The thick book closes with a "whap!" and falls from limp fingers into the table just under it.
Lee groans and reclines back into the now not-very-comfortable library reading chair he's been sitting in for almost four hours. He looks back down at the 600-some page book he had just finished. The title reads Advanced Biology of Mammalian Fire Types. It was an utterly fascinating read, adding a rich depth to his understanding of the inner workings of Pokemon, but it was just as dry a read as every awful McGraw Hill textbook he had to memorize in college.
With a grumble, Lee picks the book back up and gently sets it in his meager "Complete" pile, where Nutrition and Health of Canid Pokemon, World History Abridged, Modern Move Training Guide: Special Edition, Forest Tales: To Live With Wilderness, Berry Tips for Those in a Hurry, and So You Think You Can Battle. Next to the complete pile is a much more intimidating "Unread" pile. The next one on the list is a mammoth text with the title Official Pokemon League Regulations - Complete.
"Wowie, what a fuckin' joy," Lee mutters to himself. "I'm so happy I could burst. Maybe I could use a break?"
In his pocket, Vulpix's pokeball shakes in agreement.
"That's all the encouragement I need," he grins, peeling himself from the chair and standing with a groan. The man stretches his arms over his head, relishing the feeling of his sore muscles loosening. He then shoulders the green backpack by his table and heads towards the front door of Little Root's small library, passing the absent librarian's Solrock on the way. "We'll be back in a bit, chief. Keep my pile there please?"
"Sol." the great hunk of sun-shaped rock grumbles out in a voice like cinder blocks across concrete.
Lee steps out into the balmy mid afternoon sun of Little Root, the harsh sun rays instantly making his burn scars sting. He frowns and digs in his pocket, then pulls Vulpix's ball out. "Alrighty girl, do your thing." He throws the ball and it snaps open mid-air, a burst of white energy materializing into Vulpix by his feet.
Vulpix blinks the stars from her eyes and stretches with a little yawn.
"It's kinda bullshit I have to keep you in your ball when I know that Solrock has a Fire move stashed away somewhere," Lee grumbles, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "Who would be dumb enough to take an uncontrollable Fire type into a library anyway?"
The vixen levels her trainer with a flat look.
He sighs and runs his hand through his hair. "Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Common sense not being all that common and all. But still."
"Vul, vulpix vul, vulpix." Vulpix replies dully. "Not that I would enjoy a library more than my ball anyway," Lee interprets. Vulpix then closes her eyes and lets out a breath, focus overtaking her visage.
Slowly, the sunlight beaming down on Lee began to dim, forming a curious, circular space around him that isn't as brightly lit as his surroundings. The man grins with the stinging of his burns ease. His thoughts turn towards the last three weeks and Vulpix's incredible progress.
"Just a few more girl, then we're good."
Vulpix makes a noise that sounds almost exactly like a sigh but dutifully remains still.
Lee glances down at the borrowed notebook in his hand and his pokedex with it's entry on Vulpix open beside his crossed legs. Before him on the guest bed they share, Vulpix stands still and submits herself to her trainer's poking and prodding.
The first thing on Lee's list once employment and shelter were secured was giving Vulpix a full physical. Or at least as full a physical as he could with just his hands and his pokedex to gauge baselines.
'All pretty inline with what I'd expect from a vulpine on the smaller side if I'm being honest.' Lee inwardly muses. 'Muscle density and high temperature notwithstanding. If her paws could get enough traction, I wouldn't be surprised if Vulpix could pull a car behind her!"
Lee finishes looking in her ears with a nod. "Ears clean and clear, though I doubt any bacteria could take hold with your temperature. Turn and face the side wall please," he says, putting a little check mark by 'ears' in his notebook.
Vulpix turns and faces the wall, presenting her side to her trainer with her bored expression still in place.
Reaching a hand under her, Lee carefully runs a hand over her sternum and feels her ribs. He pushes a little harder than normal to feel the bones under the thin layer of dense muscle on the vixen's chest. For a moment, he holds his hand still to gauge her resting breathing and heart rate, counting the breaths and heartbeats in his head. 'Again, all very normal. Ribs can be felt but not seen. Resting heart rate seems a little low for her size, but that can be chalked up to athleticism or genetics. IVs maybe? Breathing is clear and steady."
