B4 — 2. Shaking Off The Dust

PoV:

1:  Rhea (Our Blonde Victini Girl!)

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!

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

Anskelis, Weirdwhirl, Howldawg, AchroniaXenia, Thea Nyx Petersen, Opala, Edward Ravenbear, Freddie Rash, Black Unicorn, Karan, Bassfreek, Grant Woodley, and my many other Patrons!


6:07 p.m. October 16th, Friday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event).  Day 129.

Events:  Rhea and the girls have had an eventful 60 days of hardcore training!  What’s changed?  What new things have the squad uncovered?  Let’s find out!  Our girl started her journey on the 9th of June, and the end of registration for the Winter Indigo Cup is December 5th (49 days away).

In a bit of a daze after the Egg Bomb she’d just heard, Rhea fought the two voices on either side of her ear for the better part of an hour, eating the fancy fish meals that the server brought her.  Her brain was so out of touch that when the bill came, she almost choked.

Thanking the handsome and quite attentive young man who had been serving her as he left the booklet on her table, dread filled her gut upon opening it.  Alice and Nova looked at the number without any understanding, and Rhea slowly flipped it close, forehead sinking to the smooth, glass table top.

It’s over, she cried to them through their link.  10,350 credits for a single meal; it’s almost as much as a Gold Encrusted attempt at 12,000.  I have 26k since winning my two Silver Encrusted gives me 12,000, plus the money I put down in the attempt, but I’ve also used a lot of credits between traveling, and our food bill goes up a ton with more Pokemon, not to mention my own increased appetite.

Breathing out a sad sigh, she scanned the QR code on her phone that linked her bank payment processor to the establishment’s own account, their ID popping up to verify it was the right business.  Ritzy places like this didn’t deal with cash credit or have employees handle the funds.

A pack of gum costs three credits, and I’m here paying over three thousand times that for a single meal.  Amira’s going to scold me.  At least it was amazing, fresh, and I can say that gossip was worth the price, she tried to reason to her Pokemon as Nova lightly butted her calf with her head when sending the payment.  It just means we need to go get back the funds… and try not to scare people off.

She took one last look at the incredible area she’d dined at, liking the ocean ripples and filter that the lights in the aquarium cast down on them.  It probably was super expensive to upkeep this kind of place, so you weren’t only paying for the experience or food but also the conservation of the fish population, and she could get behind that.  Then again, they were most definitely subsidized by the Indigo League.  She tried not to think about that.

An attendant came out of a door inside the hallway to guide her to the front, asking how her experience had been and what most caught her palate.

Rhea was happy to make some small talk while returning her Pokemon to their capsules, and she honestly did like the quiet, isolated sensation of the environment they’d created.  As for a dish, her favorite was the Crimson Snapper, which was oily and moist while having a mild, flaky texture, and its sweet taste was enhanced by the various seasonings.

Her chat with the man didn’t last long before she was outside of the building and on the Cerulean streets.  Lulu was now riding Mya’s head as they wandered east, toward the Nugget Bridge, where many Trainers would be using the public battlefields, but she paused when scanning her Trainer App.

No random guy is going to want to battle for over 1,000 credits, even in Silver-tier.  No… I need to go to the hustlers and players in the private battlefields.

Browsing a few of the nearest ones on her app, she posted an open request on the Cerulean Battle Forum, starting with minimum acceptance fees of 5,000 credits.  The highest open requests on the forum for Silver was 2,500 currently, so she’d wait for potential bites until making it to that particular arena.

On the way there, Rhea plucked out a floss pick from her purse and cleaned her teeth.  There really was much more to consider when thinking about tomorrow’s Encrusted Challenge than she’d first thought; Brock had even said that the orange-haired Gym Leader was more hostile in her matches.

Swapping to Gossip, she saw all sorts of information surrounding the seven-month-pregnant woman, most of it positive and a buzz of curiosity.  Theories ranged from Ash to Red or Brock cheating on their wives to some crazy ones involving Tracy Sketchit.  However, not a single post was negative toward Misty, talking about how empowering it was to see her keeping up with all her duties while trying to be a mother.  Although, people mostly just wanted to know who the father was.

She sighed and put away her phone, only for it to buzz just as it was halfway into her purse.  Someone had accepted the 5,000 credit challenge, and it couldn’t have come at a better time because she wanted to cry as 10,350 and 6,000 credits were deducted from her account; Amira must have just finished confirming their battle at the Gym.  She was below 10,000 credits in her account, which wasn’t somewhere she wanted to be in Silver-tier.

