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Pokemon and Trainer alike start their story off on a rough patch. Things can only go up from here... hopefully.

Chapter 1: The Start of Something Big

Despite his best efforts, Oshawott felt pins and needles all over when he stepped forward from Professor Aurea Juniper and onto the battlefield. It was the end of a busy Saturday afternoon for the Juniper Research Laboratory when time was found for a last minute match to go over a few basics. Ever since the Sea Otter Pokemon learned a rookie Trainer had selected him as their starter Pokemon, anxious didn't begin to describe his state of mind. Oshawott's body trembled in a deadly emotional cocktail of anticipation and fear. The sight of Snivy didn't help.

On the other side, a sharp-eyed Snivy stepped up on the other side of the indoor battlefield while taking in the sunlight through the clear roof above. She folded her eyes and shot a haughty look of disapproval towards Oshawott. She scoffed when she saw the cringe-worthy stern expression he was putting on. [Who do you believe your trying to con, Water Boy?] the Grass Snake Pokemon asked rhetorically, loathing such a display of posturing. She felt it her duty to remind him of his place.

[Slice her to ribbon, buddy!] Tepig oinked for his best friend from the sidelines, hopping about with energy to spare. His snout exhales steam like a engine bursting a safety value or two. He put on a determined expression like Oshawott's but could see that his friend's confident front was wavering and felt guilty for it. Even if he kept Snivy from hurting physically, her sharp tongue dealt enough damage with her insults alone.

"Try to take it easy, Oshawott," Professor Aurea promised the Water-type starter, bending down to the little guy. "This is just to gauge your response time and overall stamina against a wild encounter with a potential type advantage." She took out an old fashion notepad and pen from her coat pocket, preparing to jot down note. "That be said, Snivy, I would appreciate it if you held back just a tad."

Snivy sniffed with a stone cold expression while two vines protruded from the left and right petals on her collar. [A bit stifling but it would be only fair,] she conceded before cracking a sharp whip with her right vine. Oshawott flinched right on cue or rather right on her command. [All I need to know... is how to make this last...]

[Don't give into her,] Tepig anxiously oinked at Oshawott. However, he couldn't help but feared the worst.

"Let's start with something... pedestrian and light," Professor Aurea decided while writing on her notepad. "Oshawott, rush Snivy with your best Tackle."

Oshawott regained his facade of composure and nodded yes in whatever determination he could muster. He burst into a straight sprint straight for Snivy and made a perfect beeline on the smooth marble surface of the laboratory's many testing battlefields. The Sea Otter Pokemon drew upon power within him to enhance his body's ramming strength via energy researchers classified as Normal-type. His eyes were trained on Snivy's vines and was ready for them.

At least, Oshawott thought he was. Instead of lashing him at lightening speed, Snivy let her opponent come her way and get within inches of her before pushing her vines against the floor. The Grass Snake Pokemon elevated her light body off the floor and let Oshawott barrel through where she once stood.

[What the-?] was all the Sea Otter Pokemon could utter in his confusion before stumbling in his attempt to slow down suddenly. He yelped helplessly while he fell onto his front before rolling onto his back. Tepig could only wince at the impact and recognize that Snivy was really cutting out the middleman.

Oshawott slowly got up while he heard Snivy's trademarked sigh of condescension behind him. [Must we repeat this formula every time, Water Boy?] she sniped at him, her sharp tongue brandished to pierce perfectly. [We've all memorized this tragedy's end by heart so why bother turning another page.] Oshawott felt her hisses make his body feel heavy with too many layers of anxiety weighing him down. What could he do to rewrite such a predictable ending?

"Order-to-attack response time is quite adequate as starters go," Aurea spoke aloud while jotting down notes. "Paw borderline on the pulse even." She wasn't too quick on the uptake with Oshawott's anxiety. "However, sudden stops need to be improved upon." The Professor put the pad down before making her next call. "Let's try out ranged attacks with Water Gun, Oshawott!"

Oshawott swallowed hard before changing Water-type energy into his throat and turning around to face Snivy. He spews out a concentrated column of pressurized water from his mouth up at his opponent. However, Snivy manages to dodge by having her vines spring her out of the way just in time and gain some distance once she landed on the floor. Oshawott gave chase while he still had plenty of pressure to let off but the Grass Snake Pokemon was too swift in zig-zagging away from his aim. The sunlight had given her the leg-up she didn't feel she needed but appreciated anyways.

Oshawott had neglected the run off from his Water Gun creating puddles in his pursuit of Snivy. He was reminded of them when he stepped on one and slipped onto his back. Oshawott yelped helplessly when falling and landing painfully enough to interrupt his blast. He didn't know what hurt more: the fall or the embarrassment.

"Ranged attacks are looking decent," Aurea muttered while writing down her data. "However, Water-type starter tends to be less aware of their surroundings in their haste." She didn't notice Snivy taking matters into her own hands just yet. "Trainer may need to compensate."

[Still can't comprehend your inferiority, can you?] Snivy scoffed with pitying frown toward Oshawott, producing a vine from her left shoulder. [You never were quick on the uptake.] She wrapped her vine around the Sea Otter Pokemon's right flipper and sharply hoisted him up. He cried like a newly-hatched with his stubby, little fore-arms flailing about.

Aurea looked back up just in time and mentally kicked herself for head not being in the game. "Oshawott, counter with another Water Gun!" she hastily shouted. The Professor was glad her father wasn't here to see this. Heck, Hilda would've never let her live it down.

Oshawott spewed out whatever pressurized water he could make at a moment's notice and aimed for Snivy the best he could upside down. However, the Grass Snake Pokemon spun around on her stubby feet gracefully and took her prey for a literal swing. Oshawott's water sprayed all around the battlefield while he hung from the vine.

Neither Aurea nor Tepig could keep from flinching when the water hit them. "I just got this dry-cleaned!" the Professor griped when her lab coat was soaked. The Fire Pig Pokemon especially winced when his warm body was hit by cold liquid but was more concerned for his friend.

All the while, Oshawott was on the verge of spewing far worse than water before Snivy mercifully let him go. He found hitting the floor like a sack of potatoes didn't hurt quite as much when he already felt awful to begin with. [Owwwwww...] It still stunk though.

[Last but not least, the coup de grace,] Snivy proclaimed while channeling her Grass-type Energy throughout her entire body. She makes a giant leap and makes a swift spin when she's just above Oshawott. The air around her swirls into a green-tinted vortex thanks to the energy she expells and keeps her in the eye of the storm.

Oshawott was just getting up when the Leaf Tornado engulfed him and spun him around while leaf-like projectiles batter him like its a real storm. He cries from the sudden suction and soon feels dizzy all over again from feeling his body being hurtled around at what seemed like a million miles per hour. His stomach cuts off his shouting with a gurgle and makes him feel green himself once more. Amazingly enough, it was only second to the small projectiles sharply striking him all over.

Both Aurea and Tepig brace themselves against the gust from Snivy's Leaf Tornado due to the closed off quarters of the battlefield. "Guess I can skip laundry today," the Professor quipped while gritting her teeth. She soon spots Oshawott being flung out from the top of the Leaf Tornado once it soon died down and heading for her much to her horror.

Oshawott wailed helplessly before Aurea caught him like a Linebacker for the Gurdurr 11 and stumbled back from the force alone. Her notepad fell to the floor while the Professor managed to keep from falling herself but she was more concerned with her starters.

"Well... that was... illuminating..." Aurea panted out while cradling Oshawott with her left arm. "Are you decent, Oshawott?" The Sea Otter Pokemon gave his answer in the form of a whimpering moan and a hue of green all over his white face. "Ask a stupid question..." Aurea berated herself before hastily taking out a Fresh Water out of her lab coat and giving it to Oshawott. "Better hurry before you redecorate my favorite coat."

Oshawott grabbed the bottle and tore off the cap before chugging down the revitalizing liquids like it was a stag party. He could feel his battered body and churned stomach becoming relived of their pain before finishing the bottle with his deepest sigh of relief. The battle was barely five minutes but to Oshawott, it might as well have been five years.

"I'm sorry if Snivy may've gotten out of hand," Aurea apologized to Oshawott while setting him back down onto the floor. "It's just important to remember that Pokemon outside this lab won't be very considerate in battle if at all." She picked up her notepad if only to jot down a few more final observations.

[I get it...] Oshawott sighed with resignation, making a raspy noise while hanging his head. He knew full well that Snivy considered this more than just a simulation. However, the Sea Otter Pokemon felt too ashamed to address the torment she put him through to Aurea. The language barrier didn't help matters either.

"Well, worst comes to worst, Hilda will keep you in check," Aurea promised Oshawott before the X-Transceiver on her wrist rang all of a sudden. "Oh boy..." she sighed wearily upon reading "Cedric" on the caller ID. "No way the meeting ended that quickly." She pat Oshawott on the head affectionately before standing up. "I have to take this so you just hang tight here." She walked towards the benches on the side for better reception and picked up the call.

Oshawott sighed in relief once Aurea was a distance away and let himself believe it was over. [I truly pity whoever selected you,] Snivy's snooty voice chimed in, proving him wrong. Oshawott jumped and turned around to find her snout only a smidge away from his noise. [Any attempt to elicit anything short of dismal from you is comparable to squeezing blood from the proverbial stone.] He shirked back with a whimper over Snivy's little diatribe combined with her piercing gaze.

[I... I... I gonna do my best...] Oshawott managed to squeak out in the face of Snivy. She never failed to make him feel small. Right now, he felt borderline microscopic.

[As our scuffle recently indicates, your "best" won't suffice,] Snivy sharply retorted, stepping closer to make sure Oshawott got the point. [With any shred of fortune, your Trainer will come to this revealation sooner rather than later... I pray.] She took no pleasure in his visible anxieties and dower expressions but rather saw it as a favor she was doing for him. [Best case scenario: you will return here and receive the opportunity to improve however marginally.] The Grass Snake Pokemon saw it best to tear down his hopes and prepare him for disappointment.

[And... the worst...] Oshawott dared to ask with a gulp, unable to keep away from Snivy's remarks.

[You will be sold for cash,] Snivy put forth, shrugging nonchalantly. [Perhaps then your Trainer will put you to decent enough use at-.] She didn't get to finish her cutting remark when she felt a surge of heat rushing her way and leaped backwards. Snivy had only narrowly avoided being struck by a blast of scorching Embers that burnt the floor she had stood on.

Oshawott had jumped in surprise from being inches away from the Fire-type attack. He soon felt less on edge when he looked to his left and smile earnestly for the first time all day. There was Tepig with a look of righteous indignation in his eyes aimed right for Snivy while he scurried up and stood in front of Oshawott.

[Sorry I let her push you around,] Tepig apologized to his buddy. [I was hoping to get a perfect shot in.] He looked back to see Oshawott give a nervous but humble bow of appreciation. [It's... the thought that counts.]

Snivy regained their attention with a clearing of her throat. [I appreciate the challenge, Tepig,] she spoke with a more cordial demeanor. [A good palette cleanser after a terrible lacking snack will do me well.]

[You talk too much,] Tepig snorted angrily, literally blowing off steam from his nose.

"Tepig and Snivy, return!" Aurea's voice rang out, slicing the tense atmosphere like butter.

Both the Fire Pig and Grass Snake Pokemon look up in time to see the Professor holding up two Poke Balls that each shot a red beams at one of them. They made contact with Tepig and Snivy respectively before changing their bodies into that very red plasmic energy.

Oshawott spotted the Grass-type starter shooting him a look of disdain before the red and white sphere pulled her into it. Tepig was also returned to his own Poke Ball, leaving the Sea Otter Pokemon to feel Snivy's words sink in and to hang his head somberly. He didn't want to believe in any of her remarks but it was like he didn't have a choice.

"Turn your back for one second, I swear..." Aurea muttered irritably while pocketing Snivy and Tepig's Poke Balls. "Not that I haven't faced worst at home..." She saw Oshawott looking downcast and interpreted his emotion as mere pre-show jitters. The Professor put on a smile in relating to what she assumed.

"I know this is a big moment of uncertainty for you," Aurea promised while kneeling down to Oshawott's level, getting him to look up at him. "Trust me, I had the same feeling when I joined my dad as a Pokemon Researcher." She gave a loving pat on the Sea Otter Pokemon's head to help improve his mood. "Though trust me when I say that you've won the lottery in landing a Pokemon Trainer."

Oshawott didn't know what a "lottery" was but knew Aurea meant it as a good thing. "She's always sticking her neck out for others," the Professor went on, cultivating the Water-type Starter's hopes. "She's great with Pokemon and even able to understand how they're truly feeling." Oshawott's tail would've wagged happily if he was Lillipup. "No matter what, she'll stick by your side and give you the best kind of training you can hope for."

Oshawott smiled more and more as Professor Juniper went on. He couldn't help imagining the image of a literal angel all dressed in white and sporting flowing blonde hair while descending from up above. Or at least based on what little he knew of the idea. Nonetheless, he trusted Aurea enough to expect only the best from his very first Trainer.

Aurea gasped in realization before standing back up quickly. "She's also suppose to be gathering ingredients for tonight's special dinner," she exclaimed while turning her X-Transceiver again. "Dad and I promised one hell of a banquet when she passed her application." Aurea tapped "Hilda" on her contact list and waited for her goddaughter to pick up via the Live Caster video feed.

Oshawott eagerly listened to the X-Transceiver ringing and waited for a chance to hear the voice of who will become his Trainer. His smile of anticipation grew until loud crashing noises erupted from the device and made him yelp in fright before jumping nearly a foot into the air. The Sea Otter Pokemon felt his heart racing after his battle instincts had been triggered by such sudden sounds.

Even Aurea had been taken aback by this and felt her eardrums get the brunt of it. "Little busy at the moment, Auntie," she heard Hilda speak through crackling reception and what the Professor soon recognized audibly as Pokemon attacks. "And yes, I got the pasta you asked for- Minnie, incoming!" Whatever video feed the Professor could make out was wildly moving around like a poorly shot superhero movie. It almost hurt her to look at just the same.

"...eat that rodent alive!" a more volatile voice cut in to Oshawott's dread. He had been listening to what sounded like a warzone and could only imagine it as just that. "Rule #151 of battling," Hilda's voice spoke to the Professor. "No distractions in ongoing combat, much less personal calls." Oshawott found her voice to be a lot more tough and commanding than what he'd been lead to believe. "You taught me that personally." A dead dial tone soon beeped after.

Oshawott looked up to find Professor Aurea Juniper turning off her X-Transceiver and letting out a huge sigh of weariness. "A real chip off the old block... tragically," she muttered while pinching the bridge of her nose. Oshawott found the image of his angel morph into something more devilish and shrouded in dark shadows. He gulped in fearing what he might've gotten himself into.

Downtown Nuvema wasn't exactly bustling like Castelia or even Striaton, being in a quietest corner of South-Eastern Unova. However, plenty of locals were frequenting their local shops and eateries before the sun could even start to set. The street was mostly barren aside from the occasional steady-going cars every few minutes, letting jaywalkers get off scot-free.

On the sidewalks, one young man in glasses was rambling about the power of science and technology to their blonde girlfriend down Main Street. A little girl was begging their father to get them a Pokemon for the umpteenth time, hanging off the man's right arm out of protest. An elderly husband and wife passed them on their way to Schemmel and Sabat's, their local general store just across the street. They were just a few feet from the front door when...


A bulky Throh had crashed through the General Store's door clean off its hinges and flew back-first before hitting the ground. The red-faced Judo Pokemon slid across the concrete before hitting his head on the fire hydrant and knocking himself out cold. Nearly everybody in the area turned their heads towards the action.

The elderly couple, Damian and Linda Ayres, glanced at each other with concerned looks before bluntly sharing the same sentiments. "Hilda."

A bald young man with a leather jacket bolted out of the shop and right for his Throh. "Get up, you numbskull," Vic demanded while pulling up the Judo Pokemon by the Gi. "How do you just have a type advantage and lose to that dirty rat?" He shook Throh repeatedly but found his Pokemon was so out cold, his consciousness was borderline frozen. The Fighting-types mouth hung open while his eyes rolled back into his head.

"What were you expecting with that sorry excuse for tactics?" an indignant female voice chimed in with a rather annoyed tone of voice. "You just blindly barked at him to punch there and kick here." Vic scowled when he heard her sassing him while stepping out from the busted doorway, crunching the debris under her black shoes. "Type advantages mean squat if you can't strategize to save your life." That was the last straw for the Roughneck.

"I-I only took it easy on some kid from the boonies," Vic retorted, springing up to turn around and face his foe. "You got lucky and you know it!" Her posture only ticked him off even more with how assertive and cocksure it was.

Between the black vest over the white tank-top and the short daisy dukes, Vic was sure he had this fourteen-year-old pegged as some tomboyish poser. Now the heroic glare she was piercing him with was starting to get to him. Not that he could let it show despite his gulping.

"Oh, miss me with that "taking it easy" Boufalaunt Barf," Hilda spat back, keeping her distance despite her sharp tongue. "You ran out of luck when you tried to rob my friends and made me trash their store." She had half a mind to slug the punk but knew that it would really ruin today's special occasion. The rookie decided to settle for something lighter yet no less devastating.

"Minnie!" Hilda called out, looking behind her, "back me up, girl!" A gray-furred Minccino exited the General Store while hastily sweeping up the dust and debris with her broom-like tail much to her owner's embarrassment. "There's a time and place for everything but not now!" Hilda exclaimed in exasperation over the Chinchilla Pokemon being on neat-freak mode of all times.

[I'm terribly sorry,] Minnie squeaked with embarrassment and a rather refined dialect. [But all of this untidiness was truly puts me ill at ease.] She tried her best to sweep her tail faster while coming up along side Hilda. [Just a bit more.]

Hilda covered her mouth and nose when the dust began to rise while she groaned indignantly. "This at least better trigger his allergies or blind him."

Speaking of whom, Vic was both baffled that Hilda was bickering with her Pokemon and offended that she was ignoring him for some rat. "That does it," he declared, scowling like mad. "We do this the old fashioned way." He bolted straight for Hilda while clenching his fists and assumed that she would freeze up while he quickly closed the distance. "How's this for 'strategizing,' huh?"

Hilda and Minnie quit their bantering to look up at their incoming foe, their minds immediately focusing on the battle. "Tickle him pink!" Hilda ordered almost at once, never hesitating once.

Minnie put her need to clean aside while she raced forth and went up Vic's right pant leg before he knew it. She ducked under the baggy shirt under his leather jacket just before he looked down and stopped in his track.

"What the he-he-he-he-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" Vic began to exclaimed before his rhetorical question devolved into manic laughter. Minnie's tickling caused him to spaz out his limbs all over the place like a bad dancer on an extremely waxed floor.

All who had stopped on the sidewalks to see the altercation forgot to be worried and began laughing their heads off at Vic's impromptu dancing. The old Ayres couple actually brought out their hand-held Personal Computers and started recording the Roughneck's humiliation.

"Ride 'em, cowboy," Linda jeered at Vic while her husband recorded.

"This dance is totes lit," Damian chortled, trying too hard to be hip with his "fellow kids."

Hilda could hardly keep herself from laughing if only out of some sympathy. She had be the victim of Minnie's tickling many times and knew of its power over the body. It did put a confident smile on her face if nothing else.

"How's this for a trade-off?" Hilda began, keeping control of the situation. "You saunter out of town and back to whatever hole you crawled out of after Minnie keeps from ruining your favorite slacks." She really wanted to get back home before Auntie Aurea already.

"Deal!" Vic shouted through gritted team in his attempt to stop laughing. "Just... get this... rode... I mean... sweet... little thing... off me!" He could feel his bladder control crumbling by the second.

"That'll be all Minnie," Hilda called out with a clap of her hands. Right on cue, the Minccino popped out of Vic's right sleeve and dropped down to the sidewalk.

[And not a moment too soon,] Minnie fussed while scurrying back to Hilda. [His body spray was murder on my sinuses.] An affectionate pet on the head from her owner soon soothed her feelings in due time.

Vic fell down on his butt while his chest heaved in trying to catch his breath. "Forget this dirt-hole," he spat while going down to Throh. "I just knew I should've stayed with the Black Empoleons." The Roughneck gritted his teeth while pulling the bulky Judo Pokemon by the left arm up the street.

Hilda exchanged perturbed looks with Minnie before she opened her mouth to ask the obvious. "I broke my Poke Balls, okay!?" Vic barked back as if anticipating what people were thinking.

Ignoring the awkward ending to this battle, Hilda still scoops up Minnie for a victory cuddle. "Looks like you really cleaned his act up," the rookie proclaimed, trying to sound as unironic as possible with such a painful pun. Suffice to say, the girls laughed with each other over their recent ordeal.

"Hey... Hilda..." a light male voice called out behind them in an awkward tone of voice. "Totally appreciate you saving our store again and all but... well..." Hilda and Minnie turned around to see a young soft-faced man with an expression as uneasy as his words. Next to Sean Sabat was Chris Schemmel who wore a more chiseled face and stern expression, looking older despite being a year older.

"We'd appreciate it more if you picked up after yourselves better," Chris gruffly claimed, pointing to the broken doorway behind him with his thumb.

Hilda and Minnie both winced when they looked down at the busted down door. However, the pit in the young lady's stomach grew considerably when she looked into the General Store and saw the collateral damage. The Minccino was more overwhelmed by the sight of such disorganization that she fainted and fell down into Hilda's hands.

"I'll go get the broom..." Hilda sighed deeply while hanging her head in defeat. This was not her idea of a first day suffice to say.

"Son of a Garbaodor!" Hilda exclaimed upon looking at her X-Transceiver. "Auntie Aurea expected us a whole hour ago!" She was currently bolting through her suburban neighborhood in downtown Nuvema while Minnie clung to her right shoulder. "If I had just snuck out the back when Chris wasn't looking..."

Hilda flew by house after house before screeching to a stop at a corner where a crossing guard held up his stop sign and blew his whistle. She was so antsy that she kept running in place, mentally urging the back up of cars to pass already.

[...you would've been insufferably guilt-ridden for the whole day,] Minnie chimed in, eyes shut with her nose up in the air. [Especially when you all but destroyed most of their wares.] She could almost see the veins on Hilda's temple popping.

"Well, excuse me for trying to compensate for type disadvantages," Hilda snapped back when the crossing guard let her run resume. "You were the one playing 'demolition derby' with Throh." She resumed her mad dash like a Purrloin on a sugar rush. Something she had little trouble imagining.

[I am painfully aware,] Minnie gulped, clenching her teeth in a fit of guilt. [That I had been the cause of such... unsightliness is far more than what I can bear.] She took in a deep breath sharply before exhaling in an effort to repress such an image the best she can. [Ultimately, you have done the responsible thing by staying and should be proud.] The Minccino put out a genuine smile for her owner's sake.

Hilda snuck in a weary sigh among her panting. "If only my heroics came with clean-up crews," she bemoaned, remembered every nook and cranny she had to clean out. "Such a curse it is, being this virtuous..."

Hilda rounded a bend only to get a flash of light in her eyes that screeched her sprint to a halt. Minnie also suffered from this overload of brightness and shut her eyes along with her owner.

"Do you mind?" a nonchalant male voice chimed in. "You just ruined a perfectly good shot."

Hilda's vision cleared in time for her to recognize Trip Shooter, a blonde teenager with a classic camera on a tripod in his hands and a Patrat on his shoulders. "Still trying to capture the essence of Suburbia," she assumed, nearly forgetting what she was previously moaning about.

"Like my old man drilled into my skull," Trip replied while focusing more on adjusting the tripod to face the street. "You don't find the perfect shot but it will find you."

His Patrat was darting around with its eyes to seek interesting subject before chirping into Trip's ear. The young man saw his Pokemon pointing to his left and found a very battered minivan slowly coming up the road and potential picture in the makings. He focused his camera while waiting for the vehicle to pass and took the picture when it was square in the frame for but a second.

"Oh, congrats on becoming a Trainer or whatever." Trip replied like it was another day in Nuvema Town.

Hilda decided to head pass Trip while she still could while Minnie still had lights in her eyes. "Thanks for the enthusiasm," she playfully quipped, knowing that the aspiring photographer tended to get lost in his craft. At the very least, his Patrat waved the two of them off happily.

"And thanks for getting those rowdy Pokemon to pose for me," Trip responded while checking his shot's composition. "I dunno how you did it but you did it."

Hilda stuck out her tongue cheekily while running quicker than before. "It's a gift," she replied whether Trip heard or not.

Hilda and Minnie crossed the street to another block where they spot a broad young redhead dribbling his basketball with his muscular arms. He was looking for an opening to shoot and facing off with a Golett who had their arms out wide for catching.

"Heard the great news, Hild!" Stephan Kenyan congratulated when she came up on his left. "Oh, and thanks for helping me with tryouts!" He was still looking for an opening past Golett. "It's looking like I'm gonna qualify." He decided to take aim when he thought he had it.

Hilda didn't stop in her rush but did have time to hear her friend and smile at his own good news. "Congrats," she shouted back while waving. "I'll see you on the Big Stadium, Stefan."

The mispronunciation of his name threw the redhead off his game just as he took the shot. "STEPHAN!" he shouted back at Hilda irately, not noticing the basketball bouncing off the rim. "As in with a 'v' sound!" He was oblivious to Golett rushing to catch only for the ball to bounce off his head and into the street. "I swear that's getting really old really fast." The Automaton Pokemon silently panicked while running after their only sports equipment.

Hilda rounded another bend while looking at the time on her X-Transceiver. "I suppose we'll get off with a stern talking-to," she sighed in slight resignation. "As long as there's no more..."

[Oh, look,] Minnie suddenly cut in with a tone of delight. [Isn't that your friend, Burgundy?]

Hilda felt her blood run cold on this early Summer evening and felt it freeze over upon seeing the Kalosian in question. Burgundy Cabernet was in her front yard practicing elegant poses and curtsies in her Pokemon Connoisseur suit. Along side her was an Escavalier who was imitating her cordial mannerisms. Hilda didn't hesitate to duck behind a pair of garbage cans by the side of the driveway.

"I mean..." Hilda whispered for fear of the dreaded of violet hair, "we're on better-ish terms but that's not saying much." She saw that Burgundy had her eyes closed while practicing and gulped hard at the risk she was taking. "Here goes... something."

Hilda took long yet silent steps across every other sidewalk square as though she were a SAWSbuck evading predators. She was so sure that Burgundy would be too in her own world to notice but they were dashed just when she thought herself as in the clear.

[Miss Hilda and Madame Minnie!] Burgundy's Escavalier chimed in with the sternness of a Galarian military general. [Snooping as usual I see!] The pair froze up immediately like they were hit by an Ice Beam.

"So close..." Hilda groaned before the most obnoxious Kalosian accent invaded her eardrums.

"Vell, vell, vell," Burgundy smarmily snarked while opening her eyes and rising from a bow. "If it isn't Nuvema Town's resident wild child." She sauntered over towards Hilda and earned a very annoyed look from the brunette. "Come to join the rest of polite society for a change." She made a most nasally laugh at her "sick burn" while covering her mouth with the back of her right hand.

[Excellent quippage, Mistress Cabernet,] Escavalier praised.

[I take it back,] Minnie remarked with a pout. [She's worse than ever.]

"At least most Pokemon are actually polite," Hilda shot back with her arms folded. "I'm sorry but is being the Mean Girl in vague anymore." She was delighted to see Burgundy's sweet-looking smugness turn sour.

"'En vogue' le Nigaud!" the young Connoisseur corrected rather verbosely with her right fist clenched. Hilda and Minnie both barely holding in a laugh was just salt on the wounds. "How you made Trainer escapes me," Burgundy sniffed while folding her arms for composure. "You're practically a Pocket Monster yourself." She sneered in hopes of Hilda taking the bait.

[Now go 'er the ol' one-two-buckle-your-shoe, m'lady!] her Escavalier cheered.

"You're one to talk, Washout," Hilda retorted with a sneer of her own, the insult making Burgundy flinch. "You get caught in the wake of a Surf attack and the aptitude test simply can't go on with your outfit in ruins." She took this opportunity to turn around and walk away with the last word while the purple people eater grinded her teeth rather audibly. "Speaking of, I have a Starter Pokemon with my name on it." Hilda couldn't resist one last jab. "A Water-type for clarity's sake."

Minnie indulged in the immaturity of the moment and blew a raspberry at Escavalier with a bit of spittle. The Calvary Pokemon was tempted to have the Minccino face the firing squad in the form of his spears.

Burgundy scoffed at Hilda's borderline scorching but decided to reign herself lest she break out in blemishes. "On the subject of aptitude, I... qualified for a B-Rank Connoisseur," she forced out, finding it almost physically impossible to say the words. "Your tips on a Klink's body language had helped... even if I didn't take much stock in them."

Hilda stopped when she heard Burgundy, of all people, showing her appreciation to her and smiled genuinely. "You're welcome," she replied without a hint of irony. "Maybe you could appraise my Starter Pokemon while you're at it." Hilda still enjoyed the beat red overwhelming Burgundy's frown for what it was worth.

"Mince!" the young Connoisseur retorted before storming back into her house. "When Emboars fly." Her Escavalier followed her dutifully like a loyal sentry.

[Well, she's was... entertaining for what it was worth,] Minnie remarked just as Hilda tore off in another hurry. [Pity she wasted so much of our time.]

"We're just the other block over," Hilda reassured, already panting. "This shouldn't take... too... long..."

Minnie was quick to notice a hint of red appearing on Hilda's cheeks and could tell it wasn't from running so much. She looked ahead at the block across the street and recognized a yellow cabbie hat being worn by a jogging redhead girl. The teenager also wore green vest over a dark green mini-dress and boots. The yellow gloves were bit much for early summer but Hilda clearly agreed with the style based on her growing smile.

[Oh deary me,] Minnie sighed with a resigned smile for her owner. [Here we go...]

"Georgia!" Hilda yelled out gleefully while surging ahead across the street. "On your right." She soon drew up on her friend's right hand side and got her attention.

"Nuvema Town's blazing with the news, girl!" Georgia Langley claimed while grinning at Hilda. "How's the Trainer life treating you?" Her friend was soon keeping pace with her.

"It's exhausting," Hilda replied jokingly, drawn in by Georgia's sharp eyes and cocky smile. "I haven't gotten my Starter yet but it feels like I just took on the Elite Four." It was the sharp fang that tied it all together.

"Called it!" Georgia chortled. "That General Store hold-up had your name written all over it." Her competitive demeanor softened ever so slightly on the note of Trainers. "Man, this dead-end town's gonna be dullsville once you set out." She wiped sweat from her brow.

"You've kept things interesting too," Hilda insisted with affection in her voice. "You killed it at all the local marathon."

Minnie kept quiet and enjoyed how unsubtle her owner was being in how she was crushing on her peer.

"Only because you were the best practice partner ever," Georgia praised with another confident grin. "I never got to properly thank you for that." Her expression softened once more. "I think I'll miss you the most."

Hilda smiled back with her pearly whites on full display. "What are girlfriends for?" she rhetorically asked before her phrasing dawned on her. Her originally light blush was now beat red and all over her face much to Georgia's amusement.

"Mmmm, quite the choice of words there, girlfriend," she joked.

"That is to say, a girl who is a friend," Hilda stammered in trying to cover her tracks. "No need to say them separately when they go well together." The sound of Minnie snorting in stifling a laugh only added salt to her wounds.

"Riiiiight," Georgia smarmily replied, totally not buying it. She decided to not milk this for Hilda's sake. "By the way, what number is your home address again?"

Hilda took whatever opening she could afford and put on a less awkward expression. "Oh, it's 71...8?" she began before she noticed the house they were passing was numbered 739. "Oh." The awkwardness returned in full force when she realized that she'd passed her own house.

[Ah,] Minnie sighed wistfully over Hilda's infatuation. [To be blinded by young love.]

"SorryGeorgiaGottaGoBye!" Hilda blurted out after making a swift U-turn and borderline breaking the sound barrier when she sped back down the sidewalk. "WhyWhyWhyWhyWhyWhy?" she repeated while her face when at red as a Throh's over looking like a total dork. Minnie yelped while holding on for the ride.

Georgia stopped to jog in place and saw off Hilda with a more warmer smile of her own. "Later days, girlfriend..."

Hilda sighed in relief while she slowed down and found herself unable to stay embarrassed. Just a few more houses before the moment of truth. "You know what, Minnie?" she began.

[What?] Minnie asked curiously before Hilda gave her a loving pet on the head.

"I take it back," her owner went on. "Helping others really does feel great." Hilda cast her gaze upwards to the beautiful mid-afternoon sky of sparse cloud and sunshine. "Like your always said... Mom..."

On that note, Minnie could only smile proudly of one of her best friends.

To Be Continued...

Oshawott and Hilda have both taken their first steps towards their quest to the Championship but have yet to meet. How will two extremes meet in the middle?

Anything can happen... as the journey continues in
Just For Starters


Well-Known Member
Chapter 2: Just For Starters

The Junipers' brown house with the blue roof had finally came into view. It had felt like an eternity by the time Hilda bounded through her front yard and reach the front door's steps. She took a minute to lean on her knees and pant like a Herdier playing catch.

"That's the last time I leave my bike home for extra storage space," Hilda vowed with a rather horse voice. She took out her Personal Computer to select a water bottle.

[Perhaps this is why you selected a Water-type,] Minnie joked initially before climbing down Hilda's back. She cringed when she slide down the sweat across her owner's bare legs and found her grey fur covered in it. [And perhaps it shall provide you with an overdue bathing.] The smell was worse than she realized.

"Puh-lease," Hilda whined dismissively after chugging the whole bottle. "You know it's not that bad." She hopped up the steps with an eager grin and was about to grab the door handle when she stopped dead in her tracks.

Minnie hopped up the steps shortly after and was curious as to why Hilda suddenly froze like a bad computer program. "So..." she heard her owner speak up. "Just occurred to me." Minnie heard growing anxiousness in Hilda's tone yet looked up and found that her smile was still there. However, there was a vibe of dread to her otherwise neutral expression.

"Georgia heard about the General Store incident, right?" Hilda went on while her smiley face broke into a cold sweat rather than hot. "What're the odds that Auntie Aurea heard about it too?" A hue of dark blue seemed to overcast her eyes, revealing the fear that belied her brighter front.

Living with her adoptive family for seven years gave her a... sixth sense as to what to expect from them. Particularly when Hilda had done something they disapproved of. Right now, that sixth sense was setting off klaxon horns in her mind.

It was now Minnie's turn to gulp and feel the Butterfrees in her stomach. [You... did answer that call from her during our skirmish,] she recollected, sweating with her owner in the figurative sense. Normally, she would've ratted Hilda out but being involved in the day's events put her in the same boat.

"Back door?" Hilda suggested.

[Back door,] Minnie affirmed without hesitation.

Hilda poked her head around the corner and found the backyard deserted aside from the occasional Pidove roosting. Minnie also gave a peak below her and sighed in relief that Aurea wasn't anywhere to be seen.

"Stay frosty, Minnie," Hilda warned in a harsh but quiet whisper, glaring with determination.

[Oh, trust me,] the Minccino gulped. [I'm downright frostbitten.]

Hilda stretched out her legs to tip-toe into the yard like she had in trying to avoid Burgundy while Minnie followed behind anxiously. They stayed on the grass to not make a sound so long as they evaded any branches.

They soon reached the back patio and were extra careful to look out for any loose tiles as they went. Hilda reached the backdoor and went for the knob when she once again froze in a moment of clarity.

[What now?] Minnie whispered in an exasperated tone of voice. [Don't tell me you heard her.]

"No but I can tell that she's there," Hilda replied with a rather serious whisper. "No way she wouldn't have thought a few steps ahead of us." She could just imagine Auntie Aurea flipping on the lights the second they slipped in. Every teenage instinct in her bones had her on high alert.

[It isn't as though we can scale the house,] Minnie lamented. [Well, not anymore now...]

Hilda felt an idea hit her like a thunderbolt aimed for the horn. "Maybe not the house but..." she exclaimed quietly but eagerly. Hilda tip-toed back from the door and looked back at the large tree in the center of the backyard. Her eyes traveled up to the branches where a very big one extended all the way out towards an open window letting in the cool evening breeze. Her open window to be precise.

"Thank you, broken A.C." Hilda whispered with a victorious tone.

Minnie saw the tree and looked up at the branch before spotting the triumphant grin on her owner's face. [You aren't...] she began to beg before Hilda scurried ahead, light on her toes. [Last time, it had nearly snapped!] the Chinchilla Pokemon insisted while impressively keeping her voice down. [When you were ten!]

"Good thing I'm not ten then," Hilda sassed back while taking out her hand-held Personal Computer. "Burgundy might've been mean about but she wasn't too far off." She tapped the screen before her hat, shoes, socks and black vest were digitally recalled into the P.C.'s data storage.

Hilda began her way up the tree slowly but surely and maintained her grip in tandem with her silence. Without her vest, she could move her shoulders a bit more freely while her bare feet gripped the more smooth bark a bit better than her shoes. She kept her P.C. down in the back of her shorts to keep it extra secure.

Minnie sighed in defeat and followed after her Hilda the tree. [And somehow you made Trainer,] she bemoaned once she and her owner reached the branch in question. [May the Great Dragon help us all once you're Champion.]

Hilda got down on her belly and distributed her weight when climbing onto the branch. She stayed flat and made her way across towards the window while Minnie looked on in baited breath. The branch began to bend despite seeming to hold sturdy once Hilda passed the halfway point. She looked up at the window and found that the branch was sinking down considerable when she was close enough. Going further would put her out of reach while standing up suddenly would send her falling.

Hilda frown intently while looking at how far the window is from where she paused and gauging how much time the branch would have to take her weight. "Sink or swim time," she declared to herself before springing up onto her feet.

Minnie was fit to scream her head off before Hilda crouched down and sprung off the branch. She had it launch her further like a diving board and get her through the window without so much as grazing the frame. The Minccino didn't know whether she wanted to tickle Hilda to death for scaring her half to death or praise her for such picture perfect timing.

A bit of both perhaps?

Hilda did a dive roll onto her bedroom floor and came down to a kneeling position, letting out a huge sigh of relief. "And the gold medal goes to..." she quipped, indulging in what she was sure her moment of triumph. The teenage brunette stood back up when she heard a panting Minnie reach the window behind her.

"So... we got home before Auntie Aurea and took a nap after such a long day," Hilda casually recited while strolling over to the light-switch by the door. "She'll bring up the General Store incident and find that we're shocked to learn we just missed the perp." She flipped on the lights for her room and dusted off her hands. "An air-tight cover story written by yours truly." Hilda grinned while feeling like she'd just taken down a Legendary and reached for the doorknob.

"Do you take constructive criticism?" an older woman's voice chimed in dryly yet sternly from behind. "Couldn't help notice a few plot holes."

Hilda felt her face physically falling in tandem with Minnie's gasp in horror, her hand only an inch from the doorknob yet again. Her head rotated shakily like a rusty animatronic and found Aurea Juniper reading one of her Manga while laying on her bed. The simmering look on her face was the definition of passive aggressive. Hilda didn't know what drained the color from her face more: her godmother catching her or that the volume had very suggestive cover art.

Again, a bit of both perhaps.

"Hey!" Hilda cried out, finally finding her voice. "You're not allowed in my bedroom or my Manga collection!" She hoped she could get the moral high ground swiftly.

