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Pokémon RD COMPLETE! A Body of Proof, AKA how to train a Kantoian Sandshrew... Editing set to be done by 7.10.2022

K_S

Pokémon Trainer
A BODY OF PROOF



Summary:

Trust was a puzzle, puzzling, alien.
And something about that realization made her scared, so scared…
Seeing her fear, Moon, who wasn’t Moon, offered to let her accompany him. Let his actions be a body of proof instead.
And it took time and patience, but in the end, the pieces fit. His actions never strayed from his narrative, and if everything he was saying was true...
Then the "truth" was horrifying.
Moon, or rather Giovanni Sakaki, was Lillie Aether's first complete puzzle, ever. And something about that realization made her sick.



Profanity

Eventual discussion of child abuse

allusions of animal abuse

brainwashing and gaslighting

criminal activity



Background: This is an accompaniment to my long fic "Transversal" set a little further ahead in the Giovanni arch than I have published on this site. It takes Lillie Aether's perspective and runs with it. You don't have to actually read the original work, it'll explain itself in time, but previous reading would help fill in some of the gaps.

Basically, all you need to know is that Moon's not Moon, but a transplanted, de-aged, and furious Giovanni from the SPECIAL manga. The Legends in the original fic had a sick idea of what Healing entails, and decide to play god, vindictive god, while they are at it.

This is the fallout from the perspective of someone who's tagging along and has no clue how bad things are going to get.

Lillie and the stories setting are from a distorted version of the Moon game verse.



This will probably be a three or four-shot.

PERSONAL GOALS: Can I actually introduce a fic that won’t be confusing as heck on entry… despite being inherently complicated? Let’s find out.

EDITED 1119pm on 1.29.2022
Chapter One

An introduction to madness:

or pick up your 'mon from the pokecenter...




“You’re such an odd little girl.”

So said the man who’s traded perfectly ordinary small talk, or barely socially acceptable awkward silence, for dropping one heck of a conversational voltob down and then proceeded to saying nothing else for a five hour hike.

Well he’d tried to say nothing.

They’d picked a path across the beach beyond the professor’s front door in perfect silence. Him ignoring the call of “see ya soon, Nephew!” tossed at their back.

And even though Moon was rude, Lillie was raised not to be. She wasn’t sure where the ethics met morals, but she looked back and saw Professor Kukui seeing them off. The over exuberant, tanned man, was waving an arm over his head. Smiling around his hollers like Moon’s apathy wasn’t a thing.

She waved, and the professor had waved back, and that’d been that.

And that was part of the weirdness. Professor Kukui was saying goodbye like he hadn’t been rudely snapped at for near ten minutes straight in his own home.

Moon’s “I’m not Moon, you’re delusional” and “I’m not a child” had been the start of Moon’s friction with the Professor.

Except friction wasn’t quite the right word.

Moon’s animosity had to hit against something for it to escalate to friction, and Kuki just never seemed to notice. Rattling on about things that barely made sense in context of Moon’s dogged denial of being Moon. Or just flat out ignoring the swears, because at the end Moon’d been swearing. Never mind it wasn’t in Alolian, Lillie could read the meaning from tone, and Moon had been angry, and desperate.

And trying to get a reaction, any reaction.

All Moon’d got was a fond farewell and a guild he didn’t want.

Everything about today was super awkward. Lillie was supposed to be guiding him, but he had a path in his head and wasn’t asking her anything. They were paralleling the road. It was a good ways away from said road, but it was the right way to Hau’oli.

And another aspect of the strangeness was that Lillie had offered to stay with Professor Kukui if she wasn’t wanted… But the Professor was having her go, no matter what. He’d all but kicked her out.

When Moon left she couldn’t think of anything else to do but follow.

So that’s what she did, Moon’d stopped, seeing her coming, and groaned like she was the last thing he wanted to see. Like she was a bit of gum off the sidewalk and she’d just stuck to his shoe.

Not being wanted wasn’t new, so Lillie followed and felt awkward about… everything.

They must of made quite the scene. Two trainers without visible ‘mon, poking across the sandy beaches that wrapped around the bottom of Iki, going the long way to Hau’oli. Moon tipping under the weight of his overstuffed cameo backpack when the ground got steep, her juggling an oversized white duffle with a mind of it’s own. The duffle bag’s topmost zipper was undone to allow her ‘mon, Nebby, to peek out without getting out.

Occasionally a coo sounded from within as Nebby was entranced by something he’d see.

Moon saw and cared about nothing, he was very much a one step in front of the other sort of traveler.

Nebby, who was a good boy overall, would sometimes giggle and roll around the bags confines. The mysterious ‘mon would whoop and squeak as her staggers made his world shake and rattle like the world’s softest amusement park ride. She’d told him to stop, really she did, but Nebby liked to play.

She’d yet to see Moon’s Beedril do anything but loom, chase Rattatas, and sharpen it’s blades. Actually, she hadn’t seen the bug for quite a while and Lillie wondered if Moon had withdrawn it. Was he keeping the ‘mon on his belt instead of flying free?

She didn’t like Beedrill, or dislike him, but the bug would have been company. It at least looked at her from time to time.

Moon didn’t even look back when she squawked, near fell as Nebby’s play coincided with Moon picking up the pace and Lillie was left having to run while her “starter” bounced around in his bag.

Nebby, having the time of his life, decided that he liking the sensation of her running and the world blurring from his little peephole. He went from excitedly bouncing, perhaps encouraging he to go faster, to try rolling while she was jogging.

Lillie overbalanced, falling flat on her face with an oomph. The only mercy was she’d landed on soft sand, not some rocks or other and that Nebby wasn’t tossed out of his bag.

Her falling, well the thud, made Moon stop. When nothing else could make him act considerate, not all the “please”s or gasping, or whimpers, her getting hurt turned the trick. He froze, stared at her as she twisted from sprawled to sitting up, and with a wince he returned.

The only nice thing about it was he ran as fast to her as he had been running away.

She looked up at him, sniffling a little, and he swallowed, some thought making his dark eyes gleam in the noon day sun.

And when normal people would have said “I’m sorry” or something like that… he slowed. Crossed the last few steps between them and eased down so she could use him to get up.

It wasn’t quite an apology, but he was careful. Like she was a deerling, and not someone he’d tried to run ragged and run off.

With his help she was up, and though she wasn’t hurt that bad he let her lean on him.

“I think it’s time we took a break.”

After a little bit more walking they found a series of black stones that he’d dubbed “probably not geos”. He then proceeded to kick the rocks, just to be sure they weren’t any weirdly shaped ground types.

“Why don’t you ask them if they’re ‘mon?” Lillie asked, a tiny bit worried.

After all you didn’t kick anything living.

Kicking creatures and people was wrong.

Lillie settled on a long low rock, picking it because he hadn’t kicked it, trying to make a point. He ignored her and after kicking a rock near hers three times “just to be sure”, he slumped down into his seat. He was up in a second, swearing in his weird way and with a grimace and some feeling about took his seat with much more care.

The rock wasn’t alive but he’d not seen some subtle point on the stone and gotten poked in a rude place as a result.

She’s smirked, not laughed because laughing at someone would be mean, and he responded to her kindness by acknowledging her. A lean sort of progress. Even if it was just to roll his eyes at her, and sigh.

He swung his packs off so they rested in the sands in front of him, flipping up the main flap, he drew out the canteen on top and took a drink. Done with drinking he set that on his leg and went to digging deeper.

She spread her long white dress around her so it’d dry as she rested. If it’s scales of sand and muck flaked off because she did so all the better. Regardless she wasn’t getting up soon, and he didn’t seem in a rush to get up just then, so they were good.

“Have a little faith in my experience, Ms. Lillie.”

It was the first he’d spoken in… well she didn’t have a watch, or a cell phone, but it felt like forever. And he hadn’t spoken at her since… right before the Island Challenge Ceremony at Iki. He’d offered her his Legend gifted stone, and she’d laughed it off. He was such a prankster she was sure. The professor had said Moon liked a good laugh.

Save this Moon didn’t.

And that conversation had been a little after breakfast, right after he’d beaten Hua’s starter with his bee.

“Alright, you’re older than me,” Because agreeing was nice, and though rude, Moon seemed like he needed some niceness in his life. Maybe it’d make him nicer in turn. “How old are you?”

Maybe thirteen, fifteen at most. He was smooth faced, no wrinkles, and he wasn’t tall enough to be an adult despite being a bit lanky. He was a bit long nose wise. But not ugly or anything, but anything like a large nose was weird in an Alolian, and his ears were a bit more predominant than she was used too. He didn’t stoop, not even when carrying half a stores inventory in his packs, so he wasn’t frail. And there was no white or grey hairs on his head. She had a good look at it since he stooped over his packs, rummaging up a snack bar and tearing it open.

Moon’s hair was so black it gleamed and he’d twisted it into a thick braid down his back.

Something about his hair style niggled Lillie’s brain. Even as she caught the bar he tossed at her. She broke it into half and slipped the larger pieces into her bag. Noming commenced and the bad distorted as Nebby ate, played with his food, and ate some more.

Lillie was not thinking of the royal mess inside of her bag, she wasn’t.

She was thinking of hair, and maybe staring just a little.

Long hair in boys was considered dated, and ages ago it had been an act of rebellion. But most of those people had worn flower crowns and sung around campfires, at least in the movies she’d seen. Moon wasn’t nice to rocks, Lillie couldn’t imagine him chatting up a grass type to get a flower anything. Still despite not being that sort of rebel Moon was rebelling against something, even if all it was was that he wasn’t Moon.

While she stared at him, he’d scrolled his dark gaze over her. Slow sweep done he tipped his head, considering something about her most seriously.

“I’m probably old enough to be your father…”

He looked like a regular fifteen year old.

There was nothing old about Moon, her eyes were working fine, he looked a little different, yes. But he wasn’t from Alola he was from… from somewhere else, she wasn’t sure where. But despite being different he looked like someone around her age…

But him saying he was as old as her father was crazy.

But you didn’t call crazy people crazy. That was mean. You said nice things. Things like you’d be there for them, or it didn’t matter, you’d still be friends

So she said those things, the right things, and he stared at her in shock. A few moments passed, and when she suddenly didn’t take it back he stared at her a little more. Staring done he took a drink, a long one, and screwed the lid closed.

“I’m leaving after I let my Beedrill out to kill his lunch. It won’t be long, follow or not, your choice.”

Then he was up and walking away, picking a path away from the beach, towards the tall grass beyond the sand. A flick of his wrist and he summoned his bug. No fumbling to the motion like so many starter trainers she’d seen while living with the Professor. Moon tossed then caught the ball when it recoiled from the force of expelling the bug.

She could hear the catch, the twack of plastic against flesh, and wondered if that’s why so many professional trainers wore gloves.

“Try for something besides a Rat’, you know your typing as well as I do…” A buzz, nearly a whine, “just go kill a few slowpokes or something, you’ve got thirty minutes then we’re leaving.”

A ting, of blade scraping blade, she’d traveled with Moon long enough, for the sound to be kinda familiar.

“Get,”

Wings whirled, the swirl of its wing summoned a silver wind of sorts, as scales and toxins flaked off. And in the light of day, with the sun coming down just so… it was pretty, Lillie decided. Really pretty.

A few moments later and they were alone again. Moon staggered to his rock and slid into his seat. Feeling with a hand before slumping against the stone and shoveling his stuff in his bag.

Clearly he wasn’t quite used to having to travel so hard for so long.

“We don’t have to… It’s not like the city’s going to run off, you know.”

“I’ve only enough food and water for a day and a half, that’s unacceptably low.”

Lillie who hadn’t thought to bring water, just the clothes on her back, her wallet, and Nebby, blushed. If a day and a half was bad, nothing would likely be considered worse.

“Oh..” Moon let his eyes slide closed and Lillie considered saying nothing. Maybe if he napped she’d get to rest longer, but talk about water was making her throat twing a little. Reminding her that she was thirsty. “Um how much.. in your experience..”

“My old man experience?” His tone was not… well it wasn’t soft, or gentle, but his lips might of quirked. So maybe he was amused? “Three days minimum when traveling. Two weeks is ideal but hard to pull off with a regular starter ‘mon. That’s why most regions have their “traditional” journey starting points in well populated areas. You wouldn’t believe how many brats I’ve found courting heat stroke and dehydration in Viridian Forest every year.”

“Oh.”

Oh boy, no water was really bad then. Really bad. She winced, but Moon, eyes shut, didn’t notice, or care.

She told herself it was the first, and made excuses. He was tired, and rude, but that didn’t mean mean or sadistic.

Not always.

Cracking one eye open, watching her while she silently fretted, Moon straightened out of his sprawl. Face flushing as he thought of something. Then he was staring at Nebby’s bag, maybe now just realizing it only had Nebby in it.

“Where’s your water?”

Lillie couldn’t get a word out, not for anything, she just blushed and stammered and…

And flipping open his packs with a growl, swearing in his odd way, she heard Kukui’s name, and some Cel-something’s name a few times, he came up form his dig, canteen out, and tossed it at her.

“I’m not making my first stop in this… city… to the place’s emergency room to drop you off because your mentor decided to not let you get some water before he kicked you out.”

Sometimes mean did not mean bad, it just meant they didn’t know how to say kind things, or how to say them right. Taking her draw from Moon’s water, Lillie thanked him. She didn’t have much more than that, really, still he nodded. Acknowledgment was good.

It was progress.

She hummed as she shared a little water with Nebby. Something the sparkling fluff ball appreciated. While she tended her friend Moon turned from her to stare at the sea for a while.

The rest of the walk to Hua’oli was slow, Moon walked with a bit of a stagger. Cramps, he’d hissed after she asked. Surprised that she’d asked maybe, for he stared at her odd after. Though Lillie wasn’t quite sure how helping someone walk worked, Moon let her hover at his side and offer him an arm when they took the last few hills leading to the island’s main city.

“Want a tour?” Because she may of stopped at the last rise, to get the best view, and that seemed lik the best place to ask. And let him rest a little, while looking out, it might get his interest going. Maybe, she could really do the guide thing. The thought made her perk up a bit. “Hao’oli’s the best spot for…”

A waved hand from Moon made her fall silent.

“No. Where is Kukui at?”

Sometimes progress was slow, Lillie reminded herself, so she didn’t quite shrink away from Moon’s irritated tone.

“I can guide you there, but it’s not as nice as the rest of Hau’oli.”

“I’m here for business not pleasure.”

Taking the hint Lillie shut up. She led, and wordlessly Moon followed. Hands gripping the straps of his packs they looked irritated from the hold.

It was only a thirty minute walk from their rest spot to the school. But then schools in the Alola region were meant to be close to nature, with lots of opportunity to go out on long walks. It made the easiest fieldtrips. Short bright colored fences marked the schools property lines, and Lillie let her fingers run along it as they walked. Moon, keeping pace besides her, had let his death grip on his straps go. Sliding his hands into his pockets he slowed looked about. He took in the play yards, the signs of someone having dug about in a sand lot, and at the proof that clearly some small child having been about as a reason to freeze.

He was almost entranced, standing there, staring by the sight of colored a pail and small shovels and small holes like it meant something more than some little kid having left something behind.

A nudge got him to unfreeze, and he moved on. But not without craning his neck to look back until the view was lost. A screening wall of palm trees among thick bushes blocked the view back and forward so they followed the foliage for a while. Rounding a corner they found the front of the school. The doors, pale blue, not quite sky, were imperfectly framed by palm and berry trees. Grass and weeds speckled the dirt path leading up to the entrance.

And right by the doors, leaning against a grey donphan shaped slide, was professor Kukui. Arms crossed over his chest, checking is watch, checking a yawn. He looked bored. Like he’d been waiting forever.

Which considering Moon’s aversion to roads and straight paths… and other trainers, and catching ‘mon… forever probably was right.

“Hey cuz, ready to start your Island Challenge?”

“This is a preschool.” He’d noted it more to himself than her, still Lillie winced. “Why am I starting my gym challenge at a preschool?”

“Everyone starts here. The professor was explaining it to me and…”

And the Professor was coming towards them, smiling wide but with a warning.

“Ah, ah Lil’s! No spoilers for our Champ…”

Moon made a soft nosie that might have been scorn. Lillie was still trying to figure out his moods. Moon’s face moved so little and so fast, she was guessing more often than not.

Still that was not a good noise, it sounded somewhat akin to his angry words back at the Professor’s lab.

Drawing a deep breathe, then letting it out slow, Moon shook his head. Then tipped a glance at her, almost smiling.

“Ms Lillie.” Becsue she’d never told him her name, her last name, and that seemed to amuse him. “Thank you for your services. You can consider your service to em complete… and I won’t hold you to your… previous offer. I most certainly won’t hold you to it in an way.”

And those were the words he said in parting. Not a “goodbye” which she’d half expected.

His denial of her friendship was offered to her like a parting gift, a final one.

That made her sad. But she was old enough to be on her journey, nearly an adult, so that meant she was old enough not to be sad. She was big enough not to cry.

Daren’t.

So she didn’t.

She went quiet instead. Settling on a swing lodged in a patch of short grass. Legs kicking enough to make her rock but on the ground so she wouldn’t really swing. Lillie didn’t lift off, her white dress stayed tucked tight and close as she scratched a path in the sand and grass below her with white tennies.

With a show of bustle and enthusiasm a group of teachers popped out of the doors, perhaps summoned by Kukui’s loud greeting, and everyone ignored her. They swept around Moon, all cheer and smiles. He was anything but cheery in return, wincing back from a casual pat, near cringing form their attention. Surrounded, Moon was walked in.

Save he wasn’t Moon.

He told the Professor to his face he wasn’t Moon. He’d said a name in the fight, right before he switched langauges. Something long and a bit like a tongue twister.

The Professor had laughed when Moon had gotten insistent, saying that Moon was being a little weirdo, patting the young trainer on the head and shrugging off the resultant animosity.

And, a little meanly, Lillie thought, the Professor loudly told Lillie to “just roll with Moon’s moods”.

Like he couldn’t hear or something all of a sudden.

Clearly, someone had gotten a bit pat happy, because over the retreating babble Moon’s voice rose, cracking with outrage.

“No one touches me unless I tell them to.”

That’d been heard, and responded to at least. Some of the cheer leaving the group and the adults gave not-Moon a little more space. The cluster had evolved into a loose line. The head pulled open the door and beckoned the gathering in. There were questions being asked, adults trying to pry out thoughts about types, and names, and…

And normally any kid, heck even her, would have proudly flaunted their ‘mon. And asking any kid five on up was sure to get a regular answer of “My ‘mon is the best”.

Lillie understood the urge, but Nebby was the best even if the other trainers didn’t know that. Still, she’d smiled and nodded at a lot of ratattas and slowpokes when she hiked around town before. Trainers younger than young, and older than her, flushed with their first catch assured one and all. Thiers was the best.

“Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it and leave.” He snapped, irritation adding enough volume that Lillie could hear it through the closed door.

That sounded bad.

And the note to his voice reminded Lillie of not-Moon’s Beedrill, and how the bug loved to scrape it’s blades and loom. Both the boy;s voice and scrape had something to them that made Lillie’s skin crawl.

“Ambitious are you?” One of the adults crooned, not hearing the tone right it seemed.

Trainer he was meant to watch gone, job done, Professor Kuki adjusted his shades, happy to watch the winggul swing by. Tightening her grip on the swing’s chains Lillie watched the ground. She hunched into herself, hating how the back of her dress around her shoulders felt like it was burning. And the fringes felt heavy. And she nasty. It was so hot today and Moon had the water.

Except he wasn’t Moon, and Lillie was starting to, maybe, believe that..

A bit later, long enough to be sure she was sorta cooked but not cooked through, a door slammed. Looking up she saw the young trainer stomping towards them. His emotions were neither small nor fast just then.

Face flushed and twisted into hard, angry, lines, he was furious.

And it was something his drawn ‘mon was mirroring. Beedrill, perched on the short boy’s backpack, had it’s antenna slicked back, blades scraping almost dangerously close to the boy’s throat. The bee’s trainer snapped a word in a way Lillie didn’t get and the bug went still, tucked and turned until it was looming over the dark-haired boy but now no longer a risk of impaling or stabbing the boy if he moved too fast.

Looking down, seeing everything wrong, the Professor flashed his bright, white, smile, at the boy and his Beedrill.

“Ohf. Rough time in there, huh? Well, that’s fine, first battles can be a bit rough and all that. We can head to the center and heal your Beedrill and give it another go-“

But Beedrill looked fine, angry, but fine. The protest almost slipped past her lips but didn’t, and Lillie twisted the chains making them twang against her hands.

“I’m not in the business of making children cry to prove a point. So, no, I won’t be going back.”

“If you want to challenge the Kahuna you’ve got to earn our merits here somehow. Prove competency, and prove your worth in supporting the school here.” The professor seemed a little less oblivious, arms crossed over his chest, smile not so bright.

“So then you send a middle schooler to a preschool and have a day where the brats get their pets beat up, and that’s educational?”

Shifting his hat, so his eyes were easier to see, the Professor looked down at his nephew. There was enough a height difference that there was a lot of down. Despite being short boy and Beedril managed to seethe almost up to Kukui’s height.

“It’s how it’s always been done, little man.”

If looks could kill Moon’s glare would have been a perish song, but at the last note and he’d of lasted long enough to see the Professor go first.

“I’ve fully evolved my starter,” Moon hissed, waving a hand towards his Beedrill, “He’s obedient, in and out of battle.”

“Alright.” Professor Kuki drawled. “But you caught and trained him outside of appropriate supervision. Before you start ed the Trial. Neither the Kahuna or myself can say we’ve seen proof of any of the progress. So, in short, Beedrill, doesn’t count.”

Deep breath, in, then out. Lillie could see the trainer mouthing something to himself. Maybe he was counting to ten but in a different way. The shapes didn’t seem quite right, but he repeated them, once… twice… Whatever done he drew a deep breathe and spoke, Lillie ducked her head, letting her hair fall forward to screen the view.

“I’m going to the pokecenter to withdraw one of my catches.” She could hear his teeth grinding. “Will that be acceptable for this gym challenge?”

“Nah. Counts as proof of catching if you use the PC. And catching’s good, encouraged even.”

Another deep breath, another count in… whatever... under his breath but just enough she could hear it a little. Looking up Lillie saw Moon unclench his fists and slide them alongside the edge of his shorts.

“Define seeing progress.”

“Proof of a move learned, we’re not expecting out and out evolution first week in or anything…”

Beedrill buzzed his wings, not quite lifting over the boy’s dark head.

Ignoring the threat display Professor Kuki pulled his glasses off, looking at the boy, dead serious.

“But someone’s going to have to see you pull the critter out of a pokecenter box and I gotta do an exam on the fellow before and after.” Brightening, acting like he’d just remembered something the Professor snapped his fingers, “Hey, Lil’s, you busy?”

Busy burning up in the sun, trying to sink into the ground, she was horribly busy wishing she wasn’t here for any of this. The walk from before had been nice, after Moon stopped trying to run her off, but everything else… She wished she’d stayed at the lab.

Still, she looked up. Because he’d all but asked her too, hadn’t he? She winced, but met both their gazes, neither seemed to notice her cringing though.

“Certainly if you doubt my integrity you’d personally want to tag along for this… errand.”

“Cousin cousin.. I don’t doubt you a lick.” The man’s smile was wide and bright. Showing how much he doubted, everything and every word. “But just to be safe have Lillie take you for a walk. At the end, if you withdraw an unevolved ‘mon, and bring it back, well and good, we’re halfway done. It’s not like you’ve got to do it all in one go. You got a week after all. And if you don’t have anything stored away, go catch something, we got the best ecosystem around.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” And the smile he cast up to the Professor was a yangoose’s, all teeth and promise of biting. “Ms. Lillie,” he smirked, gaining something of amusement back at her mysteries. “I do apologize for dragging you into this…”



Lillie shrugged, cracked a small smile.

“It’s fine, I’m the Professor’s ai- assis- help after all. I should probably help.”

She really hadn’t quite got the lying thing down. He smiled a bit wider, some of the anger leaving his face, humored at her failure she guessed. Still he offered his arm and seeing her freeze and stare up at Beedrill, ordered the ‘mon to “return to base” whatever that meant. Now, ‘mon free, he offered his arm and she took it. It was a old thing, what he did, and she’d been raised traditionally so she knew the motion and how to respond.

They walked around the professor who cheered “get ‘em pyroar,” as they went by, whatever that meant.

“I’m going to ruin that man, first opportunity.” And the boy who insisted he was not Moon was blushing. Not angry, but embarrassed. “I’d never…”

It seemed an assurance and made no sense at that.

“Never what?”

Black eyes widened, and for one moment his face was slack, his eyes were comically wide. Then the moment came and went, his face smoothed into no-tell lines as he drew her close. “Ah… nothing important.”

The walk to the pokecenter was quiet. And it felt… better… not to be around adults who expected things. Lillie was able to look up and look around a bit more as they went. Only hunching a little when she saw some adults lurking around the ‘center’s main lobby. He left her to get some water from a vending machine, then looking at her he considered something before he got some for her as well.

