1: Rhea (Our nervous golden girl!)
2: Amira (Our drained but victorious redhead!)
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!
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Nick Riemersma, Amdo, Terra Medlock, Devin Palermo, Novaxxan, Paul Vieth, Ivabigun, Caspian, Lexi, Alleyte, Jacob, Raisgollous, and my other Patrons!
1:37 p.m. August 15th, Saturday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event). Day 67.
Events: Rhea won her Silver-tier Encrusted Badge after a tough battle! Now, our girls are on their way to getting their four Encrusted Badges for the League. Onward! Our girl started her journey on the 9th of June, and the end of registration for the Winter Indigo Cup is December 5th (111 days away).
Rhea wore a smile as her teammates split ways, watching Lori go off to her battle as Amira went to check on her adorably love-struck fox. It was cute to see Gables and Amber getting closer together as a couple; apparently, it was a human-taught trait that was introduced into the wild.
For the most part, Pokemon tended to be fairly open with relationships, but by introducing spiritual bonding with teammates into the equation, things could go a lot deeper. It made Rhea think back to her first experiences with dating and hanging out with a boy other than Jason in Cerulean.
Closing her eyes, Rhea leaned against the wall, soaking in the chatter of the room. People were more focused on their own match than talking to an overhyped pseudo-celebrity like her.
She still felt guilty for not even so much as sending a text after embarrassing herself that night of partying. Every time she went to write one, she deleted it; text would be a terrible way to explain herself anyway, but so was ghosting him since then. Rhea wanted to scream, and the little terror on her head wasn’t making it any easier.
Trying to shove it out of her thoughts, she turned her attention back to the discussions the other girls were having around the locker room. Everyone was stressed after seeing how brutal Janine was this week. At least it kept her isolated and alone to think.
Still, she had a natural Repel named Lulu, now bobbing up and down on her head, chirping with Nova about how she had the high ground, or something like that. Her sweet Eevee had come out to help handle the hyperactive puff cloud after her teleport shenanigans. For some reason, Lulu was being such a stinker right now, literally bouncing off the walls.
Zyra’s been such a bad influence on her, Rhea sighed, causing her three Pokemon to giggle as Lulu pulled her braid up and began whipping it around like a lasso to catch Nova. She’s got too much energy! More than usual.
“Nee! Nee! Nee-nee?”
Reaching up to pull the squishy Legendary off her perch, Rhea held Lulu up to study the galaxy cloud with a critical eye; her reddish hue was stronger than normal, and a short Aura check confirmed the girl was burning up with energy.
“So that’s it…”
The Cosmog giggled and tried to tickle her with the end of her braid.
Chuckling at her childish antics, Rhea set her to the side and pulled up Nova’s Poke Ball. Her bunny offered to swap places with Nova. Legendary Pokémon seemed to take much longer to mature than your average Pokémon.
“Auntie Alice wants to play. Don’t bother people. Okay?”
“Nee? Nee-nee! Ne-neee.”
Lulu fake settled down, putting on a halo with her innocent smile, telling her she would be good. Alice hopped out, scooped up the squealing Cosmog, and took off to play in the less crowded showering area. Lulu held up her little puff hands from within the Lopunny’s ears, cheering for her to go faster.
Fixing her hair, Rhea closed her eyes again to lean against the wall, trying to ease out the stress eating her up inside.
Eye peeking open, she glanced down at Nova, who was sitting in front of her Poke Ball, looking up at her with worry.
I’m doing my best to keep calm. Ugh. After Amira, I’m pretty sure Janine is going to punish us… hard.
Rhea groaned, vision going black again as Nova hopped up to press her paws against her thigh, Mya spiritually reflecting the Eevee’s concern.
No, I know that’s not what you mean… My whole life, I’ve been afraid of what might happen to my mom. Growing up, my dad was always there to comfort me, but ever since learning how bad this world can be… It’s just challenging not to imagine the worst.
A weak smile lifted her frown as Nova nuzzled her hand, and Mya hugged her spirit tighter.