He pats lower on her belly. 'No sagging or hanging skin. Fur is even. One, two, three, four... eight nipples, evenly spaced and uniform in feel. Skin and muscle leading to her hindlegs is pliant, yet taut at rest.'
"So far so good. Not that I expected any problems from you, love," Lee murmurs, jotting down his notes. "Almost done. Turn a little more so you face away."
Vulpix gives him a long look.
Lee rolls his eyes. "Does it help if I say you're pretty and I have trouble not touching you?"
The flattery seems to work, as Vulpix complies, turning away and facing the far wall. Her flat expression remains, however.
"Alrighty, just relax for this one."
The man sets down his notebook and gently lifts her left hind paw with his right hand. His other hand gently presses against her rump as he carefully moves her leg, gauging all the muscles in her leg working in sync. 'Again, the muscle density is incredible. She should be able to leap a whole building with these legs. It violates so much of what I know about biology. And to think she can only get more powerful. Heh. I have no idea if that's frightening or wonderful.' He repeats the action with her other leg, satisfied when both are uniform and healthy. "Alrighty girl. I think I've got a working baseline for you now. I'll quit molesting you."
Vulpix flops down and rolls over onto her back with a happy snuffle, glad to finally be off her paws.
Meanwhile, Lee picks up his notes and scan them over. He looks down to his pokedex and scrolls though it to the voice recorder. Setting the notebook down, the man holds his pokedex up and hits the record button. "Day two of being a trainer. Or is it day one?" He wonders. "We'll call it two. I've finished giving Vulpix as good a physical as I can without tools or monitoring equipment. She is within the acceptable standards of a canid her size without much significant deviation, her internal temperature and muscle density being the only significant outliers. More on that later. I didn't bother with much cognitive or any intelligence testing. Vulpix was alert and aware during the physical even if she was bored to death. Any intelligence test I could have given would have been outright demeaning to her and easily solved. Suffice to say she is smarter than most of the people I know and probably smarter than myself as well."
The vixen smirks a little at hearing that, but the smirk quickly turns into a tongue-lolling smile when Lee reaches over to rub her belly.
"Let it be known that the crafty fox is still susceptible to a well-placed belly rub and her heart of gold taking pity on hopeless humans," Lee says, smirking himself as Vulpix tries not to let her leg kick in pleasure. "Vulpix's muscle density is incredible. She's like a wall when her muscles are tensed and I know for a fact she is much physically stronger than I pound for pound, and probably just outright stronger than myself or anyone of similar size despite the weight difference. I'll need actual equipment and not just hand-n-eyeball estimates to be sure. Her skin temperature seems to be around one-hundred ten Fahrenheit. Utterly feverish for a person, but very comfortable for her. I don't have an accurate gauge for internal temperature, but just from feeling her breath I can estimate somewhere close to..." Lee bites his lip and thinks. "At least one-hundred fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Again, doing this without tools so actual numbers may vary. I'll probably do another physical if Vulpix is feeling up to it in a weeks time to confirm these estimates. Lee, out."
"I really need some new duds, love," Lee says with a grimace, looking down at his tattered Zoo uniform. "I can wash these all I like, they're still falling apart."
Vulpix inspects her trainer's clothing, not really seeing the big deal. Pokemon wear nothing and no one bats an eye. Why should humans hide themselves in clothes?
"We're still two weeks out from our first check though, and I can't ask Birch since we're already living off his generosity," Lee frowns.
Knock knock knock!
Both Lee and Vulpix turn to the bedroom door. The knob turns and the door opens just enough for a smiling Brendan to poke his head. "Heya Lee? Guess what came in super early!" He exclaims, holding up a pair of envelopes. "They're from the League and there's one for each of us. I bet they were having a slow day or dad submitted our papers right as the offices opened again for the new league year to get these here so fast. One guess on what they are!"
