurwen rolled her eyes. "Okay, forget the League. Think about the police. The military. Even criminals have Pokemon fighting and Trainers directing them, if they have the manpower for it. None of them care about a story. You know why?

"Pokemon directed by a Trainer are way more likely to win a fight. If you're busy worrying about the big picture and what your opponent is going to do next, you aren't putting all your concentration into the fight itself. And for a Pokemon, that means you aren't putting all your Essence into it. Directing Pokemon is literally why Trainers exist in the first place." Then she sighed, frustrated. "But I guess it doesn't matter anyway, since apparently I can't give orders in any kind of sensible way because it's 'not League-y,' so...fine. Do whatever you want next battle."

Cyr - Chespin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Sam - Fennekin, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
 

llyarden

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Pokédex No.
169
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Jun 30, 2019
Messages
223
Nature
Lonely
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Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #15
She didn't speak to any of them for the rest of the day. Cyr tried to speak to her more than once, but she avoided him and tried to ignore the hurt look in his eyes.

How could the League be so...stupid?

She could've dealt with all the drama, all the absurd costumes and the non-battle challenges, and the on-camera/off-camera divide. It was annoying, but she could've coped. But expecting the Pokemon to fight without being allowed any kind of proper direction from their Trainer was ludicrous. Had no-one organising the League ever even seen a real Pokemon battle? One that wasn't tracked by Essence readouts from biomonitors and called the moment a battler's Essence ran low?

Of course, she couldn't tell him the truth about why she'd been surprised at him taking the initiative anyway.

Aquacorde didn't have a League Centre like most of the other major settlements in Kalos, so the League had instead rented rooms from all across the town, everything from region-wide hotel chains to independent B&Bs with single rooms. As a registered group, the now-eleven of them were all given rooms in the same hotel, and she spent most of the day in the room while the others...well, she had no idea what they were doing.

She didn't care. She told herself she didn't care. They would never understand and accept her, not now the League was underway and they could see just how different to them she was. It was exactly what she'd expected.

As the sun set she asked at the reception of the hotel they were staying at for the address of a cheap takeout place, one that she could easily afford a meal for two from on the stipend the League gave them. She could've paid out of her own pocket if she had to, but her funds were still somewhat limited.

She was more than a little surprised to find Steph in her room when she got back, perched on her bed in a crouch, tail twitching. "Uh...how did you get in here?"

"Perks of being your agent. Apparently waking people up and bringing them stuff is in my job description, so I get access to your rooms. If this was a Centre it would just be my ID, but I had to actually ask for a key here." She shook the key against the ring it was clipped onto to emphasise the point with a quiet rattling sound.

Eurwen set the bags down on the desk in her room. "What do you want?"

Steph met Eurwen's irritated glare with a fierce look of her own. "Look...the Kalos League is different to what you expected. Fine. But telling Cyr you don't give a shit any more isn't fair on him. Being a starter is a big deal. About one in three Pokemon in the League get to be starters, and most of them have to go out of their way to make sure they qualify. And once you're a starter once, you can never be a starter again, no matter how much 'sponsorship' money you pay the League." One languid spring took Steph from crouched on the bed to standing in front of Eurwen, looking up at her, anger clear in her eyes. "This is literally once-in-a-lifetime. Don't ruin it for him because you don't like how the League works."

She would have been so much more intimidating if her nose didn't keep twitching at the smell of the takeout as her sudden movement disturbed the air.

"I just don't want him to get hurt because of me. Because I can't be the kind of Trainer the League wants."

Steph shook her head, relaxing a little. "You don't have to be a perfect Trainer, Eurwen."

But I should be. That's what I was made to be.

"Trust me, the League is full of rubbish Trainers, every year. Trainers that don't know the first thing about training and scraped through the aptitude tests because of luck and a generous invigilator - or Trainers that just don't care about their Pokemon. Even if you ignore the really bad ones, almost a third of the Trainers in the League can't see Essence, and half those that can can only do it with Pokemon they know well, not off-the-cuff. But you managed to figure out a way of countering a Pokemon you'd never seen fight before, with the moves of a Pokemon you'd never seen fight before. It was incredible."

"Yeah, well, apparently you're the only person who thinks so."

