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Written Story Kalos Critique Lv.3 Teen Gijinka Showstoppers; an X/Y Gijinka Duallocke

See this resource for details on critique levels
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Thread Description
Two very different Trainers compete in the glamorous and dramatic Kalos League; updates weekly
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llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
They weren't the only ones who'd come to the conclusion that Shabboneau's speech was pointing them towards Parfum Palace. Nor were they the only ones who were more than a little sceptical that it was actually the right location.

Parfum Palace was even more beautiful up close than it had been from the plateau Steph had taken Eurwen too. "It really did used to be the palace," Julian explained, "back when we still had a monarchy. But it never officially belonged to the Kalosian royalty, so when they abdicated and handed control of the country to the government, the Parfums got it back. It kept the name."

At first it seemed as though they were wrong, that they were supposed to go somewhere else. The Palace was still open for tourists, and they joined the queue to pay the entrance fee.

"If this is where the League are sending us, they have to pay us back for this, right?" Lola asked, in almost a whisper, as they saw how much it cost.

"Yeah," Sam nodded. "If it is."

But once they got through the entrance booth and into the palace proper, their Pokedexes chimed, almost in perfect unison.

"There really is a challenge here."

Eurwen peered over Steph's shoulder to read her Pokedex screen. "A challenge to catch and restrain two Pokemon." She raised an eyebrow slightly. "And we're allowed to use both our teams?"

"Those must be two strong Pokemon."

She glanced around the others briefly, seeing a note pop up on Steph's Pokedex that Julian had accepted the challenge. As they nodded, she reached forwards and tapped the button to accept it as well.

Almost immediately, there was a ping as the challenge updated, zooming in to show them a more detailed map. After a few moments of figuring out how it correlated to the real-world location, they turned and looked towards the door that was marked on the map.

"So…do we knock?"

Kamon stepped forward confidently and did so – and then immediately shuffled back as it actually opened to reveal a man dressed in the typical attire of the League staff. "Come in, come in. Sorry for all the cloak and dagger. Lord Parfum's request."

"So Parfum's actually taking part?" Julian asked.

"Yeah, we convinced him." The voice came from a young man, much the same age as Eurwen and Julian, who was dressed in loose, casual clothes.

"Eventually." The woman next to him had to be his twin.

The League staff gestured to the duo. "They will be your opponents for the physical component of the challenge. First there will be a social dialogue with Lord Parfum, which is mostly preset, but there will be the opportunity for you to add your own comments if desired."

So Parfum was okay with being interrupted. That was already a change from Shabboneau.

Sandra had been looking at their opponents with her eyes narrowed, and after the League staff member disappeared off to continue waiting for new challengers, leaving Eurwen, Julian and their teams to wait for Parfum to finish his last round of dialogue, she leant forwards slightly. "You're Lord Parfum's children, aren't you?"

The man laughed. "You're the first one to figure that out before Dad introduces us on the stage."

"I'm Freya. This is Felix." Freya grinned. "This is so cool, we've been watching you on TV and now we actually get to fight with you guys!"

"I thought your dad wouldn't let you take part in the League?" Shaw asked. "How'd you learn to fight?"

"What, worried we won't be able to handle you?" Felix smirked. "Dad didn't want us in the League because 'we are nobility of Kalos, and we must comport ourselves appropriately.'" They couldn't help but laugh at his deep bass imitation of his father. "He's always been cool with us knowing how to battle."

"You're the first pair of rivals to get to us, though. Twelve on two, huh…" Freya's playful grin bared sharp canines. "This oughta be fun."

They certainly weren't lacking in confidence.

"How many teams have made it here before us?" Eurwen asked.

"Eh, a couple." Felix grinned too. "You want to know how many managed to win?"

"I can guess."

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azurill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
 
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llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Lord Parfum – and the room they spoke to him in – looked much more like what Eurwen had expected from someone with a noble title. Unlike Shabboneau's bewildering mess of valuables and the man's would-be 'martial artist' attire, Lord Parfum welcomed them into a plush living room with enough comfortable chairs for all of them. The man himself sat at the centre of the room, with Freya and Felix sat on chairs to either side of him. Unlike his children, Parfum was dressed impeccably in a smart suit, with an ornate walking cane resting by the chair and a slim wooden box resting on his lap.

"So, I understand the honourable Lord Shabboneau has asked you to reclaim the royal family's flute," Parfum said. "What else did he tell you about the situation he finds himself in?"

So they actually had to answer him. What would happen if none of them did?

Julian spoke up after a moment. "Uh, he said that the flute would snap his former student out of his rage?"

Parfum nodded. "Indeed. And no doubt it can." He opened the box, lifting out an ornate, pale yellow recorder with a red-and-white tip. "This flute is thousands of years old. Some say that its sound brought about the end of wars. In modern parlance – and for reasons that modern science is unable to explain – the notes it plays resonate with the Essence of Pokemon that hear it. Played correctly it can stoke Pokemon to rage, calmness, affection…it is a powerful tool, and a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands."

He was a good actor. Better than Shabboneau, better than Sycamore and Davenport. He sounded more…genuine.

"What I suspect the honourable Lord Shabboneau has inadvertently failed to tell you are two things. The first is that that 'rage,' as you put it, was brought about by this flute itself. The honourable Lord Shabboneau took and used it against his former student, but did so without calmness in his heart. The flute's power went wild. And the second thing is the reason that he would do such a thing. The honourable Lord Shabboneau's former student sided with our nemesis of his own volition. Thus, while breaking the rage is necessary, it is not the sum totality of what you must do." He put the Flute back into its box and closed it with a soft click. "Once the Flute's power has been used, you must battle and defeat the honourable Lord Shabboneau's former student – or at a minimum get past him with the supplies Professor Sycamore dispatched you with."

Eurwen hadn't heard anything about any 'supplies,' but it wouldn't be the first time a random story element popped up out of nowhere as if everyone knew about it. Parfum paused for a few moments, looking between the fifteen of them.

"Numerous as your group may be, that is not a small task. And I will not risk your well-being for a task I am not confident you will rise to. So, I propose a deal." He gestured to Freya and Felix. "A challenge, if you will." He turned the Flute's box around to show two locks, each of which he clicked shut before removing the keys and handing one to each of the duo. "Despite appearances, this box is reinforced with Essence. It would take a mighty force indeed to break into it, and such power would damage the Flute. So, your only recourse is to retrieve the keys from their new bearers."

"If you can," Felix interjected, with a grin, as they stood up.

"Follow us. We can use the hedge maze." Freya beckoned them on as Parfum stood up behind them, slipping the Flute's box into a pocket of his jacket as he picked up his cane and put on his hat.

The door led straight into one of the League's preparation areas. Parfum was the last out, leaning on his cane with his hat tucked under his arm, and once the door was closed the waiting League staff turned to them. "As Lord Parfum explained – and as was noted in the original challenge, this challenge is to chase, catch and restrain two Pokemon." He gestured to Felix and Freya, as if there was any doubt who they were talking about. "They will predominantly be trying to avoid and escape your attempts, but they are permitted to use their attacks if they see fit. You do not need to physically remove the keys from their possession – and indeed, they will not have the keys on them."

Eurwen had been expecting Freya and Felix to don Essence dampeners, like the one Quacklin' was wearing, but they didn't.

"This is an unregulated challenge. Lord Parfum has kindly allowed his hedge maze to be replaced with a softer facsimile and the ground outfitted with soft mats to minimise the risk of injuries if any of you are thrown aside, so Trainers are permitted to attempt to restrain your targets as well – so long as none of your Pokemon are also attempting to do so. With the permission of your targets, you may separately film more detailed and staged attempts to restrain them in conjunction with your Pokemon, but for the challenge itself your actions are limited. Do you all understand?"

Freya, Felix and Lord Parfum got to head out first – the former two to hide away in the maze, the latter to take up a position on his balcony to observe. "They must be pretty confident those two are strong if it's such an unbalanced challenge," Sam commented.

"I didn't get much of a look at their Essence, but from what I could tell…yeah, they are." Julian sighed, wondering if there was any point him even trying to catch one of the duo. Getting dragged along like a rag doll wasn't exactly an appealing prospect, much as it would fit his character in the story.

He couldn't help but wonder if Eurwen would be able to pin them down on her own.

"They've probably trained to use their Essence to block restraint attempts, as well." Artie shifted slightly under the confused looks of the others. "Lord Parfum is one of the wealthiest people in the country. They might have been joking about it, but I bet they didn't train to battle normally, the way we all have. At least not at first."

Eurwen raised an eyebrow. It wasn't that the thought hadn't occurred to her too, but she hadn't expected one of them to come out with it.

But being able to turn an unpleasant necessity into something that they could be proud of and show off on TV…she couldn't help but envy the two nobles.

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azurill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Whoops, guess who forgot to post this yesterday!

It didn't take long for them to realise that Artie's guess had been entirely correct.

Steph was in the maze too in her 'Amber' persona, using her Pokedex to track the positions of Eurwen's team for Eurwen, since her own Pokedex couldn't download apps on the fly the way the Kalosian tech could, and Eurwen was rather enjoying just running through the maze with her as they watched their Pokemon searching through the twists and turns of the maze for their quarries. She'd have enjoyed it a lot more if there weren't camera drones following them.

It was Cyr who found one of them first, and he lashed out with his vines to wrap around Felix's waist – and the young man looked back and let out an Essence-infused Growl that send shockwaves down Cyr's Essence, and then ran, and the Quilladin gave a startled yelp as the sudden movement from the Normal-Type let him pull free of his vines.

He wasn't entirely sure he'd even slowed Felix down.

"How…how did he do that?" he panted, as Eurwen and Steph caught up with him.

"He's sustaining an Essence barrier around himself." Eurwen glanced over at the holographic map on Steph's Pokedex – whenever they found one of the two Furfrous, the app let them see their location for a few seconds more, so she could still see where Felix was going. "Between that and the Growl, he wasn't just stopping you using your Essence to exert any force, he was using his own."

The Quilladin was still struggling to maintain his Essence after the Growl as he picked himself up. This wasn't like any battle he'd ever been in.

"Felix is heading your way, Julian," Eurwen added, over the headset they'd been given to communicate.

Julian didn't reply, but they watched on Steph's Pokedex as the two little location tags grew closer – and then Felix changed tack and darted off down another path in the maze rather than just bulling past Julian the way they all knew he could've.

So they weren't going to fight unless they had to. Or maybe they weren't going to fight Trainers unless they had to, at least.

"Okay, Einar, meet back up with us." Eurwen switched channels. "Go down the path to your left."

"So what's the plan?" the Charmeleon asked, once he caught up with Cyr, Eurwen and Steph. "I haven't even seen them yet."

"When we find one of them again, you need to break their Essence barrier so Cyr can get his vines around them properly. Your Dragon Rage will help compensate for how powerful they are in comparison, but you'll need to focus it as much as you can."

Another Growl echoed across the maze, louder, more powerful, making them all peer at the holographic map. "There!" Steph got there first, zooming in on the other side of the maze and they saw Artie, Miro, and Freya's tags all overlaid in the same space on the other side of the maze.

They'd sent Artie and Miro – who could simply fly above the maze – to scout and try to find the twins. And as Steph opened up the feed from one of the camera drones, it became apparent that they'd not just found Freya but managed to ambush her, each of the two Bug-Types grabbing one of her arms and taking off, lifting her up above the maze and stopping her getting any purchase on the ground to break free.

It was a clever tactic, one that let them completely bypass Freya's Essence barrier rather than trying to overwhelm it. But she was ready for it, and she let out another Growl that weakened their Essence-forged wings further, and despite their best efforts they couldn't keep themselves aloft, and the minute she managed to get one foot back on the ground she flared her Essence and shook them off, sending them crashing into the soft, artificial 'hedge' substitutes that lined the maze.

"That was a pretty good move, you two." Julian's voice sounded over the headset – he must have lost track of Felix, because he was still breathing a little hard but he obviously wasn't running after the other Furfrou as he spoke.

"Ugh, what did she do?" Artie grumbled. "My wings feel all…weird."

"I take it Essence disruption isn't something you're taught about when you train for the League?" Probably because it wasn't flashy and dramatic enough. "If you two can still fly, let us know if you see one of them again, and try to herd them back towards me."

"I think we just proved we can't make them do anything," Miro pointed out.

"It still takes them Essence to resist you. I think they'll avoid us if they can."

"If you say so," the Butterfree murmured, taking off again with a tired sigh, and she saw him flitting overhead briefly.

