B1 — 20. Finding A Path

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PoV

1:  Rhea (Our MC!)

Pokemon Map: 

I loosely follow this map as a visual guide; the creator made it in paint?!?!  It’s insane!  Some errors here and there, but I follow its design for the most part.  Areas can be further apart, some cities are in the wrong places or not listed, and the regions aren’t nearly so close.  The best map I’ve found, though!

Recap:  

Rhea and the gang made it to Viridian City, Amira giving them a bit of history on her home city and the work her grandfather had done to the place metropolis.

Making it to the gates, they checked in and had their first battles!  Nova swept the first two under the rug, but the second gave her some … mud troubles (Nova, Nova, Nova … we gotta do something about you and mud).  Finally, the last opponent nearly took our attention-hungry Eevee out with a swift Fake Out setting the pace of the fight!

However, a swift evolution into Glaceon solved that problem, and she easily stole back the victory!  Yay!  Giovanni left to handle his business, and Rhea went outside to wait for Lyra and Silver, Amira’s parents.

She got lost in thought about Unova’s Champion battles with Iris and Hilbert before finding out about Skull invading the city.  They went to Amira’s house where they had some dinner and got ready for bed, Rhea talking with her family; her mom told her to stay with Lyra for the time being.

Now, we wake up!  It’s a new day!

I’d like to thank my patrons for continuing to support me:

Anthony Hess, Jymbo, Edward Ravenbear, Jonathan Howard, Paper Crane, Mike Bartter, and my other Patrons!


Rhea released a low moan, stretching out underneath her covers.  A soft yawn followed before she slowly rose from the extra cushioning Lyra had dug out of storage.

She looked around the dark room; movement in the hallway had woken her up.  A small glow underneath the doorway from the stairway light and brightening sky allowed just enough illumination to make out the figures around her.

Mya had been awake through the night, keeping up with her nighttime watch routine she’d worked out with Nova, but judging by the clock above her head on Amira’s bedside table, she’d slept in later than she expected; of course, she had gone to bed near midnight after the movie.

Her Mawile gave her a smile and wave as Rhea squinted to pierce the darkness, and she returned the internal greeting; as normal, Mya was awake during the night to watch for threats.  Nova was still fast asleep in her pokéball, but given another hour or two and she’d be up.

Amira was surprisingly still in bed, breathing softly at the edge of her mattress with the blankets pulled over her shoulders; Amber was resting near her feet, curled into a ball.

Gables and Mallory were just as restless as Rhea had come to expect, sprawled out across their blankets.  One of Lyra’s largest shirts, which had probably belonged to Silver at some point, was pulled up to the purple-haired girl’s stomach and her PJ legs were up to her knees.  The shiny frog was draped across her side.

Stretching out a bit more, Rhea heard a few cracks, and she folded back the blankets to get up, pointing to the door for Mya to follow.  A small smile lifted her lips while glancing back to see Amira groan a little while adjusting her position; she’d probably be waking up soon.

It was currently 8:07 A.M., but Amira’s blinds were more or less blankets draped across the windows, blocking out any hope for sunlight to make it through.  

Snatching her phone, Rhea carefully opened the door a crack and silently slid out of the room.  There was the soft clatter of opening cupboards and moving pots downstairs.

Ducking into the hallway bathroom real fast with Mya happily following alone, Rhea washed her face and brushed her teeth with the supplies she’d left there the night before.

Feeling a little more refreshed, she went to the stairs after a quick check of her face and bound hair.

Lyra gave her a bright smile as she entered the kitchen; the woman still had her PJs and slippers on, but her brown hair was shaken out, falling below her shoulder-blades.  “Morning!”  She chimed, pointing at the pan and cooking supplies.  “Just getting everything going.  Hehe, the others still sleeping?”

Rhea nodded, settling down at the island bar; Mya climbed up on the nearby stool, her second mouth falling back like hair.  “Yeah, I’m a little surprised Amira isn’t up yet; we did go to bed kind of late, though.  She’s usually up around 5:30.”

“Oh?”  Lyra mused, cutting up vegetables, beating eggs, and getting things ready for what seemed breakfast tacos.  “Amira usually gets up around 8:30 on Saturdays.  I tell her skipping out on sleep throughout the week and trying to make it up on weekends isn’t good for her skin, but what can you do?”  She chuckled.  “She’s always been pretty independent.”

“Huh…”  Rhea rested her elbows on the counter, steepling her fingers together to cradle under her chin, and the conversation she had with her grandfather popped into her mind while watching Lyra’s massive 5”4 Azumarill make her way through the kitchen, busy straightening up the living room of the blankets and items that were left from the previous night.  “Umm, Lyra…”

“Mh-hmm?”  The wfoman turned her happy brown eyes to her, knife pausing over the half sliced vegetables on the cutting board.

“Umm … I was talking to my grandpa about how people can get stronger yesterday, and … how hard is it in your experience?”

Lyra returned to her task, smile softening a bit while turning reminiscent.  “Hmm … that’s a toughy, dear.  Everyone’s different.  Although, I am one of those special few that came from a pretty generic background that made it to Champion-tier.”