Taking a seat Lillie watched as he walked about, confused until he’d finally asked the nurse where the PC was.

The small slim portable model with it’s pokeball plate attachment had been walked by at least twice earlier. And he hadn’t like that, not one bit. Still, he picked it up, after asking if he could move it, and getting consent, brought it over to her table with a grimace.

“Have you ever?” It was almost hopeful as he wiggled the edge of the computer at her. Lillie sipping her water, shook her head.

“I don’t have any ‘mon.” She’d smiled. “I’m not a trainer.”

She might have looked at her sports bag and its napping inhabitant by accident, a tiny bit guilty because she’d only let Nebby out for one walk today and it was getting later.

Moon huffed, spinning the device between them, poking at it with one finger until he realized that the mouse pad had to scan his fingerprint first before it’d work. It didn’t work, not the first time. Whipping his hands dry he tried again, and when it worked he groaned.

Clearly, he was not expecting the sight in the box.

“I thought you had a cubone?”

“Silver must have needed him and swapped him out.”

He’d mentioned Silver, but she hadn’t met the other boy. It was just someone she knew he knew. She wondered hos Wilver felt about Moon not being Moon and about other things.

“I thought you liked ground types.”

“My son said this thing was, and I quote, “so lazy it can’t even curl yet.”

Another fascet of no-Moons crazy, that he could have a son. He wasn’t old enough to have a young baby brother much less a kid, but Lillie didn’t bring that up.

“He named it Rollie.” She noted, taking a sip.

“Hes five.”

She waited, hoped, but the trainer didn’t see the crazy in how that worked out, or rather how it didn’t work out.

Still, she was going to be nice, and not point it out. Friends did not call friends crazy; new as she was at all of this she knew that. And he must be tired of it; it’d explain his grouchiness a little.

Rollie was pulled out of the box and they made their way straight to the school.

Or rather they were meant to. Rollie, once out of his pokeball, was so lazy he didn’t walk. The sand mouse looked about, yawned, and once out of the center flopped in the center of the street. A sunny-hued, dusty, starfish.

Lillie knew most ‘mon were scary, with claw and teeth and everything, but Rollie was a lump. And not in a nasty muk sort of lump way. He just slumped onto the sidewalk, scrunched up his dark blue eyes, and threw a paw over those before and the other over his ears before rolling over, belly up.

While a few people around them cooed, one person stepping around them to snap a picture with their phone, Lillie tensed, waiting…

Not-Moon drew in a deep breath, let it out, did the count in whatever that language was he liked so. Lillie knew enough about tone to realize the words were definitely not repeatable in any company, ever.

“Watch him, I’ll be back.”

When the black haired boy returned with a stick Lillie’d been worried.

She’d heard tales of trainers hitting their ‘mon and he looked angry enough to start hitting and not stop. The boy poked and prodded around sandshrew’s spread hindquarters until, the mouse, with a startled squeak, curled its back legs to get away from the pokes. Almost half curling, like the attack curling, and the move, done poorly, shocked the mosue so it woke and wailed.

Stopping the pokes made the mouse unfold with a soft thump, and cut off the cries.

Mon’ looked up at humans, while the trainer tapped his stick against the pavement. Ignoring the tears to the creature’s eyes the boy the Professor called Moon, who was most definitely Not Moon bared his teeth in something too malicious to be a smile.

“You’re going to walk, without making a scene, or you will be rolled.”

A thwack of stick on pavement told of how.

Rollie was more than willing to walk, and not make a peep, the rest of the way to the school.
 
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ART UPDATE

K_S

Pokémon Trainer
MICRO UPDATE, lookie what I got!

Courtesy of the phenomenally talented HelloYellow17, may I introduce Rollie in a state of "I don't wanna?"

Regardless, here he is.

(I'm presently working on chapter 2, I just couldn't resist sharing this first.)

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Chapter two: Feeling out a Moveset

K_S

Pokémon Trainer
Chapter 2

Feeling out a moveset

RD: need to smooth out some sentences but ran through Grammarly.


“That’s a sandshrew all right, you’ll have to keep him out for a few hours, show he’s tamed, that sort of thing, but the guy seems pretty placid so no problems.”

Thus not-Moon’s first catch was dubbed acceptable by the Alola region's head professor. Lillie squirmed in second and embarrassment for the man, even as the sandshrew’s trainer just stared blankly at his “uncle”. Rollie’s checkup had consisted of being picked up, stared straight in the eye, then his paws were pinched while being held. That led to one tense moment, where the rodent had been accidentally tickled and almost rolled out of the man’s hold. A last-ditch grip, on the creature’s leg, had kept it from clonking its head on the pavement,

Sand flew everywhere as the artificial glee of tickling devolved into panic, and the pudgy mouse’s flailing loosed a small stream of sand everywhere.

Flipping the shivering, sand shedding, mouse right side up, Kukui plopped Rollie on the ground. Dusting his hands off and sputtering, because sand everywhere had literally meant everywhere and the professor had swallowed some of the grit.

Where did you find this guy again? He’s definitely going to be a ‘stormer, he’s dustier than my attic.”

Having had to clean Kukui’s attic so she could use it as a guest bedroom, Lillie could disagree, the mouse was probably less dusty than Kukui’s home. But she didn’t. Being kept busy hugging Nebby’s bag closed, because of course he’d woken up at the ruckus and wanted to see.

And while the Professor knew about Nebby, and.. the boy who wasn’t Moon, well there were kids goggling at them from the windows.

Not-Moon was all but oozing “are we done yet?” without saying a word. He had rediscovered his silence from the early hike and was twiddling his Beedrill’s antenna, too busy to answer.

The exam ended in a short back rub, Rollie glaring up at the Professor with obvious suspicion, as the man wrapped his rubbing down of the creature with a series of taps, like the rodent was a melon and Kukui was checking for ripeness.

“Weird though, how you got a Kantoian ‘shrew in Alola.”

“A gift of the diverse ecosystem.” A flick of the boy’s wrist and Rollie dissolved into a swirl of red light. Stick in one hand, pokeball in the other, the dark-haired boy turned on his heel, intent on leaving the school for other places.

“Bud bud… you can’t just leave… it’s got to be supervised training. That’s why we have you wrangle with the kids. So your battles can be overseen by, you know, an adult.”

“You watched me battle that brat in Iki’s square. You know I can fight.”

“That’s not the point.” The professor sighed, curiously not as detached as before. Kukui was responding to the boy’s tone and words in a way that made sense. And getting a bit irritated as things went on. “Look, as long as you stay on the grounds and can show your sandshrew knows something besides scratch, then that’ll count. That’s progress. There are cameras, they can watch you as you train. But you aren’t going to get anywhere if you shy away from… fighting.”

Lillie squirmed, the professor wasn’t looking at her, but his tone and the pointed way he was more turned away from her than not… well that said plenty. Not that the boy bothered to gather any hints, he was irritated, a rather toned down, less flushed, version of his earlier fury.

“Preschoolers with newly hatched mice and worms isn’t a fight, this… exercise… isn’t training. ”

“If you want to leave you’ll have to leave your ‘shrew with me. Otherwise, the league might think you’re cheating.” Kukui warned, then held out his hand, waiting for the inevitable surrender of Rollie’s ball. And, maybe, the admission that the Professor was right and the upstart trainer was wrong.

With a snort, the boy ignored the offer, turned on his heel, and went deeper in the schoolyard. Every few steps were marked with the thwack of a stick hitting brush or bush or stone until he was out of both their sights.

“Wowie I don’t know what bug type got into his breakfast but…”

Lillie could have told the Professor that the answer was none. That Beedrill would have eaten anything that tried to get to the boy’s food and demanded a head pat after…

But she didn’t.

For a bit, she sat on the swing, wondered and dug the furrows she’d started earlier a bit deeper with her heels. Not quite swinging yet not quite sitting still.

No one was offering any hints of answers, or even hints of what they wanted her to do next. And that was nearly as weird as… well everything for the last few days. Alone, despite not being alone, Lillie wondered if she could leave. The boy who wasn’t Moon had said that she was done… There was nothing more to do, and his actions before showed he wanted nothing to do with her.

Not as a guide.

And his words before going in told her he didn’t want her as a friend either.

That little bit of remembrance made something inside her twist and caused her eyes to smart.

But she was a big girl, and big girls did not cry, and did not waste adult’s time…

Taking a deep breath Lillie stood, said she’d be back, though the Professor didn’t seem to have heard, and left the adults to do what they wanted while she tried a hand at doing something she wanted.

It wasn’t much, it wasn’t big, but she sorta wanted to know not-Moon’s name, before she went back to Iki’s lab.

XXXX

It wasn’t a long walk, a quick backtrack really. He’d found the sandpit form earlier was tracing its raised, concrete edges with his stick as he walked around and around. Rollie was sitting up, watching his trainer’s slow circuit with wide, watery blue eyes.

Her first thought was how glad she was that the little mouse didn’t have any bruises or welts. She blushed because that was a horrible idea, and when the boy lifted his head, nodded to acknowledge her… Lillie couldn’t speak.

So she watched him do a full circuit, then another, twiddling her white sun hat while he walked, ordering his ‘mon to watch the taps and moving the stick, first slowly, then faster, more erratic, still the ‘mon watched the tip of the stick, not wanting to be tapped by it. The creature's yellow frame twitched as it suppressed the urge to scratch and make the tapping stop.

It was a weird kind of game the boy was playing with his ‘mon, still, it passed the time while Lillie wangled old lessons to new

She knew better than to make noise when someone was interested in her. Attention was bad.

Then there was the Professor, just last night, gently reminding her it was rude to not talk when someone was expecting you to talk to them.

And she would have, should have, maybe, talked… but the thoughts in her head, those awful what-ifs that seemed so groundless now…

She hunched her shoulders, not noticing that the boy was looking at her odd. She heard the taps slow, but nothing else happened. He seemed content to leave her alone while she pulled herself together.

Blush gone, breathing no longer threatening to catch in her throat and choke her up, brain blessedly dropping any wrong thoughts, Lillie ran a hand over her face. No wetness, thank goodness. No one liked a dirty face after all.

“Did Kukui send you to spy on me?”

The boy was tapping his stick a string of low, mocking raps, and the shrew was shuffling, no longer following the branch with his eyes but shuffling to keep a loose type of pace with it. A glance at the building showed the school windows empty of little faces pressed against the glass to gawk, looking higher up still Lillie thought she saw the blocky frame of a camera.

“No.”

“Hm, I’m surprised. Then what brings you out here?”

With a soft hiss Rollie made a staggering sort of run at the stick, little paw pulled back to scratch. Before Lillie could think to scream, Rollie’s trainer swept the branch back and up. He blocked the attack with his boot, not quite kicking the sandy mouse back with a barked.

“No!”

At the boy’s yell, the mouse scurried back into the sand of the play pit, lunging towards the center as if it was base in a game.

Like the center meant safe.

Maybe it was. Lillie hadn't seen them set up the rules so maybe the center was base.

“Did I say you could laze about?” Crack went the stick against the ground and Lillie hopped at the sound, right with the rodent. “Get. Up. Now.”

Jolting to full height, shivering sand everywhere, Rollie chittered and quaked like a rattata being hit with a thundershock.

“You only scratch when I tell you to do so. The next time you get uppity like this I will bathe you, am I understood?”

The whole mouse’s body bobbed, as agreement met with an instinctual need to curl, and made for a weird sort of nod.

Sei abbastanza per far giurare un santo…” Rolling his eyes at heaven not-Moon recalled the bright, dusty, rat. “If you aren’t here to snoop or guide, what are you here for? You don’t even like ‘mon so I doubt my training this little…” Dark eyes flicked to her, considering something, “adamant piece of work is doing anything for your phobia.”

Lillie opened her mouth to protest. She had a Nebby, she liked him just fine… But recalling her stammering fits over the boy’s Beedrill, and her scream when the bug got too close that one time… And that one time with the krabby when they were walking together to the Professors… and those spearows…

Lillie closed her mouth and shrugged. Not really sure what to say or do. So she leaned against a cement pipe, something the smallest could scamper into to hide while the trainer slid the shrunk pokeball into his pocket. It rattled, clicking against Beedrills. At the noise he grimaced, his earlier anger dulling to a sullen moue as he thought of something unpleasant.

“I suppose,” he cleared his throat.

Then seeing she was watching him started tossing the stick from one hand to the other. "That you could tell me where the nearest trainer naturalist store is after I deal with Kukui.”

“Wouldn’t have a clue, I’m not a trainer. But I do know where all the fashion shops and salons are.”

“Of course you do.” His smirk was there then gone in a blink.

He joined her, but instead of resting beside her to better talk, he poked at the oversized cement pipe behind her. Pushing against it as hard as he could. It was big, braced, and didn’t roll despite his hardest.

And Lillie hopped away from him and his crazy efforts. Because the tube had shivered and had it broken off she could have been squished! Niceness be hung, he’s scared her!

“It’s probably too heavy for you to roll after Rollie to make him run faster.”

Lillie couldn’t believe herself. She clapped her hands over her mouth, wincing from the anticipation of being smacked. Because had the wrong people heard that...

But there wasn't anyone here. Just her and the boy everyone else called Moon. He started, shocked it seemed, then, insanely, he smiled. Wider than she’d ever seen, with teeth and everything, before his black eyes crinkled and he let out a deep bark of a laugh that sounded so so wrong.
It’d sounded old, not old man old, but older than his body. Scarily adult.

“That’s definitely not how you train a ‘mon.” He assured her, voice normal again as he explained, perhaps as an apology. “But I am sure now that if.. Rollie runs through this fast he won’t set it to roll. And it’s enough like a tunnel to possibly trigger some instincts I can use.”

“Oh…”

Digging through his pockets the boy pulled out a pokeball, tossed, and caught it before the recall could even complete. He swore at Beedrill, who he’d not meant to summon.

“This is ridiculous. I need a holster.” Raking a hand through his hair he recalled the bee, who tipped its head, perhaps wondering what the matter was now, before being lost in a swirl of red light. “This hasn’t been a problem since Flint’s Gym…”

Hua’d wanted one of those too, and he’d whined, saying he’d have to get so much money for it, win so many battles.

Another toss and Rollie was out, and no looking thrilled. Blue eyes tipped to her, went wide and pleading. What the mouse wanted was beyond Lillie. Rollie was Moon’s, right? Maybe Silver’s? Definitely not hers. So what could she do?

Nothing. That's what. And deep down she really didn't want to. Do anything.
See anything. Not even see the mouse.

Because all it took was just closing her eyes and she could see the scratch attempt playing in her head.

If Rollie’s trainer had been just a little slower they might be at the hospital getting the boy stitches…

A tap, both Rollie and Lillie looked up at the noise, turned to the tube that the trainer was indicating.

“In, back and forth, fast as you can. I’ll tell you when you’re done.”

With a soft huff, the mouse shuffled to the entrance and scrambled in. Claws clicked, as the yellow creature ran back and forth, back and forth… Sand started puffing at each exit when the mouse turned about.

And Lille couldn’t believe it, that this… “This is training?”

Because it was nothing like Mother did. With her glinting collars slapped over a mon's neck that made creatures' eyes go glassy and made the mon... wrong.

“One way. I’d thought that leaving him in a sandpit while putting him under pressure would make the stupid rat do a sand attack. But he’s stupid and likes to hit things. So he learns what happens when he does that.”

The next turn summoned a larger puff of dust and a whine from the creature running within.

Which interested the trainer to no end, as for Lillie… she wanted to go to bed. Even one in the center sounded fine, and it wasn’t even dinner yet.

Licking her lips, telling herself that she’d do this and could be done, really done, so just do it, and go, Lillie, cleared her throat. Tried not to taste the bitter sand that was thickening the air and making her eyes itch.

“I wanted to apologize.”

“Hm?” He looked up, face still, calm, even as he reached back and tapped the side of the tube as a threat to the running mouse within.

“To apologize,” and he rose an eyebrow, a mute “your point?” if she’d ever seen one. “For assuming you were Moon.”

The mouse ran two laps, without the stick thwacking at a wall to encourage him, while the boy everyone called Moon...

Tapped the stick on the ground. A one-two beat that seemed less threat and more like he was trying to get his thoughts together

“Alright, it’s a... fair misunderstanding.” He conceded with a shrug,turning about to tap the mouse's running grounds. “Considering everyone around you was jumping in and telling you who I was.” The boy shrugged. “I know people in authority are hard to stand up against, and you’re smart, you know it’s important not to do so for every little-.”

“Yes, but…” And she was interrupting, and that was bad, but not doing this right was worse. Even if he didn’t seem to care, she did.

And she only had one chance to say this right.

So she would.

“Lillie Aether.” She offered a hand and he blinked at her, looking alittle bit lost.

But he didn’t fall into a fit of fawning at her last name, not like how Hua had. He didn’t offer her anything pretty or sweet like a politician would. Or worse of all offer to call her mother like a policeman would, like the Professor had.

At least until he’d stopped to listen to her, and seen Nebby and smartened up a little.

Rollie’s trainer took her offer, to shake. His hands were tough and hot. Near raw with budding callouses. Surely touching anything hurt but if it did it didn’t bother him a lick. He shook her hand, smiling even.

“My name is not Moon, it’s Giovanni Sakaki. thank you for being the first person in… forever… to even bother to ask.”

And his name… it did something odd to her head. Some inner voice said his name sounded so strange, so off. She should… she could call him Moon, even Not Moon, would be easier. His name skittered out of her brain. So slippery. Like a slowpoke tail. The knowledge scuttled towards the tall grass like a Yang’ smelling a fighting type…

And how did she… she didn’t know about ‘poke tales and Yang and fighting whatever’s. Her thoughts were strange, coming and going.

M- Not Moon, Giovanni Sakaki’s, grip went tight, and the pain pulled her back from the gentle nudges in her head. Made the nonsense sloshing around in her thoughts recede.

The eerie sensation that she wasn’t alone in her head dimmed, and he was still smiling as her vision cleared (when had it blurred?).

“Sake, like the drink?”

“No, not like that.”

He seemed relieved at her stupid stupid question. His tones were gentle as he enunciated his name, careful with each syllable.

“Giovanni Sakaki,” she parroted.

Then, because niceness was a process, and one she was going to have to show him again Lillie tabbed on a. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Then she startled, near hopped out of her skin because she was sure she heard something break. Something up high. It sounded was like a window being hit with a rock. After she told him, after she calmed enough to tell him, he humored her. Sending Beedril to look around.

The bug returned about an hour later to report nothing was broke, nothing at all.
 
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Chapter 3 RD: Snow day

K_S

Pokémon Trainer
an: ran through Grammarly and edited 2.20.2022

“Drink.”

“I’m fine.”

“You look one minute away from heatstroke.”

She was only a little red and maybe getting sunburn, maybe. But it wasn’t that bad. She huffed at his back while he dug out his phone, face twisting to something like hostile as it chattered his ear off, until he swiped the Rotom’s settings to mute, sleep, then manually made his call. A few terse words and Kukui was “on his way”.

“I am selling this hellspawn ‘mon at the first opportunity…”

Phone pocketed Sakaki passed her his water bottle. Fighting with the lid a little so she wouldn’t have to. His expressions were obvious now, a small grimace of chagrin as he looked over her face as if something was wrong with her. Well, there wasn’t, she was fine. People in her family just burned stupid easy. Even with a large sun hat and sunscreen, when she remembered to use it anyways, she’d still burn to a crisp. But she wasn’t, burned or crispy. So he shouldn’t have worried.

And the fact that he was, and the fact that this attention was the closest to care she’d ever seen on him, was weird.

And in turn made her feel weird.

Still, she was raised to be a good girl, obedient, so when he pointed at the ground by the slide she mutely followed that unspoken order.

Stay.

Ignoring the burning under her clothes, her back was going to be a nightmare, a bath sounded wonderful and horrible all at once, she sat. Though Sakaki’s pushy care reminded her of a boy hovering over a pet poochenya that’d done something stupid but was still beloved anyway. The comparison rankled, even as she tucked her legs, spreading her dress, and radiated pure lingering far and wide. Certainly, psychic types would have picked up on it.

Sakaki, not a psychic type, broke the rules in a little way. He noticed her lingering, a pose reminiscent of a sullen yellow mouse, and his lips twitched into a smirk. Hint gotten, and good because she sorta wanted to rib him. Because finally.

Still, she didn’t.

Because the door opened and out pooped the professor and a teacher and they were adults. The most important people. So Lillie stayed silent because small quiet things were the best, and the easiest to ignore.

“Hey, little man, ready to uh do your thing?”

And Professor Kukui was looking from her to Sakaki, eyebrows hopping up to that span between his glasses and hat. Raised, but not lost, Professor Kukui was obviously shocked about something. But whatever it was, he didn’t say a word. Lillie, enjoying the shade and tepid water a bit too much (maybe Sakaki wasn’t wrong about that sunstroke thing) she focused on her drink and little else.

Seeing she was drinking and out of the way, Sakaki left her. Brushing his torn pants and tromping over weeds and halfhearted schoolyard paths until he was nose to midsection to the Professor, face still, and as no-tell as it normally was...

Well, how he normally was towards adults… Lillie’d seen him act.. well normal. At least around her. And he acted normal at Hau, though an eye roll and pointedly ignoring might be less normal and just outright rude.

Maybe instead of being quiet like her folks had said was best, maybe his had told him not to show anything instead?

It was something to wonder about while she drank. And if she popped her bag in her lap, letting Nebby peak out and dip the canteen down so he could have a few sips, well no one saw so it didn’t matter.

Adults were so… weird about ‘mon battles. Posing, kinda like they were going to dance but not quite. Even Professor Kukui did it. Pulling his glasses down, setting his cap just so before pulling a ‘mon off his belt, tossing a pokeball to himself. It seemed silly, especially seeing it from the back.

A chirrup from the bag and Lillie reached down, smoothing star-speckled fluff, a silent promise that she’d never be so silly with him in his ball if he ever went in one.

“So you’re done training then, you got some sweet moves to show off?”

Sakaki snorted. Hands in his pockets, he looked about, and he’d tell her later what he’d been thinking about over dinner. Considering buildings and windows, weighing probability against luck, and the fact he didn’t have enough money to pay to fix one window much less many. Turning on his heel, Sakaki walked away and around, not so far that he was out of the yard, but that when he drew his ‘mon any attacks thrown at him would go into the nearby field, and not run the risk of clipping the school.

“Umm, I’m right here.”

“And I’m not.”

A toss, Rollie appeared in a swirl of red light, familiar but different. No longer sprawled, slightly hunched, dust seeping from the seams of his scales. The little mouse was breathing hard, having been drawn into his ball mid-run, no break, and had something about running and ragged laced through his posture.

“Get into place, Professor, and let’s get this foolishness over with.”

Professor Kukui straightened, bright eyes dimmed, a small frown touching his face.

“Moon, I know you’re supposed to give it your all but don’t you think… that this is too much?”

“Just draw your damned water-rat; I don’t have time for this.”

“You’re… grinding it. The edges of its claws got jags…”

He’d let the mouse rest once, the excuse had been so the mouse could sharpen his claws. Hind and fore had scraped over a longish stone. Back and forth, the rodent shivered under the dark eyes of his trainer, going slow and sure with each paw, perhaps too many times so he could truly rest. If Lillie thought that’s what the mouse was doing, and Sakaki knew ground types so well like he said, well Sakaki'd likely seen the trick. The end result was that the ‘shrews claws had little burrs in them. Like they were brittle and ready to snap.

“He’s not to use scratch, it’s an established move, so I’ve “trained" him so he won’t.”

Or he’d lose his claws.

Scooting Nebby’s bag, so it was in her lap, she snuggled the starry being close. Lillie swore that things like this were why she wasn’t training Nebby, ever. Because trainers did things like this and it was expected. Professor Kukui grumbled but didn’t do anything more than that. Drawing his slate blue poppoli with a flick of his hand after all the right gestures were done again, he warned that this wasn't going to be a fight.

And to that bit of redundancy Sakaki rolled his eyes.

Nebby quivered and Lillie smoothed an ear, and wondered, when did silly become stupid? Lillie wasn’t sure. But she thought that this, this might be stupid. Both of them. The Professor and his posing and going along with everything and Sakaki with his meanness. And stupidest of all, was a niggling thought, that she should sneak up, take Rollie's ball, and give Nebby a permanent playmate.

“Alright, come at me then.”

And though she’d heard it said, before yelled, with gusto, cheered when pitting ‘mon against ‘mon, here it was mumbled with a wince at the end.

A finger snap, and never mind that he seemed to never emote around adults, there was something razor-sharp in Sakaki's borderline monotone.

“Sandstorm.”

“Sand- Champ, seriously, you don’t think that a fresh-caught fresh hatched ‘shrew is going to be able to ‘storm?”