It didn't take long for them to find one of the twins again – they weren't hiding as much as they had when they'd first noticed the aerial spotters. And if Felix realised that he was being manoeuvred deliberately, he played along, letting Miro and Artie 'chase' him back towards where Eurwen, Cyr and Einar were waiting.

He paused for a moment as he saw them step out from behind the corner they were lurking behind. "So, you're thinking you can catch me, huh?" He flashed Cyr a grin. "Reckon it's going to go better than last time for you?"

Miro and Artie moved first, grabbing the Furfrou's arms and trying to pull him up off the ground. Already weakened by Freya's Growl, they only managed to lift him a few inches, but it was enough, and as he kicked and struggled to get his feet back on the ground, Einar unleashed a blaze of blue fire at the Normal-Type so focused as to almost be a ray, and there was a faint crackle of Essence as it punched a hole through Felix's barrier.

"Now, get him!"

Cyr obeyed, whipping his vines through the air and wrapping them around the Furfrou's chest where his barrier was gone, pulling Felix – and Artie and Miro – closer to him, and the Normal-Type brought both arms together, knocking Artie and Miro into each other and making them lose their grip, and when he landed again he turned and pulled back against Cyr, and even without his Essence barrier, even with the effects of his Growl having worn off, the Quilladin found himself being dragged along behind the powerful Furfrou despite his best efforts to brace himself.

Einar wrapped his arms around Cyr's waist and pulled as well, even trying to use his tail to brace himself, and their combined strength was enough to stop Felix pulling away any further, but Cyr could feel Felix's Essence barrier beginning to reestablish itself. "When I tell you, hold on but stop pulling," he hissed.

"What…what are you going to do?"

"This!" And Cyr suddenly reversed the flow of his Essence, abandoning any effort to pull the Furfrou back, and instead pulled himself – and Einar – straight into Felix with enough force to knock the young man sprawling, and the duo managed to recover from the impact first and grabbed Felix's arms, pinning him down as much through sheer weight as strength.

They could barely keep him held down, and Eurwen was pretty sure he could've thrown them off if he'd wanted to – he was too consistently close to being able to break free without ever actually managing for that to be his full strength – but he didn't, and the ten-second countdown went by before a little ping sounded from the League bracer that Felix was wearing, and Einar and Cyr relaxed, letting him up as they leant back against the faux hedge, exhausted.

"Well, guess you beat me after all," Felix grinned. "But you still gotta catch Freya too."

There's a Double Battle with a pair of Furfrou somewhere around the Parfum Palace, so I rolled them into the silly 'chase the Furfrou' event in the palace (why the Palace's owner doesn't just recall his Furfrou into its Pokeball is beyond me...) Between two Growls and their Ability, poor Cyr was doing like one damage per hit.
Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azurill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
They did manage to catch Freya – for a certain definition of the word, since she let herself get 'caught' just as much as Felix had when Julian's team managed to surround and tackled her en masse. The two Furfrou were strong, probably on par with some of the Boss challenges the group had faced earlier.

"Where'd you learn to act like that?" Eurwen asked Felix, while they sat waiting for Freya and Julian's team to record a mock recreation of the brawl for the show.

Felix didn't bother pretending he hadn't been acting. "We wanted to join the League for real a few years ago, so we took some acting classes," he answered with a shrug. "Stage battling was one of the courses. And then our dad got wind of what we were doing and stopped us from applying to the League."

That was something Eurwen had been confused about ever since Shaw had originally mentioned it. "Can I…can I ask, how did he stop you?" She hoped she wasn't overstepping – the two young nobles had been casual and relaxed around them, but it was still something of an intrusive question. "I mean, were you still minors then?"

Felix shook his head. If he was offended by the question he did a good job hiding it. "No. But…our dad really didn't want us to go, and…" He gave a small shrug again. "Us getting embroiled in some big, public dispute, especially around the League…it would be a field day for the media. "

"It must suck," Eurwen said quietly. "Being famous like that. Not being able to do anything because of how it might look."

Felix turned to her slightly.

Of all the reactions he could've had, she wasn't expecting to see sympathy in his eyes.

First Julian and the others, then Steph, now Felix. How were so many people in Kalos able to see more than she wanted them to?

"It's got its bad sides," Felix said aloud. "But it's got its good sides too. I suppose it's a bit like how contestants in the League take on themes. Our 'theme' is a respectable, careful family. And because of it, people listen to us when maybe they wouldn't listen to other people. We can amplify the voices of good causes. Father says that's what the purpose of modern nobility is." His intonations had become a lot more formal as he spoke. "What about you?" he asked, after a moment's pause.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, from what everyone says, you only came to Kalos just before the League started. This must have been quite a big culture shock at the best of times, to say nothing of becoming one of the rising stars of the League – and a season of the League that is being heavily amplified and sponsored in an attempt to revitalise it, no less."

And what do you know about Kanto? She bit back the response. "It's been…strange, yeah."

"For what it's worth, having seen you on the League's show and now speaking to you…I think you've handled yourself a lot better than most people would've. Better than I would've if the roles were reversed and I moved to Kanto." He offered a small, self-effacing smile.

She just wished she believed him.

They weren't the only group to beat Freya and Felix by the end of the day. But of the dozen or so teams that had made it to Parfum Palace either from Shabboneau's speech or from word spreading that the challenge was there, only one other team managed. She couldn't help but feel it was a little unfair – Freya and Felix were good at controlling their Essence and holding back, that much had been made clear, but winning the challenge was fundamentally down to whether the two nobles allowed it.

The sun was just beginning to set when they received an invite to another event.

"A firework display?" Kamon sneered dismissively at the holographic screen of his Pokedex. "What does a firework display have to do with anything?"

"Maybe it doesn't," Julian shrugged. "I've been chatting to a couple of the other teams – it's not a direct succession to the challenge. People who failed the challenge got this event too."

"Isn't that kind of…harsh?" Artie asked, quietly. "I mean, they're going to have to be there and put up with knowing that some of the other people at the event are ahead of them."

"Maybe this is what Lord Parfum paid for," Shaw shrugged. "It'd be a pretty boring display with just two groups there. At least this way it'll be more lively."

It was. It might have been called a firework display on the invite, but in practice it was more like a party in the Parfum estate – and it wasn't just the League challengers there.

"Pretty smart of Parfum, huh?" Steph asked Eurwen, as they wove their way through the crowd. "He pays the League to get some of the most successful contestants in the season at his party, and then sells invites outside the League for some crazy sum. I bet he's making more money than he spent."

"And so you're trying to eat him out of house and home as a form of protest?" Eurwen retorted, nodding to the plate piled high with food that Steph had returned from the buffet with.

"Well, I'm not going to turn down free food! Besides, don't you want any?"

The firework display started before they were finished with their meal. Eurwen jumped when the first firework went off with a loud bang.

"Don't worry, I'll protect you from the big, bad fireworks," Steph smirked, looping an arm around Eurwen's shoulders.

Eurwen mock glared at her, but couldn't even keep up her serious expression for more than a few seconds, so instead she just leant forwards and kissed Steph briefly in retaliation, and they stayed with their arms around each other as the fireworks cascaded prismatic shimmers of light into the starlight sky.

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azurill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
They had to put up with Shabboneau's over-the-top monologues again after handing in the Story Token they'd got from Parfum Palace.

"So, you have returned with my precious flute! It is good to have such a thing back in my possession!"

Eurwen couldn't help but notice that it wasn't the same flute that Parfum had showed them. Which of the two nobles really owned it?

"Hmm…it has been tarnished with Parfum's lack of care!" Shabboneau pronounced, before giving a dramatic wave that only just avoided smacking the flute into one of his suits of armour. "Go, hasten yourselves to the Riviere Walk! I shall join you shortly to bring peace to my wayward student!"

"Thank Arc that's over with," Cyr grumbled as they made their way out of Shabboneau's estate.

"Yeah, now we just have to win the actual Gate Challenge," Kamon pointed out, drily.

"Is that hard?"

The Panpour scoffed. "Having the Key makes it winnable. But it's still a Boss Challenge. No matter how much Shabboneau wanted to pretend like him playing a little tune might fix everything."

Julian looked at his Pokedex. Sure enough, the Gate Challenge had received an update. "It's still unregulated?" He wasn't sure who he was speaking to.

"Well, that's new."

"I thought Gate Challenges were always unregulated."

"Not when you have the Key, not normally. I…" He paused. "Actually, I don't remember that ever happening before."

They were the first group to make it to the Gate Challenge with the Key. "You may each pick any number of Pokemon to assist you in this challenge," the League official explained. "Within the context of the story, those you do not pick will be moving around the outskirts of the battle with the supplies you are carrying for Professor Sycamore. Ms Emmerson will be accompanying the group with the supplies."

"Aww," Steph pouted quietly in the background.

"Those who take part in the challenge must simply get across the arena to the other side, while avoiding attacks from the gatekeeper – or reducing him below one-half Essence." He paused, and then gave a quiet sigh. "There is an additional component to this challenge, beyond even the standard unregulated rules. By default, as normal for an unregulated challenge, Trainers will not be permitted to come too close to the gatekeeper, and if you do it is considered a failure. However, the League is experimenting with a further tier of challenge this season. This is the first such challenge. If you desire, you may opt in to having attacks used near your vicinity. For obvious reasons the attacks will not strike you, but for each such attack you pretend to dodge your Token reward for the challenge will be significantly increased."

"Wait, so…he's actually going to be attacking us?" Julian's stunned tone was mirrored in the expressions of the others. "Like, not with fakes and editing, or with just wrestling like in the Gyms, but an actual Pokemon attacking?"

The League official nodded. "You will be outfitted with high-powered reverse Essence blockers to minimise the risk, and you would have to dodge into an attack – and for the gatekeeper to be distracted enough by your teams that he couldn't stop his attack – for even those to be needed. But…fundamentally, yes."

"So…I have a question." Eurwen might have been the only one not surprised by the challenge. "Can we opt in separately?"

The man seemed glad to be back on slightly firmer territory. "Yes, that's permitted."

Eurwen gave an idle shrug. "Sure, then."

The casual way she said it seemed to wrong-foot the League official as much as it did the others. "Are you sure? You…you do understand the terms of the challenge?"

"Attacks are a lot easier to track than all the hidden lines and rules about where we can and can't go as Trainers in these challenges," Eurwen retorted.

"Well, if you're sure, we will need you to sign this waiver to confirm you've accepted the risks."

While Eurwen read through the waiver, Sam slipped over to Cyr. "So you're…not even going to try to talk her out of this?"

Cyr gave a small chuckle. "Eurwen can take care of herself. Besides, I'd never be able to talk her out of anything."

Whatever Sam was about to say in reply was interrupted by Julian. "Okay, I'll…I'll do it too."

Sam was a lot more surprised at Julian taking up the additional challenge than Cyr had been about Eurwen.

"Very well, then." The League official tapped a button on his Pokedex, making Julian's Pokedex chime in response. "You are permitted to see the Pokedex data – after accounting for the Essence blocker – of your opponent before choosing your team."

Eurwen had to peer over Julian's shoulder to see it. He glanced sideways at her briefly. She had a very…carefully neutral expression. "A Snorlax. Well, okay. I guess I'll go with Cyr."

Cyr frowned slightly, and beckoned her away from Julian. "I don't mind going in alone, but…"

"Snorlaxes can learn Rock moves. Using Miro or Einar would be too big a risk."

"That wasn't what I was going to say." She paused, and looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "I was going to say maybe one of us could look out for Julian, rather than make his team split their attention between him and the gatekeeper." He sighed, quietly. "Look…you can fight, I've seen that first hand. But I saw him in the Santalune Gym. He doesn't have any training the way we do. And one of the first things my coach told me was that people who've never been in a fight don't make sensible choices."

Eurwen gave Cyr him a small smile. "I thought about it, but…I don't want to do that to him. Make it seem like I don't trust him, or that I think he needs help all the time."

Cyr nodded. He got the idea, but…"What if he does?"

"Then he has me," she said, softly.

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azurill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
 

SayleeK

Johto League Champion
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
260
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
2,045
Location
Scrivener
Nature
Careful
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
  1. Fire
  2. Fairy
Pokédex Entry
Between long periods of dormant slumber, this writer rises again for periods of activity that leave piles of dead fictional Pokemon in their wake
Eurwen getting chances to show off what she can do, I see... 👀 The drama of it all! There's a lot of hay made about assuring them that this is perfectly safe, but I always experience Fear when it's time to fight a Snorlax...