"No, I'm not," Steph said, firmly. "We all think you're a great Trainer. You just need to get better at the stage side of things." She sighed. "Look, the League isn't just about power and victory in battle where the strongest, most skilled team wins. Yeah, if it was, it would be dangerous to play around in a fight the way everyone does. You're not the only one who's seen what real battles are like." She reached up and rested a hand on Eurwen's shoulder. "But it isn't. That's why there are so many ridiculous challenges and stupid rules that upset the status quo - it's to make it fun, and not just for the people watching. It's safe to make mistakes, to try random stuff out in the middle of a battle, to learn." One of her fingernails became a little claw in a shimmer of Essence and she poked Eurwen's shoulder with it, gently but with enough force that Eurwen could feel the point through her hoodie. "That includes learning to relax."

"How am I supposed -"

"To relax? Easy!" Steph grinned at her, knowing full well that that wasn't what she was about to say.

"I can relax fine," Eurwen grumbled, but the Eevee's smile was just too infectious (and, okay, her nose still twitching at the meaty takeout smell permeating the room was just too adorable.) "...thanks."

"You wanna thank me?" Steph purred, blinking eyes like molten chocolate up at her in what was a blatantly obvious attempt to distract her while she reached past and stole one of the bags.

Eurwen rolled her eyes, catching Steph's hand easily - and jumping when the Eevee interlaced her fingers with Eurwen's as if she'd planned that the whole time. "You could just buy your own, you know," she pointed out. "You get the stipend too."

"Stolen food tastes better," Steph retorted, smirking - and then she ducked under Eurwen's shoulder and grabbed one of the bags with her free hand. It would have been so easy to twist and pull Steph back so she would've been trapped between Eurwen's body and arm. She wished she had the courage to actually do it, to be as playful and confident as Steph was with her in more than just words.

She shook her head slightly, without Steph noticing. She'd been down that path before, of trusting people to see behind the mask. It hadn't ended well.

Steph slipped her hand out of Eurwen's grip and leapt back onto the bed to enjoy her 'stolen' spoils, and Eurwen found herself already missing the Eevee woman's hand in hers.

Cyr - Chespin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Sam - Fennekin, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
 
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llyarden

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  • #16
Part 2: Vaniville & Aquacorde

With the Choosing done, the League proper got underway. Eurwen spent most of breakfast trying to figure out how to use her tablet to view the different challenges. She was glad Julian and the others had told her that they started with eight Basic Tokens, because while she worked out how to view the rewards and costs of various events after some experimentation, she couldn't find the list of Tokens she actually had on her anywhere.

It looked like there were a fair few challenges available for them to do in Vaniville and Aquacorde, and some that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Julian and the others were already splitting up and setting off to the challenges - as were the other Trainers and Pokemon in the hotel, for that matter. Apparently the 'stick together as a group' rule didn't apply yet.

Cyr hadn't sat with her at breakfast. She hoped she hadn't totally ruined her chance at working with him already.

She tapped him on the shoulder as she passed. "Hey, uh...you coming?"

He had half a slice of toast in his mouth when she asked, but after a rather incomprehensible "Mmmf!" he abandoned words and just nodded vigorously. "Where are we going?" he asked, once he'd swallowed, opening his Pokedex to view the list of challenges with his free hand. "There's the tree-climbing one, or the camping one, or the 'gauntlet of Bug-Types' one-"

"Just training for now." She tried to ignore how much his disappointed look hurt. "Look, I'm not...I'm not used to battles like this. I can't just...switch off treating them seriously. If I'm going to mess around and be 'Kalosian' then it's going to be in a challenge you can handle easily. So...training."

Maybe Steph had spoken to him too, because he didn't argue. "Okay," he nodded. "Where? There's a gym - an exercise gym, I mean, not a battling Gym - that the League has rented."

She had no idea how he'd found that out, but she filed it away for future reference. "Not immediately. I've got a plan to start with. There's a training ground near the theatre where we were yesterday. I figure it'll be pretty quiet with everyone running around doing challenges. Meet me there in...say, half an hour?"

She got to the training ground five minutes early to discover he was already there. "Okay, so...what are we doing?" he asked. "What's in that?" He nodded to the big duffel bag slung over her back.

"Just some stuff for training," she answered, cryptically.