Lee feels his jaw drop a little. "Are those Trainer IDs?"
Brendan's grin lights up the room. "Heck yeah! Here!" He throws one envelope like a frisbee to Lee, who snatches it out of the air and looks at the envelope with naked curiosity.
"I'm going to go open mine and talk to dad. The new batch of starters should be here soon as well!" Brendan practically dances in place. "Mudkip, here I come!" Then as fast as he came, Brendan is gone, his rapid footsteps racing down the hall.
Lee shakes his head. "That boy ain't right. Anyway..." He seats himself back on the bed and opens the envelope with Vulpix watching. The first thing to come out is a short letter.
To: Lee Henson
The Pokemon League is proud to induct you into our ranks as an official Pokemon Trainer. You now have the privilege of entering all Pokemon League sanctioned events (upon meeting prerequisites) in all Pokemon League recognized regions.
'No Alola then,' Lee thinks.
The enclosed identification card will be your primary ID for Pokemon League sanctioned events and functions as a valid form of government ID. If lost, damaged, or stolen, please see your nearest Pokemon Center for a replacement. The replacement fee will depend on the Pokemon Center in question.
As a Trainer sponsored by Prof Birch - Hoenn you are entitled to several special benefits. You will receive:
One (1) Biweekly stipend totaling $2,170.57 (post tax) per payment
One (1) Stipend advance of $1,981.23 (post tax)
Discounted use of non-medical Pokemon Center services
Upon deposit of the enclosed stipend advance voucher, the Pokemon League will issue biweekly payments to the account that received the voucher for the above listed amount. Please contact the Pokemon League billing department if this information needs to be updated and/or changed.
Lee blinks and looks a little closer at the paper to make sure his eyes weren't playing tricks on him. "What the fuck? I make more just existing here than I did busting my ass in the zoo?" He slumps. "And they give kids this kind of money? Holy hell."
We at the Pokemon League wish you the best in this new and wonderful chapter in yours and your Pokemon's lives Mr Henson. Adventure and new friendships await you.
Steven Stone, Hoenn Champion.
Lee shakes his head as he looks at the smudges the stamp used to make "Steven's" signature left. "Adventure and friendships huh? Corny, but I kinda like it in an ironic kind of way. What say you, love?"
Vulpix just snorts and cocks an eyebrow.
"Yeah, me too," the now official trainer agrees. "If this isn't some good timing then I don't know what is. Maybe this is why Birch was so frantic to get the paperwork submitted so quickly?" He shakes his head. "Either way, I think we have some shopping to do. Care to come with?"
Vulpix rolls back to her belly and visibly mulls the thought, her little brows furrowing. She then hops from the bed to Lee's shoulders, her choice made.
The trip to the bank is a short and uneventful one. One flash of Lee's trainer ID and the teller behind the counter whisked him off to make an account. Fifteen minutes later, he was the owner of an account with a new debit card in his wallet.
"They didn't even bat an eye when I said my place of residence was the lab," Lee muses, walking down to Little Root's modest shopping district with a relaxed gait. "Much less strict than Chase, who wanted my... everything really, sans the soul of my firstborn."
The vixon resting across his shoulders gives him a queer look, as if she's debating the validity of his absurd statement.
Lee glances over to her and snorts. "Not actually, love. But if they did, I really would not be surprised," he says, twisting a little to let a boy and his Lombre walk past. "Trusting a bank is a good way to end up dead and penniless back home. Like the hero Andrew Jackson once said, fuck banks... Or at least I think he said that."
The pair continue on. Even with Lee's sedate pace, the Little Root shopping district comes into view quickly. It's little more than a series of modest strip malls along the a side road to the west of town, but all the essentials are there.
Lee glances to his left toward the first store they pass, which happens to be the same clothing shop he noticed upon entering town the first time, where a girl left her Poochyena to hold his own leash as she went inside. It's easy to recall because the same Poochyena is there again, holding his own leash with an expression of pure boredom.
"Vulpix. Pix vulpix?" Vulpix ask down to Poochyena, who perks up and turns to face Lee and Vulpix.
