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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
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
There was just one Challenge left before they could move on to Ambrette and Cyllage.

And judging from the despondent looks from two of the groups who'd tried to beat it before Julian and Eurwen, it was going to be a rough one.

They stayed together rather than split up this time – not that they had much choice; unlike the previous caves, this time there was only one way to go.

The camera drones zooming past them to provide a dramatic shot of the four red-suited figures turning around in unison to face the two teams did somewhat give away that they were the major opponents.

One of the four stepped forwards, with a dramatic pose that Eurwen had to struggle to not laugh at. "Well, well, what do we have here? A nosy little trainer has come poking around."

The next one of the four stepped up with a pose of her own. "Listen up! We don't care one bit about what happens to other people or Pokemon!"

"Our goal is to make it so that we're the only ones who are happy!"

"We're gonna take everyone else down so we can do what we want!"

Now they all spoke in unison. "We're the fashionable team whose very name makes people tremble in fear!" The four took another step forwards, striking identical poses as they raised their voices. "Team Flare!"

Eurwen's amusement vanished.

"Time out!" One of the League adjudicators stepped forwards. "This battle will be against your four opponents simultaneously. Competitors, you may each select four Pokemon to use during the battle."

Eurwen barely even reacted to the announcement. Steph stepped forwards and put a hand on her shoulder. She could feel the Essence raging. "What is it?" she asked quietly.

Eurwen tilted her head to look at Steph. There was a hollowness in her eyes. "Mega Evolution. The Snorlax gatekeeper. I mean, sure, basically no-one knew about them. But this?" She gestured with one hand to the four red-suited Pokemon. "'Team Flare'? Everyone in Kanto is going to know that they're a parody. They're copying everything that happened in Kanto and turning it into…into a show."

Julian shifted uneasily, remembering what Trevor had mentioned, when they'd first met Eurwen. The turmoil in Kanto had involved some kind of powerful weapon. Just like the mysterious hints about a powerful weapon in the League's story.

Steph hugged Eurwen gently. "This is what they do," she said, quietly. "They take bad things that have happened in the real world and make them plot points. A few years ago, a tsunami hit Hoenn. The next year, the League story was about protecting Kalos from this made-up super-charged Water Pokemon."

"Why?!"

"It's always been controversial, but they've always kept doing it because…you get to be heroes in the League. I mean…" She paused for a moment, putting a hand on Eurwen's cheek. "Don't take this the wrong way, but…you couldn't stop what happened in Kanto, could you? You couldn't stop Giovanni."

Eurwen didn't say anything.

"But here…your character in the League can stop them."

Eurwen met her gaze for a long while. "Okay." She closed her eyes for a few moments, resting her head against Steph's, and Steph snuck a kiss in before backing off, making Eurwen smile. She took a deep breath. "Okay," she repeated quietly, before raising her voice and looking back to her team.

This wasn't like Kanto. She had her friends behind her here.

"Einar, Cyr, Cory, Kirstin." She gave an apologetic look to Miro and Lena, but the four she'd chosen covered each other well.

Julian had evidently gone for a similar idea, leaving out Sandra and Quacklin' – although Eurwen couldn't help but notice that Lisa looked a little nervous at the prospect of getting involved in what was clearly a difficult fight.

The sound of the countdown echoed through the artificial cave. Julian raised his Pokedex, waiting for the moment that the option to scan their opponents became available, peering over the holographic screen so he could watch the battle proper.

Fortunately, the first move the four Flare Pokemon did once the battle started was to strike another pose, which gave Julian the chance to look through his Pokedex. "Houndour, Zubat, Gulpin and Scraggy!" he reported.

"Cory, Kirstin, swap round." This wasn't a good fight for Cyr to be in, but she'd have to make do. At least he was already facing the Scraggy alongside Sam.

If Kirstin was surprised at being pulled away from a fight with a Fire-type, she was used enough to Eurwen's style of commanding to not question it, swapping with Cory as he came charging past with dragonfire burning in his eyes. "Now Confusion!"

She raised her hands – and the Gulpin man opened his mouth impossibly wide in a yawn, and she found herself stumbling, Essence fading away, and he grinned and tossed a ball of concentrated Poison Essence sideways at Cyr –

And Einar swiped it out of the air with burning claws, wincing as it splattered over him instead, and Cyr nodded his thanks and turned back to face the Scraggy, who ran at Sam and struck the Braixen with a powerful arm chop that left him stumbling before she got snagged in Cyr's vines and thrown back.

The Houndour man hadn't even tried to fight Cory – instead he'd backed off and gone after Lisa and Kamon instead, spitting horrible clouds of toxic smog over them. The battle was filled with the artificial flashes of transmitted Essence as Julian beamed Antidotes at the duo, but even with his Type advantage the Panpour couldn't match the Houndour's powerful attacks, and Julian frantically scrolling through the list of items he'd acquired until he found an X Defend and transmitted it to Kamon, trying to keep up with the moving battles and the Essence readouts on his Pokedex at the same time.

Cory circled around and went for the Zubat when the Poison-Type grew bat wings and tried to dive at Lisa, giving the Flabebe the freedom to move and send a spray of coruscating light at the Scraggy who was bound in Cyr's vines.

"Confusion!" Julian wasn't even sure who Eurwen was talking to until he noticed Kirstin shaking off the effects of the Gulpin's yawn and sending a Psychic wave at the Zubat as Cory knocked him off-balance. The Gulpin turned back to face her – and Artie nailed him with a Psybeam that blasted him halfway across the room.

That just left the Houndour, and though even with the X Defend Kamon had still barely been able to take him on, an eight-on-one battle was only going to end one way.

Julian breathed a sigh of relief as the last of the Houndour's Essence faded. Eurwen moved over to heal Einar with an Antidote before she got pulled aside by Steph.

"Feel better? Taking on the totally-not-…uh, whoever they were in reality?"

"Rocket. And…" Eurwen looked back at the Flare actors as they moved away – the Gulpin was rubbing his side where Artie's Psybeam had hit. A little smile flickered on her face for a moment. "Yeah. I guess I do."

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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llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Chapter 7: Ambrette and Cyllage

After the rough fight with the Flare actors, they were let out and given access to Ambrette and Cyllage. And even if it was staged and filmed to serve as a conclusion to the exploration through the 'cave network,' it was a relief for them to emerge from the fake cave, looking out through a clearing in the foliage over the seaside town.

"So what now?" Einar asked. "Between Cyllage and Ambrette there's a lot of challenges we can do now."

"Ooh, there's a flight contest!" Miro pointed out.

"Not right now," Eurwen interjected, before they got too excited. "We've been doing these challenges for almost a week, and even if they didn't take much Essence from you, those Essence regulators will have destabilised your Essence. Couple that with the fight we just had, and you could all use a day off."

"Wow, Eurwen giving us time off? What is the world coming to?" Cyr gave her an amused smirk, and she rolled her eyes at him.

"You're kidding, right?" Cory scoffed. "We're all fine." He looked around the group. "Or at least I'm fine."

Eurwen shrugged. "If you say so."

Cyr tried not to smile too much at the Axew's affronted expression.

Since they had access to both Cyllage and Ambrette now, they were allowed to stay in the Pokemon Centre in either city. As was the case with everything else in the League, there were coaches between the two cities that would make it easy to get to challenges in either. They ended up splitting up, some of them heading to Cyllage to spend their time in the bigger city, some staying in Ambrette. Cyr made a point of checking where Cory was going, so that once he knew the Axew was staying in Cyllage, he (and by extension Einar) could stay in Ambrette instead.

However arrogant Cory might have been about how he was fine – if he'd even been telling the truth – Kirstin had to admit, once the adrenaline of the fight faded, the chance to just slip into a hot bath in her room at the Pokemon Centre and relax for a couple of hours was so welcome.

As the afternoon wore on, she started browsing for places to eat. After a couple of idle searches, she flicked open a message window.

15:17 - Kirstin: So I was looking around for places to eat and I saw this cool place in near the cliff <Link>

15:18 – Kirstin: They do discounts for parties with more than two League contestants.

15:18 – Kirstin: Did you want to come get dinner with me?


15:19 – Lisa: Sure.

15:20 – Kirstin: Cool. They've got a table available for 7, if that's okay.

15:21 – Lisa: Sounds good 😀

15:21 – Kirstin: It's a date, then. Do you want to meet by the bike racecourse? It's just a couple minutes walk away.


A couple of minutes passed. She could see Lisa was still online. Maybe she was looking up where the racecourse was, but it surely couldn't take that much time?

"…oh." She'd just realised what she'd written.

15:25 – Kirstin: I don't mean a *date*, date, I just mean see you then.

15:25 – Lisa: <message deleted by user>

15:25 – Lisa: Yeah I relised that was what you meant.

15:25 – Lisa: *realised

15:27 – Lisa: Is anyone else coming?


15:28 – Kirstin: I was going to ask Lena and Sandra as well.

15:28 – Kirstin: Is that okay?


15:28 – Lisa: Of course! 😀


As she swapped over to ask if Lena and Sandra wanted to eat with them as well – being careful with her phrasing this time – she couldn't help but look back at that deleted message. Lisa had erased it so quickly after posting it that Kirstin hadn't even had the chance to see what it had actually been.

And there was a little part of her that couldn't help but wonder…if she'd doubled down on her mistake and actually asked Lisa out on a date…would she have said yes?

The restaurant Kirstin had found was definitely more expensive than she would've ever gone to outside the League, even with the discount. But they'd won enough Challenges that they all had a pretty decent amount of money available. It was often said that completing enough Challenges to get to and beat the first Gym would usually pay for League training, even with the interest rates on the League's loans. Kirstin had trained privately and her parents had paid for it anyway, but she would definitely have been able to pay them back if they asked, and then some.

She arrived a little early and snuck over to the restaurant to look at the menu – and reflected that in her jacket and jeans, she might have looked a little out of place. The dress code seemed more 'formal' than 'nightclub.' And it certainly didn't help that she was sure her unwilling dip in the Ambrette mud bath had leeched some of the colour out of her clothes.

Lisa arrived at the racecourse just at the same time as Kirstin got back there. She'd managed to find a pretty dress that went well with her wings, which she'd part-manifested to frame her back, and a necklace with a centre pearl that resonated with Essence, sparkling a beautiful lilac. "I wish I'd packed any nice clothes," Kirstin grumbled.

Lisa blushed slightly. "Oh, I just went to a charity shop," she admitted. "They had this for really cheap."

Kirstin blinked. If Lisa hadn't told her that she'd have estimated the outfit cost more than their meal was going to. Maybe it originally had.