"And you weren't supposed to endanger yourself or Minnie," Aurea retorted with growing irritation in her voice, punctuated when she shut the book loudly. "I'd say that makes us even but you know that'd not how it works here." She tossed the book aside while standing up in her casual t-shirt and jeans.

"Oh, here we go..." Hilda bemoaned while marching up defiantly to the Professor. "What did you expect me to do?" She folded her arms in the face of adversity as usual. "Let Baldie shake down Sean and Chris for money when I could do something about it?" It was practically routine by this point.

"That's what the police is for," Aurea retorted, remaining firm in her stance with her hands to her hips.

"They would've been too late as usual," Hilda jabbed back, not ceding any ground. "And that's assuming they bother to come at all." To make a long story short: she had history.

"Did you even stop to consider the type disadvantage Minnie was at?" Aurea persistently protested, making the Minccino flinch when pointed at.

"That Throh was as much as a joke as that punk was," Hilda retorted while strolling over to her bed. "It took three Tickles to drop their Defense, two Tailslaps to disorient them and a single Swift to send them out the door." She picked up the Manga volume and tried to hide her blush upon realizing it had a certain beach chapter. "If it makes you feel better, I ran interference with a few pies in their faces and a shopping cart to the gut." Hilda shelved it while ignoring Aurea's increasing appalled expressions over her goddaughter's tactics.

"Do you even hear yourself?!" Professor Juniper asked in all honesty.

"Minnie, back a sister up," Hilda demanded the Chinchilla Pokemon, making her flinch once more. "You were keen to kick some tail, you know?"

Minnie felt each of her owners putting her on the spot when they looked at her intently, urging for her to stand by one of them. She did support Hilda doing right by her community however destructive the outcome was. However... Aurea wasn't wrong to fuss about her godchild's well-being.

[I... uh...] Minnie nervously began, not liking her options at the moment. [I... believe I forgot to tidy up a few places downstairs.] The Minccino swiftly but shakily shuffled towards the door. [Can't have that on such a big day.] She jumped up to turn the knob fast and landed on the carpet before slipping through the opening.

"Way to show solidarity, coward," Hilda scoffed, marching over to open the door. "You can forget any treats tomorrow, you hear?" She only half meant it in the moment when she shouted into the hallway.

"You truly are your mother's daughter, aren't you?" Aurea wearily sighed, losing the luster in her stern paternal unit performance. "She could never resist playing the comic book hero." She wandered towards an old photo frame hanging on Hilda's wall near the window. "For better... The Professor looked longingly at the picture of her ward being held by an older woman, the latter's face obscured by the sun's glare. "Or worse..."

Hilda shut the door while the guilt and solemness set in, knowing exactly what Professor Juniper was referring to. "Normally, I'd issue a claim over how this may be grounds for revoking your license," Aurea began, putting her goddaughter on edge. Guilt-trip or not, Hilda glared before turning around and preparing to protest her heart out.

"However," Aurea continued while pulling something out of her pocket, "it's with the faintest bit of optimism that I hope caring for your own team will teach you about responsibility and curb your recklessness." She tossed out a small, gray rectangle at her goddaughter from across the room. "Consider yourself lucky, kid."

Hilda hastily caught the rectangle and found it to be a hand-held Pokedex. "Is this really...?" she began with stunned surprised. Hilda turned it on at once and found a second screen rolling up over the bottom touch-screen. The top showed the photo ID she submitted as a Junior Trainer and the bottom contained her personal information.

Every second Hilda marveled over it, a smile broadened across her face while small tears actually welled up in her eyes. She even cupped her hand over her mouth in disbelief that this is really happened. Suffice to say, Aurea couldn't stay mad at Hilda if only for this one moment.

"I'd also be remiss if I didn't recognize how you cleaned up Sean and Chris's stor-" Professor Juniper began to mention, still trying to keep up her authority. However, she was interrupted when Hilda wrapped her arms around her waist like she had teleported across the room. Aurea felt surprised but soon felt touched when she looked down and found her goddaughter hugging her with tears of happiness.

"Thank you..." Hilda choked out to her guardian. She felt her Auntie Aurea warmly return the gesture with a hand on her head and another on her shoulders.

"Your Starters in the living room," Professor Juniper promised. "Be the best Trainer he could ask for."

Hilda pulled back to smile back at her guardian with a nod. "Like no one ever was..." she promised before turning back towards the door.

Hilda swung open her door and raced to her right down the hallway with reckless abandon, fueled by pure glee. She even sat and slid down the staircase railing like she was nine all over again, laughing all the way. Hilda swerved left into the living room where just beyond the couch was a blue gift box on the coffee table. Without Minnie to tell her otherwise, she jumped over the couch and plopped down on the cushions with a bit of a bounce.

"It really is..." Hilda whispered to herself in baited breath before grabbing the box and tearing open the lid. She took out a single Poke Ball the size of a ping-pong ball. "I really did it... Mom..." Hilda's eyes watered up a bit while she held the Poke Ball up to her chest and closed her eyes to savor the moment.

"I've waited a years to say this," she eagerly declared while clicking the white button on the Poke Ball to enlarge and unlock it. "Oshawott, I choose you!"

Hilda held up the Poke Ball in the air while making her very extra declaration. Recognizing the verbal command, the device opens up in half and released a burst of blue-white energy that cascaded down onto the coffee table. The formless mass soon took a fairly tiny shape with a round white head, an orange nose, two stubby paws, blue torso, dark-blue flippers and a dark-blue tail. Sticking to the Pokemon's bellybutton was a shell.

Oshawott groaned while rubbing his black, beady eyes and opening them up slowly. He hadn't gotten too use to being carried in a Poke Ball so he found himself a tad disoriented by the sudden light around him. The Sea Otter Pokemon quickly shook his head before looking up ahead of him and seeing an unfamiliar teenage girl with brown hair leaning in on him.

Oshawott backed away a bit in his initial surprise and fear before he saw the expression of delight on the girl's face. "You're even more adorable up close and personal," she squeed with unbridled exuberance. This was enough to ease the Sea Otter Pokemon's nerve and make him realize the obvious.

[Are... you my Trainer?] Oshawott asked earnestly, cocking his head in uncertainty.

Hilda nodded her head excitedly. "My name's Hilda," she greeted while reaching out with her right hand. "And you better believe that I'm over the moon to finally have you." She managed to hold herself back when taking Oshawott's right paw and shaking it. Tragically, she couldn't help but be a tad rough about it in her excitement.

[As... am... I,] Oshawott managed to get out shakily when Hilda's handshake rocked him about. He appreciated the gesture but was thankfully when she stopped and let himself get more recomposed.

[My name is Oshawott,] the Sea Otter Pokemon introduced himself while putting on more of a smile himself. [It is a honor and a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Trainer Hilda.] He bowed his head in humility and grace towards her, hoping to come off as far less nervous than he felt deep down.

Hilda giggled gleefully after being immediately endeared by Oshawott's overly formal gestures. "Just 'Hilda' is good enough," she promised while lightly lifting up her Starter's head to his confusion. "I might be your Trainer but I also want to be your friend, your fellow teammate." She reached out and gave a more gentle pet on the head, getting a smile out of the Sea Otter Pokemon this time around. "If that's good for you too."

Oshawott giggled back before his Trainer took her hand back. [Yes, I would like that,] he answered, still sounding fairly formal, [Hilda.] However, his smile fell when something dawned on him and looked up at her. [Just now...] Oshawott began to piece together in his growing bewilderment, [you were talking to me and understanding what I was saying.]

Now it was Hilda's turn to go red in the face upon being found out by her Starter. "Oh... right..." she began awkwardly, feeling the egg all over her face. "I, uh... forgot to mention one tiny... super important detail about m-."

[Were you raised in a barn?!]

The two of them nearly jumped while they sharply turned towards Hilda's right and found Minnie glaring daggers at them, having exited the kitchen.

[Remove your flippers off the table this instant!] the Minccino demanded verbosely, marching forward and forcefully. [I have only cleaned them four times in the last eight hours, thank you very much.]

Hilda went red in embarrassment over Minnie's usual shtick but Oshawott was quick to panic over how upset he made the Chinchilla Pokemon. [Oh, I-I-I'm so sorry,] he spluttered out in his flustered state of mind. [I swear that I hadn't known...] The Sea Otter Pokemon just ran forward in his anxiety only to slip on the table's edge and fall towards the carpet with a cry.

Hilda and Minnie wince when Oshawott land on the floor face first with his nose taking the brunt of it. [That hurt...] he groaned while managing to get up and rub his bruised nose.

"Nothing's broken, right?" Hilda hastily asked in a panic. "I'll get a Potion ready." She rushed off the bed and squat down to her Starter while getting out her Personal Computer.

[What have I done?] Minnie gasped in her shame. [I didn't mean to...]

Oshawott was less concerned about the Minccino's remorse and more about Hilda's reaction. For a split second, Snivy's words about being too weak and rejected came to mind. He told himself to act fast.

[Thank you for your consideration, Hilda,] Oshawott replied while standing up in a stronger posture. [But as a Pokemon, I can make do with a bump or two.] He even put on a more confident smile to emulate what he saw of Tepig and cast it towards Hilda. [You can save your Potion for when you truly need it.] The Sea Otter Pokemon also hoped that his formal way of speaking would sell it.

Hilda wasn't sure at first but could tell that Oshawott was trying to at least make a good first impression. "Good to know you can roll with the punches," she complimented, putting down her Personal Computer.

[I deeply apologize for my reaction,] Minnie profusely proclaimed while scurrying up to Oshawott. [It doesn't show often but I'm what some might label as a "neat freak."]

"Yeah, you're real lowkey about it..." Hilda snarked yet smirked under her breath, speaking from experience.

[No, no, I'm sorry,] Oshawott insisted while bowing once more. [I should've remembered my manners.]

[I'm sorry for mistreating my guest,] Minnie insisted back with a bow of her own.

[I'm sorry for upsetting my host,] Oshawott insisted once again, bowing with more of a lean.

The two of them got so caught up in bowing and apologizing that they soon conked their foreheads against each other. [Owie,] they both cried at once. Hilda found it nothing short of a miracle that she was able to only snort and hold back laughter over such priceless slapstick.

After rubbing their respective bumped heads, Oshawott and Minnie were soon the ones to giggle instead over their silliness. [Apology accepted,] they kindly told each other at the same time before shaking paws.

Hilda squeed at such an adorable exchange and couldn't resist scooping the pair of them up for a hug. "My besties are becoming besties," she giggled gleefully with Oshawott held by her left arm and Minnie in her right. "Now this is the best day ever."

Oshawott and Minnie would've share Hilda's sentiments if not for her rather tight grip. They do each muster a smile for her regardless.

[As you can tell,] Minnie strained to get out to Oshawott, [she's a real hugger.]

[I think I'll take that Potion right about now...] Oshawott half joked.

All the while, Aurea could hear the shenanigans in the kitchen while bringing out dinner plates and smiled warmly.

"Chip off the old block..." Professor Juniper repeated to herself. "Eh, Helga?"

To Be Continued...


Well-Known Member
Chapter 3: Silly Stick In The Muds

"Where's Grandpa Cedric?" Hilda managed to speak while stuffing another helping of Spaghetti in her mouth. "He's totally missing out on this killer spread."

"Killer" was an understatement. To Hilda's left were bowls of a variety of pastas that Aurea cooked to perfection and the kind of Garlic Knots even a Vampire would consider nibbling. To her right were more junk food from all the frozen pizzas they saved for the special occasion to pastries bought from the General Store. There were brownies and cookies freshly baked. Soda of every brand practically had Hilda burping just by looking at them all. Aurea was a real stickler for health so it would only take a day special like today kick veggies to the curb.

"Believe me, Dad wanted to at least stop by more than anything," Professor Juniper promised her goddaughter while sticking to the lemon-lime sodas. "Sadly his meeting with the League dragged on longer than expected." She refrained from calling Hilda out on her table manners just this once but it was quite the endeavor to say the least.

"I'll make sure to save dessert for him," the young lady gladly promised before starting on her third brownie.

"He told me that four suits will be over tomorrow for a surprise inspection," Aurea continued while eating her portion of Rotini. "And it's not just to see if our labs passes the white glove test." She swallowed properly with a sip from her soda. "Dad was also arranging it so they could see you and Oshawott in action."

Hilda had to actively suppress herself from giving a classic spit take with her cola. "Why me?" she demanded to know after swallowing her soda. "I passed the written portion and demonstrated my practical skills with Minnie perfectly." Knowing there was more testing threatened to kill her appetite if not for the promise of ice cream.

"Believe me, we were both on your side," Aurea swore wearily. "But four 'impartial observers' are coming over to test you in battle so you allegedly didn't get by because we're your guardians." Her loud eating revealed her growing irritation. "Their words, not mine." She finally caved and took a chocolate-chip cookie to sweeten her souring mood.

Hilda was about to give out her very honest opinion about the Pokemon League's bureaucracy when she heard Oshawott audibly gulp. [I didn't hear anything about a test,] her Starter nervously claimed. Hilda looked to her left and down towards where Oshawott was eating out of his bowl next to Minnie against a wall. [Will... we be okay?] She could tell that he was caught off-guard just as much as she was.

"Let them come," Hilda declared, putting on a far more cocksure demeanor. "If those suits want us at our best, it'll be at their own peril." She pumped her fist in the air in a show of attitude. "As they say in Sinnoh, there's no need to worry." When Aurea wasn't looking, Hilda opened her fist and let a cookie, a brownie and a Garlic Knot drop. She winked cheekily like a spoiling Grandmother.

[Of course, I'm not worried,] Oshawott insisted while putting on a more confident smile to mirror Hilda's. [What's one last battle before we tackle Unova?] Needless to say, this sudden news had his mind on high alert.

"We'll knock 'em dead," Hilda vowed before turning back to her buttered Ziti with salt before it can cool too much. "Literally if it comes to it..."

Once he saw his Trainer turn away and talk more with Aurea, Oshawott's smile sunk into his trademarked frown of anxiety. [More like they'll knock us dead...] he muttered to himself with a more quieter hard swallow.

The Sea Otter Pokemon sat before his bowl where it was half brown Poke-Bits Aurea approved of and half table food Hilda dropped down for her furry friends. However, Oshawott could feel growing anxieties muscle in on his appetite despite his best efforts.

What if he was too weak and cost Hilda her Trainer's license altogether?

What if they took him away from Hilda and gave her Snivy as a compensation?

What if... Hilda got too fed up and left him behind?

[Cookie for your thoughts?] Oshawott heard Minnie cheerfully ask. A chocolate chip cookie landing in his bowl managed to snap him out of his spiral of distress. He looked up and found the Chinchilla Pokemon happily lugging a bounty of pastries in her paws alone. [Or perhaps you are more of a brownie type of Pokemon?] She dumped them all on the ground and seemed happy to make a mess this time around.

[Can't say,] Oshawott replied, trying to shake his earlier fears off of his face. [Never really tried one before.] He took the one he was offered and ate it if only to distract him however much. It proved to be more than just busy work as he found the delicious flavor wash over his tongue.

[Mmmmmm,] Oshawott moaned with a more genuine smile while chewing. [It's so tasty.] It actually seemed to alleviate his anxieties however minimal for the moment. [Thank you very much, Minnie.] The Sea Otter Pokemon bowed graciously.

[You are truly welcome,] Minnie cheerfully claimed while eating another brownie. [The Professor's pastries do have a knack for lifting one's spirits, don't they?] The Chinchilla Pokemon dropped a few more cookies into her friend's bowl.

[Am I really that on the nose?] Oshawott sighed in embarrassment, hanging his head.

[Every Starter Pokemon I have met working at the lab has the precise pre-Trainer jitters you feel,] Minnie reassured him while sitting next to him. [Rest assure when I tell that you have already won over Hilda's heart.] She offered him another cookie personally to help his mood along.

Oshawott knew Minnie was oversimplifying his anxieties but didn't feel comfortable divulging too much. He took the cookie and ate it if only to soothe his troubled heart. The Minccino's cordial demeanor made her seem approachable enough. With a hard swallow, the Sea Otter Pokemon decided to dip his toes as the humans often coined.

[I can tell Hilda liked me... now,] Oshawott ventured forth, the last part whispered to himself. [It's the inspection that has me worried.] He tried a brownie to keep himself for going down another spiral in front of Minnie. [I would hate to make her look bad.] It was nice but a tad... strong in flavor for his personal palette.

[That is terribly considerate of you but nothing you need fret about,] Minnie promised while indulging in one more cookie and making a cheeky smile. [Hilda's perfectly capable of making herself look terrible alone.]

Oshawott could keep himself for giggling but managed to cover his mouth so his Trainer wouldn't hear. [Is that your expert opinion?] he logically but jokingly guessed, his laugh dying down. He silently appreciated Minnie's attempts at keeping him cheered up.

[I shall allow you be the judge,] the Minccino joked back while eating some of the Pokemon food in the bowl. [In all seriousness, I have seen Hilda work most of her life for this moment.] She exchanged a rather spunky grin with Oshawott to give some extra confidence. [Those stuffy suits are in for the scuffle of their lives if they believe she will go quietly.]

The Sea Otter Pokemon's anxieties still remained yet were alleviated by Minnie's infectious kindness. [I got the impression,] Oshawott began, snickering when he remembered Aurea's earlier phone call to Hilda. [Even so... I don't suppose you could battle in my place when the inspection begins.] He just thought of it and began to hope.

[I believe they want to see how you battle under her specifically,] Minnie promised uneasily, trying to let his friend down easily. [I can tell you now that they are most particular to a fault.] It was hard for her to see Oshawott's expression become dejected all over again. That is until a thought had struck her like lightening and made her smile once more.

[But I can still assist you,] Minnie exclaimed while pounding her right paw in her left palm, a gesture she'd seen Oshawott do.

Around that moment, Aurea yawned contently after feeling stuffed to the brim with food before feeling embarrassed by an accidental burp. She covered her mouth with her fingers with a blush before Hilda stiffed a snickering.

"And on that note, I'll turn in before I pass out," Aurea declared before standing up from her seat, collecting her empty plates. "You will leave enough for Dad tomorrow, right?" She gave a rather stern but knowing look at Hilda. The Professor caught the teen shamelessly snatching up a few more pastries in to a ziplock bag with an eager smile.

"Meal time is a battle unto itself," Hilda declared, smirking with her eyes closed. "Those who fail to strike first are destined to fail." Any attempt at sounding wise and thoughtful was undermined when she nibbled on yet another cookie.

"Right..." Aurea replied with a weary sigh. "Just head up to your room and have your lights out by ten." She stacked her plates before carrying them towards the sink. "Every second of shut-eye counts if we're going to get those League busybodies of our backs."

The Professor had just turned on the facet when she heard Minccino squeaking excitedly and assumed it was just pleading for more treats. However, Hilda's gasping in response was keen to indicated otherwise much to Aurea's bemusement.

"Great Dragon alive," Hilda exclaimed while almost shooting straight up out of her seat, slapping her palm on her forehead. "Literally how did I just forget until now?" She took out her Poke Ball and clicked the white button to unlock it via enlarging it.

"Return, Oshawott!" Hilda declared while aiming it squarely at her Starter Pokemon. The Sea Otter Pokemon had only just looked up from his bowl in confusion when the red beam made contact and pulled him back to the Ball in seconds.

"Okay, I'll bite," Aurea sighed wearily, smelling shenanigans from a mile away. "What are you up to this-" She had only just swung around and found Hilda holding out her Poke Ball with a rather determined grin. "-time?" The Professor found the expression rather... nostalgic.

"Aurea Juniper," Hilda began, fully invested in her dramatics, "I challenge you to a Pokemon Battle!" She even locked eyes with her Auntie Aurea to complete the classic cliche.

The Professor could only give her own battle-ready grin back in response. Now that was a face she couldn't say "No" to.

"Oshawott!" Hilda declared. "I choose you!"

Oshawott opened his eyes after feeling his body solidify again and shook his head slightly to clear his fuzzy vision. He was wondering what was going on when Minnie and Professor Juniper came into view, finding them about a yard across from him on the grass. His confusion only grew when he looked to his left and found a big tree in front of what he could only assumed what Hilda's house from behind.

[Did I miss something?] Oshawott asked nobody in particular, still feeling disoriented from the impromptu recall.

"Just a little high note to end the day on," he heard Hilda jovially declared from behind him. "Namely: our very first battle together."

Oshawott turned around to find her kneeling down and grinning eagerly down at him. She had two black shoes on and a black vest for the outdoors but the Sea Otter Pokemon was too out of sorts to fully notice.

[Battle?!] Oshawott exclaimed, his confusion morphing to concern. [Right now?!] He turned back towards Minnie and Professor Juniper to find their faces each wore a confident smirk. An expression often made when accepting a challenge for Pokemon and humans alike. The kind that made him gulp hard.

[Oh... my...] Oshawott meekly muttered, his paws to his mouth.

"I know," Hilda squealed, mistaking her Starter's fear for a more tempered excitement. "It feels like a dream, doesn't it?" She stood sprung back up to be ready for anything.

More like a nightmare, Oshawott forced himself into thinking before putting on a more "appropriate" expression. [Feels a dream come true!] The Sea Otter Pokemon declared while showing Hilda a far more cocksure demeanor not unlike his Trainer's own. [Just give the word.]

A glance to his right led Oshawott to notice an encouraging wink from Minnie before he recalled her offering to help him out. The Sea Otter Pokemon only hoped that she knew what she was doing more than he could guess.

"Sure you wanna do this?" Aurea quipped with a confident smirk, her hands in her lab coat pockets to complete the image. "I'm not pulling a single punch with Minnie if I can help it." An evening breeze blew in as if to set the mood.

"If you can help it, you'll need more than a single," Hilda volleyed back with a determined grin of her own. "Me and Oshawott are about to over-water your lawn."

[But I'm weak to Grass-types,] Oshawott replied unironically once the quip flew over his head.

"I... had a stronger quip originally," Hilda admitted awkwardly. "We'll workshop battle one-liners later."

She saw her Auntie Aurea and Minnie cocking her head over her trash talk before pulling out her Pokedex. Aiming it at Oshawott, the device gave a read out of his stats as well as the precise moves that he had under his belt.

"Water Gun!" Hilda declared with gutso, thrusting out her hand. "Soak 'em to the bone!"

Jumping from how fast things were going, Oshawott still made haste to gather Water-type energy into his throat. He told himself to just follow Hilda's orders and not lose his cool before blasting pressurized water in a straight beam aimed squarely on Minnie.

Hilda could vividly see the Minccino wigging out over their stinky, wet fur and grinned over her easy win. Perhaps... too easy.

"Swift!" Aurea shouted at the exact moment Oshawott started blasting. "Deflection on the double!"

Minnie lived up to the attack's name as she charged her tail with Normal-type Energy and leaped into the air to perform a double somersault. Both flips each had her tail whip and fling multiple star-shaped projectiles squarely at the Water Gun.

The first volley struck the pressurized water and reduced its force before the second finished off what was left of the blast. Whatever projectiles made it past hit Oshawott's body all over and made him cry out from the stinging.

By the time Minnie landed, the water splashed onto the ground and soaked the soil. She wasn't one to battle for the thrill of it but even she couldn't help but smile with pride over pulling off such a maneuver.

"Hang in there," Hilda urged Oshawott, gritting her teeth at the sight of him still starting to wobble from the impact.

[I'll be okay,] the Sea Otter Pokemon promised, trying not to lose face. The pain died down soon but not fast enough for his liking.

Hilda felt bad hearing how he groaned in trying to tough it out but was also concerned by how Minnie's attack hit him hard with just the leftovers.

"Wow, nice work," Aurea laughed playfully with a smarmy look in her eye. "You literally over-watered the lawn." She found Hilda's peeved reaction to be priceless. "Now if only you did your chores this well..."

Hilda felt more than a little peeved once she figured out that Aurea was hoping she's rush in blindly and that it was working. She pulled out the Pokedex to refresh herself on Oshawott's set of moves and considered Tail Whip for a moment. However, Hilda was so keen to get in a hit that she overlooked it almost entirely in favor of the more offensive attacks.

Plus, it looked a tad too silly.

"Razor Shell!" Hilda declared to Oshawott. "Cut 'em down to size!"

The Sea Otter Pokemon was initially confused by his Trainer wanting to get in close range so soon but didn't want to come off as too scared. [Already on it,] Oshawott swore to Hilda with a firm glare while channeling his Water-type Energy throughout his body. Whatever his Trainer had in mind, he had to trust that it would work.

Oshawott took his Scalchop off of his bellybutton with both paws and made a dash towards Minnie. He channeled his Water-type Energy into his shell and created a glowing blue blade on it from the moisture in the air attracted by his power. The Sea Otter Pokemon's flippers splashed on the puddles left from his previous Water Gun and held his sword steadily by his right.

Aurea only briefly pondered why Hilda was attacking this boldly before realizing how close Oshawott was getting. "Minnie, dodge and counter with Tail Slap!" She was intrigued by what her protege would do next.

Oshawott got in close and tried to deliver a downward slash from his right to left. However, Minnie jumped to her left and narrowly avoided the Shell Blade while channeling Normal-type Energy into her tail.

"To your right!" Hilda warned quickly, knowing where the Minccino would jump to evade.

Within this split-second, Oshawott recovered fast enough to swing back to his right in hopes of at least grazing his foe. However, Minnie powered up her tail in time to spin around and swing it to slap the Shell Blade in an attempt to deflect it. The impact was strong enough to knock the Scalchop out of Oshawott's grip and sharply sting the Chinchilla Pokemon on the tail.

Minnie landed back on the ground and winced at the barely deflected strike. The blade in question spiraled in the air before stabbing the ground shell up. It was still stable with just enough energy leftover to Hilda's far left near the tree. However, that didn't concern her just then.

"Tackle her Oshawott!" Hilda urged during this very sliver of time. "Now's your chance."

It was rudimentary for Oshawott to channel Normal-type Energy throughout his body within a second's time and rush forward within the next. Aurea and Minnie alike had only just begun to consider countermeasures when the Sea Otter Pokemon rammed into his furry foe. The Minccino went flying and would've hit the fence if she hadn't first landing on the grass.

"A solid hit at last!" Hilda cheered. "Way to clean her clock, Oshawott!"

The Sea Otter Pokemon began to smile both from his Trainer's cheering and the rush of his successful attack. What seemed like embarrassment tailor made for klutzy Oshawott seemed more like a triumphant victory. He never knew his confidence could reach such heights.

"Nice follow through," Aurea commented to herself, hoping her proud smile didn't show too much. She kept an eye out for Minnie getting up and an ear out for Hilda's next move.

"Keep Minnie on the ropes!" her goddaughter urged Oshawott, eager to win. "Water Gun her down!"

[Consider her soaked to the bone,] the Sea Otter Pokemon declared, hoping to work on his own quips. Oshawott charged his throat with Water-type Energy and blasted another beam of pressurized water directly at Minnie. The way she seemed unsteady in getting back up made him believe that she was easy picking.

At first.

"Evasive maneuvers, Minnie!" Aurea ordered just when Oshawott fired away. "Zig-zag!" She saw Minnie's pained expression shift to something more confident as she'd expected.

The Chinchilla Pokemon dodged the Water Gun by jumping forth to her left and scurried back towards her right when the beam followed. All the while, Oshawott kept his blast trained on Minnie's tail intently and hoped to catch her once she came in range. He believed she was getting in close to get him with a proper Tail Slap and that he could wash her away at the right distance. Minnie indeed came within a foot of him... just when his Water Gun dried up.

["Not now!"] Hilda and Oshawott exclaimed together in that very second, even sharing the same slacked jaws of shock.

The Sea Otter Pokemon expected one hell of a smack across the face when Minnie jumped up and somersaulted over him. "Grab him from behind!" Oshawott heard Professor Juniper order when his shock became confusion. He was slow to turn around and allowed the Minccino to swiftly latch onto his back. Her stubby arms quickly proved to be surprisingly firm in holding onto his sides.

[What is this?] Oshawott demanded to know, feeling cautious yet baffled all at once. He struggled to shake Minnie off but she kept hold of him and didn't let him budge an inch.

"T-that position..." Hilda exclaimed with bated breath and fear growing in her eyes. "Let him go, Minnie!" She had prayed that the Professor had the decency to make it a last resort. "It's too soon for that move!"

Aurea sharply looked at Hilda with a rather cold glare. "I warned you, didn't I?" the Professor reminded her goddaughter firmly. "That I wouldn't pull a single punch." She sighed deeply in knowing what's to come. "Take this to heart, Hilda: pick your battles wisely or they'll pick you off."

[W-w-w-wait a minute,] Oshawott stammered in growing dread. [What's happening?] Minnie's devious giggling behind him sent chills down his spine.

[I apologize for my... overindulgence,] the Minccino answered villanously before bringing her tail around. [I so often get carried away once the ball gets rolling.] With sadistic glee, she began brushing Oshawott's bare belly and sneered a toothy grin. [And right now... we're going down a terribly steep slope.]

The Sea Otter Pokemon immediately burst out laughing from the ticklish sensation and wriggled about crazily in Minnie's hold. [Ple-he-he-he-he-hease,] Oshawott begged with the biggest smile in his partial enjoyment while shutting his eyes in embarrassment. [It's... too... mu-hu-hu-hu-huch.]

Oshawott could feel his body weakening in composure and dropping in basic Defense. Part of him was worried that he'd be too shaken up to brace himself for a Swift let alone a Tail Slap. Another part of him was too busy laughing happily in tears.

"Forgive me, Oshawott..." Hilda melodramatically begged with clenched teeth and fists. "I never thought this would end so... so... " She shut her eyes and tried to look away in shame. Not just for putting her Starter through this. "...so... adorably..." Rather for delighting in how cute his plight was.

Aurea was a bit more open about enjoying Minnie's going to Tickle Town on Oshawott while looking at her X-Transceiver. "Almost thirty seconds," she remarked to herself, deciding to not let the Minccino's sadism get out of hand. "I'm not that big of a monster." The Professor figured that she'd end it quickly with a Tail Slap as a show of some modicum of mercy.

All the while, Oshawott still struggled with Minnie's grip and tickling. [You're a special one, aren't you?] he heard the Minccino slyly taunted. [Not even Hilda would last this long.] The Sea Otter Pokemon couldn't help but be reminded of how Snivy toyed with him if in more cold-blooded manner. Beneath his laughing smile, he was beginning to feel just as helpless and even worthless.

At this rate, Oshawott managed to think through the tickles, Hilda won't want a pathetic thing like me.

However, the thought of surrendering verbally only began to occur to him when he felt the soil beneath him soften. Both Oshawott and Minnie slipped backwards all of a sudden in their struggling when the dirt suddenly became mud.

[WHOA!] they both cried before the Minccino took the brunt of it, landing on her back. Oshawott felt Minnie let go of her grip and rolled off onto the ground from the forceful fall.

"Whoa, plot twist!" both Hilda and Aurea exclaimed in their surprised.

It doesn't take long for them to notice puddles on the grass glistening in the setting sun. Hilda's quicker to remember how Minnie's Swift splashed Oshawott's Water Gun and scattered the liquid like a sprinkler. In the corner of her eye, she sees Oshawott's Scalchop in a particularly damp spot.

"Clever boy!" Hilda muttered to herself in growing pride while taking out her Pokedex. "Oshawott, end this with Razor Shell!" She grinned more and more once she'd read up on the attack's other applications.

Oshawott still felt shaken and stirred by Minnie's tail but spotted his Scalchop just before the big tree ahead. [I can still do it...] he whispered in disbelief. The Sea Otter Pokemon rose back up and raced forth with a more determined look on his face. [I can still win this!]

"No, no, no," Aurea cried in frustration, seeing Oshawott rushing towards his shell. "Minnie, what are you-?"

The Professor got her answer in the form of the Minccino squeaking in distress and darted towards her Pokemon in fright. There was Minnie looking all over the mud covering her body. An expression of pure discomfort covered her face from cheek to cheek.

[My evening grooming...] Minnie shakily croaked out, cringing over the icky grime that would slime her to the bone. [It was innocent...]

"Time and place, neat freak!" Aurea barked irritably. She thankfully missed Hilda's triumphant grin at that moment.

"Curve your Shell Blade, Oshawott," the rookie ordered excitedly, imagining Unovan football for this next maneuver. "Go long!"

By this time, Oshawott had reached his Scalchop while channeling Water-type Energy throughout his body and grabbed it. With a bit of finesse, he created a new Shell Blade out of the water in the dirt and had it curve out of its side.

The Sea Otter Pokemon swung around to focus on Minnie while she was still out of sorts from her mud bath. Finding the precise angle, Oshawott threw the Shell Blade like a Frisbee and had it spin in the air just like one.

"Duck, Minnie!" Aurea cried out in time.

Minnie snapped out of her spiral of disgust in time to gasp upon seeing the spinning Shell Blade heading straight for her. She bowed her head down fast and felt it whoosh over her, avoiding her by just half a centimeter.

[Whew!] Minnie sighed in relief. [That was a near thing.]

["More than you think,"] Hilda and Oshawott quipped together in a synchronized moment of confidence.

Minnie found herself thrown off by their retort before the Shell Blade boomerangs around and comes up behind her. It doesn't slice or pierce the Chinchilla Pokemon's torso but the sharp slash is painful and strong enough to knock her back down. This time, the Minccino's face goes splat in even grimier mud. She was so weakened that she didn't have the strength to wig out properly.

Oshawott, on the other hand, jumped up a tad to catch his Scalchop with his right paw once the Shell Blade had dwindled down. [I... I did it...] he muttered in increasing bewilderment after landing. [I really won...] The Sea Otter Pokemon looked down at his shell while catching his breath and began to smile softly.

Oshawott's meditation over his victory was sharply disrupted first by the sound of Hilda's unbridled laughter and her sudden hold on his torso. "Victory toss!" his Trainer declared while actually tossing the Sea Otter Pokemon into air. He wailed in fright while getting his Scalchop back onto his bellybutton before he can lose it again.

Hilda reached out her arms to catch Oshawott perfectly and held him up to her right cheek, giggling giddily. "It's official!" she declared while nuzzling her cheek against her Pokemon friend's. "You're the best Starter a girl could've asked for!"

Oshawott felt his initial shock wear off and give way to delight over the infectious affection that Hilda was showering him. He gave a nuzzle to his Trainer while laughing himself over his unlikely victory. The Sea Otter Pokemon almost felt like he was dreaming after all of Snivy's put-downs since hatching.

"Forget those suits," Hilda cheered before holding up Oshawott to her soft chest in a hug. "Might as well go straight to the Champion while we're at it." She twirled around while still riding the high of her narrow victory before stepping in a soft patch of mud.

Both Pokemon and Trainer alike yelped comically before Hilda landed butt first onto the still soggy grounds, bracing with her elbows. Oshawott landed safely back first on her chest after she'd let him go in the moment. However, their pratfall wasn't enough to sour their mood as they looked at each other with a mutual grin and another giggle.

All the while, Minnie had gotten back up with a mud facial and spat out some that got in her mud. [One reaps what they sow...] she sighed in utter resignation, looking at all the mud on her paws alone. [It's nothing short of karmic after my... shameless display.] The Minccino could only hang her head and cringe when remembering how overboard she went in Tickling Oshawott.

"Sorry to make things mucky, Minnie," Aurea apologized while coming over and squatting down. "I actually didn't think that Hilda and Oshawott could pull off that boomerang maneuver right out the gate." She brought out a Super Potion and sprayed it all over Minnie to help her with that Critical Hit. "So much for humbling the rookies..."

However, neither Professor nor Pokemon could help looking over and smiling mutually over Hilda's happy fall in the mud with Oshawott. Part of them were glad to have lost. Even Minnie didn't mind her uncleanliness. Outwardly, of course.

After getting back inside, Hilda had thrown her muddy clothes in the bathroom's laundry bin and stepped into the tub for a thorough shower. She knew that Minnie wouldn't allow anything less after their little tumble in the mud.

Surprisingly, the Chinchilla Pokemon had offered to go second if only as an apology for her excessive tickling. Hilda could only imagine the amount of self-control she was burning through by the second while she turned the knob.

[Do I really need a shower too?] Oshawott bellyached while his Trainer held him in her right arm. [I didn't get too dirty, did I?] He winced the second that the shower head sprayed him with the initial cold water and tried to keep it out of his eyes.

"Any 'dirty' is 'too dirty' in Minnie's book," Hilda assured Oshawott, amused that even Water-types hated bath time. "Trust me, I've have plenty of romp in the mud to figure that out." She squirted out a bit of bath lotion from a bottle of Pokemon Fur Wash and began to lather the back of her Starter's head.

"Speaking of the old grime, I don't think I thanked you properly," Hilda added while letting the suds wash off.

[What for?] Oshawott asked in confusion, raising his arm so his Trainer could lather his sides.

"For that brilliant turnaround you pulled off, duh!" Hilda exuberantly praised while digging into her Pokemon's fur. "You felt the ground softening below you and figured that it was just muddy enough to make Minnie slip with you." She giggled as the moment replayed in her mind.

[I did?] Oshawott asked before quickly course correcting. [I mean... I, uh, didn't realize it was so obvious.] He tried to sound more confident even while Hilda started to scrub his muddy flippers with a little tickle.

"Aren't you just the model of modesty tonight?" his Trainer sassed back playfully, endeared by Oshawott trying to play it cool. She even gave him a peck on the noggin if only to see him blush.

After a thorough drying, Hilda flopped backwards onto her bed after a change into her pink pajamas. "Trust the best day ever to run me ragged," she sighed deeply while letting her limbs sprawl all over nearly listlessly. "Time to hit the hay, Oshawott."

[I don't know what that means,] the Sea Otter Pokemon admitted by the side of Hilda's bed, [but I don't feel sleepy at all.] His Trainer extended her right arm down to let him hold onto and lifted him up.

"Neither do I but we need every bit of shut-eye we can get," Hilda conceded while putting Oshawott on the bed beside her. "The better to kick those suits in the butt with." She gave him a good pat on the head to get him smiling.

"Never thought I'd see the day," the pair heard Aurea's voice from the doorway, finding her poking her head in. "Hilda herself actually exercising some modicum of restraint as a Trainer?" The sassy look in her eyes spoke volumes alone.

"It's more likely than you think," Hilda retorted with cheek, blowing a raspberry. Oshawott tried to imitate his Trainer but only wiggled his tongue with a little spittle.

"So was our battle everything you hoped for?" Aurea then asked with a more softer demeanor.

"Everything and more," Hilda promised happily, lifting herself up to sit and smile back. "You... think she'd be proud?" Oshawott couldn't help but not a slight melancholy in his Trainer's voice.

"Always has been," Aurea replied sincerely. "And I know she always will." Oshawott also noticed a slight tear in her eye.

[Do hurry, Professor!] Minnie cried from the bathroom, interrupting the tender moment. [It has begun hardening... entombing me in eternal filth...] Aurea didn't need Hilda to know how melodramatic she was being. [Great Dragon alive, save me!]

"Wish me luck," Aurea sighed before closing the door. "Or a miracle..."

Hilda and Oshawott snickered considerably once the Professor was clearly out of earshot. [I wish today didn't have to end so soon,] Oshawott sighed before plopping down on his bottom.

"Who says it has to?" Hilda cheekily claimed with a mischievous grin. She took out her Personal Computer and tapped it to release an item from her Inventory.