She paused for a moment, continuing to prepare their meal.  “Hmm … is there a particular answer you’re looking for, or a reason for the question?  I might be able to narrow it down if I know a bit more about why you’re asking.”

Rhea released a low sigh.  “Well … honestly, I guess it’s kind of for two reasons.  I have these friends that I met back in Pallet … you know how I’ve never left the forest village I grew up in, right?  I think you know about that.”

“Mhm,” Lyra responded, moving on to sautéing some of the items.

“I thought so … umm,” Rhea swallowed a little, feeling a bit embarrassed about how few friends she had, “so, I have these new friends, and they’re kind of … I feel bad saying it, but in the weaker area of Trainers with their fortitudes.”

Lyra took a moment to scoop up the tops of the vegetables she wasn’t going to use and handed them to Mya to snack on to her delight.  “It’s not something to be ashamed of; everyone has different talents, but hard work can fix most problems.”

Rhea unfolded her fingers, scratching her left temple.  “That’s just it.  The media always harps on how privileged Trainers are with strong parents … it’s kind of accepted that if your parents aren’t that strong, then you probably won’t be.  I just …  don’t want my friends to be so discouraged … maybe I’m just reading too much into how they first reacted to me, though…”

A light chuckle shook Lyra’s thin frame as she turned to give her a smile.  “That’s nice of you, thinking about your friends.  Let me guess, they said something about you being related to Masters or something since you had two Pokémon?”

Rhea nodded with a frown.  “They thought I’d think they were weak, weird, and wouldn’t want to hang around them … I mean, I understand why they’d feel like I’d be that way, and … I’d be embarrassed, throwing up and being sick…”

A reluctant smile lifted her lips.  “Uh … actually, I was kind of frustrated and mad at myself when Amira and Lori were having no problems walking for so long while I was getting tired … you know, after my fortitudes were drained after my Starter match.  Maybe that’s all just kind of getting to me, too.”

Lyra gave a short hum at her response.  “I get that … well, Kris would more; she was always pushing to keep up with Ethan.  We live in a harsh world, for sure, and society’s always hit and miss.  Hmm, it’s a bit complicated all ‘round, though.  People will look for any reason to blame others for their own actions, but usually, everyone has some level of dirt on their hands.  The only thing you can control is yourself, though, so that’s the best place to start … we’re not perfect,” she whispered.

“No,” her cheer returned, “but it’s sweet you want to see your friends do better.  However, that’s entirely up to them.  Is it easy to get stronger?  Absolutely not,” she giggled, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.  It’s because it’s difficult that there’s so much focus on those that make it.”

Rhea’s brow furrowed.  “I get that, but … how did you do it?  I want to get stronger, too … I’ve been feeling like I’m not giving enough … I want to do better for my Pokémon.”

Mya gave her a concerned frown, telling her that they were doing good; they hadn’t lost once, but Rhea knew the world was far more complicated than her inexperienced Pokémon understood and knew they needed to get a lot stronger to reach the types of strength her Pokémon wished to achieve.

Lyra’s smile increased a little as she added the eggs to cook with the vegetables.  “Okay, but I don’t know how much help my advice will be,” she giggled.  “I never really thought about any of that when I was on my journey … no, I had a lot of other things on my mind,” she mused.

“In fact, me getting stronger was just a natural part of what I wanted to do, and so it just kind of came naturally.  I was around a good group that pushed me in different ways.  Silver was … always so stubborn and shy,” she mumbled, shaking her head.  “Ethan was the exact opposite!  Well … I mean, in some ways, Ethan was even more shy than Silver, but that’s beside the point, hehe.

“No, Kris and Ethan ping-pong off each other well.  He’s always building her up, and she keeps him in line.  Silver would always disappear to do his Rocket stuff, which got all of us in trouble,” she snickered, “with the law and his dad.  Life was really different back then … a lot less connected with technology and government restrictions.”

She continued to cook the eggs as Rhea listened, trying to find a solution to the feelings in her heart.

“I had a goal, and being strong was required for me to achieve it … that’s it.  My Pokémon were really supportive, and we had a lot of fun.  It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but the bad times are what make the good so … well, good,” she chuckled.

“So, in short, encourage your friends, and figure out what you want to do.  Is there someone you want to beat?”

Rhea slowly shook her head, resting her chin on the back of her fingers again as Lyra began putting the food inside the tortillas before moving on to fill up glasses of iapapa and mago berry juice.  “No … maybe that’s the problem.  Mya and Nova want to get strong, and I want to help them, but … do I really want to get strong?”

The question confused Mya as she accepted the glass from Lyra.

“You never wanted to be Champion, right?”  Rhea asked, hearing Amira’s door open upstairs; she was moving to the bathroom with Mallory trudging along after her by the sounds of their mumbling voices.

Lyra shook her head.  “Oh, no, no, not me,” Lyra giggled.  “Ethan’s goal was always to be the strongest, which is how Red and he got into that huge rivalry.  Kris wanted to keep up with Ethan to stay with him, and me … I was just along for the funsies at that point,” she muttered, reflecting on her past while finishing up the final preparations.