"I had to take in the hem," Lisa added, "but…" She shrugged.

Lena hadn't quite managed Lisa's level of elegance, but the Skitty arrived in a dashing suit that still fitted in better with the restaurant's style than Kirstin's outfit. "I live just half an hour's walk away from here," she explained. "Me mam made me promise to take pictures of all the food before she ironed the suit for me, but…being a Cyllage native has its perks."

"Have you never eaten here?" Kirstin asked.

"Nah. I'm the only Pokemon in the family. It wouldn't be very fair for me to drag 'em all here."

"Letting your accent out for dinner too?" Lisa grinned.

"Well, when in Ludester…" Lena retorted. "Besides, we ain't on camera here. And I'm sure you two can keep a secret," she added, with a smirk.

Since Sandra had said she'd already booked a dinner table elsewhere, it was just the three of them as they made their way to the restaurant, scanning their Pokedexes so the wait staff could confirm that they were eligible for the 'Contestant Special.' They were a little surprised no-one recognised them, but then, none of them were dressed even remotely similar to how they dressed for the League – Lena was the closest, but since she was using her natural Cyllage accent rather than the one she put on for the League, no-one connected the dots. Kirstin realised belatedly that that was probably why she was doing it.

The restaurant served Essence-infused food, which meant for some very interesting dishes. Kirstin was particularly taken by the dessert she saw the people on the next table having, which appeared to be a sugary flower that periodically opened to release another glob of jelly for them to mix into the rest of their desserts. As she was watching the little sparkles that puffed out of it each time it opened, though, her attention was drawn to the TV in the corner. "Hey, I thought we weren't doing any challenges?"

The others looked over at the TV, then gathered around Lena's Pokedex as she synced it to the same channel. "Eurwen must be doing an advanced ally challenge," Lisa realised. They'd all joined Eurwen and Julian after he'd recruited Quacklin', but they'd seen little clips of it in recaps since then. "It's the only one you don't need Pokemon for."

"Pretty clever. We get to rest and recover our Essence and we still manage to win new Tokens. And a teammate."

"I don't know," Kirstin murmured quietly. "I feel kind of bad that she's doing that and we're here enjoying ourselves."

"Oh, please, look who's cheering Eurwen on." Lena tapped the golden-scarved figure in the background of the shot. "You really think she's not enjoying herself?"

"Hey…" There was an edge in Kirstin's tone. "Did Eurwen's Token count just go down?"

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
 
Last edited:
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llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Cory swore quietly as he pressed the Potion injector against his arm. It was a lot harder than Eurwen made it seem.

She'd been right when she'd said that their Essence would be fragile after the drawn-out Challenge. He wasn't exactly surprised - she knew what she was doing. He couldn't have picked a better Trainer if he'd tried.

Or at least, that's what he would've said until she'd decided to give them all an afternoon off. It was bull. She was just giving in to the rest of them – if they wanted to take it easy they were welcome to, but there was no reason for her to swan off and do the advanced ally challenge on her own.

He stepped around a corner and came face to face with Kirstin, Lena and Lisa, in a…weird mix of outfits. "'Sup.'"

"That's all you're going to say?" Lena scoffed. "Like you haven't been doing challenges without Eurwen's permission for the past half hour?"

He shrugged. "Yeah. So what?"

"So we're supposed to be a team!" Lisa protested.

"Yeah, well, Eurwen decided that that wasn't gonna happen when she decided we all had to go our own ways for the day."

"And so you're deliberately wasting all her Tokens to get back at her?"

"No. I'm using them to train. She's got loads to spare. And just because she's decided she can't be bothered –"

"Liar," Kirstin scoffed. "You get on with her because you want to win every challenge you do, just like her." She poked him in the chest with one outstretched finger. "You overestimated yourself."

"Oh, yeah?" Dragon Essence flickered in his eyes. "What, you think you could take me?"

"I'm not the one who's been kicking your ass the past half hour. Or rather, I'm not any of the ones. We've been watching." She stepped closer to him. "And I think you were so embarrassed you lost that first battle that you kept taking more and more on so you could make up the Tokens you lost and pretend the whole thing never happened. Figured everyone would be too busy watching Eurwen's challenge to notice."

He looked away from her gaze. "So now what?"

"Easy. You work with us to make back the Tokens you lost."

"Or," Lena interjected, "we report you to the League for taking on Challenges without your Trainer's permission and you get kicked off the League."

Kirstin looked around in surprise. "Hey, I didn't mean…"

The Skitty's eyes were hard even as she gave an idle shrug, her voice still as light and casual as ever. "Up to you, Cory."

Unsurprisingly, Lena's threat worked. Was it worth it?

As the Axew sulked his way through the streets – Lena had taken charge of deciding which Challenges they were going to take on to try to make up for the Tokens that Cory had lost them, and was in the lead – Kirstin fumbled for what to say.

"Hey, I'm…I'm sorry about what she said. I didn't…I didn't know she was going to do that."

He paused and looked over at her. "So much for you being a team, huh?"

She moved up towards Lena. "Don't." The Skitty turned back to look at her briefly. "I get that you feel responsible, or guilty, or whatever, but just by giving him this chance we're breaking the League rules ourselves. And I can't…" She tugged at her collar. "I can't risk us getting accused of doing anything underhanded."

"Because of your power?"

"Yeah." Kirstin was acutely aware Cory was listening. Lena wasn't. "If there's some question about whether we did anything wrong, I'm the one everyone's gonna blame. The evil Skitty mind-controlling people with her Ability. And besides," she added, defensively, "we are supposed to be a team."

"So how is you threatening him any better than what he did?"

Lena didn't answer.

"Um…" Lisa stopped on the street, turning back to face them. "I know I'm not…not actually part of Eurwen's team, but…you need to work together. Please." I need you to.

There was a long, few moments of silence as Cory met the Flabebe's gaze.

Then he sighed. "Yeah, sure, whatever." He looked over to Lena. "You decided on a Challenge yet?"

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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llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Lena took Eurwen's warning about them being low on Essence to heart, picking out some of the easier Challenges. And it was a good thing she did. Even with the four of them, they struggled against opponents that under normal circumstances, any one of them could have beaten alone.

And Cory wasn't helping. Lisa couldn't exactly blame him for being angry after what Lena had done, but he certainly wasn't being a great team player – not that he'd ever really worked with the others much as a team when they'd been battling in the caves. But at least then he'd been actively seeking out battles and taking over from other people. Now he was doing the exact opposite.

"Oh, again?!" Lisa complained, as Cory hopped back past her and left her to fight a Machop. She had a type advantage, of course, and he'd already done a decent amount of damage, but that didn't mean it wasn't stressful getting thrown into fights she wasn't expecting. And for some reason he kept picking on her. When she was the least involved in this whole mess out of the whole group.

It wasn't fair.

And to make matters worse, she was feeling…odd. She wouldn't have said she was feeling ill, exactly. But trying to fight with her Essence disrupted made it feel like she was trying to pull it through molasses every time she tried to manipulate it. And it felt like it was getting harder to do with every battle.

Were the others all feeling the same? None of them were saying anything about it, and though that didn't surprise her in Cory's case she would've thought Kirstin or Lena might have mentioned it. But then again, they were totally fine with battling. Not like she was.

In a weird, back-to-front way, she was almost grateful for Cory. Kirstin and Lena had realised very quickly that he couldn't be relied on to win any battles and were leaving Lisa to cover for him, taking on more of the Challenges themselves. And since he always got a quick couple of hits in – to establish an Essence link so he could still draw on Essence even though she was the one winning the fights – she'd found that she could normally get a powerful blast of her own in before they recovered from his attacks, using the time he did fight to battle through her resisting Essence. And in some of the cases that was normally enough to win.

But there was a problem. There weren't many Challenges that allowed uneven numbers of challenges to take part in comparison to the opponents, and they were rapidly running out of options, forcing them into tougher battles. But they just had to get through this one, and then they'd have made back enough Tokens to compensate for all the ones Cory had lost.

Cory had at least realised that he couldn't just let her win the fight for him this time, and was staying in the battle. She closed her eyes, trying to focus, trying to pull together enough Essence to form a blast. She'd barely been able to manage it in time last time, and this time was even worse. Her Essence didn't just feel resistant, it felt hard, like it had set in place, and her petal wings were unfurled out to their fullest extent and she couldn't even move them, never mind channel Essence through them, and she clenched her fists, pushing against her Essence as hard as she could –

And she felt her wings fading. No, not fading – shattering, dissolving into fragments of Essence that fell away to the ground, and as they dissipated all the Essence that she'd pushed into them was forced back into her body and she felt it crackling through her, almost uncontrollable –

And then it was gone, for a heartbeat –

And then it exploded back with an unstoppable force, and she felt it carving through her, flowing through her and out through her upper back into wings that were longer than she was tall, unleashing a blast of power that she could barely even direct but somehow managed to aim at Cory's opponent, knocking him halfway across the stage.

"Whoa, you evolved!" Kirstin laughed.

"I…is that what it feels like?" She knew she was asking the wrong people, none of them had evolved before, but she'd always expected it to be smooth, her body settling into its new form calmly. Not this wild, uncontainable power.

Although…there was a certain heady feeling to that power.

She took a step forwards – and yelped in surprise as her leg caught on something and she almost went sprawling, instinctively beating her wings to keep herself upright and lifting the startled Kirstin off the ground with her as the Psyduck tried to support her.

She realised as she landed that her legs were trapped inside her 'tail' of Essence. Normally it just presented a tiny amount of resistance to her, no more than her dress would, but now she couldn't tear it.

"Any ideas?" she asked, awkwardly leaning on Kirstin and Lena.

"Not really. Miro told me when had issues with his carapace after he evolved Eurwen had some kind of special medicine that dissolved it, but…" Kirstin shrugged. "That was way before I joined the team."

"Maybe it'll wear off once the after-effects fade?" Lena offered.

They obviously couldn't do any more Challenges with Lisa hampered like this, even with the surging energy of her evolution she probably had more power to burn than the other three combined. So they awkwardly made their way back to the Pokemon Centre. It took the better part of half an hour, although by the time they were back, Lisa's Essence had calmed down enough that she could move on her own, albeit a little carefully.

"Sorry about ruining your evening," Kirstin said quietly, as they said goodnight. "Trying to battle to make up for –" She caught herself before saying anything in front of anyone else. "…it wasn't exactly what I had in mind."

"It's okay. It wasn't your fault."

"Yeah, sorry you had to spend most of the fights covering Cory," Lena added. "I guess that's what he's like when he's not trying to impress Eurwen."