Directing her challenger to the nearest arena to her, she went inside, getting notifications from Amira’s private Pikabook as she posted her pictures.  Rhea returned Mya to her Poke Ball and set Lulu on her head while waiting, doing a quick check on the man’s previous match history; it was positive but nothing spectacular.

On closer investigation, it seemed he was a high-risk Siver Trainer who threw smaller matches and would win most of his larger bets.  Amira had warned her at one time about these types.  It was fine, though, since her Pokemon were theoretically getting closer to Gold-tier if they were fighting at their best, and they weren’t trying to show off quite yet.

She rolled Alice’s capsule around her fingers with an impish smile as two more challengers took the bait and marked the request as fulfilled.

As Lori says, we won’t be in the black, but if luck is on our side, we will be by tomorrow night.  Show me a bit of what you learned.  Remember, though, we don’t want to show off everything.  We’ve gotta keep some tricks up our sleeve for the Silver Cup, after all.

Her Pokemon chirped in response as she hashed out rules with the woman and two men who had accepted the bet.  The sandy-haired man and the brunette woman were fine with a one-v-one, but she was a little annoyed when the final guy would only go forward with the battle if she were handicapped by it being a one-v-two.  Nova would take him.

Wanting to get the battles over with as quickly as possible, she took the stage, feeling surprisingly good; this helped to take her mind off her insane dinner.  A crowd was swift to take the seats and lean against the overhead railings on the upper levels, and she had no doubt recordings would be made.

The light turned red, and Rhea activated her Poke Ball with her opponent.  Yellow lit up, the clock overhead set for ten minutes, not that they’d need that long.  She pulled back her arm, and when green flashed, she threw Mya into the center of the arena.

She chuckled to herself when a flaming pony exited on the opposite side, fire gathering in a tight circle around her body as she charged her Mawile.  He knew his odds were good with a Fire-Type since I’d likely save Nova for the last battle.  Nicely played.  What you got for me, Mya?

The horse was fast, shooting forward and far faster than her steely girl, but a rush strat wasn’t going to work on Mya; a light blue bubble surrounded the grinning Mawile at the last second, Protect blocking the Ponyta’s attack and making her trip.

Even as the Fire Horse tumbled, Mya flipped around with a shimmering sword that appeared in her hand.  Gasps were heard when a brown aura was expelled from Mya, condensing into stones that rocketed after the Ponyta, only for a pinkish light to hasten the pony, allowing her to dodge the four stones and get right on top of the Mawile.

Fire erupted around the horse, ready to deliver an Agility-empowered Flame Charge, multiplying its Speed modifier, yet it was already over.  Locked mid-charge, at the last moment, darkness enveloped the laughing Deceiver Pokemon, appearing by her face to deliver a crippling Critical Sucker Punch.

The Ponyta instantly changed directions, tumbling across the field to hit the stone, reinforced wall, shattering her matrix.  5,000 down, 10 more to go.

Thanking the man for the battle, she was a little surprised how quickly a fight could go down when not in a titanic stadium, like the Gyms had, allowing far more adaptability.  She recalled Mya and released her for a moment to give her a high-five; she could hardly feel the Quick Moves, and her Mawile’s timing had improved a ton since before their training.

Rhea stuck Mya’s Poke Ball back on her skirt waist strap and selected Alice next, smiling at the nervous brunette woman as she took the stage.

“Wow,” she said with a forced chuckle, “I didn’t expect that heavy of a strike from a Quick Move, but I suppose it was a Critical Dark Punch, and did Ancient Power also increase her Stats while also baiting out the Agility to prevent her opponent from having the time to use Protect?  Incredible.  I hope to do a bit better, but, hehe, I’m now doubting my chances.”

“Anything can happen!”  Rhea chimed, spotting the scared Bug Catcher she’d be battling next on his device, no doubt scrolling through all of her battle history.  “I can guess you’re going to use your Farfetch’d and not your Meowth or Delcatty.”

The woman sighed, tossing her Poke Ball up and down, no doubt actually a Great Ball with a skin to make people think it was a normal version.  “And you are going to use your Lopunny, despite having another excellent counter since your Glaceon will be used against your one-v-two.  Good luck?”

“Good luck!”  she returned with a bright grin as the light flashed red.  “Let’s have some fun.”

It turned yellow.  “Hard to have fun with so much money in the balance while now feeling as if I made a mistake.”  Green lit up, and they threw their Poke Balls.  “But let’s do this Fluff-Fluff!”