Eurwen and Steph are adorable as fuck, I adore their wee picnic date ❤️
 
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llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
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Pokédex No.
169
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Jun 30, 2019
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Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Yeah, Eurwen has some reasons for wanting to let her mask down a little more for this particular challenge (reasons that I hope I remember to actually expand upon in the story lol!) Eurwen and Steph are indeed adorable.

The Gate Challenge had had even more set design work put into it than the first Boss Challenge they'd done. What Eurwen was assured was an entire chunk of Riviere Walk had been replicated in a large arena that was almost on par with the Santalune Gym in terms of scale. Unlike the real Riviere walk, though, the arena was littered with wrecked cars and other vehicles – according to the story of the League, these were the vehicles that had tried to get past the Pokemon blocking the route.

A lot of them had massive dents in them like they'd been hit with sledgehammers. Or something even stronger. He knew that the cars wouldn't be actual car chassis, and probably weren't as resilient as a real car's, but all the same, Julian couldn't help but shiver slightly. Attacks that powerful were going to be coming right at him.

Maybe it had been a bad idea to agree. But Eurwen had seemed so confident when she'd signed up for the added challenge. Or not even confident – unconcerned.

Lord Shabboneau wasn't at the challenge at all. Instead he was just a pre-recorded hologram being projected from a drone in one of the wrecked vehicles, with the flute music – evidently not played by him – being piped into their headsets.

The Snorlax was a good actor, but there was no denying how powerful he was. As the flute music sounded, he staggered back and forth, subtly wreathing his limbs in Essence so his flailing left dents in the nearby cars. The Essence blocker wouldn't be active yet, of course, since the challenge hadn't started yet, but it was still an intimidating sight.

As the flute music faded, the man straightened up. "So my old master comes crawling back to undo what he did to me. And now…what, you expect me to just back down and let you through?" He gave a booming laugh. "Sorry, but I serve a new master now. And those supplies are going to be his!"

And he crouched slightly, picked up one of the cars, and outright hurled it over their heads to crash down behind them, sealing off the route they'd supposedly come in from. The car was a prop set up for that exact purpose, they could all see the cables that were attached to it and the automatic reeling that made sure it would've stayed a few feet above their heads even if he misjudged the throw – but the cables were slack the whole time.

"Well, he's strong," Eurwen remarked. Had she even flinched? She glanced at Cyr. "Let's go."

The Quilladin looked back at Julian for a moment, and he could've sworn he saw concern in the Grass-type's eyes before he turned to follow Eurwen.

The gatekeeper went for the duo first. Went for Eurwen first, with a wild roar, and it was only now that they were close that Julian could see how big the guy was, he had to be easily six foot six, and he raised one massive arm and slammed his fist down at her, and even knowing he was missing deliberately, even knowing that she was protected by the reverse Essence blocker, Julian couldn't do anything but just stare – and she hopped backwards as casually as if it was nothing, the punch slamming into the ground and deforming the memory material the 'road' was made of.

And then she sprang back forwards, and for a moment Julian thought she was actually going to try to tackle him or something, but instead she slipped past him on one side, ducking under his arm, and he spun, raising one leg to stamp at her –

"Now."

And maybe the gatekeeper had forgotten about Cyr almost as much as Julian had, because he didn't turn quickly enough as the Quilladin wrapped his vines around the man's other leg, braced himself against one of the cars, and pulled as hard as he could.

Essence shimmered around the man as he fell, and Eurwen and Cyr backed off, safely on the other side of him. If he chased them now they'd reach the exit before him.

And he knew it too, and when he got back to his feet, he turned to look at Julian.

"Bubble, Lola!"

Lola's Bubble had a longer range than any of the other attacks Julian's team had, and it nailed the man squarely in the chest, but he pulsed his Essence, vaporising the bubbles before they could restrict his movements.

And he paused, closing his eyes and focusing, and his Essence glowed brighter. Julian glanced at his Pokedex. He was warding himself against special attacks.

"Time to show off your new move, Sam!" He ran forwards too alongside the Braixen, instinctively stopping a good few feet away from the Snorlax, not getting as close as Eurwen had. "Flame Charge!"

Fire wreathed itself around Sam's limbs and he leapt, a swift, acrobatic strike straight on the side of the gatekeeper's head.

"You're gonna have to do better than that," the Snorlax scoffed.

"He's fire resistant," Eurwen said, softly, on the other side of the arena. There was an edge to her tone.

And the man's Essence barrier was still growing stronger.

"Okay, uh…Psybeam!"

The wave of scintillating energies bounced off the gatekeeper like it was nothing, and he responded with a quick punch that knocked Sam off-balance – and then followed up with a strike with his other hand, wreathed in Ghost energies.

"Wha..?" The Braixen stumbled back, his Essence armour crackling and flickering – and the gatekeeper struck again, knocking Sam to the ground.

"Hey, over here, you big oaf!" Julian wasn't entirely sure why he stepped forwards. It would've been far more sensible to get someone else on his team to distract the Snorlax. He couldn't even say he was doing it for the sake of the show. It just felt…right.

He could see Eurwen watching, on the other side of the gatekeeper to them. This far away he couldn't read her expression.

He tapped a button on his Pokedex, beaming the most powerful healing item he'd collected to Sam. The infusion took five seconds. He just had to buy five seconds.

"You want to fight, little guy?!" the Snorlax laughed. Five seconds suddenly felt like a very long time.

And the gatekeeper came at him with a massive, telegraphed blow just like he had Eurwen, and this close he could see that it was never going to hit, it would just strike the ground in front of him even if he didn't move, he just needed to move aside like Eurwen had, the way she'd made it look so easy, how had she been able to be so calm like this?

Somehow he managed to stumble back a pace, and the impact of the man's fist with the ground made him lose his balance and he landed heavily on the fake road –

And a bolt of fire hit the Snorlax in the side, red Fire Essence glowing as Sam somehow found a gap in the man's defences and wreathed him in energy. The gatekeeper turned, abandoning Julian, and went back for Sam as the Super Potion finished its work and the Braixen managed to get back to his feet, only for another strike to knock him back again, the Ghost Essence still hampering his movements –

And then somehow Lola was there, standing between Sam and the gatekeeper, raising both arms to block the Snorlax's punch –

And white light blazed.

"Leave them alone!"

The blow barely even moved her – and when she retaliated it wasn't just a Bubble attack, not any more. Instead of the cluster of bubbles they were used to seeing from her, she unleashed a torrent, powerful enough with the wild strength of her evolution that even the Snorlax couldn't stand up to it, and he was pushed back, the bubbles clinging to him and almost gluing him to the cars.

As the light faded he realised Lola hadn't just evolved into a Marill – she'd evolved twice, her tail orb much smaller now, two big secondary ears twitching as she got used to them.

Sam held out his hand to Julian to help him up as the gatekeeper tore free of the Bubbles. The Ghost energy was gone and he even managed to flash the cameras a grin as he brushed himself off. Like this had been nothing. "C'mon, let's get out of here."

Lola took their hands as they joined Eurwen and Cyr in a mad dash for the exit with the gatekeeper on their heels, and there was such a massive grin on her face that despite everything he couldn't help but smile a little too.

This was one heck of a different battle between the two games. Cyr took out his Snorlax solo without too much difficulty. Despite the fact that they had more or less the same levels, Sam didn't have quite the same luck. Turned out that Snorlax had Thick Fat, and it just loved spamming Amnesia and Defence Curl. And it had that Sitrus Berry, of course. Sam did get a Super Potion mid-fight, it didn't help him a whole lot, and Lola kinda saved the day...which was the first major fight I even used her as a Marill in - she evolved from Azurill to Marill from friendship at level 17, and because I had the EXP share on most of the time I didn't use her that much. And then no sooner had the fight finished then she reached level 18 and evolved again. So she got a double evolution rather than clutter up the story with two in quick succession lol!
Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
 
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llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
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Pokédex No.
169
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Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
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He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
The excitement didn't last long. As much as Julian was happy for Lola with her double evolution - and he was happy, he knew what it meant – the adrenaline was still racing through him after they'd been awarded their Tokens and let back out by the League staff.

The next step was to record the filler scenes with the others moving around the battle with the supplies, and them reuniting once they'd made it past the gatekeeper. He knew the others would be waiting for him. There was a proper recording stage set up for them – as there always was for the first few to beat the Gate Challenge – if they wanted to use it before the League gave it to another group.

Instead he found himself slumping down, sitting and leaning back against the wall. He couldn't stop his hands trembling, squeezed them into tight fists. It didn't help.

At least none of the others were here. It was bad enough how stupid he must have looked in comparison to Eurwen, stumbling around and falling on his ass, never mind if any of them saw him like –

Eurwen sat down next to him.

He turned to look at her, trying to keep the anger out of his eyes. "You…you made that look easy," he said, quietly.

"Sorry." It made him feel worse.

"No, don't…don't apologise."

She didn't say anything for a few moments. "Pokemon pulse their Essence in battles. It's at a low enough level that it wouldn't affect other Pokemon, but against humans, even just coming close, it has a kind of…biological response. I guess that's…not something they tell you when you're training for the League. If they were going to throw Pokemon attacks at us I would've thought they would. They should have."

"Yeah, well, they…they didn't. Probably to keep it…a surprise." He wished he could believe it was just a biological response to being exposed to the gatekeeper's Essence.

"It'll pass in a few minutes." She sighed slightly. "But…give me your hand."

"What, you got some other…Kantan trick to make me stop…freaking out like this?" But he unclenched his hand anyway, and she took it in both of hers.

She scoffed. "No. But I can show you how to shield yourself from the Essence. Close your eyes."

Every time he did he saw the gatekeeper again, that punch coming just a few inches away from his face. That wasn't some Essence-powered biological response.

If Eurwen noticed his grip on her hand tighten when he closed his eyes, she didn't mention it, and her voice was level. Calm. "Imagine a little spark of light, deep in your chest. Focus on it with your Essence Sight."

"I can't use my Essence Sight with my eyes closed," he retorted.

"Then just go through the motions. Imagine you were looking at yourself, at the spark of light. How would you watch it with your Essence Sight?"

It had been his dad who'd taught him to use Essence Sight. The Essence is there. You just have to believe you can see it. He inhaled, exhaled, deeply, slowly, trying to ignore the shuddering in his breath.

Could he really see it, or was he just imagining he could?

"Put your hand over your chest where you see it. And draw it out, to the front of your chest, down your body and arms."

And he could feel it. Feel the harsh white Essence around him like a cloud of smog. How was a tiny golden spark supposed to defeat that?

Except…somehow it did, and he felt a little of the panic leave him.

There was a little part of him that still wasn't sure if he was calming down because of the Essence or just knowing Eurwen was there.

He opened his eyes and looked over at her, his gaze drifting down to his hand, still clasped in hers. "And if you hadn't been here, my chance of being able to do that on my own?"

"You were trying to manipulate your own Essence for the first time in your life, while already affected by hostile Essence. So yeah, I made it easier for you." She let him go. "But that was you."

He wanted to believe her. "So, did…did you have to do that every time you sparred with Cyr and the others?"

"Cyr never used his Essence against me," she corrected him. "Any more than the Pokemon in the Gym did when they were trying to pull us off the ropes. But that guy back there was a stage fighter, using a lot of Essence to make sure his blow would land exactly where he wanted it to. It was a pretty good way of making sure he couldn't possibly have hit us, but the downside is that it puts out enough Essence that it has that effect. And the reverse Essence blockers aren't calibrated to protect against Essence at that low a level."

"Not like it bothered you."

"I can protect myself against it. You could too, if you'd trained enough."

He shook his head slightly. "Yeah, except I didn't even know I needed to. Yet another thing you're better at than me." He paused. "Sorry. It's just…" Just what? Just that she was better than him at seemingly everything?

"I never chose this. And if…" She trailed off for a moment. "I like training Pokemon. Being able to train them, knowing how. But…the rest of it? If I could trade places, be someone who didn't have to know how to fight, how to wield Essence to protect myself from Pokemon…I'd do anything to have that. To be like you."

He scoffed. "You mean to be weak?"

"To be happy."

Seeing the pain in her eyes hurt. He sighed, shaking his head slightly. "Then, why…why volunteer to have to do that stuff? You could've stayed just letting Cyr fight, Arc knows he could handle it."

"Partly because of Freya and Felix." She sighed. "It's like Artie said, they were trained to stop people restraining them. They never chose to have to do that, and they still managed to turn it into something cool for the League. I guess I…I hoped maybe I could do the same." She tapped her Pokedex with one finger. "Same reason I have this thing with me instead of buying a new one. But…"

He tilted his head on one side. "But..?"

She gestured back towards the arena they'd battled on. "That actually happened in Kanto."

"Wait, what?"

