B4 — 3. Fighting Ghosts

PoV:

1:  Lori (Our Misty Traumatized Unova Girl!  You can do it!)

2:  Lori’s Pokemon (Who Will It Be?!)

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!

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8:35 a.m. October 17th, Saturday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event).  Day 130.

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 (48 days away).

Lori pressed her pillow against her face with a groan as her snoozed alarm clock went off a third time.  Amira and Rhea had gone out to get her breakfast; she hardly remembered their conversation whenever the two had left.  Roxie, Zyra, and Gables were snuggled up to her, whereas her fluffy Kubfu was off with the gang, no doubt.

Scratching her exposed belly, her dull purple eyes drifted to the bed stand, where two amazing-looking breakfast burritos had been placed with a cup of coffee; she was grateful for the calories, these last few months of training had shown her just how big an appetite she could get.  Not to mention, sleep had not been welcoming the previous night, and she’d tossed and turned through most of it.

She roused her Pokemon with a groan, stretching out and scooting to the headboard.  Placing her pillow behind her back as her Pokemon mirrored her, she noticed small Pokemon cups beside her breakfast: some morning treats for her gang.

“So Mukin’ thoughtful,” she mumbled, bending over to snatch a burrito as Gables rolled off the bed to help Roxie.  Zyra merely fluttered to the table to start dipping her beak into the creamy treat.  “Last night was crazy…  I can’t believe all the girls got the goods,” she said to her team with a laugh.  “Dawn’s so busted next time we see her!”

“Froga,” Gables said with a small smirk.

“Bah!”  Lori rotated her shoulder and took another bite of the still-warm item.  “I know I promised Rhea—I’m just playing.  Haaa.  Ash really has 99 girl troubles, doesn’t he?  Lucky dude, hehe; I bet other guys are jelly.  Ooh, jelly donuts sound good right now, don’t they?”

Her Pokemon chirped in response as she activated her phone to browse through her messages.  Her burrito fell to her lap as she saw the text from her teammates.

6:55 a.m. – Honey Pot: Hey!  I hope you get some good rest.  We’re going to grab you breakfast.  Amira wanted to show me some of the morning jazz cafés to chill out and talk before the battle with Misty today.  Rest up!

7:29 a.m. – Honey Pot: We just dropped off your goodies.  Lol.  You look so out of it with Gables poking his feet against your nose.  I couldn’t help but take a picture.  I’ll attach it.  We’ll probably be at a jazz café when you get up, checking out the Art District, or some of the Painter Battles Amira was telling me about.  Catch you later!

She had a few more messages from her family, wishing her well, and unluckily, her little sister was currently bumming through the Safari Zone.  They were recording it and posting the videos of them getting spooked by every random noise or overlooking gorgeous valleys with Inoa’s placid face, holding up a peace sign, or Ellie’s over-emotional screams as the darker-skinned teen fell into a pond.

Her lips lifted at seeing her baby sis grow so much in the past 130 days.  Before their journey, she couldn’t imagine her club-trashing, wreck of a social media legend little sister anywhere close to the wilderness, yet here she was with video proof, making her fans go wild.  From telling ghost stories around the campfire to conspiring with Inoa to prank Ellie, they seemed to be doing great.

Lori almost fell off the bed when she saw a weird top comment on one of the videos of the spooky ghost story night, and clicking the linked time stamp, she burst into laughter upon seeing Shauntal randomly poking her head out from the brush with a cheery smile before slipping away into the mist.  None of the girls noticed, but the fans sure did.

Scrolling through the videos and pictures, her chest burned upon seeing her parents drop out of the sky to spend a night with them, Ellie’s own mother surprising her with an appearance.  Unsurprisingly, most of the comments were from thirsty guys repeating how stunning her fashion model of a mother and Olivia were in their camping outfits.

The three of them had already qualified for the Bronze League and were now testing their skills to go for Silver to see if they could skip it all together; it seemed to be a common trend amongst the Oak Starter Award winners.

Everyone is doing good, she said to her team, getting up to throw her arms high over her head and tilt left and right.

“Mmgm!  Wow.  My flexibility is increasing so much with all those stretches Dawn had me do.  Let’s get to it, gang!”