Rhea pulled up the Wild Duck Pokemon as Alice hit the stage and blurred, an orange aura encasing her as Mach Punch shot her forward, only for her to cancel the attack moments after the match started.  Using her ears and hands to flip into a cartwheel, she launched up, electricity now sparking around her fist.

Yet, the Farfetch’d blurred, a green light emanating from the bird as he met Alice’s Thunder Punch with a First Impression, canceling each other’s Moves out.  The automatic cameras kept her in focus for the audience, enthralled as the pair were blown back, only for white light to erupt from them at nearly the same time.

Quick Attack brought them together again, the sharp eyes of the Farfetch’d trained on the narrow-eyed bun.  Another flash of white streaks and Fluff-Fluff was behind her puffy-tailed bunny, going for a sure shot with Aerial Ace.  Alice held her hands against her chest, pink eyes going big as she turned to look pleadingly at the male Pokemon to stop.

The hearts struck just in time for the bird to pinwheel around Alice’s twirling away figure, large ear grabbing the infatuated bird in passing to swing him into an upward Circle Throw.  Icy mist expelled from the bun’s fist as she jumped up to finish the match, but Fluff-Fluff wasn’t out of the battle yet.

A honeycomb shell surrounded his frame as the Farfetch’d righted himself, vanishing a second time to try his luck at another Aerial Ace to land the STAB hit.  This time, it was his turn to hit the blue shield, and Alice’s lightning-embraced fist met the bird’s beak, sending him tumbling across the stone ground.

Skipping forward, the fluffy bunny wasn’t done, taking the momentum in the battle as stars fanned out from her to intercept, circling to pelt the bird back into Alice’s Sky Uppercut, shattering his matrix.  25 seconds in, the battle was decided, causing claps to be heard from the onlookers.

“Thought so,” the woman laughed, recalling her Farfetch’d, “but it did show us how important Move versatility is.  Thanks for the high-intensity fight, Rhea.”

“No problem!  You did really well playing into Alice’s game; speed is just something she’s never been outmatched in.”

“I can see why!”  she laughed, pointing at the screen to see the replay of the start of the match, where Alice basically tied a +2 Priority First Impression with a +1 Mach Punch into a Thunder Punch.  “Insane speed.  I saw online that people were speculating that her Run Away Ability is one of those rare reversed types.  Interesting to see in action.”

Waving her goodbye and having a positive experience thus far, she opened her arms to welcome Alice as she jumped all the way out of the stadium to embrace her.

“Pun-pun?”

“Mhm!  You did amazing, Alice!”

“Lopunny!”

“Nee-nee!”  her cosmic cloud chirped, latching onto the bun’s neck.

Letting the Cosmog congratulate her teammates, Rhea glanced over at the leery-eyed Bug Trainer, who was now taking the stage.  He was getting jeered by some of the onlookers, calling him a coward for doing a one-v-two, but he was going for the bag, so she doubted he cared much about their opinions.

“Broken Pokemon,” he muttered with a short grunt.  “And people call me a hustler.  From what I read, your busted Eevee can’t evolve more than once in a non-Gym battle according to League stipulations.  Talk about privileged.”

“Jealous much!”  the brunette that had battled her yelled from the stands to laughter and more jeers.  “Quick stalling and trying to throw a pity party, Jeff; no one feels bad for a sore loser like you!”

“Yeah!”

“Booo!”

“He stole 500 credits from me last week in that stupid handicap match!”

“Loser!”

Rhea was surprised to have the crowd on her side for having super powerful Pokemon, but her girls were eating it up.  Deciding it wouldn’t do any good to leave it a mystery, she threw out Nova’s Poke Ball, releasing her attention-loving Eevee to soak in the love and attention she got.

Everyone seemed to adore her showboating and beautiful salt-and-pepper Eevee.  Apparently, Breeders had to register the lineage of their Pokemon, and someone from the Breeding Association had leaked Nova’s lineage.  It put her on the map big time since Ambrosia was her mother, and Vee, Red’s Eevee, was her father.  It didn’t help that one parent was the Ace of the current Champion, not to mention her Trainer was getting massive news coverage due to the wedding.

“Humph.  Typical,” Jeff grunted, taking out one of his four Pokemon; this man had already qualified for the Silver Cup and had eight Badges between Kanto and Johto.  “Keep acting high and mighty, but you’re far from invincible.”

“Projecting much?”  Rhea snickered, taking a page from Lori’s book as the light turned red.  “I think I can guess what your first Pokemon will be; you seem to be a fan of webs.”