Thanks for being here for me, guys. I’ll be okay… Hmm? Mom… Phone vibrating beside her, Rhea picked it up as a text came through. No… Jason?
1:42 p.m. – Jason: Just wanted to wish you luck again! My sister just told me your parents just got in. I’m sure your mom will come talk to you. Kate said everyone was pretty relieved to hear she was found. You know how she is. By the way, yikes! Janine is terrifying today. These battles are wild for Silver! Lyra’s teleporting us in some signs to make support messages. You’ll kill it! Your girls Thrash, so only stress a little! Lol.
Rhea smiled and looked up at the screen, where hissing girls clustered. It swiftly turned into a grimace upon spotting the fast-moving Croagunk zip right up to Roxie, and almost took out the pup in a single round of blows. Shocked and having flashbacks of her battle with the Nidorino, Rhea sat a little straighter as Lori brought out Zyra instead of Gables; that wasn’t the plan they’d talked about on the bus.
Swapping to Pokedex, she looked up the poisonous toad, and her mouth went dry upon seeing its ability that made her not choose Gables; this toad countered all Water-Types.
No way is Croagunk that insane… How many Abilities can it have? Wow… more than nine possible Abilities. There’s no way!
Focus returning to the display, Rhea shivered as Janine swapped to a new Pokémon that launched Pin Missiles at her.
I’m glad Lori’s the one fighting those monsters and not us… Poison and Fighting would be hard to beat… That speed, too.
Nova softly chirped and nodded. “Pwe-pwe…”
Stomach twisting, she pulled up her spreadsheet and started glancing over it again. Nova and Alice were both weak to Fighting, and even Mya’s insane Fairy-Steel-Typing was neutral to it. Mya would be the best choice they had, at least, but the speed could get to her if it was like this one Lori fought. Glaceon was too slow, and Vaporeon into Dry Skin Croagunk was suicide.
“Eep!” Practically jumping out of her skin, she slid left, knocking Nova’s Poke Ball off the bench; her mother was somehow right next to her. “M-Mom?! When did—w-what happened!” she cried.
“Pwe-pwe.” Nova was about to jump down to collect her Poke Ball when she noticed the horrifying sight. “Pwe?!”
Her mother gave her a sheepish smile, wearing a full-length, long-sleeve blue dress. She sported a black eye, light bruising on her wrists, face, and neck, with several patched-up cuts.
“I, uh… grew a little careless. It looks worse than—ack! Rhea…”
“Fine, hmm?!” Rhea slid up her sleeve to see a lot more bruising and patched gashes hidden underneath. “You should be in a hospital! What about your legs—I knew you were wearing a dress to hide more… Mom, what happened to you?” she lamented, causing a bit of a commotion that pulled the attention of the other Silver-tier Trainers.
“Oh, my—should we call 499?”
“Who could have done that to her?!”
Her mother was holding back tears as Rhea continued her inspection, glancing toward the horrified Silver-tier Trainers.
“It, umm… Let’s go somewhere a little more—mmgm… Rhea, please,” she cried as Rhea carefully touched her back, making her arch her spine and lock air in her lungs. “I—I told you I’d be… I’d be honest with you—you are practically an adult now…”
Glistening blue eyes glaring into her mother’s, Rhea cursed her for allowing herself to get into this kind of trouble; her mother was always putting herself in dangerous situations! Rhea tried not to let the fire that suddenly gripped her chest rise up to her nose or eyes; out of the corner of her vision, she saw her father’s Butterfree sticking to the ceiling above them.
“Haaa…. I’m trying to be calm, Mom, b-but look at you! Okay… I’ve never seen you—who could have…”
Rainbow lights took them to a private, traditional wooden guest room with mats and a table, somewhere in the ninja village, no doubt. Hot cups of tea were already prepared for them, but Rhea ignored them, scooting closer to be more careful in examining her mother’s condition.
“Mom, just tell me it’s not worse than it looks—because it looks bad—really bad!” she sniffled, now unable to fight her tears.