Cory had gone straight down to the Pokemon Centre's gym to train when they'd gotten back, with barely so much as a goodnight. The Axew didn't seem even slightly repentant for what he'd done.

And yet…Lisa couldn't help but wonder.

Kirstin and Lena went straight back up to bed. Lisa stayed in the grounds, trying to get the hang of moving with her resilient tail. She wasn't sure if it was ever going to go back to normal, had never even considered the possibility that she might evolve and had never looked it up.

After a few minutes she went back inside, using the stairs down to the basement where she hoped there wouldn't be too many people to see her stumbling and fumbling her way as she carefully practiced going up and down the stairs – the only thing it led to was the training grounds, and no-one was going to be using that at night. Well, except for Cory, of course.

The Axew definitely saw her when she made it to the last flight of stairs a couple of times, but he didn't make any move to talk to her. After the third time, she sighed and resolved to get it over with.

"You did it on purpose, didn't you?"

He paused, setting down the weights he was using. She tried to not pay attention to how heavy they were. "Did what?"

"You knew I was near to evolving."

"Of course I did, I looked Flabebes up when you three forced me to work with you, same as I did Psyducks and Skitties." He looked over at her. "Figured I might as well know what I was dealing with. And since I could look up your level easily…" He shrugged.

"And you didn't think it might be useful to mention it?"

Cory paused for a moment. "You didn't know?"

"Why would I?"

"Because you want to do well in the League? Especially if you want to focus on battling. Basic research on your own species isn't exactly hard."

But I don't. She didn't say it aloud. He was the last person who would ever understand that. "So all those times you made me fight, whether I wanted to or not?"

"If you didn't want to fight, why'd you join the Challenges?"

"To help my friends!" she retorted, and she realised her wings were glinting with Fairy Essence. "Why the dist are you making it so hard for me to say thank you?"

He raised an eyebrow. "That's what you were working up to?"

She sighed, closing her eyes and focusing for a moment. Her Essence responded so much quicker now, and even after the light had faded from her wings she could still feel it, tense, ready to lash out. "Look, I would never have gotten involved in that many fights on my own without you. And without that I wouldn't have evolved. So…thanks." She paused. "But next time, maybe actually tell someone that you're trying to help? Whether you want to admit it or not, you're a part of this team now too."

Cory scoffed. "What 'next time'? You really think your friend Lena's gonna keep her word and let me stay in the team? No. She's too worried about being accused of cheating herself."

"She will." The sheer confidence - no, trust - in her voice...

He relaxed slightly. "If you say so." He paused for a moment. "Nice dress, by the way."

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 - Floette, 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
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
They reconvened in Cyllage the next day to sign up for their Gym battle. Julian's team were a little confused at Lisa's evolution, but they all obviously found the footage of Lena, Lisa, Kirstin and Cory from the previous night, and figured out what had happened quickly enough. Eurwen didn't so much as remark on what had happened, but somehow none of them doubted that she knew.

For his part, Cory was acting like there was nothing wrong at all.

"So…Thumper?"

They were sitting in the Pokemon Centre, where Eurwen had introduced the advanced ally that she'd spent the previous night recruiting.

The woman gave an idle shrug. She was in her mid twenties, tall and powerfully built to the extent that she made Eurwen look scrawny and with a long, ridged tail coiled around her legs. "When I entered the League the first time round, I was…kinda trying too hard. You know how it goes. So I put on this real aggressive vibe, and pretty much my earliest appearance I just couldn't think of anything to say, so I kept saying 'I'm gonna thump ya!'"

"I think I remember that series," Julian commented. "Didn't you get pretty far?"

"Yeah, up to the fifth badge. And for whatever reason, people liked the 'thump ya!' thing, so I kept doing it. And it kinda…shifted…and became 'Thumper.' So when I reentered this year, I figured I might as well make it my official name."

"Why did you enter this year?" Cyr asked. "I mean…don't you have an actual job outside the League now?"

She nodded. "Yeah, I'm a battle coach. But…" She blushed slightly. "When I was in the League the first time, I met a guy on my team, and we kinda…got together. And then this year, turns out he got asked to join as a League battler. And I didn't, but I just…I wanted the chance to go back to how things were with him." She gave a small shrug. "Probably sounds pretty stupid, huh?"

Lena considered pointing out that between Steph and Eurwen, Julian and Shauna, Einar and Cyr and Miro and Artie, they were pretty much the last group who would ever find it stupid. "So…this makes seven of us," she said, instead. "Isn't there some downside to having more than six team members?"

"Yeah, there's a Token surcharge on most challenges," Eurwen nodded. "But Thumper can't take part in this Gym match anyway, so it only starts when we beat the Gym."

Thumper chuckled. "Confident, aren't you?"

Eurwen shrugged. "We each have two Pokemon the same level as his highest-level Pokemon with a Type advantage."

"On which note…" Julian interjected. "I bought this using some of my Tokens last night." He pulled a deep blue stone the size of a football out from his bag. Kamon – who had been lounging in his chair, barely paying any attention to the group – sat up, focused on the Water Stone. "Figured we might as well use every edge we can get before the League. I'll give it to you right before the fight, if that's okay?"

The Panpour considered it for a moment. "So I get to evolve right before the Gym match?" He grinned. "I can work with that."

"What do you think the challenge is going to be this time?" Kirstin asked.

"Well, if it's another climbing challenge, we're gonna crush it. Three of us can fly now." Miro stretched out his wings as if to demonstrate.

"Except it's a Rock Gym," Sam pointed out. "And now we're on our second badge, I bet you they're not going to go as easy on us as they did in the first Gym. Lisa's the only one who can fly and take a Rock attack."

Lisa looked more than a little nervous at being singled out in the group of a dozen Pokemon. Lena put a hand on her shoulder. "Between Cyr, Sandra, Kamon and Kirstin, I'm pretty sure none of them are even going to get the chance to attack us."

Eurwen's tablet and Julian's Pokedex chimed simultaneously. Julian brought up the message from the League first. "We've been scheduled for 2pm today. That gives us…four hours to prepare. Let's eat lunch at twelve, give us plenty of time for any last-minute preparations or side scenes we want to film."

Julian had all but taken over managing the story-related elements of Eurwen's team from her. He enjoyed doing it, and she certainly wasn't going to complain – especially when it meant that there would be less work dumped on Steph's shoulders.

Not that Eurwen gave her team too much time for that kind of thing. "Okay, let's go. Now we know how powerful our opponents are, we can start figuring out some strategies."

Julian couldn't help but remember the argument they'd had after their Gym battle with Viola. Was she going to do the same thing again and only take Cyr and Kirstin into the battle?

More than that, though, her words were still ringing in his ears. 'I don't want anyone to get hurt because of me. Not again.' She'd been so certain that the League was dangerous. And she'd been right about everything else.

What if she was right about this too?

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
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
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 - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
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OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Sorry about the lack of chapter last week, I had to travel for work and between getting almost no sleep in the hotel the night before and being stuck on public transport for five hours I didn't feel like I could do this chapter justice.

Eurwen had clearly taken Julian's words to heart, because she didn't leave any of her Pokemon – except Thumper, who as she'd mentioned wasn't allowed to take part in the Gym battle – out of the trial this time.

Just as Sam had suspected, since they were challenging the Gym for their second badge, the challenge to get there was a lot more difficult. In Viola's Gym they'd only had to deal with Pokemon trying to wrestle them off the climbing ropes. This time the Gym Pokemon were using their attacks.

Julian tried to hide how relieved he was when the League official directed him and Eurwen to climb a different part of the course. They still had to deal with boulders being thrown at them so they could be CGI'd into the main course later, but in their case the 'boulders' were made of papier mache or something and were light enough that Julian could almost lift one with one hand. He had been carrying on (or at least been trying to carry on) with the Essence-manipulation that Eurwen had taught him but that didn't mean he wanted to use it in practice and have Rock attacks whizzing past his head.

Unlike their teams, who had a single climbing course to navigate, Eurwen and Julian's course consisted of a few discrete climbs, with large platforms between each climb for them to rest and have the chance to direct their Pokemon. Eurwen took the latter opportunity far more seriously than Julian – she'd even been calling out directions when they were on the climbing walls, even though Cyr could swat the Rock-type attacks out of the air with his vines like they were nothing.

Eventually, though, they both made it to the top of their respective climbs. This time Eurwen had to go first out of the two of them. "Good luck," Julian called after her as she and her Pokemon left.

When they were led to an elevator and arrived atop a large plateau, she began to feel like she would need it.

She and her Pokemon were all outfitted with climbing harnesses that were attached to the ceiling. Just in case they were knocked off the edge of the arena. She resisted the urge to ask why they'd even designed an arena where that would be an issue to begin with.

Their opponents were already waiting for them: a tall, muscular man with beads in his hair who was clearly the Gym leader judging from the camera drones that were focused on him, accompanied by his two Pokemon. Eurwen wasn't sure what either of them were – one of them had two long frills running from his temple over his head and down his neck, somewhat hidden by his hair, while the other had a couple of small, spiky horns and a stubby tail. Like her team, they all had harnesses attached.

"Greetings, contestants, and viewers live and at home alike! Welcome to the Cyllage Gym!" The crowd cheered in response to the commentator's booming voice echoing over the Gym. "For those that aren't aware, this Gym tests the might and resilience of challenges, and now that our challenger is angling for her second badge, any Pokemon who is knocked off the edge of the arena counts as being defeated! So without further delay, allow me to present Eurwen Brennan!"

Some of the spectators had flags with a cartoonised version of her face on them. She really wasn't sure what to think about that – especially when the cartoon version of her looked prettier.

"Her opponent is the wild, yet cool and collected, rock climber – it's Grrraaaaannnntttt!"

The man stepped forwards with a dramatic pose as the camera drones flew out to get a wider shot. "I've been waiting in eager anticipation!" he declared. "What have I been waiting for?" He turned a full circle – the harness's attachment point in the ceiling swivelling to avoid tangling him up – before he answered. "For a worthy challenger to appear! It's quite an achievement to have climbed all the way up here. Very impressive, actually! I have a feeling that our battle will turn out to be worth the wait!" He gestured, and the frill-headed man stepped forwards to face Kirstin. "I hope you'll show me that your skill as a Trainer surpasses even mine."

"Begin!" the announcer boomed. "And Eurwen's first choice of Pokemon may have been a fortunate one, for as an Ice-Type Grant's Amaura would have had a significant advantage over Cyr. But lacking Cyr's impressive defences, will Kirstin be able to withstand her opponent's attacks?"

The announcer clearly knew in advance what Grant's strategies were going to be. "Rock Tomb!" the Gym Leader declared, and the Amaura stamped his foot, causing a hail of boulders to erupt from the ground and come crashing down at Kirstin as she nailed him squarely with a Water Pulse.