Poochyena yaps and growls something past the leash in his mouth, to which Vulpix simply shakes her head.
"Little Root Outfitters, eh?" Lee reads the sign on the door. Right below the sign is a No non-trainer pokemon please sign. "As good as any I guess. Good luck, little guy," he tells Poochyena.
He and Vulpix step inside, finding a run of the mill small town store. The woman at the check-out counter looks at Vulpix, then to Lee, not commenting on the pokemon not being in a ball.
Like with the bank, the pair are in and out in only a few minutes. The khaki safari uniform was replaced by a set of generic brand jeans, a belt with several pokeball clips, a plain black undershirt, and a dark green camo-patterned zip-up jacket made from some special breathable material called flo-fabric. "It's a staple for outerwear in hot places like Hoenn," the woman at the checkout counter commented. Lee's ankle-high hiking boots and his worn but durable black gloves didn't need replaced. He left with the new outfit on and with a bag containing several other outfits of slight variation.
"Alrighty, now the part I'm definitely more eager for," Lee grins, looking towards the Pokemart. Vulpix just rolls her eyes.
The Pokemart is one of the larger stores in the town, standing separate from the strip with it's distinct white outer walls and blue roof. It doesn't look terribly special, but...
'All the things inside are,' Lee thinks to himself with a barely hidden grin. 'Just think of it! I'll actually get to look at all the crazy, impossible stuff that makes modern life with pokemon possible.'
As he and Vulpix walk up, he sees a trio of kids pointing into one of the windows of the mart, where several glittering gold things on display stands sit. "When I become a trainer these are all I wanna use!"
Curious, he and the vixen on his shoulders looks over the kid's heads.
In the window is a trio of balls on a velvet pillow. A normal Pokeball, a Great Ball, and an Ultra Ball. Simple sprites on a screen can't do them justice, as the little devices sparkle in the sunlight and almost beg to be picked up. Each one has beautiful engravings of various Pokemon on the lids done in silver, but the little label at the foot of the pillow makes him blanch.
Starting at $749.99
See inside for details.
'Jesus fuck thats a lot of money for a pokeball,' He thinks, almost reeling. Then another thought strikes him. 'Hold on. How expensive are pokeballs anyway? A normal ball is two hundred or so poke funbucks, but I always thought that the game money has an exchange rate similar to Yen. I'm about to get fucked, aren't I?'
Vulpix seems to sense his mood and noses his cheek, even if she doesn't fully understand why her trainer suddenly slumped.
Lee grumbles but strokes Vulpix along her neck, making her purr. 'A curious sound for a fox to make,' Lee idly thinks, mentally filing it away as another oddity of Pokemon as he walks into the mart.
The inside of the Pokemart is like a petstore on steroids. Shelves and aisles filled to bursting with everything pokemon related, some of which Lee has no name for. He wanders in with naked wonder on his face, almost overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new and alien things around him. It's only a last minute thought that makes him grab a cart. There are standard things like toys, treats, grooming kits, and different blends of food. Then there are things you'd only find in a pokemart like fire retardant, hydrophobic, or slash/puncture resistant pet beds. A bookshelf on the far wall is filled with books about pokemon rearing and breeding. At the front behind the check out is a wide glass case with the really familiar things, like pokeballs, potions, and disks that can only be TMs. The various aisles are divided by Pokemon type, with Fire being one of the first, so Lee heads down that one.
"Man, look at all this stuff," he murmurs, taking in all the different things around. Vulpix likewise cranes her head around to peer at all the strange sights with a critical eye. "Well, we've got plenty to spend, so why not?"
Lee grabs a number of things that catch both his and Vulpix's eyes. A deluxe grooming kit is the first, much to Vulpix's delight. Then a pair of fire retardant gloves, a small fire extinguisher, a large stick of 'edible' charcoal, a thermometer rated for 1000°F, and a few other things that seem like they would aid in the raising of Vulpix's more supernatural side. Lee glances over the 'League recommended' Fire-type omnivore pokemon food blend with a measure of distaste, however.