Multiple bags of dinner leftover scattered across the mattress much to Oshawott's surprise. He walked across the matresss to find that there were brownies, cookies and even some Garlic Knots. By the smell of things, they were still fresh and warm. The Sea Otter Pokemon gave a bright smile of hopefulness back at his Trainer.

"Auntie Aurea said to turn in but nothing about going to sleep just yet," Hilda declared while opening a zip-lock bag of chocolate-chip cookies. "Let's say that we're... practicing your speed and timing." She had her thump flip a cookie like tossing a coin while each one of her own.

From the other half of the bed, Oshawott was quick to move left in order to catch the treat in his mouth. He chewed on it lovingly and swallowed it just when he saw Hilda flick over a brownie. The Sea Otter Pokemon dove to his right and let it land on his tongue.

[Yeah,] Oshawott giggled with his mouth full, winking back knowingly. [Wouldn't want to slack off now, would we?]

It was the perfect end to a perfect first day. They'd never have known how good they had it then...

To Be Continued...

Thank you for reading my fanfiction. Write up a comment or a full blown review about what you liked or loathed about my work. I can roll with the punches so let me have it.


Well-Known Member
Chapter 4: All In The Family

Oshawott hit the mud face-first after a nasty Tail Slap across the cheek. He barely got up to spit out the dirty water and looked up at Hilda pleadingly.

[I... can still... fight,] Oshawott swore up and down desperately only to be met with a rather blank look from his Trainer. [I-I-I can win this.] Hilda's eyes were shrouded by her cap's brim but her mouth was a slight frown that made him scared all the more. [Please...]

"I need to think..." his Trainer replied in a fairly bummed out tone of voice while holding up his Poke Ball.

Oshawott shut his eyes when the red beam hit and opened his eyes to... nothing. An empty void of blackness wherever he turned.

[Hilda?] Oshawott anxiously cried out. [Anyone?]

"Looks like you lost pretty badly," he heard Professor Juniper's voice speak somberly. "Barely even touched Minnie."

[Wait, no!] Oshawott pleaded in but didn't know where towards. [I got a few hits in.] The voice seemed to be... everywhere yet nowhere. [Didn't I?]

"The little guy's cute and all but... he's not cutting it," Hilda's voice sighed wearily. "Figuratively and literally." Oshawott's blood ran cold at her words. "I'm sorry, Auntie."

[No,] Oshawott whispered, tears welling up in his eyes. [Y-y-you don't mean that...] His breathing shortened considerably as if the blackness was smothering him.

"I suppose he always was a bit hopeless," Professor Juniper conceded reluctantly. "He's nice but that won't win any battles."

[I can do better!] Oshawott shouted frantically with a strain in his voice. [I will do better.] He stumbled about in an attempt to find somebody. Anybody who could help him.

In a distance, Oshawott could make out Minnie from behind and felt a twinge of relief. [Please help me,] he begged, rushing forward blindly. [You can't let Hilda throw me awa-]

[Must I though?] Minnie replied with a tone of voice that was soaked in disdain. Oshawott stopped dead and felt his body go cold from an all too familiar fear. She wasn't speaking in the usual squeaks of a Minccino... but in hissing.

[By the sound of things,] Minnie hissed while turning around slowly, [it would be in everyone's best interest if you simply ceased to be.] Her beady eyes held the slitted pupils of a Snivy. The Snivy Oshawott hoped he had left behind.

The Sea Otter Pokemon couldn't speak in his unmitigated fear, let alone breath, when Minnie began to marched towards him. She came closer while also growing bigger and bigger.

[Would that not be for the better?] Minnie postured. [Would everybody be more at ease without you to complicate matters?] By the time she was a foot away from Oshawott, she was bigger than a Krokorok and morphing slowly into the Snivy he grew to fear. [Aren't you tired of being a burden?]

Oshawott wanted to run and scream but felt... glued to the spot, looking up at the enormous Grass Snake Pokemon. As if a part of him... agreed with her?


No. No. No.

It wasn't true. Oshawott shook his head violently to dash the idea from his head. He wasn't considering...

Was it?

[Too weak to do it ourselves, are we?] Snivy boomed despite her cold tone of voice. [Very well.] She slowly raised her right foot above Oshawott. [What are friends for?]

The Sea Otter Pokemon had second to run out of the way but found that... he couldn't. Snivy's right foot slowly stepped on him and slowly began to press down. Oshawott felt himself smother and unable to breath with such a heavy weight pressing down on him. The Sea Otter Pokemon found his cries for help muffled when he
woke back up and found something heavy really was weighing down on him.

Oshawott recognized Hilda's pink pajama top while feeling her chest heaving up and down into him. Her snoring was loud enough to fully wake him up to boot. The pressure wasn't anything the Sea Otter Pokemon couldn't take but he still found it more than a little hard to breath. Especially under a rather soft yet firm area much to his curiosity.

[Hilda!] Oshawott managed to call out however muffled. [You're crushing me.] He pushed up against his Trainer's body if only to shove her awake but found her to be virtually dead to the world. Minnie's warning about Hilda's tossing and turning suddenly didn't seem so trivial at the moment.

"...mmmm... s'not your puddin'... Purrloin..." Hilda slurred in her slumber, laying front down. "...get 'er... Pidove..." Her body rocked about from Oshawott's vain attempts at either tossing her off or waking her up. Not without a few... drastic measures.

[Forgive me, Hilda,] Oshawott prayed before channeling Normal-type energy throughout his body. He tried to be as gentle as he could in pushing his Trainer off of him with greater ease with his boosted strength. The Sea Otter Pokemon gasped in fresh air and stood up hastily but put a touch more elbow grease despite his best efforts.

Hilda rolled onto her right side in the process... and processed to fall off the edge of the bed. Oshawott winced when he heard the thump and the inevitable cry of pain that followed suit.

[Oops...] he could only gulp nervously, still fresh from his nightmare. [Anything broken, Hilda?] Oshawott could hear her silently curse under her breath and feared the worst.

"I've had worse from Minnie," Hilda quipped while lifting herself up from the carpeted floor, kneeling down. "Who needs alarm clocks when you got Pokemon, right?" She laughed in an effort to downplay her initial morning irritation for Oshawott's sake. However, it couldn't keep her from wincing over the sore bruise on her cheek.

Oshawott felt his nerves settle after seeing Hilda put on a happy face and decided to fess up. [I'm sorry for the rude wake-up call,] he apologized with a humble bow. [It was hard to hold back let alone breath.]

"Oh no no no no," Hilda insisted apologetically, grabbing Oshawott with both hands. "I'm the one who forgot I had a sleepover last night." She put a surprised look in Oshawott's eye with a peck on the forehead. "I didn't hurt you, did I?" Her eyes were taking a cue from her Starter with how big and worrisome they looked.

[Nothing I couldn't handle,] Oshawott quickly touted with a more confident front. [I've had worse from Minnie.] His little call-back got a a smile back on Hilda's face thankfully. He was mainly relieved to see that she wasn't upset anymore.

Not now.

"I just might put it on our training regimen then," Hilda joked while placing Oshawott down onto the carpet. "Until then, a girl's gotta get ready for the day ahead if you'll bear with me." She stood back up to make a beeline right for her desk where her Personal Computer and X-Transceiver were charging on their respective ports.

"Looks like Auntie Aurea got a head start to the lab," Hilda went on, reading the texts on her device before strapping it to her wrist. "She even took Minnie so you just know she's desperate to pass sanitation." One tap of her P.C. removed her pajamas in an instant and left a can of body spray.

"We're expected around One so it won't so much 'seize the day' as much as 'seize the morning and a touch of the afternoon," Hilda continued while grabbing the can. "Not that I haven't made do with less." She began to spritz herself if only to save time on a morning shower. "And believe me, we're gonna make the most of it." Minnie would balk at it but that was the fun of it.

While Hilda rambled on, Oshawott couldn't help but let his thoughts drift to his dream and his smile melt into an anxious frown. He couldn't remember most of his nightmare but could certainly feel the fear of it lingering in his heart. It only got worse when he could remember that the inspection was already upon them.

[It won't happen...] Oshawott quietly lied to himself, closing his eyes. [It won't happen...] The thought of Snivy snuffing him out under her foot came back to mind. [It. Won't. Happen...]

"Think fast, Oshawott!"

The Sea Otter Pokemon snapped out his thoughts to look back up and see a small bottle being tossed his way. Oshawott was quick to catch while just barely fumbling it in his paws. He looked up to find Hilda putting her hair up in a ponytail with her clothes from yesterday back on.

"What is this?" Oshawott asked, almost forgetting his previous anxieties. The cap had a plastic lid that easily popped open for him.

"Protein shake," Hilda answered while picking up a mini-carton of her own. "Just a little thing to tie you over until breakfast." She started for her bedroom door while checking her inventory for the essentials. "Bought them in bulk as part of a Starter Pokemon discount."

"We're not eating here?" Oshawott questioned in confusion, following his Trainer while keeping hold of his carton.

"On a day like today?" Hilda replied with a touch of sass, taking a chug of her shake. "Where's the pizzazz?" She was still sifting through her P.C. before coming across what she was looking for. "I've had this little shindig planned before we blaze a trail through Unova." One tap on the screen materialized the baseball cap onto her head. "And you're our guest of honor."

[A party for me?!] Oshawott exclaimed, his spirits truly rising with his smile. [I certainly am honored] He started to bow but remembered his Protein Shake in time to not spill.

"Consider me your chauffeur this fine morning," Hilda chortled while curtsying, putting on the worst Galarian accent ever. "The bike awaits, Young Master Oshawott." She opened the door and heading into the hallway while working down more of her Protein Shake.

[Right behind you!] Oshawott called while following with more pep in his step. Maybe this would be a good day. [By the way, what is a bike?]

Oshawott soon found his answer in the form of holding onto Hilda's bicycle basket and crying out for dear life. The house of suburban Nuvema flashed by with the speed his Trainer was pedaling and through an impressive streak of green lights no less. The Sea Otter Pokemon had to really batten down when they served around their fair share of sharp curves. A series of small potholes and uneven sidewalk tiles really gave their trip a little bounce than expected.

"Sorry for the rough ride, Oshawott," Hilda swore through all her panting. "Seize the morning and all." She turned on a local street just before the shopping district. "I've only ever crashed once... a week." Her face went lightish-red over the silent admission.

[W-who's complaining?] Oshawott replied in an attempt to hide his anxiousness, putting on another confident look. [The rougher, the better!] He went so far as to stop holding onto the basket's edges and put his paws to his hips boldly. [Full speed ahead, helmsman!]

A pothole Hilda missed too Oshawott up on that challenge when she bumped and barely had time to recover from such a dip. The Sea Otter Pokemon wailed when he bounced out of the basket and ended up just barely grabbing the edge before he could fall out. His Trainer kept bicycling despite feeling shaken herself.

[Or half speed!] Oshawott hastily course corrected, flailling his flippers in fear of falling. [Half is good!] He quickly managed to lift up with his paws and dump himself back in. [Maybe a quarter if you prefer?] The Starter Pokemon managed a very shaky smile and chuckle while panting heavily.

"Very good, sir," Hilda chortled back, reveling in her cringey accent once more. "You'll be pleased to know that we're halfway there."

Oshawott looked back ahead and was surprised to see how the road they were on about to end in a cul-de-sac before leading into a dirt trail amongst tree. They were the most trees that the Sea Otter Pokemon had ever seen even back outside of the laboratory for outdoor battle tests. His mouth hung open in awe when Hilda's bike hit the dirt and surrounded them with so much natural beauty to look at.

Hilda smiled warmly the more they went down the trail and felt all her worries wash away. It was like she had come home after a long day. The feeling wasn't too far off as Pokemon along the trail would stop to at least glance their way whenever they rode past.

[Nice Starter, Hilda!] a Patrat called, spilling berries from his stuffed cheeks. [Looks like a real winner!]

[Hilda, darling!] an Unfezant chirped from her nest above while feeding her babies. [My kids will miss you!]

[Try not to forget about us little folks,] an elderly Stoutland chortled before sniffing the ground for his buried berries.

Hilda waved to each Pokemon who gave their regards to her happily while Oshawott found himself growing curious by all the attention they were getting. A small clearing with a tree stump in the middle came into Hilda's view soon enough, her cue to put on the brakes.

"Last stop!" she called out like a Subway conductor while sliding her ride to a stop. "Please watch your step as you exit the basket."

Oshawott does just that when he lifted himself out of the basket and dropped down to the ground below. All the while, Hilda dismounted while taking out her Personal Computer to quickly digitize her ride and return it to her Inventory.

[Wow!] was all Oshawott could say.

Now that he could stay in place and look around, the trees now towered above him yet didn't intimidate him. Rather, they felt peaceful with the sunlight shining through their branches and leaves. He closed his eyes with a soft smile just beneath. The sounds of distance Pokemon calls across the breezes only cultivated this growing sense of serenity in his heart.

Hilda gave Oshawott a moment to really take it all in and was more than happy to see him share her affection for this slice of heaven. "First time in the great outdoors?" she finally asked, giving him space to really let it all sink in.

[I've only ever been in the backyard of the lab and never seen anything like... this...] Oshawott claimed, his mouth still hanging open in his smile. [Have you ever been here before?]

"Been here?!" Hilda repeated with a hint of excitement. "This is practically a second home for me." She swung around to really take in all the natural beauty like she had so many time before. "Like a Pokemon born human."

Oshawott snapped out of his awe at Hilda's claim and remembered something that he'd been too distracted to ask about. [By they way, I had been meaning ask about-]


Oshawott jumped in alarm when Hilda screamed the words from the top of her lungs, drawing them out in a single breath. The Pidove in the tree flew off from the branches in their own fright while various Patrat and Lillipup dashed off. Not merely because of the loud cry but what was likely to come.

[Um... okay?] was all Oshawott could say in his state of confusion, looking at Hilda like she really did become a Pokemon. [What was that about?]

"I said this was like a second home, right?" Hilda repeated with a eager smile and a wink. "You're about to meet the family."

Oshawott still cocked his head in his lingering state of confusion and began to wonder if a lack of breakfast was getting to his Trainer. However, he was soon distracted by rustling leaves from a tree to his right before the same happened with a tree to his left. The Sea Otter Pokemon darted his head between both sides and gulped in anticipation of a potential wild encounter.

However, Oshawott found himself concerned with Hilda once more when he turned and found a weird smirk she now wore on her face. "Hit me with your best shot, girls," she whispered eagerly.

As if to answer her challenge, a silky strings shoot from one tree to the other and another from the other to the one. Oshawott only just looked up when two bugs clad in leaves, one from each tree, swing in on their respective String Shots from their mouths.

Each Sewaddle thrust out one of their feet with Hilda being right where they'll meet, clearly going for a good kick in the head. Their target was just standing around seeming so nonchalant aside from a rather slight smirk on her face. Oshawott attempted to be more proactive in grabbing his Scalchop however hastily.

"Whoops, shoes untied," Hilda pretended to claim excitedly while bending down. The two Sewaddles crash into each other just behind her and fall to the ground like twin sacks of potatoes that went "Ow!"

Hilda pretended to be surprised when she looked behind her and turned around with a slight smug grin. "Sue, Addle," she gleefully greeted the Bug-Type twin sisters when they were still picking themselves back up. "When did you decide to drop on by?" The twins either groaned out of pain or from her very bad one-liner.

[Yuck it up, Hilda,] Sue vowed vigoriously once she'd sprung to her feet.

[We'll knock your block off yet!] Addle chimed in with gutso to back up her sis.

The persistent pair rushed forth to blindly tackle Hilda only for their friend to easily grab them by the leaves on their backs. Even when their human friend held them up, they wriggled about in attempt to give their "rival" a real licking but could only flail their stubby limbs. Hilda giggled over how they were still adorable even after all this time.

Oshawott, all the while, still held his Scalchop in hand but didn't attack over how... bizarre this sequence of events. [Um... okay?] he repeated, figuring that this was happening now with or without proper context.

"A solid 'A+' for effort, girls," Hilda cockily commended, hoping to at least soothe Sue and Addle's rowdiness a smidge. "You actually got up pretty early in the morning this time around." The twins each blew a raspberry at her but she knew they were still a tad salty. "Now if only we could get your Speed up to snuff."

Irony struck in every sense of the word when something sprinted pasted the alienated Oshawott and made him spin on his flipper. He forgot to be dizzy in his horror upon seeing a small light-brown puppy-like Pokemon struck Hilda in the back and made her fall to the ground. Sue and Addle were flung from her hands but landed on their feet while their friend landed face first in the dirt.

[Hilda's here! Hilda's Here! Hilda's here!] the Lillipup yipped with boundless excitement all over her bushy face. [Yay! Yay! Yay!] She even bounced upon her friend's back with her tail wagging nearly at Mach 20.

"Thanks for setting an example, Lilly," Hilda greeted with her smile maintained, trying to save her grimed up face. "It's just the sort of attack Sue and Addle could learn from." She lifted up her head and spitting out dirt. "Yuck."

Sue and Addle burst out laughing over how obvious Hilda was trying to play it cool. Oshawott once again felt like he was given a joke's punchline without any set-up.

[I think she's had enough, Lilly!] a bigger dog Pokemon called out in concern while rushing on past the Sea Otter Pokemon. [What did we talk about pouncing into humans?] The Herdier picked up his little sister by the nape of her neck off of Hilda, holding her beneath what looked like his mustache.

[Aw, Harry!] Lilly whined to her older brother, dropping to the ground with a pout. [I held back!]

[Your holding back doesn't amount to much,] Harry scolded, speaking from personal experience.

Hilda got back up to kneel and break up the canine siblings with an affectionate pet to their heads. "It's very nice to see you two still getting on swimmingly," she joked, trying to ignore her back pain. "Bring it in, doggos." Thankfully, her furry friends smiled back and jumped up to give the better kind of licking.

Oshawott felt relieved when it seemed like the Lillipup and Herdier meant no harm but still felt weird about it all. Hilda letting Pokemon attack her was bizarre enough but that they were her friends and almost enough here to fill up her team. The Sea Otter Pokemon could only hope that this was the last shock his tiny heart would have to take.

A very audible snap of a tree branch sadly proved him wrong as it put him and everyone else on alert. It was so audible that they could tell that somebody wanted them to hear.

"Somebody's saving the best for last, aren't they?" Hilda quipped with a smirk while standing up, eying the trees around her intently. "I thought this soup was lacking a certain spice."

[We swore not the spoil it but...] Sue began, speaking as eager as ever.

[...you're in for a real spanking, Hilda!] Addle finished, sniggering sinisterly with her sister.

A brown rodent of an unusual size with yellow stripes rushed out of the bushes from right behind Hilda and pounced in an attempt to tackle her to the ground. However, the Trainer turns around and managed to grab the Watchog by his fore-arms. Her shoes dig into the dirt while standing her ground against her opponent's raw strength.

[Hilda!] Oshawott cried out. This time, the Sea Otter Pokemon couldn't standby and rushed in while drawing his Scalchop. However, the Sewaddle twins quickly popped up in his way and made him pump the brakes.

[I have to help her!] Oshawott insisted. He tried to go past them but they moved right in front of him every single time.

[You'd need help if you just dove in, new guy,] Sue told Oshawott staunchly. [Believe us, we tried.]

[This ain't Hilda's first rodeo either,] Addle added, pushing the Sea Otter Pokemon back a few feet. [She knows how to wrangle Watcher.]

Oshawott looked up ahead with lingering concerns but soon became inclined to believe the twins. Watcher's hind paws were digging into the dirt considerably with Hilda actually taking a step forth in their Push-Pull stand-off. The Starter started to wonder if Hilda really was a Pokemon herself.

[Guard's sharp as ever,] Watcher assessed, gritting his buck-teeth to not give Hilda any ground. [Seems Trainer life ain't makin' a slacker out of ya.]

"Oh, ye of little faith," Hilda retorted sassily before giving a strong surge forward. "Allow me to reassure you." She reached down to grab Watcher by the torso and haul him up with a great groan within just a second.

Oshawott nearly forgot to breath even with his mouth agape over the sight of Hilda heaving a Watchog over her head and throwing him at a tree. Sue and Addle roar over the so-called carnage on display. Lilly yipped about hyper-actively while Harry held her in his mouth, knowing full well that she'd try to get in on the action.

Watcher managed to land on all fours after taking the hit and got up on his hind legs. "Footing's dull as ever," the Lookout Pokemon heard Hilda retort and looked up to see the triumphant look on her face. "Never account for the soil, do you?" She stuck out her butt to smack it tauntingly and looked back to blow a raspberry like she was still ten all over again.

[That's it...] Watcher sneered back, looking almost too calm about his trouncing. [Keep tootin' yer horn, big shot...] His super sharp eyes spotted something bouncing along the branches light enough for Hilda to overlook.

[Get 'er, Pat!] the Lookout Pokemon cried when he saw the pieces fall into place.

Hilda stopped her teasing just when a smaller, light-brown rodent made a free fall dive from directly above her. He grabbed onto the back of her short with his fore-paws and buck-teeth in order to drag them down in one fell swoop.

Hilda gasped a most mortified cry over the surprise attack while trying not to trip over her pants around her knees. Patrick hanging from her pair didn't help her as she stumbled about.

None of the Pokemon present understood why a lack of clothes could ever concern a human so much. They did, however, have a good laugh over how silly Hilda looked trying to shake Patrick off and losing any composure she'd tried to maintain. Sue, Addle, Harry, Lilly and even Oshawott were giggling if not guffawing over the slapstick on display.

"Patrick!" Hilda barked back with a furious flush of red painted all over her face. "What did we discuss about artificial furs?" She tried desperately to sound in control despite trying not to trip over her shorts or fall from the Patrat hanging onto her. "Just get off before you tear it."

[Much obliged, Ma'am,] Patrick quipped cheekily before dropping off of Hilda's shorts. He landed and dart off to the side just as Watcher pounced upon his opponent.

Hilda found her embarrassment becoming full-blown humiliation when the Watchog tackled her from behind and pinned her to the ground. The soft dirt didn't hurting as much but the force knocked her for a loop or two. Enough for Watcher to exert all his strength upon her and keep her from pushing up against him.

[C'mon, Watcher!] Patrick cheered on, shadow-boxing in his excitement. [Let 'er have it.]

[You got this, Hilda!] Oshawott shouted in support, finding himself caught up in the spirit of battle.

Try as she might, Hilda could only grit her teeth and groan in trying to lift her best friend off of her. [Never counted onna double team, did ya?] she heard him gloated triumphantly into her ear. After four strenuous attempts, Hilda was left catching her breath and eating the biggest slice of humble pie.

"Okay, Watcher," she admitted with her deepest sigh, "you've finally won."

[Hot diggity daffodil!] Watcher whooped while springing up to his feet and punching the air. He could hear Sue, Addle, Harry, Lilly and Patrick joining in on his cheers to his further delight.

Hilda managed to roll onto her back while pulling up her shorts hastily to sit up. "What way to go out," she muttered in both parts embarrassment and bemusement.

[I keep telling ya,] she heard Watcher, getting her to look up. [Y'all humans get real uptight 'bout what you slap on.] There he was holding out his right fore-paw generously despite his pretty patronizing tone of voice.

"I guess next time, I should come at you stark naked," Hilda sassed back with a chortle over how ridiculous it all was at the end of the day. "Nice work making me look stupid at least." She took Watcher's paw and let him help pull her up.

[Can't take too much credit,] the Lookout Pokemon claimed humbly. [Patrick was practicin' his free-falls all night.]

The Patrat scurried up to his big brother's side. [Got ya real good, didn' I?] Patrick giggled at Hilda before he saw the stern look she cast at him. [No hard feelin's?] He twiddled his paws innocently like whenever their Ma caught their in big trouble.

Thankfully, Hilda dropped her sour act and grinned while she knelt down to ruffled Patrick's head. "After you literally caught me with my pants down?" she praised, earning a smile from the little guy. "I'd say that you're overdue to evolve with those slick moves."

[Think you could give us some pointers?] Sue eagerly pipped up, scrambling over with her twin.

[That jump was sick!] Addle praised, making Patrick blushed bashfully.

Hilda happily let the Patrat address his "fan club" when she felt Lilly's paws on her legs. [Don't worry, Hilda,] she heard Lilly sweetly speak. [I think you did great out there.] Hilda was all the more warmed to see the Lillipup wagging her tail while having jumped onto her leg.

"Well, winning isn't everything," she imparted onto Lilly, doing right by her little sister figure. "I'll just have to do better next time." She gave a good stroking to the canine cutie-pie.

[Still wish you had,] Harry chimed in, sounding rather dreadful. [Watcher is gonna be insufferable for days because of this.]

[Y'all got a problem?] Watcher retorted indignantly to his best frenemy, sticking his head down to give the evil eye. [M' bro and I'll take you to task any time, any day.]

Harry spread out his legs with a mean look cast back towards the Watchog and a growl thrown in. The circle of friends began to get pumped for another round of roughhousing, chattering amongst themselves over their favorite to win.

[Um... begging your pardon...] Oshawott spoke up for the first time in what felt like ages. [I don't mean to intrude but… um…]

The Sea Otter Pokemon felt all the more put on the spot when they all turned their eyes upon him at the same time. [Who... even are any of you?] he ventured forth regardless despite his gulp.

[Been thinkin' that m'self,] Watcher replied with an eyebrow raised. [Who's th' squirt, Hilda?]

"Oh man, I really am stupid!" Hilda berated herself with a slap to her forehead before rushing towards Oshawott. "I'm so sorry I complete forgot to introduce you to everybody." She scooped up her Starter Pokemon from the ground and hoped that her hold would comfort him. "The world really slips away when you got friends like mine."

[These really are your friends?] Oshawott exclaimed in bewilderment before looking back at the Pokemon in question. Most of them put on their best smile while Watcher had a more perturbed expression on his face.

"My very best I could ask for," Hilda happily answered. "I do have a few human friends but only a few who I hang out with regularly." She remembered how jealous Georgia would get about her being homeschooled. "Luckily, a trip to the woods cures even the worst boredom can dish out."

Oshawott was amazed by the idea that a human had a place amongst wild Pokemon but began to connect the dots. He hadn't been sure about it at first but now it seemed all too apparent. However, the Sea Otter Pokemon forgot to voice his question when he found himself lowered back to the ground.

"Everybody, meet my Starter Pokemon," Hilda asked while putting Oshawott back on the floor. "Come and introduce yourselves but try not to overwhelm him, okay?" She squat just behind him like a mother seeing off her son on the first day of school.

[P-pleasure to meet you all,] Oshawott spoke with a humble bow, trying to put on a smile.

[Pleasure's all our's, new guy!] Sue greeted back happily, scuttling towards Oshawott. [I'm Sue, the smart twin.]

[And I'm Addle,] Addle greeted, coming up on her sister's left, [the smarter twin.]

[How do I tell you two apart?] Oshawott asked in his confusion, unable to see the difference between the two.

"You don't," Hilda answered rather knowingly. "And that's just how they like it." A snigger between the Sewaddles spoke volumes for her.

[Hi, I'm Lilly,] the Lillipup yipped, trotting up to Oshawott gleefully. [You smell really nice.] The Sea Otter Pokemon jumped back a bit in caution while she rattled on excitedly. [Did you have cookies for breakfast or dinner?]

[You're... not going to tackle me, are you?] Oshawott warily asked.

[Nah, silly,] Lilly laughed. [We're not besties yet.]

"Trust me," Hilda reassured Oshawott rather cheekily, "your time will come."

[Oh... good...] the Starter Pokemon gulped anxiously.

[She doesn't mean any harm... intentionally,] Harry promised, coming up behind his little sister. [I'm Harry and the one who keeps this little gremlin in check.]

"Tries his best anyways," Hilda sassed smarmily.

Oshawott felt more at ease with his Trainer's color commentary until he turned right to find Patrick staring at him with his red-ringed eyes. [Um... Patrick, is it?] he broke the ice awkwardly. [Is there something in my teeth?]

[Just curious, s'all,] the Patrat pondered while leaning in closer. [Ain't seen no Pokem'n like you 'round these here parts or any other parts.] Oshawott leaned back in discomfort due to his shrinking personal space. [Where'd Hilda snag you from?] The Sea Otter Pokemon yelped when he fell down after leaning back too far.

"What did I say about 'overwhelming,' Patrick?" Hilda firmly reminded her furry friend before picking Oshawott back up. "Sorry about his inquiring mind, Oshawott."

[Ya won't find that critter in our wood or water, Pat,] Watcher chimed in while strolling over, sounding a touch cocksure. [Lab rats like 'im one prob' never seen the wild before.]

Oshawott couldn't help but feel like the Watchog was judging him rather harshly even if his tone was more lighthearted. He looked up to find him looming right over him and giving off a slight Snivy vibe. The kind of vibe that unsettled his stomach badly.

"What my oldest friend, Watcher, means to say," Hilda began with a fairly force friendliness in her voice, "is that Starter Pokemon are a rare thing in the wild." She cast a very firm glare with her eyes alone at the Lookout Pokemon over Oshawott. "He's concerned if you'll be able to adjust as all." Watcher's gulp wasn't nearly subtle as he'd hoped. "Right, old buddy, old pal?"

[Yeah, just lookin' out for the new guy,] the Watchog hastily claimed with an uneasy smile, bending down to Oshawott's level. [Stick with me and I'll show ya the ropes, squirt.] He could hear his friends snickering over how Hilda had him by the ear without touching.

[O...okay,] Oshawott replied with a more comforted look on his face.

The Sea Otter Pokemon could tell that Hilda had a hand in his course correction but knew that they all meant well. In fact... Hilda had seemed to know exactly what her friends were saying and how to response now that he thought about it. It was one thing when it was mainly him and her but now...

[Hilda... can you talk to Pokemon?] Oshawott ventured forth, hoping that he didn't sound dumb just then.

His Trainer and her friends collectively cast their eyes towards him with a rather blank if concerned stare. The Sea Otter Pokemon gulped in fear that he might've tripped on a landmine or however the humans tended to phrase it. Either way, it felt awkward for about four seconds thankfully.

[Seriously, Hilda?] Sue began incredulously.

[You didn't tell him?] Addle backed her sister up.

"I thought he'd caught on," Hilda said defensively. "I mean... you never brought it up, Oshawott."

[I thought you just pretending or going off by my mood,] her Starter claimed in his own defense. [I don't know if you noticed but most humans can't understand us.]

[Well, Hilda ain't whatcha call "most humans," squirt,] Watcher chimed in, folding his arms to look like the big guy on campus. [Any cry or yelp we make comes out as human speak in that sharp noodle of her's.]

[That's amazing,] Oshawott exclaimed with growing excitement, looking back at his Trainer. [Did Professor Juniper teach you this?] He would've wagged his tail if he were Lilly right now.

"Auntie Aurea wishes she was that good of a Professor," Hilda laughed with a snort. "This is a secret gift that's been in my family for generations." Her expression softened up subtly. "My mother shared it with me and made it clear that neither people nor Pokemon shouldn't know about it so easily."

[Your mother?] Oshawott mentioned curiously, remembering something else he meant to ask. [Come to think of it, I've never seen her back at the house.] He did remember a picture in Hilda's room of an older woman with brown hair. [Will I meet her soon?]

Oshawott looked up at his Trainer with eagerness in her eyes before finding her smile falling slowly. In its place was an reserved expression of what seemed like sorrow. He looked around and found that her friend had similar somber expression on their faces. Even Lilly and Patrick appeared more subdued than they ought to have been.

Oshawott gulped hard. This time he knew that he brought up something that he really shouldn't had. That is until he saw Hilda putting on a smile, one that still seemed melancholy to say the least.

"How about right now?" she suggested warmly.

Without a clear path, Hilda chose to have Oshawott hold onto the back of her ponytail and run deeper into the woods. The Sea Otter Pokemon didn't know how but he found it somehow far more frightful than the bicycle could ever hope to be. She was hopping over those bushes and sliding down that embankment, following signs that she seemed to know by heart.

Her friends were easily keeping pace as Oshawott could see around them. To their right, both Watcher and Patrick leaned down to still run fast on his hind legs but only to stay close to Hilda. To the left, Harry was scurrying along with a tail-wagging Lilly on his black coated back due to her tendency to dash off recklessly.

Up above, Oshawott could see Sew and Addle shooting String Shot after String Shot to swing above them on the trees. He could hear them cheering and jeering like they were some kind of superhero duo. The way that they stuck to the trees with their feet alone still fascinated him.

After what seemed like a while, Oshawott could see the trees becoming less dense up ahead and even make out a road up in the distance. However, his attention was more drawn to a rather wide tree just ahead of them.

Hilda began to slow to a walk just in front of the tree in question before finally stopping within ten feet of it. She caught her her breath as quick as she could while leaning on her knees and let her friend gather all around her.

Oshawott was about to ask where they were before Hilda reached up and lifted him off of her ponytail silently. Once he was placed on the ground, he looked up to find that the frown on his Trainer's face had only become more melancholy. The Sea Otter Pokemon didn't understand why but was wise enough to maybe wait and see.

[Need a few one-on-one?] Watcher asked Hilda, sounding a lot more reserved.

Oshawott looked around to see that none of their previous energy was on display. Lilly surprisingly was looking rather depressed as well.

"Thank you," Hilda replied in a near whisper before walking up towards the tree.

Now that Oshawott had time to focus, he could see that on the tree's shadowed side was a picture in a frame hung on the bark. Around it were a variety of flowers and in it was the photograph of a familiar woman. The same brown-haired woman who almost resembled Hilda down to their eyes and was in a similar photo hung on her bedroom wall. The same woman that he had seen no sign of.

Oshawott's face fell further once said picture became clearer and clearer much to his dismay.

Hilda wiped her wet eyes and steadied her breathing once she can within three feet of the tree. Despite her raw state, she still managed to take in a deep breath slowly and exhale just as long. Her warm smile returned to her face as she looked at the picture of the woman properly.

"Hi, Mom."

To Be Continued...

Thank you for reading my fanfiction thus far.

Write up a comment or a full blown review about what you liked or loathed about my work. I can roll with the punches so let me have it.


Well-Known Member
Chapter 5: Little White (& Blue) Lies

Helga smiled back.

"I know, I know," Hilda sighed wearily, holding up her hands in defense. "I haven't exactly been around lately but getting the written test down was a pain and a half." She whistled from just remembering how she nearly cramped her hand.

Helga smiled back.

"Oooo, should've led with that," Hilda swore lightly with a chuckle. "Guess who not only became a Trainer but also had their first official battle yesterday?" She pause for dramatic effect. "Here's a hint: her name rhymes with Gilda."

Helga smiled back. Hilda swallowed a bit dryly.

"And I know it was getting ahead of myself but I just had to take on Auntie Aurea," she insisted with a bit more pep. "You don't just get adopted by Unova's lead researchers in Pokemon and not challenge at least one of them." Her smile simmered down despite her best efforts. "Don't worry, I'll wear down Grandpa Cedric eventually."

Helga smiled back.

"You would've loved it," Hilda replied more softly. "Auntie Aurea delivered when she promised she wouldn't hold back." She did well to keep up her energy. "Not with Minnie on her side at least."

Helga smiled back while Hilda rambled on about her battle, playing up how epic it had been in areas. Behind her, all six of her woodland companions and her Starter Pokemon respectfully kept to themselves in silence. They knew that Hilda's mother couldn't speak back but none of that matters at the moment.

At last, Oshawott broke his silence in what he hoped was a low enough voice. [How long has she been... gone?] he asked, too curious not to know.

[Touch over seven years,] Watcher replied softly. [She and her Ma were ridin' on Route 1 to settle on in Nuvema when... something bad.] He sighed deeply remembering the day. [Harry n' I heard the crash from far off... before the explosion.]

Oshawott felt his heart sink at the thought of it. He glanced over to find that Lilly and Patrick hung their heads with a few tears themselves.

[We often ran towards danger and thought it was just another adventure for us,] Harry carried on somberly, traveling down the rocky memory lane. [It was... but not what we expected.] He could see Hilda up ahead really getting into talking to her mother, feeling mixed at best.

[A terrified li'l girl rushed on by like a Gigalith was on her heels,] Watcher continued, remember the look in Hilda's distraught eyes. [Poor thing was lost, alone and plum fit t' burst with tears.] Some of it was still in those blue eyes today. [Couldn' bring ourselves to leave 'er high n' dry suffice to say.]

Oshawott looked back at Hilda and found her exuberance a far cry from what they were telling her. An bundle of unbridled joy like her? Brought to tears? Yet it wasn't something alien to himself.

[It must've been so awful,] Oshawott whispered in sympathy.

[Not all of it,] Harry replied, starting to perk up a tad. [The adults were suspicious of her powers but Watcher and I helped her survive in the wild.] He snickered ever so slightly. [We did try to get her to town but... well...]

[Let's jus' say we hadn' quite sussed out left from right at that age,] Watcher chortled with a bashful blush. [Humans could write them book all 'bout our li'l capers.]

[Mom had to pick up the slack from what she told us,] Sue chimed in, having listened up until now.

[She even dressed Hilda up when her clothes started to stink,] Addle giggled, only going off of imagination.

[Made for some darn good camo,] Watcher admitted. [Took a while to figure out human sizes tho'.]

[Speaking o' Ma,] Patrick whispered to Oshawott with a giggle. [I heard mine blew a gasket when Watcher "brought home a stray."]

Oshawott could imagine more than a few of these misadventures with what he knew of Hilda as it was. He couldn't help but smile for what it was worth.

[It was worth it to see her in high spirits back then,] Harry confessed before his smile fell slightly. [I mean... while it lasted...]

Oshawott dropped his smile, sensing the pin's inevitable drop. [What could've happened next?]

[We foun' the Professor after what seemed like two weeks or so,] Watcher began wearily. [At first, Hilda and her were over the moon to finally meet until... Aurea broke the news.] He took a moment to sigh over the sobering memory.

[Hilda told us all sorts about her mother when it was just us three,] Harry added, trying to keep it together. [She had the biggest grin whenever she hyped her up as this Champion who could do just about everything.] He could only sigh what came next. [She swore her mom was coming for her.]

Oshawott could hear his sorrow reflected in Patrick and Lilly's whimpers behind him. Even Sue and Addle returned to their solemn mourning. All for somebody they'd never met yet somehow knew. The Sea Otter Pokemon grew curious about this until...

"Oshawott, over here!" Hilda called all of a sudden. "Come say hello!"

Oshawott was pulled out of his sadness with this surprise and just stood there stunned for a few seconds. "Oh... coming!" he called out before hurrying forward as fast as he could.

Behind him, Hilda's friends exchanged glances in their own curiosity. They knew she tended to talk to her mother one-on-one and rarely invited them unless they asked first.

Oshawott came along Hilda's left side and stopped about three feet or so from the enshrined tree. He got a closer look at the picture of Helga and found the kindness in her smile not too far off from his Trainer's. The Sea Otter Pokemon even felt a bit of warmth in his heart just look at it, especially when it was surrounded by such lovely flowers. Now the resemblance truly was unmistakable.

"Here he is, Mom," Hilda began happily, kneeling down to Oshawott's level. "The best Starter a girl could ask for." She gave an encouraging pat on his back.

[Um... hello...] Oshawott meekly greeted with a bow. [Helga, was it?] It was his first time paying respects to the departed so he could only hope he was doing right by his Trainer. [I've heard great things about you.]