The announcer's warning about Kirstin's comparative lack of defence had been prescient too. Kirstin blasted a couple of the rocks out of the air with quick Water Guns, but one of the bigger ones slammed squarely into her chest, sending her sprawling and almost depleting her Essence in a single hit. It was a lucky shot, but there was no denying that it put them on the back foot.

Eurwen pulled a lever on her Pokedex. Normally it would trigger the switching process, but with the climbing harnesses in place the teleportation technology wasn't available, so instead it just flung up a big holographic 'PAUSE' screen.

"Eurwen decides to swap out Kirstin rather than risk her taking another attack with her Essence disrupted from the Rock Tomb. A clever strategy, but even if the Amaura has taken a significant amount of damage from the super-effective Water Pulse, who does she have on her team capable of finishing the fight?"

"Just keep moving and wear him down," Eurwen said to Lena as the Skitty stepped forwards.

She grinned. "No problem."

She darted forwards, focusing on defence and evasion rather than attacking, slipping between the Rock Tombs. She still managed to land a couple of smacks with her tail on the Amaura as she circled him, the whirring of the harness above them as it slid around following her audible even over the crowd. But the Amaura managed to resist the effects of her Cute Charm ability, and she tried to get closer to amplify its effects, close enough that he couldn't aim the Rock Tombs –

And then the Amaura moved, far faster than Lena had expected, catching her by the tail as she swung at him and tossing her back before crouching and springing, barrelling into her with full force –

Eurwen saw it first, yelled a warning knowing it was too late, raised a hand – and paused, just for a heartbeat, that instinctual fear making her freeze –

And the two harness lines that had become tangled together and wrapped in one of the lightning rigs with Lena's dodging and circling went taut and the Amaura's strength and momentum was too much, and with a screech of yielding metal the rig fell from the ceiling, and Lena screamed in pain as it slammed into her leg.

Cyr was the first to react, wrapping his vines around the lighting rig and pulling as hard as he could, but as powerful as the Quilladin was with nothing to brace against he couldn't use his full strength to lift upwards and the rig was too heavy, and the rest of Eurwen's Pokemon – and the Amaura – moved nervously forwards, wanting to help, not knowing how they could.

It was the other of Grant's Pokemon whose movement caught Eurwen's attention, and he reached out and roughly grabbed Grant's arm, pulling the Gym Leader into a position that he could stab at a holographic button on the man's Pokedex, and Essence blazed around him and he gripped the lighting rig and pulled, and Eurwen recognised the Essence lines. Strength.

Cyr carefully twined his vines around Lena – carefully avoiding her wounded leg – and pulled her free as soon as the Rock-Type had lifted the lighting rig enough.

"Let me see," Eurwen said, and there was an edge in her voice none of them had ever heard before as she crouched down next to Lena. Einar sharpened his claws to metal and carefully sliced through Lena's trouser leg, and Eurwen gave him a nod, closing her eyes and focusing, looking as much at Lena's Essence flows as the physical wound.

It could have been worse. Would have been, if not for the quick thinking of the Rock-Type who'd freed her. But all the same…as much as Pokemon could withstand impacts humans couldn't with their Essence, they didn't heal that much faster.

Lena wouldn't be able to fight for months.

Lena's death was a bit of a stuff-up on my part. Literally the first thing that happened in the fight was that Amaura critted Kirstin with a Rock Tomb and procced the Speed down, so I couldn't be confident that she'd outspeed the Amaura again. Lena had less defence than Kirstin, but after looking at the two I thought that Lena would be able to withstand one hit, and after having a ridiculously good experience with infatuation in another nuzlocke I figured it was worth a shot to see if her Cute Charm activated.

What I did not remember was that crits in Gen VI deal 1.5x damage, not 2x, so a significant proportion of what I'd assumed was critical damage was actually just the base damage. So poor Lena got one-shot.
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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
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QuietGuardian

Johto League Champion
🌱Featurer
Screenshotter
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
33
Caught
Jun 10, 2019
Messages
1,601
Nature
Careful
Pronouns
he/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Ground
And there's the first death of the run. I was wondering when it'd show up—although the few paragraphs leading up to the accident made me think it was approaching. This also answers my question of how deaths in this run will be handled—well, sort of. This wasn't an in-story death, but that's not to say there couldn't be one further along the line…
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Yeah to be honest most, maybe all of the in-game deaths in this are probably not going to be actual deaths in the story. Originally they were gonna be but when I pivoted this story to being a lot more light-hearted than the original design I rewrote most of the deaths as well.

The sun had long since set by the time Lena emerged from her room.

She'd heard the others knocking on the door every so often, asking her if she was okay. She kept telling them she was.

Someone had left a takeaway meal outside the room. She'd picked at it, remembering the doctors telling her to eat to help stop the painkillers making her too woozy, glad that whoever had done it hadn't stuck around to ambush her with it.

Eurwen and the others had been awarded the Cliff Badge, an automatic consequence of her injury being down to League failings. In the absence of any footage they could show, the League was airing the footage of Kamon's evolution. Julian had recorded it before Eurwen's match. The show had to go on.

Her leg was wrapped in a thick cast, feeling like it was entombed in stone. She had to keep resisting the urge to pull at it with her tail.

She looked down at the crutch in her hand. It wasn't like it was hard to move with it, exactly, she was strong enough she could push herself up with it and use her tail to balance, but it was just so…slow. Clumsy. Every time she moved the sole of the thick cast thumped against the floor. They'd given her a thick-soled shoe for her other foot. She'd taken it off as soon as she was back in her room.

The others had to be in bed by now. Even the messages on her Pokedex had dwindled away to nothing.

She took the elevator down to the basement, where the training centre was, swiped her ID on her Pokedex to open the door. They'd all been so confused by how pleased Eurwen was at her discovery that the Pokemon Centres offered 24-hour training facilities for contestants. Wondered when they'd ever need it.

But there was no-one else there now. It gave her privacy.

She started up one of the automatic training machines. There'd been one of these at the gym she'd trained in for the League, something that would bob back and forth to make it hard to hit and could measure the power of attacks. The one at her local gym had whirred and clanked with every movement, the bag so battered and dented from the attacks it had taken, and if you hit it hard enough in the wrong place it would trap the hydraulics and the target would fall over. It had been a point of pride when she'd managed to do it. But the machine here was sleek, almost looking like it belonged in a sci-fi movie. When they'd first come to the Pokemon Centre back in Santalune they'd watched a dozen competitors turn it up to the highest setting and try en masse – and fail – to stop the target from flitting around.

She let it auto-calibrate based on her Essence and then turned its movement down a couple of stages before setting it off. But even so her first couple of attempted attacks didn't even come close to it, it just slipped away too fast for her to turn with her crutch. She whipped her tail out, angrily, slamming into it, and gritted her teeth as she saw the readout bob up to 50%. 'You can do it!' the screen read, helpfully.

She couldn't. No matter how hard she tried, with only one good leg she just couldn't get enough momentum to hit the target with any real force. After a dozen weak strikes she gave up and switched the machine off, slumping back against the target as it slid back to its resting position, trying to calm her breathing as the training room returned to dark and quiet.

So she couldn't land any serious hits. That didn't mean she couldn't still hold her own in a fight.

She hadn't personally used any of the battling machines before, but she'd seen enough of another one to get the gist: tie Essence readers to your limbs and within the confines of the circle painted on the floor, you could form holographic spheres of energy by focusing Essence onto them, which you flung at a target – while dodging or blocking its own projectiles.

She turned the automatic assessment of her Speed down even further than she had on the first machine.

It very quickly turned out that you could only block the shots the machine fired if you were someone like Cyr. She had no doubt that he could've just stood there and taken the hits without caring. But as slow-moving as they were thanks to the settings she'd used, the spheres were charged with artificial Essence and the first one she tried to block almost lifted her off her feet with the force of the blast.

She was more careful after that, focusing on her movement, flicking shots at the floating targets when she could, trying to ignore how miniscule the effect each hit was having on the completion bar on the screen and how her time was slipping further and further down the list of completion rates.

And then she stretched too far trying to move out of the way of one of the machine's projectiles and aim a shot of her own and twisted the wrong way, her crutch slipping out from under her and sending her sprawling to the floor before she could catch herself.

The machine automatically turned off when she didn't get back up. That was something. Getting another of those shots to the chest wasn't exactly something she wanted.

After a few moments of struggling, she managed to wrap her tail around one of the posts that supplied the holograms, pulling herself over to it so she could lean back against it, sitting down, closing her eyes and trying not to cry, her stifled sobs sounding so loud in the empty room.

The hiss of the door opening made her jump and look around.

It was Cory.

Of course, of all the people to see her right now, it had to be Cory. And he could've been standing out there watching the whole thing, for all she knew. She reached out with her tail to try to snag her crutch, levering herself awkwardly to her feet.

To be fair to him, he tried not to pay her too much attention, setting his bag down on one of the benches along the side.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, irritably, as she hobbled back towards him.

He ignored the venom in her tone. "Training. I come down here every night."

Lisa had mentioned talking to him the night before. Evidently it hadn't been a one-off him being down here. But even if he hadn't come down here specifically because of her, that didn't mean she wanted to train with him. Didn't mean she wanted the reminder of how much other people could do – especially not when Cory was one of the strongest Pokemon across their whole dozen-strong group.

"Well, you enjoy," she said, stepping past him as the door hissed open.

"Uh, Lena?" She didn't look around, tapping the button for the elevator.

Nothing happened.

"They turn the elevators off after ten," he continued.

She blinked, looking up at the LCD at the top of the elevator doors. "'Off-Line For The Comfort Of Other Residents,'" she read out slowly, as the letters scrolled past. "Well, what the dist are you supposed to do if you can't use the stairs and there's an emergency?"

"There's an evacuation phone over there." Cory pointed past her.

She clenched the fist of her free hand, leaning on her crutch. There was no way she was going to phone for help.

She managed to lever herself up the first two steps, awkwardly leaning against the banister to swing her cast-bound leg out and over the lip of the stair before using her crutch and the wall to push herself up.

She looked back and realised Cory hadn't stayed in the training room. After a few moments of meeting his gaze, she reached out and put her arm over his shoulders, and he stepped up next to her.

She might not have wanted to admit it at first, but it was a lot easier getting up the stairs bracing herself against him than a wall and banister. But it still took them the better part of five minutes to get to the mini-landing that was halfway up the first flight of stairs, and she sighed. "Okay. Can you…can you just..?"