Nova held her head high as the light flashed yellow, and when green struck, he threw his Poke Ball far to the right of the arena, beside the wall.  Dan, his Ariados, exited, climbing up the wall and looking up to spray a thread at her Eevee.

Not one to get her fur dirty, Nova didn’t even move as twinkling light brought out stars to eviscerate the webbing, continuing onward to pursue the skittering away spider, yet a red light connected with the Pokemon just before they struck, making the crowd boo.  It was a good tactic that she’d used against Janine, but he’d purposefully handicapped her so that she couldn’t mirror the leeway the return tactic brought.

A Scyther exited next, wings flapping to propel him toward her smug Eevee, who hadn’t even moved from her sitting position.  Nova held a paw to her mouth and yawned, sending a puff cloud to strike the fast Bug Pokemon, yet its blades swept it away in a single slash, spinning to cut her Eevee in two.

“Scyther!”

A sparkle twinkled in Nova’s eye as she lazily lowered her body to the ground, ears going flat and tail remaining still.  The attack swept right over her, and her paw illuminated a light brown, throwing up a glob of mud into the Scyther’s eyes to blind him.  The bug almost tripped, flipping around in a sharp circle to right himself while passing the Eevee in his swift strike.

“Pwe-pwe…”

Green light embraced her fox pup, enhancing her Attack and Special Attack by one stage as, yet again, red light connected to the semi-blinded Scyther, returning him to his Poke Ball.

“Cheeky Eevee,” Jeff snarled as her girl showed an unconcerned smirk, still in the same place she’d been at the start of the battle.  “We’ll see if you’re laughing next…”

Releasing his Ariados again, bright blue light condensed around her pincers for a sword to appear, enhancing her Attack by two stages.  Rushing forward, legs beginning to glow a light purple to poison her prey, the spider used its legs to trample and overwhelm her Eevee.

Unfortunately, Nova was very accustomed to fighting fast, rusher-type opponents due to Alice always wanting to spar, and she didn’t even need Detect for the slow spikes.  Maintaining her cool, Rhea cheered on her Eevee as she tilted her body left and right, only taking a side step to jump up and slap the underside of the Ariados with her tail, Eject+ throwing the spider back as if hit by a Whirlwind.

Flipping through the air, the Ariados managed to shoot a spray of the sticky web at her pup, but Nova had enough; it was time to get a little serious and show one of her new tricks.  Brilliant light exploded from around the Eevee, making the crowd stand on the edges of their seats.  The web disintegrated from the radial burst of energy, and Rhea was starting to feel the burn of her Pokemon using her Fortitude.

“No…”  Jeff mumbled in horror.  “You’re kidding me!”

“So pretty!”  screamed a few girls, taking pictures from the sidelines that would no doubt be trending by the end of the day.

When the light faded, a salt-and-pepper Flareon sat where her Eevee had been.  Her fluffy white fur and sleek black skin were striking as she smiled.  The spider seemed to gulp and took a step back as her new fluffy girl chirped.

“Flare-Flare,” Nova greeted in a manner that said, run.

Channeling her inner Amber, fire machine-gunned out of her mouth, Embers peppered the retreating arachnid as she tried to escape.  Ghostly shadows embraced it, the spider sinking into the stadium for a dark shape to weave swiftly along the ground toward Nova, but a twinkle in her eye helped the Flareon easily evade the Shadow Sneak, dodging the ghostly-wreathed arm to land a point-blank-range Critical Ember.

The red streak of Jeff’s Poke Ball failed to connect in time, a second barrage shattering the spider’s matrix and leaving her comfortable Eevee looking like a total queen, having hardly moved.

“Cheap Muking trick,” the man growled, throwing out his Scyther.  “Try to dodge this now!”

His Scyther exited, Double Team spreading out the hazy bug, yet Nova had dealt plenty with this, and Detect was one of her specialties.  The Mantis Pokemon was a lot tougher than the Ariados, sporting Technician and being able to attack from any angle while defending with Quick Guard; sadly, his Counter Move was hardly a threat against a Flareon, and Nova’s Run Away, experience, and double protection Moves allowed her to outlast the bug easily.

Two minutes of playing around and showing off, and she was sitting on top of the unconscious manis, spraying a light jet of fire into the air to cheers from the crowd.  Jeff didn’t even offer a parting insult; red-faced, he returned his Pokemon and stormed out of the building.