Little yellow limbs twitched, the scales clattered, the mouse shuddered, blue eyes going wide, glassy, as he threw himself forward, a half lunge that slung sand forwards like a tidal wave, and for one moment, two, professor and the yard behind the man were lost in a wall of swirling dust. It lasted a moment, then around sputtered yelps, Kukui holloed “water gun, straight up!” and water cut through the storm, deadening it, making a thin wall where the swirling couldn’t get. A finger snap and Rollie straightened out of his hunch, blue eyes wide, little jaw hanging open. Across from that scene, the sands abated to show Kukui, crunched behind and holding his dripping poppoli close. The little round-noised creature’s sharp face was tipped back, sputtering and spitting water and bubbled until with a clap and coughed “good job buddy” the creature was withdrawn.

And a mucky, muddy Professor Kukui was left alone, dripping the ground about him as he swiped mud off his face.

Sandstorm.” The word was spit, as was some sand at the end of it, somehow, someway, Kukui made the word sound like an attack.

Sliding his hands into his pockets, Sakaki rocked back on his heels, face carefully smooth. Seemingly oblivious to tone and temper. “It’s a new move. I hope it meets the… criteria?”

“Meets.. you could have… you could have endangered…” Taking a deep breath no coughs this time, Kukui grit his teeth and around those ground out. “There are kids, little kids in that school, mister, and you don’t… just go on a power trip to show off, endanger your mon with some crazy training scheme and some kids to do an overpowered move to show off! Why would you? Sand attack would have sufficed. I get you don’t like some things about this but-?”

“I moved.”

At his feet Rollie had clicked his jaw shut and scrolled a look over his shoulder, considering his trainer, then the towering Professor, blue eyes flicking back and forth between the two.

“You…” Sand crackled with each step, what didn’t turn into mud at least, as Professor Kukui crossed the distance between them in long-legged stomps. “You moved? That’s all you’ve got to say, you moved?”

“No, I moved and you almost didn’t.” Lips pressing into a line, Sakaki met his “uncle's” gaze levelly. “So how would I go about, reporting that to the league or whatever governing shame you have in the League’s place? Because where I’m from, such foolhardiness would have you stripped of your tenure in a heartbeat.

Silence, where Kukui opened his mouth, closed it, and said nothing. Nebby drifted out of his bag, settling on her shoulder, to better join his rescuer in the joint sport of gapping at the scene before them.

“You… I…” Kukui was trying for talking and doing a bad job of it.

The only other adult, a teacher, a pretty lady in a now dusty pencil skirt uniform, was leaning against the doors of the school, eyes wide, tanned face nearly white. And maybe she’d seen Nebby? To that familiar anxiety, Lillie nudged her friend into his bag and zipped it nearly closed, just to be safe, whispering apologies at the squeals the fluff ball cried up at her in protest.

“Oh, you don’t know? That’s fine. I can access the internet at a Center, I’m sure I’ll find the appropriate resources there with a little time.”

And if the word “sandstorm” had been an attack, Sakaki’s silken assurance, that he would look up and act on what he found was the first notes of a sickly sweet perish song.

XXX

“You want to help, walk one way, I’ll walk the other, and we’ll figure how big this… mess is.”

Thus Lillie was enlisted, in step counting and walking a perimeter on one lopsided edge while Sakaki took the other.

The grass fields behind the impromptu battlefield were a bit of a wonder. Looking at the… distortion of a powerful attack, well the world beyond it was tucked in sheets of tan and yellow. Mounds indicated what shrubbery had been buried alive and what rocks were short enough not to peek out. A little ways away the nearest pieces of equipment, the mankey bars, were topped with tiny pyramids. Corners were softened, lopsided ambitious triangles alluded to mysteries of an alien region.

But only if you tipped your head and squinted.

At his heels, Rollie looked at the altered world, what he’d altered, and trilled a note at his trainer. They were close and getting closer, and Lillie was at eighty nine, ninety… and going higher as she crossed the distance between her and them.

“Oh that’s just the start,"

And it was eerie, listening to Sakaki talk to his 'mon like he was taking part in a conversation she couldn't. There wasn't any guessing, any high pitched, I'm putting words in your mouth and please go along with it. Sakaki was utterly comfortable. Even she had to guess, tone to body posture, with Nebby, and she got it wrong more often than right. But with Sakaki he just knew. And seemed comfortable he had everything right.

"Wait till we get you to Earthquake. This will be nothing." Then, before the blue-eyed mouse could get excited, or parse praise from his words Sakaki added on. "While this is an acceptable first attack I expect a bigger AOE next time. The goal will give us something to work on while your new set of claws grows in.”

Lillie really wished she hadn’t heard that, because how Sakaki said it, it sounded like he’d grind the ‘shrews claws off himself to make it happen. Oblivious to its possible peril the mouse nodded, nub tail tapping against the ground in a weird sort of wag.

“Ms. Lillie.” He looked up, lips twitching, almost welcoming right then. At his feet, enthused about something, Rollie bounced at his trainer's feet. Weary but thrilled. “Your count?”

“One oh nine. Sorta… there’s some rocks…”

He waved her excuse off, sandshrew slumping against his leg with a murp. “It’s fine… That, however, is not. I am not a pillow.” Shaking sand and shrew off with a grimace Sakaki snapped his fingers, and the mouse tipped his head up. Yellow face near bleaching to tan. "Public displays are unacceptable, you're being withdrawn until you're tractable again.”

Paws waved up, a whined protest that made Sakaki grimace, but the trainer kept his promise and withdrew the beast.

“Obviously coddled, I’ll have to talk to Sil- Apologies,” He slid the shrunk ball in his pocket, having to stop himself from hooking it on a belt with no hooks. “It’s been… a day. Thank you for helping me and for your oh-so accurate count.”

She flushed at his teasing, tongue a bit tied. Her “chore” had been a way to shamelessly hog the water, and let Nebby out for a little walk, so Lillie hadn’t minded.

She also hadn’t wanted to go back with the Professor so at the end of their fight, when he’d called her to him… Lillie might have lied. Said she’d offered to” show moon around”. And Kukui hadn’t questioned it. “Moon” had been so amused at her audacity, at her lying, that he hadn’t said a word until the man had up and left.

“You don’t have to-“

“I know.”

And that’d been that. And not that they were done, well Lillie would have to figure it out.

They walked back to the school proper, the blue and white building, Sakaki counting something carefully. Not the area he’d assured her, with a tight smile, rather he was “trying to deduce the sand type and damage potential of said type by looking at its spread”.

Hands slipped into his pocket, Sakaki padded up the steps of the school, looking at the rather dusty woman standing before it. She wasn’t as old as Lillie’s mother, or as ageless. There were lines around her eyes, smile lines around her mouth, even around her worried frown of the moment. And though tanned she was pale, and a bit bug-eyed, and a bit shook, though she didn’t shake.

“I’m led to understand that I have to do a service for this... facility before I can challenge the gym Kahuna.”

Above, Lillie could hear voices. Kids chattering, plastered to windows, and she checked Nebby’s satchel with a touch. It felt secure and the fluff ball still, if not sleeping. Before them, the woman blinked, not quite up to responding it seemed. But then, maybe Sakaki’s dry tone that barely masked irritation was intimidating. Who knew? To Lillie it was just… familiar.

“Madam.” And the woman winced at Sakaki, even though she was an adult. “Who do I talk to to get started?”

Whispers turned to swell, voices rose in appreciation, and excitement and the sound was getting closer… Close enough that Lillie crept back a few steps, hearing the young voices chattering about snow and getting closer.

Sakaki, hearing the babble too tipped his head, dark eyes thinned, and the woman, a teacher, looked back, worried. Inching away from the door.

A wise choice, because none of the kids at this Alolian pre-school had a clue. They only saw the different colored ground, and whispers swelled to hoots and hollers as order broke down within and one ignorant soul screamed “Snow DAY!” in a prepubescent voice and booked it for out.

And near broke the doors down, he was that enthusiastic.

In the madness that followed, it seemed like all of his peers followed.

“No.. it’s not...” The teacher tried to stand her ground, be firm. But the kids were swirling out. She'd of had better luck taking on a storm, sand or otherwise.

A thrilled mini-mob that was going to get out of learning about shapes and colors, no matter if it was only sand outside. Sand was snow, special sandshrew given snow, because sandshrews made snow in Alola, never mind the stuff they tried to force into snowmen and snowballs was the stuff on the beaches that marked many of their backyards.

Snow day had been declared and no one was going to convince them otherwise.
 
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canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
  2. custom/houndoom-elliot
  3. custom/yamask-joanna
Hey there - I've read the first chapter of this for Catnip. Here are my thoughts.

I have to be honest and say that there's a lot here that's confusing me. The very first thing was that I was not sure who this "Moon" character that Giovanni was posing as was meant to be until I'd read a couple of paragraphs in. Originally, I wondered if it was a misspelling (or alternate transliteration) of Mohn, Lillie's father, since I would imagine that it would make more sense for Giovanni to impersonate given they're both somewhat older adults (as far as I know about Giovanni, which admittedly does not cover anything from the manga you mentioned). I had a hunch, though, that it would be referring to the male protagonist of Sun and Moon, which turned out to be correct - but one reason I was skeptical was that, in my understanding, Moon is generally the name of the female protagonist.

The much bigger reason I was skeptical was because it made the premise bizarre and confusing. I simply don't understand why Giovanni, an older man, would undergo some kind of extensive plastic surgery to appear like some Alolan boy in his early teens. This was another reason I was leaning towards Moon meaning Mohn, as Mohn could possibly have access to Aether secrets Team Rocket could find useful. I have no idea what Giovanni has to gain by impersonating a child nor why he would choose to do it himself rather than making some underling with a much better matching physique do it. Then I start reading the story itself, and Giovanni is immediately telling people he is not Moon, clearly wanting people to realize that he is not this boy they think he is. I think to myself, "alright, I guess something went really wrong and he wants to back out of this mission," but then I see him taking part in the Island Challenge despite seemingly wanting nothing to do with it? Why doesn't he just... leave? Try to contact some of his own people? His behavior appears completely nonsensical, and I just can't think of a scenario in which it would make sense.

It is, perhaps, possible that he was given this operation against his will and not part of any plan of his, in which case his behavior could maybe make sense, but that's something I would never assume based on the summary alone. When something has been done to a powerful yakuza boss, something as strange as this, there is every reason to assume it was intentional. If it was not, that should really, really be explicitly stated, because otherwise every other reader is going to be just as confused as me.

When working with a premise as strange and complex as this and attempting to execute it with subtlety, it is crucial for the reader to understand what each sentence is supposed to convey. Unfortunately, the prose here simply isn't clear in a lot of places. Due to the odd sentence structures and errors with grammar and spelling, the text is hard to parse and, at times, it is ambiguous what the intended meaning was. Since I have a few examples quoted, I'll give my line comments at this point and then give the rest of my general thoughts afterwards.

“You’re such an odd little girl.”

[...]

And another aspect of the strangeness was that Lillie had offered to stay with Professor Kukui if she wasn’t wanted… But the Professor was having her go, no matter what. He’d all but kicked her out.
I had trouble understanding what happened at the beginning due to the events being given in a strange order. We seem to start with something that happened right before they left, then we're kind of going backwards in time with the memories, and then we're in the present. This can, of course, be pulled off in a story, but it requires either very clear, unambiguous prose or a familiar framework of a story or sequence of events where readers can turn to their internal models for answers. As the premise and starting situation of the story are are very untraditional, the latter isn't an option here, and so the change required to get rid of confusion is either a reworking of the prose or the structure of the beginning.

I'm also still not sure if they've been walking for five hours or if they just left moments ago and the five hours thing referred to something else, since five hours feels like extreme overkill for a couple of children intended to walk from place A to place B.

for dropping one heck of a conversational voltob down
There are several misspellings of the names of Pokémon species in this chapter, this being one - the correct spelling is "voltorb". I know that grammar and spelling checkers can't tell you the right ones because it doesn't recognize those words, but a quick search to make sure you have the spelling right would get rid of these errors.

I do like "voltorb" being a substitute for "bomb" in this phrase, though.

Never mind it wasn’t in Alolian,
This may or may not be an intentional override of a canon demonym (which I do support in fanfiction), but in case it isn't, the canon word is Alolan.

All Moon’d got was a fond farewell and a guild he didn’t want.
Guilt? Guilt is also rarely used with the indefinite article. A more natural expression would be "and guilt he didn't want".

They must of made quite the scene.
Must have. Contracted in informal speech or writing, it is must've, which you may have been thinking about. Same goes for other expressions that often mistakenly have have replaced with of: could have, should have, would have, must have. Could've, should've, would've, must've.

Moon tipping under the weight of his overstuffed cameo backpack when the ground got steep,
Camo. Camo is short for camouflage. Cameo is a minor appearance of a known character or celebrity in a movie, TV show or play.

After a little bit more walking they found a series of black stones that he’d dubbed “probably not geos”. He then proceeded to kick the rocks, just to be sure they weren’t any weirdly shaped ground types.

“Why don’t you ask them if they’re ‘mon?” Lillie asked, a tiny bit worried.

After all you didn’t kick anything living.

Kicking creatures and people was wrong.

Lillie settled on a long low rock, picking it because he hadn’t kicked it, trying to make a point. He ignored her and after kicking a rock near hers three times “just to be sure”, he slumped down into his seat. He was up in a second, swearing in his weird way and with a grimace and some feeling about took his seat with much more care.
I don't understand what point Lillie was trying to make here since she was arguing for respecting pokémon by not kicking rocks that might be some... and then she sits on one?

Maybe thirteen, fifteen at most. He was smooth faced, no wrinkles, and he wasn’t tall enough to be an adult despite being a bit lanky. He was a bit long nose wise. But not ugly or anything, but anything like a large nose was weird in an Alolian, and his ears were a bit more predominant than she was used too. He didn’t stoop, not even when carrying half a stores inventory in his packs, so he wasn’t frail. And there was no white or grey hairs on his head. She had a good look at it since he stooped over his packs, rummaging up a snack bar and tearing it open.
Wrinkles and gray hairs only start appearing after 30 or, at the earliest, late 20s. I really don't think she would be looking for those in someone who, in her eyes, was not tall enough to be an adult. One could argue that she's too sheltered to know, but given her mother is over 40 despite looking like a young adult, that'd likely produce the opposite effect if anything (thinking people are young-looking for much longer).

Something about his hair style niggled Lillie’s brain. Even as she caught the bar he tossed at her. She broke it into half and slipped the larger pieces into her bag. Noming commenced and the bad distorted as Nebby ate, played with his food, and ate some more.
If you meant to write "nomming" here, I strongly encourage against that - it's a very cutesy internet slang term that sticks out like a sore thumb in a story of this premise and tone. I also think you meant to write "bag" for the later part.

A ting, of blade scraping blade, she’d traveled with Moon long enough, for the sound to be kinda familiar.

“Get,”

Wings whirled, the swirl of its wing summoned a silver wind of sorts, as scales and toxins flaked off. And in the light of day, with the sun coming down just so… it was pretty, Lillie decided. Really pretty.
Is something missing in the middle line? Did he simply say "get" and nothing else, and is the reader supposed to know what that means?

A few moments later and they were alone again. Moon staggered to his rock and slid into his seat. Feeling with a hand before slumping against the stone and shoveling his stuff in his bag.

Clearly he wasn’t quite used to having to travel so hard for so long.

“We don’t have to… It’s not like the city’s going to run off, you know.”
I'm not sure what Lillie (?) is suggesting they don't have to do here. Travel at such a quick pace? While the reader could connect the dialogue to the previous line of narration, Lillie has said nothing to Giovanni that would clearly tie this line to the subject.

“I’ve only enough food and water for a day and a half, that’s unacceptably low.”

Lillie who hadn’t thought to bring water, just the clothes on her back, her wallet, and Nebby, blushed. If a day and a half was bad, nothing would likely be considered worse.

“Oh..” Moon let his eyes slide closed and Lillie considered saying nothing. Maybe if he napped she’d get to rest longer, but talk about water was making her throat twing a little. Reminding her that she was thirsty. “Um how much.. in your experience..”

“My old man experience?” His tone was not… well it wasn’t soft, or gentle, but his lips might of quirked. So maybe he was amused? “Three days minimum when traveling. Two weeks is ideal but hard to pull off with a regular starter ‘mon. That’s why most regions have their “traditional” journey starting points in well populated areas. You wouldn’t believe how many brats I’ve found courting heat stroke and dehydration in Viridian Forest every year.”
I'm confused about what Giovanni's talking about here. Is he talking how many days' worth of water should be brought on a trip, or how long a trip should take? I don't really understand how "two weeks is ideal but hard to pull off with a regular starter ‘mon" makes sense for either.

“Want a tour?” Because she may of stopped at the last rise, to get the best view, and that seemed lik the best place to ask.
It is "may have", and there is a missing letter in "like".

He took in the play yards, the signs of someone having dug about in a sand lot, and at the proof that clearly some small child having been about as a reason to freeze.
This is one of the sentences that was very hard to read. To "take in <something>" is a phrase and to "take <something> as <something>" is also a phrase, but to "take in <something> as <something>" is not a phrase. The meaning can be inferred, sure, but since the <something> here being so long ("the play yards, the signs of someone having dug about in a sand lot, and at the proof that clearly some small child having been about"), the reader thinks this is simply the "take in" phrase and the "as" then comes out of nowhere at the end. The extraneous "at" at "at the proof" adds to the confusion. Lastly, if someone having dug holes in the sand lot is the proof that a small child has been around, explicitly mentioning there is proof is redundant. If you want to spell out that the holes in the sand are the proof, it would be in another sentence, as putting them side by side in a list makes them appear as separate things.

And right by the doors, leaning against a grey donphan shaped slide, was professor Kukui. Arms crossed over his chest, checking is watch, checking a yawn. He looked bored. Like he’d been waiting forever.
Typo in "checking his watch". I don't know what "checking a yawn" is meant to mean.

Which considering Moon’s aversion to roads and straight paths… and other trainers, and catching ‘mon… forever probably was right.

“Hey cuz, ready to start your Island Challenge?”

“This is a preschool.” He’d noted it more to himself than her, still Lillie winced. “Why am I starting my gym challenge at a preschool?”

“Everyone starts here. The professor was explaining it to me and…”

And the Professor was coming towards them, smiling wide but with a warning.
If the first line of dialogue is Kukui's, the assumption is that the third one also belongs to him unless it is specified with a dialogue tag that it is Lillie who said it.

“Ms Lillie.” Becsue she’d never told him her name, her last name, and that seemed to amuse him. “Thank you for your services. You can consider your service to em complete… and I won’t hold you to your… previous offer. I most certainly won’t hold you to it in an way.”
Typo with "because". I also don't get why Giovanni talks in this polite manner to Lillie. I guess he has some personal reason not to be an asshole to her when he is one to everyone else, including Pokémon, but this particular tone seems to come and go as it pleases.

Except he wasn’t Moon, and Lillie was starting to, maybe, believe that..
Him already being referred to as not-Moon many times before this had me under the impression that she already believed it.

“So then you send a middle schooler to a preschool and have a day where the brats get their pets beat up, and that’s educational?”
This might not have been your intention, but to me this has a vibe of "look at how stupidly written canon is and how cool and smart my badass character is for pointing it out in the story".

Lillie shrugged, cracked a small smile.
You'll want either "Lillie shrugged and cracked a small smile" or "Lillie shrugged, cracking a small smile".

The small slim portable model with it’s pokeball plate attachment had been walked by at least twice earlier. And he hadn’t like that, not one bit. Still, he picked it up, after asking if he could move it, and getting consent, brought it over to her table with a grimace.

“Have you ever?” It was almost hopeful as he wiggled the edge of the computer at her. Lillie sipping her water, shook her head.
I understand the meaning of "have you ever" from the context and it is likely the characters would too, but it's not a natural English expression by itself. This could be understandable as a sign of Giovanni not knowing the language as well, but he seems to express himself as fluently as anyone else in this chapter.

Moon huffed, spinning the device between them, poking at it with one finger until he realized that the mouse pad had to scan his fingerprint first before it’d work. It didn’t work, not the first time. Whipping his hands dry he tried again, and when it worked he groaned.

So he was surgically altered to look like this 15yo boy, which means that the technology is very advanced and can somehow make a 40 year old dude look 15 and have a 15yo's body, but he was left with his own fingerprints which can blow his cover extremely quickly and in a very unambiguous manner if they are ever checked? I simply don't understand this plan, whether it was his own or forced upon him. This seems like a huge threat to any plan revolving around masquerading as someone you are not, especially in a world where fingerprint scanners are apparently used all the time for identification in huge databases.

He’d mentioned Silver, but she hadn’t met the other boy. It was just someone she knew he knew. She wondered hos Wilver felt about Moon not being Moon and about other things.
You've swapped two letters. "How Silver".

Mon’ looked up at humans, while the trainer tapped his stick against the pavement.
I think the intended sentence was "The 'mon looked up at the humans while the trainer tapped his stick against the pavement." However, this is one sentence where I'm not sure what was intended. The intention could have been that different people's pokémon were looking up at their own trainers, in which case it would simply need the apostrophe to move in front of "mon" rather than being after it.

Back to general comments. I don't want this all to be negative, so I'll move on to some compliments I want to give:

Lillie has a strong voice as a narrator and we see things very clearly filtered through her insecure and naive personality. Having her interact with someone cold and abrasive like Giovanni naturally leads to character conflict, and I think you've handled that well.

The description and behavior of the sandshrew is very cute and paints a vivid image of a mon you wouldn't want to be stuck with as your only one. Giovanni's treatment of it also brings forth more character conflict with him and Lillie as she think he's being too rough.

And while I did spend a lot of time talking about how I didn't understand the premise, I do have to give it to you for committing to a story with a premise as outlandish as this - as someone who has weird stories myself, I know that takes guts.

That would do it for my thoughts. I apologize for the large amount of criticism, but I tried my best to be constructive about it. See you around.
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Heya, popping in to bump TR’s review tag, since it’s kinda been stuck in limbo for a while, and figured that I might as well swoop in to try and get things moving again:

Chapter One

An introduction to madness:

or pick up your 'mon from the pokecenter...

As a heads-up to get things out of the way, but you might want to add more of a separator between your actual chapter and the preamble stuff that comes before it. Something like a line break from “[ HR ][ /HR ]” with the spaces and quotes removed would do the job quite nicely.

“You’re such an odd little girl.”

So said the man who’s traded perfectly ordinary small talk, or barely socially acceptable awkward silence, for dropping one heck of a conversational voltorb down and then proceeding to saying nothing else for a five hour hike.

Lot of verb tense goofs in these first couple paragraphs. It feels like you had two competing directions but didn’t quite settle one way or the other if you wanted it firmly in past tense or not. I won’t explicitly harp about it too much if it pops up later on, but it’s something you should be mindful of.

Well he’d tried to say nothing.

They’d picked a path across the beach beyond the professor’s front door in perfect silence. Him ignoring And he’d dutifully ignored the call of “see ya soon, Nephew!” tossed at their back.

And even though Moon was rude, Lillie was raised not to be. She wasn’t sure where the ethics met morals, but she looked back and saw Professor Kukui seeing them off. The over exuberant, tanned man, was waving an arm over his head. Smiling around amid his hollers like Moon’s apathy wasn’t a thing.

Oh, so we’re in Adventuresverse for this story, huh? Or at least that is my assumption given that we’re dealing with a ‘Moon’ here.

She waved, and then the professor had waved back, and that’d been that.

And that was part of the weirdness. Professor Kukui was saying goodbye like he hadn’t been rudely snapped at for nearly ten minutes straight in his own home.

Well, yes. That’s adult maturity there. Kinda a necessary skill to have as a Pokémon Professor.

[Moon’s] “I’m not Moon, you’re delusional” and “I’m not a child” had been the start of Moon’s friction with the Professor.

Except friction wasn’t quite the right word.

Moon’s animosity had to hit against something for it to escalate to friction, and Kukui just never seemed to notice. Rattling on about things that barely made sense in context of Moon’s dogged denial of being Moon. [Or just flat out ignoring the swears, because at the end Moon’d been swearing.] Never mind it wasn’t in Alolian, Lillie could read the meaning from tone, and Moon had been angry, and desperate.

And trying to get a reaction, any reaction.

Gee, Moon sure sounds like he has some problems there. .-.

Though I’m not sure I’m really feeling the bits in brackets in this block. For the beginning of the first paragraph, it might work a bit better along the lines of:

[ The moment Moon had blurted out “I’m not Moon [...] ]

Which feels a bit more organic. Something about the second bracket also feels a bit iffy since it feels weird to talk about swears verbatim twice. You might find something like:

[ Or just flat out ignoring the swears, because at the end Moon had devolved into ranting obscenities at him. ]

To sound more natural. Assuming that that was the intent behind that sequence.

All Moon’d got was a fond farewell and a guild he didn’t want.

A ‘guild’, huh? Not sure what that one is, but I suspect we’ll find out over the course of this chapter.

Everything about today was super awkward. Lillie was supposed to be guiding him, but he had a path in his head and wasn’t asking her anything. They were paralleling walking parallel to the road. It was a good ways away from said road, but it was the right way to Hau’oli.

And another aspect of that strangeness was that Lillie had offered to stay with Professor Kukui if she wasn’t wanted… But the Professor was having her go, no matter what. He’d all but kicked her out.