She'd obviously learned enough about the League rules to know that training had to be registered as a League event - and more importantly, figured out how to set one up on her tablet - because she tapped a button and a message popped up on his Pokedex telling him he'd been added to the event.

"You know private unregulated events account for 80% of injuries in the League, right?" he asked, when he saw the classification. "And that goes up to 98% for injuries to human Trainers," he added, more pointedly.

"No." She didn't seem inclined to change it. "You can shift for battle at will, right?" she asked.

Did she think he was a child? He caught himself before giving his immediate, frustrated answer. "Yeah, you have to be able to to join the League as a Pokemon." He let his Essence flow out, permeating his body, feeling his quills stiffen against the side of his head.

"Okay, turn and face that way." He obeyed, resisting the urge to turn and peek at what she was doing while she set up...whatever it was she was setting up out of that bag. There were wooden and fabric-y sounds.

Then there was a sudden, loud snap of splintering wood, very close, and he stumbled forwards from the force of a blow to his back, turning around in surprise. "What the - did you just hit me?" It hadn't hurt, not through his hardened Essence shell, but it still caught him totally off guard.

She was holding one of the batons the League allowed Pokemon to use in battles - or rather, half of one. The other half clattered to the ground to his side. "You didn't even feel that, did you?" she asked. "That's how strong your shell is."

"Yeah, I know what my own species is capable of," he retorted.

"Then why don't you use it?" She tossed the ruined baton aside and pulled another one out of the bag, and started to circle him. "Until I specifically told you what to do, you were using your arms to block in the fight yesterday, without even trying to push Essence into them. Whoever trained you couldn't shape a shell, could they?"

He grumbled, but he couldn't exactly say she was wrong. "My coach. He's a Tangela."

"Which explains why your vines are so strong," she nodded. "Most low-level Grass-types can't shape two at once, never mind use Essence to negate the leverage of trying to exert force at a distance. You trained a lot to fight like a Tangela, but you're never going to win a serious match trying to imitate the style of a species that different to yours."

"Yeah, well, I didn't exactly have much in the way of options." There was a camera drone watching them - it made sense, he supposed, since it was a League event, after all. He didn't point it out to her.

"That's why we're training."

"To do what? I know how to use all my moves."

She paused, resting the baton on her shoulder casually. "You ever heard of the theory of Essence being weakened by carving new flows in the body?"

"Uh...no?"

"I think the name makes more sense in Kantan," she admitted. "Anyway, point is, if you train to consciously manipulate your Essence flows in the same way your natural moves you pick up later do, you can use them a lot more quickly and a lot more powerfully when you assimilate enough Essence to flood your body and awaken new capabilities." She obviously noticed his bewildered look. "Let me put it this way. You've done so much training with your vines, trained your Essence to flow to strengthen them way beyond what a normal Chespin could manage, if you developed Constrict now and had something to properly brace against, I wouldn't be surprised if you could crumple a corrugated iron sheet, even if you are only level six."

He let a little Essence flow down his arm, shaping the tip of one vine from the underside of his wrist, looking down at it. He knew Chespin never developed Constrict, but still..."You're kidding, right?"

"I mean, it's an estimate. But no, I'm not kidding. Far as I can see, Chespin have never been known to learn Constrict, which sucks, because a couple days training is never going to have the same effect as however long you spent training for the League with your coach. As it is, according to the public database there's a 90% chance of your next move being Rollout between levels seven and eight, so we'll work with that." She walked closer, and he instinctively raised his arms to protect himself. "Relax. No more surprise attacks, promise."

He didn't entirely believe her. "So...what do we do so I can...Rollout better?"

"Well, it'd be easier if I'd seen a Chespin using Rollout before so I knew what the Essence flows looked like on you specifically," she admitted, "but I've seen other Pokemon use it. Essentially you push Essence into your forearms and shins to create shields, and when you press all the nexus of that Essence on each of your four limbs together they amplify into the rock 'bubble' of a full Rollout - powerful, especially since you can push a lot of Essence into the combined root with enough time, but unreliable and situational. What makes it a good for a serious battler is if you learn to create partial Rollouts - ideally on any one of your limbs, but being able to put your arms together can still give you a decent amount of power and a lot more control. That's what I want to work towards."

"How did you learn all this?" he asked.