Grinning at the enthusiastic welcome back she was receiving with her Pokemon, Rhea messaged her friends that she had something big to show them, knowing they’d probably hear about the Flareon reveal and think it was that.  And boy, would they be surprised.  Her two internal opposing purple and red-haired sides had come to an alignment: she’d tell her teammates only if they promised to keep it secret since this could affect their match tomorrow.

She politely declined her new fans’ offer to hang out and buy her Pokemon treats since it was nearing 8:45 p.m. and slipped away to return to their hotel.  As Amira often advised them, she took a few detours so as not to let any stalkers find out where they were staying, adding another twenty minutes to her journey before she was satisfied she wasn’t being followed.

Lori and Amira texted back that they’d be back around 10:30 p.m. since the redhead was finishing up her art exhibit and her violet-haired teammate was kicking butt at the Nugget Bridge arenas.

Having some downtime, she bought the new season of ‘Pokemon: Red Team Rescue Adventures – Season 2’ for her girls to sit down in front of the TV and watch since it had just been released, their tails wagging.  Nova got out her red scarf to put on like her hero on the show.

In the meantime, she caught up on where her family and everyone were at while passively messaging the Wooloo Gang.  They sent back a thumbs-up regarding their victory over Forrest’s Gym, and that they’d unfortunately be in Cerulean on Sunday, so they’d only be able to hang for a bit.

Rhea wasn’t concerned, though, since they could just take the Magnet Train or some other means of transportation and sleep on the ride, so most of Sunday would be used to chill with the gang.

Kate and her brother were off on some Saffari Zone adventure in Johto’s park, fully dressing up for the part.  Her dad had kidnapped her mother from her research in Sinnoh—to her granny’s semi-annoyance at the disruption—and took her to the Great Ruby Lakes to see the Gyarados migration and mating dance; it was her mom’s kind of romantic thing.

Now that things were settled down in Kanto, her grandparents were back in Hoenn, accepting challenges from May and Brandon.  Rhea paused for a time, swiping through the pretty pictures the brunette Trainer posted of Alice’s mother.

As for Jason, she smiled when she saw he’d hearted every post she’d sent.  Returning the gesture, she felt happy that he was taking the time to look at her pictures, and she took a few more of her girls, wrapped up in a daring adventure to save a shiny Magikarp from his evil father, who happened to be the king.  At least, that was what she got from it.

Her stomach swirled for some reason when Jason hearted her pictures moments after they were uploaded, somehow beating out her grandfather.  However, all of that went out of the window, and she swiped out of Pikabook as Lori flung open the door, wearing a beaming smile.

“Girl, I hope you enjoy the holidays early because I got some presents for you!”

“No way,” Rhea laughed, swinging her legs off the bed to follow her to the table, where she dumped out several TM cases.  “How in the Muk?!  Where did you get these?”

The Unovan girl waved her hand dismissively, Mya pausing their episode to see what was going on.  “Don’t worry about the small details!  You owe me 4,500 for this baby, though; I saw that viral clip that hit my feed!”

Rhea almost choked when she saw the name on the TM box.  “F-Flame Charge?!  There’s no shot you got it for 4,500, Lori!”  

“Synergistic Moves!  Woooh!  I saw this post where it can proc Flash Fire.  First Physical STAB Move, Honey Pot; I know, I’m awesome!  Oh, and I got connections; you know me,” the girl defended with an innocent smile.  “A little promotional goes a long way when you got social media numbers like me—yeah, don’t give me that ‘illegal, Lori’ look!  Red gave me that same stare.  C’mon, where’s the trust?”

“Can you blame us?”  Amira said, entering through the open door and setting down a few wrapped boxes.  “You do have shady circles, and that’s coming from the granddaughter of a Mob Boss.”

“Compliment taken!”  Lori giggled, quickly handing a wrapped box to Gables as he held out his hands.  “Oh!  Oh!  Gabs wanted to give Amber a present,” she sang, causing the Fire Fox to lift an eye at the frog’s outstretched gift.  “Well?  Well?”

“Braixen?”  she hummed, a smile growing on the fox’s face as Amira sat on her bed.

“That was thoughtful of him.”

The fox nodded, Gables shifting a bit with a half-smile at the thanks she gave him.  “Xen-xen.” 

“Fro-fro.”

Amber opened it to hand her Trainer the box to read.  “Xen?”

Amira’s eyes narrowed as she glanced up at their teammate’s grin.  “Sunny Day?  Lori…”

“Hey!  Hey!  It’s Gab’s gift to his girl.  You’re not going to deny him that joy?  C’mon!”