Her mother didn’t fuss, allowing her to gently pull her dress back, and Rhea’s tongue lodged in her throat; her mother’s back was discolored and marked in ways she’d never seen—a back shouldn’t look like this—parts of her skin were peeling off and a sticky salve coated it.
“Mom! W-What is…”
“Acid,” her mother whispered with wince, cheeks flushed as tears fell, and she puffed out a pained breath.
“You need a hospital! Vilora, take us to a—”
“Rhea!” her mother interjected, making her stiffen and stop to look at her. “Rhea… Vanty has already healed the worst of it, and Brock is flying in to further prepare an appropriate treatment plan for me…”
Rhea drew away, now trembling because she couldn’t even hug her mother. “The worst of it? Sabin said—he said you were fine… This isn’t fine! Who dumps acid on someone’s back?! Who did this to you, Mom?! Is this because of me?”
“No!” Her mother’s watery eyes looked up, blinking as she gingerly rubbed them. “No—No, sweetheart. This is because of me…”
She took a few deep breaths, motioning to Vilora that she was alright as she whispered from above them. “Ghetsis, the Unova terrorist, escaped prison… using some experimental Ditto, and he found me by…” She swallowed and cleared her throat, obviously in pain.
“He got to me by impersonating your cousin.”
“Bi?” Rhea’s world began to crack.
“No, she is okay,” her mother reassured, making the pressure compressing her chest ease, if only just a little.
Her mother sniffed back more tears. “She is torn up about it—even though it’s not her fault in the least, but… she’s like you in that regard.”
“No!” Rhea growled, heat now burning her chest. “No, this is your research’s fault! You always put yourself in danger—always! It’s not fair to Dad, Sabin, and me… It’s not fair… Someone poured acid on your back, Mom!”
“I know—” Unable to speak for a few seconds, her mother’s cheeks puffed out before she coughed and grabbed some tissues from the table to blow her nose. “I know… and I know you don’t want to hear me say I’m sorry. This was bound to happen, though. I do know a lot of dangerous stuff that people want.”
Her heart rate elevated, Rhea’s nails dug into her thighs; she couldn’t speak or do anything. If this was the worst of it already healed, then she didn’t want to imagine what it looked like before.
“It was, umm, Hilbert and Hilda who first realized something was wrong and found me after I told them I was coming with Bianca… since Bianca was with them.”
Throat stuck for a moment, her ravaged mother dabbed at her bruised cheeks again, handing her the box. “I’m on some pretty powerful painkillers, so… it doesn’t hurt much if I leave things alone. Umm… On the bright side, all of this kind of stuff can, heh, be healed, so… I’ll be okay after a few weeks, sweetie. I’ve been through worse—eesh, yeah…”
“…Like I want to hear that,” Rhea sniffled.
“No…” her mother sucked in a quick breath and nodded, “you’re right. Everything isn’t fine. But it is fine. Come here, hah, just be, eh, careful of my back,” she said through a pained chuckle, crawling forward to hug her.
“Why would Ghetsis do this to you?” Rhea whimpered as her mother drew her against the side of her head. “Is Aunt Cynthia going to go after him? Did Hilbert get him? He’s not still out there; please, tell me he’s not still out there!”
“Your Aunt is… busy with Galactic right now, but she is fuming as much as you, I’m sure… Hilbert and Hilda didn’t come alone. N and Iris are hunting him right now, and if there is anyone who wants him dead more than you, it’s Iris.”
The terrorist attack on Opelucid City came into Rhea’s mind when Iris’ Emolga sacrificed herself to stop the ice cannon before it froze all of Unova. These were the kinds of people they were up against, the same people who tried to kill her mother.
It was no wonder Lyra was here where her daughter was after learning Ghetsis was here. Ghetsis murdered millions, so it made sense why so many high-profile people were in Kanto now. The Unova terrorist boss was willing to do literally whatever it took to achieve his goal, whatever it was.
“If he’s not scared of Aunt Cynthia, then… what will he do next? Will he come after you again?”