She gave a small shrug. "You trained with your coach until you could lift a two-hundred-pound weight with your vines from five feet away. I trained until I could do this, I guess."

Cyr - Chespin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Sam - Fennekin, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
 

llyarden

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  • #17
Okay so I might have gotten a biiiiiit distracted by getting Let's Go Eevee and forgotten a week. Oops.

Eurwen got him to brace himself, arms crossed in front of him. "So, what do I do now?"

"Push as much Essence as you can into the point where your arms cross. See if you can block me. I want to see how easy it is for you to move Essence down to your forearms."

He understood the logic behind her swinging at him, at least - Essence was quicker to respond in the presence of danger (or at least perceived danger). But those wooden batons weren't exactly fragile, and her strike on his back had snapped the last one like it was a twig...there was no way he could harden his arms enough to take a hit like that.

He closed his eyes, trying to force his Essence down his shoulders and into his arms. He'd never been good at this, his Essence too rigid and unyielding to be quick to respond to his will. "Ready," he grunted, trying to hold what little Essence he'd pushed in place.

Eurwen had obviously been waiting for his okay, because barely a second later he felt the bat crack against his crossed arms. It was a much lighter blow than before, but it still stung, and took a chunk out of his badly-stretched Essence that made him stagger.

"Yeah, that's not going to work," he pointed out, letting his Essence snap back to its normal distribution.

She nodded. "Your Essence is too resistant to moving through your body. I was hoping since your evolutions have full shells you might be able to push it further, but you'd burn through your Essence way too fast trying to block anything like that. Okay, new plan."

She evidently didn't just have batons in that duffel bag, because she retrieved a weird, eclectic mix of equipment from it - a tripod for an old-style camera, a long length of elastic and a small weight, and a reel of duct tape.

"Where'd you get all this stuff?" he wondered, while she arranged them into...something?

"The League," she answered with a shrug. "Turns out you can borrow all kinds of stuff if you ask. I think most of it is meant to be used as props, but they can be used for whatever." She beckoned him over. "Obviously, this would be easier if we had another person to help out, but this ought to work. Stand here." She stood behind him, holding one end of the length of elastic, and tugged on it - and the tripod swivelled round, the baton she'd taped to it lightly hitting his upper arm.

"So you made a thing that can hit me?"

She smirked. "Something like that. What you're gonna do is turn and hunker down as the bat swings so instead of hitting you on the arm it hits you on your shoulder, near where your shell ends."

She nudged him into position with her free hand and pulled the elastic cord again, much harder, and the baton arced around and smacked into his shoulder. He hardly even felt it.

"See, now isn't that so much easier to handle than a hit to your arm?"

"I told you, I know how tough my shell is."

"Then prove it," she retorted.
 

llyarden

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  • #18
She made him start from a central position rather than part turned already. The first few swings of the tripod contraption she wrapped her end of the elastic around her ankle, using the movement of her leg to cause it to swivel slowly around while she all but manhandled him into turning in time with the 'attack.' It was a movement that was totally unfamiliar to him, and it took him a while to get the hang of it, but if Eurwen was frustrated with his slow progress she didn't show it, and as he kept repeating the movement he found she was less forcing him and more just guiding him, and she made the tripod swivel a little faster. "This kind of defence should be pretty instinctual to you," she explained. "Your coach probably took care to drill it out of you so you could match his movements, but you should pick it up again pretty fast."

"So how does this help with me using Rollout?"

"This doesn't." He paused, she didn't, and the bat hit him on the arm.

"Ow! Then what's the point?"

"The point is preparing you. Once you can reliably block attacks with your shell like this - on both sides - we can switch to an exercise that should help you push your Essence shell further, at least down your upper arms. Developing Rollout will alter your Essence flows so you can push your Essence all the way down your limbs, so if you already have practice doing that to a smaller extent, you'll be able to master partial Rollouts more easily. And conveniently, repeatedly pushing Essence through your shoulders will make then more reactive to Essence and make your Tackles stronger, too."

He wasn't sure how long they spent practicing until she was satisfied - maybe an hour or two? That drone was still there. She tossed him a bottle of water from the bag while he stretched. "What now?" he asked.

"Now you have to deal with attacks that don't all come from exactly the same angle. I'll try and hit you -"

"Why are all these exercises you hitting me?" he complained.