“Silver and I never wanted to have the Champion gig, and well, to be fair, neither did Kris or Ethan.  Lance sure had his hands busy with so many Champion runaways!  Hehe, aww, I feel kind of bad for the guy, but he finally got Chase to fill the spot … even if he’s not quite as strong as Lance … our poor region,” she sighed.

Rhea accepted the plate but waited for her teammates to come down to dig in.  Instead, she focused on what she felt was an essential discussion in her life and was a little surprised it was with someone outside her family, but at the same time, she thought it couldn’t come from someone within her network.  “I never really had much of a direction in my life … I always just kind of did what was expected of me … well, I did have a rebellious phase where I tried to run away once.”

Lyra giggled.  “We’ve all been there, dear.”

“I don’t know,” Rhea mused with a doubtful smile, “Amira seems like she’s got everything planned out.”

“Mmh … there’s some truth in that,” Lyra mumbled, leaning back against the counter to look up at the ceiling.  “Although … it’s more like everyone had such hard expectations for her that she had to come up with them to just feel like she had some control … and the pressure wasn’t from within the family.”

Lyra’s happy features fell a little at the conversation’s direction.  “Amira has her own goals.  If you’re having trouble with yours, then maybe you should sit down with your Pokémon and talk it over with them.  What is it you really want to do after your Bronze-tier journey?”

It sounded like the two girls would be coming down soon, so Rhea moved to dismiss the conversation.  “Thanks, Lyra … I’ll think about it and have a chat with them.”

The brown-haired woman gave her an apologetic smile.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”

Rhea shook her head.  “No, just talking helped me.”

So … just encourage Sam and the gang … well, it’ll be good to let them know they can reach as high as they want to push, but how do I bring that up?  No, worry about that when it’s the right time … do I really want to get strong?  I want to help Mya and Nova, but unless I can put my heart in it, too, then … will it really be that productive?

Her focus fell to her glass, brooding on the topic as her two teammates came in.

Lori took the seat next to Mya as Gables hopped off to explore the house more.  Amber moved to an angle where she could see Lyra and them as Amira sat next to Rhea.

The purple-haired girl’s eyes sparkled, accepting the utensils Lyra passed out.  “Thanks for breakfast!”

“Mmh, Mom,” Amira’s full lips became a line while glancing back at the front room, “is Dad working today?”

Lyra’s bright countenance was back in place within moments.  “Yup, it seems like Grandma’s covering some of Grandpa’s meetings, which means your dad has to fill in for your grandma’s work.”

Amira scratched her scalp with an annoyed expression.  “So … he’s still dealing with the Skull stuff?”

“Nope!”  Her mother went to the sink to wash her hands.  “From what I know, the Plasma protesters have all left the city to continue their efforts at the League ceremony.  Skull is flooding the streets, but all they’re really doing is hanging out and battling in the stadiums … I heard a ton have tried challenging your grandfather’s Gym,” she giggled.

Lori hummed, finishing one of the two tacos on her plate while messing with her holographic phone.  The string of data she was cycling through was like an intricate spiderweb to Rhea.

Once swallowing, Mallory pointed down at the text.  “Yeah … looks like your grandpa let it leak on the Dark Web that they were moving Zinzolin.  Well, at least I expect he did if it got out,” she added with a laugh.  “I can’t see the information being leaked if he didn’t want it to.”

“Hmm … so, what’s that mean for Grandpa; where is he?”  Amira pushed, clearly concerned about the man.

Lyra’s head tilted to the side with a thoughtful expression.  “Where is your grandpa?  I couldn’t say.  I’m not involved in all that stuff.  Nope!  I get to sit home and spoil you girls all by myself, hehe!”

The woman immediately rolled into her plans, her voice practically bubbling with excitement.  “We can all get ready; oh, by the way, our water heater wasn’t designed for four women, so if you enjoy hot water, you better go first!”

“Me!”  Lori piped up with a forced smile before frowning at a text that popped up on her device.

“Good, and then we can head into town to get you three some new traveling clothes; your grandpa insisted!”  She added upon seeing Amira’s frown.  “You know he wants to show off the new design machine the company’s recently finished.”

“Mmh … fine,” Amira mumbled.  “There’s nothing wrong with my dress, though.”

“I know; you’re so cute!”  Lyra squealed.  “You want to stop off at your old work, too, right, dear?”

Amira nodded, settling in to start eating.  “That will be nice.”

Mallory cleared her throat, drawing everyone’s attention.  “Hey, umm … so, my sister’s plans fell through because of all the Skull stuff, and she’s pretty upset.  Can her team join us?”

Lyra’s lips pressed to the side with a low hum.  “I’m not against it … but we kind of don’t have room in my little five-seater.  Unless…”  Her brown eyes moved to her daughter.

Amira finished her bite before releasing a reluctant sigh.  “I … I guess it’s fine…”

“Hmm?”  Lori asked, glancing between them; Rhea was still mostly reoccupied with her internal debate about her future.

“Oh, well,” Lyra folded her arms with a toothy smile, “we could just use one of the Rocket limos Giovanni keeps on standby.  Amira gets embarrassed by them.”

“Uh, well, why wouldn’t I?”  Amira huffed, cheeks darkening a little.  “They draw too much attention … and everyone thinks it’s Grandpa.”  Her scowl intensified.  “Every time you go into a place, they’re asking if he’s going to join.”