… Wait a minute, if Lillie wasn’t wanted for what? Since you’d think that if she wasn’t wanted, that Kukui would want her out of his house more and not less.
:joltyshrug~1:


When Moon left she couldn’t think of anything else to do but to follow along.

So that’s what she did, Moon’d stopped after seeing her coming, and groaned like she was the last thing he wanted to see. Like she was a bit of gum off the sidewalk and she’d just stuck to his shoe.

Not being wanted wasn’t new, so Lillie followed and felt awkward about… everything.

Well this feels like a totally healthy dynamic there. :V

They must have made quite the scene. Two trainers without visible ‘mon, poking across the sandy beaches that wrapped around the bottom of Iki, going the long way to Hau’oli. Moon tipping under the weight of his overstuffed cameo backpack when the ground got steep, her and Lillie juggling an oversized white duffle with a mind of its own. The duffle bag’s topmost zipper was undone to allow her ‘mon, Nebby, to peek out without getting out.

Occasionally a coo sounded from within as Nebby was entranced by something he’d see.

Oh, so we don’t have to see Lillie struggle to get Nebby into that thing in the first place like the memes, huh? :V

Moon saw and cared about nothing, he was very much a one step in front of the other sort of traveler.

Lillie: “(I can’t believe that Professor Kukui stuck me with this guy. Talk about being a pill!)” >_>;

Nebby, who was a good boy overall, would sometimes giggle and roll around the bags confines. The mysterious ‘mon would whoop and squeak as her staggers made his world shake and rattle like the world’s softest amusement park ride. She’d told him to stop, really she did, but Nebby liked to play.

I… wonder if it’d have made more sense to hint at Nebby being a Cosmog is something that should’ve been brought up unless if Moon narratively is supposed to be ignorant about that. Since Nebby hasn’t really been described all this time, and it’s a detail that would go over the heads of anyone who didn’t play a Gen 7 game or pick up on its events via osmosis.

She’d yet to see Moon’s Beedril do anything but loom, chase Rattatas, and sharpen its blades. Actually, she hadn’t seen the bug for quite a while and Lillie wondered if Moon had withdrawn it. Was he keeping the ‘mon on his belt instead of flying free?

Moon: “Look, that’s literally the game default, okay? What on earth would be wrong if I did that?”
826550123924029450.png

Lillie: “I’m… more worried that I don’t know where your Beedrill is right now, honestly.”
783449609686351942.png


[She didn’t like Beedrill, or dislike him], but the bug would have been company. It at least looked at her from time to time.

I think that first part if you’re going to play up Lillie’s indifference to Moon’s Beedrill would work better as [She didn’t have any particularly strong feelings about Beedrill], since something about the present formulation feels a bit contradictory in framing.

Moon didn’t even look back when she squawked, and nearly fell as Nebby’s play coincided with Moon picking up the pace and Lillie was left having to run after him while her “starter” bounced around in his bag.

Wow, Moon’s a rude little piker, ain’t he?

Nebby, having the time of his life, decided that he liked the sensation of her running and the world blurring from his little peephole. He went from excitedly bouncing, perhaps encouraging her to go faster, to trying to roll while she was jogging.

Lillie: “Seriously, why me?” >.<

Lillie overbalanced, falling flat on her face with an oomph. The only mercy was that she’d landed on soft sand, and not on some rocks or [other] and that Nebby wasn’t tossed out of his bag.

I think that you’re missing a couple words around ‘other’ since it feels like you were going to bring up something hard for a surface, but you just didn’t for some reason or another.

Her falling Lillie’s fall, as well the thud, made Moon stop. When nothing else could make him act considerate, not all the “please”s or gasps, or whimpers, Lillie getting hurt did the trick. He froze, and stared at her as she twisted up from being sprawled out to sitting up, and with a wince he returned.

The only nice thing about it was he ran as fast to her as he had been running away.

Oh, so Moon does have some standards there. I was starting to get a bit worried. ^^;

She looked up at him, sniffling a little, and he swallowed, some thought making his dark eyes gleam in the noon day sun.

Moon: “... (Boy was that a bad look for me in front of the audience earlier…)”
783449609686351942.png


And while normal people would have said “I’m sorry” or something like that… he slowed. Crossed the last few steps between them and eased down so she could use him to get up.

I mean, at least he stopped to help her, so…

It wasn’t quite an apology, but he was careful. Like she was a deerling, and not someone he’d tried to run ragged and run off.

I mean, with how much of a rude jerk Moon was being earlier, I could honestly see him trying to run a Deerling ragged to try and shoo it off. :V

With his help she was up, and though she wasn’t hurt that bad, he let her lean on him.

“I think it’s time we took a break.”

Lillie: “Oh, so now you want to take a break?” >_>;
Moon: “Look, don’t make me change my mind, princess.”
:absus:


After a little bit more walking they found a series of black stones that he’d dubbed “probably not geos”. He then proceeded to kick the rocks, just to be sure they weren’t any weirdly shaped ground types.

Wait, “geos” as in “Geodude”? Or something different? It might have made sense to be more explicit there to be clear for the readers.

“Why don’t you ask them if they’re ‘mon?” Lillie asked, a tiny bit worried.

After all, you didn’t kick anything living.

Kicking creatures and people was wrong.

… Why does it sound like Moon has some problems actually sticking to this thing if he has to remind himself that ‘kicking other living beings is wrong’? ^^;

Lillie settled on a long low rock, picking it because he hadn’t kicked it, trying to make a point. He ignored her and after kicking a rock near hers three times “just to be sure”, he slumped down into his seat. He was up in a second, swearing in his weird way and with a grimace and some feeling about, took his seat with much more care.

… Wait, what exactly happened to Moon there, again?

The rock wasn’t alive but he’d not seen some subtle point on the stone and gotten poked in a rude place as a result.

Ah. I think that this probably would’ve worked better if you described Moon being in pain, shooting up, noticing the point in the stone and then trying to sit down again. Since something about this present ordering of events feels a bit off to me.

She smirked, but held her tongue and didn’t laugh. Because laughing at someone would be mean, and he responded to her kindness by acknowledging her. A lean sort of progress. Even if it was just to roll his eyes at her, and sigh.

Translation: Moon is normally a giant asshole to others. Or at least I’m pretty sure that that’s the implication there.

He swung his packs off so they rested in the sands in front of him, flipping up the main flap, he drew out the canteen on top and took a drink. [ ] Done with drinking he set that on his leg and went to digging deeper.

That… felt really sudden for how Moon drinks there. I think that at the very least, you should mention in passing that he took a few swigs or something to give a sense of time passing, since something about this transition between these two paragraphs feels a bit abrupt.

Lillie spread her long white dress around her so it’d dry as she rested. If it’s scales of sand and muck flaked off because she did so all the better. Regardless she wasn’t getting up soon, and he didn’t seem in a rush to get up just then, so they were good.

… Wait, when was Lillie’s dress ever described as getting wet to begin with?
:what:


“Have a little faith in my experience, Ms. Lillie.”

It was the first he’d spoken in… well she didn’t have a watch, or a cell phone, but it felt like forever. And he hadn’t spoken to her since… right before the Island Challenge Ceremony at Iki. He’d offered her his Legend-gifted stone, and she’d laughed it off. He was such a prankster she was sure. The professor had said Moon liked a good laugh.

Save Except this Moon didn’t.

Yeah, Moon really sounds like a ‘people person’ there. Not.

And that conversation had been a little after breakfast, right after he’d beaten Hua’s starter with his bee.

“Alright, you’re older than me,” Because agreeing was nice, and though rude, Moon seemed like he needed some niceness in his life. Maybe it’d make him nicer in turn. “How old are you?”

Maybe thirteen, fifteen at most. He was smooth faced, no wrinkles, and he wasn’t tall enough to be an adult despite being a bit lanky. He was a bit long-nosed. But not ugly or anything, but anything like a large nose was weird in an Alolan, and his ears were a bit more predominant than she was used to. He didn’t stoop, not even when carrying half a store's inventory in his packs, so he wasn’t frail. And there was no white or grey hairs on his head. She had a good look at it since he stooped over his packs, rummaging up a snack bar and tearing it open.

Moon: “You realize that we live in a manga-based setting so there’s literal children with gray and white hair running around, right?” >_>;
Lillie: “Sounds like all the more reason for you to just tell me your age, really.”
:joltyshrug~1:


Moon’s hair was so black it gleamed and he’d twisted it into a thick braid down his back.

Something about his hairstyle niggled Lillie’s brain. Even as she caught the bar he tossed at her. She broke it into half and slipped the larger pieces into her bag. Noming commenced and At once, the bag distorted as Nebby ate, played with his food, and then ate some more.

Lillie was not thinking of the royal mess inside of her bag, she wasn’t.

She was thinking of hair, and maybe staring just a little.

Probably some misplaced priorities there since that bag is surely going to be a PITA to clean up later. ^^;

Long hair in boys was considered dated, and ages ago it had been seen as an act of rebellion. But most of those people had worn flower crowns and sung around campfires, at least in the movies she’d seen. Moon wasn’t nice to rocks, Lillie couldn’t imagine him chatting up a grass type to get a flower anything. Still despite not being that sort of rebel, Moon was rebelling against something, even if all it was was that he wasn’t Moon.

… Oh right, Lillie canonically has basically been living under a rock prior to her running off with Nebby. It’s a nice character touch to have her try and compare Moon to someone from movies that she’s seen.

While she stared at him, he’d scrolled his dark gaze over her. After a slow sweep done, he tipped his head, considering something about her most seriously.

“I’m probably old enough to be your father…”

He looked like a regular fifteen year old.

Lillie: “... I’m sorry, so how old are you again?” .-.

There was nothing old about Moon, her eyes were working fine, he looked a little different, yes. But he wasn’t from Alola he was from… from somewhere else, she wasn’t sure where. But despite being different he looked like someone around her age…

But him saying he was as old as her father was crazy.

Wait, is that also a plot point about Moon in the manga as well? Since I legit was not expecting this to happen.

But you didn’t call crazy people crazy. That was mean. You said nice things. Things like you’d be there for them, or it didn’t matter, you’d still be friends

… Wow, Lillie really has been raised by books and movies, huh?

So she said those things, the right things, and he stared at her in shock. A few moments passed, and when she suddenly didn’t take it back he stared at her a little more. Staring done he took a drink, a long one, and screwed the lid closed.

There is a lot of repetition of ‘staring’ in this paragraph. You should replace at least one of them with a synonym of some sort.

“I’m leaving after I let my Beedrill out to kill his lunch. It won’t be long. Follow me if you want or not, your choice.”

Lillie: “... Aren’t you supposed to feed Beedrill kibble or something like that?” .-.
Moon: “Well how else are we supposed to run into that Sandshrew the title mentions?”
:gardeshrug~1:


Then he was up and walking away, picking a path away from the beach, towards the tall grass beyond the sand. A flick of his wrist and he summoned his bug. No fumbling to the motion like so many starter trainers she’d seen while living with the Professor. Moon tossed then caught the ball when it recoiled from the force of expelling the bug.

She could hear the catch, the twack of plastic against flesh, and wondered if that was why so many professional trainers wore gloves.

I mean, that seems like a pretty good reason to. Since from the way that impact was described, it sure sounded like a way to pick up some welts in short order. ^^;

“Try for something besides a Rat’, you know your typing as well as I do…” A buzz, nearly a whine, “just go kill a few slowpokes or something, you’ve got thirty minutes then we’re leaving.”

>letting your Pokémon go off to hunt unsupervised

Image


A ting, of blade scraping blade, she’d traveled with Moon long enough, for the sound to be kinda familiar.

“Get,”

I… think that you’re missing some words from “Get” there, since it just very abruptly drops off like it’s unfinished dialogue.

Wings whirled, the swirl of its wing summoned a silver wind of sorts, as scales and toxins flaked off. And in the light of day, with the sun coming down just so… it was pretty, Lillie decided. Really pretty.

Lillie: “... I mean, I’m sure it’s less pretty being on the receiving end of it, but let’s not think too hard about that.”
783449609686351942.png


A few moments later and they were alone again. Moon staggered to his rock and slid into his seat. Feeling it carefully with a hand before slumping against the stone and shoveling his stuff in his bag.

Clearly he wasn’t quite used to having to travel so hard for so long.

Lillie: “... I thought that you specifically told me to trust you as a guide, Moon.”
:what:

Moon: “Look, just because I don’t travel this far very often doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m doing.” >_>;

“We don’t have to… It’s not like the city’s going to run off, you know.”

“I’ve only enough food and water for a day and a half, that’s unacceptably low little.”

Lillie: “... Wait, just how long is this journey going to take? Since I thought that a day and a half would be more than enough to go from one town to a city on the same island.”
783449609686351942.png

Moon: “Longer than a day and a half, obviously.” >_>;

Lillie blushed. who She hadn’t thought to bring water, just the clothes on her back, her wallet, and Nebby, blushed. If a day and a half’s worth of food and water was bad, nothing would likely be considered worse.

This paragraph in particular has a few parts that feel like they should be reordered and chopped up a bit.

“Oh..” Moon let his eyes slide closed and Lillie considered saying nothing. Maybe if he napped she’d get to rest longer, but talk about water was making her throat twing a little. Reminding her that she was thirsty. “Um how much.. in your experience..”

“My old man experience?” His tone was not… well it wasn’t soft, or gentle, but his lips might have quirked. So maybe he was amused? “Three days minimum when traveling. Two weeks is ideal but hard to pull off with a regular starter ‘mon. That’s why most regions have their “traditional” journey starting points in well populated areas. You wouldn’t believe how many brats I’ve found courting heat stroke and dehydration in Viridian Forest every year.”

“Oh.”

Lillie: “... How do you manage to get lost in Viridian Forest when Kanto is one of the smallest regions in the franchise?”
401076862924750848.png

Moon: “Hey, players have been managing that for over 25 years now. Are you surprised that Bug Catchers wouldn't do the same as well?”
:joltyshrug~1:


Oh boy, no water was really bad then. Really bad. She winced, but Moon, eyes shut, didn’t notice, or care.

Probably since he’s kinda written you off as an idiot already, but let’s not think too hard about that. ^^;

She told herself it was the first, and made excuses. He was tired, and rude, but that didn’t mean he was mean or sadistic.

Not always.

I can already see Lillie’s confidence wavering in live-time there. ^^;

Cracking one eye open, watching her while she silently fretted, Moon straightened out of his sprawl. Face flushing as he thought of something. Then he was staring at Nebby’s bag, maybe now just realizing it only had Nebby in it.

“Where’s your water?”

Lillie couldn’t get a word out, not for anything, she just blushed and stammered and…

Lillie: “I… might have forgotten to pack mine?”
783449609686351942.png


And flipping open his packs with a growl, swearing in his odd way, she heard Kukui’s name, and some Cel-something’s name a few times, he came up from his bag, canteen out, and tossed it at her.

“I’m not making my first stop in this… city… to the place’s emergency room to drop you off because your mentor decided to not let you get some water before he kicked you out.”

Lillie: “So… uh, then what exactly do you propose, since you said that you had one and a half days of rations for yourself.”
783449609686351942.png


Sometimes mean did not mean bad, it just meant they didn’t know how to say kind things, or how to say them right. Taking her draw from Moon’s water, Lillie thanked him. She didn’t have much more than that to offer, really, but he still he nodded. Acknowledgment was good.

It was progress.

A teeny, tiny baby step of progress, but I suppose she’s not wrong there.

She hummed as she shared a little water with Nebby. Something the sparkling fluff ball appreciated. While she tended her friend Moon turned from her to stare at the sea for a while.

I feel the underlined bit would’ve worked a bit better if you showed it more explicitly instead of just telling it.

The rest of the walk to Hua’oli was slow, Moon walked with a bit of a stagger. Cramps, he’d hissed after she asked. He must’ve been surprised that she’d asked maybe, for he stared at her oddly afterwards. Even though Lillie wasn’t quite sure how helping someone walk worked, Moon let her hover at his side and offer him an arm when they took the last few hills leading to the island’s main city.

Lillie: “... I’m sorry, why were you having such an aneurysm over us being a bit short on water when we were right here next to Hau’oli?”
:what:

Moon: “I’m pretty sure the implication is supposed to be that this took a while. And even if it weren’t, we’d have been thoroughly screwed if we got stuck out in the boonies for more than about a day.”

“Want a tour?

[Because she may of stopped at the last rise], to get the best view, and that seemed like the best place to ask. To let him rest a little, while looking out, it might get his interest going. Maybe, she could really do the guide thing. The thought made her perk up a bit.

Hao’oli’s the best spot for…”

I’d recommend hacking this paragraph up into a few pieces. For the bit in brackets, I’m not fully sure what the intent is, but I think you were going for something like “Lillie stopped at the last rise”.

A wave of Moon’s hand from Moon in reply made her fall silent.

“No. Where is Kukui at?”

Sometimes progress was slow, Lillie reminded herself, so she didn’t quite shrink away from Moon’s irritated tone.

I mean, I did point out that Moon’s progress earlier was baby steps, so…
:loltias:


“I can guide you there, but it’s not as nice as the rest of Hau’oli.”

“I’m here for business not pleasure.”

Taking the hint, Lillie shut up. She led headed along, and wordlessly Moon followed [/b]along wordlessly[/b]. Hands gripping the straps of his packs they looked irritated from the hold.

Moon: -produces a cosmic remote from his duffel bag -
fastforward-remote.gif


It was only a thirty minute walk from their rest spot to the school. But then schools in the Alola region were meant to be close to nature, with lots of opportunities to go out on long walks. It made the easiest for easy field trips. Short, bright colored fences marked the school's property lines, and Lillie let her fingers run along it as they walked.

M
oon, keeping pace beside her, had let his death grip on his bag’s straps go. Sliding his hands into his pockets, he slowly looked about. He took in the play yards, the signs of someone having dug about in a sandlot, and at the proof that clearly some small child had been about as a reason to freeze.

Would recommend hacking this paragraph up into two, since it feels like two separate things going on.

He was stood there almost entranced, standing there, staring at the sight of a colored pail, some small shovels, and small holes like it meant something more than some little kid had left something behind.

A nudge got him to unfreeze, and he moved on. But not without craning his neck to look back until the view was lost. A screening wall of palm trees among thick bushes blocked the view back and forward so they followed the foliage for a while. Rounding a corner, they found the front of the school. The doors, pale blue, not quite the same shade as the sky, were imperfectly framed by palm and berry trees. Grass and weeds speckled the dirt path leading up to the entrance.

Oh, is this what the trainer’s school looked like in Adventures? Since I could’ve sworn it looked different in the games.

And right by the doors, leaning against a grey donphan-shaped slide, was Professor Kukui. Arms crossed over his chest, checking his watch, stifling a yawn. He looked bored. Like he’d been waiting forever.

Which considering Moon’s aversion to roads and straight paths… and other trainers, and catching ‘mon… forever probably was right.

I mean, he’s been waiting for at least 30 minutes given the unplanned hunting trip by Beedrill that we never definitively saw an end to. Since I actually don’t remember if Beedrill explicitly came back onscreen or not.

“Hey cuz, ready to start your Island Challenge?”

“This is a preschool.” He’d noted it more to himself than her, still but Lillie still winced. “Why am I starting my gym challenge at a preschool?”

Kukui: “Because it’s a convenient place to meet up?”
:joltyshrug~1:


“Everyone starts here. The professor was explaining it to me and…”

And the Professor was coming towards them, smiling wide but with a warning.

“Ah, ah Lil’s! No spoilers for our Champ…”

Technically, wouldn’t Moon be a future Champ in Kukui’s dialogue given that he’s just starting his island challenge?

Moon made a soft noise that might have been a scornful huff. Lillie was still trying to figure out his moods. Moon’s face moved so little and so fast, that she was guessing more often than not.

Perfect combination for a guy that you’re going to be hanging around for an extended period of time! ^^;

Still, that was not a good noise, it sounded somewhat akin to his angry words back at the Professor’s lab.

Drawing a deep breath, then letting it out slowly, Moon shook his head. Then tipped a glance at her, almost smiling.

“Ms. Lillie.” Because she’d never told him her name, her last name, and that seemed to amuse him. “Thank you for your services. You can consider your service to me complete… and I won’t hold you to your… previous offer. I most certainly won’t hold you to it in any way.”

And those were the words he said in parting. Not a “goodbye” which she’d half expected.

Wow, Moon really is a people person, huh?
:hoodLUL:


His denial of her friendship was offered to her like a parting gift, a final one.

Lillie: “A really crummy parting gift. I honestly almost would’ve preferred the silent treatment.” >_>;

That made her sad. But she was old enough to be on her journey, nearly an adult, so that meant she was old enough not to be sad. She was big enough not to cry.

Daren’t.

So she didn’t.

Narrator: “She was totally about to cry right there.”

She went quiet instead. Settling on a swing lodged in a patch of short grass. Legs kicking enough to make her rock but on the ground so she wouldn’t really swing. Lillie didn’t lift off, her white dress stayed tucked tight and close to her as she scratched a path in the sand and grass below her with white tennies.

With a show of bustle and enthusiasm, a group of teachers popped out of the doors, perhaps summoned by Kukui’s loud greeting, and everyone ignored her. They swept around Moon, all cheer and smiles. He was anything but cheery in return, wincing back from a casual pat, nearly cringing form their attention. Surrounded, Moon was walked in.

Lillie: “There is no justice in the universe when he gets the red carpet treatment and I just get ignored.” >_>;

Save Except he wasn’t Moon.

He told the Professor to his face he wasn’t Moon. He’d said a name in the fight, right before he switched langauges. Something long and that sounded a bit like a tongue twister.

The Professor had laughed when Moon had gotten insistent, saying that Moon was being a little weirdo, patting the young trainer on the head and shrugging off the resultant animosity.

… Is this guy a Faller or something? Certainly didn’t see that one coming.

And, a little meanly, Lillie thought, the Professor loudly told Lillie to “just roll with Moon’s moods”.

Like he couldn’t hear or something all of a sudden.

I mean, considering how much of a giant dick Moon has been for most of the trip over, Kukui could be forgiven for getting in a few barbs at his expense, really.
:gardeshrug~1:


Clearly, someone had gotten a bit pat-happy, because over the retreating babble, Lillie could hear Moon’s voice rose, cracking with outrage.

“No one touches me unless I tell them to!

You probably want an exclamation there to sell the idea that Moon is agitated and ‘crackling with outrage’, since it doesn’t come through as well with just a normal period as an ending.

That’d been heard, and responded to at least. Some of the cheer leaving left the group and the adults gave not-Moon a little more space. The cluster had evolved into a loose line. The head pulled open the door open and beckoned the gathering in. There were questions being asked, adults trying to pry out thoughts about types, and names, and…

And normally any kid, heck even her, would have proudly flaunted their ‘mon. And asking any kid five on up or older was sure to get a regular some answer to the effect of “My ‘mon is the best”.

Lillie understood the urge, but Nebby was the best even if the other trainers didn’t know that. Still, she’d smiled and nodded at a lot of ratattas and slowpokes when she hiked around town before. Trainers younger than young, both younger and older than her, flushed with their first catch assured one and all. Thiers was the best.

You might want to make it more explicit that Lillie is thinking back to a past experience during her travels, since for a second, I thought she’d gotten up and was encountering this in and around the rest of Hau’oli in live time.

“Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it and leave.” He snapped, irritation adding enough volume that Lillie could hear it through the closed door.

That sounded bad.

And the note tone to his voice reminded Lillie of not-Moon’s Beedrill, and how the bug loved to scrape its blades and loom. Both the boys voice and his Pokémon’s scraping had something to them that made Lillie’s skin crawl.

Oh, so they’re “nails on a chalkboard”-tier, huh? :V

“Ambitious are you?” One of the adults crooned, not hearing the tone right, it seemed.

With the trainer he was meant to watch gone, job done, Professor Kukui adjusted his shades, happy to watch the wingull swing by. Tightening her grip on the swing’s chains, Lillie watched the ground. She hunched into herself, hating how the back of her dress around her shoulders felt like it was burning. And the fringes felt heavy. And she nasty. It was so hot today and Moon had the water.

… Not sure how I feel about the perspective abruptly jumping to Kukui and then back to Lillie again in the same paragraph. It feels like you should either stick with one or the other, or else tee up the transition between those perspectives a bit more, since something about jumping from Lillie to Kukui and then back to Lillie all in two paragraphs felt odd to me.

Except he wasn’t Moon, and a part of Lillie was starting to, maybe, believe that..

A bit later, long enough to be sure she was sorta cooked but not cooked through, a door slammed. Looking up, she saw the young trainer stomping towards them. His emotions were neither small nor fast just then.

Face flushed and twisted into hard, angry, lines, he was furious.

Lillie: “... I think that this is the part where I should take my leave. And fast.”
:uhhh:


And it was something his drawn ‘mon was mirroring. Beedrill, perched on the short boy’s backpack, had its antenna slicked back, blades scraping almost dangerously close to the boy’s throat. The bee’s trainer snapped a word in a way Lillie didn’t get understand and the bug went still, tucked and turned until it was looming over the dark-haired boy but now no longer posed a risk of impaling or stabbing the boy him if he moved too fast.