She rolled her eyes at him and carried on talking. "- and you try and take the hits on your shoulders - or your back, if you can turn in time. Once we get into a rhythm, start trying to push your Essence at least down your upper arms to block weaker hits. It'll at least be a start before you grow strong enough that you develop Rollout."

There was no denying - whatever else Eurwen was, no matter how much she didn't fit the traditional Kalosian image, she was an incredibly good trainer, and not just in her knowledge of Essence. Setting up the swinging tripod machine had been one thing, but she pushed him harder than his coach ever had, landing hits with the baton powerful enough to sting if he didn't use enough Essence to block them (which very quickly got him blocking them seriously) and throwing in the occasional heavily-telegraphed hit for him to twist and take on his shell proper that he suspected was more about her letting him feel strong shrugging off the powerful blows than him actually needing the practice blocking such an easy attack.

After a couple of rounds (or rather, a couple of batons broken on his shell), she started circling him and advancing, forcing him to twist and take quick back-steps to give himself space to block, giving him momentary breathers if he managed to get the footwork right and pressing him mercilessly when he didn't, a wordless tuition that was probably more effective than any amount of instruction. He wasn't entirely sure when he started fighting back - not with Essence, just with punches that she parried and dodged easily - and it only really sank in that he'd been striking at her at least somewhat seriously when she caught his punch with her free hand, stepped in closer and twisted, throwing him to the ground.

He lay there for a few moments, breathing hard, noticing the drone still filming them out of the corner of his eyes. He couldn't imagine the League could get much useful footage out of this - her discussion about Essence, maybe, and the improvised bat-swinging machine, but only a skilled fighter would realise how good a coach she was from the sparring.

She stepped over to him, offering him a hand up. "You were getting pretty close to your elbows with Essence at the end there."

"If...you say...so," he panted. He reached up and took her hand, and was still a little surprised when she pulled him up easily, letting him lean on her. "Just a...five minute...rest?"


She gave him another bottle of water - she'd brought more than one for him, evidently anticipating exactly this scenario - and he gulped down half of the bottle and emptied the other half over himself. She'd also brought some bandages she'd coated with something cool and soothing that felt wonderful on his sore arms.

"What is this stuff?" he asked, trying to examine the sticky substance while she tucked the trailing edge of the bandage in.

She flicked his hand away, pointedly. "I traded in a Token at the medicine place - some promotion about supporting independent businesses the League's running - and diluted it with water."

"Wha...this cost you one of your Tokens? Is it okay for me to be using this? I mean, shouldn't we be saving it for a battle if it was that valuable? And my arms don't hurt that much anyway!"

"I literally bought it to use for this," she said. "Even before I messed with it I don't think this stuff could be digitised, since it's not an 'official' Potion - not that I can do that anyway. That's probably why they were giving away so much for a single Token in comparison to other trade-ins. And," she added, "more importantly, because it's infused with Essence it'll help stabilise your Essence lines as you've pushed them rather than them just retracting back to how they were before we started. So next time we do this you'll find it easier to push Essence down your arms. If we spent a couple weeks training like this and had a constant supply of this balm, you could probably push your shell all the way down to your fingers - it'd still be inefficient until you could use Rollout or another move that innately shapes Essence that way, but it would work. As it is, it's just a really basic start that should give you a small edge in a fight."

"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" he asked, abruptly. "Training, I mean."

She gave a small little smile. "I like training Pokemon," she answered. "I guess it's like...training someone helps them grow closer to what they want to be. There's no downside.

"But in a battle, someone has to lose."
 

llyarden

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  • #19
"Hey, guys!" Steph's excited call caught both Eurwen and Cyr's attention as the Eevee woman came darting up. To avoid disrupting the bandages, Eurwen had moved on to Cyr's vines - he certainly wasn't lacking for strength with them, but she'd been tossing up frisbees for him to knock out of the air and the quick strikes that required were a lot more challenging. "Wow, have you been here all morning?"

"Uh...what time is it?" Cyr asked. He certainly wasn't going to protest about the quick breather.