“True,” Lyra chuckled, “but I think it’s the only option we have unless we use public transportation.”

“… Yeah, we can go with the limo,” Amira mumbled, returning to her food.

Rhea set down her glass; she’d been absently sipping at it since the start of the conversation.  “Lyra…”

“Mhm?”

Everyone gave her their attention, including Mya, that had been focusing on her the entire time.

“I think I want to be a Trainer.”

Amira and Lori’s eyebrows rose as they looked at each other.

“Okay?”  Amira mumbled.

Lyra clapped her hands excitedly, though, drawing their eyes.  “That’s wonderful, Rhea!”

“I mean … I don’t know what kind of Trainer I want to be … but until I figure that out, I need to get stronger, which means I need to push myself harder.”

Mallory smiled.  “Yeah, sounds good!  What do ya got in mind?”

“For now … I need to practice having my two Pokémon out,” Rhea said, looking upstairs.  “I’m feeling basically 100%, but I know we still need to be careful for several weeks.”

Nova just woke up and asked if it was okay if she came out.  Rhea let her know it should be fine to be out whenever she wanted from now on, and the excited Eevee swiftly exited her ball with a cheer.

Lyra’s left hand rose to her chin.  “Hmm … you know, I might have an idea, but I’ll need to think about it a bit more.”

Amira seemed somewhat reluctant about her mother’s declaration, but things quickly moved beyond the point of questioning her mother.  Lyra moved to the fridge and drank some kind of morning protein drink before heading upstairs with Lori to get ready since they were finished with their meal.

Rhea silently ate with Amira, both checking their phones.  The Rocket girl seemed to be focused on the News while Rhea went through the daily PikaBook posts, adding comments and chuckling at Jason’s posts.

Apparently, he’d been the only one to fail the Kaz Gym’s Bronze Challenge because the Riolu he went up against landed an insane High Jump Kick he wasn’t expecting.

He’d even posted a frame-skip clip of it with some fun captions where Sunny, his Scorbunny, was caught off-guard; the end showed both Scorbunny and him lying side by side, knocked out together with the Riolu cheering in victory.  They were taking it in good fun, but he’d lost 750 Credits on the challenge, which was a blow.

The message under the post read:  There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent!

Words of encouragement and jokes were listed after by friends and family, so Rhea offered her own.

Great shots!  They really caught your good side.  Next time, let’s see the opposite angle!

Len’s comment made her giggle.

I guess you could say that kick had you flyin’ at half-speed, my man!  All good.  Gonna be a star, man.  Life’s like a blur when you’re working this hard to get what you deserve!

She smiled while reading down the comments to her post last night.

10:11 P.M. Rhea: Just movie night with the girls and Amira’s mom!  She’s super nice, and Silver’s been running back and forth bringing us snacks.  Oh, we’re about to watch The Boy Who Saw Black!  I’m pretty sure a Gothitelle is in this one.

10:33 P.M. Dad:  Oh, I heard that’s a pretty spooky one!  You always like the horrors, though.  Tell me how it is!  Maybe I’ll get your mother to watch it with me, hehe, she always tries to scare me during them.  Haha!

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10:36 P.M. Great Grandma Carolina: (✪‿✪)ノ Ello, our little Swablu!  Oh, (*/ω\*) *hides face* I no like scary shows!  Glad you get some fun time with Lyra.  I’ve heard good things about the girl! <3 I love hearts!  TY @Katelin

10:37 P.M. Grandpa Drake:  Swwabbbluuu!  I want to watch shows with you.  D=  Your grams never liked the whole movie scene.

10:37 P.M. Grandma Glacia:  That’s not true.  I do enjoy watching The Frozen Princess.

10:38 P.M. Katelin:  Nice, Rhea!  Oh, The Frozen Princess!  A classic for sure!

10:39 P.M. Great Grandma Carolina:  Why haven’t I seen it?  ヽ(°〇°)ノ

10:40 P.M. Grandma Glacia: Oh, that won’t do, Carol.  I’ll send you a digital copy.

10:40 P.M. Great Grandma Carolina:  ( : ౦ ‸ ౦ : ) Umm … I don’t know how to do that RotumTube stuff.  I’ll have Cindy show me how when she stops by next … I don’t like asking the younger scientists in the center.  All this new technology stuff is so tricky… and they change by the year.

10:41 P.M. Mom:  Don’t worry about it, Grandma, it can be challenging.

10:42 P.M. Great Grandma Carolina:  (×﹏×) I feel like you’re making fun of me, Chrisi … I’m old … when did I get so old?

10:40 P.M. Grandma Glacia:  We all have our time.

10:41 P.M. Grandpa Drake:  Not a chance!  I ain’t takin’ a back seat!  I’m passin’ anybody who thinks they can race!  Life’s a fight, and I’ve won every battle!  Muahaha!

10:42 P.M. Grandma Glacia:  (ノ・_-)☆ Which is why I married you, but I’ll knock you out tomorrow night.

10:44 P.M. Grandpa Drake: Cold-blooded!  It’s a bet, woman!