"I mean, there was no silly flute music and bad acting, but…there was a major thoroughfare in Kanto that led to a city on the south side of the island. There used to be a bridge that led to the city too, but it got damaged and wasn't safe for most people to travel, so it was the only way to get to or from the city. And a Pokemon got access to a whole bunch of prototype X Items and set himself up blocking the road. Anyone who tried to get past, he wrecked their vehicles and stole anything they had. With all the items he had, he was too powerful for the local police to stop him. So for almost five years, the people in Fuschia City were basically trapped there, and the only way they could get supplies was because the guy who'd overthrown the government made a deal with the thief to let supplies through on his terms. He held the city hostage to force the rest of the region to fall in line."

Julian could feel his hands trembling again, and it wasn't because of the Essence wave. "What…what happened?"

"A group of the most powerful Pokemon in the region went after the thief. They managed to take him down, and Fuschia City reopened. That was…kind of the turning point, the first real act of resistance. But…a lot of people still got hurt because of him."

"Why…" Julian paused. "Do you think the League know?"

"Oh, they know." Her voice was cold. "They even got the guy's Pokemon species right, and that's not something that was ever officially stated. I only know because my godfather was part of the team that took him down." She sighed. "But…that's why I wanted to do that. I…I couldn't do anything to help all the people who got hurt because of the original gatekeeper, but…at least here, the chance to embarrass the guy the League are getting to replicate what happened…" She gave a small, slender smile. "It was pretty cathartic."

He chuckled slightly. "I'm not trying to…make light of what happened in Kanto," he added hastily. "It's just…most people would think about the idea of even coming close to a Pokemon attack and be terrified. And then you think about it and decide that you want to do it to embarrass the attacker." And she had. In just the short time they'd had since the challenge had finished, Steph had already slowed down Cyr's trip and zoomed in on the gatekeeper's face as the Quilladin brought him down.

"So why did you agree?" she asked.

"I guess…what you said has been bugging me a little." She raised an eyebrow. "About the League being unsafe. And…" He sighed. "They're always going to protect Trainers more than Pokemon. So…if they're going to give me the opportunity to do something to make it safer for my team, it just feels…right. It probably sounds pretty stupid to you, huh? When I can't fight or use Essence like you can?"

"No, it doesn't," Eurwen replied, softly. "If anything that makes it more admirable."

He gave a small smile. "Thanks. For…for all this."

"You're welcome."

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
They didn't have long to relax after the Gate challenge before being summoned to record another story event. Lola was still riding the high of the thrill of her double evolution, bouncing between the rest of the group – almost literally at times, since she hadn't quite got the hang of controlling her now-much-smaller tail and occasionally accidentally smacked it into their legs as she turned around. But it didn't really hurt, and none of them were going to fault her for it.

Everybody congratulating her also meant that none of them noticed Julian was still a little unsteady as they regrouped. Eurwen helping him push away the lingering effects of the Snorlax's Essence had helped – a lot – but it wasn't perfect.

"Thank you for bringing us these supplies." They were talking to another of the 'Masked Defenders.' "These will help a lot of people. I appreciate it must have been dangerous for you." And as much as it was exactly the kind of thing that would normally be said in the story, Julian couldn't help but feel like the man's eyes were fixed on him behind his mask.

"Eh, it was no big deal," Kamon shrugged.

"Perhaps so, but you have proved you are willing to fight to protect Kalos. As such, the Professor has a reward for you."

The blue-masked man tapped his Pokedex, and Julian, Tierno, Trevor and Shauna's Pokedexes chimed with a little fanfare and a pop of holographic confetti.

"This is the Hidden Move Cut. It will allow you to break through the areas where the Essence-infused wild overgrowth has blocked passage."

Julian glanced through a couple of screens on the Pokedex before looking up. "Hey, Kamon." He tapped a button, and there was a flow of white Essence from his Pokedex to the Panpour.

Eurwen watched, curiously – she hadn't seen how the Pokedexes could deploy TMs before. Kamon raised his hands and focused, and there was a shimmer of Essence and sharp blades formed from his wrists. He grinned, making a few practice swipes with the blades. "Nice," he grinned.

"With that power, you'll be able to move elsewhere in the region. This is the first step in your journey to acquire the power you'll need to triumph."

"Time out!"

"So how does this work for me?" Eurwen asked.

The League officials shared a look before one of them stepped forwards to answer her. "Arrangements have been prepared for you and your team to attend professional Essence manipulation studios in each of the region. You'll need to raise a ticket with the League team via your laptop, and there's no guarantee you'll be able to attend immediately as you'd be competing for time for independent commercial requests. But if you don't want to use a conventional Pokedex, that will be the best we can do. As far as the progress mechanics are concerned, only one person in the group needs to have access to a Hidden Move, so in that regard you don't need to worry."

Once they left the stage, Julian tapped another button on his Pokedex and the League map appeared, and he enlarged it to a big enough size that they could all read it easily.

"So the next three options are…Ambrette, Couriway or Geosenge. None of them have Gyms, but each of them has a Story Token we need to get to another Gym. Ambrette leads to Cyllage and the Rock Gym, Couriway to Anistar and the Psychic Gym, Geosenge to Couriway and the Grass Gym."

"Well, the Challenges will still be varied in type for us," Trevor observed.

"Yeah, it's not gonna matter to us where we go," Tierno nodded.

"Rock would make most sense, right?" Einar asked. "I mean, obviously not for me –" he swished his fiery tail, just in case any of them had somehow forgotten it "- but we have Cyr and Kirstin, and you have Kamon and Lola. Anything Rock-type isn't going to stand a chance."

Eurwen glanced at Julian, who offered a shrug. "Seems fairly sensible to me. The Story Challenges don't open for another…" He tapped a button on the screen. "Seven days, though."

"Shouldn't we get there early, just to make sure?"

"Sure, but we don't need to leave immediately." He turned to look at his team. "How about we take the rest of the day off, and head over to Ambrette tomorrow?"

Camphrier might have been comparatively small by the standards of the other towns in Kalos, but it was still plentifully big enough that Lola didn't see any of the others in the Pokemon Centre. She wasn't too surprised – there were plenty of small café/restaurants around the town that were well recommended as places for romantic dinners. She wasn't really sure why she'd bothered looking it up, but she couldn't resist.

A quiet noise disrupted her concentration. For a moment she thought she might have imagined it, but then she heard it again.

She knew all too well what it sounded like when you were trying to stop yourself crying.

Maybe she should just turn around. She wasn't Julian, or Eurwen, or Steph, she wouldn't know what to say.

But she didn't. She stepped around the corner and almost fell over someone who was sat down in the corridor.

It took a couple of moments for the young woman to notice her. She was fully shifted, her skin as white as snow with two large secondary ears protruding from the side of her head and her legs covered in a green tail of Essence, six orange wings – if they could be called that – pressed uncomfortably up against the wall. "Oh…sorry. Am I in the way?"

"No, no, it's okay." She stepped past, paused, and turned back. "Are…are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm…I'm fine," the woman said, rubbing her eyes and trying to give Lola a smile.

There was a long, awkward silence.

She sat down as well. What would Julian say, if he were here? Or Steph? "I'm Lola."

There was a momentary look of bewilderment in the woman's eyes, but after a moment she nodded. "I'm…I'm Lisa."

"Look, um…tell me if you just want me to go away or something, but…what's wrong?"

The silence dragged on even longer.

"I…" The young woman spoke, in a trembling voice. "We…we lost. We got kicked out."

That's it? Lola caught herself before saying it aloud. Even the most spiteful, glory-hogging person wouldn't be so distraught over losing their last Tokens. Even she wouldn't have been so distraught, she corrected herself mentally. Not like she could've been much more of a spiteful glory hog. "What happened?"

"We…you know the Gate Challenge, right?" Lisa raised her head enough to see Lola nod. "Well, my Trainer and I managed to get the Key."

"You beat the two Furfrou on your own?" Lola interjected, surprised. "Uh, sorry."

"It's okay. And no, not even close." The young woman giggled slightly. "But we figured out that they weren't allowed to fight anyone who didn't go for them first, or even get past. So as long as I didn't attack, we could just hedge them in, and then they surrendered." She paused. "Oh, I…I shouldn't have told you that, that's not meant to be –"

"It's okay. We already did that challenge too." She didn't mention that they'd had to do it the hard way.

Lisa relaxed a little. "So, we thought we'd be able to try the Gate Challenge now we had the Key." She sighed. "But…we lost."

"Lost the challenge, or..?"

Lisa shook her head. "It took three attempts to win the challenge with the Furfrou, and we…we were pretty low on Tokens already. We had to pay all the Tokens we had just to get into the Gate Challenge. But right before we started, the League came up with this crazy idea of letting the gatekeeper throw mock attacks at my Trainer as well as fighting me. I mean, we said no, of course, but it just kind of got in our heads. We couldn't fight as well as…as we had to. And…we lost. I lost."

"That sucks," Lola said quietly. She knew it didn't even come close to encompassing the magnitude of it. "Couldn't you appeal? If you and your Trainer were really thrown off by it – I mean, it's the first time they've used that rule at all, they've got to give some leeway."

"I wanted to, but…my Trainer just left. I guess…guess he was just that disappointed in me."

Almost before she realised she was doing it, Lola put an arm around Lisa's shoulders. "Hey, you don't know that."

"It's not just…not just losing. I…" She sighed. "I was raising money for my mom. She was in a car crash, and the rehab is…" She trailed off. "I mean, she can afford it, just about, but…" She wiped her eyes with her arm. "I just wanted to do something for her, for once. And we were doing well. I really thought I might be able to do it." She leant against Lola, her wings sparking with Fairy Essence. "And now…I can't."

Lola was quiet for a few moments, trying to blink away a few tears of her own. She clenched her fist slightly, and forced herself to relax. Then she looked over at Lisa.

"Yeah, you can."

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
I'm not doing well at the whole 'remembering to post stuff I've written' thing this week lol!

Julian tapped on the door to Lola's room, glancing again at the message she'd sent him. It had been cryptic, to put it mildly.

19:24 - Lola: Can you come back to the Pokemon Centre when you have a moment?

It had only been a few days since he'd been here, after watching Lola's announcement on Shaw's channel. It felt like it had been a lot longer.

There was none of the nervousness when she answered the door this time, though. Last time she'd almost had her tail wrapped around her legs like a shield. Now it just bobbed back and forth behind her happily, her secondary ears perking up slightly.

"Thanks for coming," she said, gently, letting her in. "Sorry if I interrupted anything."

"It's fine."

Lola stepped back to let him in, and he paused slightly on seeing someone else in the room with her, sitting at the end of Lola's bed.

The woman in the room seemed round about as surprised to see him as he was, standing up and looking at him, wide-eyed. "You're…" She blinked, looking at Lola. "I knew I knew your name from somewhere, but…you evolved? I didn't realise you…"

Lola put a hand on the other woman's shoulder, gently but pointedly enough that she sat back down.

"This is Lisa," Lola introduced. "I take it you already know Julian," she added, with an amused grin.

"I…yeah." She half started to hold out a hand to shake before stopping and moving away, nervously. "My Trainer and I came from Vaniville and Aquacorde, just like you did. We were massive fans," she added, more quietly.

"So…what are we doing here, Lola?"

Lola's tail bounced back and forth, embarrassed, before looking over to Lisa. "Sorry, I didn't want to tell you in advance." She returned her attention to Julian. "Lisa and her Trainer tried to do the Gate challenge earlier today, the same as we did, but…"

They didn't have a badass Azumarill to take on the gatekeeper almost single-handedly. He didn't say that aloud.

Lola sat down next to Lisa. "So…I wanted to ask you a favour."

It wasn't hard to see where she was going with it, but…"I don't have enough Tokens to bring someone from another team onto ours," he said, quietly. He hated watching Lisa's expression fall. Lola could've looked up how many Tokens they had. "Even if we could do the Gate Challenge again, even if we could win, even with the extra Tokens –"

"I know." Lola's voice was soft, but there was an edge to it. "I know," she repeated, more calmly. "You couldn't add someone onto our team right now." She sighed, looking down at her lap briefly, and then back up to him. "But you can if I withdraw."

Julian blinked.

Lisa was the first to react, looking over at Lola, eyes even wider than they had been when she'd seen Julian. "Wait, what? You didn't say anything about that!"

"And would you have stuck around if I had?" Lola asked.

"Well, no," Lisa admitted. "But that's not fair, I can't ask you to back out of the League for –"

"You didn't ask me to." She paused for a moment. "Look…you joined the League for a reason. A good one. And I…" She gave a soft chuckle. "I joined to be a bitch to my classmates." She reached over and put a hand on Lisa's for a moment. "You deserve to stay in the League a lot more than I do."