She trailed off, but he got the message, crouching down slightly and letting her clamber onto his back. He was taller than her to begin with, so even with the cast her injured foot was a good few inches off the ground.

"Hey, uh…" She paused, as he set one foot on the next step. "Thank you."

He shrugged slightly, turning his head so he could see her. "It's fine."

"Not exactly how you planned on spending your night, huh?"

That got a small, amused smile out of him. "This isn't gonna take long. A few minutes out of a couple of hours isn't a big deal."

She tried not to think about the fact that it probably would have taken her a couple of hours to do this on her own. "Maybe not, but still…" She rested her head on his shoulder for a couple of moments before realising what she was doing and pulling away, trying to make it seem like she was just trying to adjust her crutch. "Thanks, Cory."
Mercifully, they didn't pass anyone on the way back up to the second floor, where their rooms were. Much as she appreciated Cory's help, getting carried on the Axew's back like a sack of potatoes wasn't exactly a look she wanted to be associated with.

She slipped off his back once they were done with the stairs, but he stayed with her all the way back to her room. "You know, when you're not trying to be an asshole, you can be pretty nice," she commented.

He gave her a look. "I'm not trying to be an asshole."

"Well, you're doing a pretty good job of it." Maybe it wasn't a good idea to insult the guy who was half supporting her, but she didn't think he was going to drop her. After a few moments, she sighed. "So what are you trying to do?"

Cory sighed. "Look…you all joined the League for the League, in its entirety. All the hammy action, and the showboating…you wanted that as much as you wanted to become a stronger battler." It wasn't a question. "I didn't."

"Then why'd you join? You're strong. Like, really strong. You could've joined a battling team or a group, no problem."

"Yeah, if only," he scoffed. He shook his head slightly. "It's…it's personal. But…I joined the League to beat the Champion. That's it. All the rest of it…it's just in the way."

Lena was quiet for a few moments. "You know…I get that you and Eurwen play off each other so well because you both just care about battling and nothing else, but…maybe you should try all the rest of it. I think there's a part of you that wants to enjoy this in there somewhere deep down." She smacked him on the back with her tail, lightly. He barely even seemed to notice. "Very deep down."

"If you say so." She got a small eye-roll and a wry smile from him. "Night, Lena."

She opened her door, turned back and pressed her tail against his back again, more gently, just for a couple of moments. "Night, 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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Simipour, 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 - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
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OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Eurwen was summoned to a meeting with the League adjudicators the next day. Lena was called up too, along with Steph – as their agent – and Julian, Shauna, Trevor and Tierno as the rest of their group. So, Eurwen was surprised to discover, were Grant and the two Pokemon that had been on his team. The Amaura shifted uneasily when he saw Lena hobble in, supported by Tierno and Julian. He couldn't meet her eyes.

The meeting room was a lot like the one that they'd first met Steph in, with a long, rounded table. The three adjudicators were already seated when they all came in. Eurwen forced herself to relax – which became a lot easier when Steph sat next to her, although the chairs were too far apart for them to hold hands under the table.

"The adjudication process was detailed in the documents you were all given in your starter pack," one of the adjudicators said, without preamble, "but to reiterate, this is not an inquiry. An external investigation will take place into the incident, and make recommendations on how to minimise the risk of an incident such as this happening again, but that is the responsibility of the appropriate authorities, and will happen when they have collected the relevant information."

You mean once the League is over and you don't have to worry about headlines about inquiries getting in the way of the excitement about the season. Steph didn't say it aloud.

"The purpose of this meeting," the adjudicator continued, "is purely to decide what should happen to the affected competitors. As you are no doubt aware already, you have been awarded the Cliff Badge by default. However, that leaves two issues to resolve."

"The first," one of the other adjudicators continued – were they reading from a script? – "is what Ms DeReine wishes to do." It took Eurwen a few moments to realise that that must have been Lena's real surname. "You can stay on Ms Brennan's team with her permission, if you desire, but as you're well aware, the challenges you will be able to take on will be highly limited. Only blue challenges will be entirely unrestricted to you, while your ability to participate in other challenges will be down to the League medical staff. In particular, you will not be allowed to take part in any red or unregulated challenges, as it would only be safe for you to fight Pokemon in challenges designed for contestants with no badges. Moreover, as Ms Brennan's advanced ally is now eligible to join the League and take part in challenges, that already puts her at six Pokemon, meaning that she would have to select a Pokemon to join her reserve team or suffer a Token surcharge on most challenges."

"You can swap to my team if you want," Shauna piped up. "We haven't been battling much anyway."

Lena's eyes widened.

"That way you can stick with us," Julian added.

"If…if I can, but I…I don't know how much help I'll be."

Seeing how much confidence she'd lost hurt. And it had never had to happen. Eurwen clenched her hands into fists. Steph shuffled forwards in her seat slightly so she could put her tail on Eurwen's lap under the table, and Eurwen jumped slightly but relaxed a little.

"Who cares if you aren't the absolute best there ever was?" Shauna shrugged. She meant well, but Eurwen saw the pain in Lena's eyes. "You're always welcome with me and Jolie."

"If that is acceptable to all parties, then you can transfer to Ms Vale's team for no cost in Tokens." The third adjudicator made a movement that Eurwen was sure was ticking something off a checklist. "The second issue is the matter of Mr Morea's actions. By altering his Essence, he ceased to be a valid combatant for the Cyllage Gym. However, as his actions were born out of necessity, we have agreed that he should not be removed from the League entirely as a consequence. As such, for a moderate expenditure of Tokens, we will allow any of you to add him to your team."

Eurwen had never seen him fight – Julian's Gym match had happened, but even if the stubby-tailed man had been one of Julian's opponents, it hadn't been aired yet. She didn't even know what Pokemon he was.

Julian did, though. "Sure." Rock and Dragon were two Types that he didn't have on his team, and though his Essence rewrite had obviously helped, if the Tyrunt could match – maybe even exceed – Cyr's strength, he would be a powerful addition to his team. It would mean that he'd have to deal with the reserve team rules as well or the Token surcharge, but it sounded like it would be worth it. Besides, the Tyrunt hadn't had to help Lena. "Sounds good to me."

He noticed the Tyrunt give a little sigh of relief.

"In that case, this meeting is adjourned. You will receive minutes of the meeting, as well as official confirmation of your respective transfers, by the end of the day."

Eurwen half expected one of them to bang a gavel.

"So, uh…" Julian looked over at his new recruit. "Do you have a name in the story already, or..?"

The Tyrunt shrugged. "Nah. Gym Pokemon don't get names. The announcers and the Gym Leader just use our species."

"Well…I can't actually register your name yet, but…how does Danny sound? I don't want to have to swap what we're calling you if you use your real name until the transfer comes through, so…"

"No problem. I get it."

"Hey…" Danny paused, looking back as Julian went on ahead to where Lena was shuffling along behind them. She was still steadfastly refusing to use two crutches. "Thanks. For helping me out in the Gym, I mean."

"You're welcome. I couldn't just stand by and watch you hurt like that." He saw her expression. "I have two kid sisters," he explained. "Neither of them are Pokemon, but when your tail was hidden under that lighting rig…" He shook his head slightly. "For a second it felt like it was them I was looking at. Not that I wouldn't have helped you anyway," he added hastily.

"I believe you," Lena assured him. "Isn't Grant pissed at you pushing him around like a rag doll?" she asked, after a few moments.

Danny gave an embarrassed chuckle, running a hand through his hair, his little spiky horns exposed for a few moments before his hair fell back and covered them. "Yeah, a little bit," he admitted. "Honestly I was half worried they were gonna kick me out for assaulting him."

"They wouldn't dare. There were a good couple hundred people at that battle."

"And only a few of them would know that a Gym Leader's Pokedex always comes loaded with their signature move and a special League move," Danny pointed out. "And none of them would know what it was." He paused, noticing Lena's expression. "What is it?"

She sighed. "I just…realised what I said, I guess. That there were a couple hundred people there. And even if the League never releases the footage, even if it doesn't get shown at the inquiry and somehow there was no-one there filming on their Pokedex…that's what I'm gonna be known for now. Not for trying to stand up for people with Abilities like mine, or being a fighter on Eurwen's team. I'm just gonna be the one who got hurt."

Danny reached out and tousled her hair, gently. He really was used to being a big brother, she reflected. She wasn't going to protest.

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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Simipour, 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 - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Danny - Tyrunt, Male, Strong Jaw, Gentle, Mischievous
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
Last edited:
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Chapter 8: Geosenge

It was a subdued group that moved on out of Cyllage.

Having Danny around helped. The Tyrunt's actions had quickly endeared him to the rest of the group, and it wasn't long before he fitted in like he'd always been part of the team.

Thumper had a little more difficulty. Eurwen had recruited her before the Gym match, they all knew it consciously, of course, but all the same…they couldn't help but feel as though she was a replacement for Lena.

It didn't help that Lena didn't want to hang around with them much. When they were just relaxing in their hotels or eating dinner, she sometimes showed up, but Shauna was doing a totally different set of challenges to the rest of them, so they weren't often around – and even when they had some free time, Lena never came to watch their challenges. They all knew why.

Eurwen watched a couple of Shauna's challenges when they were aired. Lena was trying to put on a brave face, but she just looked miserable.

A few days after they left Cyllage, the Gym Challenge was aired. Some clever editing had left Lena's first couple of attacks in before cutting her out of the rest of the battle, but the video had been preceded by an announcement from the League officials that she'd been injured during the Gym match. It was all reassurances that the League was perfectly safe.

Eurwen got a message on her laptop before the episode had even finished.

11:04 - Sam: Are you okay?

11:07 - Eurwen: No.

11:09 - Sam: It wasn't your fault.

11:09 - Eurwen: Was't it?

11:12 - Sam: Being afraid is human.


They were told to head to Geosenge once they both had their second badge. None of them were entirely sure why, though from a little research Trevor discovered that everyone with two badges who'd been in the Sycamore challenge was being sent to one or another region that didn't have a Gym. But there was no word as to why.

A handful of 'Team Flare' challenges popped up as they moved on to Geosenge, which seemed more like a way for a few selected tourist spots get onto the League show (presumably for a sizeable fee) rather than anything with any real connection to the story. The Token rewards were limited, but it was a convenient way for Danny and Thumper to grow used to battling alongside the rest of their teammates.

There weren't many Challenges available in Geosenge itself – at least, not many battling challenges – but they'd been asked to wait there for a few days by the League.


The Pokemon Centre in Geosenge was a lot more rustic than the ones they'd been to before, with a real fire crackling in the restaurant built on to the side of it. The training room in the basement was just as sleek and modern as any of the others, though it wasn't nearly as crowded, even during the day, partly because Geosenge didn't have a Gym and partly because there were just fewer contestants still taking part.