10:44 P.M. Great Grandma Carolina:  Oh, you two make me feel even older … (;;;*_*) give it another twenty years.  Rhea, keep sending me pictures.  I so enjoy seeing more of your smiling young face!

10:46 P.M. Len:  Yeah, let’s go, Drake; I know the drill!  I ain’t the first, with the curse, with the thirst, that I wanna be better, not worse, man, it hurts!  Yeah, Rhea, and we be the rookies of the year, we keep it 100!  No budgin’, not runnin’ from nothin’, na, we ain’t bluffin’!

10:47 P.M. Grandpa Drake:  Haha!  That’s the energy, mi boy!  I’ve seen a few of your posts with Jason; keep on the grind!

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10:47 P.M. Jason:  We on it!  One step back, two forward!

10:47 P.M. Katelin:  Bro!  Ya never gonna catch up to me at that pace!  At least four steps forward!  ;P  Yeah, tell me how it is, Rhea >.> maybe I’ll get your brother to watch it with me so I can pretend to be scared.  Hehe.

Rhea was a little surprised at how little Katelin’s comment annoyed her; in fact, she felt a bit amused at the idea.  She’d pretended to be frightened by Franky when she was little to get attention, and now that she had Pokémon of her own, she realized her dad must have easily realized her schemes but never turned her away or made her feel bad.  Every moment she’d fake cry to get in his arms, he’d offer her nothing but tender loving care.

Suddenly feeling her chest burn, she scrolled down the multitude of responses that went up and down in topics before posting at the end.

8:48 A.M. Rhea:  Thanks, Dad.

She knew he’d be confused about the response but just giggled at the thought while turning off her messages.

The rest of the morning preparation went by quickly, and sure enough, the warm water swiftly ran out once Rhea got in, but it was manageable.  Amira seemed to prefer a cold shower.

Getting dressed and ready in their everyday Training attire, Lyra seemed to have already arranged for the limo to pick them up because it was waiting outside by 9:21 A.M.

The ride back into Viridian was unsurprisingly swift since the limo could bypass the checkpoints by simply using Rocket’s private underground road.  They met up with Casey, Inoa, and Ellie at a colossal 90-story building that acted as a somewhat middle of the road hotel.

Upon seeing their ride, the Galaran and Alolan girls were wide-eyed, but Casey simply hopped in as if it were the most natural thing since her mother was quite the star and traveled in the vehicles regularly.

The bluish-silver haired girl gave them a toothy grin while scooting further in to allow her teammates to join.  “Yo, Sis, what’s up?  Nice ride, and thanks for picking us up, Ms. Rocket.”

“Lyra’s fine,” she replied with a light giggle.  “We’re planning on getting custom dresses designed for your journey.  Sound like a plan?”

“Score!”  Casey cheered.  “Yeah, we’re game.  Right, girls?”

Ellie brushed her black bangs to the side, glancing down at her gym shorts and a sports workout shirt representing her grandfather’s Gym.  “Eh … my usual get-up tends ta revolve around this.  Aye, but a dress ain’t bad.”

Iona gave Lyra a pleasant smile, adjusting her exotic-styled shirt with flowers and palm trees.  “Alola.  I’m fine with whatever you have planned.”

Rhea found their unique accents interesting and cute.

Lyra pressed a button and told the driver to continue to their destination when everyone got settled in.  “If you don’t want one, that’s fine, but you can design them however you like.”  She gave them a wink.  “Giovanni wanted to see how you’d use it.”

“Oh?”  Casey’s smile grew.  “I like a mystery!  What’s planned after a bit of shopping?”

Rhea scooted over a bit as Amira spoke up; the red-haired girl was leaning against the right side of the vehicle, arms folded while absently glaring at the crowds of Skull members skulking the streets in packs up to ten.  They didn’t seem to be getting into much trouble from what Rhea had casually glanced through on the Viridian News networks, but that could change in an instant.

“We’re going to stop by a pokéball cover shop and then grab out Protect TM.  My mom has the plans after that.”

“Cool,” Casey said, turning her attention to Lori with a loud sigh as her fingers slid through her thick hair.  “Yo, Sis…”

Mallory did a quick stretch, her chest pressing against her dress front as she released a short yawn.  “… Skull?”  She asked, flicking away the tiny bit of liquid that gathered in the corner of her eyes.

“Skull!”  Casey complained.  “We had the whole thing planned out, but they stole the whole spotlight.  It’s not even worth doing now…”

Rhea was a little curious about what the girls had planned together, but it seemed she’d be stuck in the dark for a bit longer with Lori’s reply.

“Yeah, but we can still have fun with it tomorrow.  We’re planning to stay at least one more day.”

Casey’s lips bunched to the side.  “True … yeah, okay!  Hehe, we’ll get to have some fun yet!”

Lyra seemed amused by the exchange, listening to each of their short conversations that went back and forth.  Iona and Ellie seemed as confused about the plan as Rhea and Amira were.

When they arrived at the clothing design location, it was not what Rhea expected.  The limo dropped them off at the front of a skyscraper shaped into a double hemihelix-shape.  Once inside, they were guided to the 24th floor, where a man was waiting in an office that looked like it was meant to see medical patients.

A somewhat eccentric man with gray, purple, and red highlighted hair groomed into an extravagant manner explained to them the machine they were about to enter.