"Getting close to 12, I think? But, more importantly, Julian and Sam are going for a recruitment challenge. I figured you might want to watch, Eurwen. You're going to have to do a challenge eventually, you know," she added, smirking. "And also you guys are rivals and generally you'd want to do a scene after the first new teammate, sort of officially cementing your rivalry on-screen. It's -"

"- kind of a tradition?" Eurwen guessed, making a passable shot at imitating Steph's tone, eliciting a mock glare from the Eevee.

While they'd been training, Cyr had mentioned off-hand to her that she could download any footage from the other members of the group that they didn't specifically block from being shared, which meant that if she really wanted to see Julian meet a new teammate she could just watch it on her tablet. Going to actually see it was a waste of time when Cyr had been making such great progress and a prolonged break would let his Essence relax further - the harder she pushed him, the greater the permanent shift in his Essence.

She glanced over at Cyr. He looked tired, though he was trying to hide it, unused to dipping so deep into his Essence reserves. He could easily keep going if she pushed him, and it would probably be to his benefit in the end if he learned to tap into his full power.

"Can we go?" he asked, and his voice was so quiet and doubtful and hopeful that any thought of insisting they carried on training was banished instantly.

"Sure. Let's go watch Julian make friends."

As it turned out, recruiting a teammate was about a little more than just making friends. "Ever since the League first started it's pretty much always been the case that you had to beat a potential teammate in a battle to recruit them," Steph explained, while they sat in the back of a coach that was travelling across Aquacorde. "It was a way of ensuring things didn't get made unfair by powerful Pokemon just joining their friends as new recruits. Then they decided the Trainer should have some direct part in the recruitment more than just talking, and gave Trainers paintball guns and said if a Trainer could land a shot on their potential teammate while their Essence was in the red, they not only got to add the Pokemon to their team but also got some Tokens as a reward. A few years back, they decided that the whole 'shooting Pokemon to recruit them' thing was too similar to how real-life police subdue and control hostile Pokemon, so they dumped it."

"Also, it was getting too easy to recruit teammates under those rules," Cyr chipped in. "It was basically guaranteed so long as you didn't get wrecked by the Pokemon you were trying to recruit, you were going to recruit them."

Steph nodded. "So now if you fully break your opponent's Essence, you lose. And instead of shooting paintballs, you throw beanbags or soft balls - and you only have a limited number, usually five."

"You can spend Tokens on top of the challenge requirements to buy bonuses for the challenge. So, if you spend, say, three Basic Tokens, you might be allowed to win with just bringing your opponent's Essence down to yellow." Cyr - who had evidently been paying more attention to their journey than either Steph or Eurwen - reached out and tapped the button to request the coach stop. "It gets a lot more convoluted when you have more than just Basic Tokens to use, though."

"So...wouldn't everyone just get Pokemon to pin down the opponent as soon as their Essence is lower enough so the Trainer can get in close and tap them with a beanbag? No risk of missing that way."

"Recruitment challenges aren't unregulated," Cyr explained, swaying slightly as the coach stopped and the doors hissed open. "For safety reasons, if a Trainer moves to closer than three feet from the opponent Pokemon - or the opponent is forced closer than three feet to the Trainer - the Trainer loses."

"Wait, what? That doesn't make sense."

Neither Steph nor Cyr answered her until they were off the coach - at which point Steph stepped in close to Eurwen. "A human getting close to a wildly thrashing Pokemon," she mused. One hand pressed those sharp little claws against Eurwen's arm. "Don't you think that might be...dangerous?"

"For who?" Eurwen whispered back, almost before she realised she was saying it, and the Eevee woman's lips curved into a dangerous smile.

Cyr rolled his eyes and ignored their flirting, walking off towards the challenge where the others were waiting.

Cyr - Chespin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Sam - Fennekin, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
 

llyarden

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  • #20
Julian had half expected Steph to come back defeated, without Eurwen and Cyr. That they were just training together seemed a pretty massive improvement over Eurwen's sulking the previous day. (Somehow he suspected Steph had more than a little hand in that.)

But sure enough, she arrived with the last two members of their group. And they evidently had been training, given Cyr's light shirt and shorts - Julian wasn't quite sure what to make of the bandages wrapped around his arms. Maybe they were some sort of affectation, because he was moving easily enough and the bandages didn't seem to have any blood on them the way they would've if he'd actually been cut.

"You guys made it!" Shauna beamed.