Her mother pulled away to sip at her tea, likely to ease her raw throat by her tone. “Ahem… It’s possible. I only gave him half of what he wanted…” A tormented, small smile moved her lips as she wiped away another tear. “I… never used to be the type to give something up to people like that, but… No. That doesn’t matter.”
She smiled and reached over to squeeze her hand. “He was after something that he and Kasa are working on.”
Rhea recalled the name; she was a terrorist boss from the Oblivia region who was a master at changing her appearance. She didn’t care about any of that. All she wanted to know was that it was over. She wanted her mother to be safe.
Rubbing the back of her mom’s hand, Rhea tucked in her trembling bottom lip and smiled down at Nova, who was crying with her. “I don’t want—”
Alice and Lulu suddenly teleported onto the table, spilling Rhea’s cup on the opposite side as the puffball flung it away to jump into her arms.
Now feeling a bit of guilt from what her Pokemon told her upset the Cosmog, Rhea breathed and patted her weeping nebula cloud. “No, I’m not abandoning you because you’re hyper… It’s okay, Lulu.”
Her mother’s chest shook with pained laughter as she smiled at her. “Lulu has become quite attached if she’s able to follow your spirit here.”
“I guess so,” Rhea swallowed, reorganizing her thoughts and using the tissue to rub her cheeks. “Mom, I want you in the hospital. Watch on TV if you want, but I-I don’t want you at the stadium… Or Dad, or Grandma, or Grandpa, or Hilbert, or Hilda, or Bianca—I want them with you… Okay?! I need you to be safe…”
“Oh, Rhea… If that’s what you want, then that’s what you’ll get,” she sniffed, blowing her nose again. “Haha. Maybe we’ll—we’ll get another miracle! Crystal went to talk to Ho-Oh about locating Ghetsis since he’s so hard for us to find with the Ditto. And, Rhea…”
“What?” she asked, dreading some new piece of bad news.
Her mother pushed forward to gingerly hug her again. “I’m proud of you… I wanted to do this alone to—to show you that I do trust you with the truth. I’m trying, s-so hard to… to not hide things from you. I… told your dad not to tell Sabin about how bad it was—I…” Her lip quivered, and she swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’m going to him next. I hate that I had to tell you this before your big match—I… don’t know if it was the right thing to do… I’m… I’m…”
Rhea squeezed her hand, one of the few places she could, and touched foreheads. “Thank you for telling me, Mom… It’s not easy to hear. I’m upset—so upset! But I’m so happy you told me… If no one is there at the stands, then I’ll be sure to win… because I’ll know they’re keeping you safe. Deal?”
“Hah-haha. Deal.” Her mother started to tremble again. “I’m so sorry for being such a failure of a mother, Rhea… It’s not supposed to be like this!”
“I know… I know, Mom,” Rhea returned, fingers beginning to cramp. “Just… heal. I’ll come to the room after the battle. Okay?”
Comforting each other, their Pokemon huddling around them, Rhea slowly let her mother go to rest. She looked at the Butterfree through blurry, red eyes, and Vilora nodded, saying she’d take care of her.
The Pokemon left for a few seconds before returning with Koga, and the Grandmaster didn’t say a word; he simply nodded and transported her back to the locker room. Vilora took her mother back to her father, where she’d lay down Rhea’s ground rules; she was to be under hospital arrest.
Teleported into a private shower stall, Rhea held Lulu in her lap as her other Pokemon surrounded her. She had no clue how Lori’s battle went or what became of Amira, but she could guess that she’d been scooped up by one of her family members. Her mother was okay, so now it was time to steel her gut and press forward. Anger lit in her heart as she breathed, glaring at the tile floor.
First, they tried to murder Lusamine to start a gang war, then they tried to set Lyra off by murdering us, and now they kidnap and torture my mom?! Plasma is evil! We need to get stronger… Why am I so weak?! There has to be a way to get stronger and faster… Ash and Dawn should know a—
“Pwe?” Snapping out of her own mind, Rhea looked down at Nova’s laid-back ears and big eyes. “Pwe-pwe. Pwe. Pwe…”
Fighting back tears, hot air rushed out of her lungs as she hugged her Pokemon, feeling their emotions; their raw emotions brought a memory and feeling to her heart.