There was a soft, green light in the room. Eurwen looked up, and Steph saw the movement. "Sorry," she said, quietly. "Did I wake you?"

"I wasn't asleep," Eurwen answered, truthfully. She'd barely slept at all since the aborted Gym match with Grant. "Don't tell me you're still working on clips for the League?"

Steph shook her head, sitting back down on the edge of the bed with her Pokedex. "You remember the two League staff who met us when we arrived?"

Eurwen nodded.

"You saw it too, didn't you. How Quacklin' reacted." It wasn't a question. Steph tapped her Pokedex, brightening it out of its dark mode and making the two mugshots on it visible. They were the two League staff members who'd greeted them at Geosenge.

"Who are they?" Eurwen asked.

"Frank Collins and 'Sly' Vinconi." Steph sighed.

"This is what you didn't want to tell me about, isn't it?"

Steph nodded. Eurwen shuffled closer and sat next to her, wrapping the duvet around them, and Steph snuggled closer under the pretence of disentangling her Pokedex, the two of them just enjoying the warmth and comfort for a few moments before Steph spoke again. "You know Quacklin' was in the League last year. He and his whole team got removed because his Trainer failed a challenge deliberately. What didn't get made public was that she was coerced into throwing it by these two."

Eurwen pulled away slightly to look at Steph in the dark. "How do you know that?"

"I watched back some of the old footage. Even at the time people noticed she changed almost overnight, went from loving the League to barely wanting to take part. And I asked around."

"Asked who?"

"The right people." She paused for a few moments. "Or the wrong people, I guess, depending on how you look at it. Frank and Sly work for a guy they call the League's kingpin, someone who runs all the bribes, corruption…everything to do with the League."

Eurwen narrowed her eyes slightly. "And you went and asked about someone like that?"

"You're sweet." Steph leant in and kissed her briefly. "But I can take care of myself." She could see Eurwen's sceptical, worried expression. "Let's just…let's just say I had a rough upbringing."

Eurwen let it go. "What are you going to do?" she asked, instead.

"I…" Steph shook her head slightly. "I don't know. This is the first time I've been able to get completely away from that life, and I don't…" She trailed off.

"You don't want to get caught back up in it," Eurwen said, softly.

"But if I don't get involved, Quacklin' is going to do something stupid that'll probably get him hurt. And maybe more than just him." She sighed. "And judging from the way he was looking, whatever he does he'll do it soon."

"And they'll be ready for him." Eurwen sighed. "I saw the look in their eyes. A lot of people in Rocket had that look, knowing that they were in charge. They know exactly who he is." She felt Steph's claws against her arm. She was a lot more stressed about this than she was letting on, and hearing Eurwen say it aloud wasn't helping. Eurwen interlaced her fingers with Steph's and squeezed her hand gently, and after a few moments felt the claws recede. "Look…I'm the last person to lecture you about what you should do. Whatever you want to do, whether it's helping him or just staying out of it…I'll be here."

Steph kissed her again. "Thanks," she murmured, softly. "But I'm going to help him. I…I have to. You don't need to do anything."

She tapped a button on her Pokedex, and the room was dark again, and Eurwen felt Steph tuck her head into the crook of Eurwen's arm. "You're a lot braver than me," she murmured, softly, stroking Steph's cheek as she drifted off into a light sleep.

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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Simipour, 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 - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Danny - Tyrunt, Male, Strong Jaw, Gentle, Mischievous
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
A few days later, they were summoned to the next story event. The League was just steamrolling on, like nothing had ever happened to Lena.

"I heard about what happened in your Gym match." It was a familiar voice, and they looked around in surprise to see Shelley there. "Is Lena doing okay?"

He was the first person outside of their own group to ask.

"She'll be okay," Cory answered, with a confidence none of the rest of them felt. "She's tough."

Julian looked past Shelley to see another familiar face. "Korrina's here?!" he yelped, in so startled a tone that the rest of them – including Shelley – couldn't help but laugh.

"I told you we'd be battling you eventually," the Lucario replied, with an amused smirk. "I had a feeling you'd be one of the groups to get this far when I first met you."

They weren't the only ones who'd made it to the Challenge, of course, not even the only ones from Cyllage. But Eurwen couldn't help but wonder if it was just coincidence that they had been told to go to Geosenge and that happened to be the first place this Challenge was being held, or if this was the League's way of trying to compensate for what had happened, like giving them a minor advantage would ever make up for Lena's injury.

Just as Shelley had said, in the middle of the afternoon, they were called up – including Shauna, Trevor, Tierno and their teams – and asked to walk down one of the paths on the outskirts of Geosenge, where they were met by Shelley, Korrina and the other Lucario. All three were wearing masks, just like Einar had been when they'd first met him.

Shelley had told them he could read auras before. The way he'd described it, it sounded as though it was as much a normal sense to him as his ordinary vision was. Even knowing that, though, even knowing that he could use his Aura reading subtly when he wanted to – or perhaps that he couldn't even make it obvious if he wanted to – it was still a somewhat intimidating feeling as he sprang out of the bushes and landed before them, his spikes formed on both hands and his chest, looking over them with eyes that glowed with Essence.

"Lucario!" Korrina's call heralded her arrival with the other Lucario behind her like a bodyguard. She paused, making a show of looking around the assembled humans and Pokemon as well, before Shelley looked back to her, and gave a nod. "I see." She came forwards, facing the group with Shelley joining the other Lucario behind her. "You can call me the Masked Inheritor," she introduced herself – and then reached up and took off her mask, with a toss of her head. "But my real name is Korrina." Eurwen had no doubt the cameras were focused entirely on Korrina, not them. "These are my companions, the Masked Fists. See, Lucario can read peoples' auras. I guess something in your auras caught his attention. There's something we've been protecting for a long time…" She trailed off, looking back to the two 'Masked Fist's in turn, before returning her attention to the group. She had a charisma to her, like Sycamore, that made it easy for her to hold their gazes. "But perhaps you'll be strong enough to claim it. Would you battle with us?"

"Time out!" one of the ever-present League officials declared. Eurwen glanced at her, noted that it wasn't either of the two that Steph had told her about the night before, and returned her attention to Korrina and the two Lucarios. "For this battle, the challengers may use up to six Pokemon per Trainer, will be fighting together, and will be facing the two Masked Fists."

"Guess that's why they had all those multi-opponent battle Challenges on the way here," Julian observed quietly, as the others moved out of the battle arena. "Put the idea that it's going to be a thing this season with the Furfrou chase, and get the audience used to it before it becomes a major story battle. But…" He looked over at the two Lucario. There had been Challenges where they'd been allowed to use their full teams before, but the only ones where they'd both been allowed to use their full teams were the chase with Freya and Felix and the Snorlax gatekeeper. And neither of those had been straight battles.

He remembered what Eurwen had said, when they'd first met Shelley, about how she hoped they wouldn't have to fight him. At the time he'd assumed that she meant normally, but now…maybe she'd meant with their combined teams against him. If the League was expecting Shelley and the other Lucario to be able to challenge them – and on the level of a Boss Challenge, judging from how many Tokens were at stake here…just how strong were they?

They were about to find out.

"You're not the first challengers to face the ultra-powerful Lucario duo!" Korrina proclaimed, with a dramatic gesture (she was still holding her mask in one hand.) "But so far, no-one's managed to win!" And Julian had to resist the urge to say her catchphrase with her as she gave a smile that he'd waited for every week when he'd been watching Korrina's progression through the League. "Let's get this show on the road!"

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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Simipour, 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 - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Danny - Tyrunt, Male, Strong Jaw, Gentle, Mischievous
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
They didn't even see Shelley move.

One moment he was standing in a loose ready stance by Korrina, the next he was right in front of Einar, fist wreathed in Fighting Essence, and he struck the Charmeleon in the stomach, and Einar's Essence armour shimmered, cracked – and broke.

A moment before it did, Einar unleashed a blaze of white-hot fire right back at Shelley, and the Lucario stumbled back.

Einar looked up at the Essence readouts on the screen being projected above them. He'd put as much power as he could into that blast and the super-effective attack had barely dropped the Lucario's Essence by half.

"Sorry, but we've been watching you a while!" Korrina called out. "You two Fire-types are the first targets. And with Power-Up Punch, these two are just gonna keep getting stronger!"

Just as she warned, the other Lucario went for Sam – but unlike Shelley, he didn't go for an all-out attack, instead making a quick feint before wheeling into a kick that the Braixen managed to block, and with the few moments he had before the Lucario could recover his balance, he flicked a half-dozen Embers onto him, watching as the brown-grey of the Fighting-type's Essence shimmered with the red-gold of his Fire.

Cory blasted Shelley in the back with blue fire, and the Lucario stumbled, but he still didn't fall, turning and lashing out with a kick that sent the Axew sprawling.

"Swords Dance, both of you!" Korrina called, with another dramatic gesture, and the two Lucario hopped back, Fighting Essence wreathing around them.

"They're so strong," Artie said, quietly, nervously, looking up at the Essence readouts.

"We got this," Julian promised, with a confidence he didn't feel. "You and Miro are our secret weapons, remember?"

Shelley charged again, and Cyr tried to block him, but as powerful as the Lucario was now even Cyr couldn't stand up to his hits, stumbling back as the Fighting-type landed another Power-Up Punch on his shell – and Miro took off, wings fluttering, and blasted Shelley with a Gust that was enough to knock him back a pace. He looked up at the Butterfree and grinned. "You're gonna have to fly higher than that."

And then he sprang, closing the vertical gap easily, and flipped into another kick as the other Lucario jumped too and struck at Miro from behind – and a Protect barrier wrapped around Miro and the two Lucario bounced off without even leaving a dent.

Miro turned around, surprised, and found Artie right behind him, her emerald wings with prismatic light. Impulsively he reached out and took her hand, and she blushed but squeezed his hand back.

He spread his wings wider, sending another Gust down at the two Lucario, expecting Artie to do the same – but instead she unleashed a brilliant, scintillating wave of Psychic energy, and the two Lucario clearly weren't expecting it any more than Miro had been, and it pushed them almost back to Korrina's level.

He couldn't help but chuckle slightly. And she'd been worried about how strong they were? "Wow." He blinked. Had he said that aloud?

"Keep going!" Julian called out from below them, and Artie shared a look with him and nodded, and they timed their attacks together, Psychic and Flying energy that merged into a blast, and they felt the two Lucarios try to counter it with a Metal Sound that left their ears ringing, holding the wave of energy at bay for a few moments before Miro and Artie won and blasted the two powerful Fighting-types off their feet.