After finishing some light morning exercises, Lori went into the bathroom to freshen up for the day before texting her friends that she was up.  She took her food on the go at 9:15, munching on it while following her team’s sent coordinates to the Art District.

Due to it being a Saturday, there were a lot more kids in the street, which meant Roxie got mauled by the adoring children, all wanting to pet her salt-and-pepper Rockruff.  Zyra took more of a sky approach, keeping a bird’s eye view and reporting back to Gables.  The law said you were only supposed to have one Pokemon out right now, but whatever, her frog and bird could keep their distance.  Plus, it was more of a ‘guideline’ than a hard rule; at least, it was in her book.

Buying her team jelly donuts and a new coffee, she grinned at her bank balance while biting down on the sweet treat.  Even with her purchases yesterday, with the battles they’d won at the Nugget Bridge, she was looking at 12k credits—despite the 6k hit from today’s challenge.

Puffing up her cheeks, she let it stream out.  “Just breathe, haha.  No stress,” she reassured her cramping stomach.  “Everything is going to be fine.  Rhea, Amira!”

Catching sight of her teammates in the crowd that was surrounding two painters, she fell silent with the others while glancing between the two.  Ahead of them was a classy-dressed, black-haired woman who held a Shiny Psyduck.

The painters’ brushes were a blur as they made stroke after stroke against the canvases they were working on, battling to see who would complete their work the quickest, with the set amount of time they were given.  One went for more of a blurred background, choosing to focus on the human and Pokemon, while the second performed a more abstract art piece.

Amira leaned over to explain the process as whispers from the crowd pointed at each one, basically talking gibberish to her unrefined ears.  Apparently, both art pieces would be put up for bid at the end, and whoever managed to get more for their work won.  It was less of an official thing and more of a community-driven form of art.

Lori had no clue why someone would spend so much money on it, but maybe it was more for taking part in the experience.  When all was said and done, the blurred background painter won due to a last-minute transformation to the piece: he’d portrayed the woman and Psyduck into a gloomy, Cerulean sky, cast between the dark shadows of the towering buildings.  It sold for a ridiculous 60,000 credits, and for less than 30 minutes worth of work.

Making their way toward the Gym after the show, Lori laughed as she browsed Misty’s last week’s matches, playing them on mute.  “I had no clue art dealers could be such swindlers.  You can make bank off that if you’re getting that hourly.  Why are we Trainers again?”

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Arms crossed under her bust, Amira chuckled and picked up their pace to get across the street as it was about to change colors.

“It is very rare that you can sell something at that price.  Part of it is showmanship and the ability to impress upon the viewers their place in the painting within this moment in time, but also, the clientele that can throw that kind of credit at art is quite rare.  No artist is counting on that kind of sale more than one or two times a year, though it is plenty to live off of, and a decent living at that.”  

Rhea chimed in, probably repeating what the redhead had already told her.  “Mhm!  Mhm!  Many aspiring artists make it due to this street-side, speed-painting strategy to advertise their work.  That’s how Celina first made her debut, wasn’t it?  When you were a little girl, your grandfather was walking with you around the district, and she painted you two?”

A fond look drew the redhead’s gaze into her past as they turned down another road to reach the public train.  “It wasn’t only her painting but her personality that attracted my grandfather to her work.  Certain elements about an author or how they visualize things can impress upon their craft.  I’ve had her painting in my room since I was seven.  Did you notice it when you came to my house?”

“Sorry, but not even a little,” Lori laughed.  “You, Sunshine?”

Rhea looked sad as she shook her head.  “I wasn’t really interested in the artwork.  I was  mainly focused on your mom and how amazing she was.”

Amira didn’t seem put off by the admission.  “It’s quite alright.  It doesn’t need to mean anything to anyone else, which is the beauty of artwork: one man’s trash is another’s treasure.  You valued your time with my mother, which I can completely agree with, despite our own personal differences.”

“The pains of a smothering mom,” Lori snickered, bumping into the redhead with a grin.  “I’m impressed she’s been able to let you be after everything that happened.”

“She’s growing,” the redhead whispered affectionately, getting in the line for the train as it neared.  “In part, I think, due to the wonderful teammates I have to rely on that she can trust.”