Lillie: “... Wait, why on earth would he do that anyways?”
:what:


Looking down, seeing everything wrong, the Professor flashed his bright, white, smile, at the boy and his Beedrill.

Lillie: “... Wait, just where have you been all this time?” .-.
Kukui: “I mean, even if I just kinda faded to the background a bit, the text never said I left did it?”
:joltyshrug~1:


“Ohf. Rough time in there, huh? Well, that’s fine, first battles can be a bit rough and all that. We can head to the center and heal your Beedrill and give it another go-“

One or the other ‘rough’ should be axed here to avoid repetition.

But Beedrill looked fine, angry, but fine. The protest almost slipped past her lips but didn’t, and Lillie twisted the chains making them twang against her hands.

“I’m not in the business of making children cry to prove a point. So, no, I won’t be going back.”

… Why do I get the point that Moon has already managed that from his tour through the school?
783449609686351942.png


“If you want to challenge the Kahuna you’ve got to earn our merits here somehow. Prove competency, and prove your worth in supporting the school here.” The professor seemed a little less oblivious, arms crossed over his chest, smile not so bright.

“So then you send a middle schooler to a preschool and have a day where the brats get their pets beat up, and that’s educational?”

Well, it’s educational for the preschoolers.
662499150147092533.png


Shifting his hat, so his eyes were easier to see, the Professor looked down at his nephew. There was enough of a height difference that there was a lot of down. Despite being short, the boy and his Beedril managed to seethe almost up to Kukui’s height.

I’m not sure how you manage to “seethe” up to height you don’t have. Is the idea that it’s supposed to seem as if they get taller while seething, or…?

“It’s how it’s always been done, little man.”

If looks could kill Moon’s glare would have been a perish song, but at except the last note and he’d of would have lasted long enough to see the Professor go first.

… Wait, but isn’t this guy not Moon and thus not Kukui’s nephew? ^^;

“I’ve fully evolved my starter,” Moon hissed, waving a hand towards his Beedrill, “He’s obedient, in and out of battle.”

“Alright.” Professor Kuki drawled. “But you caught and trained him outside of appropriate supervision: before you started[/b] the Trial. Neither the Kahuna or myself can say we’ve seen proof of any of the progress. So, in short, Beedrill, doesn’t count.”

- Moon’s eye twitches -
Moon: “Are you serious?!
785236292803100683.png

Kukui: “Is there a reason why I wouldn’t be?”
:gardeshrug~1:


Deep breath, in, then out. Lillie could see the trainer mouthing something to himself. Maybe he was counting to ten but in a different way. The shapes didn’t seem quite right, but he repeated them, once… twice… Whatever done he drew a deep breath and spoke, Lillie ducked her head, letting her hair fall forward to screen the view.

Translation: He’s growling the last cutaway gag, but under his breath. :V

“I’m going to the pokecenter to withdraw one of my catches.” She could hear his teeth grinding. “Will that be acceptable for this gym challenge?”

“Nah. Counts as proof of catching if you use the PC. And catching’s good, encouraged even.”

Kukui: “Though technically it’s not a gym challenge, it’s-”
:joltyshrug~1:

Moon: “I. Don’t. Care.” >_>;

Another deep breath, another count in… whatever... under his breath but just enough she could hear it a little. Looking up Lillie saw Moon unclench his fists and slide them alongside the edge of his shorts.

“Define seeing progress.”

“Proof of a move learned, we’re not expecting out and out evolution first week in or anything…”

… Wait, since when was Kukui mentioning anything about ‘seeing progress’ there? Like if the idea is that Lillie zoned out a bit and then snapped to attention and that was the thing she heard first, you want to more explicitly indicate that. Otherwise, Moon’s framing of ‘seeing progress’ should more explicitly call back to it, since there’s been a bit of a detour in the topic of conversation before then.

Beedrill buzzed his wings, not quite lifting over the boy’s dark head.

Ignoring the threat display Professor Kuki pulled his glasses off, looking at the boy, dead serious.

“But someone’s going to have to see you pull the critter out of a pokecenter box and I gotta do an exam on the fellow before and after.” Brightening, acting like he’d just remembered something the Professor snapped his fingers, “Hey, Lil’s, you busy?”

Lillie: “... I’m sorry, but why do I want to get involved in this again?”
:uhhh:

Kukui: “Because the needs of the plot and all that?” ^^;

Busy burning up in the sun, trying to sink into the ground, she was horribly busy wishing she wasn’t here for any of this. The walk from before had been nice, after Moon stopped trying to run her off, but everything else… She wished she’d stayed at the lab.

Hard to blame her, really. I wouldn’t want to be stuck with Moon like this either.

Still, she looked up. Because he’d all but asked her too, hadn’t he? She winced, but met both their gazes, neither seemed to notice her cringing though.

“Certainly if you doubt my integrity you’d personally want to tag along for this… errand.”

“Cousin cousin.. I don’t doubt you a lick.” The man’s smile was wide and bright. Showing how much he doubted, everything and every word. “But just to be safe, have Lillie take you for a walk. At the end, if you withdraw an unevolved ‘mon, and bring it back, well and good, we’re halfway done. It’s not like you’ve got to do it all in one go. You got a week after all. And if you don’t have anything stored away, go catch something, we got the best ecosystem around.”

You probably want to give more of an indication that Moon is saying this line to Kukui, since I was tripping up over who said that line at first and to whom until Kukui’s line came in.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” And the smile he cast up to the Professor was a yangoose’s, all teeth and with the promise of biting. “Ms. Lillie,” he smirked, gaining something of amusement back at her mysteries. “I do apologize for dragging you into this…”

Lillie shrugged, cracked a small smile.

“It’s fine, I’m the Professor’s ai- assis- help after all. I should probably help.”

That sounds like a fast way to get stuck on a journey that you’ll have a miserable time with, but okay there, Lillie.


She really hadn’t quite got the lying thing down. He smiled a bit wider, some of the anger leaving his face, humored at her failure she guessed. Still he offered his arm and seeing her freeze and stare up at Beedrill, ordered the ‘mon to “return to base” whatever that meant. Now, ‘mon free, he offered his arm and she took it. It was a old thing, what he did, and she’d been raised traditionally so she knew the motion and how to respond.

They walked around the professor who cheered “get ‘em pyroar,” as they went by, whatever that meant.

Moon: “... ‘Get ‘em Pyroar’?”
:what:

Kukui: “There isn’t an explicit ‘tiger’ Pokémon yet in the English localization so it’s the closest thing there is? I mean, ‘Get ‘em, Rentorar’ would sound kinda clunky.” ^^;

“I’m going to ruin that man, first opportunity.” And the boy who insisted he was not Moon was blushing. Not angry, but embarrassed. “I’d never…”

It seemed an assurance and made no sense at that.

“Never what?”

Black eyes widened, and for one moment his face was slack, his eyes were comically wide. Then the moment came and went, his face smoothed into no-tell lines as he drew her close. “Ah… nothing important.”

Narrator: “It was totally something important.”

The walk to the pokecenter was quiet. And it felt… better… not to be around adults who expected things. Lillie was able to look up and look around a bit more as they went. Only hunching a little when she saw some adults lurking around the ‘center’s main lobby. He left her to get some water from a vending machine, then looking at her he considered something before he got some for her as well.

… Wait, what exactly is that ‘something’ supposed to be anyways? Since we’re kinda in Moon’s perspective here, so it probably makes sense to at least hint at what he’s thinking about.

Taking a seat Lillie watched as he walked about, confused until he’d finally asked the nurse where the PC was.

The small slim portable model with its pokeball plate attachment had been walked by at least twice earlier. And he hadn’t liked that, not one bit. Still, he picked it up, after asking if he could move it, and getting consent, brought it over to her table with a grimace.

I feel like it could’ve been hinted at more as to why Moon doesn’t like that this Pokécenter’s PC is a glorified laptop. Like is he worried about security risks or something?

“Have you ever [ ]?” It was almost hopeful as he wiggled the edge of the computer at her. Lillie sipping her water, shook her head.

“I don’t have any ‘mon.” She’d smiled. “I’m not a trainer.”

I think that you’re missing something with Moon’s “Have you ever?” there. Like as if it’s missing a word or phrase to complete the question, but it’s just not spoken for whatever reason.

She might have looked at her sports bag and its napping inhabitant by accident, a tiny bit guilty because she’d only let Nebby out for one walk today and it was getting later in the day.

Moon: “How is that not the definition of being a trainer?” >_>;
Lillie: “Because I don’t go around and get into battles with Nebby, so…?” ^^;

Moon huffed, spinning the device between them, poking at it with one finger until he realized that the mouse pad had to scan his fingerprint first before it’d work. It didn’t work, not the first time. Whipping his hands dry he tried again, and when it worked he groaned.

Clearly, he was not expecting the sight in the box.

“I thought you had a cubone?”

Silver must have needed him and swapped him out.

Oh, so we are in an Adventures-based continuity. Though I wonder what Moon’s story with Kukui is, since admittedly I don’t know the first thing about the specifics of Moon’s backstory from the manga.

He’d mentioned Silver, but she hadn’t met the other boy. It was just someone she knew he knew. She wondered how Silver felt about Moon not being Moon and about other things.

“I thought you liked ground types.”

… Oh, that was Lillie who had the line about Silver. Uh… yeah, you probably wanted to disambiguate that earlier bit with some speech tags or something like that.

“My son said this thing was, and I quote, “so lazy it can’t even curl yet.”

Another facet of not-Moons crazy story, that he could have a son. He wasn’t old enough to have a young baby brother much less a kid, but Lillie didn’t bring that up.

“He named it Rollie.” She noted, taking a sip.

Lillie: “I mean, you’d have never guessed that Silver would name a ‘mon something like ‘Rollie’, but sometimes people hide surprises behind gruff exteriors.”
Moon: “Don’t get any ideas about me there.” >_>;

“He's five.”

She waited and hoped, but the trainer didn’t see the crazy in how that worked out, or rather how it didn’t work out.

… Did Moon get freaky Friday’d with someone much older than him or something? .-.

Still, she was going to be nice, and not point it out. Friends did not call friends crazy; new as she was at all of this she knew that. And he must be tired of it; it’d explain his grouchiness a little.

The truth is significantly wilder than what Lillie is assuming, isn’t it?

Rollie was pulled out of the box and they made their way straight to the school.

Or rather they were meant to. Rollie, once out of his pokeball, was so lazy he didn’t walk. The sand mouse looked about, yawned, and once out of the center, flopped over in the center of the street. A sunny-hued, dusty, starfish.

Lillie knew most ‘mon were scary, with claw and teeth and everything, but Rollie was a lump. And not in a nasty muk sort of lump way. He just slumped onto the sidewalk, scrunched up his dark blue eyes, and threw a paw over those before and the other over his ears before rolling over, belly up.

Cute mental image, even if I can already hear “Moon” seething in frustration right about now.

While a few people around them cooed, one person stepping around them to snap a picture with their phone, Lillie tensed, waiting…

Not-Moon drew in a deep breath, let it out, did the count in whatever that language was he liked so much. Lillie knew enough about tone to realize the words were definitely not repeatable in any company, ever.

Oh, so “Moon”’s numbers there aren’t numbers, huh? ^^;

“Watch him, I’ll be back.”

When the black haired boy returned with a stick, Lillie’d been worried.

She’d heard tales of trainers hitting their ‘mon and he looked angry enough to start hitting and not stop. The boy poked and prodded around sandshrew’s spread hindquarters until, the mouse, with a startled squeak, curled its back legs to get away from the pokes. Almost half curling, like the attack curling, and the move, done poorly, shocked the mouse so it woke and wailed.

Lillie: “Oh thank goodness. For a second I thought he was going to play Sandshrew Golf with that thing.” o_o;

Stopping the pokes made the mouse unfold with a soft thump, and cut off the cries.

Mon’ looked up at humans, while the trainer tapped his stick against the pavement. Ignoring the tears to the creature’s eyes the boy the Professor called Moon, who was most definitely Not Moon bared his teeth in something too malicious to be a smile.

“You’re going to walk, without making a scene, or you will be rolled.”

A thwack of stick on pavement told of how.

Lillie: “Oh, well nevermind then.”
:uhhh:


Rollie was more than willing to walk, and not make a peep, the rest of the way to the school.

>belatedly peeks up at the notes in the preamble

:uhhh:


Boy does that change a lot of the framing of this story, and this ending suddenly got really dark. I can just imagine that Silver is going to be thrilled to learn that his Pokémon was getting pushed around like this by someone who is technically his dad.
783449609686351942.png


Alright, made it to the end, and time to give a recap to this thing:

I think that the opening chapter did a decently good job as a prologue for giving a feel for where things were going to go in this story. Even if I kinda regret not reading the background details of it. I kinda wonder if the story itself ought to have given more explicit hints that that was what was going on instead of requiring the readers to read an author’s note to understand what was going on. But eh, author’s decisions and all that.

As for things that I wasn’t so hot about… there were a lot of typos and verb tense errors riddled throughout the chapter. Enough so that if you didn’t read the story aloud to yourself at some point prior to publishing, you should strongly consider doing that in order to go back and smooth out a lot of the low-hanging fruit. Something about the pacing of this chapter also felt a bit slow. I kinda wonder if chopping things up into like three or four scenes would’ve helped, since between the wilderness scene, the scene at the trainer’s school, and the one at the Pokécenter, things all felt distinct enough that they honestly might as well have had line breaks dropped in at some point and the transitions redone slightly to allow for more skipping ahead from place to place.

Though even with the warts, it’s an interesting premise. And I feel with a bit of time spent polishing what you have, you’d be able to have a pretty special ride @K_S . Since the idea of Giovanni getting Freaky Friday’d is something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, and your opening chapter to this story did a pretty good job at selling the idea that something was increasingly wrong from Lillie’s perspective. Which I’m sure is a great™ portent of where things are going to go in this story. ^^;

Good luck with your writings, and hope this review helped you a bit.
 
RD chapter 4, When is enough, enough?

K_S

Pokémon Trainer
a/n: ran through Grammarly, needs to be sentence tweaked in the near future.... 6.17.2022

Not a huge fan of this chapter, it's borderline info dump, with a side of talking heads. But it makes sense in context to do this here so... shrugs.
sentences updated on 6.18.2022




The back and forth between a beleaguered principal and the rather… surly… up and coming trainer as they dickered over insane things started, sanely enough, with Sakaki being reasonably irritated at being ordered to work without getting an allowance.

When they started arguing over “reasonable” payment schedules and how to log time towards servies given. Their conversation left the realms of coherent and was giving Lillie a headache.

Bored out of her mind, Lillie tried her hardest not to yawn. Looking out the window counting birds on a power line on her fingers. When that got boring she tried to figure out their common denominator, spearows being the top number, wingul being the bottom.

She’d counted as fast as she could, because birds were birds and they liked to fly off. Turning about in the tight, plastic chair connected to a student’s desk both ways to confirm her count. And while the design made twisting about a bit of a pain, it wasn’t enough to stop her.

Not bothering with the chair, or accepting the offer to sit, Sakaki paced in front of the classroom. Cutting a short, tight, path in front of the teacher’s long wooden desk. The teacher had her back to a white board, the whiteboard covered in equations meant to challenge the youngest of young, shed watching the Sakaki’s back and forth with a scrunched face and thinned eyes. Papers, papers Sakaki had read over, then tossed down in disgust, lay on the desk between them. The remnants of the old contract.

“I’m not an intern, I’m not working for free, I am well beyond the age of bootlicking to earn my place and I find your proposal that I do such, utterly unacceptable.”

“It’s hardly bootlicking young man. We ask our.. participants to fulfil certain tenants for the betterment of their spirituality and establishment of their morals. This challenge, this part of it, encapsulates the spirit of charity…”

Looking up, Lillie saw Sakaki slash a hand though the air, to cut the woman off. And crazily the woman went quiet, and listened while Sakaki carried the insane back and forth to another level.

“Madam, I am a staunch atheist. There are no souls, there are no powers to appease, why should I bother dittoing the norms of a society, to continue a ritual based soley in theism… not even monotheism, but some backwards form of animalism?”

“Because you’re ordered to?”

“Orders? Those are only valid if they are made by someone with power and thus worth following. There’s no power here, you barely have a centralized government. So unless Tepid whatever he’s called would like to dance down from the clouds to dictate to me… why bother with any of this? There’s no league, no council, just a slew of Chosen ones picked by a ‘mon. And this island’s Chosen one hasn’t come to me to say anything… Unless it’s that fool Kukui, that would be my luck.”

The teacher laughed, twisting the edge of her skirt, the motion releasing a small puff of dust. She’d shaken her hair to get the worst of it out earlier, and seemed a big resigned to dust being a part of her life. Granted when the kids had been corralled and brought in they’d left enough sand behind to classify a number of halls a desert terrain.

“Young man, I don’t think I’ve met anyone so enthusiastic to court a slander case before in my life, and I was at the rallies, against Aether, back in the day before there was an Aether out here.”

Lillie winced and the seat dug in her side for it, but only if she breathed, so she tried not to. Luckily Sakaki didn’t seem inclined to glance at her, much less blab what her last name was in front of someone who’d been, might still be, anti-Aether.

“Personal opinion bandied between two individuals, neither with political clout, fiscal resources, or influence, hardly counts as slander, madam.” Lips quirking Sakaki made another circuit, the gesture there and gone after a few steps. “But I’ll keep your views in mind and apologize to the insinuation that Kukui is associated with if the opportunity presents itself.”

Sometime half past never, so promised the boy’s tone.

“I think that’s all I’m going to get out of you, so I’ll take it…” Gathering the papers, the woman sighed

“What’s the legalese on owning ‘mon if you don’t do this… charity run?”

The woman snorted, papers smoothed and sorted. “And you’re asking me this because?”

“Because you work directly with the kakuna of this region, so says the paperwork. And there isn’t a courthouse or law firm for me to reach out to. There’s no league to contest this. So it’s either you or him.”

“Him?” The woman batted her eyes in a show of obviously affected innocence.

“Your papers aren’t as obscuring as you like, they missed a few they/thems when smoothing out the gender identifiers. Would you like me to guess his age? Because based off of the times and days of availability, my guess might be construed as accusing your pseudo-League of child exploitation.” Sakaki tapped the desk, the pages, “would you like to try me?”

Lips a thin line, face utterly still, the teacher answered his question.

“The rules are one pet per member of the household. Class one mon allowed only with staunch level restrictions that would be enforced when you took your ‘mon to any center.”

So, in short, you could have more powerful ‘mon, and more than one if you avoided the pokemon centers. Normally Lillie wouldn’t be thinking like that, but being with Sakaki made her more aware of the loopholes.

“ I’ve no plans to participate in your challenge. My Kantoian trainer’s license should, legally, allow me to gather a battle-worthy team. Once I’ve completed my business I’ve no intent to stay in your community. This city… and system… would be best served to let me do this unimpeded. Think of it as stimulating your island’s economy. If I play by your rules I’ll generate no revenue. I’ll be unable to fiscally help those around me with my business. So let’s just skip all that foolishness, and get to the point. I want carte blanche to do what I need to do, and you’re going to help me get it.”

“As an assistant-“

“To a child.”

“To the chosen one, as you so charmingly put it-“

“A child. You, an adult, are acting subordinate to a child.”

“Who has a Legend in their back pocket, a Legend that if irritated by the conduct of those on this island will inflict a series of blights that mirror the sacrilegious “biblical plagues”, Hell yes, I am.”

Lillie shivered, looking out the nearest window trying not to hear. There were birds outside, she counted those, hard.

“Deaths of all single-born children and what not? Your island is looking hale from its surge of shedninja chewing through your crops.”

“Ten years ago, when the present kahuna’s parents stepped in, offering to take the child’s place to spare him responsibilities an adult would blanch at, Tapu said it wasn’t acceptable. And as a ‘mon he didn’t use his words.”

From the corner of her eye, Lillie could see Sakaki rear back, black eyes going wide, then thinning as he thought about something.

Ignoring his shock, perhaps milking it, the teacher dug her point in.

“You seem like a smart boy Mr. Moon. You can easily imagine the bedlam that would occur if everything and anything electric ceased to function. No workarounds succeeded. We tried everything. Food expired because cooling systems failed, the only modern hospital for our islands was for all intents and purposes “closed for business” and travel technology fried. There wasn’t any way to save ourselves and no one was able to get in, for any reason, even flybys with foodstuff failed. Summer hit, a heatwave of epic proportions struck, and people cooked in their homes because the air conditioning failed. The water systems were just starting to buckle from our manual overrides and a few more days and they would have.”

Reaching up, with shaking hands, the woman fished out a pen from her breast pocket, setting it atop the papers with a firm click.

“We were regressed to the dark ages, for someone offering a reasonable solution to a very unreasonable demand. So, if you think, there is any way I am going to aid and assist you in finding a workaround, you’re sadly mistaken. Either sign, don’t, and lose access to all ‘mon facilities. If you don't paly by our rules, no matter how backwards you find them, you'll earn way to illegal trainer status one infraction at a time. If you have a problem then I invite you to appeal the kahuna and his pet Legend and try to negotiate it line by line. But Legends, and not using their words, you understand."

Silence, then a chair pushed back, and someone stood.

“My only duty in this is that once you leave I’ll note you were resistant to the idea of traditional charity activities. This will start a timer where either you can decide to toe the line or start getting those marks on your record. You have a week. So either get in contact with the kahuna and take your… amoral… bargaining up with them or defy our traditions, get caught, and get jailed. Those really are your only two choices. ”

Lillie was blinking, telling herself it was the day being too bright. Her fingers gripping the school desk’s edge were turning pale her hold was so tight.

Outside, some kid a bit older than the school kids hollered “shock”. The mouse-bunny thing on his shoulder crackled and the birds threw themselves into the sky. Static snapped along electrical wires and pole outside… and…. not all the birds got away in time.

Lillie tried not to notice all the dark dots of brown and white on the ground, and all the new empty spots on wires when the flocks resettled into place.

“If I was aware of the circumstances-”

“Your flagrant inconsideration from before is noted, Moon.” And while Lillie didn’t know what half of that meant, the tone was certainly chilly. “Either drop the papers at my office, or don’t. I’ve other children to tend to who would appreciate my efforts, so we’re done here.”

Sakaki snorted. “Noted.” She could hear him step, perhaps aside, “I won’t keep you.”

The school long used to trainers training thoughtlessly didn’t even have a light flicker despite the pole leading in had taken a full-on… "thunder something other" attack. Overload from ‘mon’s lightning was clearly diverted else where, because nothing went wrong as far as Lillie could tell. Moments after the kid and his electric thingie wandered off, a man in bright clothing popped out of a little shed Lillie’d noticed early on. He had a mop and broom slung over his back and a bag in his hand.

It took a moment, but she realized he was sweeping up the… feather piles... sweeping them into his bag.

Birds, Lillie decided, were quite overrated, she tipped her head up higher, to count clouds instead.

She heard steps again. A careful one-two tread that she should have turned towards. Someone was coming and the smart, polite, thing to do was to acknowledge their coming. Except Lillie was looking up, at clouds, and wasn’t looking down until the burning behind her eyes dulled.

No one liked an ugly face after all.

“Are you alright?”

Fine, she was fine, her throat was just too tight to say that, so she lowered her gaze, wincing from the bodies being tucked away, and turned towards Sakaki.

It was a weak nod, with a watery smile if she was being honest. Had she been… there, not here…. she’d of been told that she should use her words. Only mutes, the dumb, and ‘mon, nodded when spoken to.

A chair creaked, as Sakaki took the seat beside her, thumping into the too-small seat with a grunt.

“Did you know… any of this?”

She shook her head, a mute no. What Lillie knew, had been her plans. She was going to go back to Iki and the Professor. Her job with Sakaki was done, he didn’t like her, so why stay? She had a warm bed, safety, and two meals a day guaranteed, and that’d been enough.

Because she’d already done the brave thing, in defying her Mother, taking Nebby from people who’d hurt him, and stopped those people from doing whatever they were going to do.

Wasn’t that enough?

Now, hearing what she had, it hadn’t felt like anything close to the bare minimum.

Though her tone wavered, Lillie tried speaking, and barely recognized her own voice, as she spoke. “I didn’t know... Legends could be bad.”

Sakaki grunted. “It’s not my first experience with a “bad” Legend, it’s why I’m not Moon.” And that bit of information made a chill thread up Lillie’s spine then down again. Or perhaps it was Sakaki’s smile, all tight and bitter. “But a people being held hostage by a ‘mon they worship, that’s new. Normally they just screw a small group of people out of their lives and lively hoods, not a nation.” Sakaki scrolled his eyes over a map on the wall. Corrected himself. “Well city-state… federation? I don’t know your people’s government.”

Playing with her fingers, twining than freeing, picking at the edges, Lillie trembled. “I’m… Me and my family, we’re just... we aren’t from here. Mother… She’s from Unova, said she was. Father… he’s… not from here either. They bought a lot of land, made a business, and then made their business the only business. Mom.. Mother," Lillie corrected herself with a wince. "We aren't from here, Mom bought and runs everything and… Mom’s sick.”