Oshawott looked at Helga's picture and somehow could imagine her picking him up for a hug herself. It was enough to get him to push his anxiousness to the side with a deep breath and put on his best smile.

[Your daughter has been nothing but wonderful for me,] Oshawott carried on happily, trying his best to sound as bold as Hilda could. [I intend to return the favor by doing right by her.] He even put his paws to his hips to look tall and proud. [Within a month, Hilda will be a Champion just like you if not in a week with me.]

Hilda felt touched and endeared by Oshawott's vows before taking her turn to speak again. "You would have loved him to bits," she told her mother in a softer tone of voice. "It's only been less than a day yet it feels like we've been friends for ages."

Oshawott peered upwards upon hearing Hilda so unusually vulnerable. He could make out some faint tears in her eyes and didn't feel like grandstanding too much now.

"This might be the last time I speak to you for a while now," Hilda carried on to her mother, her smile slightly fading. "Next time... it'll be as Unova's Champion." She wiped her tears however dry she could. "That's a promise."

The atmosphere around them was dead silent with only a slight breeze rustling the leaves above them ever so gently. Watcher, Harry, Lilly, Patrick, Sue and Addle stayed respectfully at a distance. Hilda and Oshawott gave their thoughts to Helga's spirit in this moment of silence. Right up until the moment a stomach groaned out like a beached Wailmer.

Oshawott went red in face with an embarrassed wail. [Oh my...] he gasped, feeling his belly aching for breakfast. [I-I didn't mean to...]

However, it was soon Hilda's turn to blush furiously when her stomach growled even louder. Loud enough for her friends to jump and dart around, looking for the Stoutland muscling in on their turf.

"Can't make good on our word without a proper breakfast, huh?" Hilda sheepishly chuckled, sharing a wry smile with Oshawott.

[The thought had crossed my mind,] the Sea Otter Pokemon claimed, his sentiments exact. He couldn't help but glance back up at Helga and remember Hilda vowing to become Champion in her honor.

Oshawott swallowed hard and remembered his own vow. [Me and my big mouth...] he whimpered anxiously, knowing he would break his promise one way or another.

All the while, Hilda was too busy taking out her Personal Computer and aimed the camera to square in on the grass just in front of her friends. She went into her Inventory to select multiple items for a massive materialization, eager to make a big surprise.

"Soup's on, everybody," Hilda gleefully declared before tapping "Select."

Uptown Nuvema found itself in a surprisingly tepid atmosphere overall. The news of Hilda making Trainer had spread but for most, it just felt like any other day. People walked up and down the sidewalk to their favorite shops but many still expected something to at least explode like yesterday. Not that Sean or Chris were complaining.

Damien and Linda Aryes were in the middle of the street when the screeching of tires nearly overloaded their heading aids. They winced just in time for a black van to swing around the corner and just barely miss them. Damien held onto his toupee while he and his wife saw the vehicle barrel down the road like it was Skyarrow Bridge.

"Cedric..." was the only thing that the couple could sigh, nodding to themselves. Everyone else around them knew only one family in town had that reckless style of driving.

"So we run like mad the second we realized," Cedric Juniper happily rambled on, listening to the GPS's dubious directions. "I would've thrown out my back if not for the adrenaline, let me tell you." He laughed while turning left so sharply that the van borderline tilted.

"By the time we got there, what did we find?" Cedric asked rhetorically while the vehicle bounced back onto the road. "Little Hilda playing on that grump of Haxorus like she was on a Jungle Gym." He sighed heartily over such a prized memory while narrowly squeezing through a yellow light. "Turns out the big girl was an empty nester and that our girl's company just what the doctor ordered."

Bright Alans groaned from the gut right behind Cedric. "I'm gonna need a doctor if you don't slow down," he bellyached, grabbing his unkempt brown hair.

"Aim out the window, green gills," Vanessa Alexanders abrasively warned, kicking Bright's seat from behind. "This suits are way over our pay grade." Truthfully, she felt like the G-force was about to make her pass out but wouldn't let it show.

"Ah, buck up, youngsters," Cedric chortled, earning an irate horn-honking and his third "Watch where yo' goin', ya fool!" today. "If you think I'm a demon with wheels, you should see my daughter."

"What my associate mean to say," Bianca Whitley chimed in, trying to sound as cordial as she could, "is that this may reflect poorly on this inspection." The blonde did her utmost to lean away from the ghastly looking Bright to her left.

"Huh," Cedric said thoughtfully. "Put it like that..."

Almost immediately, the car went from drag racing to crawling like slow molasses. It was so smooth that none of the inspectors even registered their change in speed until the color returned to Bright's face. Nonetheless, they collectively sigh in the utmost relief.

"Now where was I?" Cedric pondered, trying to remember his story. "I told you how we thought Hilda had been swallowed alive by that Haxorus, right?"

"Yes," Cheren Blake sighed, readjusting his glasses after the wild ride, "and the one where Hilda allegedly rode on a Zebstrika threw town." He made sure that his fellow suits could see sunlight glint off of his specs twice.

"Well, only because the racer was so hard on the poor thing," Cedric reminded the inspector. "Call her reckless but that fire cracker of mine doesn't take injustice lying down."

"I wouldn't exactly call that a good thing," Cheren chided with an almost knowing tone, bringing up papers to write on. "As her guardian, safety should be priority number one."

"Ha!" Cedric laughed. "You sound just like my daughter."

While Cheren kept the Professor talking, Bianca cautiously reached underneath her blonde bang and turned on an com in her right ear. Her expression became less soft and more serious as she focused on keeping her voice discrete. Bright and Vanessa shared the same look next to her.

"How's the set-up looking, Simon?" Bianca asked, making sure Cedric didn't so much as glance back.

"The Warden didn't notice our modifications if that's what you mean," Simon Allison replied over the com-link. "Just a couple of kid geniuses working on a summer science project."

"You'll have plenty of time at this rate," Vanessa added, seeing a Youngster on bicycle ride by.

"Good!" Sammy Allison groaned loudly, making her colleagues wince deeply. "Some of us need rest after recalibrating the coding alone last night!"

"Did you... hear something just now?" Cedric asked innocuously.

"Hey!" Cheren chimed in, trying way too hard to change the subject. "About those baby pictures..." He took a second to look back at his colleagues and made a fearful looking cut-throat gesture for them.

"Just set your alarm for one sharp," Bianca quietly yet anxiously insisted. "Remember that this isn't a standard hit-and-run." She swallowed in her attempt to sound at least somewhat commanding. "You can be sure his Majesty will take interest in our first full scaled operation."

Watcher nearly spat out his red cabbage when he couldn't keep his laughing fit at bay. [Still fallin' for her poor li'l meow meow act, are ya?] he snidely sniggered.

[In my defense, Purrloin really did get pecked by those Tranquill,] Harry barked back in protest, still chewing on a store-bought bone.

[Only 'cause she tried helpin' herself to their gatherings,] Watcher retorted. [Without permission obviously.]

[Excuse me for looking out for my fellow Pokemon,] Harry defensively claimed, [...that leave me to face the whole angry flock.]

"Well, I think you were kind to not just turn away," Hilda warmly promised while scratching her furry friend behind the ear. "Just be more skeptical with that darn cat."

She let her bare legs sprawl across the pink picnic blanket with her vest, hat and shoes stored in her P.C. "And hey, if she crashed the party and you know she can't resist, I'll help you pay her out." Hilda helped herself to some more Buttered and French Toast that she let Harry take a big bite out of.

Eating his second bread-stick, Oshawott sat to his Trainer far left while seeing her yuck it up with Watcher and Harry. All of Hilda's friends had spread across the picnic blanket once it had appeared. Particularly when a whole host of food that she'd been saving up for this occasion came with it. However, the Sea Otter Pokemon quickly felt awkward when they paired off to enjoy all the new food and chat it up amongst themselves.

Not that Oshawott fully minded. He didn't know how to chip the ice let alone break it. In any event, it was rather interesting to really see this side of Hilda. How she just vibed with the Pokemon in the forest not as their Trainer but as their friend. His eyes also drifted to Sue and Addle just to Watcher's left. They were munching down on rare leaves that Hilda got from Cedric on his research travels.

[Pidove's really missing out,] Sue claimed cheerfully with her mouth full of leaves saved from autumn. [Don't tell me he forgot today was the day.]

[Cut him some slack,] Addle replied with a bit of spittle spewing. [He's all the way up north.] She crunched down on some cold winter leaves. [Way too easy to get turned around after a while.]

[Man, he promised that we'd see if our string could beat his wings,] Sue whined, pouting even while scarfing down some chopped lettuce. [Feathery flaker...]

[Ah, you know we'd leave him in the dust,] Addle claimed, trying to soothe her sister's feelings. [Momma didn't raise no heart-breaker.]

Oshawott sipped from his milk carton while enjoying their rowdy banter. Wild Pokemon were such a fascinating far cry from the Pokemon that he'd met in the laboratory. They had no humans to bustle them around in a single building and could practically do what they wanted. The air also smelled consistently fresh compared to how regulated the temperature the laboratory could be.

Oshawott smiled in his growing peace and contentment when a gentle breeze blew his way. The whole forest around him felt so free. Free from bullies like Snivy or expectations from any Trainer whatsoever. The Sea Otter Pokemon could see why Hilda considered this a second home. He wouldn't have minded living here with her.

[You really do smell nice,] Lilly spoke up. [A bit too nice.]

Oshawott nearly spilled his milk when he jumped and turned around to find the Lillipup sniffing him all over. Her eyes were closed to focus her nose in on the Sea Otter Pokemon alone. He could see her furry face was caked with the masked potatoes she'd been previously going to town on.

[Can I... help you?] Oshawott ventured forth awkwardly.

[Don' mind her none,] Patrick assured, coming up from the right while gorging on a large cucumber. [Harry's been teachin' her to sus out distinct scents.]

[I've never smelled a Pokemon from the lab before,] Lilly discerned with excited curiosity. [Your scent's so... clean.] She started licking Oshawott's furry belly much to his embarrassment. [Taste's clean too.]

[I hope I do,] the Sea Otter Pokemon claimed backing away a bit from whatever Lilly was doing. [Minnie was prudent about getting behind the ears.] He made a little chuckle if only to seem less of a dork.

"Lilly," Hilda called out sternly from just behind Oshawott. "Try to take it easy on him."

[We talked about personal space,] Harry chimed in firmly, playing the junior parent on the fly.

[Sorry...] Lilly whimpered with slight pout.

[It's fine, really,] Oshawott hastily promised, not wanting to seem like a bother. [Inquiring minds want to know.]

[Well, we wanna know what's it like in a lab,] Sue chimed in, waddling over while snacking on two leaves. [Hilda barely tells us squat.]

[Is it true they prob your butt for cavities?] Addle asked without a shred of irony. [That's gotta hurt.]

Oshawott cocked his head in confusion while Watcher and Harry nearly double over in laughter. Hilda goes red in the face and tried to look the other way, audibly slurping up her soda. She knew she should've kept the suppository incident to herself.

[I don't know about my butt...] Oshawott earnestly answered, the absurdity lost on him, [but we do get medical check-ups just about every weekend.] He did gulp at a particularly unpleasant memory while eating more of his breadstick. [They're good for keeping us healthy but... I don't care much for shots.]

"Wow, we really were made for each other," Hilda chortled, scooching up the blanket. "We can take them together if it helps." She picked up Oshawott to let her sit between her legs and saw him smile more in comfort.

[I would like that,] Oshawott replied with a bit less stiffness.

[No Pokemon in the wild get shots or some quack to keep us right as rain,] Watcher questioned in an annoyed tone of voice. [All we need's fresh air and fresher berries out here unlike a certain squirt here.] Secretly, he was annoyed that Oshawott stole Hilda away from him but he wasn't about to own up to it.

[We get berries there,] the Sea Otter Pokemon replied defensively. [Well... they baked into those brown bits.] He realized that he was fumbling the ball way too fast. [The Professor's a real stickler for our diets.]

[Oh boy,] Sue muttered mischievously to her sister.

[Here comes trouble,] Addle replied in agreement, eager for sparks to fly.

"Alright, Mr. Au-Naturale," his best friend snarked back, hoping to humble her stubborn friend. "That'll save me money on Potions at least." She didn't notice Oshawott's more concerned expression below here shifting to a slight frown.

[Well... glad to lend a paw,] Watcher pouted in trying to get the last cry in, folding his arm.

[Don' mind him none,] Patrick encouraged Oshawott in a low voice. [My brother don't care too much for Trainers.] He couldn't help but slightly blush in embarrassment. [I wanna know more if yer willin'.]

[Yeyeyeyeyeah,] Lilly chimed in hyper-actively. [Hilda says you get to roam around freely in the laboratory.] She hurried up to Oshawott with her tail-wagging, making him step back out of unease. [How good are you at tag? Huhuhuhuhuh?]

Oshawott felt better when Harry lifted his little sister away by the scruff on her neck. [Miss Aurea wouldn't allow Starters without a human to keep an eye on us,] he admitted sheepishly. [She especially had us avoid any evolved Pokemon in the halls.]

"And for good reason," Hilda laughed with exasperation. "The Simi trio there get really intense about Dodge Ball." Her tone of voice sounded way too embarrassed. "Don't even get me started on hide and seek with the Amoongus."

[I'd often race with Snivy and Tepig when our speed and response times were tested,] Oshawott carried on. [We'd even do freeze tag to see how quickly we can stop on command or on our own.] He omitted details such as Snivy tripping him so he wouldn't "push his limits" or her also utilizing Vine Whip to tag him very forcefully.

[Didn' ya even tussle once?] Watcher exclaimed in disgruntlement, crawling across the food to Hilda's right. [Yeesh, trust humans to be coddling.] He rudely grabbed a breadstick to eat with his mouth open.

"Weird because I remember a Patrat needing a little girl to pry him out of a log," Hilda sassed back. "Whined for an hour until she got his big butt out of there." She even stuck out her tongue like she was seven years old again.

Watcher went red in the face while their friends let out a collective, "Oooooooooooo," over the shade of it all. Oshawott giggled a little but tried not to poke the Beartic going by the Lookout Pokemon's growing frown.

[Mah point's yer li'l lab rat wouldn' cut it in these here parts,] Watcher retorted, starting to get more than a little heated about this. [Ain't no human's gonna hold yer paw when a Galvantula's tries to make brunch outta ya.] He aimed his glare down at Oshawott a bit more directly. [One zap and you'd cry home for yer Professor, assumin' you last that long.]

"Watch your step, Wa-" Hilda was about to say, her own glare growing over the professor bit. She found herself interrupted when she felt Oshawott jumping over her leg and looked down. There was the Sea Otter Pokemon with his own frown while marching up towards Watcher.

[It's funny you should mention Galvantula,] Oshawott began firmly, standing up straight to assert himself. [Professor Juniper had us battle at a type-disadvantage just last week and put me up against a Joltik.] The Sea Otter Pokemon knew that he had to make sure that he didn't look weak in front of Hilda but also wanted to stick up for Tepig too.

[Oh, what?] Watcher spat while getting down on all fours, sneering Oshawott straight in the eye. [Ya stepped on him with yer flat foot, squirt?] His nose was an inch away from the Sea Otter Pokemon's firm frown.

"Guys, please..." Hilda muttered in concern. She knew Watcher could get too worked up in his opinionated state and feared Oshawott would get in over his head.

Glancing over, Hilda saw her other friends viewing the stand-off with concerned looks of their own. They were keeping their distance lest a spark set them ablaze. This was far from the going-away picnic she envisioned.

[I wouldn't say stepped so much as, let's say...] Oshawott began, his frown rising into a smirk, [...cut him down to size.] He swiped the Scalchop off of his belly and immediately formed his Shell Blade while whipping it out towards Watcher.

The Lookout Pokemon cried out in alarm and jumped back before the sword could cut him. Before Watcher knew it, he felt his left hind paw step on a vanilla cupcake and slip backwards. The Watchog fell flat on his back and felt two cream pies Hilda had brought out get into his fur beneath him.

Lilly and Patrick were the first to burst out laughing over such silly slapstick. Sue and Addle followed suit before Harry could hardly contain himself. Hilda didn't laugh but grinned over how Oshawott showed up Watcher all on his own.

The Sea Otter Pokemon in question found the laughter surprisingly welcome. Oshawott's confidence expression faltered for a second before rising back up when he realized that they were laughing with him, not at him. Suffice to say, he couldn't help but milk it.

[Just like that in fact,] Oshawott carried on, recounting his battle while Watcher was getting back up. [He talked a good fight but my quick draw made him lose composure.] He even twirled his Scalchop on his right paw to make himself look casual about it, retracting the blade for safety. [One Water Gun later and, well, this itsy bitsy Joltik wasn't going up the spout again anytime soon.]

The Sea Otter Pokemon had taken the liberty to omit the fact that this was on the seventh try in facing the least experienced Joltik. Even then, he had Aurea directing him to sharpen his reflexes.

[Wow, Oshawott,] Patrick exclaimed, coming up to the Starter's side. [That's some gumption right there.] His buttering-up earned him a light blush and a wry smile.

[I oughta try that fake-out in practice,] Sue chimed in, hyping up Oshawott.

[Not if I get you first, slowpoke,] Addle bantered back competitively.

[I wanna sword, Harry,] Lilly panted excited.

[Uh... maybe when you're a Stoutland?] Harry gulped uneasily, unsettled by the concept alone.

Hilda could easily tell that Oshawott embellished a few details but was keen to let him have this if only at Watcher's expense. Especially when the Lookout Pokemon was looking mighty peeved while trying to get all the pie crust and cream out of his fur.

[Well, ain't you the cream of the crop now?] Watcher snidely spoke up, licking his back with considerable flexibility. [Us wild ones don't got the luxury of choosing our battles, especially when food's on the line.] The pie was delicious for what it was worth but not enough to improve on his mood.

[Well, some of us here are more stubborn than others,] Harry sassed back at Watcher. He winced when he got a bit of pie flick in his face but couldn't complain.

[Ah had to rumble with ten Pokemon 'fore breakfast yesterday,] Watcher carried on, getting down on all fours once more. [Ya don't wanna get me started on brunch, boy.] He made a particular point of giving Oshawott a mean look from his right eye, hmmmming intensely.

[Only ten?] the Sea Otter Pokemon replied with a curious tone of voice, hardly looking fazed by Watcher. [For me, twenty's just a warm-up before breakfast.] The Watchog's incredulous reaction was priceless while held straightened his posture to talk the talk. [Sometime I hope for thirty to work up my appetite.]

[Oh what?] Watcher retorted, trying not to give ground this time. [More baby Joltik?]

[Oh, I moved onto Grass-types just last week,] Oshawott answered matter-of-factly, pretending to ponder. [A few Pansages, a touch of Petilil and even some Maractus.] He wasn't lying about having faced them but was exaggerating how many of them he managed to touch let alone defeat.

[Heh, but no Sewaddles I bet,] Sue whispered to Addle, exchanging devious looks with her sister.

[R-right...] Watcher retorted, trying not to look intimidated. [And I took on the Champion just last week.] Oshawott's nonchalant demeanor was started to make him figuratively sweat ever so slightly. The way everybody else was "Ooooo"ing and "Ah"ing made the Lookout Pokemon feel like old news.

[I bet he could take on your mom and live,] Lilly whispered to Patrick, her tag still wagging.

[Y'know he jus' might...] the Patrat considered.

"Come to think of it," Hilda began with a sly raise of her left eyebrow, "the Junipers said the most wins a Starter got before leaving was about two hundred." She exchanged a quick wink with her Starter to let her know that she was in on it. "Been meaning to ask what your record was, Oshawott."

[Hmmmm... I wanna say three hundred or... four hundred?] the Sea Otter Pokemon pondered, pretending to be deep in thought. [I could never count that high but I think heard four hundred and one from Mr. Cedric.] He threw in a smile and a casual shrug to make it seem like it was no big deal, earning a very indignant scoff from Watcher.

"Then that makes Minnie four hundred and two," Hilda gleefully praised, picking Oshawott up with both hands. "You and me are going places, kid." The Sea Otter Pokemon smiled when she hugged him upon her chest with both arms crossed.

[Ooo, ooo, ooo,] Lilly yipped, wagging her tail while jumping onto Hilda's thigh. [Can I be four-hundred and- and- um-] She pouted when her counting skills failed her. [Can I battle you next?]

[Hey, I wanna tussle first,] Patrick whined indignantly.

[Um... right now?] Oshawott asked with slight anxiousness and a subtle gulp. Not nearly subtle for Watcher to pick up on.

[Yeeeeeeah,] the Watchog declared with a bit of slyness while rising back up. [Y'all been flappin' yer gums about how much offa hot shot ya are, hot shot.] He leaned forth to give him the eye yet again. [Got the skills t' pay the bills, buddy-boy?]

"That's far enough, Watcher," Hilda firmly replied, shoving a pair of berries in the Watchog's mouth to shut him up. "Oshawott doesn't have to battle if he doesn't want to." She didn't appreciate her oldest friend feeling jealous but was more concerned about her Starter getting in over his head.

Oshawott squirmed and worried that the jig was up but tried to hide his fear. [No no, of course, I can pay the bills,] he replied hastily with a more assertive look in his eye and a raised right paw. He paused before looking back up at his Trainer with a more confused expression. [Hey, what are bills?]

"He's challenging you to a battle to see if you live up to the hype," Hilda clarified, casting an annoyed look at Watcher. "Personally, I'd rather if you saved your strength for the inspection."

[Inquirin' minds wanna know,] the Watchog taunted with a sneer after swallowing his impromptu snack. [I'm waitin', squirt.]

Oshawott did well to keep up his facade but couldn't push back the growing fear in his heart. Watcher caught him in the hole he dug himself into and was keen to bury him alive at a second's notice. The Sea Otter Pokemon was glad that Hilda was covering for him yet... didn't. Bad memories of Snivy came to mind at the notion of letting Watcher think he was all talk.

[Why do you get to go first?] Sue pouted with a whine.

[We called dibs... just now!] Addle added in a fussy tone of voice.

"What did I just say?" Hilda retorted sternly, shoving more leaves into each of their mouths. "This was suppose to be a relaxing picnic in the sun, not some tournament."

[Why not both?] Oshawott suggested with his devil-may-care grin. [I stuffed my face plenty so I got plenty of gas in the tank.] He slipped out of Hilda's hold and jumped down onto the picnic blanket like a high diver, standing up straight to look confident. [Whatever that means...]

"Well..." Hilda began before seeing how eager Oshawott's grin looked with his brows knit. "A warm-up before the inspector would help our odds." A grin of her own grew on her face at the thought of throwing down with her pals as a Trainer. "It wouldn't hurt to spice up this send-off just a pinch." She shared a nod of affirmation with Oshawott and started have a better feeling about this.

Lilly, Patrick, Sue and Addle erupted into cheers while Harry cast a suspicious eye at Watcher, having observed the Lookout Pokemon quietly. He trotted over to his oldest friend while Hilda was working out how the battles would play out and caught a look of his toothy sneer.

[Alright, what's the scheme this time?] Harry gruffly demanded from Watcher under his breath. [I've known those eyes for too long.]

[The squirt's lyin' like a rug and takin' Hilda for a fool,] the Watchog whispered back indignantly, bending back down onto all fours. [I'm doin' 'er a favor by exposin' him for the fraud he is.]

[So he's throwing his weight around?] Harry countered, recognizing jealously when he heard it. [You don't have to take out losing Hilda on him.]

Watcher scoffed at that last part, knowing that the Herdier was trying to get inside his head. [Watch me...] he vowed while rising up to give another glare at Oshawott hyping himself up to the little ones around him.

"As they say in Paldea," Cedric cheered while walking towards the entrance to his laboratory, "mi casa es su casa." He quickly got out his keys and locked the van up on the curb just behind them.

The four inspectors followed behind with Bright speaking for all of them with a bewildered whistle.

"That's no lab," he quipped. "It's a veritable space center."

Looking from the left to the right, the four of them found that the three story building's width alone promised multiple rooms dedicated to Pokemon 24/7. Some of them felt a tad anxious and exchanged expressions of such now that it really was go time. It felt like their assignment had just gotten more complicated.

"You guys did work out our exit strategy... right?" Vanessa whispered, paying that Cedric's hearing was going.

"I'm sure the twins will guide us if we get turned around," Bianca quietly spoke back with anxiety in her voice. "All else fails, we smash through any windows... not reinforced."

"Not exactly the Mom n' Pop lab it use to be," Cedric admitted with a bashful chuckle. "Governor Zinzolin was awfully generous with his funds, let me tell you." They all passed underneath the portico and neared the doors.

"The exterior does give a good impression," Cheren remarked, putting on a professional sounding tone of voice. "But you can't judge a book by its cover." He allowed Cedric to slide his card to let the double door slide open.

It was only two second after entering when they heard a desperate female voice urge them to, "CLOSETHEDOORCLOSETHEDOORCLOSETHEDOOR!" Cedric and the Inspectors looked up to find Aurea scrambling around the lobby's couches after a pair of Stunfisk flopping about.

The Professor was taking out Poke Ball after Poke Ball from a bag, looking for two to recall the troublesome pair. Her hair had gone from a classic beehive to standing straight on end like she was about to engage in martial arts with evil aliens.

That alone would've taken them aback but soon they found the floor covered by what must've been fifty Joltik. Among them were three Blitzle playing electric tag with their Thundershock attacks while burning the floor tiles, the glass windows and couch cushions.

Minnie was scrambling by their hooves in trying to avoid their electrical bolts when they decided to make her "it." She was angrily squeaking up at them in words that Hilda would never be allowed to repeat with her guardians. All in all, the inspectors were collectively stunned by the whiplash of madness that laid before them.

"Ah," Cedric uttered with a growing sense of dread, trying to keep up his chipper attitude. "Might've neglected to mention our little tradition of letting Pokemon we study out into the lab to roam overnight." He tried to chuckle despite the disturbed looks on the inspectors' face. "Fun fact: Hilda suggested we do it by type once and it just stuck." He stepped out while trying to avoid stepping on any Joltik.

"Well," Cheren chimed in, trying to sound optimistic in spite of himself, "I grant you point for being as humane as possible."

"Your daughter also appears quite capable as well," Bianca anxiously added, hoping to butter up the Professor. "Bright, Vanessa, any thoughts?"

"Joltik..." Vanessa groaned with a discomforted whine, "Why did it have to be Joltik?" Bright put his hand on her shoulder while guiding her through what was leaving her petrified.

"Less fun fact: You said that you turn off the Storage Lab's systems yesterday!" Aurea angrily accused while recalling both of the Stunfisk. "Do you know how many Joltiks went up my shirt for a quick bite of static?" She reached her left hand underneath her lab coat's right sleeve with a Poke Ball to recall one such underneath. "More than zero!"

"Look on the bright side, sweetheart," Cedric chortled in hopes of not losing more face than he already had. "We will be able to show the League what happens in an emergency such as this very one..." He smiled for real this time. "...that I had actually planned this whole time." The Professor turned back in hopes that the inspectors bought it.

"Anyone else's Mankey suit getting itchy?" Vanessa irately asked, scratching her legs angrily.

"Tell me about it," Bright agreed, scratching his stomach. "Feels like there's a-"

He lifted his shirt to reveal two Joltik sisters had latched onto his belly and screamed from the top of his lung. "Getemoffgetemoffgetemoff," Bright pleaded while stumbling about and trying to pry them off.

Vanessa, all the while, had also rolled up her right pant leg to reveal her calve was host to three Joltik trying to scrap by on static. She took it rather well by only swearing "Crap" on an endless loop. For her, that constituted restraint.

"Don't startle the little ones," Cedric tried to warn frantically. "They're more scared of you than you are of-"

The Professor was interrupted when Bright and Vanessa felt the Joltik give off light shocks in their fear. It was enough to make them jump and convulse across the floor, all but missing music to dance to. Some Joltik scattered while others crawled up their legs, hoping to help their friends.

"-you," Cedric finished dejectedly.

"Well, we've open the cover..." Cheren began gruffly, adjusting his glasses to stay all business. "Can't say the first chapter gives a good first impression..."

"The little guys are kind of cute though," Bianca admitted, giggling when some crawled up her arms.

"Um... it gets good later?" Cedric insisted weakly, a Joltik coming up on his right shoulder innocuously.

To Be Continued...

Thank you for reading my fanfiction.

Write up a comment or a full blown review about what you liked or loathed about my work. I can roll with the punches so let me have it.


Well-Known Member
Chapter 6: Double Your Trouble

Getting off the blanket barefoot, Hilda stepped onto the grass a decent ten feet away into the wider wood clearing. She stopped to mark her position on what she envisioned as the battlefield to be and glanced back at her mother with brief concern.

Part of Hilda was worrying about this battle's arrangement and frowning over Oshawott being potentially in over his head. She knew their opponent all too well and knew even more that this would get out of hand.

However, Hilda put her fears aside when she saw Oshawott march after her. His posture was a straightened with a bit of a lean with an adorable attempt swagger. It was hard to not smile back in some support while he came up and stopped just in front of her ankles. He worn his devil-may-care smile complimented by that little fang that always showed.

Behind him, Hilda's forest friends had gathered together on the blanket where they sat lined up for the best view. The little ones sat between Watcher and Harry, bouncing with anticipation both to see the battle as well as to jump right in.

[Let's try to take it easy on the little guys, Hilda,] Oshawott declared, trying to sound nonchalant. [Nice, clean fun as you humans put it.]

Inside, he kept trying to reassure him that Lilly, Patrick and the Sewaddles would be easy pickings while slightly swallowing hard. The Sea Otter Pokemon wasn't totally convinced but felt some comfort in knowing that Hilda wouldn't steer him wrong in the driver's seat.

"Some" being the operative word. He didn't expect any muddy patches to bail him out this time.

Hilda instead played along with his posturing and grinned back. "Believe me, there's nothing clean about the company I keep," she quipped. "Let's try for... decent, dirty fun if we can help it." The Trainer wasn't fully aware of her Starter's insecurities but knowing he was trying to look good for her.

That and she adored the way he grinned so cockily.

[I can made do with dirty,] Oshawott brashly demanded while facing forward, hoping he could sound as hotblooded as Tepig. [So... who wants a piece of me?] Part of him was beginning to believe in his own hype if only for a few seconds.

[O, o, o, o, o, I do, I do, I do!] Lilly yipped up, bouncing up and down high. She was about to zoom on in when Patrick grabbed her by the scruff.

[Jus' a sec, girl,] the Patrat butted in, calm if contentious. [Ah called dibs.]

[Well, I called super dibs!] Sue retorted.

[Hilda promised I could battle her first,] Addle butted in, sticking out her tongue at her sister

"Oh boy, here we go," Hilda sighed, knowing how they could get with "disagreement." She held her right hand to her temple to avert her eyes while Oshawott held his tongue wisely.

[Why not both?] Watcher suggested with a hint of slyness in his voice, earning all eyes on him. [Patrick's fine n' all but even us wild ones know the value of teamwork.] He looked at Harry with a more casual look. [I know you'd want somebody to look out for Lilly.]

[That's...] Harry began, suspecting Watcher carefully, [...fair to assume.]

"Two-on-one's a bit excessive for a Starter Pokemon," Hilda replied with concern.

[Way he's been flappin' his gums,] Watcher argued back with a slight sneer, [feels mor' like Oshawott's excessive for jus' one of us alone.] He eyed the Sea Otter Pokemon with deep suspicion. [Wouldn' it be wise to even the odds for the little guys?]

Lilly and Patrick in particular paused to ponder this over while Harry raised an eyebrow at Watcher, smelling trouble simmering.

[Ma always said to fight smarter, not harder,] Patrick conceded, putting out his right paw to shake. [Let's work together, Lilly.]

[Okay...] Lilly acquiesced, pouting a tad while licking the Patrat's paw. [But I wanna make the first move.]

[Deal,] Patrick agreed, unfazed by the Lillipup lapping up his palm.

[We'll go after you,] Sue proposed, winking at her twin.

[We do our best work with sloppy seconds,] Addle whispered to her sister in their scheming.

"I guess that makes sense..." Hilda began to protest weakly. "Kind of..." She knew that Oshawott wasn't as invincible as he made himself out to be and wanted to pick his battles wisely. All the same, Hilda didn't want to insult him by pulling his punches.

[Good call, Watcher,] Oshawott replied for Hilda, surprising her. [I'd hate to make it too easy on Hilda in front of her mother.] He cast his cocky grin towards Watcher's sneering stare to accept his real challenge silently. The Watchog's growing glare in return spoke volumes.

"Well, if you're up for it," Hilda began, lifting her frown into a more confident grin herself, "how can I say no?" She even spread out her feet and put up her dukes like she was about to join him. "A two-on-one with the inspectors might throw them for a loop."

[Knock 'im dead, baby brother!] Watcher cheered Patrick on when the little guy scurried off to keep up with Lilly. [Emphasis on dead...]

[Remember what we said about-] Harry began before a psyched Lilly pounced off onto the battlefield, [-restraint.]

Patrick utilized his keen eyesight to find the perfect distance from Hilda and Oshawott as well as the blanket. Lilly passed him in her excitement but scurried back to join him and helped him find the right position by sniffing the grass. Patrick didn't understand why but took the help anyways.

[Hey, Lil,] the Patrat whispered, knowing his friend could hear him perfect. [Get a hold of this one...]

All the while, Hilda checked her Pokedex quickly to scan Patrick and Lilly. "Let's try to keep their coordination off," she told Oshawott in a hushed tone, memorizing the moves their foes had. "Trust me, their two heads are not better than one for us."

[I got the impression,] Oshawott replied intently, moving forward to get ready for a fight. He was reassured that Hilda had a solid opening gambit.

"Let's leave these washouts high and dry!" she quipped with more of a grin, declaring that the battle has begun. "Water Gun!"

Oshawott took in a deep breath while charging his throat with Water-type Energy much to his opponent's visible dismay.

[Wait, no fair!] Lilly frantically whined when the Sea Otter Pokemon started blasting. [We weren't ready!]

[All's fair n' love n' war,] Patrick quoted, not losing focus once. [And I ain't old enough for mating season.] He had empowered his eyes with Normal-type Energy and gave a piercing stare into Oshawott's eyes, not blinking even once.

The pressurized water column was gunning for a frozen Lilly when the Sea Otter Pokemon shuddered at the glint in Patrick's eyes. The all-too familiar sensation killed his focus and caused the Water Gun to splash onto the ground. Lilly had winced before opening her eyes at the lack of a hose-down.

[No...] Hilda groaned through gritted teeth while Oshawott coughed out the water he didn't spew out.

[That's mah brother,] Watcher gloated to an eye-rolling Harry.

[My turn, my turn!] Lilly yipped in renewed excitement before dashing off in a tearing hurry. She set her sights on Oshawott while charging herself with Normal-type energy to enhance her ramming speed.

[Evasive maneuvers!] the Sea Otter Pokemon heard Hilda shout before he looked up. The sight of Lilly gunning for him was enough to make him leap to his right rashly and hit the dirt roughly.

Hilda stumbled to her left in avoiding another of Lilly's Tackles. She stays upright in time to see the Puppy Pokemon make a smooth U-turn back for Oshawott.

[And that's my sister,] Harry gladly gloated back to Watcher, earning an immature raspberry-stink eye combo as a retort.

[Oshawott, run for it!] Hilda urged, finding her Starter spitting out grass. [Keep going straight.]

Oshawott saw Lilly and followed his Trainer's instructions to the letter, flopping his flippers like there was no tomorrow. He wailed while Lilly closed in on him until he saw Patrick straight ahead and got an inkling of what Hilda had in mind.

His Trainer, meanwhile, grinned confidently that the Lillipup would ram into her teammate or that he'd use Leer on her by mistake. Patrick even looked surprised the more Oshawott came closer.

"Bank left!" Hilda ordered her Starter urgently, casting the die.

Oshawott was a lot more precise in hitting the deck when jumping to his left and letting Lilly head for Patrick. Any luck and the Patrat would Leer at his teammate to save himself or get hit at the last second.

Said luck was not on Oshawott's side when he saw Patrick keep his cool and evade Lilly by seemingly sliding to his left smoothly. So smooth, neither Hilda nor her Starter saw his feet carry him while the Lillipup's facial fur only brushes against him.

"Oh no!" Hilda exclaimed, recognizing Patrick's Detect in action. "Last time he could only go an inch."

Oshawott was so surprised by how the Patrat could've moved like that that he nearly ignored Lilly looping around. That is, right up until she smashed right into the Sea Otter Pokemon and sent him flying by a few feet. He yelped before hitting the ground and rolling to a stop on his side.

Sue and Addle bounced about with cheers aplenty over Lilly's sick moves. Watcher and Harry especially praised their siblings with pride over their teamwork. Patrick blushed with flattery while Lilly flashed a toothy grin back at her adoring fans.

[Keep up the flow, Lil!] the Herdier cheered, distracted from his friend's slight sneer.

[What now, Lab Rat...?] the Lookout Pokemon snidely muttered under his breath.

Hilda swallowed hard over how her opening gambit was shot and could only speculate that Patrick got a few pointers from an outside source. She eyed Watcher suspiciously for but a second before turning her attention back to Oshawott, knowing this battle wasn't over yet.

The Sea Otter Pokemon was still reeling on the ground front down and looked as though he really had it after just a Tackle. Lilly trotted over to Oshawott boldly when he began to stir ever so slightly and groan in pain.

[Careful now,] Patrick warned when he turned away from the crowd's cheers. [Could be playin' possum.]

Hilda's eyes lit up at the Patrat's suggestion. "That's m' boy..." she quietly whispered to herself, doing well to hide her proud smirk.

[Not for long he won't,] Lilly asserted, grinning wickedly. [Double tap like Pop always says.] She bared her teeth while charging them with Dark-type Energy and set her sight on Oshawott's tail sticking up.

"Tackle 'er!" Hilda barked without a second wasted, clenching her fist with hope.

The yell distracted Lilly enough to look away and let Oshawott spring back up, charged up with Normal-type Energy. He didn't miss a beat he rammed himself right into the Lillipup and had her go flying for a change. She grit her teeth when hitting the dirt back first, losing the energy she'd focused on.

Oshawott breathed heavily in his bewilderment while processing it all. [I did it?] he rhetorically asked before remember to look good for his public. [I-I-I mean... just as planned!] The Sea Otter Pokemon stood up straight with his chest puffed out, hoping he wasn't overcompensating... much.

"Keep the beat up, Oshawott!" Hilda cheered exuberantly. [Clean her clock with Water Gun.]

Lilly had recovered and gotten back up in time to hear the attack being ordered. She was slow to look up but still gasped at the sight of Oshawott already spewing pressurized water straight for her.

[Oh, I hate baths!] Lilly cried before dashing away in an effort to evade. However, she soon found Oshawott giving chase. Even when the Puppy Pokemon zigged and zagged as much as she could, his blast of water wasn't too far behind.

[Dad always says to wait out a potential ambush,] Harry sternly lamented, rolling his eyes at his sister's carelessness.

[How's Hilda know what Oshawott was thinking?] Sue pondered.

[I knew!] Addle exclaimed. [She can read minds too!]

[Or she just knows how t' be patient,] Watcher corrected, amused by the twins. [And the Lab Rat clearly knows how to gamble.]

He grimaced slightly on the note of giving Oshawott too much credit but soon smirked upon seeing Patrick keeping to himself. [Just like a Patrat...] The Lookout Pokemon remarked with high hopes for his little brother.