“Aww!”  Lori bent down to lift her into a Ursaring hug.  “You and Honey Pot are too good at making people feel amazing!  I don’t deserve you two—get in here, Goldie!”

“Ahh!  Hehe.  Watch my hair—oof…”

Holding them tightly against her chest, Lori felt heat rising in her throat out of nowhere.  “I mean it…  Thanks, girls—you two mean the world to me.”

Rhea choked out a laugh, tapping her arm.  “My neck!  I give!  I give!  I’m the little girl here!”

She laughed and let her go to bend down and give the blonde a more gentle embrace.  “Our little ray of sunshine…  It meant a lot waking up to the food and whatever that brown mud was that you call coffee.”

“Eh-hehe.  I thought you liked that kind—wait, no, that was Amira’s bitter style.  My bad!”

Joking around for a bit as they boarded, Lori felt her nervous jitters subsiding, despite getting closer and closer to the Gym.  It meant a lot since, when she checked the line-up, she’d been the first of their team to be scheduled on the Silver-tier match-ups.

They took the train all the way to the Gym, loading out with the majority of the occupants; the Gym Challenges were an all-day thing, and Bronze had the majority of challengers every year, which lasted until just after noon.  It didn’t help that Cerulean got the prime Encrusted Match for revenue on Saturdays, sharing it with Janine and Giovanni, making it a huge crowd.

Complaining to her Pokemon, she groaned.  Why couldn’t it be Monday, like Sabrina, or Friday, like Saria?  Forrest has it on Wednesday, for crying out loud.  Why do Gyms have it on the same day and compete with each other’s viewership?  Why not do Sunday, like Erika—no, that might be even bigger…  What about Tuesday, like Blaine?!  Thursday doesn’t even have a Gym day in Kanto!  Oh, no…

Cramps twisted her belly as she stood in front of Cerulean Gym’s back entrance, Amira handing them their personally issued cards to swipe.  It was really happening.  Her lips pulled in as she got flashbacks of that stupid Slowpoke, swimming in lazy circles around Miky with the crowd’s laughter.

Gables rubbed her leg, making her gulp, and put on a somewhat nervous smile to hide her real feelings.  “Let’s do this!  I guess we should do some more, umm, planning, huh?”

“Lori…”  Rhea, likely using her x-ray powers of super emotional detection, took her hand and fed her with a warmth that she literally felt from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.  “It’ll be okay.  Janine went super hard on us, and we still won.  We’re strong!”

“Yeah,” she said, sounding more breathless than she would have liked as she squeezed the blonde’s hand for reassurance, Roxie rubbing against her shin.  “Come here, you little stinker,” she said to Teri, letting go of Rhea to pick up her frowny-faced Kubfu.  “We’re going to do it!”

It actually helped a lot when Amira didn’t remove her glasses, showing the redhead’s own nerves were getting to her; the art trip was probably more for her thumping heart than anything else, and Rhea got her strength from helping others, which brought breakfast to her in the morning.

They were doing okay.  She was going to be okay…  Yet, time seemed to flash by in still images.  Before she knew it, her name was called, and she was standing in front of a very familiar, colossal pool of water with over ten thousand people watching.

It will be okay, she repeated to herself, mouth dry and holding her elbow to curb any potential shakes.  When did I put you all in your balls again?

The hidden scars along her back itched, making her breath catch as Misty’s image came over the television above, but it wasn’t harsh, as Rhea warned, which threw her for a loop.  The orange-haired woman was sitting in a chair rather than standing, her belly well pronounced after seven months pregnant.

“Lori, I’m glad to see you returning to face me after our last match and that I got to challenge you before I leave next week.  Congratulations on the victory over Sabrina.  I watched it, and both you and Miky certainly showed phenomenal improvement.  I’m sure you two did your best…  How do you feel?”

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Figuring the woman was referencing Miky leaving their party and how they’d done their best to keep it together without screaming the story to the world, Lori was thankful for the tact; guilt about even joking to Rhea about revealing her secret twisted her insides as she responded.

“At first,” she mumbled in the silent hall, in front of thousands live and even more digitally, “I, umm, I thought you were way too hard on us… and I was resentful.  But really, I was angry at myself for subjecting Miky to that kind of battle when… when I hadn’t prepared him for it, and it… hurt to admit that.”