Because that’s what the Professor had called her, when Lillie trembled too much, or flinched from loud voices, or told him some of the small things Mother had done. Before he’d… just stopped noticing the things that’d upset him. It felt like when Lillie had gotten this job Kukui had lost his mind, the sane part that’d made sense and cared for her instead of only caring that she tagged along with his nephew.

“Not sick, like a cough or anything, but… sick… in her head. The Professor said, that she’s sick in the head.”

Her hands were stinging, her tugs were pinching and irritating her skin, making them blush, except it was a hurt kinda thing, not blushing. Hands didn’t blush after all.

Sakaki folded his hand over hers, twining their fingers, stopping the motions Lillie couldn’t stop.

“Considering how stupid the professor is, that observation is alarming.”

Lillie huffed a laugh, except it sounded more like a muffled sob, still, it was something. “That isn’t nice.”

“Oh saints and sinner, I’m not nice.” And his tone was so dry it made Lillie want water, it was that bad. Though his smile was less edged, less terrible, which maybe made it not so bad after all? Lillie just wasn’t sure anymore. “Oh, anything but not being nice.”

Right then Lillie wasn’t sure of anything anymore, except there were giggles, she was giggling, hit by a fit of them. It was silly, and stupid and… Giovanni’s lips were twitching. Amusement crinkled his dark eyes as he loosed her hold and got to standing, was going to get towards gone.

She shocked herself by reaching for him, shocked him into lingering. He wasn’t going to stay. He was done with here, and her, and clearly meant to move on to other things.

“Maybe you need someone, to,” she used one of his words, in that pay argument, and hoped she got it right.” To um… cole-ab-er-ate with someone, who is?”

“You know someone?” He drawled. “Because if it’s the professor-“

Lillie shook her head.

Because enough wasn’t enough.

She didn’t get it all yet, and likely never would. This was way bigger than her. But she knew that her part hadn’t been enough. With such big things like bad Legends, and maybe, possibly, corporations who were trying to turn Nebby into something bad too. She’d saved Nebby, sure, but Nebby was only part of it, as was Sakaki’s “bad” Legends, and Kukui’s… forgetfulness… and Mother’s sickness in her head. IT was all small when in bits and pieces, and all horrible when looked at all at ince.

Lillie Aether didn’t have all the pieces, but she was sure he didn't either, but maybe, together they'd have enough that maybe Lillie might be able to do more.

She had to try anyway.

“And what can you offer me?”

And there was a razor to his cold tone, the one he’d directed towards a teacher who’d only wanted to help. The woman who'd just left, and decided, in the end, she hadn’t wanted to help him after all.

It took all of Lillie not to just... get up and leave. Not cringing was beyond her, same for shaking, but sometimes bravery didn't mean looking things head-on, being bold, and loud, and making eye contact weren't going to be her thing here.

But she could help, and would. Swollowing, Lillie licked her lips, deciding to start small.

“I think I know where you can get a holster, so you stop dropping Bee’ and can hold your other ‘mon.”

Would helping him make his“infractions” jump from him to her? Like a bad cold? She wasn’t even sure if he could find the Kahuna and talk a Legend around. A possibly “bad” Legend around, still she wasn't going to be doing that, just the small things leading up to it.

“Beedrill.” He corrected, dark eyes lingering on her hands.

Her hands were red and irritated, she hadn’t picked them down to bleeding or anything awful, but they looked sore. And that was fair, they were sore.

“Walk your bug?”

“He flies. And you hate him.”

Well, Lillie didn’t but… she licked her lips, deciding to go all in.

“How about I tell you everything about Aether instead?”

He started. Honest to… whatever you wanted to call on… jolted in shock. Eyes wide, jaw snapping shut because it’d hung a bit, like a magikarp before he caught himself, and he snapped it closed. Hard enough it clicked even. And those dratted giggles from before teased her throat so Lillie swallowed them down. Because, he looked so silly, and his silliness firmed her smile out of watery and into something more genuine.

“So, deal?”

Giovanni Sakaki pulled himself together, as if her offer, her "deal" helped him get back to normal, and his answering smirk wasn’t kind, wasn’t warm, still, it was something better than anger, dismissal, or indifference.

“You’re too generous.”

“We can hammer out the details over drinks, and lunch,” Lillie added because it’s something Mother added, to every deal, ever.

Lips quirking, as if he got something she didn't, Sakaki snorted. “I’ll think about it.”

Then he took her hand, proper wise, holding it tight and firm, and they shook, and it was done.
 
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chapter 5: Puzzles part one

K_S

Pokémon Trainer
When Lillie was young her mother had a thing for puzzles. Her life was run by them, she needed one, specifically, solved now.

Lillie, not so quiet, not perfectly silent yey, had asked. Why.

And mother had said that ladies who could think fast, and solve things quick, were as valuable as those who dressed nice, were pretty, and could be still.

Hoping, praying, that if she was everything she’d finally matter. Lillie went on a journey. Not a Journey, but a bit of peck and hunt through a mansion big enough you could legitimately get lost.

After searching top to bottom, Lillie found her prize. There was only one puzzle in the Aether household, after all. A well-worn box in their world of sleek steel, cardboard so worn it felt like felt, the picture on the box was nothing more than a memory, and the coloring was so distorted you couldn’t tell the picture from the back of the pieces. The colors had smeared and bled through both sides.

Still, prize in hand, Lillie opened the box and set the pieces in front of her, on a short table in the den.

She’d get this right, this one thing right, and then everything right, ever after.


XXX

The Trainer’s Top, a trainer goods shop, had seen better days. It wasn’t worn or tired, but the staff were stretched to snapping and wishing for less hostile clientele, and probably lower decimals. But for the shop itself. The linoleum floors were clean, the signs bright, and the shelves had hooks holding a mix match of clothes, hiking goods, and pokeballs, and everything seemed good enough.

Until Sakaki started poking holes in her expectations, first by pointing out that the “discount Ultraball” was just a regular pokeball that had been painted.

“It’s the speckling, someone used spray paint, and the heft.” He rolled the ball in his hands. “Too light. I wonder…” Running a nail along the seam by the center he coaxed it to open and snorted. “And also that. That’s a deal-breaker.”

“What’s so bad with… it opening?”

He flicked an eyebrow up, then explained that only pre-used pokeballs did that. Once their catch was released, they lost their latent energy, their sealant, and could pop open at the slightest poke or jostle.

“It won’t hold anything now, maybe a pet rock if you’re inclined but... this is a paperweight and a crappy one at that.”

Arceus, she got it already. She wasn’t a trainer and didn’t know what she was doing. Between his smirk and tone, Lillie was definitely not missing that she was getting patronized. She put the “ultra balls” she’d found, back on the shelf, with a little huff.

They’d started their trip quietly enough. Lillie guided Sakaki about, flipping tags over so he could see the codes and logos. The four variants were wildly different, but the tags had the same six digits in the middle, that marked the location of its manufacturing plant. He’d cottoned on to the identifying trick quick, and identified one “local homegrown competitor” as an Aether product. And Lillie had been proud, just a little a bit, happy that her teaching wasn’t horrid.

“A wild confidence appears.”

She might have smacked him with a throw pillow, looked at the price, then put it back because she didn’t want to risk “you break it you buy it” happening by accident. Because she couldn’t afford it, even if she cleaned Professor Kukui’s attic five times with pay.

“Cunning,” he flicked a few more tags, combing through the “organic” section. “It wouldn’t fly in Kanto with all their policing and transparency of information laws but Johto …”

“Well, it wasn’t my idea,” Because, with Sakaki, Lillie was learning you had to focus on certain things and ignore others. “But knowing the trick…”

“Is valuable, thank you.”

He lingered over a watch melded with a compass, and Lillie caught his eye, and shook her head. He put it down. Not questioning her, simply moving on to other odd and end goods.

He waved her over, and she came, joined him at a hat display. Popping off her sun hat and trying one he passed her. It was pale blue, with a winding green vine stitched in, cool hued flowers were ironed around the snakey line of green. She tried it this way, and that, tolerating how he tipped first the mirror so she could see better, then tipped the hat so the flowers were in the front, tilted at a roguish angle.

“It makes it look more… playful.” He suggested.

“But I can’t see!”

“Fashions a horrid master, and we must all make our sacrifices.”

Sticking her tongue at him Lillie set the hat the way she wanted, not tipped, and he huffed, knowing a refusal when he saw it. Sliding his hands into his pockets, he leaned against a nearby shelf. Dark eyes combing the room, using the mirror, her mirror, to consider the ceiling without being obvious about it. Busy, Lillie fussed with hair and hat. Mussing one had mussed the other, and it was a never-ending cycle he’d kicked up.

“Done?”

“No.” She’d need water, a comb, and luck to be done. By his smile she knew he knew, and how was one of those little mysteries that made up Giovanni Sakaki.

“Well, I need that.” He nudged at her, a mute move it. So Lillie stepped aside, while he used the mirror to take a stab at his cow lick. But revenge was hers in a way because she’d only moved a tiny bit because her closeness probably would irritate him.

It was a hope.

“So… I should warn you. I plan on getting kicked out.”

Lillie froze, hands on the brim. He reached up, setting it at an angle and she glared at him, hopped back. Because really. And that might have been growlithe eyes he tipped at her, or meant to, but considering his attitude Lillie’d call them houndoom eyes.

“Apologies, may I?”

“Do not pull my hair.”

“So the meowth kit has claws… I promise I won’t.”

So she slipped back to his side, and he slipped behind her, fussing a bit with her hair and hat, he loomed over her while he worked, humming softly. And it was nice… she’d never had girlfriends, and the stylists at Mother’s resort were... Impersonal at best, and cruel as a norm.

Then what he said registered and Lillie stiffened, making him stop his work.

“Why are you-?”

“Do I look like Steven St- No… don’t ask who Steven is,” He grumbled, sensing her confusion. “Head back.”

She obeyed the familiar order, even if all the Tv shows would say it was weird coming from a boy.

He gathered a few loose strands, twiddled a few more out, then twisted the locks into a basic braid one-handed, tossing it first one way, then the other. He twiddled with a knot at the base, something loose she could tug free with a thought. While he worked, he talked.

“The rates are outrageous, and half the merch is fake, I’ve got what I wanted by the display closest to the door, if there’s anything you want to pocket the cameras are fake.” Running her makeshift braid from left to right, tucking it behind her ear, he hummed. “Do what you want.”

He slipped back and away, brushing hard against a display of low-tech compasses, and it might have been Lillie’s imagination but she could have sworn it was full to bursting a second ago, but maybe it was her imagination and the swaying…

Maybe.

XXXX

When Lillie was a little girl, littler than she was now, she opened the no-color box and tumbled the pieces, her very first puzzle open in front of her. Among the muffled clatter of soft things that weren’t meant to be soft, there were crisp notes. Because she had tipped the box and wasn’t quite so sure on her hold, she arched what she spilled, making an off rainbow all accidental. Speckled among the brightness were black, brittle, things.

Confused, she pulled one of them out. Found them to be flaky, and a bite affirmed they tasted nasty.

It’s been the first time she’d bit into something burnt
.

XXX

Giovanni Sakaki was very fluent in swearing at the inflation, the shopkeeper’s mother and her breeding choice that produced said shopkeeper, and their incompetent corporation who had sweatshop level production values set to high-end prices. There were all the tells of a tantrum. Stomping, waving things around, waving broken pokeballs that-

“He did not break, they were already broken and if you dare call them ultra balls I will scrape back the cheap ass paint job…”

Lillie might have covered her ears for some of it.

“At Kanto I could get three middling tier belts for the price of this piece of…”

“Then by Tapu, swim back to Kanto and get out of my shop, you little-.”

Lillie pulled her hat down hard so not to hear the last bit.

Sakaki did, the leaving part, not the swimming back to Kanto. Each step was stomped, and he snarled words in his other language, waving his hands, pushing past displays, nearly knocking one over, that had the cashier scrambling to keep from toppling, on his way out.

Lillie followed him out, flushing with embarrassment, mumbling apologies, trying not to wince as the shopkeeper told her “you can do better than that” as if were Legends wisdom and she better sharpen up and take it.

There might have been a few more thumps, or him grabbing things on his way out, due to her distracting the manager, Lillie wasn’t sure.

What she was sure was she’d accidentally, honest to Legends she hadn’t meant to, left wearing the hat Sakaki had had her try on.

She caught up to him a few shops away, we’ll between two shops, and down a little clean alley. He looked up at her, as placid as ever, his “temper” spent, sitting on the brick edge of an out-of-the-way flower garden, long legs spread before him. Flitting off the boy’s knee at her approach, Beedrill swirled around its trainer, and around its neck, something glinted. A moment’s stillness showed it to be a small vial of sand, one of the things Sakaki’d softly whistled over, and considered actually buying.

Hopefully.

Maybe.

Probably not, considering he had his backpack open and was shuffling things from under his shirt to slide into some of the open spaces. She watched as he slid a few bottles in, then a magnet, compass, and something thin and pungent wrapped in papers, an odd ball with holes...

Where’d he get that lighter?

“Something the matter?”

“You’re um…” She should compliment him, friends did that, right?

But the words wouldn’t come out. Lillie’s lips pressed into a thin line, as she wrestled distaste and disbelief.

“You’re an adult, right?”

He tipped his head at her, lip quirking just so. A mute “yes?” and a “you’re funny” if she’d ever seen one.

“So if I say stealing is wrong… and you should know that because you’re older than me…”

He laughed. “We’ll shop separately then if it bothers you so much.” He zipped his bag, while Lillie tapped hers, Nebby squeaked in response. Black eyes flicked to her head, and Lillie flushed, tugging the edges of his accidental acquisition down as if that’d hide her from her guilt.

“I didn’t mean to…”

“Well don’t let me stop you from returning it then.”

Considering the words the shopkeeper was hollering, screaming really, Lillie blanched at the idea. Her mouth flooding with the taste of something bitter, something half-remembered, but the thought was there and gone in a blink, and when Sakaki swung his things over his back, Lillie tucked Nebby’s bag and followed.

XXX

When Lillie saw the trio at the bus stop, she'd initially thought they were weird-dressed people who were going to board.

They’d stopped at a crosswalk, Sakaki pressing the button then running a hand over his shirt front with a grimace, something glossy on his fingers. Ignoring his grumbling Lillie looked about, and if she got on her tiptoes she could see the bus stop across the street and up a way. There were two men walking towards the stop, two men and a girl, she corrected herself after the girl yelled at them to slow the hell down. These people had handkerchiefs, white, some patterned, some not, stretched over their faces to mask their features. While white and black were the colors of the day, they weren’t wearing a uniform. Rather they tried to adlib them out of everyday clothes.

The girl had stripes of tape in place of stripes, her shirt utterly black without it, the shorter boy's black shirt had been pink and blue by the bottom band at the waist, and the speckling spoke of a quick spray paint job and how it clung. And she could smell it, which ick. Why?

Sakaki noticed that, grimacing and sniffing.

“Is that a sewer line giving out? I do not have a team to deal with a Muk today…”

And Lillie swaying a bit on her tip toes, had to wonder. ‘I thought Ground types were string against poison…”

His raised eyebrow made her blush.

“I did pass primary.”

“And here I thought you were still in it?”

Lillie huffed, pretended that he hadn’t stolen, hadn’t driven someone near rabid to steal, and hadn’t cared one lick about the wrongness of what he did. Her game of pretend made talking to him… easier.. Because if Sakaki was a bit pretend she could pretend what she said didn’t matter too much.

Which made it easier for her to have fun.

“Bet you’re in the preschool roles, up the hill, and because you said not the principal’s going to stick you with so much detention when you get back.”

“They… I’m… I’m not that young!”

His voice crackled, and he winced while Lillie patted him on the head. She was taller than him so that was easy.

Stop.” She did and he swept a hand up to fuss with his hair, looking up at the light, that was wrong and not flicking closer to right no matter how he glared at it. “Anyways, have you met my sandshrew? He’d be dissolved before he could get a scratch off.”

And,., ew… yuck. Trainers, Lillie decided, were definitely yuck.

Up ahead the leader, the biggest, loudest boy, was going up and down the bus line, barking.

“Yo mon’ or ya life…”

After a quiet clarification of

“My mom? “

“Mon dumbass.”

Well the holdup was getting met with wry eye rolls, head shakes, and a scoffed, “sorry not a trainer.”

“Well your money, then!”

This was met with a murmur running up and down the line, then the person who spoke before sighed. “Kid I gotta bus pass, I don’t carry cash t’ work.”

Scowling the lanky boy in baggy clothes raked a glare up and down the row of adults, that if one of them say on him, would get the uniformed boy down and out. Someone in the middle of the line was patting down their pockets, coming up with something square, with a happy cry.

“Hey, I gotta candy bar.”

“Uh… conference?’ Spoke the shortest.

You all… um wait here… be paralyzed in fear or something.” The girl huffed.

“Right sweetheart.” Drawled the man in the front, “We’ll do that.”

The three curled into a huddle, above a light turned and Sakaki nudged her. Then turned to see what she was staring at, and froze.

“What in God’s name…”

“Oh them those are Team Skull.”

“Team what?”

“They take people’s pokemon and their money, but only if you make eye contact or something,” Lillie explained, with a shrug. “Sometimes they yell, but if you don’t have a ‘mon and keep your head tipped up and hum real loud, they leave you alone.”

“Mother of fu-“ He snapped a glare up at heaven, saw the light , and preceded to drag them both across the street, his hands felt like spearow claws, they were so tight and bitey.

The “conference” was getting loud, loud enough that Lille could hear a few words here and there and imagined the worst. She suspected it went something like this..

“Like… lunch was like two hours ago man, I could kick for a candy bar…”

“It ain’t from a baby?” the girl offered. “So, we’d get some creed?”

“Why do I have to put up with you freaking id- Wait, tourist at three a clock!”


The tourist part wasn’t in her head. It was shouted. Skull peoples one through three hopped and started running for them. Or rather they lunged, tripped, then got up, pants fisted in their hands when they managed to get up.

“Start doing your job and lead!” Sakaki snapped, pulling Beedrill’s pokeball from a pocket. Well maybe Beedrill, Lillie wasn’t sure. She just grabbed her hat, hugged Nebby close with her off hand, held tight, and ran as fast as she could.

XXX

They popped out of a side street, an alley between a fish shop, the pet type not the eating type, a few blocks later. Sakaki’d had the mad idea of having Beedrill whisk them up a fire escape to see if they were being followed and Lillie… Liilie’d said no, loudly, maybe to Beedrill’s face because Sakaki didn’t like it when she’d said no to him, ignored it even, so she’d yelled at them both and Sakaki waved Beedrill off to scout, whatever that meant.

“Fine, alright, don’t blow our cover for being loud.”

There wasn’t anything to hide in unless you wanted to hide in a trash can, so Lillie huffed at him and stepped out into the street proper. They were close to the dock, the waves sounded different in that district and if Lillie strained her ears she could hear it.

And right next door to the fish place was a sushi place and… A glance in the window showed it was cheap. Suspiciously so.

But she was hungry and achy, and tired.

And he owed her lunch and she owed him answers, so, why not?

“It’s free food poisoning. Food that cheap is just asking for…”

Ignoring him Lillie went ahead, it was on him if he caught up or not.

XXX

She’d apologized for yelling at Bee’ it wasn’t his fault he had stingers for arms and pinchy legs and got a little too close sometimes. She got him a little of this and that when they walked out of the restaurant, bits of flowers, weeds, things that smelled sweet and green things to fluff it out. Small snippets that no one would miss, and using a hair tie she twisted the plants into a bouquet. He didn’t have hands to take her gift but tucked the offering close between the blunt joints of his bladed limbs. He sniffed it, in a way, bending over to stuff his face into the offering, spindly attenta dipping in and out of the blooms, a few snip snips of his mandibles might have been chewing.

Maybe.

She didn’t apologize to Sakaki because he’d been mean and deserved being yelled at. He wasn’t a bug and should have known no meant no. They ate in silence, her with chopsticks, him with utensils, and then they walked out of the restaurant in silence.

He watched her less than legal gathering, as they picked a slow path to the docks, expression carefully blank, perhaps waiting for her to say sorry to him.

And while they walked, Lillie keeping her eye on Sakaki’s packs, she wondered, how much of this was “her job” and how much of it was “right”, and how far she wanted to go.

XXX

She’d finished it, using tape and patience. It’d taken days, but in the end, she’d put it together. Figuring out the frame, and then filling the center. Like was right. Proper, things that were right were “Proper” Lillie reminded herself with a nod. She patched the missing spots with tape, drawing then coloring in the empty places with whatever color seemed right. The ROY G BIV wasn’t perfect, more splotches than a coherent sequence, but everything had a space, everything was in place. The final result was rectangular, even with the weird black and gnawed bits popped back in.

Proud, she smiled, kicking her feet, setting it just right, right in front of Mother’s place at the dinner table.

Mother wasn’t coming home tonight, the housekeeper had said so, but maybe tomorrow.

And maybe, just maybe, the housekeeper was wrong, so Lillie’d wait at the dining room table anyway, just in case.


XXX

Playing pretend was hard to do when playing hurt. And her feet hurt from running, and her eyes hurt from the stinging behind them and she was so tired…

So while she rested, promising she was working on what to say, while she did that Sakaki was training Silver’s sandshrew.

Because he was not, in any way or form, owning something named Rollie.

“You didn’t name your first ‘mon… like blue or something.”

That’s almost been Nebby’s name, but he’d shrieked like a train whistle at the suggestion so Lillie’d settled on Nebby, which he’d liked, small mercies. While she talked, she unzipped Nebby’s bag, letting the puff ball float out and bop to his own thing in her lap. There were no trainers or people at this shadowed stretch of the docks, the boats were not coming back for a while, and the gloomy look warded off all but the adventurous.

Lillie hadn’t expected adventure to feel numb level exhausting, interspaced with highs and lows and running from gangsters, but here she was, with a maybe Legend in her lap.

How she was going to break that to Sakaki, who seemed to hate Legends, she didn’t know.

“The closest thing was Beedrill’s… nickname. What my mother called it.”

“And that was?”

“Unsuitable to be heard by minors.”

Lillie rested on a bench by the sea, turned away from the best spot to see distant ships skim over the waters to watch Sakaki work. Legs kicking, she watched while the young trainer had his mouse “mini storm”. A curious process, that seemed like a shivering shake but caused a low grinding sound deep within the creature. Even from this far away it made Lillie grit her teeth and she wondered how Sakaki could stand it. The last quiver expelled a pile of sand, the leavings “thwumped” onto the dock planks. Making, for the mouse, a waist-high pile that Sakaki nudge the mouse out of and poked and prodded.

“Definitely need more granite in your diet if you’re producing sand this soft… What’s Silver feeding you? I’ll have to talk to him about proper nutrition… probably for more than his ‘mon.” The trainer mused, dusting off his fingers on his pant side, thoughts a million miles away..

The mouse’s squeak in reply sounded more like a sigh than anything else, but it snapped Sakaki back to the present at least.

“He’s been feeding you, what?”

The yellow creature chittered, waving cracked claws, there was an undercurrent of hissing, as sand seeped from one wild paw wave.

“You’re not supposed to…” He drew a deep breath. Calming as he reminded himself “He’s five… he’s five and he doesn’t know that fairy stick dust is just pure sugar… he can’t know that it's pure sugar…He can’t read the nutritional facts yet…”

While Sakaki stewed over sugar Lillie might be being visited by the giggles. Except she was trying not to laugh, so hard. Twisting the edges of her new hat, because overall the “look” of Rollie’s mini storm looked unfortunately like… going.

Sakaki flicked a decidedly unamused look at her, lips pressing into a thin line. “I’m going to say what I say to every ten-year-old when this comes up. Get it out of your system now, and I won’t say anything about your ‘mon or posturing. But if you bring it up after this one grace period, if you start laughing, I won’t be responsible for what happens to ypir team on your way out of my gym.”

Which was… a threat, maybe, but it was almost funnier. Because she wasn’t a trainer, didn’t have a team, and there wasn’t a gym in any of the islands. Most people in Alola never heard of gyms, except the adults who decided to modernize things.

Who were trying to modernize things to spite their Legends.

Lillie suddenly didn’t feel like laughing anymore, she coughed, something to do with all that misplaced air in her lungs, and polished her “decorum” off to look proper. Sakaki met that sudden appearance of manners with utter suspicion.

Grunting, the trainer straightened, stretched, then crossed his arms over his chest. He flicked his dark eyes at her, then Nebby, then back to her again.

“Did you want some pointers, or are you keeping that puff as a pet?”

Lillie blinked at him, not getting, then Nebby bristled, the stars in his fluff glinting as he train whistled his irritation at the taunt.

And wasn’t taunt an attack or some sort?

Shrugging Lillie would have asked what Nebby wanted, but the fluff ball hopped off of Lillie’s lap, only to trip on an uneven plank on landing.