However, Watcher's scheming was disturbed by a loose blast of water hitting him in the face. "Sorry!" he heard Hilda promise while he wiped his soaked face. The twins chortling at his misfortune didn't restore his mood much if any.

Lilly had turned around into a loop in hopes of avoiding Oshawott and got too close to the blanket in the process. Finally, the last of the blast had hit her from behind and flipped her onto her back like a rammed pick-up truck. [Owwie...] she whined upon landing upside down.

"One more for the road," Hilda ordered confidently, looking at the moment of truth to her left.

Oshawott was about to take in another deep breath while gather a bit more Water-type Energy when he looked ahead. There was Lilly widening her eyes and quivering her lips while still laying upside down. Oshawott felt disarmed enough by such a vulnerable display, especially when she threw in a bit of whimpering.

[I-I'm sorry for going overboard...] the Sea Otter Pokemon anxiously stammered, his head sinking into his shoulder in guilt. [Please don't cry...] He found himself relating to Lilly's apparent defeat all too disturbingly well.

Hilda especially put her hand over her mouth upon seeing Lilly starting to sniffle. "I guess we overestimated her..." she began to consider before recognizing this exact phenomenon from a certain other "friend" of her's.

"Oh no..." Hilda gasped in horror, snapping out of her Charmed state. Just in time to spot Patrick dashing up to her Starter from right behind. "Oshawott, incoming!"

The Sea Otter Pokemon was pulled out of being Charmed far too late as Patrick bit down upon his torso. Oshawott winced with pain when the Patrat's Dark-type attack gave him the strength to really Bite his teeth down upon him. It was only thanks to his Scalchop that the buckteeth didn't make the pain worse.

Lilly dropped her teary eyed expression to cheekily stick out her tongue. [Gotcha...]

Patrick managed to heave and toss Oshawott into the air like a rag doll getting chewed up. The Sea Otter Pokemon bellyflopped onto the grass with a whiny sort of grunt and could feel that he didn't have much gas left in the tank. His Scalchop only provided so much defense in a pinch.

Hilda winced at Oshawott's unhappy landing and felt even worse for being a bad lookout. "Purrloin pulls that stunt all the time but Lilly?!" she exclaimed to herself. "Guess we didn't overestimated her enough."

[That's usin' yer noodle, Pat!] Watcher whooped, punching the air. [Way to take out the trash...]

[Hey, Lilly set him up for it,] Harry indignantly interjected. [Give her some credit.]

[She's just zippin' 'round,] Watcher admitted. [Pat's the brains of th' operations.] He even puffed up his chest in arrogant pride.

[Oh, brother,] Sue sighed, caught in middle of a new kind of sibling rivalry.

[Oh, sister,] Addle groaned, rolling her eyes in agreement.

Oshawott couldn't help but hear Watcher's little evaluation while slowly getting up. He had noticed that Patrick either had Lilly rush in after him or let him rush after her so as to get him in a vulnerable position. The Sea Otter Pokemon quickly looked back toward his opponents, remembering that the battle was still on.

[Mghty fine work disarmin' 'im,] Patrick praised Lilly, flinching when she shook herself down to dry. [Really had him goin' with that runabout.]

[Oh, uh, yeah!] Lilly stumbled, trying play it cool with her usual chipperness. [All part of the plan.]

Hilda heard this exchange and started to realize their little game plan as well. She glanced towards Oshawott ever so slightly and shared a tentative glance that told her they were on the same page or at least the same chapter.

They gulped. It was worth a shot while they still had the chance.

"Amazing teamwork, guys!" Hilda praised with a more spunky grin on her face. "You're literally running circles around us."

[Aw, shucks...] Patrick bashfully replied with red on his face. [It ain't nothin'.]

[Yeah, it's something!] Lilly yipped encouragingly, wagging her tail. [We're being awesome and Hilda knows it!]

"C'mon, Oshawott!" Hilda said while quickly winking at her Starter subtly. "Not bad for our first wild encounter, huh?"

[Well... Lilly's got me on the tip of my flippers...] Oshawott pretended to mused, thinking about how to carry the baton. [Patrick... eh?] He shrugged dismissively and saw the Patrat give the indignant reaction he'd hoped for.

["Eh?!"] Patrick asked incredulously. [What's this "eh" business about?]

[Ooooooo,] Sue & Addle jeered together gleefully over their common interest in smack-talk.

Harry raised his eyebrow curiously while Watcher glared more in deep suspicion.

[All you do is wait for Lilly to do all the dirty work,] Oshawott insisted casually enough. [Nothing against ambush tactics but hanging back like lacks, well... confidence?] He drew some inspiration from Snivy's snootiness but hoped he wasn't too mean.

Hilda whistled at Oshawott's hot take. "I see what you mean," she began, sounding disappointed. "I wanted a challenge, not a coward."

Patrick lowered his gaze when Oshawott's criticism gave him some pause. However, Watcher wasn't about to have any of it.

[Don' let the Lab Rat rattle ya, Pat!] the Watchog encouraged if abrasively. [Ain't nothing yellow-bellied about usin' yer noodle!]

[Yeah, I like dirty work!] Lilly protested with a pout. [Gimme a mud hole any day.] She didn't notice the thin but still insecure frown on Patrick's face right next to her.

[Well, I can't change your mind,] Oshawott repeated, shrugged once more with a bit of Snivy's attitude. [Whatever gets the job done I guess.]

The Sea Otter Pokemon felt guilty for the way Patrick lowered his gaze and could tell exactly how he felt by how he clenched his paws. However, he knew that it was his only chance to keep up his "rep."

"Well, actions speak louder than words, Oshawott," Hilda remarked hastily, feeling guilty for Patrick. "How about we give them the right of way this time around?" If nothing else, she thought that it would give them a better advantage.

[Ready, Pat?] Lilly cockily claimed while leaning back for a pounce. [We'll make them eat their words and spoil their dinner.] The Lillipup was just turning her head towards her partner to ask what she should open with when Patrick just took off ahead of her.

[Hey!] Lilly tried to protest, completely thrown for a loop.

[Change of plans!] the Patrat declared with determination, charging towards Oshawott. [I'll loosen 'im up for you, Lilly!] He charged his body with Normal-type Energy to get up to ramming speed. [Who's the coward now?]

Watcher and Harry both immediately balked at this sudden shift in strategy, dreading what's to come.

[Oh, he's guud,] Sue and Addle awed, admiring a good mind game when they saw it.

"Bank right!" Hilda quickly warned Oshawott. "Your right!"

The Sea Otter Pokemon narrowly dodged Patrick's Tackle and though that he could counterattack easily. However, the Patrat turned on his heel almost immediately and charged his teeth with Dark-type Energy, opening his jaws wide.

Oshawott didn't dare turn around while he hastily backed away from every Bite that Patrick snapped at him, lunging closer and closer. All the while, Lilly was keeping her distance to seek out an opening but kept hesitating. She frowned at the idea of hitting Patrick by mistake.

"Defend with your Scalchop!" Hilda ordered Oshawott, seeing their foe get just close enough.

The Sea Otter Pokemon remembered how his shell was tough enough against Patrick's Bite and grabbed it without missing a beat. He thrust it out with his right paw and allowed the Patrat's buckteeth to chomp down upon it.

Patrick winced deeply when his Bite recoiled on him and pulled back to put his right hand over his buckteeth, hoping it didn't chip. Everyone else around him cringed themselves by the sight of it and clenched their teeth in discomfort.

"Razor Shell!" Hilda followed up sharply, trying hard not to feel too guilty for Patrick.

The Scout Pokemon had only just looked up in response when he saw Oshawott lunge forth and hold up his Scalchop. Within a second, he formed a curved Shell Blade while delivering a downward slash to Patrick's torso. The sword pushed Patrick backwards while he felt the searing stirke's pain only grow.

[Patrick!] Lilly cried before frowning viciously at Oshawott. [I'm coming!] She dashed around to get behind her opponent and charged her body with Normal-type Energy for a mean Tackle.

"Oshawott!" Hilda cried out in the nick of time.

The Sea Otter Pokemon heard Lilly approaching from behind just as he saw Patrick struggling to stay up after taking the Razor Shell. He bounced to his left in the nick of time and allowed the Puppy Pokemon to pass him.

Lilly only seemed to notice when she Tackled Patrick and knocked him towards the spectators much to her dismay. The Patrat hit the ground back first before sliding to a spot and not getting back up after such a double whammy.

[Pat!] Watcher cried out when his little brother came to a stop just near the picnic blanket.

Sue and Addle couldn't help but double over in their laughter over such classic slapstick while the Watchog scurried out to see if Patrick was okay.

[Oops...] was all Lilly could say in a cocktail of disbelief and guilt. This was the exact distraction that let a single slash to her left flank take her out in a Critical Hit.

This time Sue and Addle winced alongside Harry in their simultaneous, "Oooooooo..."

Oshawott stood with a focused expression as Lilly toppled over to her side, his sword held out towards his far right. The Shell Blade shrank and evaporated before he twirled the Scalchop back onto his bellybutton without breaking composure once.

"Thank you for this invigorating battle," Oshawott took the time to say while bowing. He was hoping to make himself look cool in front of Hilda's friends before the Trainer in question surprised him yet again by suddenly lifting him up.

"That was ingenious, Oshawott!" Hilda squealed while cuddling her Starter up to her face, rubbing her cheek to his. "You remembered Patrick's little ploy and turned it against him." She held him out just to shower him with another smile. "Two Pidoves with one Smack Down!"

Oshawott initially felt shaken by Hilda's usual exuberance but soon felt her praise alleviate it and get a smile on his face. [I should thank you for that great lookout,] he complimented back. Deep down, the Sea Otter Pokemon still felt that he had only gotten lucky in what should've been a one-sided battle.

All the while, Lilly had just came to and wearily began to stand back up when she saw Harry trot over. [I know I screwed up again,] the Puppy Pokemon whimpered, hanging her head. [I'm sorry, big brother...] However, a big loving lick from Harry took her by surprise.

[You tried your best and gave it your all,] the Herdier warmly promised. [Plus, I heard Patrick actually mumbling when he gone down.] He was glad to see Lilly perk up and wag her tail on that note. [It was something about his Ma's nut juice but you're really showing restraint, sis.]

Speaking of, Watcher managed to get an Sitrus Berry out of his right cheek and took it out his mouth as drool covered it. [Try to get a few bites in at least,] he steadily advised, putting up to Patrick's mouth.

The Scout Pokemon was able to lift up his arms when Watcher propped up his head and took the berry. [Really flew off th' handle there, did'n I?] Patrick lamented while taking a few bites. [Thought I could take him by surprise...]

[Y' just let the squirt get in yer head as all,] Watcher promised his brother warmly before casting a glare back up at Oshawott still in Hilda's arms. [Slipperly, li'l varmit this one...]

Minnie was hard at work sweeping up what she could off of the lobby floor if only to blow off steam. She pouted something fierce not just over the burnt and broken floor tiles. Nor just over the zapped couches with cotton spilled out all about.

No, it was that Minnie's fur had suffered major burns just after she groomed it thoroughly since 5 AM. All of a sudden, rolling around in the backyard mud didn't feel nearly so bad. Nearly. Kinda. Not really.

"I told you we should've let the Sixth take this mission," Minnie heard Vanessa struggle to say. "But nooooooo." She glanced behind her to see Cheren holding up a pretty embarrassed Bright while Bianca held up a very disgruntled Vanessa. "Big Boss here has to get us in over our heads."

The boss, in question, knew Vanessa was just blowing off steam and chose not to pull rank out of restraint. "Last I checked, you were hoping for something 'less repetitive' with our jobs," Cheren began sternly, still keeping hold of Bright. "The King himself is even taking personal interest in this one."

"I was hoping for a smooth operation at the very least," Vanessa barked back, twitching for the paralysis. "Now I can barely feel my toes."

"Lucky you," Bright retorted with a grunt. "I can even feel my legs period."

[Jobs? Mission?] Minnie whispered to herself while her sweeping slowed down. Something started to seem suspicious about these "inspectors."

"We all know that things can get unpredictable even on typical smash and grabs," Bianca tried to reassure, barely feeling her arms herself. "We just keep our cool, not blow our cover and adapt if it comes to it."

"Do you have to be the team optimistic all the time?" Vanessa snarked back with a bit of playfulness behind the snide.

"Somebody has to be," Bianca answered back with a smile.

"I thought I was the optimist," Bright pouted.

"You're more like the comic relief," Cheren postured.

"Eh, I'll take it," Bright settled with a sluggish shrug.

None of them noticed Minnie paying close attention to them in their little banter. She pretended to turn her back and sweep while keeping her ears tuned to their words. The way they talked wasn't at all like the stuffy inspectors that frequented the laboratory.

"Well, I'd take Simon and Sammy's place right about now," Vanessa claimed. "I mean, they get an entire rest area all for themselves."

"While operating most of out heavy equipment," Cheren emphasized, his eyebrow raised. "Not exactly the cushy office job you'd like."

[Something is not right...] the Minccino accurately surmised. The last thing she wanted to do was jump to conclusion if these inspectors were the genuine article. However, the very next last thing after that she wanted was for something bad to happen on her family.

"Sorry to be tardy to the party," Cedric called out from the hallway, holding a paper cup holder for hot tea. "Can't rush a good Cheri Berry Tea like my Pop use to say." He power walked steadily to not spill a drop before coming up to the inspectors.

"I suppose this little incident wasn't all for naught," Vanessa claimed, trying to put her more mild front back on.

She slowly managed to lift herself out of Bianca's hold and tried to move towards the Professor like a robot running out of power. Bright followed suit with his own slow-mo walk due to their paralysis.

"Aurea's doing a thorough check of every Pokemon we collected," Cedric promised while letting the inspectors take their tea. "I apologize for how... out of hand it got but it was essential in demonstrating our response to any and all emergencies."

"You say that like it was ever in hand to begin with," Bright sassed while sipping his tea and alleviating the paralysis.

"What my colleagues means," Bianca kindly interjected, hoping to keep the peace, "is that he hopes things are less... unpredictable from here on out."

"I don't suppose Hilda is hanging around here," Cheren suggested. "I mean, for the inspection." He took a cup of tea and was keen to start on it while it was piping hot. "You'd obviously never let her in here without heavy supervision."

"Oh, she comes and goes as she pleases," Cedric chortled. "Heck, she takes her homeschool tutoring here." He saw the inspectors nearly choke on their tea in surprise. "Something about Foongus makes Math a breeze for her."

"Even when the Pokemon are out?" Vanessa questioned exasperatedly.

"Oh, especially when the Pokemon are out," Cedric rambled on. "She probably would've sorted this situation out far faster and far smoother." The inspectors just looked at him like he was speaking some new language. "I mean, last time the Joltik covered her head to toe."

"Sounds like a potential recruit," Bright suggested to Vanessa under his breath.

"Sounds like trouble to me," his adopted sister remarked. "No way she'd turn on the Junipers."

Minnie listened closely to the two of them from behind a pillar and now could tell that these articles were anything but genuine.

"All the more reason to meet her sooner than later," Cheren replied directly to Cedric, trying to shake off his stupor. "Where's Hilda again?"

"Probably visiting her furry friends in the woods," Cedric claimed, throwing the cup holder in the trash. "We actually adopted her after the Pokemon helped her survive for two weeks straight among them."

"We'll... just take your word for it," Bianca awkwardly claimed, sharing the same bewildered expression as her colleagues.

"The reception is spotty where she usually goes," Cedric admitted. "So unless somebody can go there themselves..."

Spotting her opportunity, Minnie squeaked up while hurrying over from behind the pillar. She put on her most cordial smile while offering to go fetch Hilda in a series of squeaks that nobody could understand. Cedric did smile back in full acknowledgement.

"Over and out, Minnie," the Professor nodded. "Tell her I'm sorry that I had to rush her."

The Minccino nodded dutifully before turning away towards the front doors, each now set to automatic. Her face fell into a frown once she scurried out of the Research Center and started brainstorming on how to deal with a potential security breach.

"If I may suggest, Professor," Cheren began, writing something on his clipboard, "a tour of your facility may be a good way to pass the time."

"Now why didn't I think of that?" Cedric chortled while turning around on his heel. "There's a project we've been working to uncover the origins of Vanilite." The inspectors followed him almost immediately down the main hallway. "And no, you cannot take a lick."

"Literally nobody thought that," Vanessa claimed.

"Yeah... nobody..." Bright uneasily affirmed, trying to look away in embarrassment.

"Bianca, could you proofread my findings for me?" Cheren asked while handing back his clipboard to his colleague. "The suits up top are sticklers for penmanship."

"Of course," Bianca answered in confusion before taking the clipboard. Bright and Vanessa gathered around her to see what their boss had actually written:

Seek any and all potential exit points as quietly as you can. We begin the operation as soon as Hilda arrives and not a second later.

To Be Continued...

Thank you for reading my fanfiction.

Write up a comment or a full blown review about what you liked or loathed about my work. I can roll with the punches so let me have it.


Well-Known Member
Warning: This chapter may contain a moment of emotional distress towards the end that may hit a little too close to home. Careful as you go.

Chapter 7: A Bit of a Bind

After a quick snack, Hilda and Oshawott found themselves back on their makeshift battlefield standing opposite from the Sewaddle sisters. Sue and Addle had their backs turn while whispering battle plans and potential combo moves. Their mischievous giggles make Hilda gulp as she brought out a Super Potion.

"They're actually thinking this through," Oshawott heard his Trainer remark with suspicion while she sprayed his bruised body. "This is gonna take some work..."

The Sea Otter Pokemon was starting to gulp audibly himself since Hilda was usually was as good as her word. However, he was quick to shake his head and quickly put on a confident smile on his face with a straighter posture.

[Why all the doom and gloom?] Oshawott proclaimed, pounding his chest with his right paw boastfully. [I've squashed bigger bugs before so what's two more?] His mood was helped by the Super Potion helping his stamina.

"Oh, you sweet innocent child..." Hilda sighed under her breath while standing back up.

[Sue! Addle!] she heard Watcher cheer. [Don' let the squirt's tongue turn you 'round, y'hear?] Hilda could only turn right towards the picnic blanket and glare.

"Way to root for the underdog, bestie," the young lady retorted indignantly, pouting rather pettily. "What is with him today?" She was too busy focusing on the match ahead to dwell on this thought nor listen in on what the Peanut Gallery was squabbling about.

[You're still going on about that, huh?] Harry sighed, not even fazed by Watcher taking this personally.

[Lab Rat bamboozled my brother,] the Watchog huffed, stress gnawing at the rest of his Red Cabbage. ['course, I'm a touch sore.]

[Oshawott only cast the bait, Watch,] Patrick protested in annoyance. [I was only dumb 'nough to let him get to me.] He blushed in embarrassment over his little incident. ['course, my li'l song and dance was getting stale...]

[Remember how Oshawott played dead and got me good?] Lilly asked Patrick excitedly, chewing on a store-bought bone. [Way to committed to the bit.]

[Gotta come clean mahself,] Patrick began bashfully, grinning with the Lillipup. [My Detect almost didn't pull me out in time at his speed.] He knew that Lilly only wanted to cheer him up but appreciated the gesture all the same.

[Gimme a break,] Watcher scoffed disgruntly, trying hard not to look too agitated. [Y'all wait 'til Sue and Addle're done with 'im or what's left at least.] He only hoped that nobody noticed his little whispering to the twins.

[Eager, aren't we?] Harry remarked with concern.

At that moment, Sue and Addle nodded in agreement with a most devious grin before turning themselves around.

[No hard feelings, Hilda!] Sue cried out before rushing onto the battlefield boldly with Addle by her side. Their speed looked as fast as a Tackle inbound.

Hilda had only just thought of letting the twins go first before being surprised by their initiative. Oshawott tried to keep up appearances but seeing two half-Grass-types put a look of terror in his eyes.

"Should've seen that coming," Hilda muttered, reminding herself of Sue and Addle's share impatience. "Oshawott, get in close with a Razor Shell!"

The Sea Otter Pokemon put on his bravest face while grabbing his Scalchop off of his bellybutton and charging forth himself. Dewott channeled his Water-type Energy into it and drew his Shell Blade quickly. With luck, he'd get in too close for either twin to try Razor Leaf on him.

Sue and Addle bounded right for him side by side, practically poised to be slashed in one sling. The second Oshawott prepared his blade, however, Sue bounced off the grass and sprung right off of his head before he even knew it. In his stunned state, Addle passed him while he attempted not to stumble onto his face.

Hilda's own state of confusion gave Sue the opening she needed to spew out a String Shot and hit the Trainer's torso. Both arms were bound to her sides as her confusion morphed into something more shocked. Addle followed up with her own String Shot aimed straight for Hilda's knees and tied them together too.

[Whoa,] Harry exclaimed, sharing the same wide eyes of shock as Patrick and Lilly.

[Plot twist!] Watcher exclaimed himself, sounding more thrilled than shock. [That's the wild way!]

"What?" Hilda could only exclaim while she began to stumble backwards. "What?!" Being unable to bend her knees or wave her arms for balance was impossible no matter how much she struggled. "What!?"

[Told ya we'd get you good,] Addle declared triumphantly.

Oshawott regained his bearings and turned around in time to see his webbed up Trainer topple over backwards with a yelp. [Hilda!] he cried out in shock before immediately rushing back towards her. It wasn't until Sue and Addle turned to grin evilly his way that he realize the trap he had fallen for.

[Now...] Sue began, charging her leaf with Grass-type Energy, [how to make this last...]

"Oshawott!" Hilda cried while rocking about in her bindings flat on her back. "Stay on defense!" Being strung up like this was bad enough but hearing Lilly and Patrick burst out laughing to her right really helped the humiliation set it like an ugly stain. She could hardly bend up to sit with her own knees hardly bending.

Oshawott nearly froze up when Sue swung her head and launched a energized leaf from her homemade hat. However, he managed to hold up his Shell Blade and keep steady enough so his weapon took the brunt of the attack. However, the projectile shattered the sword into water vapor and pushed him back.

Oshawott felt his Scalchop leave his right paw while falling flat on his back himself. He urged himself into getting back up and his shell post-haste when he saw Addle skittering towards him after her sister's opening. She leapt into the air with her tiny, sharp teeth on display before she landed on the Sea Otter Pokemon.

[Feeling dizzy without your Trainer holding your paw?] Addle taunted playfully while Oshawott tried to shake her off. [You're good but out in the wild, you'd never last a minute without Hilda.] She charged her teeth with Bug-type Energy before repeatedly giving Bug Bites to her opponent's head.

Harry was worried for Oshawott while Watcher whooped and cheered, trying not to let his favorite be known. While Oshawott had made peace with Patrick and Lilly, he had taken the liberty to give Sue and Addle some advice on their opening gambit. They were keen to agree on it if only to get one over Hilda at last.

Oshawott cried out a series of "Ow!" when he felt very sharp nipping at his furry scalp like Addle was trying to eat him alive. He stumbled about with his vision obscured by her torso and couldn't tell which way was which until he heard Sue.

[You set 'em up,] she cheered for her sister while charging her leaf bonnet once more, [and I'll knock 'em down.]

During this, Hilda began to roll slowly onto her front in an effort to loop around and at least get a better view. "Anytime you wanna help a friend out, pals," she called out to those on the picnic blanket before rolling onto her back again. "Don't rush in all at once."

[Should we-?] Harry began to ask with concern.

[S'all part of the battle,] Watcher insisted, secretly amused by Hilda's struggle. [Us wild ones won't all be honorable.] He was hopeful that Hilda would be too out of it long enough given her Starter's type disadvantage.

All the while, Oshawott can tell that Addle's Bug Bite was just a distraction for another of Sue's Razor Leaves that'd do him in. Unable to wait for orders, he gathered up Water-type Energy in his throat and hastily spewed out a Water Gun. He blasted Addle off of his face just in time.

Sue had just launched off another Razor Leaf towards Oshawott with a swing of her head once her twin sister was hosed off. The recoil sent the Sea Otter Pokemon backwards just enough for the projectile to graze him. He fell flat on his back this time and winced at the already considerable sting.

Hilda had managed to roll onto her left side at an angle that let her see how the match was going better...ish. She panted when taking stock of Oshawott managing to get up with a pained expression. All the while, Sue had left her position and came over to Addle who had been soaked as well as on her right side.

[You okay, sis?] the Sewaddle asked her twin in concern.

[Water's nothing to bug with determination,] Addle promised her sister, regaining her bearings. [Type advantage helps too.] She shook herself dry like Lilly taught her, making her twin flinch. [Pretty nasty fall though.]

"An opening..." Hilda remarked to herself before her angle let her spot the fallen Scalchop. "Oshawott, down to your-!" However, her hasty warning led her to roll back onto her front again and even bump her nose. "-right..."

Sue and Addle wear the first to hear the warning meant for Oshawott and saw Hilda struggling to roll over again. [I knew we should've aimed for the mouth too,] the latter Sewaddle whined before they turned their attention back to their opponent.

Oshawott managed to spot his Scalchop just as Sue helped Addle recover in time to spot him. "I see now know why humans prefer thumbs..." he muttered while making a break for his shell. The Sea Otter Pokemon had only just reached down for it when he felt something sticky grab his torso and tug him back.

[Caught us a big one, sis!] Addle cheered.

Oshawott dug in his flippers against the pull and found a String Shot had wrapped his belly in strong webbing. He glanced back to find that Sue, going by the more worn out leaf bonnet, had spewed one out to catch him in time. She gave violently sharp tugs that inched him away from his Scalchop despite his efforts.

[Boy howdy...] Patrick gulped in astonishment back on the blanket. [Forgot the last time they had their act together...]

[Well, I bet Oshawott's got something up his sleeve,] Lilly yipped encouragingly.

[What's a "sleeve" now?] Patrick asked.

[I'unno,] Lilly shrugged verbally. [Hilda said it so I bet it's something good.] She and Patrick were too busy gushing to notice Watcher stick out his tongue in annoyance while Harry smiled at their fanaticism.

[Payback time, Water Boy!] Addle declared before rushing out in an sort of arch to build speed. She charged up her Bug-Type Energy into her stubby, little legs with a series of pummeling punches with Oshawott's name on them.

The Sea Otter Pokemon couldn't help but remember Snivy in a spell of anxiety from the nickname to the bindings. She'd toyed with Oshawott once in a sort of tug of war with her Vine Whip. However, just as Addle closed in, he suddenly remembered something from that little session of torment.

The surging Sewaddle had just come in within half a foot of Oshawott and was ready to rumble with a grin. All of a sudden, he quickly charged his body with Normal-type Energy and made his own surge forward towards his Scalchop. Sue yelped as she was yanked forward this time around and lost her footing.

Oshawott snapped up his Scalchop with his jolt forward before turning towards the approaching Addle. Hilda had only just turned back onto her left shoulder in time to see her Starter Tackling his insect opposition. Addle had only tried to stop her attack in a panic when she got such a Critical Hit that knocked her down.

"YEAH!" Lilly and Patrick cheered over such a slick move.

"Lucky shot..." Watcher claimed begrudgingly, reaching back for a pie for some comfort food.

"Whoa, what did I miss?" Hilda whispered in her awe of Oshawott's prowess. She smiled at the sight of Addle conked out on the grass (in the spirit of friendly competition, of course) and snorted at the pure aghast all over Sue's face. Somehow, giving orders felt like it would ruin the moment.

"Addle!" Sue cried out, loosening her grip in her shock.

His brow knit in resolve, Oshawott channeled Water-type Energy into his Scalchop and drew his Shell Blade. A few slashes and swings within one second were all he needed to clear the String Shot webbing off of him, the silk littering the ground around his flippers.

"Anybody caught that?" Harry asked in confusion, having only blinked.

Hilda whistled in amazement before catching Sue swing her leaf bonnet and launch another Razor Leaf. "Oshawott, look-!" she began to yell out in her concern but was cut off by her very Starter.

Oshawott only glanced back and braced himself in order to deflect the Razor Leaf with his Shell Blade. It was swift enough to only deflect the projectile... right into Watcher's apple pie, exploding it all over the peanut gallery.

[Again with the pie...] the Watchog bemoaned. Lilly set to work liking everything and everyone gleefully while he gnashed his teeth yet again.

Oshawott was too busy curving the Shell Blade and throwing it like a frisbee to apologize yet. His deflection had managed to catch Sue in a state of a shock and made her easy pickings for his thrown Razor Shell to strike her in the face.

The slash and speed alone tossed her onto her back before Oshawott ran up and caught his Scalchop after it bounced back into the air. Sue managed to get up despite feeling her Defense dwindle down and see the Sea Otter Pokemon coming in for what seems like a clear cut Tackle.

[Big mistake, Lab Rat...]

The Sewaddle tried to honor her twin by waiting for the right moment while letting Oshawott get in close. He comes within a foot when she bounced to her right and channeled her Bug-type Energy into her silky string. Once the Sea Otter Pokemon was in position, she spat all over him with a very heavy String Shot.

"Oshawott!" Hilda yelled when her Starter lost momentum and tumbled to the grass wrapped up tightly. She had attempted to stand back up in her fear... only to roll back onto her front. All the frustrated girl could do was try to turn her head and get some kind of view.

Sue scuttled over to her tangled up foe with a renewed impish grin on her face. Lilly and Patrick shared a worried gasp over their new friend seemingly meeting their match. Watcher sneered for but a moment before Harry eyed him suspiciously. He tried to look neutral but there was still something in his eyes.

[Nobody knocks around Addle except me, y'hear?] Sue declared while channeling Grass-type Energy into her leaf bonnet. [See ya!] She swung her head strongly to launch a more powerful Razor Leaf directly at Oshawott within the second.

The Sea Otter Pokemon had looked awfully exhausted after being caught unawares right up until Sue launched her attack. Flat on his right side, he blasted a fully charged Water Gun right out the gate and neutralized the Razor Leaf with the pressure alone.

Sue's shock had yet to register but she was still befuddled enough to let the column of water smack right into her. A tree added injury to... even more injury when the Water Gun slammed her into it with plenty of momentum to spare. Once it dried up, Sue fell to the grass very soaked and very much defeated.

[I really need to learn how he plays dead like that,] Lilly gushed, her tail wagging at a breakneck speed.

[He deserves 'n Oscar thing Hilda goes on 'bout,] Patrick agreed gleefully.

[Well, either way,] Harry happily chimed in, [I'd say that Hilda's in good paws with that tough cookie.] He looked towards Watcher to ask him if he agreed but got his answer in the form of a very ticked off glare that eschew any subtly.

Oshawott managed to reach his right paw down and touch his Scalchop through the webbing on his torso. He channeled his Shell Blade and sliced up his bindings within seconds before hearing Hilda grunting. The Starter's determined look turned concerned when he found his Trainer trying to roll onto her back.

Hilda panted once she was flat on her back again before hearing the grass rustle and looking towards her left wearily. There was Oshawott rushing over with his Shell Blade still drawn by his side and with enough power for a few more slices.

"I know it's basic instinct," Hilda began with a warm if anxious smile, "but how are you at, erm, arts and crafts?" She wriggle in her bindings to get the point across.

"Dunno about art," Oshawott earnestly replied in confusion, wield his Shell Blade with two paws now. "but I try to get you free." He first gave a swift slash across Hilda's webbed up torso, making her flinch on reflex. There was a two second delay before a cleave in the bindings appeared in a clean split.

"May your aim be true!" Hilda exclaimed in relief and awe. "Seriously though, that was uncomfortable." She lifted her front up to further spit off the webbing before grabbing the string around her legs and ripping them up furiously. "If we hurry, Sue and Addle won't know what-"

[Actually... I only just defeated them,] Oshawott awkwardly admitted, rubbing the back of his head while his blade receded.

Hilda only stared at her Starter incredulously after freeing her knees. "As in, all by yourself?" she managed to ask, baffled by the notion.

[Oh, I'm sorry that you had to miss out,] Oshawott swore, bowing to what he thought was her disappointment. [I would've freed you sooner but you were right about the twins being a challenge.]

"Sorry for what?" Hilda questioned, smiling more to put her Starter at ease. "Mowing the grass with a type-disadvantage all on your own?" She leaned in forwards and gave a very proud pat on Oshawott's head, surprising him. "I'm the one who's sorry for missing that if anything."

Oshawott smiled back happily over Hilda's approval and his second two-on-one victory. By himself, no less. Maybe... he really was cut out to be a real Starter. Maybe... the Sea Otter Pokemon could be who he had always dreamed of becoming despite Snivy's best efforts. He couldn't help but dare to hope again.

[Dunno how ya did it but ya did it with style,] Oshawott heard Sue claim wearily behind him. He and Hilda looked behind him to find her coming up wearily their way along with an equally wearily Addle.

[You gotta tell us your secret,] Sue's twin eagerly asked, less energetic after what they went through.

Oshawott went a little red from the further adoration he was getting. [Hey, you two were a great tag team,] he claimed humbly. [You were bold enough to target my Trainer if only to throw me off.] He bowed to show his due respect. [You just need to polish your Defense as all.]

[So... Hillda... no hard feelings about tying you up?] Sue gulped awkwardly, glancing up at her human friend.

[I mean... you were kind of wide open in all fairness,] Addle defensively claimed, still shaking the water off of her.

Oshawott gulped anxiously when he looked back at his Trainer. Hilda's smile sank into a rather peeved pout while she crawled towards the Sewaddles.

"You tell me," Hilda began with a cold tone of voice before reaching down for the twins. "You're quite open yourselves!" In one big scoop, she grabbed Sue and Addle with her right arm before her left fist gave them each a noggie.

Oshawott could see the twins wriggling around to escape Hilda's attack but forgot to feel concerned when they started laughing. Even his Trainer grinned mischievously. He smiled and almost wished it was him in her arms instead. A fleeting moment dashed by two paws clapping lightly if... sarcastically.

[Well, if that don't take the biscuit,] Watcher's voice coyly claimed. [The Lab Rat really does know a thing or two about a thing or two.] Hilda stopped teasing the twins to looked find the Watchog strolled on towards them behind Oshawott. Her Starter glanced back and heard a bit of snide to Watcher's voice.

"Try a thing or three," Hilda retorted with a smirk, letting the twins down while she stood back up. "Unless you and Harry wanna be lucky number three." She put her hands to her hips with confidence bordering on cocksure.

[Both of them?!] Oshawott exclaimed at his Trainer. He jumped back without any attempt to hide his anxieties.

[You sheared our hedges, didn't ya?] Sue vouched boldly.

[What's three for three?] Addle added exuberantly.

Oshawott swallowed hard even before he turned and found Watcher got on all fours to eye him with suspicion. [Unless yer gettin' cold paws, ya yellow belly,] he accused, actually sticking out his left eye at the young Starter. [Well?]

"You saw him take the twins," Hilda shot back in Oshawott's defense, squatting down to meet Watcher. "He's not scared of a little more challenge." She gave her Starter an encouraging pat on the back. "Aren't you?"

['C-course I... ain't] Oshawott proclaimed with a stammer, trying to stand up straight for Hilda. [The thing is...] He could just tell that the Watchog was close to truly dressing him down to the bone.

[We're both evolved and he's just a Starter, Watcher,] Harry spoke up while coming up on the Lookout Pokemon's right side. [Just one of us will be more than enough alone.]

Watcher scoffed verbally while standing back up. [Then one 'f us it shall,] he stubbornly declared, casting a challenging look straight at Hilda. [I ain't buyin' what yer l'il fraud's sellin' 'til I face 'im fer mahself.] The Watchog gave Oshawott an especially sharp glare if only for glance.

The Sea Otter Pokemon gulped behind the tough facade he was putting up when Hilda's hands picked hm up by the torso. "Cash or credit?" Hilda snarked back while holding her Starter in her arms. "Either way, you're gonna paying up front."

[Oooo!] Sue chimed in, popping up behind Hilda's right ankle.

[Burn!] Addle finished, popping up behind Hilda's left ankle.

Oshawott has zero idea of cash and/or credit but felt a lot better in his Trainer's arms and glared back at Watcher with a touch more determination. [Face me at your own peril,] he boldly declared, Snivy's snooty looks crossing his mind. [This "fraud" as you put it is the real deal.]

Watcher spat to the side out of annoyance before turning away. [Rest for now, Lab Rat,] he called back while heading to his end of their battlefield. [I'll bust ya down t' size yet.]

Sighing in concern, Harry went over to make sure that his closest friend wasn't going to be this moody for the match. Patrick and Lilly had hung behind their brothers before Watcher marched off in a huff, keeping quiet in their concern.

[Somethin' ain't right about this...] the Patrat remarked under his breath ominously.

[Did his smack talk always sound this mean?] Lilly asked with a whine.

All the while, Hilda sank down to sit with her legs crossed and Oshawott placed on her lap. "Don't let him get to you," she warmly promised her Starter while getting out her Personal Computer and selecting a Potion. "He's just jealous since the twins always run circles around him."

[Literally,] Sue claimed.

[Made him too dizzy to fight back,] Addle chortled at the memory, sharing her grin with her twin.

Oshawott flinched when Hilda sprayed his with the Potion's healing liquid and let it hide his more insecure frown. He talked big to keep up appearances but he could tell that Watcher was a Pokemon who kept his promises. If everyone saw who he really was... would that dream stay a dream?

[Are you sure we're up for it, Hilda?] Oshawott anxiously asked while stretching out his healing body. [I-I mean, I know I can take him but also that Watcher's your oldest friend.] He looked up at his Trainer while affording himself to show his real insecurities.

[He's also being a jerk,] Hilda began with a roll of her eyes, [so as his oldest friend, I gotta poke a hole in his swelled head lest he floats away.]

[Watcher won't let it show,] Harry began, speaking to Oshawott mostly, [but Hilda going off on her journey really got his tail in knot.] She sighed, beleaguered by his buddy. [You know how it can be.]

[I... guess,] Oshawott admitted only so much, relating to Watcher in a way he didn't want to. He had little time to dwell on these feelings before his Trainer hoisting him up into her hands once more to his surprise.

"Well, he can have a good cry about it once Oshawott kicks that tail clear into Castelia," Hilda sassed back at Harry before smiling back at her Starter. "You're going to show what you're made of and it will be fantastic." She kissed him on the forehead for luck and made him giggle.

[Anyone who can give us a walloping has got our vote,] Sue vigorously declared.

[Just call us your hype squad!] Addle swore with equal enthusiasm.

[Y-yeah...] Oshawott began with a hint of hope. [I will be fantastic.] He started to smile more authentically before finally putting on a more determined look for Hilda. [Time for lucky number three!]

He couldn't help but dare to hope again.

After a bit of a snack to tie themselves over, Hilda and Oshawott once again stood together but three yards across the grass from Watcher. A breeze blew in when the two of them shared a glare with the Watchog, each one declaring silently that they would win.

[Wash Watcher out! Wash Watcher out!] Sue and Addle cheered Oshawott from the picnic blanket, swaying from side to side in sync. [Flush 'im clean right down the spout!]

Harry, Lilly and Patrick were a lot more focused on the match to come to the right of the twins. Even the hyperactive Lillipup knew that Hilda and Watcher's showdowns could get a little out there. This time it was between a Trainer and a wild Pokemon, a fully evolved one at that.

Sparks were going to fly. And in the forest, that meant fire.

"I'll know if you try to take it easy on us," Hilda declared to Watcher, thrusting out her right hand powerfully. "We can order whatever you're serving and I'm about to splurge." She glanced down at her Starter with a grin. "Got a craving, Oshawott?"