“You’re right… I am sounding like Sabin. And I don’t want to make everyone worry about me, too. Still, there has to be a less extreme way… I don’t want to feel helpless like this—I hate this feeling.”
Comforted by her four little girls, Rhea rubbed her eyes and went to the sink to splash cold water on her hot face. Breathing for several minutes, she went out to see most of the girls in the locker room gone, and the last two pointed her to the order image on the display by the door, showing she’d been moved to the final fight in Silver. Lori had already left with her family to sit in the stands and wait for her battle, and Amira hadn’t returned.
Massaging her sore chest, Rhea’s heart hurt. It was so hard to contend with these emotions. She hated Rainbow Rocket, but now Plasma overtook even that after seeing the harm they’d done to her mother firsthand. Her entire journey had been marred by Plasma’s terrorist agenda. A reckoning had to come, and if not from her, then Iris would certainly be the one to see it through.
Relaxing the final three battles from the two girls and boy who were left in the Silver Bracket, Rhea’s emotions settled into cold steel; her mother was taken care of, and this was the only way she could let out her frustrations right now.
Rhea got up when her name was called to end the Silver challengers, entering the hallway as the announcer hyped up the last battle before the next break; she felt much different than when she’d entered the locker room. She had to release this pressure in her chest, and her Pokemon resonated with her.
♦ — ♦ — ♦ — ♦ — ♦
Amira walked out of the locker room, happily drained; she loved these matches that pushed them to their limit. It told her they were making progress. So many amazing things had come from this journey. She actually had friends, for one, and imagine that the Lofty Princess of Viridian, that Cold Ruby Beauty, and Ethereal Flame, had friends.
Can you imagine that, Holly? she asked her sole Pokemon left in her possession as she walked down the long paper wall hallway, following the signs to the Center. Look how far we’ve come. You used to always be looking for new friends in Viridian Forest with Star, weren’t you?
The Comfey chirped while spinning down to wrap around her neck and spot her hair with flowers. Mariah returned the call, smiling from Amira’s arms. Despite rarely getting to see battles like Serenity and Amber, her Comfey was always a bundle of flowery sweetness. It wasn’t as if she shunned training either, constantly working to improve herself with their other teammate’s Pokemon.
Yeah, I think Lori will do great. She’s been so hard on herself since Misty… I wish there were something I could do other than just give her battle advice. Hmm. She likes sweets. Maybe we should buy her a box of chocolates; what do you think?
“Now… what flavor, though?” She pondered it for a few minutes before Holly came up with a brilliant idea. “Ooh! We trick her with one Aguav treat mixed in with a ton of Mago Berry chocolate surprises. I like it. I like it.”
Amira smiled at her shy and devious little girl. “And what’s your suggestion?”
“Mel-mel, leee… mel, mel?”
“Hmm…” She waited for Holly to translate, turning a corner and giggling. A passing ninja gave her a curious stare as they passed, but she ignored him. “Amber’s been a good teacher, helping you learn how to read.”
“Meloetta!” she sang with pride, cheeks blushing slightly.
“She’s been teaching you about berries so she can learn them, too, huh? We should get Lori some Razz Berry treats to capture her easier,” she giggled. “I like it. Maybe we should get Lulu some Nanab Berry treats to give Rhea a break and settle her down. What do you think?”
“Yeah, I like that, too. Hopefully, they have a good sweets shop here for the viewers—ah, there’s the Center,” she chimed, seeing the glowing sign as she turned. “Let’s go see how Amber and Serenity are doing.”
Sliding the door open, she saw a masked female ninja standing guard beside the door, and even Nurse Joy wore the colors of the clan. Maybe the woman was also a ninja, Amira thought with silent laughter, having all the stress roll off her shoulders after winning.
“I’m here to see Amber and Serenity.”