And Lillie was… definitely… feeling something heavy land in her stomach at the sight of Nebby sprawled before an attack could land. Still the puffball was up before Lillie could bend down to offer him a hand up. Bouncing in place, ready to try and sure he’d win at everything.

“We could try…” Lillie winced, the feeling in her gut worse and her hands sweating a bit, and got up. “How does it work?’

“Eventually.”

And wasn’t that ominous promise?

XXX

Sakaki was a nightmare, a barking, furious demon of a … a houndoom. And Lillie never, ever wanted to do training ever again.

“Never stand directly behind your 'mon, always remain a bit to the side and back, at all times.”

She’d been hit with a sand attack at that time. Tried to sputter a protest, but a snap of his fingers got Rollie to lob another bit of sand at her. It didn’t sting as much as the first one had, but she doubted that Sakaki would have approved if he noticed.

After one spectacular span of tripping on her own ‘mon, Nebby ‘d been shuffling one way, her the other, they’d plowed into each other. Or rather Lillie’d gone down flat on her face and Nebby’s been kicked in her fall, not squished, thank goodness, but kicked almost to the pier’s edge. She’d gotten up to a stream of stinging sand, because Rollie had been ordered to get her up, and wasn’t being nice about it.

“Pick one side and stick to it. You don’t want to do that again or get hit by some idiot's thunderbolt.”

And that… hadn’t made any sense… But Lillie’s scrambled up and got pelted with sand twice more while doing it.

Nebby was running over, as fast as his stub limbs could bring him and Lillie, sputtering, not able to see much around her tears, and she wanted everything and everyone making her feel bad to go away. Just go leave her alone. So she might have snapped when half crying, she called out to Nebby to-.

“Tackle!”

Finally.”

The word sounded like a sigh of relief, insane as that seemed.

XXX

So Nebby couldn’t tackle, his flop charge was something called a “splash” even though there wasn’t any water. And both of them were mildly allergic to Rollie’s sand. Nebby sneezed and Lillie cried, face burning, breathing labored, while Sakaki, spitting out words in that other language of his as he realized this wasn’t nerves, or stage fright, or regular old fashioned getting attacked by a wild animal fright, recalled Silver’s sandshrew and dug up a first aid kit.

She could hear him mixing something with his water bottle, and then he was tilting her head up. His hands were hard, hot, and she winced as he guided her.

“Eyes open.”

She quivered at his tone but managed to squint up at him as the water came down. It was snow cold and smelled chemically, but her throat eased from just breathing the fumes and her eyes stopped burning.

“No talking, two minutes.” He ordered. Then perhaps seeing her confusion, added. “It’s a water solvent powder infused with a human-friendly potion. Drink two sips, then pass it down to Nebby, he gets the rest.”

She did as ordered, and while he drank Nebby let her scoop him into her lap. Snuffling around gulps, and coming up to cough. Lillie smoothed his fluff since he didn’t have a back to pat, grimacing at the crusting of mud and grit on his fur.

She had exactly one brush, hers, so she fished it out of her backpack, and got to brushing Nebby. It passed the two minutes, and she might of stretched it to ten, while Sakaki walked about, nudging piles of sand between the slats and into the ocean with small kicks.

He cleared his throat, and Lillie looked up, holding Nebby to her, tight. And Sakaki… softened… seeing her but seeming to be looking at something else.

“If you’re going to pass as a trainer, both of you will need training. This exercise was meant to show you that… But I owe you an apology. I had assumed you would have known to say something about your allergies before we started. And I’ve fallen into the bad habit of assuming. I should have asked and I didn’t, and you suffered for it.”

Lillie nodded, not quite ready to accept, rather horrified when thinking that this was normal for kids in.. Wherever he came from, to get… sand attacked like this, to train them to dodge.

And some of that horror must have shown on her face, his lips quirked.

“The first Gym Leader a challenger takes on is supposed to send harmless attacks… Well normally harmless attacks… at a trainer to see if they’ve been taught to dodge. So many kids get into the habit of locking up in place… and wild ‘mon off the paths they aren’t above taking a few hits to shove aside a trained ‘mon to get to the juicy kid snack at the end of the line.”

And that made an awful lot of sense.

A horrid lot of sense.

“The offers open if you want to take me up on it, just… give me a few days to think of a safe training regimen, I’ve fallen into a bad string of habits it seems.”

And, normally Lillie’d say no. Insist that she really really didn’t need… couldn’t possibly need.

But her world was bigger than Aether’s palatial corporation, or even the yard at professor Kukui’s home. And what that meant was starting to sink in in bits and pieces.
 
chapter 6: FINALE: puzzles part 2, defying legends

K_S

Pokémon Trainer
The train whistle scream was a screech, Sakaki explained, rubbing an ear while Nebby bopped towards his bag, wiggled in, and zipped it up behind him despite not having… fingers… or hands. Which lead Lillie to nip her lip and ask.

“Was that a um… psychic?”

Because Nebby in a bad mood with psychic… sounded scary. Not that he was scary, it was just the idea of what could be done that made Lillie cringe.

“No.” Sakaki shook his head. “’Mon without hands are able to manipulate their latent potent energy.. or their aura the spiritualists call it… to hold and manipulate things their physic would keep them from holding. It’s the reason why a magmar or magcargo don’t set everything around it on fire every second of the day, for example, or why handless ‘mon can hold items in battle.”

“Oh.”

Lillie had no clue what either of those named mon looked like, but fire every second of the day sounded bad, real bad.

“I don’t think that… thing… has one damaging attack to its name.”

“Nii!” Nebby definitely had heard that, and by the jerk of her packs had “splashed” against the cloth walls of his case.

And by the wet sound was making a mud bath inside. Sakaki considered her and her writhing satchel with a grimace.

“Sorry?” Lillie squeaked.

Hands in his pockets Sakaki flicked an eyebrow up at her, “and you’re apologizing why?”

Lillie opened he mouth, to explain, that you always had to. Fast and quick to avoid… Lillie’s scalp tingled unpleasantly, old memories so close. She shook her head, opened her mouth to explain, you apologized to not be punished… But that old pattern, that trained pattern… did seem a bit… Honestly, it seemed odd when she considered her present circumstances. It was him and her, and she’d technically done nothing wrong, and he didn’t care about “wrong” so long as it wasn’t being done to him.

So, following that thought to it’d end Lillie froze and found herself back where she started, with Sakaki’s question rattling around in her head. Why was she apologizing?

It was a revelation of sorts, and she clicked her mouth closed and realized that this was something of a revelation… And the sensation was uncomfortably familiar. Like that sourceless shattering from before, but somehow, worse.

XXX

Her scalp burned, where her hair had been pulled.

She’d been yanked from her chair, then thrown. Staggering from sprawl, to up, through the tears, because staying down was worse than getting up. Experience had taught her that. So she’d gotten up only to be grabbed again, yanked straight and proper by her hair and arm, she whined in her throat because it hurt.

Wondering, whimpering,
why why why, and wanting nothing more than to run… but she wasn’t allowed to.

So she didn’t.

“What is this…
thing you left on my table?”

The words were spit, like curses, each dripping utter utter scorn, and Lillie wanted to cringe into herself, only the iron grip on her arm, and the hand fisted in her hair, kept her from crumpling into a curl, clapping her hands on her head, and crying denials,
she hadn’t meant to

She was so so sorry…


XXX

They managed to skip around the side of the shipyard, without running into anyone.

They joined the foot traffic of the tourist pier. Fishermen dickered with wingul feeding families over the choicer bits of sea, and most of the people were going towards the edges, away from the beach. It was an almost… embarrassed air to everyone, who was pointedly not looking back, and lingering where they were and perhaps, walking a bit further away from the shoreline.

A look towards the beach showed why.

Skull had built a barrier, a toll booth.

Except it was the pirated idea, made from the ragged remnants of an abandoned construction project. About knee-high, off-colored, sun-cracked traffic cones were the foundation, purloined from the local police site, from some long forgotten crash. The cones were stretched over the entranceway and draped over the soft plastic triangles, pinned and bound by painter’s tape, was a length of PVC pipe. The pipe, the barrier, was about wrist thick, and there were raised voices coming from one edge.

A little kid, near pre-schooler age and probably ditching was demanding his “prize”. He’d limbo’ed under their pole, and he wanted to know what he’d won.

“Nothing but a beating ya little punk! Scram!”

Closing his eyes, with a wince, because the fight was getting louder, Sakaki let in a deep breath, let it out, then through gritted teeth managed.

“Please, break all my admittedly low expectations and tell me that your.. Nebby, knows surf.”

It could have been simple, so simple. Say “surf?” in a questioning tone and he’d give up.

Or she could tell the truth.

That Nebby couldn’t even dog paddle. He’d tried once, hopping off a pile of papers to try taking a dip in one of Professor Kukui’s magikarp tanks. His fluff had sucked water down faster than a sponge, got twice as heavy, and he’d only been spared from drowning by the fish swarming under him and splashing him up in turns to keep him from suffocating.

The little Legend had had fits at too-deep water bowls after that, and Lillie couldn’t blame him, not really.

So, Nebby, surf? Not in a million years.

Despite her silence, Sakaki read something of the truth on her face. He smacked a hand over his face, positively vibrating with… some unspeakable... incomprehensible… probably violent emotion.

“Quando mettero le mani su Celebi vado a strizzargli il collo.”

Pulling a pokeball from his pocket, Sakaki stormed down the dock, face flushed, dark eyes glinting with what Lillie suspected was homicidal fury. A flick and Beedrill was drawn, the bug’s buzzing and boy’s stomping steps probably should have been a warning. But one of the Skulls had hauled the kid up, shaking and barking at the kid to make him cry, bragging about planning to toss him “overboard, like one of those H2O guys”, the other was fixing their “barricade”, and the last, their lookout, was chewing on a candy bar.

He looked short, and sort of familiar, and he was the only one who looked up, after a big bit that is.

“Muff!” A choked swallow. “Hey, boss? Boss?”

“What?! I’m busy here!” The older teen was having to holler over the kid who was screaming, and a glance back confirmed that no one was coming to help. Except Sakaki, whose motives were definitely suspect. And Lillie, who screwed up what courage she owned to keep pace…

To make sure the kid was ok, to maybe pull Sakaki off of these Skulls, she wasn’t sure why really, only positive that she needed to keep up or she’d get left behind.

“Tourists at-“

Beedrill spat something white and sticky, cutting off whatever a clock that was going to be uttered. The thump, as the Skull fell, going mad pulling at his face covering that’d been glued skin tight to his face because he couldn’t breathe, made the other two grunts look up.

The kid, bit the hand that held him, hard. He was dropped and the second he hit the ground made a break for it. The grunt who’d been tinkering with the barrier ran to his friend, the “boss” swore, and pulled a red and white ball off his belt.

“Who the hell do you think you are, messing with Skull I’m…” The boy swaggered front and center, making gestures around his eyes, neck charm swaying almost as low as the visible waistline of his underwear. Only tripping over his baggy pants saved him from getting his mouth gummed up like his underling’s. The Skull leader got up fast from that, swore, and threw two pokeballs. Lillie flinched at the tan yangoose and its wide-fanged smile, and the flying bit of fluff and fangs swirling above them.

Sakaki, looked from the gangster, to the kid’s’ mon, then back again, lips quirking in a smile more terrifying than the yangoose, despite not having fangs.

“You picked the wrong day to play hero, punk.” The leader growled, or tried, pitching his voice low, trying to add a bit of a rasp to it.

It was like watching Rollie puff up. A motion that made the mouse used to try to be threatening, but lead to the sandy thing curling up instead.

“Oh you’re mistaken, I’m not a hero.” Sakaki’s smile went wider, and the Skull kid’s yangoose winced back at the tone, even if the creature’s trainer did not. “You’re just in my way.”

XXX

He’d been bright, and sunny, topped with hair so glossy it’s shined, teeth so white they glinted, and a sporty overcoat an off-white, possibly glitter trimmed, monstrosity that flashed when he walked about.

Lille’d called him Captain Sparkles, because he was a trial captain… and she might have lost track of his name under the wash of “shiny”.

He’d smiled, and waved, posing a bit for those with camera phones before getting to the business at hand.

Chumming with the newest “trainer on the scene”.

And… Lillie felt bad because the Captain seemed nice. But seeing him next to Sakaki… it was obvious there were differences. That both males lived on different wavelengths and nothing was clicking, despite the Captain’s tries.

Dressed to the nines in matching sport ware with Aether-affiliated logos popping out in tasteful places, the hem of his shirt, the sweatband around his head, Captian Sparkles made his first mistake, attempting to initiate physical contact. It went downhill from there and only ended when Sakaki dryly pointed out that there were bound people, possible bodies, strung up and tossed over the railing.

Ignoring the furrowed brow, the quiet… “And you’re okay with this?” Sakaki withdrew his Beedrill to keep the Captain from turning his attention to his bug, countering with a wry.

“Are you okay with letting those possible bodies become those in actuality?”

And Tapu and whatever good Legends were around, grant Lillie patience. Because Sakaki’s tones were snippier than a Persian being denied a head rub. And how Lillie knew that..

-It didn’t make sense. None of this made sense.-

“Because if you aren’t I’d suggest wheeling them up before the tide comes back in. I’ll report to the police station to get what bounties you gather for stopping ne’er do wells, or whatever quaint rewards system you have set up, on my time.”

Sliding his hands into his pockets, Sakaki brushed past the Captain, and Lillie considered saying… so many things…

In the depths of her psyche, Lillie wrestled with a wash of unfamiliarity. It was almost alien, her urge to snark at the boys, the situation, or just to roll her eyes.

“ Warning, he bites”
, warred with “I’m sorry he’s always like this…” Though the last was the most familiar, the most right sounding. Despite being born of sass, and that thinking of saying those words made her stomach churn, they felt the best.

She swallowed down words and impulses and wondered, why her fingers tingled, why she remembered soft white fur and a yowl that mirrored Sakaki’s tone even if it was wordless.

Fingers twitching, trying to shake the odd feeling off, Lillie hugged Nebby’s carry box tight and trotted after the black-haired boy.

The words, the impulses reeked of… appropriated familiarity. And they weren’t familiar. Sakaki might have even hated her, certainly he scorned her and her lack of experience…

Except Sakaki didn’t, not all the time.

He’d scaled back his hostility in bits and pieces. Their interactions were becoming a dance she didn’t quite get and found disquieting as she instinctually took up her role in the motions.

“’scuse me…” She nudged past the shocked pretty boy, who had meandered to the dock’s edge, looked down, and recoiled in shock. Because there were living bodies down there, at least the thrashing gagged forms were bobbing along like the worst fishing bait ever.

The violet needles poking out of the threads showed Beedrill’d tried to keep them from being living and from the twitching, had probably failed.

Hopefully.

Behind her Captain Sparkles was on his phone, yelling for the lifeguard and paramedics…

Picking up her pace, Lillie was tempted to run. To cut Sakaki off, warn the man that Captain Sparkles was a Trial Captain, and thus the first step in getting to the Kahuna. That maybe, just maybe, if he played nice the other boy could be a handhold in dealing with whatever mad Legend was threatening the island...

But, (and this thought was as terrifying as the sass, as the impulses, and the familiarity, because it was all three, and complacent at best), Mr. Attitude Problem had struck again. So there went that opportunity skipping into the Mew blasted sunset because someone was in a mood.

Swallowing the lump in her throat, because not acting on these impulses hurt, Lillie grit her teeth around the pain. She was not that type of girl and wouldn’t be. The impulses could hang themselves, and so could the strange thoughts.

Lillie ran to keep up so she wasn’t left behind.

XXX

She wrapped some frozen peas to his knuckles, using a clean sock because she didn’t have a first aid kit and Sakaki’d been dumb and declared the injury irrelevant. Once his hand was bound Lillie set a timer, and indulged a bit of sass that wasn’t the odd implant in her head, Lillie told him not to punch things, just sit, and wait. He raised an eyebrow and might have argued, except his phone rang and his world shrunk down to the voice on the other end of the line.

A boy’s voice, impossibly young. Supposedly Sakaki’s son. It was another impossibility in and of itself just by looking at him, but not looking at the trainer made it easier to believe. It was easier to hear the adult tones, to imagine the voice properly deep, so Lillie listened while she worked and didn’t look up, not once.

Hopefully, the weight on his fingers would keep him from being too… gesture happy? Whatever the word, it wasn’t important. Only that his hand stayed still.

Because Sakaki’s hands were a mess. They were red and scraped. Treating bruises wasn’t an abnormality in the Aether household. Lillie knew about times, and to make sure the timer wasn’t too long and knew to set it two minutes too short so she would have plenty of time to get a towel warmed up and ready to swap out with the ice at just the right moment.

Lillie had a system, and Sakaki tolerated her return and the pack’s replacement with a peach, fuzzy toasty towel, without comment.

XXX

If she were brave Lillie’d of explained. It was her work, her puzzle, done so perfect, so right… for her… just for her.

But Lillie wasn’t a brave girl, but rather a quiet one, who stood back, and made sure not to be seen, or heard, that didn’t mean she didn’t listen.

Her face throbbed, a one-two beat that burned and dug in all at once. Her most obvious bruise ran from jaw to eye, darkened and swollen.

She’d been allowed no first aid and left in her room with a makeup kit and orders to make herself presentable or be punished.

Worse, more… Something that’d make her
really cry.

Lillie reached for the makeup and despite the burning pain, choked down her sniffles and got to work, masking what she could.


XXX

She eased her makeup kit on the table; the soft rattle and click made Sakaki look up from the computer. He’d been combing his hair one-handed, flicking through web pages with the other, and then, mid search just stopped. Not because of her, he’d turned to face the screen fully, and whatever was on the screen shocked him so he went still.

For one scary moment, Lillie couldn’t tell if he was breathing.

The moment came and went, breathing resumed, and the hand that had been combing reached up, twisting his long locks so black ran between his fingers. Grip firm Sakaki tugged, masking shock with pain. Shelving something unbelievably violent with a moment of self-inflicted agony.

Familiar with the trick, though Lillie usually bit a lip, or the inside of her cheek, she winced back at the show. And while it wasn’t much privacy or anything, she looked about. The people around them were busy doing their own thing, around the desk, the other tables, so no one noticed. Lillie winced in sympathy pain, even as she forced herself to stay.

He seemed… settled… after a little.

Not inclined to get up and storm off. And scary thought, scary revelation, she realized that this was probably the most honest she’d ever seen Sakaki.

And his expression of the moment was an unpleasant, unhinged, cousin to surprise.

Flipping her dinged and battered makeup box open, Lillie took the hand that wasn’t clenched in hair, the unbloodied one. She compared the hues of fingers and knuckles to the patchwork of powders inside. He was more… darker… than she was. More olive, if the chart glued to the bottom of her case meant anything. Unfamiliar with anything besides alabaster complexions, Lillie pulled out each mini shelf of colors and found better matching hues closer to the bottom.

It was the stuff she’d never used. Whenshe'd seen it before she'd tought of these colors as accents rather than real colors real people, butthen she'd met him, and he was a match for so many of them...

Sakaki pressed his lips into a thin line, then loosed his hair with a grimace. Lillie slowly contemplated hues, trying to ignore how Sakaki’s face had gone eerily blank. That moment of honesty was done, it seemed.

With shaking fingers Lillie brushed over his wrist, when he didn’t pull away or react she turned his hand over. Testing the callouses for their texture and wondering how she was going to mimic that with what colors she had.

“What are you doing?” His teeth were grit, she could hear it, but his hands were still. Lillie really focused on his hands even if they winced from her touch.

Tightening her grip, because she wasn’t done yet, Lillie whispered, “Research.”

He’d blown off her attempts to talk to him with that word, so the girl didn’t feel bad about using it against him.

A huff made her look up. Thin lips quirked, an almost smile, Sakaki closed the laptop. The image on it, a smiling, familiar face of the local Trial Captain Sparkles, told Lillie what he’d been looking up. What he’d found out.

And, while it was little wonder he was shocked, and probably mad because… well everything about today, Lillie didn’t feel bad for him.

She could have told him but hadn’t wanted to. Even thinking of clearing her throat was enough to make her eyes smart and her scalp sting…

And Lillie hadn’t dared to think about making a peep when Sakaki spoke to Silver. From the first words, to his soft tones, she knew Silver calls were sacred. Sancramount. Not to be interrupted, ever, on the threat of a hundred Beedrill stings.

And doing nothing, not sharing everything… that probably made her a bad guide since she hadn’t said a word….

But there were things more important than that. What, Lillie wasn’t sure, but she’d figure it out.

Sakaki tugged at her grip, a possible complaint that was backed with a quiet, “Done yet?”

It was enough to jar her back to reality.

With a pat Lillie let his hand go. “When your hand scabs over and isn’t so… gooey… I can make them look normal. So long as you don’t punch any more Skull Grunts over piers it should look fine. But I only have one face brush and I don’t want my face brush in your…” She left it hanging, with a grimace at the end.

He nodded, understanding. Face loosening all hallmarks of expression, smoothing eerily fast, Sakaki raised an eyebrow. She knew him well enough to know he was going to ask something. He’d started with asking Kukui with that same expression on his face, until one too many “Moon”s had made the older boy drop all placidity, and swap it out with meanness.

In that, in how he acted, Sakaki wasn’t special. He wasn’t the only adult Lillie’d avoided talking to and likely wouldn’t be the last.

“But if you want I can really make your eyes pop if you want… I’ve got all the colors to do it!”

“Ah… no.” Disgust chased curiosity away. “I’m fine.”

She hummed as she sorted. Clicking her box closed, with a tapped ra-ta-ta, because it was set, and set right. Happy she’d be able to apply what she needed in a flash, a thought popped into her head. It was the simple pleasures, and that impulse felt right, important, so Lillie’d remember it. Focus on the simple things.

Lillie’s stomach rumbled, and simple things, getting dinner, her free one from the center, she could do that. So she should do it. She was getting up to do so while beside her, still sitting, Sakaki was busy with other things.

Running a hand over his head, perhaps soothing the pain from earlier, perhaps digging his finger in too hard and making it worse, Lillie couldn’t tell what he was doing. Just that it was something. A few strokes, to smooth then guide, and he started twisting his hair into a loose braid, black eyes distant, focusing on something both riveting and invisible between the folded computer and the table top’s grain.

“You said something funny, not ha ha funny but… odd when you hung up with Silver.”

Sakaki hummed at her, making a loose knot so things would hold but without a real hair clip it made his braid sideways and frayed and he hadn’t moved a step. Lillie itched to dig out one of hers, the loose imperfection of his efforts irritated her. Flaws in looks were digging, itching, irritants, like sand on a dress, and as unsettling as an imperfect high heel you had to walk on. She’d been nice before offering him some from her pack while they rested, before the school. He’d scoffed at the floral pins and pastel hues that were the bulk of her hairpieces.

He’d called his slopshod efforts of putting himself together “cultivating a rugged look”. She’d thought it made him look like he “rolled out of bed and hadn’t bothered”. Her last offer, a teal clip, the least floral of her stash, had been met with a wry.

“Do I look like an Aqua Grunt?”

He’d been irritated when she hadn’t known about Aqua, then sighed, and gave the hair piece back to her with a wry.

“I’m going to lop it all off anyways, so why bother?”

Today clearly wasn’t “lop it all off” day. And Lilie wrinkled her nose a little at the sloppy braid, but he was done and getting up too. Tucking the computer close, intending to return it, his sneakers squeaked against linoleum floors, hers, less new and more worn, made a dull tap tap with each step.

They walked together for a little, to the front, where he’d take a left to the desk and she’d nip to the side door to the right for a bite.

“And what’d I say, Ms. Lillie, taht was so funny?”

“Fay Yee Bravuh?” Lillie mimed the sounds, imperfectly and to that Sakaki’s dark eyes flickered, as if spying something interesting that she couldn’t see. The lines of his face eased out of their usual scowl.

“That, my dear, is Italian.” He corrected her pronunciation, repeated himself so she could hear it right, and when she asked him what it meant, he smiled, teeth bared bright and wide. “Roughly translated, it means “Goodbye, and be good” all at once.” To her baffled look he chuckled. “What can I say? I’m a sucker for irony.”

It was a joke. He meant it as a joke, clear as day. But Lillie didn’t get it and was sort of happy because there was something beyond meanness in his smirk as he explained.

And not wanting to know where the meanness went, Lillie deflected, again.

“Do you know a lot of languages, Sakaki?”

“A few”

And curiosity kept her, left her waiting while he checked the technology in, then rejoined her, the two of them going towards dinner it seemed.

Italian, he had drawled at her, their plates filled with bland veggies and rice by a uniformed worker behind the counter, one packet of salt apiece, a sliver of baked fish as a side, was his mother tongue. Kantoian –what they were speaking now- was a second language learned at school because most of the people in Kanto spoke it.

“The Madam wanted me to blend in, not stick out. The “lessons” to lessen my accent were a nightmare.”

And that’d made sense, even if the fact he’d that gotten two spoons and she two forks, did not.

They settled on a small table with two chairs, near a windowless wall, swapping utensils while Sakaki swapped out expectations and was almost pleasant as he rambled on.