"But…you don't even know me!" Lisa protested.

Lola gave a small shrug, and a nod towards Julian. "They didn't know me either. Trust me. It's okay."

"I…" And then Lisa just leant forward and hugged Lola tightly, and the Azumarill wrapped her tail around her gently. "Thank…thank you!" she murmured, trying to discreetly wipe tears away from her eyes.

"It's okay," Lola repeated.

Lisa went back to her room, with a promise to contact them tomorrow, once the League's admin office opened again.

"Sorry for ambushing you with that," Lola said quietly, once she was gone.

"I don't mind." He sat down on the bed, where Lisa had been. There was a faint floral fragrance still in the air. "Are you really sure about this?"

Lola swished her tail through the air in front of her, twitching her ears. "You know how Azurill evolve, right? It's not from Essence, or exposure to the right frequency of Essence. We evolve when we feel happy – not just momentarily, but long-term. When we're confident in who we are, when we feel supported by our friends." She gave Julian a soft smile. "This is what you and the others did for me. And…I'd love to stay with you all, keep going with the League, and I know that she's not going to be the only person who's been kicked out for running out of Tokens, but…when I ran into her, it just feels…it wouldn't be fair to just ignore it."

Julian gave a small smile. "I'm proud of you."

He had to avoid chuckling at the way her ears pricked up before the smile reached her face, and she sat down next to him. "Thanks," she said, softly.

Lola didn't die in the gameplay or anything, I just ended up boxing her.
Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Julian's Pokedex let out a faint chime, and he glanced down at the screen to watch as Lisa's details were populated onto the list – replacing Lola's. "Well, that makes it official," the League official said, swiping away the screen on his own Pokedex. "Lisa is now a part of your team, Mr Calme. As for you, Ms Jardin…"

"I'm not a part of the League any more. I know." Lola – or rather, Mattie – managed a small smile. "You better do well enough I don't have to come back and show you how it's done," she added, in a passable attempt at her old, arrogant persona.

Lisa giggled slightly. "We will."

"I'm going to miss her," Artie said quietly, once they were back out of the admin building. "I wish she could still stay, even if she never took part in the challenges. Or even just if she wasn't on camera."

"You think she'd be okay with that even if it was an option?" Kamon asked. "Just hanging back, watching us go through the League while she can't do anything?"

"I…I guess not."

"Besides, it's not like we're not going to have any contact at all with her," Sandra added. "We can still chat online, after all."

"So what now?" Lisa asked, looking over at Julian.

"Well, we already agreed we were going to head to Ambrette for the next Gym, but…we still have six days. So I was thinking, maybe we should stop by the Battle Chateau."

"The what?" Eurwen asked.

"Battle Chateau," Steph repeated. "It's a way for League competitors to get some experience with professional battling – arena, rules, the whole thing. It's also the only exception to the rule that competitors aren't allowed to take part in any battles that aren't a part of the League. You can't win or lose Tokens in it, but you can earn real money. Some people only enter the League for the free chance at pro battling."

"Yeah, that's why they moved it to be locked behind two regions," Cyr added. "The first couple seasons they introduced it without the limit, they had a whole load of people who joined just for the Chateau."

"Can't we just carry on with the challenges?" Eurwen asked.

"We can, but…" Julian paused, beckoned her away from the others. "Look…you said that you didn't like doing these battles in the League because they put in all the props and the rest of it. Well, the Chateau follows pro battling rules. If you wanted somewhere to practice battling, it's a pretty good option."

Eurwen frowned slightly. "Okay. So why do you want to go?"

Julian sighed, and glanced back at Lisa as she introduced herself to the others properly – they'd only had a very brief introduction, mostly from Mattie, before they'd had their appointment to get her transferred onto Julian's team. "I was looking up some of Lisa's old battles, trying to get a sense for how she fights."

"Makes sense."

"Yeah, well…the thing is, she pretty much doesn't. They actually came from Aquacorde, same as we did, but they barely did any battling challenges at all. That's why they missed out on the Sycamore story stuff."

"So she and her Trainer got to the Gate Challenge with one of those…Gold Tokens?"

"Well, I can't track the Token usage of other competitors, but that's my guess, yeah." He sighed. "I mean, Lola – uh, I mean, Mattie - would've had no way of knowing that Lisa hadn't battled the same way we have, but…"

"She's a lot weaker than Lola?"

"In terms of Essence, no. She's actually higher level than anyone else on either of our teams, that's why it cost me so many Tokens to recruit her. But…from what I did see of her battles, she's…inexperienced."

"I thought they had to be at a certain skill just to get into the League? Especially starters?"

"They do, but all our teams, they're all on the upper end of skill in terms of battle technique. Remember, except for Sam and Cyr we all got assigned them by the League. They pair us with Pokemon with aptitudes that match ours – and we picked Cyr and Sam because of their skill. So the ones who are skilled at battling get placed in teams like ours, contest specialists go to people like Shauna and Tierno…you get the idea. But Lisa would be better on Trevs' team than mine, judging from her old Trainer's completion records and what I've seen of their challenges."

"Can't she just join Trevor, then?"

Julian shook his head. "The only reason I could afford the Tokens to recruit her was because of Lola quitting. And that discount only applied to me. Trevs doesn't have the Tokens, and I don't think Zeus would be willing to quit for her. Too late now anyway. She's not bad at battling, though," he added. "She just…needs the practice."

"Which is why you want to do this Battle Chateau thing," Eurwen nodded.

"Exactly. A few days of concentrated, consistent, serious battling…she'll get the hang of it soon enough."

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
"Attack! Pin Missile and Dragon Rage!"

Lisa watched as Cyr and Einar filled the battlefield with spines that blazed blue with draconic fire, stepping around and past each other with a casual, balletic grace without even looking to see where the other was. It was an attack as scarily effective as it was impressive-looking.

Which was the whole point of Eurwen and her team coming to the Chateau, she knew that. Eurwen had even started mimicking the dramatic hand gestures Julian used in battles.

And the whole point of Julian and the others taking part was…her.

They kept telling her it was okay, that she had to get the hang of fighting alongside them since she'd been working with another Trainer.

She just wished she could believe them.

Sam greeted Einar with a high-five as the victorious duo returned. "Enjoying your little dance move with Cyr?" he asked the Charmeleon with a smirk.

"Hey, don't knock dance moves," Tierno interjected. "I've been saying the whole time working with teammates is like a dance. You gotta know exactly where your partner is going, you can't just improvise it."

Eurwen and Julian were the main ones who'd been battling in the Chateau, but the other three and their teams were there too. It had been a few days since they'd done their first battle in the Chateau, and that had given the others time to catch up.

"Actually, I have an idea about that," Trevor piped up. "What about a double battle between the two of us and you two?" He gestured to Eurwen and Julian. "But Lisa joins our side temporarily."

Lisa blinked.

"Is that even allowed?" Eurwen asked.

"It is. We're all part of the same group, so we can swap our teams around freely as long as it's not for a challenge."

Julian looked over to Lisa. "What do you think?"

She would have to fight them?

"Not a serious battle," he added, as if he could read her mind. "Just so you can get used to how we battle."

"And if you can spot any flaws in our fighting style, even better," Eurwen added.

"Yeah, I don't think I'm going to be spotting any flaws in how you fight," she murmured quietly.

"Don't be so sure. Sometimes a new perspective can see things that we've all just gotten used to."

It didn't take them long to get access to one of the battling arenas, and the adjudicator started to count down the time for the four Trainers to select their first Pokemon. Lisa realised she was already breathing rapidly.

But if Zeus noticed, he was gone before he could comment on it, disappearing in a flash of Essence as Trevor sent him onto the arena.

Eurwen and Julian had clearly had the same idea as far as what Type they were going to use first, and Cyr and Sandra materialised to face Senyu and Zeus.

Two Grass-types. It wasn't as though either Julian or Eurwen had any Pokemon with any particular Type advantage over her, but she couldn't help but feel as though their choices had been tailored to facing Trevor and Tierno's main team – not her.

The fight barely lasted a few seconds. Almost before Senyu had gotten his bearings, Cyr lashed out with a vine that stretched the whole way across the arena and slammed into the Corphish like a sledgehammer, shattering his Essence in a single blow. Zeus sent a Thundershock at Sandra, but it virtually bounced off her and she responded with a Mega Drain that took more Essence from him than she'd burned protecting herself from his attack, and then Cyr struck the Pikachu with another Vine Whip, knocking him down –

And then there was a flash of light as Trevor switched her and she was on the arena facing the two Grass-types, and she barely even saw a green blur as Cyr's vine whipped towards her – and wrapped around her waist instead of striking her.

Her wings were still free, and she pushed as much Essence into them as she could, trying to pull herself out of Cyr's hold, and just barely managed – and flew right into a hail of Poison Essence from Sandra that tore through her barrier, already weakened from the amount of Essence it had taken to escape Cyr's vine, and sent her sprawling back down.

She hadn't even managed a single attack.

And what made it worse is that she knew they'd been holding back against her. She'd been watching Cyr fight for almost a week. On the rare occasions he used his vines to grapple, he'd never used just one.

Julian was standing over her, reaching down to offer her a hand up.

What was the point of that? She bit back the complaint. Lola had left the League, left a team that she'd clearly loved being a part of, to give Lisa the chance to keep going.

She reached up to take Julian's hand, letting him pull her up. He tapped a button on his Pokedex and she felt energy surge through her. It was like the buzz of caffeine amplified a dozen times.

"You okay?" Cyr's voice made her jump slightly and she looked over to him as Julian went back to heal Sandra.

"Yeah," she said. She paused for a moment, looking at the Quilladin. "Doesn't it bother you?" she asked, softly. "Battling?"

He tilted his head on one side slightly. "How do you mean?"

She didn't say anything for a few moments. "Never mind."

A faint shimmer of light attracted their attention as white Essence played over Shaw's body for a few moments – white Essence that seemed a little more golden-brown in places. The Bunnelby paused, taking a deep breath, and exhaled slowly, the glowing Essence fading.

Lisa took advantage of the distraction. "Well, I'll talk to you later, okay?" she said, heading away from Cyr before he could ask her what she'd meant. Why had she expected him to understand?

As they left the arena, Shaw caught up with Eurwen, beckoning her aside. "You stopped yourself from evolving," she observed. "Not many people know how to do that."

"Normally I wear an Everstone, but…" He offered a small shrug. "I'm…" He paused for a moment. "I'm going to withdraw from the League."

She blinked. "That's a bit…"

"Out of nowhere. I know, and I apologise." He sighed. "Most influencers either tailor generically to humans and Pokemon alike or specifically to high-level Pokemon. What I do is pretty niche, and a lot of my viewership are low-level, unevolved Pokemon – people like me. If I evolved I'm sure a lot of people would stay with me, and equally I might get some new regular viewers, but…I only got where I am because of my existing supporters. It doesn't feel right to change."

"Couldn't you just get them to sponsor you an Everstone?"

"I could ask," he corrected her, primly. "But are you really going to want an unevolved, low-scale Pokemon on your team?"

Eurwen didn't answer.

"Even if I didn't evolve, though…" Shaw shook his head slightly. "I don't have assistants or managers the way some people do. I manage my channel, my website, all of it, on my own. Usually it's a full-time job, and although my supporters have been tolerant of the quality dropping so far…I don't think that will last forever."

"So you were always going to have to leave way before the end of the League? You might've mentioned that."

"I was expecting to lose," he replied evenly. "From my perspective, it would've even been advantageous for us to lose – there are a lot more people among my supporters who attempted the League and lost than people who left when they wanted to." Then he chuckled. "You might not realise it, but even just getting as far as we have is impressive." Shaw paused for a moment or two. "And you don't need me in order to keep going." He gave her a small smile. "You never needed me. So…

"Thank you for giving me the opportunity, Eurwen."

Much like Lola, Shaw was someone who I ended up boxing and never using again.
Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
And once again I forget to post an update that I've got complete and sitting waiting to be posted lol.

"So he's just…gone?" Lena looked around at the others, seeing her own surprise mirrored in their eyes. "Did we…do something?"

Eurwen shook her head. "I don't think so. He just…didn't want to keep going." She hadn't told them that Shaw had been expecting – or maybe even wanting – to lose to help him empathise with his fans.

They were still looking worried – Cyr and Lena most of all.