Swallowing, she puffed out a long breath as Teri held her hand, the Legendary Pokemon’s fluff tingling her skin.  It was hard to hold in her emotions from going out of control when she needed it most here.  Her supportive Pokemon helped her get what was corroding her heart.

“I did take… take your challenge lightly—thinking it would be as easy as, hah, Gym Leader Forrest’s battle was when… when it hadn’t been easy, and despite our advantage over Rock-Types, we still came close to losing.  I can’t undo the pain I caused Miky, but I can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Firming her voice, she looked up at the smiling woman, nothing like the horrific figure she’d seen in her nightmares.  “I’m here to challenge you for the Silver Encrusted Badge, Gym Leader Misty, and while I failed to obtain the Bronze Encrusted Challenge, I won’t choke this time.  We’re ready to move forward…  I’m ready to move forward.”

Heart beating like a Buneary, she puffed out the tight air that compressed in her lungs.  The ensuing silence was deafening as Misty studied them from across the giant gap, with the only sound coming from the sloshing of the water against the sides of the pool, and suddenly, clapping was heard.

Misty’s action was soon followed by the crowd, and looking to the sidelines, Lori almost choked upon seeing her family there: her father, mother, and two sisters joining in the applause.  She fought tears from leaving her eyes; the Muking losers, including her little sister’s teammates, had posted online videos on a delayed schedule to sneak into the crowd.

I hate you guys…  she lied, swallowing the lump in her throat as Misty addressed her again with the dying sound.

“Your team has been through a hard road, Mallory, and I’ve heard all about it from Ash.  He wanted me to let you girls know that he thinks you’re ready to stand on your own feet.  He respects you, and through what you just showed me… I respect you.  Now, show me what that brainy, blue-haired dandruff machine up north has taught you.”

Lori couldn’t help a snort, practically seeing Dawn’s appalled gasp at the thrown shade.  “It’ll be our pleasure!  Don’t go easy on us.”

Misty’s fingers dipped into the compartment that opened when she placed her three Poke Balls into their slots.  “I was considering a Gyarados, actually.”

“A what?!”  Lori gagged, biting her tongue and making her hiss.

“Haha!  I was considering,” she repeated, placing one back into the box.  “Your Pokemon are powerful, Lori, and the Gyms serve to offer challenges of the appropriate degree… and perhaps a tad stronger.”

Selecting another out, she looked toward the ref, having politely waited until the orange-haired woman was done.  “Show me your growt—ack!  Mmmgm…”  she cried, tears coming to her eyes as she shot straight up in her chair.  “You—little monster!  Argh—ack-ack…  One second—one second…  Just… give me a second.”

“Y-Yeah, sure…”  Lori said with a wince and forced laugh.  “Everything… okay?”

“Just… something I should have expected from the… genetics,” she said with a tortured smile.  “Once a pain… always a pain.  Go ahead, Kassie.”

“Ahem.  Right, Ma’am.  And we’re kicking off the Silver Bracket with a bang, Ladies and Gentlemen!  Our challenger is the daughter of two Active Elite 4 members—in fact, they’re in the crowd tonight—Grandmaster Karen and Grandmaster Grimsley!  We even have Grandmaster Shauntal with them!  This is sure to be an intense match, so let’s get down to the brass!”

The woman hovered in the middle of the arena on her gravitation lift, holding up two flags.  “This is a Silver Bracket Encrusted Challenge.  Singles.  Two Pokemon.  On one, the battle begins.  Pick.  Your.  Lead!”

Lori plucked out Gables’ ball and tossed it in the air, the jitters now totally gone.

We ready?  she internally asked her Pokemon.

They cheered, Gables stretching left and right in his capsule as they stared at the recovering, pregnant woman in her booth, currently twisting on her chair to find a more comfortable position.

We can do this…  We’ll win.  Gabs, you’re leading this, but we may need to swap to Zyra if it’s a bad matchup.  And I’ve learned… it’s always going to be a bad matchup when you’re facing a Gym.  Let’s Muking go!

“Set your stance…  And three… two… one.  Match Start!”

Lori hurled Gables’ Poke Ball across the stadium.  It was time to face her fear.