Nurse Joy showed a rosy smile and gave her a nod. “I’ll go check on their conditions. Amber required a lot more attention due to an unusual weakness to being poisoned. I’m still conducting tests to be sure she is stabilizing; Poison is my specialty, and I’ve only seen this happen during wars. How strange… Please, have a seat; it shouldn’t be long for me to see how they’re doing.”
“Thank you for being thorough,” Amira said, waving her off as she went to the back with her Chansey.
Breathing out a short sigh, she turned to give the ninja a cordial smile before sitting down, setting Mariah in her lap, and looking up to see Lori still engaged in her battle against Janine. It was a rough battle, but the Unova girl was doing good.
“Zyra, huh?” Amira whispered. “It’s a risk she has to take, I suppose.”
“Hmm. Yes, I think she’ll—excuse me?” Amira scooted to the left side of her chair as the ninja guard walked over and sat next to her, crossing her legs in a comfortable gesture. “Can I help you?”
A soft, feminine voice held a short laugh as the woman reached up and removed her mask, revealing a mess of thick ruby hair. “It’s been a long time, my little Fire Fang. How’s your father treating you?”
Amira’s red eyes widened at the nickname only one person ever called her by, and a grin spread across her face as she lurched over to hug the fake ninja. “Aunt Mars! What are you doing here?!”
“Hey, shhh. Hehe. Let’s keep it down. I’m dressed like this for a reason, Little Flame. How’s my edge lord of a wimpy brother?”
She giggled, spotting Mariah hide her face from the new pretty lady who was suddenly so friendly with them. “Dad’s doing fine. Are you doing something for Grandpa?”
“Yeah, something like that,” she whispered, nudging her with a frown as her glinting eyes displayed the nasty edge Amira rarely saw. “I heard about the Plasma hit on you… Not a fan. Are you okay?”
“Oh, yeah, that was a while ago,” Amira urged. “A lot has happened since then… I love being a part of my new team. Rhea and Lori are wonderful to me… and wonderful for me, I think. I haven’t met girls like them before.”
Mars’ cold gaze softened, and she reached over to hug her again. “I’m glad to hear it. Actually, umm… mind giving your grandfather a message from me? It’s hard to sneak around in this place without getting noticed.”
Amira gave her an accusatory yet impressed stare. “It is literally a ninja fortress, and you’re kind of wanted, Aunt Mars.”
“Wait, am I? Huh,” she looked to the side, pursing her lips a tad. “And here I thought I was sneaking around in the home colors to support the cause.”
“Yeah, exactly!” her aunt snickered. “So, can you tell your grandfather this, and this exactly?”
Amira sat straighter. “I’m listening.”
Her aunt reached over to pull her in and kiss her cheek. “That’s my favorite niece.”
“Only niece,” Amira corrected with a shake of her head.
“And both hold true!” she chimed. “Tell your grandfather, ‘Plant the Kelpsy Tree beside the Haban Tree, where the Iapapa roots still grow. An Aguav seed will fall and sprout into a Mago Tree, and then the harvest is ripe.’ Can you remember of all that?”
Amira smirked. “You two and your secret codes. I got it,” she said, repeating it back to her.
“Perfect!” Mars chirped, leaning in to give her another hug and kiss. “I loved your battle, by the way. Give your parents my love!”
Slipping her mask back on, she held a finger to her mouth and walked out of the Center area as if she’d been born here. Not thirty seconds later, a confused ninja entered to take her place, likely swapping shifts.
Nurse Joy soon entered, wearing a soft frown. “It might be a while before she’s ready to leave, dear. I learned the problem and am taking steps to mitigate it.”
Meaning: she found out I use Master Balls by checking further into my private Trainer profile and getting League access.
“Thank you. Can you give my number a call when they’re conscious?”
Heading for the stands, Amira took out her phone, feeling Butterfree after seeing her aunt again after so long.
1:55 p.m. – Amira: Hey, Grandpa, you’ll never guess who I just ran into. I’ll be there soon to fill you in. We have Berry Trees to talk about.
She giggled at the weird topic that her grandfather loved for some reason and sent the message. Gaining a spring in her step, she saw on a passing monitor that Lori had won her match; they were on the rise!
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