Rhea’s eyes wandered, studying the odd dress designs displayed and broken down into their separate pieces on the digital screens lining the hallways.  “Our machine at Designer-X2P uses exclusively customized Rocket software to measure every inch of your body to the micrometer to provide the best outfit to suit your unique body shape before randomly generating a style by the options you’ve selected.

“The weaving device will then print the outfit in real-time with the desired material and quality the person wishes to use.”

“Wow,” Iona’s smile brightened.  “So, you can custom create Pokémon clothes with this, too?”

“Indeed!”  The man chimed with pride.  “It can even calculate growth if given the proper information.”

Lyra was first into the waiting room, turning to address them.  “You don’t have to worry about cost; Giovanni only wanted to know what you thought of them once you try them on, and we’ll be doing new swimwear and outfits.  You can go with shorts, shirts, dresses, or anything of the type!  Oh, and just like Amira’s,” she pointed, making Amira hesitantly peel back the top of her triple-tier dress, “it can be made to come apart to make it a shirt or dress.”

“Cool,” Casey mumbled, examining Amira’s outfit with an impressed grin.  “I can’t wait to try out this thing!”

Inoa released a forced chuckle before leaning closer to Lyra to whisper.  “Umm … it’s making a model of our bodies, right … will it be used for anything … else?”

“Oh, goodness, no!”  Lyra laughed.  “Every person’s data is confidential, and nothing will be used for any other purposes … maybe that’ll happen at some point when it hits the mass market,” she mumbled, “but at this stage, your data will be deleted once finished.  Ah, and we’ll be using the Trainer-quality material for durability and long-term use,” she added.

After Casey, Rhea went second, which required her to go into a sealed-off room with a circular device like the scanning devices at the city gates, strip down, and allow the object to circle her while performing stretches.  It was more than a little embarrassing and awkward, but she was alone during the process.  Still, the fact she knew it was creating a digital avatar for her that would take into account her skin pigment, hair, and even her eye color to develop the outfit while measuring every fold and crease on her body made her self-conscious.

In the end, she ended up going with something a bit similar to Amira since she really liked the customizable shirt to skirt feature, but the cuts were more vertical in design to add a bit of flair and lemony shaded to go with her hair.  The added lace detail to the top section of the bust was impressive, folding around into a sleeveless style that allowed her the option of an overcoat if needed.

The machine even created the second layer, yellow and coral bandeau top, tie-side bottoms, and legging/stockings that could be converted in a few ways.  It was interesting to see how much could be customized, and Ellie managed to get her grandfather’s Gym symbol printed across the back with his colors.

It truly was a unique experience to work with the man as he helped them change tiny parts of the outfit; the model really was life-like, but thankfully, it had a default swimsuit for modesty.

Once finished, it would fit like a glove, and had sections inside that could be adjusted to a degree in case of weight loss or gain.  Considering the starting price was 10,000 Credits, Rhea hoped it would last a long time; Trainers needed quality goods since they had to travel.

Once finished, they each chose a color scheme and style they enjoyed; Amira didn’t change up much of hers.  Rhea had never worn a bikini with such excellent support for her bust, and the texture was smooth as silk; if anything, that was the most significant takeaway and compliment given.

They asked a somewhat annoyed looking Amira to give their thanks to her grandfather on their way out and went to the store she used to work at.

Rhea was a little surprised by how small the place was, renting the most modest-sized store she’d seen in the city thus far, and it was in the far back-right of a shopping complex that would be out of the way from most traffic.

She eyed the strange attachments that could be added to a pokéball using a unique device the store owners had patented.  It didn’t seem to help, which made sense since most Trainers used the standard pokéball types to show-off their level of bond with their Pokémon.  Certain brands of balls like Premier Balls were used for added effects, but all these attachments did was change the outward aesthetic of the device.

This was the first time she’d seen items to add custom effects other than the expensive Premier Ball, and the addition could prove popular for Contests, but currently, they didn’t seem to have much publicity.  She saw a sign over one of the more expensive areas that called them Seals.

The comments she’d received over the last bit did make her think, though; many people liked her Master Ball look, which was much more straightforward than the extravagant additions and paint that could be used to enhance or augment the appearance of your Pokémon’s home.  Pokéballs were cherished treasures that linked you to your Pokémon, and most Trainers were very particular about that.

Rhea guessed fear was partially the reason why people shied away from the elderly couple’s shop; what if their device damaged their pokéball?  The bond remained the same, even if going to a new device, but just transferring pokéballs was a hassle and uncomfortable for the Pokémon and Trainer; it was a bit distressing to be separated after sharing such a personal bond.

While browsing the shop, Lyra scooted closer to engage in a short conversation; her daughter seemed to be really close with the couple, seeing how they were doing and how many people came in within the few days she hadn’t been around.

“Hmm … you might want to get one yourself.  Master Balls are extremely rare and fairly unknown to the general public, but it will get you into some awkward conversations with Gym Masters or if you meet any along the road.”

Rhea hadn’t even thought about the idea.  “You’re right … umm, but what should I make them look like?”