Unovian was his third, taken up right before college.

“My last year of high school challenge, it was the only class I didn’t sleep through.”

And the real prize, for her patience, was learning that Sakaki knew Kalosian.

“Post-school, hobby. Research, really.”

He’d deflected. Then gone so far as to deflate her hopes of learning the most romantic language ever, because he was only fluent in gutter speak. All the swears, all the slang, all the things that would drive his rival, up the wall.

He’d found the man’s perfectionist streak and scraped wrong ways as often as possible.

All for the simple, sadistic, pleasure, of making some Lion person squirm.

”My Kalosian is on par to how those Skull brats were running their mouths.” He confessed between bites. “And I’m not teaching you to talk like that.”

He ignored her protests and flattery, about how he had to be smart enough to know more, with a blantant show of overacting.

He sniffed, pretending to be insulted. Only a glint of light about his eyes and a slight scrunch, an almost laugh line, tipped his hand.

“Whatever happened to Italian being the most romantic language ever?”

“All the soaps here have Kalosian romantic leads and all the Italians are thieves.” Lillie confessed.

“Ung how insulting.”

XXX

Despite probably being the rudest person in the Alola region, Sakaki managed to get a trial scheduled for six in the morning. Which meant, since it was an hour's walk between here and there, the boy had to shuffle out of the pokecenter at five, right before sunrise.

Lillie’d planned to sleep through his departure, get up at a reasonable hour, have her breakfast for one on her terms, and put herself and her head together to tackle the thorny problem of “what’s next” because things were… well winding down. Because once Sakaki did his Trial, and maybe washed the school windows or something as “charity” Sakaki didn’t have much reason to stick around.

And Lillie’s excuse of “guide” was going to be horribly ineffective since she didn’t know any part of Alola besides here, Iki, and the Aether Corporation building.

And problems that big needed lots of sleep, a warm breakfast, and some alone time.

Suffice to say, none of that had happened.

Her first part of her plan, to sleep through Sakaki’s leaving, was undone because Beedrill was being a…

Well, Lillie couldn’t think of any words, but she heard a lot of words that she was going to look up later, once she was away from any disapproving adults of course.

The kindest way to put it, and it was stretching kindness to breaking, was that Sakaki’s starter was of a sharing mind.

It decided that if it was up, everyone lost their right to sleep in. Very much not a morning pidgy, and likely only survived to evolve to a Bee’ by sleeping in late and not getting eaten like the rest of its nest to fulfill the cliché, the bug resented getting up early. Much less this early.

And if it was a person there would have been banging pots and pans and screaming.

Not having the right limbs, or vocal cords, the bug let its resentment about its trainers' choices be known with loud buzzes.

By flitting away from the light of Sakaki’s pokeball as the black-haired trainer tried to recall his bug and missed because Beedrill was moving so fast it almost looked like there were two of him and it made aiming confusing.

At first, the Italian had been quiet, a soft word to wake the bug from its cocoon of a hammock, then the hum of the pokeball turning on. Lillie tucked her pillow over her head, groaning because Sakaki was being too loud. Granted she was closest to Bee’s hammock, but still… Scrunching her eyes tight Lillie willed Sakaki to hurry and for sleep to come back.

The thump, as Beedrill tumbled out of its nest and staggered out of range of the first recall, spitting a blob of white by the sound of it, made Lillie throw the pillow off with a moan, and glare at the Bee’ in utter irritation.

Her bunkmates, once they were up, weren’t as nice.

By dodge number five there was no stealth, and no one was asleep anymore.

Stomping, snarling words that were probably swears, Sakaki stalked after his bug. Herding to a windowless corner with his misses. This early morning scuffle was taking place in the pokecenter’s communal sleeping area, where all the local trainers on Journeys had turned in for the night. And most of them had been up too late or training, or because there was no one to remind them to go to bed at a reasonable time, suffice to say the room was not full of happy, understanding, people.

The youngest and smallest were hugging their starters, alternating between bleary, and scared. Older and braver kids hollered swears. A few aggressive trainers threw their pokeballs, rubbing sleep from their eyes, and barked attacks at their freshly woken up ‘mon.

And since this was pre-first Trial for almost everyone the attacks called were tackles.

And because Beedrill was flying, those missed.

A few short-sighted yang’ boiled around the luckless trainer closest to the bug’s perch, settling on harassing the wrong thing. With a tight flip, the bug went from flying to clinging. Its pinchy legs stuck to the roof, pitted plaster, settling upside down so it could rest its wings and watch the chaos from upside down.

And, it might have been Lillie’s imagination, but the bug’s buzzes sounded smug because from the sound of it there were people outside who were up and coming to investigate.

“I do not have time for this! Get in the damned ball, now.”

Busy with some trainer who had set their starter aside, picked up a pillow, and threw, the yellow bug did not come down. And the pillow being tossed back flashed red as it absorbed the recall light and sailed on its merry way.

Lillie, done with kindness, decided that Beedrill had decided to try “naughty” as its nature today, with a dab of “slightly stubborn” and was doing a very good job at being bad.

One blast of light that nearly caught him mid-pivot, and seeing his capture imminent if he hung around the bug let go. Dropping down, right on top of the yangoose be-deviled trainer. The screams of “getitoffgetitoff!” were impressive and met with adult voices hollering at them to “hold on”.

Time was running out.

Seeing their prey in easy grasp, the long-bodied Yangoose pack -

( Or was it Yangeese, since there was more than one? Lillie wasn’t sure.)

-reared up and pounced as a single-minded entity. Near smothering the wailing boy in a rush of tackles.

Beedrill hopped off its suddenly unsteady perch and killed its flight to dodge another red flash of light. Blinking the starlets back, because Lillie’d gotten the pokeball’s recall light in her eyes, the girl blinked back tears and whined in her throat.

Because despite only being light that had hurt.

Something was making the bed indent, close enough that Lillie could feel it. The thrum of wings kicking up told her who it was, even if her eyes weren’t quite up to the task of working just yet.

So Lillie might have responded to the thing on her bed by picking up a pillow and thwacking it. The buzz directed at her was insulted, pitched like a wordless complaint. She smacked again, harder, and her third got stuck on something with a weird “shink” sound. She tugged, the bug tugged back, and something was ripping, but Lille couldn’t see around the stars bursting in her vision.

Then, there was another flash of red, and the pressure pulling back was gone.

Lillie flopped on her back, against the mattress, with an “ohmph”.

It was snowing feathers, was Lillie’s first thought. Blinking back tears, Lillie could sorta see better now, and those were definitely feathers, fur, and fluff, swirling all around.

And that’s when the center’s staff, a Joy, and two guards, tumbled in. Their guard growlithe was puffed and spitting embers, making some of the fluff catch. Pretending to be ignorant of the fire in the making, Nurse Joy set her hands on her hips, and in a no-nonsense tone barked. “What in Legend’s Name is going in here?”

Half the room pointed to Sakaki, saying he did it, tattletale tone in full attendance. Those not pointing were busy. Either crying into their starter’s fur and feathers, or trying to calm their barking yang’s, or pull their ‘mon off the wailing kid who was still getting knocked around.

Gritting his teeth, pocketing his Beedrill’s pokeball, Sakaki opened his mouth meaning to say something. Some excuse, some lie, to deflect. A glare about and he closed his mouth, slumped in obvious defeat. Digging out a wallet he’d probably pocketed from a Skull grunt, he glanced at the Nurse, with a wince.

“How much in damages do I owe you?”

Five minutes later and Sakaki was kicked out, Lillie with him, and he was very late going to his trial because when he tried to slink off Lillie had stuck with him. Loudly pointing out that he owed her, a room if nothing else, and she’d inspired guilt in the man. Because Sakaki checked them both into a nice hotel, not the hostel she’d expected, and left her a generous amount of stolen cash to buy breakfast with before leaving to deal with Captian Sparkles.

XXX

He came back, bleary-eyed, reeking of disturbed earth, and scraping off sand out of his hair. Beedrill, he’d told her, was grounded. He’d used Rollie for the trail, and if he saw another saint’s damned Skull grunt he was going to crack their skulls open...

Lillie left him to it. Content he was present and could stay with their things, Lillie took the shower she’d wanted to take since Beedrill’s little rampage. She might have used up most of the hot water, but her hair was a fluff speckled, poison gummed, and web-streaked mess. She slipped out quite a bit later, her hair bundled in a twisted towel, clothes damp and clingy, to find him napping on a bed. Rollie at his feet, the ‘mon was sprawled staryu position, blue eyes scrunched shut, little tail thumping slow and soft.

And shedding sand in his sleep, one of Sakaki’s feet was working on getting buried and there was a hissing stream sliding off the sheets, making a little pile on the floor.

Lillie could have woke Sakaki up, demanded answers, perhaps a real apology, but after a moment she decided “not now” would work for now. She flopped on the other bed, and closed her eyes, meaning only to rest them for a moment.

Noon room service woke them both up a few hours later.

XXX

There was a puzzle on a side shelf by the checkout counter. While Sakaki argued and negotiated their stay for the next two days, Lillie pulled the box down.

It was tidier than the one back home, the box showed a sea scene, and popping it open found the images stamped on the pieces matched the cover.

It was a wonder, and made her skin creep, all at once. For her, puzzles were a thing. But she was going to do this one, and by the sounds of Sakaki’s negotiations, she probably had two days to do it.

Which seemed fair enough.

XXX

She dumped the pieces out on a nightstand table. Not happy to work in a corner, she shoved the table around for a little. Leaving it attendant alarm clock on the floor.

After a bit of back and forth, and some grunting, because moving it back and forth was hard, Lillie settled on a spot right before the room’s biggest window. Busy beating his shoes, which were weeping sand, outside of said window, Sakaki didn’t notice Lillie’s work. Not until he came in and had to walk about it.

He spared her, and the newly located table, a little glare, but said nothing. Slipping around Lillie’s work to take his shower without a word.

So Lillie worked, uninterrupted, picking out the corner pieces with a little digging. She set them up in their right spots. Trains of “probably right” pieces were added in bits and bobs, making uneven lines stretching towards each corner but not quite touching.

“I’m going to the school to see if that fraud Kukui is around, were you coming with?”

“I could just call him.” Lillie offered, not looking up from one stubborn piece that fit nowhere. She set it aside, deciding to make that the start of the “I don’t know pile” and dug out another, which quickly joined the “I don’t know” section.

Well, at least the first piece wasn’t lonely.

“No.” The man grit out the next, as if gratitude was alien, and considering Sakaki, maybe it was. “Thank you. Regardless of whether or not he’s there, I need to talk to the principal to hammer out the… terms of my labor.”

So Captian Sparkles had said no, Lillie wondered why but didn’t bother to ask. She’d ask after dinner, she decided, if Sakaki was in a civil mood.

Until then, Lillie had things to do, things to think about. Going out and about seemed like an awful idea, because ether would be things outside that’d crowd out her thinking that she needed to do inside. Professor Kukui had called her an “incurable homebody”, but really, Lillie just wanted stillness and sameness, just for a little so she could remember what stability felt like.

“Are you coming?”

Lillie shook her head. And to that Sakaki shifted from one foot to the other, dark eyes flicked to her, then about, then back.

“Are you alright to be alone?”

And wasn’t that a funny thing for him to ask her? She smiled, because despite being probably an adult, he was silly at times, over the silliest of things.

“Being alone isn’t… It’s not new.” She explained, gently, matching his sudden softness with her own.

“That’s not what I asked.”

Their eyes locked and Lillie dropped the stare off first, rummaging another piece out she tried it aimlessly and of course, it didn’t fit. She tried anyway, the futile fitting was better than looking up.

“I’m going to stay in today. Catch up on my sleep, think.”

He left without a word minutes later, taking both of his ‘mon with him. Once he was gone Lillie, slumped into her chair, staring at the incomplete puzzle with eyes that burned. Hanging over that span between crying and screaming, and not too sure why she was there to begin with.

All she knew was that her head hurt, and there were urges, screaming at her that she “had” to go. Sakaki couldn’t be alone. But she hadn’t followed them, and not following the impulses hurt.

She smiled around the pain, because for the first time, in her whole life, she’d done what she wanted to.

A meep from her travel bag got Lillie up to pull it open.

Nebby, the stinker, having slept through everything, tumbled out with a happy yawn. Seeing her sitting, he bopped into her lap with a squeaky trill.

Alright, maybe this was the second time in her life, Lillie conceded, petting the starry fluff on Nebby’s head. Maybe, just maybe, she could fit in a few more things she wanted to do, just because, while she figured out what the right thing to do was.

It was a hope anyway.

XXX

They broke bread over the puzzle. It was almost done, with a few pieces baring some new nips courtesy of Nebby “helping”.

It made a weird place mat but was big enough to work for both of them. But then the nightstand was small, the take-out containers small, and all that smallness fit together nicely.

And per their agreement, she told him things, and he told her things, because Lillie had “upgraded their contract”, and sprung it on him when he shambled in from the “mankey breeding pen” of a school.

“They don’t even know how to hold, to throw…” Sweet rice with fried vegetables was their dinner course. A bland miso soup stood between them, to be poured into a cup and eaten when they felt like it. Overall everything tasted much better than the center’s food, though the off-white chunks in their soup made Lillie a little leery of taking more than one bite for the sake of manners.

Sakaki, initially, had refused the supplied chopsticks. She’d offered to show him how to hold them right and he went along with it. A trade for a trade, eating lessons for tales about the school. He’d managed to get one dumpling to the sauce container, before dropping said dumpling fell in. He’d gone back to using a fork to save the drowning bite out and tossed the sticks into the nearby trash bin.

“I had them all out in the front yard practicing their tosses. One of them had a Meowth, the poor thing was bloated, fur as soft as sin, but the flesh underneath it was clammy and slick. I’ve never seen a normal type look like that before unless it was dying of poisoning, but the cat was as spry as any I’ve trained.”

“You have cats?” contested with “How many have you trained?”

Lillie decided on the more informative, “Meowths are dark types here, not normal”, and ha, take that impulses.

She smirked more at the headache than at Moon’s stupefied shock, because not-normal-meowths was clearly not a thing from wherever he was from.

Kanto, Lillie told that bit of fuzzy thinking in the back of her head, Sakaki was from Kanto, and he wasn’t Moon.

And every time this happened, Lillie was more sure that Sakaki was right, about bad Legends, and her headache might of peaked at that thought. She winced, unable to help herself, because ouch.

“You alright?”

“Just telling the thing in my head you aren’t Moon again, it’s being a jerk about it.”

Because part of this new bargain, was honesty, and Lillie had almost lost him when she confessed to the voices and impulses. Until she’d told him how they were trying to lock her into thinking he was Moon, lock her into being “just a guide”, even though she knew he wasn’t and she certainly wasn’t going to be. The fact that the impulses hadn’t started until she’d started to believe in him had certainly piqued his interest.

As well as her idle thought of “if it/they/the Legend was doing this to her, a nobody, what was it doing to everyone else?”

His counter confession, of him being here, not home with his son, was due to the act of an evil Legend had almost been a deal-breaker for Lillie. After all, Legends were supposed to be good… but the teacher’s story had damaged her supposition that Legends must be good, and both settled for tamer confessions and truths after that opening exchange.

“Mother gained Aether from father about twelve years ago… We started as a science company, but became an everything company under her. There was an accident… Father became sick right before I was born and Mother started changing things after. At least that’s what everyone said. And… she got sick in a different way… It was like she had impulses but they weren’t simple things, like names and places. But bad things, bad thoughts, and she did more and more bad things… Until… well I rescued Nebby from her.”

Sakaki finished his bite, then broke a bite into pieces, passing it down on a napkin to Nebby who took the snack with a happy chirp and head butt to the man’s fingers.

A man who looked nothing like… who looked right about her age.. Lillie looked away, chased a bit of food about on her plate, until that thought went away.

Because she knew, believed him, and thinking of him as a “boy”, or even “a little older than her” was a bit creepy.

And not her thought, so she wouldn’t allow it.

Clearing his throat, Sakaki spoke, telling more of his day, affecting a curious lightness in his tone, that Lilly realized, was him attempting to mimic a woman’s voice.

“The Principal, Ms. Fiana,” Sakaki poured some soup in his cup, the water in it long gone, he’d repurposed it into a small bowl, “said, and I quote: “You are the most articulate juvenile offender to be I’ve ever met. And that “your rampant Social Darwinism doesn’t help anyone in the long run, young man.” And in closing, that my political beliefs “are the backbone too many totalitarian states to state”.” Teeth bared in a false smile Sakaki stirred his soup, “Considering the sheer amount of effort she put into those insults, the alliteration alone, I think she likes me.”

Lillie snickered, despite herself.

“Really?”

It might have been a goad, to get him to try mimicking the voices again because he was so bad. Seeing the ploy he snorted. “Nice try, and I’ll only say “yes”, and change the topic..”

He’d done this before, and daring, because he’d likely pick something irrelevant and Lillie just wasn’t in the mood for irrelevant, she asked. “Is.. Is Silver here, on a different island?”

“If he were, do you anything would stop me in getting the money to pay whatever transport system you people have here to get to him?”

Point, Lillie finished her water and screwing her courage set up her soup.

As she stirred, she spoke.

“So, where is he?”

“Have you heard of a place called Hoenn?”

Lillie shook her head and finished her meal without interrupting him. Listening to tales of a place, that any internet search would show, didn’t exist. On whim, settling in for the night on her bed, Lillie pulled out her phone and ran a search on Kanto. Because, why not? Like Hoenn, Kanto was a Never-Never Land all its own. But flicking her phone scanner over Rollie had shown him to be a “Kantoian Sandshrew”, which was a contradiction all its own.

“It’s nearing Ten, technology off.”

And really, he sounded like a parent or something, or how Lillie imagined one who might care would. She did turn her phone off if only so he wouldn’t grumble at her. In the dark, where he wasn’t quite so clear, he seemed taller, his adultness seemed more right, if you weren’t able to see his details all illusions of childhood bled away.

And really, it was just another illusion in a life full of them.

The contradictions in her life were both unsettling and familiar. The impulses in her head, the sickness in her mother, the blindness in the Professor and teachers, rattled around in her head. Pieces of a puzzle she could feel, not see, and someone’d swiped the picture that helped you put everything together.

Sakaki wandered about, turning off the lights as he went. Before turning in he summoned Rollie and ordered the ‘mon to stand guard by the door. The mouse was to bay if anyone came up, and break everything and anything if anyone came in and they didn’t wake up, starting with the window.

And even though it wasn’t cold tonight, Lillie drew her blankets tight. She fell asleep too warm and to starlight-stained shadows courtesy of Nebby snuggling her back almost as hard as she was holding onto him.

XXX

She woke before him, dressed in her cleanest clothes, and used the last of his guilt money to buy them breakfast. Pastries that ran the gauntlet of sweet, too sweet, and death by sugar, and food bought, she brought them up herself, to avoid Rollie baying at some hapless help.

She’d gotten her sweets with a side of milk, and filled her cup to a good dunking height. She was on her second donut before Sakaki’s eyes cracked open, and he greeted the morning with a grumble of irritation and rolled over, reaching for a pillow to better blot out the world.

Picking something vaguely fruit-filled, Lillie split it in half and set the haves on a napkin, letting the ‘mon enjoy a treat. She gave Rollie extra room because of his claws, and Nebby a good morning pat because of his fluff, and left them to breakfast.

“That better be some sort of organic, vitamin-enhanced, kibble I hear them eating.”

“Apple fritter.”

He snarled at her, and if she were older Lillie was sure it’d of been a swear word instead of wordless exhalation of utter irritation.

“You can have the shower first.” Lillie offered, trying to sweeten his demeanor by being nice.

And maybe eat a third donut without the worry she’d get scolded.

He was suspicious if that long look as he slipped into the bathroom meant anything. But he took her up on her offer, and Lillie ate her last sweet in peace and quiet and tucked her glass on the pickup tray before he got out. She slipped in to clean up for the day once he was back and came out to Sakaki eating the plainest donut in the package, Nebby at his knees, churring up at him.

“Learn to tackle and I’ll think about it. Now, off.”

Nebby hopped off, and bopped to her bed. When Lillie sat to join him, intent on combing her hair, the little fluff ‘mon hopped onto her shoulder, insistent on “helping”.

Rolling his eyes, Sakaki flipped through the newspaper in front of him, with a grimace.

He had skipped the milk and was sipping a cup of coffee. How he’d gotten that, and the paper, Lillie didn’t know. Really, she didn’t care, except that the smell was nasty.

Nasty enough that Lillie got up and worked a window open.

Sakaki topped off his cup, and warned her once he was done to “order something with some nutritional value besides maxing out the sugar allotment per day.”

“Donuts are food.”

“I’m not going to repeat myself…” Sakaki set his glass aside with a firm tap. “If you’re done hanging out the window like a Vermillion wh- lady of dubious repute, we need to talk.”

“About?”

“What’s next?”

Which was Lillie had been thinking about, all night, and the day before, and the day before that

Perhaps she’d started when she snapped up Nebby. Though saving the puffball had been more instinctual, a burning need to make Nebby’s pain stop. To make others stop hurting him. But whether she realized it or not, she’d definitely made some decisions when she’d grabbed him and ran. She’d run to the only authority she knew besides her Mother. Her elementary plan of hiding, being safe, had been dashed. Because safe wasn’t a thing, not even with the Professor because she found Kukui’s eyes so horridly blank that first day. And the man’s supposed wisdom coming and going like tides to some unseen moon whose effect she couldn’t begin to grasp, let alone chart.

Then there was Moon himself, who wasn’t, and Legends who were supposed to be great, but couldn’t even scrape up to good on any sane scale.

And at first glance, Sakaki’s request was easy, so easy.

Do the trails, learn of the Legends, do the Kahuna battles and… just do all the expected things because every tale ended in “they lived happily ever after” and why shouldn’t hers be any different?

Except… that was dangerous. That was an impulse, and Lillie grimaced at the headache that that revelation brought into being.

So, if easy was out… then what?

“I suggest we get supplies, money, resources, research the trials, see what’s expected… I’ve got to finish up my obligation to the school but after-”

After, as if “after” wouldn’t trigger a dominoes of events that would railroad him into the next trial, what need or crisis would drive them to the next island, the next town, the next Captain? Maybe it was paranoia, but after seemed dangerous.

So Lillie fought against rearing, and fear, and shook her head.

“We need to stop the bad legends from being bad, help the good legends be good.”

“And to do that we need…”

“To not do what they want us to do. Yes, you have to do the school, but right away, right now?”

“There’s not a lot of time.” He warned tone distracted, expression curiously flat. His brows furrowed, as if he was grabbing for something just out of reach and not quite irritated that he couldn’t touch it. Then he winced in pain, some realization met, and a headache was his reward. “Son of a mother fucking houndoom…”

Lillie winced in sympathetic pain, because how could she not?

“You too?”

“Me too.” Was the grim agreement, “fuck, I’m going to the police station and shakedown what passes as enforcement for a paycheck for rounding up those brats. Ask about Skull. That’ll put me on the opposite side of the school and avoid any… accidental academics. You…”

She’d looked up things, about work that didn’t need parental approval, and she’d made her own plans, thank you.

“There’s work for temporary guides at the beach, when the tourists come in after noon, if you’ll write me a referral I can work there for the afternoon. And, if I hear anything, about Skull or other places like Hoenn, I’ll let you know, it might be important, and at least if we both get a little money we won’t have to work tomorrow too, maybe we can do something important tomorrow...”

It was a hope. The hope that these actions must be a deviant, because there was pain for both of them in making these plans. Headaches for one and all.

Which meant someone’s plans were coming undone, hopefully, someone evil, like an evil Legend.

Black eyes flicked over her, scrolling up and down, as if weighing her every inch, then lips twisting into a bitter smile, he nodded.

“I think I’ve some pens and paper, I’ll get you your reference going so you can head out. Keep your phone on you and charged just in case, and I’ve Moon’s phone if you need me and if I don’t hear from you by three...”

“The job ends at four.”

“Four fifteen…”

The surly correction took so much bite out of threat, enough so Lillie cracked a small smile.

“I’ll be fine. Can’t do anything dangerous today if we’re going to save the world tomorrow, after all.”

And hoo boy did that summon pain, a near migraine. Still, Lillie smiled through the throbbing agony, a bit smug that she’d show them. Heck, she had, by calling them out and how they answered…

Sakaki barked out a hard laugh, around his own agony. “We are not- I am not anything like a hero but screw it, and them, you’ve got a plan I can get behind… Once I find the damned Tylenol.” And he was digging through his packs, and though it hurt to see, move, Lillie staggered back to their cups and filled them from the tap.

“To toppling Legends.” He croaked, tossing back his pill and drink with a wince. “And making delays. May all their plans burn and them with it.”

Not knowing the right words, the real words, the things you were supposed to say at toasts, Lillie took the pills he offered her. Drink in hand, she sipped enough to take the pills and waited for the pain to dim so she could get on with her day.

To defying Legends.

It wasn’t something she could say out loud, not yet, but she thought it, and to that rebellious thought she smiled, bright and wide.
 
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