“Haaa.  You can be ridiculous sometimes.  And what else did you get for your Pokemon?  One has to be Rain Dance with you giving me Sunny Day.”

“That’s a secret, but let’s just say it’s as hot as your hair,” she returned with a wink, dragging the other boxes into her bag.  “Anyway, how was the exhibit, Red—oh, and that fish place, Blondie?”

Amira held Amber open the box to use the TM; the frog and fox were anxious to try it out.  “It was a lovely show.  Although, I was a little surprised to hear you went to Sea Delivuor, Rhea; it is a fairly expensive establishment.”

Rhea winced, remembering the five-digit bill.  “I learned the hard way… but listen to this,” she said, excitement picking up as Alice closed the door.  “Brock and Misty showed up, and I overheard some wild stuff—just promise this only stays between us!  Okay?”

Lori sat straighter, and Rhea could practically see her drooling for the scoop.  “Cross my heart and hope to be Pin Needled by a thousand Beedrill!  Spill the sweets!  You know who the Dad is, don’t you?  It’s Ash!  It has to be Ash!  You should have seen the guilty face she gave me once when I brought it up!”

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Amira got up with a sigh.  “I’m not super interested in—”

“Dawn’s involved, but it is worse!”  Rhea hissed in return to Lori.  “Much, much worse.”

The redhead paused halfway up, eyebrows drawing together.  “How do you mean… worse?  We aren’t saying alcohol or any other mentally inhibiting substances were involved, are we?”

“Ahem.”  Rhea took a deep breath and let it out.  “Try this: Ash was semi-tricked into giving away his sperm for my mom’s research project, where she gave samples to almost every girl that likes Ash…  He doesn’t even know!”

Silence came over them as they processed the mic-drop.  Lori shivered before collapsing to her bed and shaking with laughter.

“That’s even more insane than I’d ever thought!  I guess Misty was the only one brave enough to go through with it right away!  That’s wild!  There’s no way he doesn’t know, though; he’s an Aura Grandmaster!”

Rhea’s mind blanked.  “Wait, I hadn’t thought about that…  Would he be able to tell?”

Amira pulled her braid over her shoulder and fell to her back.  “Haaa.  Well, I’ll admit, that caught me entirely off-guard.  Still, it is entirely legal, if a bit in the gray area.  Good for them for finding a way to make things work between them.  I also doubt it since I’ve heard Auras are sporadic and developing within the womb, but I would bet that he will become aware of it as time goes on.  Lori…”

“No need to take that tone with me, Hotty!”  the Unovan girl snickered.  “I know when to keep my mouth shut, but… just hear me out—the credits we could get…  Hey, hey!”  she laughed as Rhea got up to punch her in the arm.  “Not a peep!  Hehehe.  You two are hilarious.”

“It’s super serious, though,” Rhea defended with a frown.  “I’m just kind of worried about Lillie and Chloe since they weren’t named explicitly, and Chloe was trying soo hard when we were at her house to get Ash to notice her.”

Lori settled in, hair bunched around her head.  “Such is the life of the shy girl.  Well, unless you have a childhood friend that just sucks your lips off out of nowhere!  Kidding!  Kidding!”  she squawked as Rhea got up to tackle her.  “Ouch!  Don’t pinch my sides—they’re called ‘love handles’ not ‘torture fluff’—Red, help!”

Amira snorted, pulling out her phone as their Pokemon returned to their show.  “She’s, like, 20 centimeters shorter than you, Ms. I Have High Physical Fortitude.  You’re 180 centimeters tall; a giant compared to her.”

“Rhea’s a monster, though!  Plus, we have a little dynamic going on; I’m 180, you’re 170, and 160—big sister, middle sister, little sister!”

“A monster that has learned your ticklish spots!”  Rhea roared as the violet-haired girl curled into a ball, and she hugged her from behind, searching for her Super Effective points.  “Flexing your belly isn’t going to help you, ‘Big Sis!’ ”

“Haah-haha-haha!  S-Stop!  Gah—I can’t breathe!”

“Promise you’ll not leak it!”

“I promise!  Stop—I’m getting a stitch—ou-ou-ou!  Hahaha!”

Torturing Lori for a bit, Rhea felt much lighter as the night drew to a close.  She wanted to keep Lori’s mind off the battle with Misty tomorrow because this would be the biggest hurdle her teammate had faced yet, and if she lost, it could cause huge problems, but she trusted her teammate.


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