"If we'd upset him, I don't think he'd have given us this." She pulled a slim, amber disc from her pocket. Shaw had been given it at the League admin building – and promptly passed it over to her. He hadn't said it, but it felt like it was the best thing he'd been able to come up with as an apology. "He asked his supporters to sponsor it for us, to thank us for working with him."

Einar was the one who recognised it first. "Isn't that…a Gold Token?"

"Apparently." Eurwen shrugged. "I don't know why they make these physical objects when all the other Tokens are digital, but…yeah."

Cyr gave a small chuckle. "You have no idea how big a deal these are, do you?"

"Are they? I mean, Lisa and her Trainer got to the Gate Challenge by using one."

"We don't know that for sure," Miro pointed out, mildly. "But if they did…I can only assume her Trainer had family or friends willing to throw around more than a hundred dollars."

Eurwen looked down at the Token in her hand. "So what are we going to do with it?"

"Technically, it's up to you," Cyr shrugged. "It's still a Token, Pokemon don't get a say in what you do with it." Eurwen gave him a look, and he sighed. "So far, I don't think we've seen a single challenge where it would be worth using it. I'd say save it in case we miss a Story Challenge and have to catch up, or if there's some other challenge that we're not going to be able to make."

"We might need it for the challenges through to Cyllage," Miro added. "I was looking at them – it's a whole string of challenges, and we're only allowed to use whatever restoratives you actually own until we beat the last one. No healing between the challenges."

"Just like the guy from Cyllage Outdoors said," Eurwen nodded. "We do have plenty of restorative items, though." She'd been saving them up, even using some of her Tokens to buy extras.

"Yeah, but if we lose a challenge we might have to wait a day or more before we're allowed to try again. The Gold Token would get around that."

"As if we're gonna lose!" Lena grinned.

They assembled outside the entrance to the 'cave network' that would take them to Cyllage – along with a half-dozen other teams. It was the first time since the beginning of the League that Eurwen had seen any other Trainer with more Pokemon on their team than she had. She kept looking around for Shaw before remembering.

"To reiterate," the League adjudicator began, "this challenge is not mandatory. The progress challenge to transfer to Cyllage is on the other side of the city." They paused for a moment, as though expecting someone to admit they were in the wrong place. "However, this challenge has story primacy and also offers a special reward. You and your teams must pick between three challenges. Each offers its own reward." They gestured to the table behind them. "You will be competing with any other team that selects the same challenge as you. Only the most successful team in each challenge will receive the full reward. All other teams that complete the challenge will receive a lesser reward." They tapped their Pokedex, heralding a series of chiming sounds from the competitors' Pokedexes (and Eurwen's tablet.) "The challenges are now visible for you to see. They will begin in five minutes."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of the Trainers crowded around the table to look at the three offered rewards. Two of the rewards were obvious enough – a bundle of X Items and a bundle of restoratives. But the third…

"Are we allowed to touch this?" Eurwen asked the adjudicator.

They paused as they looked over to her. "Certainly."

"You know what it is?" Julian asked her quietly.

She reached out and rested a finger in the centre of the plate, tracing a faint spiral across its surface – a spiral that glowed with amber light, leaving small stalagmites of Rock Essence an inch or so high behind it for a few moments before they faded away.

That got the attention of a few more of the Trainers – and some of the Pokemon. Eurwen ignored them, keeping her attention on the adjudicator. "And we can do whatever we want to this if we win it, like we can other items?"

Was that a momentary raised eyebrow from the adjudicator? "That's correct."

To most people Eurwen's reaction would've been bland, neutral. But Julian had been around her long enough by now to know that even if her emotions weren't quite as overt as most people's, that didn't mean she didn't have any at all the way some commentators claimed - he was glad she didn't pay too much attention to the League shows.

And he'd expected to see a grin from her, that little smirk that meant she had a plan. And for a moment there it was – and then her expression fell, and she moved away from the table, back to the others.

"So we're going for the weird spiky panel?" Einar asked, tail swishing.

"Yeah, maybe." Her non-committal response deflated their excitement a little.

"What is it?" Julian asked her quietly.

"It's Essence-reactive material. Pokemon can integrate it into their Essence armour, it enhances their powers."

"You know what I meant."

She sighed. "Steph told me that people are accusing me of having battled in professional tournaments before. And no-one else had the faintest idea what that was. It's not exactly going to help my case."

"Who cares what they think?" She almost jumped slightly. Cyr often acted confrontational during the challenges, but she'd never heard his voice so harsh when they weren't being filmed before. He paused for a moment. "Look…I have no idea what happened in Kanto, and I'm not asking you to tell us, but…it was bad, wasn't it? You being able to fight, wield Essence, all of it…none of that's from pro battling. Let them say what they want."

"If you're worried about the League kicking you out, don't be," Miro added. "They put you on that leaderboard in the first week, remember? They wouldn't have done that without looking into you to make sure you were legit."

She felt a gentle hand rest on her shoulder, looked over to meet Julian's eyes. "You should listen to them, you know," he said, with a warm smile that had just a hint of amusement in it. "The League's about doing what you want to do. Being who you want to be.

"So go for it."

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Only a few of the Trainers chose to try the Challenge with the reward of the Essence plate. Eurwen was among them.

Aside from the Story Challenge with Sycamore, this was the first Challenge that had teams competing against each other. She couldn't help but feel awkward having overheard some of the other Trainers deciding not to go for this challenge purely because she'd signed up to it.

No-one was bothered about competing with Julian and his team. So why her?

"Don't let it bother you," Cyr said, quietly.

"Easier said than done."

He gave her a small smile as they moved on to the first stage of the Challenge. "I know."

Before long, though, neither of them had time to think about the behaviour of the other Trainers.

It wasn't that the Challenge was difficult, per se. None of the opponents were really strong enough to threaten any of her team. But they weren't intended to – the competition with the other Trainers took the form of the Challenge being timed. They had to make their way through the 'cave,' finding the 5 Tokens that symbolised the correct path to take.

Eurwen and her team did have one notable advantage over the rest of her opponents – there were significantly more of them than there were of any of the others, and they could split up to cover more ground, directed by Eurwen on her tablet. The only sticking point was when Eurwen ran into one of the roaming 'enemy' Pokemon – which, much to her frustration, meant she had to sit around doing nothing until her team could get back to battle the 'attacker.'

Despite the holdup, though, they still made it through the Challenge quickly enough that they were awarded the Essence plate. "So…what does this actually do?" Cyr asked, flicking it with a finger – and hastily pulling his hand away with a little spike of Rock Essence popped out of the plate. "I mean, I know you said it was reactive to Essence, or whatever, but…"

"You just saw." Eurwen nodded to the amber Essence as it dissolved back into the plate. "Imagine you weren't just tapping it – imagine you were hitting it with a serious attack, backed up by your Essence, so you couldn't pull away quickly enough."

"Those spikes would take a chunk out of my Essence," Cyr nodded.

"So…what, someone has to go around holding a five-foot square in front of them from now on?" Miro asked.

Eurwen rolled her eyes. "No. That's why I asked the adjudicator if we were allowed to mess with it. There are all kinds of things you can buy with Tokens, it's not just restorative items and that kind of thing. The tools to work with Essence material are available too. With a little work, this could be something one of you could wear like armour – probably you, Cyr."

"Aww, I wanted to be all spikey!" Lena complained, amusement dancing in her eyes. "I could've started calling myself 'Lena the…uh…Spikey!'"

"Yeah, you might want to work on that name," Kirstin grinned.

"Name pending," Lena retorted, swatting Kirstin with her tail.

After the dash through the cave, the Progress Challenge itself was actually a lot simpler – although none of the Pokemon there were entirely used to having high-end Essence monitors clipped to them. "Within the story, you will be travelling through a series of connecting caves in order to evade detection as you travel to Cyllage," the adjudicator explained. "The route has been divided into seven Challenges – one here, three in Ambrette, and three in Cyllage. Each of these Challenges will last an extended period of time, and sub-challenges will be available during the Challenge that you can complete for additional rewards. As you are no doubt aware, it is against League rules for a Challenge to last for longer than three hours, so the Challenges will become available at a rate of one per day. At the end of each Challenge, the Essence levels of all participating Pokemon will be recorded precisely using the monitors you have been equipped with. During the beginning of the next Challenge, Essence manipulators will reduce your Essence back to the level you left the last Challenge at, to ensure continuity between the Challenges.

"Each Challenge will require you to find a series of specific Tokens in order to continue, defeating opponents that confront you along the way. Due to space constraints and the availability of opponents, you may be instructed by an adjudicator to wait before continuing through the maze. If you encounter another team in the maze, you may work alongside them if there is a battle in that area or otherwise interact with them normally, but you will be asked to go down separate paths afterwards – unless you are a registered group, of course.

"The Challenge will be beginning in ten minutes, and groups will be allowed into the maze every five minutes after that. When a Trainer's name is called, the corresponding group should come to the entrance here. Good luck."

"So…" Lena's tail swished playfully. "You looking forwards to getting to Ambrette?"

"Why Ambrette?" Eurwen asked, confused.

"Well…officially, no reason at all. But unofficially…there are always outdoor nightclubs that are set up, moving around the region, to give League competitors a chance to unwind."

"What makes them unofficial?"

"Most of the time they have tournaments and sparring matches," Cyr explained. "And we aren't allowed to take part in battles outside the League except in emergencies."

"So…wouldn't the League shut them down?"

"Easier said than done. They tried for a few years, a while ago, but if anything it made things worse. So as long as things stay under control, they let it happen."

"And as it happens, there's going to be one starting up in Ambrette in a couple days – just in time for us to get there. It's almost like the League talks to the organisers behind the scenes," Lena added, with an amused little grin.

Eurwen was quiet for a few moments. "Well…as long as it doesn't interfere with the League itself, I guess it would be okay."

"Oh, and you're coming too," Lena added. "I haven't seen you let your hair down even once since we got here. You deserve to have some fun too."

"Somehow I feel like we have different definitions of fun," Eurwen remarked, as the adjudicator called them up and they made their way towards the start of the Challenge.

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Kirstin looked at the two guards in their little office, then back down at her Pokedex.

20:35 - Kirstin: So it's past the mud pits?

20:36 – Lena: Yep!


She knew that the party – which was somewhere between a disco and a rave depending on who you asked – wasn't technically allowed by the League. But all the same, having to trespass to get there seemed…odd.

But, clearly, the others had all done it. The agreement had been to meet at the gate before heading out.

And it wasn't as though the guards were actually paying much attention – maybe deliberately. They certainly didn't react when she ducked under the barrier and slipped past them.

20:38 – Lena: C'mon, you'll be late!

20:38 - Kirstin: I'm coming.


And then her foot went through what had looked in the faint glow of her Pokedex like solid ground and she gave a startled yelp as she sank up to her knee, overbalancing and catching herself on something that was fortunately a lot more solid.

"Great," she grumbled. There went her nice dress. With a faint shudder, she stepped into the mud with her other leg, put her hands on the platform, and pulled herself out –

Or rather, tried to. But it was almost like the mud tightened around her legs, and she couldn't lift herself free.

Well, there was an easy solution to that. She shifted so she had one arm resting on the platform, and let the other dangle just above the mud, sending a stream of Water Essence down into the mud to dissolve it – and barely suppressed a startled yelp as the mud yielded in exactly the wrong direction and she found herself submerged up to her waist.

This was starting to be more of a problem.

She looked back to the guards' office. What would happen if she called out to them? What kind of punishment would she get? Would she get kicked out of the League?

On the other hand, there might not have been any other –

She jumped as someone landed on the platform she was holding on to.

"You know, according to legend, these mud pits were created by a band of Ground-types during the War to stop people sneaking into Ambrette. And here they are, three thousand years later, still stopping people sneaking about, still messing with people who think Water Essence will get them free no problem. So, how's life down there in the mud?"

She couldn't see much of the speaker in the dark, but his cocky tone was grating on her. "Can I help you?"

"Help me? Nah, you already helped me. I won ten bucks from some guy at the party betting you'd fall in."

Kirstin gritted her teeth slightly. "So it is this way? The party?"

"Oh, my…" He trailed off into muffled laughter. "You actually thought you had to go through the mud pits to get there?! I mean, sure, it's on the other side, but most normal people went around."

"You didn't."

He chuckled. "I grew up here. I know where the platforms are. And, no, I didn't, anyway."

"So what, you just came back to mock me?"

"Eh, something like that."

She gritted her teeth, put both hands back on the platform – pushing away the little thought that popped into her mind of grabbing the guy's legs – and pulled, as hard as she could, trying to wrench herself out of the mud.