* — * — *

Gables kept his mind and heart steady as he landed on one of the platforms near their side of the open stage.  There wasn’t much room for cover or mistakes; of course, that wasn’t the same for the rich coral reef down below, but up here, dodging would be critical.  Now, who was their opponent?

Tingles ran down his back as he saw a blue-eyed, pink, frilly Pokemon that hovered above the water, showing a charming smile, and the announcer cried out the matchup.

“Lori chooses Gables, her Frogadier, which is a solid Starter, able to move swiftly in the—and Misty counters with Trista, her female Frillish!  Are we about to see some aqua acrobatics between these Water Pokemon?”

A nervous twitch came from his Trainer as she pulled up Pokedex.  “Gabs, we’re looking at a possible Water Absorb match, just like that Muking Croagunk fight we had against Janine.  Watch out for Absorb and Poison Stings.”

Got it!  he shouted back, shooting into the water as she dipped below the surface to meet him.

“Hello,” she chimed from across the pool, frills weaving in the water as she spun in a small circle.  “You are quite the cute frog with that shiny hue.  Why don’t we have some fun…”

“Why don’t we?”  Gables grinned, blending into the water with Camouflage as he prepared Mind Reader.  “Let’s make a splash…”  he trailed off, slowing to a stop in the slashing pool as Trista glowed a faint blue and disappeared into the water.  Silence took the oppressive pool, only the muffled vibrations of the onlookers breaking the still atmosphere.  His opponent had her own form of invisibility.

Floating in the swaying current, he scanned for any sign of her, only to start seeing slow-moving Bubbles coming his way; she was an ambush hunter like him.

Well, this is new, he mumbled to his team, Lori giving him the update.

“Watch out for her, Gabs; she has Acid Armor, which increases her Defense and makes her invisible inside water for a short period of time.  It’s not as permanent as your camo, though.  Water Moves may not hurt her if she has Water Absorb, but it will break her out.  In fact, bring the noise!”

Gables’ camo faded as he sucked in water, and sent a low rippling sound through the water in a wide-ranged attack, popping the Bubbles and causing the flickering pink jellyfish to appear several meters away; somehow, she had accurately judged where he was.  A grin split his lips as he sucked in Lori’s energy, mixing it with his own for a Quick Attack; too bad for her, he had speed Moves.

“Slick Move, girl, but I’ve got priority!”

White light embraced him, and his body rocketed toward the still-smiling pink Pokemon as he canceled the Move just before connecting with the girl, an orange glow erupting from his fist to strike her.  “Let’s danc—eh?!”

Yet, the red outlines of her eyes shone, as she showed a ghastly grin.  “Hehe, that won’t do, pretty.  Not at all!”

Gables was at a loss for words when his punch didn’t appear to phase her in the slightest, choosing to back off instead, only for her delicate hand to rise, illuminated a toxic purple as she tapped him on the forehead.

Mouth tightening as the force shot him back, the jelly giggling as she followed, a green ball forming to connect with him, making him kick around to launch out of the water as Lori hissed an apology.

She’s a Ghost-Type, Gabs!  Normal and Fighting Moves won’t hit her!  You’ve only got Lick or our new ace-in-the-hole!  Water Absorb and a Ghost?!  Muk, I would have preferred a Gyarados!”

“Oh, gorgeous, why are you leaving?  You’re not scared of pretty little me, are you?”

“Heh, sorry, girl, but I got someone already waitin’ for me, and she’s got more fire than you’ll ever have!”

“Haaa.  Rejected again,” the Pokemon wistfully whispered, fading into the water.  “No one can escape once I get my arms around them…  You’ll see.  Hehehe.”

Narrowly missing the Absorb and thoroughly perturbed, Gables landed on one of the platforms, scanning the lapping waves of the pool; she was gone again.  Rubbing his smarting forehead, glad the poison didn’t take effect, he decided to swap gears.  If water made her invisible, then he had to take this to the land, where his camouflage still worked.

“You want to play games?  We can play games…”

Melding into the surroundings, he jumped from platform to platform before sitting on one and easing his heart rate.  He had a way of finding hard-to-see targets; Piplup had taught him a little secret about Mind Reader, and he had his own secret Moves he’d been practicing.

It was time to go Ghost hunting.


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