[Yeah, for winning!] the Sea Otter Pokemon proclaimed with pride, his right paw pointing his Scalchop at his foe. [Come get a bite, Watcher!]

I can do this. I can do this.

[Well, if it's yer treat...] the Lookout Pokemon began while getting down on all fours, [...who'm I t' refuse?] Watcher bared his buckteeth in his snarl just before making a huge pounce forth across the battlefield. His mouth opened wide while he charged his chompers with Dark-type Energy.

"Oshawott, to your left!" Hilda barked almost as soon as Watcher made his lunge.

The Sea Otter Pokemon felt his heart skip a beat in fear when he leapt towards his left and only narrowly avoided Watcher. All the while, the Watchog behind him landed on his fore-paws and snapped down his teeth onto thin air that he'd hope was Oshawott.

Watcher didn't miss a beat in turning and pursuing his target. Oshawott could only get so much distance across the battlefield before the Lookout Pokemon was almost literally on his tail. Watcher opened his charged up chompers up for another bite when...

"Oshawott, stop!"

The Starter put on the brakes more so out of confusion why but soon saw Hilda's ploy when Watcher passed right over him in his dash. The Lookout Pokemon stopped in his haste but gave his opponents more than enough time in his scrambling.

"Water Gun!"

Oshawott grinned over Hilda's cleverness before charging his throat with Water-type Energy and taking in water vapor in the air. Watcher had only just began to double back for him with his jaws wide open when the Sea Otter Pokemon spewed. His gaping mouth was a borderline bullseye.

Oshawott spewed pressurized water like a living hose straight into Watcher's maw and pushed him back a few feet. The Watchog gurgled and stumbled backwards while his cheeks ballooned in trying to not choke. He finally fell onto his back and spat out all the water like a fountain.

"Don't forget to stay hydrated!" Hilda quipped cockily with a laugh.

The little ones to the side couldn't help but guffaw at the slapstick and zinger combined. Even Harry chuckled until Watcher glared at him briefly with such pout.

Oshawott nearly choked on the water over the comedy of errors himself. He was so caught up in feeling he already won that Watcher had enough time to gather Normal-type Energy into his big, red-ringed eyes.

[How's this fer a washout, Lab Rat?] Watcher snarled while lifting himself straight up. [Keep yer eyes peeled!] He looked Oshawott straight in the eye with his meanest glare and saw how his Leer made him jump back with a shudder.

Hilda wasn't laughing anymore when she recognized that her Starter's Defense just got cut down to size with how he winced. "Oshawott, defend with your Scalchop!" she frantically shouted without a shred of cocksure. "Hurry!"

Oshawott snapped out of his shaken state when he heard Hilda's cry and soon saw her train of thought once he looked ahead. Watcher was up on his hind legs and kicking his back paws into the air all the while. He quickly took his Scalchop off of his bellybutton and held it forth, bracing himself at the last second.

Watcher gave a big kick with his right hind paw, remembering that Soccer game Hilda played with them. Oshawott blocked with his Scalchop in both of his hands but couldn't keep himself from taking some of the brunt. He especially couldn't keep himself from going flying through the air.

Hilda had to lean towards her right on the spot to avoid her flying Oshawott before he could smash her nose in. She looked back to see his Scalchop slip out of his paws for what she swore was the tenth time today before he hit the ground and slide to a stop. Her teeth clenched in her wincing.

"Still in one piece, Oshawott?" Hilda dared to ask, hoping the Scalchop really did work.

[For now...] the Sea Otter Pokemon uttered back while managing to get up, shaken but not out of the game.

I can do this. I can do this.

It was Oshawott's turn to look behind Hilda and see Watcher getting down on all fours. [Incoming!] he shouted, forgetting to be rattled.

This time, Hilda had to lean to her left in order to let Watcher past once he pounced madly. "Razor Shell, block him, now!" she barked out with each pant.

Oshawott rushed towards his right to once again avoid Watcher's snapping teeth once he got in close enough for another Crunch. Thankfully, his Scalchops had only landed a foot away from him. He reached it by the time he had gathered enough Water-type Energy.

Watcher was still hot on Oshawott's tail with his teeth charged with more Dark-type Energy. He thought he had the little twerp had stopped to catch his breath and opened wide to get a Crunch in. However, all his buckteeth bit down on was a curved Shell Blade that his foe swung around and intercept with.

Watcher snarled while he stood his ground on all fours and tried to yank Oshawott off balance with his blade, recalling how Harry played tug-o-war with Lilly. However, the Sea Otter Pokemon managed to stay firm despite his flippers sliding forth from the strong pulls.

I can do this. I can do this.

"Oshawott, hold on tight!" Hilda pleaded to her Starter, her fists clenching over the current stand still. She swallowed hard in her growing anxiety once it became clear that battling Watcher with her own Pokemon was worlds apart from their play fights. Her heart felt like she got Oshawott in over his head.

However, Hilda quickly shook her head and put on a brave face. She couldn't let Oshawott down as a Trainer by pulling him out so soon. Especially with Watcher dissing them. Hilda gave a glance towards the picture of her mother and swore to her defiantly that she'd find a way to win. She always did.


[Jus' who'd'ya think yer are, Lab Rats?] Watcher grunted through his teeth while pulling, not loud enough for Hilda to hear. [Strutin' on in like ya own the forest 'r somethin'.] He could see a hint of fear in Oshawott's otherwise determined expression. [But you n' I both know Hilda's too far good fer ya.]

With equal parts force and frustration, Watcher gave a big enough Chomp to shatter the Shell Blade into water vapor, scattering it into the air as blue particles. Oshawott flew back from all that pulling and barely kept himself from dropping his Scalchop. He tripped over a stone and fell flat on his back.

"Oshawott!" Hilda cried out, realizing that she'd been wracking her brain too long. Thankfully, she found Oshawott already getting back up however shakily.

By this point, Sue & Addle's little cheerleading routine subsided upon seeing who the battle was truly favoring. Patrick gulped, knowing that his big brother was getting more than a little into this match. Lilly hadn't even wagged her tail in fearing for Oshawott's odds.

Harry merely viewed intently, fearing the worst had yet to come.

[Y'really know how t' pick 'em, don't ya, Hild?] Watcher crassly questioned, standing up with a side eye look towards his frenemy. [Hasn't even landed a real hit all match.] He turned back towards Oshawott while hocking a loogie most disrespectfully. [Th' fraud's really got us goin', huh?]

Hilda and Oshawott both shared the same glare of frustration but with a hint of uncertainty in their eyes. There was being competitive to a fault and then there was Watcher's sudden streak of jerkiness. Oshawott especially stood back up straight with a defiant stance and his Scalchop in his right paw.

I must do this. I must do this.

"Water Gun!" Hilda ordered with gusto and a sweep of her whole arm. "Aim for his feet!"

Oshawott gathered Water-type Energy into his mouth before spewing pressurized water like a fire hydrant, aiming for Watcher's hind paws on the grass. As expected, the Watchog darted from his position to avoid the blast and scurry forth bipedally.

"Razor Shell!" Hilda ordered almost at once. "Jump him!"

Oshawott cut off his water in time to channel his Water-type Energy into his Scalchop and unsheathed his Shell Blade. Within this second, he ran towards Watcher and hopped up high in order to deliver a vertical slash up his patterned torso.

The Lookout Pokemon gritted his teeth over the mean cut that got some fur on his yellow markings, stumbling backwards. Watcher felt his body shudder like he had the chills due to his low Defense before his hind paws felt the dirt getting soggy. It hardly took much for him to slip and fall flat on his back.

Oshawott landed with a shorter Shell Blade due to the force he applied alone. [Not bad for a fraud,] he retorted in a tone trying to be snarky.

I will do this. I will do this.

[Not too good either,] Watcher bounced back while actually bouncing back onto his hind paws with a roll. [Don't suppose y' kept the receipt for this one, Hild?] He made a point of sneering at his bestie and seeing her take full offense with a growing scowl.

"Watcher's so mean today," Lilly whimpered with a pout and both ears drooping. The peanut gallery had to look beyond Hilda for any action but they could hear the Watchog making both kinds of low blows.

"Yeah..." Patrick remarked, starting to suspect that something was... amiss.

"Tackle him, Oshawott!" Hilda ordered with a vengeance. "Go for the gut.

Watcher had only just looked ahead when he found Oshawott rushing him and picking up speed with a sharp build up of Normal-type Energy. He had enough time to at least try dodging but let the Sea Otter Pokemon dash forward and jump forth, slamming his body into his belly.

Watcher grit his teeth for the impact and managed to stay standing while his hind paws skid across the grass. He also quickly grabbed Oshawott by the sides while he was still in contact with his torso and tossed him all the way towards Hilda.

Oshawott wailed while he flew over his ducking Trainer. "Stick the landing!" he heard Hilda urge, reminding them of an idea she proposed before they turned in last night. The Sea Otter Pokemon grabbed his Scalchops when he neared the ground and drew his Shell Blade. Stabbing the grass, Oshawott stopped suddenly enough to let go of his shell and roll onto the ground like a ball. He stood back up dizzy but unhurt by the fall.

I gotta do it. I gotta do it.

[Why didn't Watcher Low Kick Oshawott?] Sue questioned after being enthralled by the action. [Not that I wanted him to but...]

[No, I know,] Addle swore with her own curiosity. [Since when did he start holding back for the little guys?]

[He wouldn't unless...] Harry began before gulping hard. [But... that'd be way overboard for...] He looked back up just when Hilda had to duck for a second time when Watcher pounce clear over her.

"Hey!" the young lady barked at the Lookout Pokemon once he landed. "Pink, squishy human who's not built for direct combat here." She exchanged heated glares with who she was sure was her friend but not quite best at the moment.

[Take m' advice and exchange th' drip for somethin' halfway decent,] Watcher continued to talk smack right at Hilda's face. [If Minnie's a no-show, maybe one-a them Snivy?] He assumed that the type advantage would be an insult to Oshawott behind him. [Least their vines leave a mark.]

It was an insult to the Sea Otter Pokemon but in a way he could never be privy to. Oshawott's expression of determination faltered at the name of Snivy and the memories of her cold cruelty replaying in his mind. The cold looks of pity. The one-sided battles. This whole match was starting to feel anxiously familiar.

Can I do this?

[Keep tooting your horn, big shot,] Hilda retorted with a smirk suddenly spreading across her lips. [See what happens!] She swiftly pulled off her shirt nearly within a second thanks to the lack of sleeves. It was enough to yank Oshawott out of his plummet towards panicking when it was thrown onto Watcher's face.

Lilly, Patrick and the twins joined in a cheer over the turnabout they'd been waiting for. Harry was more relieved if anything.

Watcher wasn't just blinded by the shirt but found his sinuses assaulted by the biological weapon that was Hilda's body odor. The Lookout Pokemon stumbled about and cursed from the overwhelming stench. It was tolerable enough as far as Wild Pokemon went but shoved his face? It was Super Effective.

He wouldn't have put it past her to have thought this far in advanced.

"Oshawott, Water Gun!" Hilda had been quick to declare while Watcher suffered from her shower skipping. "Smells like he could use one."

Oshawott's smile returned in sincerity when he saw that his chance for victory had been served to him on a silver pattern. He channeled Water-type Energy into his throat and gathered moisture from the air itself into the mix.

I can do it! I can do it!

Watcher's ears compensated for his compromised nose and eyes in time to hear Oshawott spew out from right behind him. He swung around and braced himself to get hit in the gut with pressurized water. Gritting his teeth, the Lookout Pokemon pretended to slide his foot back to make it look good.

Hilda dared to grin that cocksure grin of her's in hopes that this would be the Critical Hit she'd been banking on. However, her expression faltered when she saw Watcher march forward steadily against Oshawott's gushing blast. It fell even faster upon spotting his right paw balled into a fist.

It all clicked for Hilda then as the proverbial pit in her stomach opened up wide. Watcher had largely been pushing her and Oshawott's buttons to attack first while he hadn't actually channeled any of his power. Not even in that one toss. Which could one mean...

"Oshawott, get-!" was all Hilda could get out. Watcher had already got in close enough to throw a punch down upon her Starter. His fist full of the Normal-type Energy her had Bided up, double the power that Oshawott had attacked him with thus far.

In other words, it was more than his foe could handle.

One minute, Oshawott had been sure that the Watchog was struggling to get close to him. He was sure that he'd be able to dodge any attempted Low Kick in the nick of time. As a result, he had neglected to look up and notice Watcher's fist swiftlfy diving down on him like a Ducklett gunning for bread crumbs.


Hilda winced and shut her eyes before hearing the very audible strike. Harry, Patrick, Lilly, Sue and Addle were also taken aback by Watcher's fist making contact with the back of Oshawott's head. The Sea Otter Pokemon was pressed down into the dirt so hard that the tiniest of tremors was actually felt.

Hilda's shirt had fallen off of Watcher's head to cover the fallen Oshawott and reveal a most angered expression. The Watchog heaved heavily through his cleared up sinuses while gritting his teeth and standing back up straight. He stared down at his blanketed opponent with a sliver of shame in his eyes.

Sue and Addle gulped simultaneously after the dust settled. For once, they're silence spoke far more for them this time around.

[I knew it...] Harry sighed in resignation, feeling pity for his friend if that was the word. [You've done it this time, Watch...]

[But... that's overkill,] Lilly gulped, fearing for Oshawott. [Right?]

[Ma made 'im swore t' never so much 's consider Bide except for emergencies,] Patrick grimaced, seeing the dark look on his big brother's face. ['Overkill' don't quite cover it.]

"Oshawott!" Hilda cried out as soon as she snapped out of her state of shock. "Oh, what've I done?" She sprinted over towards ground zero and shoved Watcher out of the way in her haste, squatting down to yank off her shirt.

There was a out-cold and bruised Oshawott revealed to be face down in the dirt, just a touch shy of being embedded into the Earth's crust. Hilda took a sharp breath through clinched teeth, wincing over what was clearly worse than she thought. She took out her Pokedex to get a read out on her Starter's health.

"Bad news, Watcher," Hilda sarcastically snarled at the Watchog without even looking his way. "He's alive." She pocketed her Pokedex and began to put her shirt back on. "Barely."

[Now don' you go poin'ing fingers,] Watcher defensively retorted, marching over to her in a huff. [Y' n' th' Lab Rats bit off more th'n he could chew.] He folded his arms defiantly while getting right in front of his fallen foe. [Simple as.]

Hilda didn't dare take the bait when she thought about how Watcher's jeering got under her skin enough to act so recklessly. The same tactic she and Oshawott pulled off to get the best of Patrick to add insult to injury. With an extra helping of more insult. Put out as she was, Watcher got the last word in.

Harry led the little ones off the blanket and towards where Oshawott lay, spreading out in a circle to give Hilda room to work. All the while, Hilda found an emergency Super Potion in her Medicinal Storage Box and tapped "Select." Her friends marveled at the materialization of the spray bottle from data.

[Will he be okay?] Lilly asked with a whimper. Patrick, Sue and Addle shared her concerned expression with a synchronized gulp almost on cue.

"His Defense hadn't recovered so he might need a moment," Hilda answered while spraying Oshawott across his back, his flippers and especially his head. "Don't worry, I saw him survive Minnie's terrible tail firsthand." She flashed her friends a soft smile if only to put them at ease.

[Take a load off,] Watcher chimed in at the request of nobody. [Barely got any damage to double.]

[Time and place for everything, Watch,] Harry cut in firmly. [Not now.] He only got a pulled down left eyelid and a tongue stuck out at him for his troubles.

Nobody had time to glare at Watcher once Oshawott came to and pushed himself up from the ground slowly but steadily. All of Hilda's little friends joined her in smiling brightly over his quicker recovery, playing little mind to his expression.

"Welcoming back to the land of the living," Hilda cheered, hoping to start off on a bright note. "Need an extra spray or two?"

Oshawott didn't so much as cast a glance upwards while he took a few seconds to dust himself off. "No thank you," he replied with a despondent tone of voice.

Hilda's smile fell when she heard his mood and saw concerned looks for Oshawott on her friend's faces. Even Watcher gave a curious-if-concerned glance.

"Hey, this one's on me for punching above your weight," Hilda persisted with a chipper front, sitting with crossed legs for comfort. "There's always next time with those stuffy inspectors." She reached out to Oshawott so she could pat him on the head. "I know you can do it-"

[NO, I CAN'T!]

Oshawott's outburst made everybody, even Watcher, jump back a bit. Hilda retracted her hand like it nearly got scratched by a Liepard while her smile morphed into frown of growing mortification. Her pupils even receded in a moment of shock when she heard her Starter's breathing suddenly became choked sobs.

"H-Hey, take it easy now," Hilda ventured, unable to fake a smile this time. "We're just getting start-"

[I'm not worth the bother,] Oshawott choked as his breathing heaved through his growing cries. [I'll never get better, I'll never win another battle, I'll just drag you down.] He didn't dare face Hilda with his furry face already soaked by a flash-flood of tears. [I... I really am a fraud.]

None of the Pokemon around him dared to speak in their discomfort over such a shift in atmosphere. Mainly since they didn't know what to say to Oshawott once his sobbing evolved into bawling. Harry, Lilly, Sue, Addle and Watcher collectively wanted to reach out but... didn't know what they could do.

[I'm worthless!] Oshawott cried. [Useless!] His paws could only wipe away so much tears and snot on his face. [Just... leave me here so I don't drag you down with me.]

Hilda let Oshawott cry it out until his bawling subsided into a sob again while her despairing frown hardened into something more solemn. All the while, she took his Poke Ball out from her back pocket. She pressed the white button to enlarge and unlock it before aiming it at her Starter Pokemon.

"I'm going to recall you to your Poke Ball so you can rest now," Hilda spoke in a caring yet firm tone of voice. "Would you like that?"

Oshawott steadied his breathing just enough to slowly nod.

"Return," Hilda commanded to activate the Poke Ball by voice print. The Poke Ball shot a red beam from the button that converted Oshawott's body to the very plasmic energy that it pulled into the device itself. It shut closed and shrunk into a lockdown.

Hilda slowly stood back up and pocketed the Poke Ball while taking out her Personal Computer. She walked away from her forest friends and put her black vest and baseball cap back on with a tap of the screen. The young lady even past the picnic blanket and began to have it digitally stored without so much as a farewell to her friends.

At last, Watcher was the one to stop staying shackled by their sorrow and hastily ran up to Hilda from behind. [I didn't mean f'r this to-!] he called out, stopping short of three feet from her. [I mean, I was jus' jealous n'-] His remorse was the genuine article but wasn't hard to express properly. [I mean, I didn' think the L- Oshawott felt like this.]

"I... have to go to the inspection now," Hilda solemnly cut in while having her P.C. take in the last cream pies. "Whatever happens, I'll at least try to swing by." Her tone of voice was still despondent without a hint of angry nor sympathy for Watcher. "Bye."

Suffice to say, it made the Lookout Pokemon feel worse than ever and caused him to hang is head. The Sewaddle sisters firmly frowned at him but couldn't be angry with Oshawott on the brain. Lilly and Patrick were just plain sad, hanging their head in feeling helpless when their friends need them. Harry sighed with a more flat expression, trying to keep levelheaded however he could.

Hilda finally walked towards her mother's framed photo on the tree with shame blooming in her heart. "I'm sorry that you had to see that," she apologized, her gaze barely able to meet her mother's. "I know it looked bad but I'll figure something out." Helga, once more, smiled back. "I always do."

The fact that Hilda did take out her bicycle didn't escape her forest friends when they saw her stepped deliberately slowly out of the clearing. The time that seemed to have flown by with all their fun ground back to a grueling slog.

[Idiot...] Watcher insulted himself, gritting his teeth and tearing up in frustration. At this point, he might as well have gotten Hilda a one-way ticket to the Orange Islands.

To Be Continued...


Despite winning and all the encouragement around him, Oshawott's inner demons persisted. Anxiety and depression can be like a very bad stain on an otherwise good rug. You can only wash it out so much alone. Even then, more stains will inevitably come about in when you least expect it.

Never be afraid to reach out to others when you can't go it alone.

Thank you for reading my fanfiction.

Write up a comment or a full blown review about what you liked or loathed about my work. I can roll with the punches so let me have it.


Well-Known Member
Chapter 8: A Walk In The Park

It had been two weeks since the crash and two days since the Junipers stumbled across her. However, to Hilda, it might as well have been two millennia and two centuries.

The barefoot seven year old girl lay listlessly on her right side and stared at the wall in front of her bed blankly. The most that Hilda'd been able to manage was putting on a decent shirt that wasn't caked in grime and shorts that weren't in near tatters. However, she didn't have the stomach for breakfast today. Just like yesterday.

The sunlight from the partly opened window was all that illuminated the otherwise dark room. Not that there was much to reveal. There weren't posters of her favorite singers taped up, any of the Manga she'd been hoping to catch up on or even the pink paint that she'd once hoped for.

It was just a bed, a desk and a closet with the few childrens clothes that Auntie Aurea scrambled to pick up. It just... didn't matter to Hilda how it was dolled up. Nothing... mattered. Not anymore. She wanted to cry, let her eyes flood the entire house and literally drown herself in her sorrows but... couldn't paradoxically.

It was just her and the numbness of it all in Hilda's bedroom before somebody knocked on the door suddenly. "Still alive in there?" Auntie Aurea called with a soft if lively tone of voice. "I brought up breakfast for you if you're interested."

Hilda knew that she wouldn't take no for an answer this time around. "Come in," she answered in the most plain way she could.

Aurea slowly opened the door so as not to startle Hilda with anything loud. The little girl glanced ever so slightly to see her godmother out of her lab coat and carrying a tray with buttered toast next to chocolate milk.

"I'll just leave it here," Aurea said, setting the tray down onto the desk while taking two slices with her. "Room for one more.? Hilda could only sign in resignation and a bit of annoyance only for the Professor to take it as a "Do what you wish."

"Thanks for the invite," Aurea cheekily replied while sitting on the bed just by her goddaughter's feet. She started eating her slice of toast before holding the other over to Hilda. The despondent child merely shuffled herself to get a bit more comfortable while the Professor's chipper front began to dim.

"Guess toast is a bit too by-the-book," Aurea chuckled a little, trying to keep spirits up. "Traveling Unova really does spoil the palette." She ate some more while thinking how to save this while noticing Hilda's expression becoming something more than just annoyed.

"Speaking of 'books,'" Aurea began, finishing her slice, "that comic you'd been expecting just came in the-"

"Manga," Hilda blankly correctly, mildly annoyed if anything. "It's from Kanto so it's not a comic." She stretched a bit in her discomfort.

"Terminology aside," Aurea replied warmly, "I thought some entertainment would do you well here." She looked around at the bland decor and permitted herself to grimace just a touch. "You treat this place like a prison-"

"Why are you doing this?" Hilda cut in with a hint of anger in her jaded tone of voice.

Aurea paused at this interjection and put on a more firm expression. "Doing what?"

"All of... this," Hilda declared, her hands gripping her upper arms tightly. "Being so sunny, making jokes, acting like Mom didn't..." She held herself back from so much as finishing that last part, sniffling through her nose. "You were her best friend so... why aren't you angry?" Her own growing frown could only hold so many tears at bay.

"Why... why don't you... hate me?"

Hilda's misty eyes glanced up to see Auntie Aurea looking at her solemnly yet sympathetically. The next ten seconds felt like ten years before the Professor sighed.

"Of course, I'm upset," Aurea softly answered, clearly choosing her words carefully, "but I could never dream of holding that against you." Hilda kept to herself once again but listened intently. "I've mourned your mother everyday but right now, your care's my first priority."

"You're just... saying that," Hilda accused, not sounding convinced herself.

"Only because I mean every word," Aurea sighed, understanding her goddaughter's grief. "But... this isn't about me, is it?"

Hilda wanted to retort with a bit more gusto this time but sensed that the Professor had her. She just clenched her arms tighter.

"You only ran away because you were scared," Aurea reassured with more warmth in her voice, "like any child would've." She got up from the bed to Hilda's surprise. "And your mother would've wanted you to be safe above all else."

Hilda saw Aurea slowly head for the door, raising her head curiously. "I can't tell you how to feel about... literally any of this but..." the Professor began, grabbing the knob, "...I'm not giving up on you for as long as it takes." She turned the knob and opened the door, beginning to step out.

"Wait," Hilda called out hastily, making her godmother stop. "Could you... stick around... a little?" She still didn't have much drive to get up from her bed. "I mean, if you got the time..."

Hilda could tell that Aurea was smiling from the tiniest hmmmm escaping her lips. "Plenty to spare," the Professor promised.

It had been half-an-hour since Hilda had returned to Nuvema Town. However, it might as well have been half-a-century ago as far as her mood was concerned. The fastest her feet could muster was one slow step after another up Main Street. She couldn't even bothering to check her X-Transceiver for messages or the time.

"Hey, new Trainer coming through," old Damien Ayres chortled as he passed the other way. "Hit me up for a battle sometime, home-girl."

Hilda said nothing. Didn't even so much as glance up from her lowered gaze.

"Hey, Hilda!" Sean called out while sweeping the welcome mat. "Got a discount on Starter Pokemon feed with your name on it."

Hilda said nothing. Barely coughed over the kicked up dust.

"In a rush, Hild!" Georgia called out, rushing past in a borderline sprint. "Lemme know when I can see you off, K?"

Hilda said nothing. Her cheeks didn't so much as go light pink let alone red as she turned on the the crosswalk.

Hilda took Oshawott's Poke Ball out of her vest pocket and stared just as despairingly. As was aware of most things around her but not enough to take notice if any at all. Her mind just couldn't help recounting his sobs, the way he repeatedly lambasted himself and how she... did nothing about it.

No, Hilda knew she did worse than nothing. She'd been the one who encouraged Oshawott to bite off more than she could chew. Hilda got so worked up by Watcher's taunts when she should've recognized a Bide build-up when it was right in front of her nose. All while she failed to recognize her own Starter's emotional turmoil.

Maybe it was hard to tell but Hilda kept telling herself that she was Oshawott's Trainer. She should've known that he was doing more than trying to make a good first impression. Now? He was hole up inside of a pocket-sized ball and loathing himself more by the second. All because his so-called Trainer was trying to make a good first impression herself.

Now? Hilda had no idea what to do with the Inspection only about an hour away and a Starter Pokemon that might never battle again. No, she could take the inspectors but was too ashamed to show both her Auntie Aurea and Grandpa Cedric the mess she made. Perfect grounds for her license to be revoked.

"'ey, Hilda!" a familiar voice called out from her right. "Great Dragon a'ive, yo' shot up like a rocket!"

This loud, obnoxious voice was enough to snap Hilda enough out of her funk to look around her. She was surprised to find herself walking on Pendula Road opposite of the Laboratory's direction. However, what really caught her attention was the playground directly to her right. She didn't fully recognize it before spotting the ice cream vendor just six feet in from the gateway.

"C'mere, y' big palooka," the chiseled, middle-age man called out from behind his cart, spreading his arms out wide in joy. "Don't 'cha remember good ol' Wayne?"

Hilda nearly felt her anxieties kicked to curb when she recognized the lovable mug of Wayne Sam Abbey, the Castelian who always had the best ice cream to choose from. "Mr. Abbey!" she called out while rushing through the gateway like she was seven again. Her smile had finally decided to at least make a guest appearance.

"'ey, Ain't no 'Mista' about it, Hild," Wayne insisted up and down as she came up to the cart. "It's Wayne, see?" However, he couldn't be annoyed and gave a great chortle.

"Slipped my mind," Hilda apologized sheepishly. "Probably because I haven't been here in, well, ages." She looked around at the wide square of land from the swings to the Jungle Gym, finding only a few kids going down the slide.

"Ah, fuhgeddaboudit," Wayne swore up and down, waving his hands dismissively. "You were always more of a treehuggin' kind of kid, nuttin' personal 'bout that." He opened his freezer in anticipation of a coming order. "'course, I wudda delivered to the woods if ya wanted."

"You'd get cleaned out first day alone," Hilda giggled back, Wayne's city-slicker speaking as infectious as always.

"Dat's jus' the price o' popularity," Wayne bantered back before noticing how she was fiddling with Oshawott's Poke Ball. "Issat what I think it is?"

Hilda held up the Poke Ball and let her smile sink back into something somber. "Against her better judgement, my Auntie let me become a Trainer," she confirmed, trying to put her smile back on for Wayne's sake. "Being a 'treehugger' has its perks with Pokemon to practice with."

"L'il Hilda finally gots her a Pokey-Man," the ice cream vendor sighed wistfully. "Where does the time go?" He was too caught up in nostalgia to notice Hilda cringe at his very egregious mispronunciation. "Yo' could barely see over mah cart when I first saw ya but look at ya now, Champion in the makin'."

"Yeah... Champion..." Hilda sighed, her smile faltering. She wished that she was half as optimistic as she was before.

"So you gonna show me who ya picked?" Wayne asked enthusiastically as ever. "I wanna spoil him something rotten with my treats." He scratched his stubble, wracking his brain. "My money's on Tepig for yer flair."

"You'd lose that bet," Hilda laughed softly, belaying her underlying sadness. "Though... my Starter's not exactly in the mood to be out and about." She looked at Oshawott's Poke Ball longingly. "Didn't exactly lose gracefully if you catch my drift."

"All the more reason to let him out n' about," Wayne insisted, already scooping some vanilla. "What he needs right now is some fresh air, a great friend t' lean on and free ice cream as a pick-me-up." He was stuck between a cone or a cup. "Perfect for any lost tyke."

"Well..." Hilda began hesitantly, her mind drifting.

"Auntie Aurea?" seven year old Hilda timidly called out in her distress. "Please come back." Tears formed in her eyes as she aimlessly walked through a gateway and into a playground that seemed safe enough. However, she didn't know how to talk to the kids playing on the slide or on the Jungle Gym.

What was she thinking.

Hilda didn't know why she decided to join Auntie Aurea for a shopping trip but after a week in her room, part of her just thought, "The heck with it." It started out fine with a walk around Nuvema Town to get familiar with her surroundings and a trip up into downtown. Hilda even got any snack that she wanted and was smiling far more this time.

It... felt good to, well, feel good.

She'd only gotten distracted by what looked like a Braviary flying low when she lost Aurea's hand and soon didn't know where she was wandering. Almost immediately Hilda was scared of losing her godmother. What if something bad happened to her too? What if she ran away without knowing?

Like she did with Mom.

Hilda shut her eyes in fear and clenched her stomach tightly, anxiety welling up like a bad lunch she ate when...

"You's okay, kid?" a rough but curious tone of voice called out from her left. "Restrooms are just ahead if ya hurry."

Hilda turned to find a big but rather cheery man she'd come to know as Wayne. His greasy face seemed imposing even with a smile but his ice cream cart was disarming enough to put her mostly at ease. She was wary around new people but didn't have a choice at the moment.

"I'm... new here... sorta," Hilda slowly opened up, choosing her words carefully. "My mom's... not here and..." She was cut off by her stomach growing, making her go red with embarrassment. "I'm sorry..."

"Ah, new kid on da block, I catch yer drift," Wayne spoke fast while opening his ice cream cart. "As a pick-me-up, how's 'bout a free cone on da house." He picked up a waffle cone and a metal scoop. "Ya look like a cone kinda kid, don't ask me why."

"But... I don't got money," Hilda remarked less shirkingly, walking closer. "Though... chocolate wouldn't be so bad."

"Call it mah, eh, "lost new kid" discount," Wayne insisted, packing on two big scoops of chocolate ice cream already. "Have as much as ya want while ya hang around here." He handed out the big cone to Hilda. "I'll keep an eye on ya and another for ya Ma."

"Thank you?" Hilda managed to put out, confused and delighted all at once upon taking the cone. "You really shouldn't..." Something about his infectious energy and homeliness felt like... Mom somehow.

"Us drifters gotta look out for each other, y'know?" Wayne insisted, glad to see Hilda perking up. "And I could never leave anyone high n' dry, not when they're all down in the dumps."

A simple sentiment yet one she needed more than ever. Hilda couldn't help but smile more sincerely as she looked down at the ice cream and gave a lick.

Hilda couldn't help but smile more sincerely as she looked down at Oshawott's Poke Ball and clicked the white button. "The ice cream's safe for an Oshawott to eat, right?" she asked Wayne as the device unlocked and enlarged.

"No one's complained yet," the vender chortled.

"Good enough for me," Hilda decided while holding out the Poke Ball. "Oshawott, I choose you!"

At the vocal command, the ball opened up and released blue-white energy onto the ground to reform as Hilda's Starter. Oshawott perked up at once over the sudden release and the sight of his new surroundings. He wasn't crying anymore but still felt on edge, especially when he found his Trainer's legs to his left.

However, Hilda knew what to do as she squatted down towards Oshawott's level and smiled warmly at him. He can tell by his sorrowful frown that his spirits are still low as can be. Even more so when she reached out to pat him on the head and saw him pull back in what she hoped wasn't fear.

Nonetheless, Hilda persisted with her smile. "I'm about to get some ice cream for us," she began, hoping to take it slowly. "What flavor are in the mood for?"

Oshawott looked at her cautiously and swallowed ever so slightly. He was sure that she'd be upset about his breakdown or, if nothing else, bringing him back to the Junipers the next time he was let out. Yet here she was, happily asking for ice cream. The Sea Otter Pokemon wasn't sure what to expect now but decided that he had nothing left to lose.

[Um... vanilla... if it's not too much trouble.]

"So what'll it be?" Wayne asked, twirling his scooper in his right hand casually.

"He'll have small cone of vanilla," Hilda requested while standing up for the vendor. "I'll spoil myself with a big chocolate one."

"A bit basic but the customer's always right," Wayne decided, already packing in a second vanilla scoop into a small cone. "He's welcome to seconds anytime." He handed it to Hilda before she squatted down and handed it to Oshawott.

"Thanks, Wayne," Hilda replied before turning to her Starter. "He appreciates the gesture, don't you?"

Oshawott snapped out of his anxiousness when he remembered his manners and bowed humbly towards Wayne. [Thank you, Mr. Wayne,] he told the vendor despite the language barrier and took the cone from Hilda's right hand.

"Well, ain't you a l'il gentleman?" Wayne chortled while finishing up Hilda's larger chocolate cone. "Ya really knows how t' pick 'em, kid." He handed over her early desert.

"Wouldn't trade him for the world," Hilda swore while turning to head towards the playground. "Wanna sit on the swings, Oshawott?"

The Sea Otter Pokemon actually had been enjoying his ice cream when he heard his Trainer's offer. [Oh, yes, I would,] he stammered while hopping after her, still going through the motions. Even now, Oshawott was worried that this was leading to something. Something bad.

Hilda found a swing seat that was high enough for a teenage and sat down, already eating some of the waffle cone. "Come sit on my lap," she kindly offered Oshawott, tapping her thighs invitingly.

[Um... I would,] the Sea Otter Pokemon cautiously began. [It's just my paws and bit full.] He licked more of his ice cream when he saw it was slightly melting.

"Sorry," Hilda apologized while reaching down with her right hand. "Allow me." She got cry of surprise out of Oshawott when she scooped him up by his butt and craned him up onto his lap to settle on. "Now let's finish our ice cream before the sun does."

Hilda gorged on her chocolate ice cream along with bits of the cone, making a creamy and crummy mess around her mouth like she was seven again. All the while, Oshawott slowly slurped up his vanilla ice cream and found the treat pleasing for what it was worth. However, this... didn't feel right.

This long pause continued between them while Hilda swung on their swing ever so gently and idly, her legs dangling below without a thought. She was just halfway down her cone when Oshawott finished most of his ice cream and finally lost patience.

[Why are you doing this?]

Hilda paused eating her cone at this interruption and put on a more firm expression. "Doing what?"

Oshawott finally turned around and looked up at Hilda with distress in his eyes returning. [All of... this!] he exclaimed, spreading out his paws rapidly enough to toss away his cone by mistake. [Making jokes, getting me ice cream, acting like... like nothing happened!]

The Sea Otter Pokemon shut his eyes to hold back any tears but some leaked out from the corner of his eyes as he sniffled. [Why... why don't you... hate me?] he managed to get out, looking away from his Trainer's gaze.

Hilda gave him a few minutes to settle down somewhat before sighing deeply. "I was upset," she admitted, choosing her words delicately, "but I wouldn't think of holding it against you." They felt... right somehow. "Right now, I want to make sure that my Starter will be okay."

Oshawott wiped some of his tears before they stuck to his fur but still sniffled. [But... I don't deserve to be your Starter,] he choked, keeping it together better if only by a margin. [I acted all tough and cool but... I could never touch a Galvantula let alone a Joltik.]

Hilda narrowed her eyes in melancholy. "I'm sorry I didn't help matters either," she tried to put out without adding to his sorrow. "You were adorable but I just wanted to do right by you but, well, here we are..."

[It's not your fault you landed with a joke like me,] Oshawott went on, remembering all the lies he boasted to Hilda's forest friends. [I couldn't even take on thirty Pokemon on a good week.]

"Seems like you never had a high opinion of yourself, huh?" Hilda responded softly with care but concern.

The Sea Otter Pokemon sat back down in his emotional exhaustion. [Because Watcher was right,] he meekly confessed. [I am a fraud.]

A long pause followed. Oshawott expected, or rather hoped, that Hilda would finally put him down on the ground and walk away. Better she spared herself anymore trouble. However, the only touch he felt from Hilda was her left hand softly petting his furry noggin.

"You weren't a 'fraud,'" Oshawott heard Hilda assure in a very kindhearted tone of voice. "You were just trying to make a good first impression." The Sea Otter Pokemon opened his eyes in surprise and looked up to find her smiling softly with a promise of unconditional gentleness. "A bit much about it but it's the thought that counts."

[Some 'impression' it turned out to be,] Oshawott berated himself, unable to shake his sadness. [It's okay if you'd prefer a better Starter.] His mind turned to Snivy, knowing her predictions will be vindicated. [One that won't embarrass you.]

"And what if I still prefer you?" Hilda asked with the utmost earnestness.

Oshawott's eyes widened over such an answer and looked up at his Trainer in near hopefulness. [You... might regret it,] he answered, his reluctance wavering.

"Eh, you might turn out to be a colossal flop and never so much as evolve into a Dewott," Hilda responded lightly with a bit of a shrug. "At least, I'd have an adorable little guy along the way." She reached down to pick up Oshawott from under his arms.

The Sea Otter Pokemon found himself lifted up from Hilda's lap and close to her face, noses but inches from each other. Her smile was warm as ever but her blue eyes carried a shine to them that felt like what he could only imagine was... unconditional love.

"Sure, I would love a Pokemon who could take out entire Gym Leaders in one sweep," Hilda admitted, adoring the curious stare Oshawott gave back to her. "But I would love a Pokemon who could be one of my very best friends." She poured more heart into every word she said. "I see so much of that in you even if you can't."

Oshawott felt tears welling up in his eyes just a bit but... not from despair.

"But I'm making this about myself," Hilda hastily confessed. "What about you?" Her eyes narrowed in hope. "What do you want?"

Oshawott paused once more as he thought about just that. [I want...] he began, swallowing hard, [...friends who love me for... me.] The Sea Otter Pokemon encouraged him to keep going just by looking at Hilda's loving face. [I want... to evolve into a mighty Samurott, going toe-to-toe with the Champion himself.]