"Yeah," Eurwen replied, flatly. "So when does this start?"

"Well, whenever, pretty much. I already registered for the challenge and had my Tokens deducted, so it's just up to the two of us." He shared a fist-bump with Sam.

"You were waiting for us?" She sounded genuinely surprised.

"We're a group, remember? C'mon, let's go."

Unlike the battle Eurwen had had with Shauna, this was in a League battle area, pre-designed with cameras concealed from all angles - it was an easy challenge, so there weren't any obstacles or other threats as there often were in later challenges, which of course also meant plenty of opportunity for good shots.

"How much intel do we get here?" Sam asked, while Julian fitted his proximity detector discreetly under his coat sleeve, holding his arm up so the League techs could confirm it triggered at the appropriate distance to its counterpart before they gave it to his opponent.

The Fennekin had proved a great partner - quick and adaptive, and powerful enough that he could make his fire moves flashy for the cameras. Julian knew it was often considered 'easy mode' to pick a Fire-Type starter given the preponderance of Bug- and Grass-Types on the lower levels of power both in terms of scale and level (and thus given how frequently such Pokemon were the opponents at the start of the League), but Sam fitted his theme just too well.

"I just went for the basic. So, a Bug-Type, probably lower level than you." He didn't bother telling him to go easy on their future teammate. Sam knew what he was doing.

Sam nodded. "'Kay. Maybe...a glancing Ember first, and then a Scratch, and then you go for a bag?"

"Sounds good."

The others were ensconced in the small viewing area behind a hardened plastic screen that was considered all the protection necessary for the audience for battles at this level. The League official recited the rules that they both knew all but by heart and then activated the projectors around the battle area that clad the surroundings in semitransparent holographic fields. It had looked so odd the first time he'd seen them, but he knew that they were there to make it easier for the editing department to superimpose CGI surroundings on the area later.

Their opponent clambered up onto a fallen tree while they walked slowly across the battle area. "So you two are the ones looking for a teammate?" she called out.

They pretended to be surprised by her appearance. She was probably about Sam's height but a bit bigger, with three long, white antennae protruding from her head, and dark hair that went white as it fell past her shoulders. He felt his Pokedex vibrate as it updated with her data. "That's us," he replied. "I'm Julian. This is Sam." He gestured to Sam, with an unnecessary flourish to distract attention from him tilting his Pokedex slightly so he could read the woman's species data, as the Fennekin walked forwards. "You wanna join?"

"I wanna join someone. Let's see if it's you!" She clasped her hands together to fire a String Shot at Sam, but the Fennekin dodged aside easily.

Julian brought his Pokedex up to make it look like he was only now reading her data. "She's a Scatterbug!" he called out to Sam. He didn't mention aloud that she was only level three. "Go for an Ember!"

The Scatterbug dived off the log as Sam's Ember impacted just in front of where she'd been standing in a dramatic blaze of fire that still managed to take a decent chunk out of her Essence despite mostly missing, and she staggered as she rolled to her feet.

"Now Scratch!" Sam was already moving in, nails shimmering into claws. She saw him coming and charged, pushing Essence into her shoulders. Sam wasn't a great physical fighter, but the level difference - and scale difference - between the two more than made up for it, and though she landed the Tackle he left three arcs of shimmering Essence across her before she managed to make contact, and when he pushed her off she only just kept her balance, her Essence squarely in the red.

Sam's tail twitched to the right.

"Dodge right!" Julian called, hurling one of the red beanbags he'd been given as Sam rolled to the right to give him a clean shot. She didn't make too much of an effort to dodge - though he wasn't that convinced she could've even if she wanted to - and the beanbag hit her solidly in the chest.

"Challenge complete!" the League official declared. "Time out!"

Shauna bounded out of the viewing area to all but jump at Julian, wrapping her arms around him delightedly. "You did it! I mean, obviously you did, but still!"

He kissed her quickly before turning his attention to his new teammate, arm casually looped around Shauna's waist. Sam took the Potion offered by the League tech while his Trainer was occupied. "Welcome to the team. You okay to wait a couple minutes?"

"Yeah, I'm good," she nodded, catching her breath. "Works better with naming and healing at the same time, you know?"

Cyr - Chespin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Sam - Fennekin, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
 

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