"Yeah, yeah, alright, chill out," he sighed – and then slipped his hand under hers, gripping her wrist tightly. There was a dull indigo flicker of Essence and he leant back and stood up, and she found herself pulled free and deposited on the platform.

She paused for a moment as she got back to her feet. "Thanks."

"What, you thought I was seriously just gonna come down, leave you and go back to the party?"

"You were doing a pretty good job of convincing me that was exactly what you were going to do," she retorted.

He didn't seem to have much of an answer to that. After a few moments, he turned and jumped away, landing on what must have been another platform. "You coming?"

She could barely even see him. "How do you know where you're going?"

"I told you, I grew up here." He paused for a moment. "Well, that and I can see in the dark. That probably helps."

"Yeah, no kidding."

"Just jump, worst outcome is you fall in the mud and I pull you out again."

"Or I slam into you and we both fall in the mud."

He scoffed. "Oh, please. You couldn't knock me over if you tried."

There was a part of her that was tempted to, just to knock him off that high horse. But it would've been very embarrassing if he was actually right, and if he was wrong and they both fell in the mud then they'd have both been stuck.

She landed safely on solid ground, stumbling a bit in the dark, but regaining her balance easily enough. "So are you in the League?" she asked, as he jumped away onto the next platform along.

"If you can call it that." And there was a sudden edge to his tone. "Oh, yeah, I'm in the League alright – I'm the star prize in a roulette wheel." He didn't even wait for her to land on the platform he was on, hopping onto the next one and leaving her to hope that she'd remembered where he'd been.

"That sucks," Kirstin said, quietly, genuinely, and maybe he appreciated the sympathy, because he waited for her to catch up. "So no-one's 'won' you yet?"

"Nah, three teams have. But they were weak."

"Not everyone joins the League for fighting, you know."

"I know. But I did. And for what I want to do, a team who can't even challenge me with three or four Pokemon aren't gonna cut it."

She glanced at him as she landed on the next platform – she was getting used to the jumping by now, and to the darkness, and she could just about make out the shimmering Essence in his eyes. Was he being serious when he said he'd won three-on-one battles? It was certainly possible – she only had to remember Steph embarrassing Eurwen's entire team to know that. "And what do you want to do?" she asked.

"I want to win." The Dragon Essence in his eyes glinted brighter – and then faded as he tapped his Pokedex to illuminate the area, and a moment later his voice was back to the cocky, arrogant teasing that it had been when he'd first spoken to her. "And that is quite the look you've got going on there."

She looked down and groaned – from her stomach down, she was completely coated in mud. She created a ball of water in her hands and let it drench her, washing away the worst of the mud.

"You know, I'm not entirely sure that's better," the Dragon-type remarked. She flicked water at him. "Hey!"

"You got some mud on you," she said, innocently.

"And whose fault was that?" But there was a little grin at the corners of his mouth. "Well, anyway, just keep going up the hill, you'll find your party."

"You aren't coming?"

"Nah. I've been already, it gets old."

She paused for a moment before holding her hand out. "I'm Kirstin."

He looked down at her outstretched hand for a moment, sceptically, then back to meet her gaze, before reaching out to shake her hand. "Cory."

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
"What happened to you?"

Kirstin took in the bewildered looks of the others as they saw her bedraggled state. She'd tried to get most of the mud off with her Essence, but while she'd mostly succeeded the water had left her looking like she'd put her dress on straight out of the washing machine. At least it hadn't messed up her hair.

"Long story," she sighed. "They have drinks here, right?"

"Probably," Lena shrugged.

"Good. I need one."

They'd waited for her just outside the party – just as Cory had said, it was tucked away with a hill separating it from Ambrette proper, to minimise noise in some vague concession to secrecy. Kirstin paused and looked back down the hill as they reached the top. Somewhere down there, hidden in the dark, were the mud pits. Even knowing the approximate direction she'd come from she had no idea where they were.

"Hey." Einar swished his tail in her direction, sending a wave of heat washing over her. "Being a Water-type doesn't stop you getting cold. Eurwen would kill us if you came back from this with the flu."

"Well, thanks, Doc." Her smile took the sting out of her words. "Where is Eurwen, anyway? I thought she was going to be here."

"Where else?" Cyr asked, with an amused grin. "Steph dragged her off as soon as we arrived to go dance with her."

"Speaking of which, now we're all here, what are we waiting for?" Lena took Kirstin and Lisa's hands in hers. "C'mon, let's go!"

And Kirstin had to admit…it was nice.

She didn't have anything against Eurwen – the woman was an insanely good Trainer, and she'd learned so much and grown so much stronger in just the short time she's been part of their team. And if Cyr was any indication, she still had a long way to go. And she had definitely joined the League to grow stronger, but still…

The League wasn't just about power. It was about hanging out, having fun, doing wild stuff that you'd never do in your day-to-day life, safe behind the mask of a fake name.

Stuff like kissing a cute guy you'd never seen before in your life.

She wasn't entirely sure where any of the others had got to after the first half-hour or so – she didn't really think about it much. Eurwen had her own way of handling the League, but this…this was as much the League as the training and challenges were.

There were battles going on, of course, off on the outskirts. Cyr took on a trio of wannabe challengers and pretty much wiped the floor with them, but she didn't see any of the others get involved in any battles.

It was getting on for two in the morning, and she was quite drunk, by the time she actually ran into any of the others.

She'd figured Lisa to be a bit like Eurwen – she knew the Flabebe had some personal reasons for wanting to do as well as possible in the League, after all. But instead, Lisa had apparently decided to drink away her worries, and seemed barely able to stand.

Unfortunately, the guy she'd just walked into and whose drink she'd knocked over was a little less drunk – but clearly still drunk enough to blow the accident out of all proportion. "WHAT'RE YOU DOIN?!" he slurred loudly, towering over her, silver-and-gold Essence blazing across his body.

Lisa unfurled her petal wings. "You oughta…" She trailed off as she stumbled backwards, someone catching her before she fell flat on her back. "You oughta watch where I'm going. Or…something."

"Sorry about my friend."

Kirstin paused, almost mid-step, as she'd started to move towards the argument. Someone else had gotten there first.

"Who're you?" Lisa mumbled quietly, looking up at the man as she was set back on her feet. In stark contrast to the other two, he hadn't yet used his Essence at all. Except for his big, pointy secondary ears, he could've passed for a human.

He ignored her, looking over at the man Lisa had bumped into – a man who was obviously itching for a fight, his body wreathed in Rock and Steel Essence. "Let me buy you another drink."

Kirstin wasn't sure whether Lisa or the drunk man were more surprised by his placidity. Maybe that was the point, because the man shuffled, grumbling, and then dismissed his Essence armour. "Yeah, yeah, whatever."

Shelley pulled a couple of notes out of his pocket with his free hand and set them down on the bar besides the man's overturned glass, and then turned to look back at Kirstin.

"How did you..? " She chuckled slightly as she came closer to loop one of Lisa's arms over her shoulders, steering her away from the man she'd confronted. "Right, aura."

"It has its uses."

"Hey, Kirstin…" Lisa murmured, patting Kirstin with her petal wings, hard enough that she stumbled slightly. "So you two…you two know each other, huh?"

"Yeah, we met before." She paused, looked over at Shelley. "I was kinda expecting you to kick his ass."

Shelley shook his head slightly. "If I'd had to, but it's not my first preference. I like battling, but…only for fun. Don't think that was exactly what he had in mind."

He didn't seem to have even the slightest doubt that he could've won in a fight. Eurwen had implied he was strong when they'd met him the first time, but…that guy probably wasn't even a competitor. He was way too good at Essence armour for that. He was more likely one of the League battlers – and it wasn't like they had Essence blockers here.

"You…you are not nearly drunk enough for how long we've been here," Lisa complained.

That got a chuckle out of the Lucario. "I came here for the atmosphere, not the cheap alcohol."

"Sorry," Kirstin said quietly. "I guess this wasn't exactly the atmosphere you wanted."

"It's okay." He gave them both a warm smile, and Lisa yawned and rested her head in the crook of his arm. "C'mon, there are a bunch of taxis on the road that can get you home."

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
After what had happened at Lola's party, most of them had been relatively careful about how much they drank – which hadn't stopped them getting pretty darn drunk at the time. Pokemon metabolisms had their perks.

One notable exception to that was Lisa, who was still pretty hungover, and not doing a very good job hiding it. She didn't remember much of what had happened the previous night. Kirstin hadn't told her.

"As a reminder, this Challenge is the first stage in the Progress Challenge that will give you access to Cyllage. Those of you who participated in the preceding Challenge, please go to the stands on the left to have your Essence adjusted appropriately." Eurwen couldn't help but feel for the Pokemon who had to have their Essence drained away by the League machines. Even if they were voluntarily submitting to it, it wasn't a nice experience.

The League adjudicator continued speaking as the assembled competitors split into two groups. Only about a third of the teams had taken part in the original challenge back in Lumiose.

"There is an extra reward available for those who complete the Challenge on the first attempt. The reward will be randomly determined, and ranges from Tokens to healing items. If you are lucky enough to hit the one percent chance of the top prize, you will have the opportunity to attempt to recruit an additional Pokemon onto your team."

Kirstin paused for a moment.

"What is it?" Lisa asked her, softly.

"Oh, nothing important. Just…whoever it is must be pretty strong if only one in a hundred Trainers would even get the chance to recruit him."

"You know who it is, don't you?" Lisa asked, in a little sing-song voice. "Was it that guy you were making out with last night?"

Kirstin blushed furiously. "You said you didn't remember what had happened last night!"

"I remember seeing you two."

"And no, anyway, it isn't him."

"But you do know who it is."

"You're mean," Kirstin grumbled.

The Challenge itself wasn't too difficult. It was designed to cumulate, steadily reduce the Essence levels of the Pokemon taking part by pitting them against opponent after opponent. But when Eurwen and Julian between them had eleven Pokemon – and as a pair of rivals they were allowed to take part in the Challenge together – the Essence loss could just be spread across their teams to negligible effect. Of course, as Cyr pointed out to them, most Trainers with a lot of Pokemon had Pokemon that were significantly lower level than the average, so it would've balanced out in most cases.

But when any of them could take on the opponents they were facing one-on-one and still win handily…it was almost too easy.

They ran into other Trainers on occasion as they made their way through the maze. And Eurwen had to admit, as much as she hadn't liked the way they'd reacted to her in the first Challenge, she did enjoy being able to give the usually-tired Pokemon on the other team a rest and help them along, even if it was only for one battle or mini-challenge before they had to move on.

It didn't take them long for them to arrive at the end of the Challenge – they weren't the first group to get there, but it wasn't as though it had been a race to begin with, not this time.

The random reward was being decided by a big wheel, like on a game show. The sliver of the circle that represented the top reward was so small that they hadn't even been able to include any text or picture to suggest what it meant.

There was another group already in front of them, so they had to wait and watch the wheel spin.

"Hey, um…can I talk to you?" Eurwen paused, looking away from the wheel and back to Kirstin. "Do you think your Gold Token would bypass the wheel?"

Eurwen gave a small shrug. "I don't know. I was told it can bypass any one requirement in a Challenge. Why?"

"I…" She paused for a moment. "You know they said the top prize was the chance to recruit another Pokemon? I…I think I met him last night. Or at least I met someone who said that he was the top prize in a League roulette wheel." She nodded to the big wheel as it slowed to a stop. "And since Shaw…you know, left…"

"You want to recruit him instead." Eurwen nodded. "What do you know about him?"

"Not much," Kirstin admitted. "I'm pretty sure he's a Dragon-type. And he's…he's strong."

"That isn't why you want to recruit him, though."

She shook her head. "No. He's…well, he was kind of a jerk to me at first, but…he helped me out, when he didn't have to. And…you know, it's going to be his first time in the League too, just the same as it is ours. It just feels kind of…harsh…for him to be stuck with such a small chance of anyone recruiting him."

Cory had said three teams had already tried to recruit him. She didn't want to mention that – at least not until she managed to find some footage of the challenge. It had to be around somewhere.

"Okay."

Kirstin blinked. She hadn't expected that.

"I don't have anything else to use this Gold Token on," she shrugged. "And since Shaw gave it to us as a parting gift, using it to recruit a replacement for him seems a pretty good use of it." She moved over to one of the League adjudicators, speaking quietly to them for a few moments, after which they turned and disappeared away into one of the back rooms. "Apparently they don't know whether we still have to do the battle or if the Token covers that too," Eurwen explained, when she came back.

They didn't get an answer for a while. Julian went through his roll of the wheel of fortune – coming out with a half-dozen X Items – and another two teams went past.

"What did you say to her?" Lena asked Kirstin, quietly.