Lyra gave her a cute smile, pointing at one of the more simple designs; Nova and Mya followed her direction with wide eyes, and Rhea felt their excitement grow.  “This is like a gift for your Pokémon!  You’re letting them decorate their home.  You should let them choose, but if you want my opinion, wouldn’t a black and white theme suit your two adorable girls?  Oh, and maybe a pink indicator that shows their eyes?”

 Well, what do you two think?

Rhea asked, walking over to the shelf with her two Pokémon.  Nova’s tail was wagging rapidly upon scanning the optional colors; the level of shininess, reflection, and hues was surprisingly vast.

In the end, they both chose to be matching with a black outer shell, white trim, and pink inner core with the indicator.  The layer was so thin that it wouldn’t even change the size, but it would add a tiny bit of weight to them.  It cost 250 Credits for each, which was actually pretty expensive; Lyra had a point, though, and it would change the conversation from Masters worrying about her to how her pokéballs matched her Pokémon.

Plus, Mya and Nova were thrilled to spend a bit of the money they’d earned, which was how Rhea saw it; they were a partnership.  That left them with 11,067 Credits.  They had been keeping pretty positive over the last few days, but that was a big expense, and matches where people bet 500 Credits were few at their tier.  Most bet 25 to 125; Trainers and Pokémon had to eat, too.

Mya soon went to bed, returning to her newly themed pokéball to rest up for the night as they left the shop.  It was nice seeing Amira in a brighter mood, but the rapping Skull members walking down the hall soured her mood a bit; they didn’t appear to be doing anything wrong, but it was what their presence represented.

A TM store was eleven floors up, so they continued up the nearest lift; as they entered the store, Lyra got a phone call.  Lips falling a bit, she took out her old flip-phone and waved them off.  “You girls go ahead.  I need to take this.”

They entered the store with Casey, Lori, and Ellie, having a serious discussion about what might be the best TM to get after Protect.  Inoa and Amira seemed more interested in Lyra’s deepening frown as the Former Champion waited outside the store.

Many people had waved at them throughout the day; it was only natural when people saw the bubbly bastion of energy that was Lyra, but her darkening expression stopped a few from approaching.

Rhea couldn’t hear what she was saying because of the noise the small crowds generated around her, but Nova could, and from what Rhea could tell from their bond, her little Eevee was confused and a bit worried at the news as she moved to talk to Amber, Gables, and Casey’s group’s Pokémon.

The Fennekin, Eevee, Froakie, Ellie’s Charmander, Inoa’s Cyndaquil, and Casey’s Mudkip all had brooding or confused expressions while discussing it.

Knowing they’d probably hear of the bad news when Lyra was finished, Rhea made her way to the front, where they apparently kept their League subsidized Protects for 500 credits.  The other three girls were busy going over the insanely pricy TMs; Rhea grimaced, mind reminding her why her brother was usually pressed on credits when he could make thousands in a single battle.

She focused on a section that showed Grass on it; there were only papers, showing which TMs they had in stock since everything was kept under lock and key in the back with hired protection since theft wasn’t such a difficult thing for many Pokémon.

Solar Beam … only 250,000 credits … on 30% off because of overstocking.  Yeah, some of these things are just out of our price range.  Thunder Punch … 200,000 credits.  I’m glad Mom bred the basic Fang-series into Mya; that’s so much money, but they are costly and challenging to create … which makes their supply hard to come by … single-use, too.

Knowing they might have to leave soon, depending on what changes came from Lyra’s call, Rhea picked out two Protect TMs; there were only 18 left in stock within this store.

The clerk took her 1,000 credits and went back to grab the items.  Rhea frowned upon receiving the crystal-like disks that could fit in the palm of her hand; she could buy a protective Everstone-lined box to keep them safe for an extra 250 credits, but that wasn’t necessary since she’d be using them right away.

Taking the user pamphlet off the counter’s side, she noticed more than a few others reading the quick guide.  Skimming the contents, it basically just said to have your Pokémon take the TM and accept the energy it contains; they will need to practice with the Move to get it down, but your Pokémon should understand with that simple of an instruction.

Most of the pamphlet was warnings about one time use, among other things, like not testing it out in the shop and only using it in safe locations.

Handing the two TMs to Nova and Mya, she watched as the disks released a faint glow, absorbing into her Pokémon.  She felt a bit of a small shock pass through her connection, but it wasn’t painful; Rhea could sense her Pokémon had increased their energy usage, which was something she hadn’t considered before.

Yes, a Pokémon was more versatile with multiple Moves, but that also caused stress on the Pokémon itself, which meant it lowered their potential offensive energy output in a minor way.  Rhea suspected she only felt it because of the Master Ball’s link and with how dependent her Pokémon were on her at this stage because they had multiple Abilities and a wide range of Moves.

“Hm…”

How do you two feel?  Rhea asked through their shared link, brow furrowing upon their responses.

They seemed a tad conflicted after sensing her reaction to the addition.

Well, Protect is something that we’ll use often.  It should allow you to run right at the opponent, Mya, and block a Move to keep attacking.  It could also keep you from getting dirty.

Rhea giggled at the joke, but Nova seemed to seriously consider the option.