"Anything else?" Hilda gently prodded.

[I...] Oshawott choked out, clenching his teeth and pushing his reluctance away. [I want you!]

In one fell swoop, the Sea Otter Pokemon jumped out of Hilda's hands and onto her chest to hug her much to her surprise. However, the tackle was strong enough to make his Trainer loose balance on the swing and fall backwards onto the wood chips below with a yelp.

Hilda was shaken out of her smile for a second before looking down and finding Oshawott embracing her bosom tearfully. It was impossible for her to stay upset for long before her hands reached back up and embraced the Sea Otter Pokemon back.

"Only if I can have you," Hilda promised, closing her eyes just as they were tearing up.

From afar, Wayne looked on with his warmest smile. "Jus' like th' good ol' days..." he sighed wistfully.

The ice cream made Hilda happier but not by too much once she'd finished it. Sitting on the swing, the seven year old swung idly on the swings with nothing but her thoughts to herself and a soft frown on her face. One thought was of her mother whenever she gave a great big push for her.

"Where are you...?" Hilda muttered sadly not just for Auntie Aurea.

She was just hanging her head with a weary sigh when the feeling of something crawling up her back and right under her t-shirt. Hilda straightened her posture in a jolt upon feeling what was certainly a small Pokemon and tried to reach around with her right hand to check.

She hoped that it was just a wild Joltik when a something long and furry began to brush her belly. The ticklish sensation all but dashed Hilda's despondency and lifted her frown up into broad grin that let loose giggles by the gallon. Her body spasmed so much that she fell backwards off of the swing and onto the wood chips.

Hilda hardly noticed her unhappy landing in all the tickling until she saw a shifting lump in her shirt, one she felt moving on four tiny paws. She felt what she assumed was the tail beginning to tickle her left armpit and quickly reached under her shirt to grab it.

Sitting back up, Hilda yanked out the Pokemon by the tail and head it in front of her while she tried to catch her breath. Her smile subsided when she pulled out a Minccino and held it out in mid-air in her right hand. The Chinchilla Pokemon hung upside down with a hint of red on her cheeks over being caught.

[Oh my...] the Minccino claimed in embarrassment. [This hasn't happened before.]

"I bet," Hilda responded with a lingering giggle or two. "Though I would've liked a 'hello' better." She lowered the Minccino onto the wood chips and stood back up herself.

[You looked terribly sad so I thought I could cheer you up,] the Chinchilla Pokemon replied sheepishly, her words sounding refined for her youth. [Never was one for untidiness.]

"I wasn't dirty," Hilda swore, brushing off wood chips off her clothes. "Until now at least."

[I was referring to your mood,] the Minccino corrected. [A frown on a child is like mud on a carpet in my-] She stopped explaining when it finally dawned upon her. [Hang about, are you able to understand me?]

"Uh oh..." Hilda began while cautiously looking towards Wayne who was giving ice cream to other kids. "Um..." She squat on down to the Minccino's level in order to whisper. "Yes, but no other human is suppose to know."

[Fascinating!] the Chinchilla Pokemon exclaimed with a brighter smile before remembering to whisper. [You shan't have to fret about your secret with myself.] She could barely contain a giggle from how cool this discovery was. [Can we play together?]

Hilda had almost forgotten about her Auntie Aurea in her newfound delight. "Sure," she exuberantly agreed. "Just one thing first..." Her smile flashed a toothy grin in growing cheek.

[What might be the matter?] the Minccino asked innocent before Hilda shot her hands down upon her. Her fingers took no prisoners in tickling her all over from her hips to her belly. The Chinchilla Pokemon was reduced to a laughing mess within the second.

"You look terribly sad," Hilda chuckled in childish mischief, a far cry from her mood minutes ago. "Never was one for untidiness either."

The two would get so caught up in their tickle fight that they barely noticed Wayne looking their way. The vendor could only grin himself that the poor kid was getting the pick-me-up she needed.

"Hang in there kid," he spoke aloud. "Yer stronger than ya think..."

Minnie would've rushed pasted the playground's entrance if she didn't hear Oshawott's frightful wailing just in time. She doubled back fretfully and expected the worst whatever it might be while heading past Wayne. She stopped and would've called out for Hilda if she didn't spot them instantly.

There was Hilda on the swing going back and forth with Oshawott sitting on her lap. She laughed gleefully while her Starter yelped with his mouth open wide and paws clinging to her shirt with every swing.

"Ready for takeoff?" Hilda asked, knowing that Oshawott was enjoying it more than he let on.

[I thought you'd never ask,] the Sea Otter Pokemon cried, feeling his heart racing by the second.

"On three," Hilda declared once she began to swing back. "One, two-"

[I beg your pardon,] Minnie began sternly, rushing in front of them, [this is hardly time for-]

"Three!" Hilda declared while dismounting from the swing. Almost by reflex, she managed to grab her screaming Starter in mid-air after he jumped with her.

Minnie panicked over this and ducked for cover by bellyflopping onto the wood chips. All the while, Hilda cleared over the Chinchilla Pokemon and stuck the landing while keeping Oshawott safe in her crossed arms.

"Ha-ha," Hilda cheered in exhilaration. "Who says you're too old for the playground?" She squat down to place Oshawott onto the ground and found him panting from fright. "Pretty cool, huh?"

['Cool'?] the Sea Otter Pokemon began, starting to catch his breath. [Try... amazing!] Oshawott's once scared expression lit up into his brightest smile while he spread out his arms excitedly. [I wanna try and jump by myself.]

"As you wish," Hilda warmly responded, too happy to see her Starter opening up more.

[Might I assume this is your idea of training?] Minnie's snippy tone of voice chimed in from behind them.

Hilda and Oshawott turned around to find the Chinchilla Pokemon fervently brushing off the wood chips with her tail. They then looked back at each other with a mutual expression of dread shared between them.

[I ran myself ragged around town trying to find hide or hair of you,] Minnie continued to complain while coming up to the two of them. [It's one thing to lose track of time in the forest but to muck about on the swings?] She cringed once she saw the wood chips in Hilda's ponytail and on the back of her vest. [Disgraceful, disgusting, despicable even.]

[Please don't be mad at Hilda,] Oshawott pleaded while rushing up to Minnie. [She brought me here to cheer me up.]

The Minccino's fussy face softened when she saw her friend bow profusely. [How do you mean?] she inquired, reigning in her irritation.

"Oshawott... wasn't himself after a hefty loss," Hilda began, hoping to keep things very vague and general. "I thought this would be the pick-me-up he needed." She sat down cross-legged to meet the three on their level and thought of how to change the subject.

[Oh...] Minnie let out softly, reading just enough between the lines. [I do apologize for my haste and pray you feel better soon.] She bowed herself back to Oshawott to express her own humility.

[I have actually with many thanks to Hilda,] the Sea Otter Pokemon happily assured, sharing a warm smile with his Trainer. [I am still a bit shaken and not totally sure but... I am willing to try.] He held up his paws like fists and put on a more determined face. [I'll be ready for the inspection... as I ever could be.]

Minnie gasped at the mention of the inspection. [Dash it all, I nearly forgot,] she exclaimed at once. [Hilda, we need to be at the laboratory post haste.]

"I have more than a half-hour left," Hilda insisted with a pout. "What, is the place on fire?" She was a little concerned by how Minnie was sounding the alarm. "Again?"

[Not yet it isn't,] the Minccino pressed on. [The inspectors discussed something regarding a 'job' or a 'mission' of sorts.] She scrambled to think of what else she'd heard in her snooping. [I think two suggested 'recruiting' you against the Junipers.]

[Uh oh...] Oshawott gulped over the implications so far, looking up at Hilda. [Did you make the League mad at you or something?]

"No..." Hilda insisted with a side-glance of guilt in her eyes. "Not... recently at least." Rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly told a perturbed Oshawott that she had a history.

[If I were to estimate, they may be trying to undermine the Junipers and their research,] Minnie pressed further.

"There have been some... disagreements in the past," Hilda thought aloud, really starting to worry.

[All more reasons to return to the laboratory post haste,] Minnie insisted, waving her paws in the air frantically.

"Haste is the last thing we need when all we can do is guess," Hilda replied firmly, taking the potential threat seriously. "And without any solid proof, they'll make us look like the bad guys if we go in with the 'strike first, ask questions later' approach."

[Assuming they don't strike back,] Oshawott gulped anxiously. [I only have so much confidence in myself.]

"We just need to keep an eye out for when they show their hand," Hilda reassured her Starter. "My guess is that they have a few dirty tricks up their sleeves for our battle to make the Professors look bad."

[Can we still beat them?] Oshawott timidly asked before Hilda gave his head a warm pet on the head.

"We can do our best," his Trainer promised. "But we'll pull out the second things get too hot to handle." She narrowed her eyes while remembering their last battle's outcome. "This time around..."

[Should the situation escalate, we will need more paws on deck so to speak,] Minnie chimed in. [Perhaps I should enter the woods and collect volunteers for the worst case scenario.]

"Best case: they'll gather around to see us off in style," Hilda replied, standing up while trying to lighten the mood. "Just one more thing, Minnie."

[The police?] Minnie squeaked, steeling herself for her next task. [Or perhaps the Elite Four?]

"Last minute training," Hilda answered without a shred of irony, taking out her Poke Dex.

[Really?] Minnie questioned, giving the same incredulous look as Oshawott was. [Right this minute?]

"If the inspectors plan to play dirty," Hilda claimed, sifting through her Starter's data, "then we'll have to get downright filthy ourselves." She caught sight of Minnie shuddering at such an analogy. "There's a move of Oshawott's that I've been overlooking but it might just make the difference."

[You're not talking about...] the Sea Otter Pokemon gulped hard, his eyes shrinking in mortification, [...THAT move, are you?]

"None other," Hilda answered, shutting her Pokedex shut with the utmost seriousness.

[And I just got my confidence back...] Oshawott sighed wearily, hanging his head.

Minnie looked back and forth between the pair of them without the foggiest of what this mystery movie was. At this point, however, she was afraid to ask.

"We won't do it useless we know it work," Hilda promised while turning on her heel. "There's a Battle Court we can use to practice." She rushed off towards the playground's exit before Oshawott could further protest.

[Wait up!] he called out, running as fast as he could after his Trainer. [Small feet, remember!?]

[Oh dear...] Minnie sighed, trailing just behind them. [What madness have we landed in this time?]

"Ready for takeoff?" Hilda asked with a renewed sense of spunk.

[I thought you'd never ask!] the Minccino giggled excitedly.

The pair of them were swinging back and forth high enough to nearly go over the top on each side. Kids and parents around them looks on whether with concern, admiration or a perfect blend of both.

"Three!" Hilda called, swinging back for a big jump.

[Two!] the Minccino cheered after.

["Three!"] Hilda and the Chinchilla both yelled as they disembarked from the swing once it went high enough.

Unfortunately, they were too caught up in the thrill of falling with style that they didn't brace themselves properly enough. Hilda fell onto the wood chips after her legs bent and let her topple over, arms outstretched. All the while, the Minccino just straight up belly-flopped onto the chips just behind her human friend.

"Not bad for our tenth try," Hilda laughed while pushing herself up and spiting out wood chips. "I know we'll nail it the next time." She wiped her clothes so her furry friend wouldn't have to.

The Minccino lifted herself up to immediate brush herself off with her tail. [Perhaps next time could be later?] she uneasily said, thoroughly wiping herself off twice. [It has been fun yet I can only tolerate dirt so much.]

"Oh, I'm sorry," young Hilda apologized, crossing her legs to sit up straight. "I forgot your kind are neat freaks."

[Neat whatnow?] the Minccino sharply retorted with an offended tone of voice.

[Um...] Hilda scrambled awkwardly, forgetting that her words were being understood as well. [Freak...ishly good at staying neat?]

The Minccino snorted and sniggered mischievously. [Only joking,] she promised. [My kind considers it a mark of distinction.]

Hilda and her furry friend shared a hearty laugh together before the young lady heard a familiar voice.

"Hilda, over here!"

Hilda turned her head around to find her Auntie Aurea running over towards her with each heavy pant. The young girl stood up with a brighter smile and would've greeted her godmother if she wasn't scooped up by the Professor in a big embrace.

"I'm so sorry, Hilda," Aurea solemnly apologized. "I swear I didn't mean to lose you." She held her goddaughter head against her chest maternally. "You must've been so terrified."

Hilda could feel her Auntie's racing heart beat and hugged back with a warm smile. "It's okay now," she promised the Professor. "I even made a new friend."

Aurea pulled out of the hug and looked down at Hilda with a most distressed expression. When she saw how Hilda wasn't just wearing a smile but well and truly happy, the Professor let her own face brighten up in turn.

The Minccino had respectfully stayed to the side and even delighted in how Hilda reunited with her guardian. She only briefly frowned until they turned towards her.

"Thank you so much," Aurea profusely swore up and down. "You have no idea." She even went so far as to squat down after putting Hilda down.

[Think nothing of it,] the Minccino happily promised. [I know that your ward would have done the same for me.]

"She says, 'You're welcome,'" Hilda simplified considerably.

"Well, this turned out to be quite the adventure," Aurea sighed wearily while standing up. "I'm guessing you'd like to turn in early today, Hilda."

The Minccino frowned slightly again at this proposal. [Oh... yes...] she began, trying to keep up appearance. [Of course, you must depart...]

"Actually..." Hilda began, oblivious to the Minccino's true feelings, "...could I play here a little longer with Minnie?"

["Minnie?"] Aurea and the Chinchilla Pokemon exclaimed both at once.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Hilda hastily corrected in her embarrassment. "Pokemon names can be hard to keep track of."

[It's fine,] the Minccino promised before giving it some thought and smiling. [Rather nice actually.]

What madness would they land themselves in this time? Minnie couldn't wait to find out.

To Be Continued...

History repeating itself isn't always bad. In fact, some of those bad memories can be the basis for a most cherished moments of your life.

However, things will get a lot worse before they get better come Operation: Lab Rats

Thank you for reading my fanfiction.

Write up a comment or a full blown review about what you liked or loathed about my work. I can roll with the punches so let me have it.


Well-Known Member
Chapter 9: Operation: Lab Rats

Hilda smiled when she saw the lonely Juniper Research Laboratory and rode her bike faster up the long stretch of road. If the woods were her second home, then the lab was a very close third. It was helped by how it was located near the woods northwest of Nuvema Town.

Oshawott let his face fall into a frown at the same sight and sunk into the bike's basket as if to hide. As sure as Hilda was of their training, part of him was still afraid of going back where Snivy was. Once Hilda braked to a stop just behind Cedric's black van, the Sea Otter Pokemon could hardly keep himself from trembling.

Forget cold feet. Oshawott felt frozen all over.

He felt a little better when he felt Hilda lift him out of the basket and place him on the grass. It wasn't much but the reassuring smile and pat on the head she gave Oshawott went a long way. Hilda stood back up to put the bike back in her PC's digital storage system and turn towards the laboratory.

"Moment of truth," she sighed anxiously, her smile fading even when she looked down at Oshawott. "Ready?"

[Could I... ever be?] the Sea Otter Pokemon asked back with his hardest gulp to date.

"Good question," Hilda replied, partially talking about herself.

At last, she walked up the path to the front door with Oshawott hurrying behind. Hilda was particular in taking it slow and steady in order to let their nerves calm as much as possible. She was one big blend of excitement and anxiousness. Excited to finally cement herself as a legitimate Trainer. Anxious to not let Oshawott down again.

Anxious still over what Minnie suggested about the inspectors' true machinations.

Excited again to kick them in the tailbones and protect her family.

Decisions, decisions.

By the time Hilda stopped at the front door, Oshawott was only hiding behind her right leg a little less if it counted for anything. He saw her swipe her key card through the reader and allow the door to slide open. With a deep breath of his own, the Sea Otter Pokemon followed her inside and hoped for the best. Whatever that may be.

"Anybody home?" Hilda called out, leading Oshawott with a stroll. "I know I'm cutting it close but things got... complicated."

She barely noticed the burn marks on the lobby's tiles once her eyes were drawn to Grandpa Cedric laid up on once of the couches to her right. Hilda made a beeline for the Professor and found him to be napping, his limbs sprawled out across the cushions. The familiar sight made her smile in a relief from all her pins and needles.

[I've never Mr. Cedric actually rest let alone sleep,] Oshawott pondered in his fascination, jumping up for a closer look. [He always seemed... too alive?]

"He was dealing with the League last night," Hilda chuckled knowingly, squatting down. "Surprised it took this long."

[Should we leave him be?] Oshawott asked earnestly. [I'd hate to disturb his sleep.]

"We'll need all the help we can get if the inspectors aren't legit," Hilda sighed in dismay. "All he needs a liiiiittle jolt to get his engine running." She shared a rather mischievous grin with Oshawott before moving her lips towards Cedric's left ear.

The Sea Otter Pokemon was curious when he heard Hilda make what he believed to be a series of croaking noise. He was then alarmed when Cedric jolted awake with his arms and legs flailing every which way.

"Girls, cover your ears!" he yelped, shooting up from the couch. "The Palpitoads escaped again!"

"Afternoon to you too, Gramps," Hilda giggled with such cheek, getting his attention.

"Scratch that," Cedric grinned back. "It's just a naughty Zorua." He sprung up from the couch to hug Hilda with his right arm and ruffle her ponytail with left. His granddaughter really giggled like she was eight all over again.

Oshawott looked on from a few feet away and smiled himself. He could now see where Hilda got it from. Especially with that hold.

"It's just a little something to remember me by," Hilda happily swore up and down while getting loose of Cedric's grip. "If it helps, nobody else saw."

[Speaking of nobody, where are the inspectors?] Oshawott questioned while looking around. Minnie's implication stuck in their heads suffice to say.

"Good question," Hilda replied, hoping to interpret for Cedric. "I thought the usual suspects insisted on your driving them to the lab."

"At their peril," Professor Juinper joked, stretching himself out. "Though there were nothing 'usual' about them."

"Care to share with the class?" Hilda asked, trying to hide her suspicion. Though she shared an anxious glance with Oshawott ever so briefly.

"Well, our favorite three stooges called in sick and had to be swapped out at the last second," Cedric began, walking towards the main hallway.

"As in all three of them?" Hilda ask incredulously, following closely with Oshawott.

"That's what I said," Cedric laughed. "They had no choice but to stick us with four newbies." He brought them into the hallway. "Something about this being part of their 'on-the-job training' I think."

"Well, it warms my heart to know the suits think that highly of us," Hilda snarked with a bit of a pout.

"They're a colorful cast of characters for what it's worth," Cedric reassured. "You might like them."

[I-If they're new, they may go easy on us,] Oshawott put forth to reassure his Trainer but mostly himself. [I hope...]

"Oh, Oshawott, nearly slipped my mind!" Cedric claimed, taking out a Poke Ball. "A friend of your's wanted to wish you luck." He pressed the white button and enlarged the ball to unlock it.

The Poke Ball opened up to release a blue-white energy that landed on the floor and reformed into the very last thing Oshawott wanted to see: Snivy. She was already folding her arms and boring her cold gaze into his heart with her snout but a few inches from his face. So cold, it made him stop like he was literally frozen in place.

[S-Snivy,] Oshawott ventured forth with a gulp.

[I commend you for almost lasting an entire day, Water Boy,] Snivy greeted back with dry contempt. ["Almost."]

Hilda was initially delighted to see the Grass-type Starter, her second choice, before spotting Oshawott's borderline mortification all over his face. Her own face fell in concern when she recognized the way he backed away and trembled.

"Let's hustle, kids!" Cedric urged, further up ahead. "Aurea can only distract the pencil pushers for so long."

"K," Hilda assured, rushing up ahead. However, she looked down to find Oshawott retreating by her left leg while Snivy slithered up along her right side. It wasn't hard to connect her Starter's whimpers of anxiety to the icy stares his "friend" was giving him.

[I presume that you are Professor Juniper's protege,] Snivy told Hilda, looking up with a judgmental eye. [It is an honor and privilege.] Her tone certainly didn't sound like it.

"And I presume you're one of Oshawott's friend?" Hilda put forth, eying down at Snivy uneasily. "Don't think he mentioned you before." The Grass Snake Pokemon seemed unfazed by a human conversing with her or at least trying not to appear so.

["Friend" would not be how I describe our... association,] Snivy hissed sardonically, shooting her gaze back at Oshawott. [Still I have done my utmost to keep him in his place.] She let one of her vines poke out if only to make Oshawott gulp.

It was lucky for Cedric that he was caught up in going over a tangent about what Aurea was lecturing. Hilda's incredulous expression gave way to disgust in almost no time at all.

"'Place?'" she repeated with a growing disdain simmering in her voice. Suddenly, Watcher's faux pas didn't seem as egregious anymore.

[I assume by now you have observed enough of his inadequacies to understand,] Snivy went on, waving her hand almost too casually. [Few would blame you for requesting a replacement Starter.] She actually cracked something resembling a smile, a cordial one at that. [I would be honored to volunteer.]

It was like pieces of the puzzle that Hilda didn't even know were missing just fell into place out of nowhere. Oshawott's shirking. His immense humility. The way he broke down. The words that she heard him borderline bawl. Hilda's expression grew as dark as the Distortion Realm the more she glowered down at Snivy.

Oshawott anxiously looked up at Hilda's growing scowl and now forgot to be worried about Snivy coming for him. He knew enough about his Trainer by now. The odds were high that Hilda would say something the Grass Snake Pokemon would consider "out of turn."

"You do make a tempting offer," Hilda began with restrained snide, "but I'm afraid you're too late." Snivy's smile sinking was satisfying to see.

Oshawott was surprised by how his Trainer kept a lid on her true anger but not as much as when she reached down and picked him up with both hands. He found himself face to face with Hilda holding him up but a few inches from her nose. Just seeing each other made them smile and forget Snivy's attempts at superiority.

"I know where Oshawott's place is," Hilda gently promised, evoking a blush on Oshawott's adorable face with a peck on the head. "Right by my side through Unova." At the drop of a dime, her warm smile dropped into a red hot glower the second she aimed it down at Snivy. "And far away from bullies."

The Grass-Snake Pokemon had never broken composure before but here she was. Her teeth clenching and her brow knit while she glared back at Hilda.

This certainly could not stand.

"So you're truly set on your Klink theory?" Cheren asked, observing a holographic projection of the Gear Pokemon. "A century seems a bit... too little." He walked around it as it was emanated from an installment on the ceiling.

Tepig was out and about as well, trotting around the fascinating hologram from below.

"Dead set," Aurea swore, using her Tablet to zoom in on the hologram. "Metallic samples of its exoskeleton have shown a carbon dating of at least one hundred and six years, give or take." She brought up analytics of said metals on just one part of Klink. "About the same time when the transition to Unova's cleaner energy sources was completed."

"And you think Chargestone Cave might have the answers?" Bianca asked, a bit more invested that she was letting on. "Something about the electricity somehow sparking life?"

"I only need the League to approve of my budget proposal," Aurea insisted. "An extensive research trip is all I'll need to gather hard evidence."

"And this research is considered... ethical?" Vanessa chimed in from the windows next to Bright. "As in, nothing life threatening to a Pokemon." She glanced out from the second story room, mentally making a rough estimate of a hypothetical fall.

"We've had our share of scares here and there," Aurea replied firmly, knowing a grilling when she heard one. "Nothing we haven't pulled through before."

"Everyone has some skeletons in their closet," Bright claimed, sounded more serious than usual. "A squeaky clean record doesn't amount to much these days." He stuck a device no bigger than his thumb onto the tempered glass while his back was turned towards it.

"Believe me, my goddaughter would never let me hear the end of it," Aurea countered, turning off the presentation in a huff.

"Speaking of, where is this fabled Hilda of your's?" Cheren asked just as the metal door slid open by coincidence. "Don't think you can distract us for-"

"How do you do, fellow kids?" Cedric quipped while leading Hilda inside the room. "Look who turned up at the front door."

Snivy skulked up by the older Professor's right leg ever so subtly while Tepig happily came over to Aurea to see his friend's return.

"You were saying?" Aurea asked Cheren with a raise of her eyebrow.

The inspector frowned back. "Just that I hope her battle skills can make up for her punctuality," he officiously commented, eying Hilda with his own raised eyebrow.

"Sorry to wait until the last minute," Hilda swore while still holding Oshawott in her arms. "Just fine tuning a little strategy of our's."

"And we'll be happy to see it," Bianca cut in, hoping to defuse any tension. "My associate is just a stickler for time, is all." She put out her right hand with her best smile. "Bianca Whitley."

"Hilda," Hilda introduced herself while taking the inspector's hand to shake. "And my special, little man is Oshawott here."

[A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Bianca,] the Sea Otter Pokemon greeted, bowing his head. Though he couldn't help but notice a slight frown on Bianca's face when she glanced at him briefly. Pity perhaps?

Snivy scoffed at how touchy-feely Hilda was being with Oshawott and folded her arms bitterly. Tepig felt a new sort of warmth when he saw how happy his fellow Starter was with his new Trainer. He snorted steam with a nod of approval.

"I'll be the one heading this inspection as their senior," Cheren cut in, putting out his left hand while his right adjusted his glasses. "Cheren Blake at your service."

"Nice to meet you, Cherry," Hilda replied, making a slight slip of the tongue.

"Okay, that's a new one," Vanessa giggled while coming over from the windows. Bright came along side with a more hearty laugh.

"Let's... stick with Mr. Blake if you don't mind," Cheren sternly told Hilda, making her stow away a snicker. "These two are our resident comic relief duo, Bright Alans and Vanessa Alexanders."

"I'm the life of the party," Bright began, pointing to him and then Vanessa, "and she's the pooper."

"I believe the correct term 'straight man'," his adopted sister retorted.

"Case in point," Bright smarmed, making Hilda smile in amusement.

"We just might pull this one off after all," Cedric whispered to her daughter.

"The day's not over yet..." Aurea whispered back pessimistically. "Though it's nice to see them getting along."

[They actually seem nice,] Oshawott whispered up to Hilda. [Maybe Minnie overrated?]

"A neat freak like Minnie always knows when something's out of place," Hilda whispered back intently, leaning her head down. "She's can be a lot but her instincts are dead on."

[And I thought Snivy would be the worst of it,] Oshawott whimpered back.

"Hey," Hilda firmly told her Starter while petting him on the head with her right hand. "I promised that I wasn't about to give up on you." She smiled to help lift his spirits. "That means I won't let them take you away from me." Oshawott smiled back but not for long.

"Um," Cheren cut in, "are you... talking with your Pokemon?"

Hilda and Oshawott felt their faces fall flat when they looked up to find the four inspectors staring at them in confused curiosity. They could see that Aurea and Cedric shared their exact expressions down to the beat red of embarrassment.

Snivy raised her eyebrow in intrigue over her confirmed observation while Tepig only just snorted with surprise.

"Uh, yes..." Hilda began, hastily scrapping together a cover story, "don't... you talk with your's?" She raised an eyebrow at the Junipers in hopes that they'd play along while the inspectors glanced at each other incredulously.

"Hilda has quite the imagination," Cedric began with a grin, drawing everyone's attention to him. "She loves Pokemon enough to ask them how the weather is."

[Salutations,] Oshawott chimed, waving in what he hoped was distractably cute. [It's nice to meet you.]

Hilda pretended to rub her chin as if deep in thought. "Judging by his smile and tone of voice," she began, acting halfway decently, "I'd say that he'd like a hug from Mr. Alans."

Snivy's otherwise cold expression contorted once more into something ugly over their little friendship. Tepig once more smiled at Oshawott's happiness.

"I... might've taught her too much about Pokemon body language and facial expressions," Aurea added in, her hasty lying coming off as sheepishness. "Now it's like she knows what their saying if you can believe it." She joined her father in their most unconvincing laugh to date.

The inspectors didn't buy it. Yet under very different pretenses.

"Kinda reminds you of..." Bright began to whisper to Vanessa, "...you know who, right?"

"No way," Vanessa whispered back harshly. "I mean, that level of coincidence is beyond cosmic."

"It would explain why Ghetsis was personally invested in this operation," Bianca whispered to Cheren all the while. "This could be a recon mission in disguise."

"'Assuming' it's true," he repeated firmly to his partner. "Why disguise anything when he can trust us."

Neither Hilda, Oshawott nor the Professors could hear their whisperings but did find them rather suspicious

"Is... there going to be a problem?" the rookie asked, praying that the jig wasn't up.

Now it was the inspectors' collective turn to go red in the face once they lifted their heads and realized that their own cover could be blow.

"Quite the opposite," Bianca began, putting on her own fake smile while clasping her hands.

"It's... wonderful to see a Trainer and their starter with a strong bond right out the gate," Cheren continued, his smile far more faker to a most uncanny degree.

"Can't imagine life without him?" Hilda claimed, looking down at her happy Oshawott.

However, they shared a brief but sharp glance in agreement. Now they knew a hasty cover-up when they see it. Even Tepig was looking at them with concern.

"I use to talk with my Trubbish all the time," Bright chimed in.

"Gave a new meaning to talking trash," Vanessa followed up, cringing internally at such a textbook Dad Joke.

"She takes after her mother," Aurea admitted before muttering, "more than I'd prefer..."

"So... where do we begin?" Cedric questioned, looking amongst the inspectors. "Who amongst you shall be granted the honor of facing my favorite granddaughter on the field of honor?"

Aurea giggled with Hilda in embarrassment over her father's corny movie quoting while the inspectors felt awkward from the outside.

"We, uh, didn't bring any of our personal Pokemon," Cheren began, trying to get their agenda back on track. "I personally was hoping to use one of the leftover Starter Pokemon for an even enough playing field."

"I'll stay on the sidelines to evaluated with Ms. Juniper," Bianca offered as well. "Someone has to be the impartial observer."

"With Cherry?" Bright snarked cheekily. "Sure, Jan..."

"Meanwhile, Bright and I would like to inspect the Pokemon Storage System you got set up," Vanessa announced, casting a peeved look at Cedric. "Just to ensure there won't be any future incidences."

"Gramps forgot, didn't her?" Hilda assumed wearily, leaning in to whisper to Aurea.

"Never even occurred to him..." her godmother groaned, rubbing the bridge of her nose.

"I'd be happy to obliged," Cedric sheepishly promised while strolling over to Mr. Alans and Ms. Alexanders. "Saves you the trouble of losing to my granddaughter." His attempt at a joke at least made Hilda feel better about her odds.

"Speaking of, which Starter would you prefer to pick?" Aurea asked, picking up Tepig to hold him up to Cheren. "Not to rig any bets but our current Tepig has shown to hold his own against a few splashes."

Hilda couldn't help but notice a melancholy grimace cross Cheren's face for even a few seconds. The inspectors also seemed to join in their leader's discomfort when she noticed their expressions as well.

"Sorry but..." Cheren began, "...I'm not exactly one for Fire-types."

Before anyone could answer, Snivy's eyes glinted upon seeing the opportunity she'd been waiting for. A small yet sly smile cracked across her lips.

[I would be most humbled to be your temporary Pokemon,] Snivy spoke up, stepping towards the inspectors with a more welcoming smile. [It is but our obligation to ensure our naive rookie is... enlightened of her subpar selection.] She stopped before Cheren and bowed with some show of cordiality.

Hilda didn't hesitate to glare down at the Grass Snake Pokemon while Oshawott felt his blood run cold with a fearful frown in her arms.

"It's nice of you, Snivy," Aurea told the Grass-type in her ignorance, "but it'd be a bit overkill."

"Not if your goddaughter's as good as you say she is," Cheren spoke back firmly, adjusting his glasses. "A type-disadvantage is just the challenge she ought to navigate." He knelt down to the Snivy and fell for her facade.

[I do believe we are kin, good sir," the Grass Snake Pokemon claimed with genuine appreciation.

"Out of the question!" Hilda exclaimed with a sudden burst of anger, all eyes turning to her in surprise. "This Snivy has been bullying Oshawott." She went so far as to point directly at the Grass Snake Pokemon. "She just wants to knock him around again."

"And is that another one of your 'translations?'" Cheren questioned with a raise of his eyebrow. Her colleagues shared her suspicion with but a glance between them.

"Well..." Hilda began, scrambling for any kind of cover, "I-I feel Oshawott trembling in my arms." She wasn't even lying this time with how the Sea Otter Pokemon felt so shaky.

"Pre-show jitters happen even to Pokemon," Bianca said with a more friendly tone of voice. "If there was bullying amongst the Starters, wouldn't the Professors have known about it?"

Neither Aurea nor Cedric could hide their shared frowns of dismay with each other, realizing how such abuse had gone under the radar. Hilda saw this from afar and sighed in defeat, knowing just how they felt.

"Yes, they... likely would've," Hilda muttered, petting Oshawott apologetically. "Sorry..." She couldn't look him in the eye but could hear him whimper in resignation.

[I presume this is, as you humans call it, check and mate,] Snivy told Hilda through her facade.

Her smile and language barrier made it seem to Cheren that she was eager to get started. However, her side glance showed a glint of smugness that made Hilda scowl and Oshawott shiver. As the Professors made the final arrangements with the inspectors, the Trainer and Starter pair found themselves with yet another ordeal.

It was unfortunate that this all distracted them from hearing Bright and Vanessa whispering about "the plan." They were eying the Professors with what seemed like harsh judgement but nobody considered it was for another sort of "inspection."

Swiping his card through the reader, the Pokemon Storage System room slides open to allow Cedric to lead Bright and Vanessa inside. To their left are four big shelves of every Pokemon of Unova that the laboratory has so far with a few from other regions. Neither Bright nor Vanessa could hide their grimaces of disgust.

"Criticize to your heart's content, kids," Cedric challenged, oblivious to their true feelings. "I know how to roll with the punches."

"You do let these Pokemon out regularly," Bright began, unsettled by so many rows. "Within safety precautions, I mean." He subtly made his way down a row in the middle.

"Hilda wouldn't let us hear the end of it," Cedric jovially answered while heading to his right. "I told her that the Poke Balls suspend all bodily functions like eating but she made such a face and went so far as to release a few herself." He made his way over to the large computer terminal to their right. "When she makes a statement, she makes it loud."

"Smart kid," Vanessa remarked with a slight smirk, taking out a Poke Ball from her right pocket. "I take it this over-grown calculator operates the Transfer System both internal and ex?" She was at least impressed with the installment of a holo-keyboard emitter.

"Anywhere in the lab or in Unova," Cedric claimed proudly, booting up the computer already. "Thanks to the Poke Transfer Lab's newest upgrades, we can even go beyond." He entered his password right when Vanessa pressed the white button on her Poke Ball. "Allow me to demonstrate..."

"Oh no, Professor," Vanessa spoke kindly before her face sunk into something sullen. "I insist."

The sound of a Pokemon popping out of a ball naturally got Cedric to turn around in curiosity. Next thing he knew, a Sewaddle was spewing a String Shot that covered his torso and legs. He fell to the floor, just barely avoiding hitting his head with his left shoulder bracing.

"If this about the Joltik, I said I was sorry," the Professor insisted even as Vanessa walked right over him. "The League isn't going to take this lightly." She just typed away on the holo-keyboard while her Sewaddle guarded Cedric, giving him a firm look in the eye.

"I'm sorry but the fact that you're so much as insinuating that I work for that institution is liable to make me puke my guts out," Vanessa coarsely replied, typing non-stop. "Trust me, I will aim it at you." She focused on initiating the Transfer System by feeding in the proper co-ordinates and starting a connection with an outgoing signal.

"Excuse me?" Cedric managed to say after Vanessa's word salad left him at a loss for any.

"Bright, how are you on gathering the Poke Balls?" Ms. Alexanders called out to her adopted brother while punching in the final codes.

"Timburr's covering the second shelves," Vanessa heard from behind along with hard plops into plastic boxes. "I got number one."

"Really if we could only just talk this over-" Cedric began before Vanessa cast such a look of disgust towards him.

"Did it ever occurred to what you were doing was wrong?" she questioned the Professor intently like they were in an interrogation. "Enabling kids to become Trainers, treating Pokemon as experimental fodder, locking them up in glorified cages."

Cedric paused after such a small yet vocal diatribe and stared Vanessa incredulously for mere seconds that felt like years.

"Who even are you people?" the Professor asked, his cherry disposition fading fast.

"Exactly what Unova needs," Vanessa answered firmly, taking out her Personal Computer and tapping "Swap Clothes."

To Be Continued...

Something tells me that those aren't Pokemon League Inspectors. I dunno. Just a hunch. We'll see what Cheren and Bianca plan to do when Snivy Strikes Back.

Thank you for reading my fanfiction. I cut it short this time since I felt it had a very nice emotional vibe to it on its own.

Write up a comment or a full blown review about what you liked or loathed about my work. I can roll with the punches so let me have it.


Well-Known Member
The grand finale has come. Oshawott faces Snivy once more with one major difference: Hilda. Will it be enough? And who are Cheren & Bianca actually?

Chapter 10: Snivy Strikes Back

Oshawott whimpered and tensed up when Hilda carried him into the laboratory's primary battlefield. They followed Cheren towards the center while the Sea Otter Pokemon's mind replayed all of the worst battles he had in this room like a bad clip-show. Most if not all of them involved Snivy naturally.

It didn't help that the Grass Snake Pokemon was standing in front of Oshawott on Cheren's right shoulder. Her nose was even stuck up like a tyrant presiding over her domain. The icy cold stare in her right eye alone turned towards him, sending a message as clear as crystal: you are mine.

Hilda could see Snivy's stare with her own glare in response and feel Oshawott shakily breath in her arms. His heartbeat could win a literal race at its pace. She softly petted him on the head with her right arm and felt his anxious ticks decrease. However, Hilda's mind was hard at work strategizing her opening gambit. Only one thing came to mind.

No choice, Hilda thought with a slight grimace. We will have to use that technique.

All the while, Aurea had led Bianca to the bench just on the sidelines and sat with her in the middle for the best possible view. While the Professor was organizing her papers on an old fashioned clipboard for preservation's sake, Bianca secretly tapped the small com in her ear to activate it.

"Will you be okay?" she asked Cheren with her most hushed voice possible.

"I think I'll be able to drag this out," Bianca heard him while glancing to see Aurea still preoccupied. "I'll just pretend to be going easy on a rookie."

"No, I mean," she replied, making sure her voice is still down, "battling like a Trainer again." She turned her head to her left in order to hide her worrisome face. "It's just that the Tepig and-"

"We didn't don our armor because it was easy," she heard Cheren reassured however hastily while he neared the center.

"But because somebody has to do it," Bianca finished softly with a sigh.

"Excuse me?" Aurea asked curiously, making the inspector gasp.

"Just... reminding myself not to worry," Bianca hastily claimed, barely even lying this time. She reached back to pretend that she was rubbing her neck in discomfort when she really taps her com to make it go radio silent.

All the while, Cheren turned around to face Hilda in the middle of the battlefield before picking Snivy off of his shoulder and setting her down.

"Let's shake on the match to come," he offered with a friendly enough demeanor, "and let our Pokemon do the same."

Hilda clenched her jaw to keep her from disputing and making another scene. It didn't help that Oshawott was holding her arm a tad tighter at that moment.

"To a good game then," she sighed in resignation while setting her Starter down. "Don't hold back on my account because I will know." She held out her hand for Cheren to take.

"The Professors have told me nothing but good things to come," the inspector replied with a tone of determination, somewhat sincere. "I was about to ask the same really."