"I…I said maybe we should use the Gold Token to get that one percent chance automatically. I didn't realise she was just going to do it without asking anyone else!" Kirstin added hastily, defensively.

"Hey, it's okay." Cyr patted her on the shoulder. "Not like any of us had any better ideas for it."

As they drifted away again, she looked down at the screen of her Pokedex. She'd finally found one of the previous competitors to try this Challenge, in its original form before it got upgraded to be part of the Progress Challenge for contestants with a badge.

It was hard to say if it was Cory – he was wearing a hoodie, and either the League editors or the Trainer whose team it had been had masked his face in shadow. All she could really see of his face were his eyes, glowing with Essence. It was certainly an imposing look.

Not that he needed to be intimidating to win the fight.

She felt sorry for the Pokemon who went up against him. If they didn't have a Badge yet, they couldn't have been more than level 10 at best. And he certainly wasn't holding back, taking out the first Pokemon who tried to tackle him with a single Scratch, and taunting the others, letting them attack him both at once before wreathing his hands in Dragon Essence and pummelling them hard enough that one of the two attackers was outright knocked unconscious from the hit to their Essence.

The door opened and the League adjudicator Eurwen had spoken to returned – followed by Cory. He looked angry, shutting the door unnecessarily forcefully behind him, picking Kirstin out of the crowd and glaring at her…and then he saw Eurwen, and his expression changed completely.

Kirstin went over to him. "I almost didn't recognise you without the mud," he remarked. She glared at him, but she couldn't help but smile – and he had a point. If she hadn't known it was him, she would have had a hard time recognising him. She hadn't seen the stubby tail or his head-spike last night. His voice was still the same, though. "You forgot to mention you were on Eurwen's team."

She shrugged. "People get…weird…about it."

He chuckled. "I'll bet. So, small world, huh?" She giggled. "What?"

"Why d'you think Eurwen recruited you?"

He paused, realisation dawning in his eyes. "You…you did that?"

She grinned at him.

"Pretty naïve of you to assume I was even telling you the truth last night. But…" He paused, and for a moment his voice was softer, gentler. More genuine. "Thanks." And then he was back to his normal self. "But don't think this means I'm going to hold back if we spar."

"Water-types can learn Ice moves, you know."

"And do you know one?"

She didn't really have much of an answer to that, and it was his turn to grin at her.

"You know…I didn't think about it last night, but if you don't have a team yet…is Cory your real name?"

"Oh, yeah." He paused. "Actually, that reminds me, thanks." And off he went, jogging over to Eurwen as she finished her conversation, leaving her to catch up. "Hey, um…can I ask a favour?"

Eurwen raised an eyebrow, looking between him and Kirstin briefly before returning her attention to her new team member. Kirstin had been right on both counts; he was a Dragon-type - an Axew - and strong. Level fifteen was only barely below the rest of the team, and Dragon-types often had more raw power than other Pokemon anyway. "What is it?"

"When you give me a name…can you call me Cory?" She met his gaze for a few moments. "It's my real name," he explained. "There's…there's someone I want to see me battling." There was an edge in his tone.

"Sure," Eurwen shrugged. It saved on her having to think up a name, and Kirstin would've probably ended up calling him Cory at some point anyway. "On one condition. First you show me what you can do in a battle."

And Cory grinned, his Axew tusks appearing in a shimmer of Dragon Essence. "Against who?"

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 

QuietGuardian

Johto League Champion
🌱Featurer
Screenshotter
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
33
Caught
Jun 10, 2019
Messages
1,578
Nature
Careful
Pronouns
he/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Ground
Shoot, it's been a while since I commented. Your story's still going strong! Plenty of warm fuzzies (like with the Eurwen/Steph picnic and recruiting Lisa), and some intrigue as well, with some of the behind-the-scenes workings of the League. And now that you're in Ambrette Town, I'm curious as to how Team Flare will be represented in this story: will they be another scripted part of the League, or will they be people actually outside of it with destructive goals?
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Yeah I think this story is gonna be going a while seeing as we aren't even at the second Gym yet! Glad you're still enjoying it, warm fuzzies will hopefully continue to be provided. :) As for Team Flare, yeah they're gonna be showing up shortly, there's probably just one or two chapters before we get to see them in all their absurd glory (unless I get distracted with more ideas for random filler chapters lol!)

"You think this is a good idea?" Kirstin asked, as they watched Cyr and Cory face off.

"Eurwen knows what she's doing," Miro said, confidently.

"I know, it's just…when I spoke to Cory before, he said he wanted to win."

"Don't worry." Einar looked over at her briefly before returning his attention to his boyfriend. "You've seen Cyr fight before. He's not gonna be mean and embarrass him or anything."

"That's not what I'm worried about," Kirstin murmured.

Eurwen tapped a button on Steph's Pokedex – which she'd borrowed so she could act as the referee for the battle – and the automated countdown began.

As soon as it finished, Cory charged.

Cyr lashed out at him with a vine, but Cory swiped it aside, his Dragon Essence deflecting Cyr's Grass Essence easily, and before Cyr attack again the Axew was there, striking at him with a wild haymaker that knocked the Quilladin off-balance, and another attack, and another, not giving Cyr the space or time to turn to block the attacks with his shell.

"He knows how Cyr fights," Miro said quietly.

Lena scoffed. "People are calling him the strongest battler in this season. Everyone knows how Cyr fights."

Cyr raised his arms, a Rock bubble surrounding him, letting the impact of Cory's next blow send him rolling backwards before he dismissed it, giving himself the space he needed to turn and tackle Cory, twisting so he could hit the Axew with his shell.

And Cory almost stopped him. Instead of trying to dodge the way any of the rest of them would have, he braced himself and tackled Cyr back, the two struggling for position for a few moments.

Kirstin snuck a look at the others. They were all watching, wordlessly now. Einar's tail was swishing back and forth rapidly. Eurwen was the only one who seemed calm, but even she was watching the fight with a laser focus, and Kirstin was pretty sure she was watching the two battlers' Essence flows as much as the fight itself.

Cyr was stronger than Cory, and the Axew was losing ground. But only barely. And then, pushing himself so hard that the others could see the indigo light of his Essence playing around him even without Essence Sight, Cory managed to push Cyr back – not much, but enough to catch the Quilladin off-guard, and before Cyr could turn back Cory ducked and kicked at his legs, and he overbalanced and tumbled to the ground, but rolled and send both vines straight at Cory, slamming into his chest with enough force to lift him off the ground and send him sprawling.

"Enough." They paused as they got back to their feet, looking over to Eurwen. "That's enough," she repeated.

From her pocket, she tossed a Potion over to Cyr, pulling another one out and moving over to use it on Cory herself.

"Impressed?" he asked her, trying to hide how hard he was breathing.

"You resist his best moves, but he's higher level and evolved, so I figure that about balances out. But Cyr's used to fighting under my direction at this point, and you have the advantage of knowing his fighting style when he's never seen you fight before." Cory looked away from her as she pressed the Potion injector against his arm. "You're reckless, pushing yourself way too hard to sustain yourself in a serious fight." She paused for a moment and gave a little grin. "But you want to win more. I can work with that."

Cyr watched them from the other side of the clearing they'd had their sparring match in. "You need to actually use the Potion, you know," Einar commented. After a few moments he rolled his eyes, taking it from Cyr and applying it himself. Cyr didn't even flinch at the faint pressure as it injected its contents.

Einar gave the others a small gesture with his head, and they got the message and moved away, letting him and Cyr have a little more privacy. "Look at her," Cyr said, softly. "One fight and he's suddenly the favourite."

"Or it might be because she's literally the only person in the League to use Potions without digitisation and chances are he doesn't know how to use them manually when we do," Einar pointed out.

"You didn't see the look on her face. And he's not even evolved once yet." He pointed his Pokedex at Cory, letting it bring up the details on Axew. "He evolves twice, just the same as we do. What about when he's at the same stage as us?"

Einar shifted position, putting himself in front of Cyr, blocking his view of Eurwen and Cory, reaching up and gripping one of Cyr's horns in one hand, making the Quilladin stop trying to look past him and meet his gaze. "I know I've not known Eurwen as long as you have. But I don't think she's the kind of person to have favourites. Yeah, he's strong. Really strong. But…that doesn't mean everything has to change."

"I hope you're right," Cyr said, quietly.

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
309
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
It wasn't only Cyr who grew frustrated with Cory's addition to the team.

None of them could deny that the Axew was powerful - especially not after seeing him battle Cyr. And that would've been disruptive enough to the group as it was.

"It's like he thinks he's better than us," Lena groused, as they regrouped after another series of challenges. "I mean, you're his friend and he treats you like crap too," she added to Kirstin.

"He doesn't treat us like crap," she protested. "He's just…rough." And since when was I his friend?

"If by 'rough' you mean he wants to be in the limelight and not let anyone else get a look in, sure," Sandra grumbled.

"I'd like to see what he does when he goes up against a Fairy-type," Miro smirked.

They did have a Fairy-type with them, of course, in the form of Lisa. But the most recent challenge had split Eurwen and Julian and their respective teams up, and for the brief duration during which they'd been working as a group, the Flabebe had seemed a little intimidated by the Axew.

"He could be worse," Einar said, after a few moments. "Trust me, I have friends who were in the League a few years back. He's a jerk, but there are worse people than that in the League."

It was directed at Cyr more than anyone else. Sometimes Kirstin wondered if when Eurwen had had him and Cory battle the day before, it had been to set them up as competitors. She might not have been great at League flashiness, but she certainly wasn't above manipulating people – she'd heard by now the story of her recruiting Miro to inspire Artie.

If that had been her intent, it had certainly worked.

"Okay, the last team's finished." Eurwen approached them, leaning down to offer Cyr a hand up. Cory was already with her, just a pace behind. "Our turn next."

There was one good part of Eurwen's divide-and-conquer strategy – it meant that they were all split up. Cory and Eurwen went on ahead, which suited them both fine, and while Cyr wasn't quite as happy about it he still preferred it to having to watch Cory battle.

It did have some downsides, though.

Kirstin had hit her current opponent with a Confusion and he'd just laughed at her. He'd been using simple, physical attacks without any real Essence display, but from their power she'd been figuring he was a Fighting-type from the power of his attacks. Without Eurwen and her Pokedex scanner there was just no way of knowing, though – he didn't have much of a physical Essence display, just a stubby, striped reptile tail, and she had no idea what kind of Pokemon might have something like that.

She'd followed up with a Water Pulse and that had done a lot more damage, but his hits still stung. She wasn't worried about whether she'd win, but he'd still taken a lot more out of her Essence than she'd have liked.

She focused on him again as he came in to punch at her and sent a wave of debilitating Essence over him, and he stumbled as his Essence recoiled from his attempt to control it, and she hopped back, sending another Water Pulse at him –

And then suddenly Cory was there, and she was pretty sure he was so close that her Water Pulse would've tagged him but he barely even seemed to notice it, and their opponent barely even had the chance to turn around before he landed two hits on the man, his fists wreathed in Dragon Essence, sending him sprawling.

"I had that under control, you know," she pointed out.

"You were taking too long."

"Aren't you meant to be watching out for Eurwen?"

"We already made it to the end," he answered with a shrug. Of course they had. She almost felt bad for anyone who got in Cory's way. "Eurwen sent me back to let you all know."

"Sure, and definitely not so you could steal the Essence from our fights."

It wasn't the first time Cory had done that. Or even the second…or the third. Swooping in at the last minute to get the finishing blow. At this point there couldn't be much appeal to it as far as the show was concerned, so…why did he keep doing it?

She had no doubts that the Essence was a part of it, but whatever she might have said aloud, she didn't think it was only for the extra Essence he'd be able to draw from the fights – not least because there had been some fights he could've completely taken over if he wanted to and he hadn't.

And it definitely wasn't because he thought they were being too slow, no matter how much he might have claimed it, any more than he'd come down to the mud pits because he'd wanted to mock her. It was more…

Cory turned back to her, rolling his eyes slightly. "You coming or not?"

…more like he was trying to protect them.

Cyr - Quilladin, Male, Overgrow, Naive, Capable of Taking Hits
Miro - Butterfree, Male, Compound Eyes, Naughty, Sturdy Body
Kirstin - Psyduck, Female, Damp, Docile, Alert to Sounds
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Shaw - Bunnelby, Male, Pickup, Relaxed, Somewhat Vain
Sam - Braixen, Male, Blaze, Lonely, Likes to Thrash About
Artie - Vivillon, Female, Shield Dust, Modest, Sturdy Body
Kamon - Panpour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Flabebe, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 

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