Oh, c’mon!  Nova.  Rhea chuckled while ruffling her head as she squealed with delight.  We gotta get dirty sometimes in battles.  You might even look cuter if you get a bit of mud on you!  It’s all about how you play it.

Nova’s eyes grew as if she just said something divine, but Rhea’s attention was drawn to Lyra as she entered the store.

“… Hey girls, uh, hehe, mind snatching your Protect and following me back to the limo; something’s come up.”

Amira was the first to question her mother, but Lyra simply hurried them back to the vehicle.  Once inside and the door shut, she said, “Rhea, I’m afraid your mother was just on the phone … sadly, she won’t be able to meet up with us, and neither will your father.”

“Why?”  Rhea asked, feeling somewhat disappointed while pulling out her phone.  Sure enough, an apology from her parents soon followed, but no details were given.

Scratching the back of her head with a sigh, Lyra glanced out of the window.  “Do you know who Lusamine is?  Well … she’s just woken up, which could mean a lot of terrible things, or it could mean something wonderful … a family returning to normal, but in short, your parents would feel safer if I got you away from the city.”

“Is it really that bad?”  Casey asked.

Ellie hummed with a thoughtful expression.  “I don’t know much about the whole Ultra War scrap the regions were in … Galar was dealin’ with its own things, but uh … I heard that Lusamine lady was wrapped up in some shady business.”

Rhea knew the story changed on the Master you asked, but it wasn’t all that important at the moment.  “Umm … I’ve got friends that are on their way here … should I warn them?”

“What about the city?”  Amira asked, arms tightening against her stomach as her feet pulled together.

“Sweetie,” Lyra chuckled, reaching over to take her daughter’s knotted hands.  “There are a lot of Grandmasters, Champions, and the like gathered in Viridian right now.  Other … issues might be in play that your grandfather discovered.  There’s just a lot of unknowns taking place right now; I sure all of your family members would be happy to distance yourself for a bit.  At least until we have a better grasp on what’s happening.”

Lyra turned to Rhea with a small smile.  “Actually, this is perfect.  Call your friends and let them know that Viridian is in a bit of a hot spot right now, and ask if they want to be a part of a little training trip I thought up?”

“Training trip?”  They all asked, glancing at one another.

The Former Champion’s smile returned.  “Rhea said she wanted to get stronger, and each of you needs a decent second Pokémon.  So … why don’t I grab some of the extra Great Balls I have lying around the home, and I take you to a … well, a difficult place for you girls to handle, but it will be so worth it!”

Seeing their reluctant looks, she quickly added, “Oh, but of course, Unova’s Former Champion, Hilbert, and I will be looking out for you … let’s say, two girl teams?  Your friends are girls, right, Rhea?”

“… Yeah, but … they…”

Lyra swiftly nodded, pigtails bobbing at her shoulders.  “Mhm, mhm!  Only if they want to join!  We’ll be going on the far northwestern side of the Mt. Silver sierra, to the left edge of Viridian Forest, where there are currently nests of various Pokémon from different regions that have gathered.”

Her excitement began to increase with her explanation.  “I found it recently while off exploring; it’s roughly … oh, mid-Bronze to low-Silver, but the Pokémon are pretty phenomenal!  What do you say?”  She asked, but Rhea felt like it was more of a formality.

Casey was quick to answer, though.  “Aww, this is Mukin’ awesome!  Yo, Lori, this’ll be lit; what do ya think, you and me?”

“Sisters at it?”  Mallory chuckled.  “Yeah, it’ll be fun.”

Rhea steeled her nerves.  She wouldn’t catch a Pokémon since her mother had everything planned, but she could help one of her friends.  “Umm, if we’re going to do teams, then … can I be with one of my friends?  Well, if they join.”

Nova was practically bubbling with excitement, chirping with the other Pokémon that seemed to look at her as some kind of powerhouse; Rhea suspected she was bragging about her transformation ability.  She just hoped they could get Protect down on this trip, and she started texting her friends before Lyra answered.

“Oh, of course!”

“Umm, Mom … I suppose I could help out the other one,” Amira mumbled.  “I think they could use the help.”

Iona lifted her hand a little with a sheepish smile.  “Umm, since there’d be one odd-girl out, why don’t Ellie and I take the extra.”

“Aye, that’ll be good,” Ellie grinned.  “I helped mah da with the gals and lads that be lookin’ fer help.  It’ll be good ta see where I be lackin’!”

Da … as, in dad?  I don’t understand half of what she says sometimes.

“Thanks,” Rhea gave the girls a relieved smile.  “Their Pokémon are brave.  They just need a little bit of support.”

“Say no more!”  Ellie waved her hand before lifting her fist.  “I got yer friend’s back!”

Rhea returned the fist-bump, but a new worry started to float inside her chest … Intimidate.  That concern increased when Lyra informed them that it would be an overnight event.

Well … this will be interesting.


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Title: World of Expertsd | Tags: Cultivation, Second Chance
Synopsis: The online game <> entered the whole world. It's a game about territorial construction and war to reconstruct alternate history. Although it's virtual, it'll change the world. Shi Hao, an ordinary freshman, decided to bravely enter <> in order to gain the approval of his beloved goddess's elder brother. He, however, accidentally got a super skill at the beginning because of a strange game-helmet.

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