"Wh-what?!" Korrina's feigned surprise was somewhat spoiled by her grin. "Not even the ultra-powerful Lucario duo could stand up to you?!"

And she said something else but Miro didn't really pay attention to it because Artie flitted closer and kissed him.

The Lucario fight was rough. Literally the first thing that happened on the Eurwen playthrough in that battle was that Einar got critted and lost about 3/4 of his health, which kinda blew my plan out of the water. It was a little easier on the other playthrough, but in the end it basically came down to Miro and Artie taking advantage of their double resistance (fortunately the Lucarios only used Feint once at the very start of the battle, against Sam).
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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Simipour, 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 - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Danny - Tyrunt, Male, Strong Jaw, Gentle, Mischievous
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
They had a quarter of an hour break – while Korrina, Shelley and the other Lucario battled another two teams – before being called back in to film the conclusion of their in-story encounter with her.

Even with the chance to rest, though, it certainly wasn't hard for their teams to keep acting exhausted. That battle had been the hardest one they'd faced, by a significant margin.

"I'm the Gym Leader in Shalour City," Korrina announced, with another dramatic gesture. "Once you get past the cave just beyond here, you'll be there, so stop by and say hello!"

"You're…" Julian cleared his throat and tried again. "You're one of the Gym Leaders?"

Korrina flashed him a grin. "Among other things. See you around, Julian."

"Someone's starstruck," Sam teased him, as Korrina and the two Lucario left – Shelley giving a little wave to them – and Julian elbowed him in the stomach lightly.

"Like you weren't?"

In the relief at having passed the challenge, and the amusement at the light teasing going on back and forth, none of them noticed Quacklin' leave.

He looked down at his Pokedex again. The message was from an official, anonymous League account, but he knew who it was from.

Maybe he should've told Eurwen and Julian. He scoffed at the thought. What would they do? Julian was a good Trainer, sure, and he would've tried to help if he knew – but that was exactly why he couldn't be involved. And the same was true of Eurwen, no matter how tough and scary she tried to act on camera.

A laugh greeted him as he emerged in the clearing. It wasn't marked on his Pokedex as the location of a challenge. "You actually came!" one of the two figures waiting for him said.

"Well, what did you expect?" the other one responded.

They barely looked any different to how he remembered them. Those amused, arrogant looks.

He looked around at the cameras that were set up around the arena.

"Oh, the cameras are down for maintenance," the Machoke told him, helpfully. "Kind of unfortunate timing that they all had to be taken down at once, but hey, what can you do? Now…you've been looking us up." He took a couple of steps forwards. "Whatever could you have wanted to know about little old us for, 'Quacklin''?"

Quacklin' clenched his fists, forced himself to keep his breaths steady. "You're going to confess that you intimidate competitors."

"Whyever would we do that?" the Kadabra laughed. "We're just two hardworking members of this noble League's staff, giving up our time for the benefit of a bunch of horny teenagers. Well, and for a nice paycheck, of course."

"You mean from Slater Mantle." It was a guess, a hope that Steph had known what she was talking about. Judging from the look the two thugs shared, the way they suddenly started looking a little more nervous, it was a good one.

"Don't know who you're talking about," the Machoke said, after a moment. He took another step forwards. "But you ought to be careful making claims about people like that."

Quacklin' scoffed. "What are you going to do? Kick my Trainer out of the League? Oh, wait. You already did."

"You got a new Trainer, though. It'd be an awful shame if one of her teammates decided to throw a challenge."

The air swirled around Quacklin'. "You're not going to force anyone to throw a challenge. Not again."

"Aww, and are you going to stop us?"

He drew his shinai – and the Machoke charged, too fast, and he braced the staff with both hands and the man's punch snapped it like it was a twig and sent him sprawling, gasping for breath.

"What a shame. You were spouting off all these wild accusations, and then you attacked me out of nowhere. I just had to defend myself."

"I'll tell them…the truth." Quacklin' pulled himself up – and something snaked around his ankles and pulled, yanking his legs out from under him.

"Oh, please. Who would believe you?"

"Well, we would."

Steph sauntered forwards, and Quacklin's eyes widened as he realised Eurwen was there too. There was a look in her eyes he'd never seen before, and he couldn't meet her gaze for more than a few seconds. But Steph's voice was as calm and casual as anything.

Steph tapped a button on her Pokedex and a camera drone bobbed up from behind one of the faux bushes. "And I imagine anyone who saw this would believe him too. Oh, and this isn't going onto the League's servers, before you think about accessing them. It's being saved locally." She gave the two thugs a playful little smirk as she moved closer to them. Somehow she and Eurwen ended up between them and Quacklin'. "I wonder how long Mr Mantle will want to be associated with you two when this video gets out? I mean, it doesn't prove anything, but just the suspicion will be -"

She paused as the Kadabra raised his hands, psionic energy blossoming in his palm –

And Steph was just gone, faster than anything Quacklin' had ever seen, and she had her claws out, scratching him on the arm and making him lose focus on his move before sweeping his legs out from under him and sending him sprawling, slipping back to the Machoke and hitting him with a couple of scratches before he could even turn back to try to throw a punch at her.

This wasn't anything like the fights he was used to seeing, either on TV or in person. There was no flashiness, no banter. The Eevee's movements were just pure efficiency, and the two thugs couldn't even begin to keep up with her.

The Machoke gave an angry yell as she melted away from another of his attempted punches, drew back, and just swung as hard as he could, and Steph slipped aside effortlessly again – and her heart skipped a beat as she realised that Eurwen was right behind her, right in the path of the attack, and it was too late for her to try to knock his attack aside or pull Eurwen out of the way –

And Eurwen reached out and caught the Machoke's fist with one hand, stopping his attack cold like it was nothing.

He tried to pull free, eyes wide, and she tightened her grip slightly, just enough that he couldn't break free for a few seconds, before she let him go.

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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Simipour, 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 - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Danny - Tyrunt, Male, Strong Jaw, Gentle, Mischievous
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
It had only been a few days since they'd been at the League adjudication meeting to deal with Lena's injury. The atmosphere here was far more oppressive – in no small part because this time it was only Eurwen, Steph and Quacklin' who were there, and Julian as Quacklin's Trainer.

"As you're all aware, League contestants are prohibited from engaging in battles other than in emergencies," one of the adjudicators said. "We have considered the situation, and have come to the conclusion that the battle Mr Deloine was involved in does not fit the criteria of an emergency."

"What, getting attacked isn't an emergency?"

The adjudicator paused for a moment to fix Eurwen with a look. She met his gaze steadily, and after a moment the man cleared his throat and returned his attention to his notes. "This is not a criminal trial. This relates purely to the contract Mr Deloine signed with the League. As Mr Deloine actively sought out a situation he could reasonably expect would result in a fight instead of following the proper procedures, regardless of who struck the first blow, it can in no way be considered an emergency. The punishment for engaging in an unsanctioned battle is automatic expulsion from the League."

"So he found out two criminals who've been bribing and harassing criminals when the League couldn't be bothered to do anything, and he gets expelled for his trouble?"

"It's okay," Quacklin' said, quietly. "I figured this was going to happen. And…as much as it was fun hanging out with all of you, I joined the League to try and do something about this. I wasn't planning for it to go quite that way, but…" He gestured to the adjudicators. "They're not wrong – I did go there knowing it might turn into a battle. I wasn't expecting you two to get involved."

Eurwen clenched her fists.

"What about them?" Quacklin' asked.

"Ms Brennan and Ms Emmerson are not competing as Pokemon." It was one of the other adjudicators who answered. "Getting involved in a battle between Pokemon was extremely reckless," she added, with a glance to Eurwen, "but as it wasn't a sanctioned Challenge, neither of them will receive any penalty."

The police had already cleared Eurwen and Steph to carry on with the League, with such alacrity that Eurwen couldn't help but wonder if her status as a supposed League front-runner had something to do with it. It had certainly caught her off-guard when one of the police officers asked her for an autograph.

"This meeting is adjourned. You will receive minutes of the meeting, as well as official confirmation of Mr Deloine's removal from your team, by the end of the day."

The rest of the group had heard what had happened, and they were waiting outside the League building. They all knew what penalty Quacklin' was going to get for battling.

Before Eurwen could join Julian and the others, Steph caught her by the hand and pulled her back. "Hey…I'm sorry I showed them." She'd been sitting next to Eurwen when the League – and the police – had reviewed the footage from Steph's camera drone, had felt her tense up when the footage of the Machoke's punch had been broadcast. "I left it on auto-pilot, so it was focusing on the biggest sources of Essence, and that punch…"

"It was the biggest source of Essence at the time. I get it." It was the third time Steph had explained it.

"I would've deleted it, but it would've left a record and that would've just made them suspicious, and when it's all League property I bet they could've just got it back again, so…"

"It's okay." Eurwen said it almost without thinking, and wondered why she lied. It wasn't okay. But seeing Steph's expression, so worried and nervous and angry, even, angry at herself… "It's okay," she repeated.

Steph knew she was lying. But she didn't call her out on it, instead just hugging her tightly for a few moments before pulling away and turning to follow the others out – and then it was her turn to get tugged back gently, and Eurwen kissed her.

"Thank you," Eurwen said, quietly.

"Not that I'm complaining, but…what for?"

"For not asking."

"We all have our secrets." Steph kissed her back, quickly, playfully, and slipped away to rejoin the others.

Quacklin' managed to disentangle himself from the others long enough to catch up with Eurwen and Steph as they returned to the group. "You two probably think I'm pretty stupid, don't you?" he asked, quietly.

"Well, I didn't tell you who was responsible so you could go and taunt those two wannabes," Steph retorted, "but…for what it's worth, I hope your friend will be happier knowing those two are going to prison."

He gave a small smile. "I hope so too. And…thanks. Not just for…filming them, and everything, but..." He trailed off, glanced at Eurwen for a moment before returning his attention to Steph. The Eevee being able to fight made sense – it had surprised him just how strong she was, sure, even considering the rumours he'd heard about her playfighting with Eurwen's team, but it made sense. But Eurwen…she was just a human, and she'd stopped a full-on Fighting-type attack like it was nothing. As much as he was grateful to her – to them both – it was…scary.

"No worries," Steph said, deliberately putting herself slightly in front of Eurwen, drawing his gaze. She knew exactly what he was thinking about, and her unspoken demand not to push Eurwen on it was clear.

Quacklin' turned back to look at the others. After an awkward moment, he reached out to shake Julian's hand. "I'm sorry this messed up your League," he said, quietly. "But…thank you for letting me work with you."