Down below, Oshawott clammed up when Snivy stepped over with her usual cold stare before she suddenly made a slight smile.

[To our next battle...] she claimed, holding out her tiny strand of a right hand.

Oshawott felt more at ease by this and put out his right paw however cautiously. Snivy took it to shake before leaning her head in and dropping any trace of warmth from her face.

[And a well-deserved punishment,] the Grass Snake Pokemon hissed coldly into Oshawott's face. [I have but acted within the parameters set by Professor Juniper yet now a League Official has arrived to assist me with your... remedial lessons as they were.]

Any ease the Sea Otter Pokemon felt evaporate when he saw Snivy's brow knit more than it'd even done before. He could tell that she was going to squeeze every last bit of suffering into this match.

Before Oshawott could be fully frozen in fear, Hilda snapped him out of it by pulling him away ever so slightly with both hand to his hips. He craned his head up and saw the most reassuring sight in Hilda's defensive glare aimed squarely at Snivy.

"He's not alone this time," she declared while squatting behind her Starter, "and the bullies I've met are bad with numbers." She saw the Grass-type scoff in dismissal before walking back towards a curious looking Cheren.

"Trainers, take your positions," Aurea called out, her firm tone trying to keep things clean...ish.

"You... don't seem fond of Snivys," he ventured forth, remembering how she seemed to be attentive to his Pokemon before. She had to be responding directly then.

"Some tend to be... a bit much," Hilda admitted, straightening out her posture and demeanor. "Come along, Oshawott."

Cheren saw her turn away and lead her Starter towards her side of the battlefield before turning to do the same with Snivy. However, he couldn't help but glance back in his growing intrigue.

[T-thank you, Hilda,] Oshawott managed to get out, his anxiety alleviating. [It's weird but... I actually don't feel quite as nervous facing Snivy again.] He smiled up at her with what felt like a lighter weight on his heart. [Not when you're with me.]

"I can't keep her from pushing you around out there," Hilda sighed with a weathered tone of voice, "but I know we can give her a taste of her own medicine together." She cast a soft yet determined smile down upon him. "Do you trust me?"

[With my life,] Oshawott replied, nodding his head in a mini-bow.

Both Trainers and respective Pokemon reached their end of the battlefield before turning around to face each other. Oshawott kept Hilda's glare fresh in his mind if only to make his own towards Snivy herself. Even if he went down, he wanted to go out as brave as his own Trainer.

"Take the first move," Cheren offered as Snivy stood before him. "My treat."

Oshawott swallowed. He told himself that whatever move Hilda ordered was going to be perfect. The flipper in the door to victory would be all but secured for them.

"Who's says chivalry is dead?" Hilda snarked with a battle ready smirk. "Oshawott, give us a Tail Whip!"

The Sea Otter Pokemon felt the wind taken out of his sails and nearly collapsed from exasperation alone. All the while, Snivy raised her eyebrows in intrigue over this choice.

"That's what she's going with?" Cheren questioned in confusion.

[B-b-but,] Oshawott spluttered while turning back toward Hilda with such a pout, [you promised it would be a last resort!] His fore arms flailed up and down in his protesting before his Trainer knelt down to his level.

"When I thought you wouldn't have to face Snivy," Hilda reassured up and down, looking Oshawott softly in the eye. "But we here we are."

"What are you up to?" Cheren asked himself, observing his opponent conversing with his Pokemon yet again.

Snivy's cold stare tensed into a frown over this silly back and forth unfolding.

[But I'll...] Oshawott began to protest despite knowing Hilda had a point, [you know...] He stopped when his Trainer put her palm on his cheek and smiled.

"Just show them what I love about you," Hilda encouraged warmly, looking on as Oshawott settled down.

However, Snivy's frown evolved into a full on scowl over what she perceived as a mockery of her skill.

[All of this fluff is liable to make me ill,] she declared spitefully before turning towards Cheren. [Are we meant to merely stand here and take it up the-?]

Cheren had been trying to sus out Hilda talking with Oshawott when Snivy's hiss hit his ears like ice water and sent shivers down his spine. He looked down to see his Pokemon all worked up and even protruding a vine from her shoulder petal. No one needed to speak her native tongue to pick up on her ire.

"Guess we're lighting the fuse ourselves," Cheren supposed to himself, sensing his Starter's impatience. "Snivy, Tackle 'em!"

Hilda and Oshawott immediately dropped their little heart-to-heart to look towards the other side frantically. There was Snivy sprinting towards them in a tearing hurry and building up Normal-type Energy all the while. From their vantage point, she looked like a real snake slithering at a breakneck pace.

"Showtime," Hilda proclaimed while springing back up to her feet. "Tail Whip, Oshawott!"

[Here goes nothing,] the Sea Otter Pokemon decided with a gulp, [...or everything.] He stepped on out onto the battlefield and turned his back onto the oncoming Snivy.

At first, Snivy was perturbed by Oshawott leaving himself wide open like that. Then her stone cold face fell in disbelief when her opponent began to shake his hide from side to side and whip his tail all the while. She felt so incredulous that her feet slowed to a near crawl just to take it all in and soon stopped with her energy diminishing.

[I knew this is too embarrassing...] Oshawott whined with his usual pout even as he kept up the shake. [Hilda, are you sure-]

"Ooooooooo," his Trainer squealed with grin of delight. "Wook at the wittle guy wigglin' his tail." She even held her fist up to her chin in this continuing fit of adoration.

[Well, at least somebody's enjoying themselves,] Oshawott grumbled in annoyance, forgetting to be humiliated even with his growing blush.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Hilda furiously insisted, collecting herself best she could. "But you weally are sow kyute."

Oshawott might've pouted but secretly enjoyed Hilda gushing all over him. And not just her when he looked back to see his opponent's reaction

[Is this all but a game to you?] Snivy demanded to know in her offense. [Or should I interpret this as your unconditional surrender?]

"Wait..." Cheren pondered to himself, slowing piecing it together. "I think I know this one."

Aurea smirked in pride while Bianca giggled in adoration of Oshawott's little booty shake. "Bold choice, niece," she remarked, jotting down her notes.

"Wash 'em out with Water Gun!" Hilda belted from out of the blue.

Snivy's irritation turned into confusion when Oshawott swung around on his flipper tips and quickly spewed out concentrated water with quite the glare. He was charging his throat with Water-Type Energy on the fly and building up the pressurized output for as long as he could hold the attack.

Snivy had been caught off guard too much to not get hit by the blasting liquid. She stood her ground at first but quickly lost her footing and got flung backwards towards her side of the battlefield. Snivy hit the hard floor painfully once the blast died down and rolled to a stop. She felt wet, dizzy and humiliated in a horrible three-for-one deal.

"Now that's over-watering the lawn!" Hilda cheered, punching the air.

"It was so stupid-looking that we let our guard down," Cheren irrately muttered, clenching his fist. "So much for buying time..."

"Most rookies see non-damage attacks as a waste of battle time," Bianca asked with slight admiration back on the benches. "Well, at least, I use to."

"Hilda use to just like her mother tended to," Aurea proudly proclaimed, jotting down more notes. "But my father and I personally believe in the value of every kind of attack."

Oshawott panted heavily. Not just from the on-the-spot Water Gun but from disbelief of what had just happened. There was Snivy stumbling while trying to stand back up because of an distraction and attack he had pulled off. This never happened before. But then again, he had never been able to pull off Tail Whip before she got the last word-

"Keep the ball rolling, Oshawott!" Hilda ordered, only sparing second for him. "Tackle Snivy while she's still out of it."

Oshawott snapped out of his stupor of success and immediately set his sights on the Grass Snake Pokemon. He knit his brow while sharing Hilda's triumphant grin and charging his body with Normal-type Energy.

"Okay!" Oshawott affirmed before racing off in a tearing hurry.

"Snivy, try to gain some distance," Cheren urged, snapping back into the battle himself. "Get ready to Tackle on my mark!"

Snivy clenched her teeth and widened her eyes upon seeing the Sea Otter Pokemon heading her. She didn't know what was making her tremble more. The fact that Oshawott got her to fall for that juvenile gambit or the fact that she felt damage from a Water-type move. Either way, this mistake had to be corrected.

Snivy forced herself to stand back up steady when her left foot stepped onto a patch of water from Oshawott's attack and made her slip. While she tried to maintain balance, the Sea Otter Pokemon stepped onto a patch himself in his mad dash and slid across the floor. He kept himself balanced when he found that his speed was increasing.

"All according to plan," Hilda confidently claimed, her finger folded before her mouth.

Snivy regained her footing but only then just looked up in time to see Oshawott closing on her. The slip enhanced his Tackle as the Grass Snake Pokemon soon felt when he rammed full force into her. Snivy barely had time to register the pain before she hit the floor and rolled flat onto her front.

"Seeeeeetrike!" Hilda cheered while Oshawott braked to a stop.

No way did she plan that out, Cheren thought audibly to himself, Snivy laying only two feet from him. She just improvised terribly well. He began to grin when a beep sounded in his ear.

"Don't get invested," Bianca warned anxiously over the comlink. "That Snivy's only getting battered for the sake of the greater good."

"I'm not trying to," Cheren whispered back defensively, trying to glance towards his partner. "But I need to make this last somehow."

Oshawott panted heavily from the two attacks in a row he had pulled off and from the sight of a soaked Snivy struggling to get back up. This was actually happened. He was actually standing a chance. A smile widened on his face as he caught his breath and felt a well of confidence bubble up inside of his heart.

[This is inconceivable...] Snivy exclaimed while still slouching from her attacks. [You are meant to plead for my mercy!] Any attempt at a calm demeanor flew straight out of the window.

[What can I say?] Oshawott began with such cocksure, pretending to be too cool for the room. [I'm just doing my best.]

Snivy's scowl seethed when she remembered how he once said something similar but as the whimpering whelp he was supposed to be. The sight of Oshawott being so sure of himself really was about to make her puke.

Snivy glanced back to see that Cheren was trying to figure out his next move and looked back to Hilda. Her opponent was clearly waiting on her side to make the next move and pivot accordingly. Of course, Cheren wasn't her actual Trainer so...

[As I cordially informed you, Water Boy,] Snivy hissed while empowering her eyes with Normal-type Energy, [your "best" will NEVER suffice!] She make eye contact with Oshawott with a flashing glint in her furious pupils.

Seeing the Sea Otter Pokemon shudder and lose all trace of his confident smile was nothing short of cathartic for Snivy. She almost thought that Hilda's expression of dismay was her getting a look at her near paralyzing stare. Either way, their little hot streak was about to run cold.

"Snivy, wait!" Cheren protested, snapping out of his thoughts. "I didn't give the order yet."

[Then cease your indecision and deliver me an actual tactic,] Snivy hissed back, tempted to Leer right at him too.

The Grass Snake Pokemon's frustrations transcended any language barrier as far as Cheren was concerned. He decided to play it by ear lest she took any further initiative that might cut the battle short.

"Deep breaths, Oshawott," Hilda advised her Starter. "Don't let her get to you."

Oshawott steadied his breathing as ordered but felt his defenses dropping like stones and his whole body trembling almost involuntarily. However, he clung to his confidence and reminded himself that he's still gone this long without taking a hit.

"Snivy, lash out with Vine Whip," Cheren ordered.


Oshawott trembled further upon seeing Snivy strut towards him while extending the vines out from under her shoulder. The glare she wore was like she caught him sneaking desert before dinner. A crack of her right whip on the floor made his heart skip a beat.

[I knew this was too good to be true...] Oshawott whimpered, slipping back into his familiar anxieties.

"Defend with your Shell Blade!" Hilda hastily ordered, seeing her starter beginning to cower. "Keep an eye out for any fast ones!"

Oshawott gritted his teeth and grabbed his Scalchop off of his bellybutton just as Snivy slowly stepped within striking range. Her cold glare remained unchanging as her right vine surged forward upon his left. The Sea Otter Pokemon channeled Water-type Energy into his shell just in in the nick of time.

Oshawott unsheathed his Shell Blade and held it flat to block the first whip, bracing himself from falling over. However, Snivy's left vine was quick to stretch ahead as soon as the right had struck.

"On your right!" Hilda warned just in time.

Oshawott swiftly deflected the left vine away from him with a Razor Shell slash in a near blink of an eye. Snivy winced but didn't deter from having her right vine make another attempt while still in range.

"Jump back!" Hilda hasilty ordered.

Oshawott leaped backwards on cue and barely missed the right vine when it passed his belly. He reflexively delivered a diagonal slash upwards to deflect it once Snivy made another attempt.

"My turn now," Snivy whispered upon spotting the opportunity she was looking for.

The right vine slithered around the Shell Blade as soon as it made contact and would've been yanked right out of Oshawott's hand if he didn't dig deep enough. He yelped while holding onto the Scalchop with both of his paws and trying to pull it back.

"I didn't order that," Cheren exclaimed, sharing the same look of concern with Hilda.

The tug of war distracted Oshawott just enough for Snivy's left vine to slap him across the face. The Sea Otter Pokemon felt onto a lingering puddle with a splash and winced at the shining red bruise on his right cheek.

"No..." Hilda muttered when she saw her Starter fall, berating herself for being too shocked to warn him. "Oshawott, hurry and get up now!"

Oshawott struggled despite the damage he took and got up just in time to see Snivy's right vine grip his Shell Blade tighter. So tight that it eventually gave way and shattered into the water molecules, the Scalchop falling to the ground. Oshawott felt his spirits reach a new low from such a cruel flex of power.

"Water Gun!" Hilda hastily ordered, trying to shake off her own dread.

"Snivy, let's reign it in," Cheren softly suggested, worried that his Starter was about to really go rogue.

[My thoughts exact,] Snivy remarked while shooting her left vine forward at a near breakneck pace.

Trembling all over, Oshawott felt his throat dry up from his growing anxieties and was slow to charge it with Water-type Energy. Too slow to avoid Snivy's left vine grabbing his right flipper and hoisting him up into the air.

"Whoa!" he yelped frantically, knowing what was to come.

"Oshawott!" Hilda screamed in desperation, clenching her fist.

There was her Starter hanging upside down and flailing his paws about in a feeble attempt to get free. Worst still was seeing Snivy use her right vine to whip Oshawott. First, across his left check. Then, across his belly. Soon the Grass Snake Pokemon was striking her living punching bag indiscriminately any which way she could.

Hilda winced with every strike she saw and heard. That pit in her stomach grew to the size of a mini Giant Chasm the more she looked on helplessly. Hilda took out her Poke Ball in contemplation of calling off the match when she remembered everything she told Oshawott. Her promises. Her faith in him.

Hilda swallowed hard. There was a slim chance that Oshawott could make it out. But "slim" was putting it kindly.

"This is too much," Bianca claimed to Aurea back on the benches. "We have to call off the match now."

"Not unless one of the participants claims a surrender or lose," Professor Juniper replied with a rather cold voice, still writing on her clipboard. "You should know the regulations for these inspections." She wore a rather rigid expression all the while.

"Forget regulations," Bianca proclaimed in her worrisome tone of voice. "Isn't that your goddaughter out-?"

"The League wanted to determine if I was playing favorites with family," Aurea retorted with a bit more a stern vibe in her words. "Hilda wouldn't let me hear the end of it even if it was for Oshawott's sake."

"But-" Bianca began before realizing that she could blow her cover. "It's too cruel..." She clenched her fists before turning away and tapping her ear com to whisper. "Cheren..."

"I know," Cheren replied under his breath. "But Vanessa still needs time." His teeth clenched in his guilt when he heard his partner sigh in despair. "I'm sorry... truly."

Back on the battlefield, Snivy continued to ignore Cheren in favor of punishing Oshawott. She was very particular with the strength of her Vine Whips and only utilized fractions of her Grass-type Energy for small by painful stings. A quick defeat would never be enough to rectify the Sea Otter Pokemon's disobedience.

Sure enough, Snivy loosened his grip on Oshawott's right flipper and allowed him to fall to the floor while drawing back her vines. The Sea Otter Pokemon felt too sore all over to brace himself and grunted when he hit the floor like a sack of potatoes front first. He could hardly believe that he wasn't half dead already.

[You brought this all upon yourself, you know that?] Snivy hissed vehemently while stepping forth. [You and this sentimental simpleton you call a Trainer.] She saw Oshawott groaning as he began to push himself up slow but shakily. [I have given you every opportunity to remember yet even now, you dare to have ideas above your station.]

"What is your damage?" Hilda demanded to know in her exasperation. "So you didn't get picked, big whoop!" She could only hope to draw her attention. "Who would want to deal with your rank attitude?"

[Somebody who might actually values true strength for instance,] Snivy hissed back, approaching Oshawott with her right vine poking out. [Enlighten me, will you?] She wrapped tightly around his chest just under his armpits and lifted him up. [What potential could you ever hope to see in this pitiful whelp?]

Oshawott breathed more easily but panted just from behind held up to his feet. Seeing Snivy's face contorting more into a furious scowl didn't feel as scary as before. It was almost as though she'd put him through so much that he hardly felt like he had much to lose.

"My mother and Auntie taught me something that I could never forget," Hilda began with a tranquil fury in her growing voice, her fists balled. "That even the most weak Pokemon in the world can become something special with a Trainer who believes." Her blue eyes almost seemed to shimmer like fire set to scalding heat. "And I believe in Oshawott."

Cheren was distracted from his concerns with Snivy upon hearing Hilda most certainly talk with his Pokemon. Bianca didn't say anything to Aurea but shared her partner's returning suspicions. They kept to themselves to observe further.

"And even if he doesn't become the strongest Pokemon in Unova, well," Hilda began again while lifting her glare into more a grin, "I'll at least have my new best friend." Snivy's scowl turned more confused if anything.

Oshawott's weary eyes lit up ever so steadily when he began to know why he wasn't so scared like before. At that same moment, Aurea's mostly neutral expression cracked a warm smile.

[This malignant stain?] Snivy retorted in aggravated exasperation, turning her gaze back at Oshawott. [He's piteous, spineless, insignificant-]

[-able to attack at point blank range,] the Sea Otter Pokemon spoke up, his confident tone of voice making a comeback.

[What?] Snivy gasped before Oshawott widened his mouth and blasted a huge concentration of water in her face. Her vine came loose when she was pushed back towards Cheren.

"Whoa!" the inspector cried when he hastily dodged Snivy.

The Water Gun soon died down and let the Grass Snake Pokemon hit the floor just a few feet shy of the wall. Snivy slide to a stop on her front and coughed up water that got in her mouth. All the while, Oshawott managed to stand upright while noticing a slight blue glow surrounding his body curiously.

"Oshawott, I could kiss you!" Hilda cheered before checking her PokeDex.. "With your Ability, Torrent, you can boost your Water-Type Attacks when back into a corner."

Snivy got back up in time to see Oshawott jumping for joy and felt her body actually start to ache. Was she... really about to lose? To him?

Cheren looked back at that same moment and worried that Hilda would end this far too soon until his comlink activated.

"Almost done cleaning house, boss," Vanessa's voice chimed in. "You good on your end?"

"Depends on your definition of 'good'," Cheren replied as quietly as possible. "Wait for my call." He turned off the comlink quickly when he heard Hilda explain Torrent. It got him to remember that his Starter had a similar ability.

"Leaf Tornado!" Snivy heard Cheren order, snapping out of her stupor. She had been so thoroughly thrown for a loop that the thought had never occurred to her. Straightening her posture, the Grass Snake Pokemon charged her body with every bit of Grass-type Energy she could scrap up.

Oshawott stopped jumping and looked back up at Snivy. His eyes shrunk in terror when he saw her returning to the battlefield and the way her body also glowing green. The Sea Otter Pokemon never seen her Overgrow Ability on account of losing so much but he knew it when he saw it.

[Now where were we?] Snivy pretended to ponder, feeling herself bursting at the seams with a massive influx of Grass-type Energy. [Ah yes... extinguishing your hopes and dreams.] She jumped into the air with a spin and continued to rotate when the air in the room began to whip around her.

It only took a second for a cyclone to form around Snivy, full of green leaf-like projectiles that surrounded her. Hilda and Oshawott tried to shield their eyes from the battering winds while keeping their footing solid enough while Cheren had his glasses to help him. The water from the previous attacks dried up in no time thanks to the cold gusts.

Despite spinning to keep up the attack, Snivy kept her head clear enough to move the Leaf Tornado forward towards Oshawott's general location. Hilda managed to put on some Go-Goggles straight from her Personal Computer just in time.

"Oshawott!" Hilda shouted. "Get away fast!"

Oshawott opened his eyes just enough to be freaked out by the giant green vortex of certain doom. He ran as fast as the whipping winds would allow him and found it miraculous that he was able to stay on his flippers. He zig-zagged as much as he could but the terrifying tunnel of wind stayed on his tail near perfectly.

[At least receive your defeat with a modicum of dignity,] Snivy spoke even if her voice would be obscured by the winds.

Oshawott was getting some distance before he looked ahead and saw that Hilda was just a foot away. He looped around to his right and led the Leaf Tornado so his Trainer wouldn't get swept up.

Instead, Aurea and Bianca felt the wind blast them as he and the massive funnel rushed past them. Professor Juniper would've been upset over her papers being scattered if she and the inspector could see through the ever growing gusts.

"Call her off!" Bianca cried to Cheren through her ear-com, sure that Aurea wouldn't be able to hear her. "This is overkill!"

"I've been trying!" her partner called back. "Either she can't hear me over the wind or she's not listening."

Aurea was indeed not paying any mind to Bianca's secret chats and more concerning herself with Hilda. She could see such a tense expression on her goddaughter's expression, her brain being wracked for any solution however unlikely.

"Give her strength, Helga," the Professor whispered to herself hopefully.

Hilda scanned the battlefield for anything at all, gritting her teeth and clenching her fist in growing desperation. She could still remember Oshawott's overwhelming sadness when he sobbed, the way he bared his soul to cry out for her help.

"Not again," Hilda vowed to herself, her brow knit like the Gordian Knot. "Never again!"

That when it finally caught the corner of her eye to her right despite the winds.

"Oshawott, bank right!" Hilda barked out over the loud Leaf Tornado. "Eyes to the floor!"

Oshawott knew he hardly had any other ideas and looped around the right side of the battlefield before he got too close to Cheren. Snivy's massive wind tunnel of doom followed close behind just as he spotted what Hilda had spotted: his Scalchop.

The Sea Otter Pokemon managed to sprint just a tiny bit faster and get closer to his Scalchop all while the wind tunnel closed in on him. He had only snagged his shell when he felt his flippers leave the ground and the wind pull him towards the Leaf Tornado.

"I believe in you, friend," Hilda pleaded as she saw Oshawott become sucked into the cyclone. "Now believe in yourself."

Oshawott winced when the leaf projectiles battered him and the wind tossed him around like clothes in a spin-cycle. In spite of this, he focused his Water-type Energy into his Scalchop and looked up to get a clear view of Snivy. Slowly but surely, the Sea Otter Pokemon was rising up towards her and figuring out the rest of Hilda's plan.

Snivy was so caught up in assuming victory that she never noticed Oshawott's blue aura until he unsheathed his Shell Blade just one cycle down from her. He held his Scalchop with both paws and swiftly served a vertical slash upwards across her torso. She was spinning far too fast to defend herself or properly evade.

The Leaf Tornado destabilized and dissipated almost all at once. Both Snivy and Oshawott felt too damaged to brace themselves for a very rough crash landing, the pair ending up on their fronts. The Scalchop skidded across the floor to Aurea's foot before she picked it up.

"I declare this match a tie!" she bellowed, smiling warmly.

Cheren grimaced while Hilda doubled punched the air with a rousing roar of victory and sprinted towards Oshawott just as happily. The inspector walked towards Snivy and couldn't help but wince over the bruises across her body.

Meanwhile, Hilda slowed down when she reached Oshawott and found him rolling around onto his back in his attempt to lift himself up. She caught her breath and settled her excited grin into a simmering smile when she saw how rough of a shape her little guy was in. The young lady slowly sat herself down with her legs crossed.

Oshawott regained enough strength to lift his head up and see a sitting Hilda smiling down at him with such pride in her eyes. It was enough to ease his aches and pain however little as he merely laid there and smiled back, happy tears beading in the corner of his eyes. They didn't have to say it by now. Just sharing each other's company was enough.

"Snivy!" Cheren called out, reaching his fallen Starter at that moment. "Are you okay?" He reached out his hand to help her up.

Snivy was frustrated enough over her lose on top of how battered her body had become. As a result, the look of sympathy and worry she saw on Cheren's face above her came across as pity at best. She had enough strength to sprout her right vine and slap the inspector's hand away.

Cheren winced while rubbing his wounded right hand and saw such a vicious scowl on Snivy's face that answered his questioned wordlessly. He replied with a rather solemn look on his face and took out her Poke Ball.

"Return and take a rest," Cheren ordered, trying to keep his emotions in check. However, the bad memories began to flash back in his mind.

The Poke Ball shot a red beam that converted Snivy's body into energy. As she was pulled into the device, the Grass Snake Pokemon cursed with every hiss over how she could have been defeated by such a faillure.

She was the better... right?

She was the proper choice... wasn't she?

The Poke Ball snapped shut before Cheren looked down on it and began to become lost in his thoughts. This loss... hurt the inspector's feelings more than it should. He failed to get his Pokemon to listen to him when he needed it. He even failed to properly keep in control when their strategies fell apart.

It really was like being a Trainer all over again.

From the benches, Bianca caught a stern if troubled frown from Cheren that told her that it was time to get ready. She swallowed hard and turned towards Aurea. The Professor was luckily preoccupied with collecting the very last of the papers that'd been blown to the floor.

"Professor," Bianca called out, strolling towards Aurea. "I would like to discuss something pertaining to Snivy's... troubling behavior if you don't mind." Professor Juniper thankfully looked her way and took her attention from the battlefield just in time.

Cheren waited for Bianca to start talking with Aurea before heading over towards Hilda and Oshawott. As luck would have it, she was already heading his way with her Starter craddled in her arms. He steadied his breathing and urged himself to act naturally enough once they met in the middle.

"I'm sorry I didn't listen to you about Snivy," Cheren apologized with a sheepish front. "I would've recalled her but I was too sure about reigning her in."

"I did tell you not to hold back, didn't I?" Hilda chortled ever so slightly, setting a mostly rested Oshawott down by her feet. "Careful what you wish for." She blepped her tongue out in cheek.

"All the same, I put Oshawott through hell thanks to my judgement," Cheren sighed with a more melancholy frown, eyes drifting off slightly. "Now I remember why I'm not a Trainer anymore..."

[I appreciate your apology, sir,] Oshawott replied with a cordial bowed, still sore but also still respectful. [Though... I'm glad that you did... if only so I could show myself what I could really do.] He glanced up at Hilda to share a grateful smile with her. [I think... my best just might be good enough...]

Cheren raised his right eyebrow. "He's... taking this all very well," he replied to Hilda in slight concern. "He did just get whipped to hell and back, right?"

"Pokemon are made of sterner stuff than we human will ever be," the rookie happily responded while squatting to pet Oshawott on the head. "You just need to have faith that they can roll with the punches even if it gets dicey."

"I see..." Cheren claimed in disappointment. "They brainwashed you good, didn't you?" He reached into his pocket just as Hilda looked up at him in confusion.

"Snag Ball, go!" Cheren cried out loudly while jumping backwards and throwing a projectile.

Everything seemed to happen all at once. Oshawott felt something small hit his forehead and saw it land before him as a regular Poke Ball. However, it opened up to unleash a net that ensnared his body before he could think to yelp for help.

Hilda had sprung to her feet instinctively and was mortified by Oshawott wriggling around in the net, clearly too weak to make a tear in it. She was about to ask Cheren what the hell was going on with some very strong language but instead found the inspector throwing something glowy at her.

A zap was loud enough to tear Aurea away from her talk with Bianca and got her to see Hilda falling onto the floor back first. Electric sparks popped from her body when she twtiched and clenched in a fit of pain. She then saw Cheren run from her to grab the net containing a protesting Oshawott.

"What the f-" Aurea began to say in her disbelief.

"I am... so terribly sorry for this," Bianca promised, the Professor turning back for her. Her right hand swiftly took out a small glowing marble and threw it at the Pokemon Researcher.

Aurea cried out in pain when the ball hit her in the belly and gave her what she recognized as an electric shock. It was as strong as one of the Joltik from this morning and just enough to make her fall over. Her nerves were aflame with trembles and twitches occurring all over herself.

[Lemme go, lemme go!] Oshawott cried, rocking about in the net. [HILDA, HELP!]

Hilda managed to endure the fresh shock enough to start lifting herself up and look towards the door. She gritted her teeth tenaciously and saw Bianca join Cheren to open the exit with her key card. The rookie had a million questions swirling in her mind ranging from "What" to "the actual hell" but that mean diddy when she saw the inspectors leave.

"Get... back... here..." Hilda called out, unclenching her jaw.

Feeling the shock waning, she stood back up just when the door slid shut and rushed towards it despite her shaky legs. Hilda would've kept going to the door if she hadn't saw her Auntie Aurea down in a bad way herself just to her left.

"Are you okay?" Hilda asked while straining to reach down and help her godmother up by hand.

"I was just zapped by... something before those inspectors robbed up so... been better," Aurea grunted while shakily getting up. "Something tells me they're not with the league."

"We can question them once we've caught up," Hilda replied while making a head start for the exit despite herself. "Put us on lockdown STAT!"

Cheren and Bianca found the suit chaffing just a tad as they booked it through the hallway. The leader found it moreso with Oshawott still rocking about in the net. Thankfully, they saw that the stairway door was just ahead.

"I think I held back on my throw," Bianca shyly admitted just when they arrived at the door. "I thought we could avoid combat."

"It won't matter with our head start," Cheren claimed while getting out his card key. "If it makes you feel any better, I held back too."

However, their little moment was cut short when he swiped his card and got a deep toned beep from the reader.

"Access denied," the machine claimed. "All Laboratories are on Lockdown until further notice."

"What?" Cheren cried in disbelief, swiping the card again and again desperately. "No, no, no, not this."

Bianca shared his growing dread while tapping her earcom. "Simon, Sammy?"

"We know," Sammy chimed in with a groan. "The whole system's had been bolted down but I've had worse."

"We've been trying to bust down the backdoor over here," Vanessa chimed in on the com, talking fast in her frustration. "They weren't kidding about that increased budget."

Noises of wood striking steel along with frustrated grunts could be heard in the background. "I told you guys we needed more incendiaries," Bright griped.

"Everyone calm down and give us a minute to figure this out," Simon insisted firmly before Cheren and Bianca heard loud footsteps rapidly rushing their way.

"Let my Oshawott go!" they heard Hilda wrathfully scream before they looked back.

There was the rookie and Aurea rushing side by side in a borderline sprint, still shaking off the lingering shock. Hilda was way ahead of Aurea with a scowl aimed firmly at the phony inspectors and her limbs stretched out wide like Georgia at the marathon.

[Hilda!] Oshawott cried out with a smile returning to his face. [I'm right here!]

"I don't think we have a minute," Cheren replied to Simon urgently, "or a second."

"I'll buy us a few," Bianca insisted while stepping up forward, taking out her Personal Computer. "Keep an eye on the door and let me know when we're good to go."

She tapped the phone to "Select" a new outfit and held out a Poke Ball. Bianca's sharp suit is swiftly switched to a grey bodysuit beneath a blue hood and white apron. At that moment, Hilda and Aurea slow to a stop at the sight of this change of attire. It wasn't just the fashion failure that took them aback. They knew a challenge when they saw it.

The Professor's attention was more drawn to insignia on Bianca's chest: a shield with "P" and a backwards "z" over it. Her brow knit in a dreaded sense of recognition.

"I know how this might look," Bianca began, holding out her arms to advocate for calmness, "but we promise that this is for Oshawott's own good."

"It looks like you're trying to rob us and take my best friend away from me," Hilda declared venomously, her fist balled for a brawl. "What the hell is 'good' about it?"

"If you'd just hear us out-" Bianca tried to insist, trying to stay calm.

"Tepig, singe her with an Ember!" Aurea interrupted.

The Professor had taken out a Poke Ball from her lab coat pocket and let the Fire Pig Pokemon out on the double. Seeing his friend in danger, Tepig angrily snorted steam and channeled Fire-Type Energy into his snout.

"I don't think they're listening, Bianca," Cheren replied, still keeping an eye on the card reader. "Defend yourself!"

"Sorry, Roggenrola," Bianca swored to her Poke Ball, unlocking it. "Harden yourself and defend!"

Tepig blew his nose to fire off a ball of fiery snot straight for Bianca. However, she flinched just when her Poke Ball opened and let Roggenrola out in mid-air. A small Pokemon made of living rocks channeled Normal-type Energy throughout her stone body to enhance her Defense and take the Ember without even wincing once.

"Flame Charge!" Aurea belted out just when Roggenrola landed on the floor.

Tepig stomped his fore-hooves on the floor rapidly to help build up his Fire-Type Energy again and snorted scalding smoke from his snout. All the while, Bianca gulped over what she might have to do next.

"Anything?" she called back to Cheren.

"Nothing yet," her partner replied with the same sort of tension she held. "You might have to get a little rough."

At that moment, Tepig burst into flames that armored him and allowed him to dash forth towards Roggenrola. Bianca clenched up and winced when the Mantle Pokemon took the hit like a champ. Her near perfect footing had her slide back only by a measily foot and tank most of the impact.

"Rock Blast!" Bianca forced out, fearing for her partner Pokemon's safety.

Tepig was still trying to knock Roggenrola down when she channeled Rock-Type Energy into her center chest cavity. A rock shaped projectile erupted from her craggy bellybutton and smacked into the Fire Pig Pokemon at point blank range.

"No!" Hilda cried out in dismay

Aurea hardly had the time to warn Tepig before he was flung backwards and left to smack onto the floor, smouldering in his unconscious state. Bianca covered her mouth over how she forgot to have her Pokemon hold back while Roggenrola hopped up and down in their victory.

"I'm really sorry," she swore up and down before light toned beep sounded.

"Access granted," the card reader's voice sounded out. "Card System has been shut down."

"Impossible!" Hilda gasped in her disbelief while Aurea recalled Tepig.

"Bianca, hurry!" Cheren called out after all but kicking down the staircase door. "We'll take the short cut!"

Bianca recalled Roggenrola to her Poke Ball while catching up with Cheren and going through the door.

[Hilda!] Oshawott cried desperately.

"I'm coming, buddy!" Hilda called back while sprinting after the imposter.

"What the hell is happening?" Aurea sincerely asked in her exasperation, chasing after her goddaughter.

With Bianca in tow, Cheren jumped and bounded down the stairs with Oshawott held steadily. Taking out his P.C., he tapped "Select" before landing and replacing his suit for an Armor exactly like his partner's. They then began down the second set of stairs for the first floor.

"Vanessa and I are waiting outside," Bright chimed in on their earcoms. "Think you can make it."

"Not with our hosts on our tail," Bianca chimed back, looking up to find Hilda and Aurea rushing down for them. "We're gonna have to use the short cut."

Out in the backyard, Bright and Vanessa ran across the research facility for the exact position while donning the own armor themselves. They got in front of the windowless wall and hoped that it was the spot.

"You... did set the charge exact, right?" Bright asked Vanessa with a gulp.

"What do you think these suits are for?" his adopted sister retorted before tapping her P.C. "Fire in the hole!"

A huge explosion blew an entire hole in the wall and billowed smoke nearly everywhere while they covered their faces with their gloved arms. Debris hit them but deflected off of the durable fabric of their armor while they kept smoke from blowing into their eyes.

A few seconds pass before Bright and Vanessa worried that the blast was more than their bosses could handle. Thankfully, Cheren and Bianca jumped out of the hole with the former still holding tight onto the net carrying Oshawott. Both of the Knights literally hit the ground running with their teammates keeping up with them.

"We're heading back to the campsite," Cheren declared. "Jet packs NOW!"

"I dunno," Bright posited. "You know how I am with heights."


Hilda's voice get the dashing Knight to looking behind him and see her sprinting towards them, actually seeming to gain on them by the second. The scowl she gave them was flat out feral.

"Up, up and away!" Bright gulped while taking out his P.C. to select from his Clothes Inventory.

Hilda was just about to reach out and grab Bright when some sort of metal pack materialized strapped to his back. Cheren, Bianca and Vanessa soon sported their very own while each pressing a button on their right straps. A fiery blast ignited from the bottom and elevated the four Knight just as they reached the trees.

[Hilda!] Oshawott cried out desperately, rocking about in the net. He repeated her name over and over until the trees finally obscured her.

Hilda's legs quickly gave out when she slowed to a stop and just looked up at the thieves taking to the sky. Sinking to her knees, she felt the fatigue catch up along with her breath and hung her head. The furious scowl Hilda had put on slowly descended into a frown once the reality of this surreal situation had sunk in.

Oshawott had been taken away from her.

Hilda had lost her best friend.

Possibly forever.

"Not him..." Hilda begged with a choke, a full on crater opening in her gut. "Not again..." She could still hear the ear-splitting explosion.

Aurea had finally caught up with Hilda after digitizing her lab coat to run better and stopped just four feet behind her goddaughter. She didn't have to see Hilda's face to know exactly how she was feeling but still did her best to keep it together. It took nearly a minute for the Professor to process what she could. However she could.

"Okay... okay..." Aurea panted out, trying to be strong for her ward. "Not the end of the world... sort of." Her buzzing mind was telling her otherwise while she turned around to pace and keep it in order. "Let's keep cool and take stock."

Hilda's hand slowed balled into a fist while her breathing steadied into something focused.

"First, we go and find if Dad's okay," Professor Juniper went on, trying to keep herself sane. "Then we call the police and report exactly what we've seen."

Aurea didn't notice when hashing out her plan that Hilda was slowly standing back up with a slight wobble from fatigue.

"Granted, they have jet packs and could be near Aspertia City for all we know," the Professor prattled on, her self-reassurance slipping. "Still, we just need to hunker down and..."

It was the exact moment that Aurea looked back at Hilda and found her already running a marathon straight for the woods. She vaulted over the wooden fence splitting the wild off from the backyard and made the most of her second wind by diving deeper into the sea of trees.

"...not do anything stupid," Aurea groaned wearily before rushing right after her headstrong goddaughter. "Get back here before you kill yourself!"

What Professor Juniper couldn't see was the brow knitted tightly on Hilda's face just above her frown. Despite her second wind not amounting to much, she pushed herself to follow the fading noise of the jet packs. Her shoes smashed the ground at her speed while her arms swam through the air for all it was worth.

Hilda hadn't drank any water nor ate a snack to refuel herself. The one thing driving her were the crystal clear images of Oshawott replaying in her mind like a slideshow. Him and her mother's immortalized smile made hot, stinging tears well up in her eyes.

"I'll save you," Hilda swore to herself with every few steps she raced. "This time... I won't run away!"

To Be Continued in Chapter Two...

Team Plasma has stayed low-key until now. With this first large scale operation, they are making a loud and proud statement to the world at large. However, they reckoned without the likes of Hilda being bullheaded enough to strike back.

Oshawott's fate shall be decided in... December, give or take, when I'll have plenty of to loosen up and adapt more of my draft.

Thank you for reading my fanfiction. This will be where I take a bit of a break for now. I hope to get feedback on the first story arc so far.

Write up a comment or a full blown review about what you liked or loathed about my work. I can roll with the punches so let me have it.