Considering that I'd just played a long nuzlocke using a Machop/Machoke/Machamp when I was doing the gameplay for this, you'd think I would have remembered that Revenge is a thing. I did not, and poor Quacklin' got one-shot.
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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Simipour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Danny - Tyrunt, Male, Strong Jaw, Gentle, Mischievous
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
They didn't all see each other again until they were back in the Pokemon Centre that evening. The League would never air or even really make reference to it, of course, but word spread quickly that Quacklin' had been removed from the League. And there were even a few rumours starting to float around as to why.

Eurwen was just glad that no-one seemed to know about the battle.

"Okay." Steph clapped her hands together slightly, making them jump. "We've all been looking at our dinner for the past half hour, this is ridiculous. We still have a League to win."

Lisa narrowed her eyes slightly. "So…what, you think we should just ignore what happened and move on? Qua…" She paused. "He attacked someone. Even if they were Pokemon and they could handle it, even if they were bad guys…that wasn't in the League. People…" She clenched her fists. "People aren't supposed to fight outside the League."

Eurwen scoffed.

"Sometimes people have to," Artie said quietly, before Eurwen could say anything. "Police officers, bodyguards…sometimes you don't have a choice."

"And no, I wasn't about to say we should just ignore it," Steph added. "What I was going to say was that after what happened in the Gym match, and now this…none of us are in the right headspace to keep on with the League right now. We need a break. So what I suggest is that none of you do any Challenges for the next week. Just…take the entire week off, take some time to relax. If you really want to battle –" she didn't look at Cory but it was clear who she was addressing "- there's a spot near here that allows League competitors, a side branch of the Battle Chateau."

"It's a good idea. I think…" Julian sighed. "I think we all need some time to unwind. And there are a ton of non-battling Challenges here, so Shauna, Trevs and Tierno are probably going to want to spend some time around here anyway, build up their Token counts before we move on to the next region."

He hadn't really spoken to any of them since Quacklin's removal from the League. Hadn't wanted to make them deal with it too – he knew they'd hear about it, of course they would, but the further away he could keep them from it the better.

Shauna and the others turned up later that evening, and at Steph's suggestion they bought a big pile of takeaway food – of a wild fusion of cultures, because they couldn't decide on just one – and shared it out among the entire group. It was a noisy, chaotic (and slightly drunken in a couple of cases) meal, but it was exactly what they needed.

"So how are you finding it?" Lisa had ended up sitting next to the Pikachu on Trevor's team – it took her a few moments to remember his name was Zeus. "I looked you up when you joined Julian's team. Full battling wasn't what you were doing in your old team, was it?"

She shook her head. "No. But…I'm enjoying it," she lied. "Lola was really kind to let me take her place."

He nodded. "She was." After a few moments, he sighed. "Look…I may be way off base here, but when I first joined the League I wanted to be a full battler, like you, like Sam and Cyr and all the others. And, I mean, it's not like I don't battle at all, but most of the time we're doing blue challenges, green or yellow at best, and I was…kind of mad I ended up on Trevor's team at first, to be honest, wished that I hadn't passed over Eurwen because of her reacting to the camera drones. But…I don't know. Seeing what you all have to deal with, with the Gym matches and all the battling and training…I'm pretty happy I ended up on Trevor's team."

"Wh…why are you telling me this?"

Zeus stumbled for words for a few moments. "I'm…I'm not good at…talking to people. But…when you spend a lot of your life watching from the sidelines, you get good at reading people. And…" He trailed off again. "You don't always seem…happy. Not with the team, I mean. But when it comes to battling, fighting alongside them. Or even just sparring with them, like when you were on my team against Cyr and Sandra."

Lisa didn't say anything for a few moments.

"And I…I get that you feel like you have to keep going because Lola dropped out for you, but…I don't think she'd want you to keep doing something you aren't enjoying."

She hadn't told any of them why she wanted to stay – why she had to stay. If Lola had told Julian, he hadn't passed it on to anyone else. But at the same time…

"Thanks," she said, quietly.

It was the first time since she'd joined the group that she felt like she was talking to someone who understood her.

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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Simipour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Danny - Tyrunt, Male, Strong Jaw, Gentle, Mischievous
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 
OP
llyarden

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
348
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Even Cory had to admit Steph had had a point. Even after a week's rest the story of the League hadn't moved on without them, and the chance to relax, to not have to think about Quacklin's removal from the League, or Lena's injury…it helped.

Of course, not all of them took the time completely off. The day before they'd agreed to start taking on Challenges again, Eurwen had called Thumper back to the Pokemon Centre training area to display the fruits of her labours. The others had all gotten wind of it pretty quickly, so it was most of the group that clustered around the duo.

"So…what exactly is it?" the Steelix asked, holding up the leather jacket Eurwen had handed her.

"It's lined with Essence-reactive material," Eurwen said.

"Well, that explains everything," Steph observed, drily.

Eurwen rolled her eyes and looked back to Thumper. "Put it on. It's a lot easier to show than tell."

"I hope it fits." Lisa wriggled her way through the group to the front, looking a little sheepish as the others looked at her. "Eurwen asked me to help." She still wasn't sure why Eurwen had picked her, though she had a sneaking suspicion that Kirstin might have been responsible.

"We got the idea from looking at some of your old Challenges from your last time," Steph explained. "Because if it had been up to Eurwen you'd have basically been wearing outright armour," she added, flicking her tail against her girlfriend's legs playfully.

Thumper shrugged the jacket on, buttoning up the top button just the same way as she always had in all the clips they'd seen of her. "Well, it fits," she shrugs. "What's so special about it?"

In response, Eurwen turned to Cyr. "Hit her."

He blinked. "What?"

She gestured to the Steelix. "Go on, attack her."

"I don't get a say in this?" Thumper drawled. Nonetheless she shifted position, taking up a defensive stance. "Well, fine. Bring it."

Cyr gave Eurwen a suspicious look, but obeyed after a couple of moments, drawing back and striking at Thumper with a hard punch – and there was a flash of Essence light and he recoiled with a yelp. "OW! I knew it was going to be that spiky plate," he grumbled, shaking his hand.

"I thought Cyr was going to get that," Einar commented.

Eurwen shrugged. "That was the plan when I won it, but when Thumper's pretty much entirely focused on defence, it makes more sense for her to use it. Cyr can hit hard enough anyway."

"Yeah, no kidding," Thumper grumbled, massaging her arm where Cyr's punch had hit. "Glad I'm a Steel-Type." After a few moments, she looked around. "There a mirror in this place?"

There was – on the far wall, a way for competitors to watch themselves practice their moves so they could spot any mistakes, much as they would practice exercise techniques. Thumper turned a little circle in front of it, her tail coiling around her legs and then neatly stretching back out to land on the floor with a loud thump.

"Well, I could sure get used to this," she grinned, looking back at Lisa and Steph. "This is real cool." The Floette blushed slightly at the compliment. "And I guess the Essence thing is good too," she added to Eurwen, off-handedly – but she couldn't stop herself smirking, her playful grin taking the sting out of her words. "So, where do I get to try this out for real?"

Eurwen – as usual – looked over Steph's shoulder as she pulled up the map of the Challenges, but let the Eevee do the talking. "Looks like we can move on to another region, since we have our two badges now."

"There's a Story Challenge in Shalour," Sandra observed. "I guess that must be the one that follows on from that battle with Korrina."

The battle itself had been aired the day before. Julian hadn't exactly been surprised to note that the other couple of groups he watched that had tried to fight the two Lucario had lost. He was still somewhat surprised that they'd won.

"Hey, have you seen this?" Kirstin was still looking at her Pokedex. She flicked the screen over so it synced with the Pokedexes of the rest of them – she'd opened the details of the Challenge that Sandra had noticed. "'This Challenge has a special story reward. Only one Trainer per group may win this reward.'" She looked around at the others. "Am I reading that right? Only…only one of our teams can win it?"

"I…I guess so." Julian looked around at the others. "But how are we meant to decide which of us gets it? Especially when they don't even say what it is."

"I have an idea." Steph grinned. "I dunno if any of you have been checking social media, but there are a lot of people who want to see you two battle. And if we'd basically just be tossing a coin to decide who gets whatever this reward is anyway…why not give them what they want?"

It made sense, of course it did – after all, the first battle Eurwen had had in the entire League had been against Shauna. But at the same time…that hadn't been for any real stakes.

"Sounds good to me," Thumper grinned. "Seeing as I got this cool jacket and all." She thumped her chest with a rocky noise as the Essence weave pulsed, and looked over to Danny (who was easily the most physically imposing of Julian's team). "Hope you're ready to lose, big guy."

"What about the rest of you?" Eurwen interjected before Danny could respond to the Steelix's taunts.

"I…" Lisa started to speak, but trailed off. What am I meant to say? That I don't want to fight someone as powerful as any of Eurwen's team? That I don't want to battle at all? She clenched her fists slightly. "I'm okay with it."

She couldn't help blush again as she realised that a number of the others – on both teams – had been willing to wait for her to answer before agreeing as well. Kirstin caught her eye and gave her what was clearly meant to be a reassuring smile.

"Okay, then!" Steph grinned. "I bet the League will fall over themselves to get you two a proper battling arena. And I of course will be the entirely –" she purred the R languidly, coiling her tail around Eurwen's leg as she leant back against her "- impartial judge." She paused for a beat. "Just kidding, they'll probably give us a referee as well."

If he was honest, Julian would have been okay with Steph refereeing. As much as she was teasing Eurwen, he was pretty confident she really would have been impartial. But she was also right – if she could somehow convince the League to give them access to a battling arena, it would also be professionally refereed.

"Well…" He hesitated, and then awkwardly stretched out a hand to Eurwen. "Good luck, then, I guess."

She hesitated for a few moments, looking at his hand as though she wasn't used to the concept of shaking hands, but then eventually reached out and shook his hand. "Good…good luck to you too."

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
Einar - Charmeleon, Male, Blaze, Hardy, A Little Quick Tempered
Cory - Axew, Male, Mold Breaker, Serious, Good Perserverance
Thumper - Steelix, Female, Rock Head, Impish, Capable of Taking Hits
Lena - Skitty, Female, Cute Charm, Impish, Impetuous and Silly
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 - Simipour, Male, Gluttony, Relaxed, Loves to Eat
Sandra - Roselia, Female, Natural Cure, Brave, Proud of its Power
Lisa - Floette, Female, Flower Veil, Quirky, Strong Willed
Danny - Tyrunt, Male, Strong Jaw, Gentle, Mischievous
Quacklin' - Farfetch'd, Male, Keen Eye, Jolly, Alert to Sounds
Lola - Azumarill, Female, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Vain
 

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