"This ingredient list is a little vague," he mutters, looking at the back of a smaller bag. "The fuck is an optimum blend of meats, veggies, and berries suppose to mean to me? Is there not an actual ingredient list?" He shakes his head and looks back to his placid Vulpix. "Nah. I'll just make your food myself, love. I'll trust the stuff Birch provided, but after that, I'm taking over." And with that, a food pellet baller goes in the cart.
Vulpix's six tails wag slowly, making Lee stifle a giggle when they tickle his neck.
The last stop is the bookshelf on the far wall, where a copy of Nutrition and Health of Canid Pokemon gets picked up before the checkout becomes the final stop.
The teen girl in a blue pokeball-marked apron manning the counter glances up and quickly puts her phone away when Lee and Vulpix approach. She plasters a wide smile to her face. "Find everything okay?"
"Just fine, thanks," Lee smiles back. He glances back at the glass case where all the Pokeballs are held and suddenly understands why they're kept separate. The things are a whopping $179.99 a pop, just for a standard Pokeball. The Ultras are an unearthly $1,199.99 for a single ball. Nearly the game price.
'Suddenly the high stipend payments make sense,' Lee thinks as he unloads his cart for the cashier to scan. 'I can only imagine what sort of hell it must be to be low-income and wanting to be a trainer. I should thank Birch again.'
Luckily Potions and whatnot are more reasonable, with Potions only being $50.00 for a large spray bottle's worth. Super Potions are pricer at $149.99, and Hyper Potions can go fuck themselves at $700.00. Lee doesn't even bother looking at the Max Potion or the TMs.
"Can I get a basic Potion as well?"
The cashier nods and fishes some keys out of her apron pocket, then turns, opens the glass case, and takes out a Potion in one practiced movement. "Anything else today? You got quite a bit, so maybe a Sliph Co bag?"
Lee blinks. "A Sliph Co bag?"
The cashier hums as she scans and bags another item. "MmmHmm."
"I'm afraid I don't follow. I take it a Sliph bag is special or something?"
He girl raises an eyebrow at Lee.
"I already know what you're thinking, and yes, I'm from way out in the boonies," Lee sighs.
"A Sliph bag uses the same stuff as pokeballs. You know? With the whole matter to energy and space expanding... thing?" She tries to explain, give her hand a vague wave. "I don't really understand it, but it's bigger on the inside than outside. Somehow."
'I can hear physics weep hideously in the distance,' Lee silently muses. 'It does neatly explain how the main character in the games carries all his junk and how everyone in the anime can carry full camping gear in a backpack though. Sounds useful too' "Sure. How much?"
She turns back to the glass case and reaches into the back, pulling out a rather standard looking backpack seemingly made from green canvas with leather straps. "These base models are all $1,360 before tax. Green okay?"
Lee tries hard to not let the pain on his face show. "Ech. Yeah. Better I get this sooner rather than later."
The cashier nods and scans the Sliph backpack. "Your total is $1,598.67."
Lee reluctantly hands his debit card over.
A burst of Embers crash into an already burnt and battered log and detonate one by one with loud, jarring pops. Bits of smoldering wood are thrown across the dusty ground as new knotholes are blown into the hapless log. Nearby pokemon in the Little Root corral watch the proceedings with interest.
Vulpix cuts her Ember attack and lets the last few Embers hit their mark before turning to Lee.
Lee looks down at the notebook in his hands, where a rough sketch of Vulpix faces an upright cylinder marked "log". A label line between the two is marked "35 feet". The man steps closer to the log, noting that at this range Vulpix's Ember has spread to almost the edge. "Log is about a foot and a quarter wide, and the Ember marks are hitting the edge from thirty five feet, so..." Lee bites the end of his pen and jots some numbers down, trying to remember the formula he wants. "That means from Vulpix's mouth, Ember is spreading at about a twenty degree angle give or take some..." He looks at the log again. "The speed looked to be a good hundred or so feet per second, and her accuracy was dead on for a static target. If we can tighten that spread, then Ember could be a force to be reckoned with."
"Vul?" Vulpix asks with a tilt of her head.
Lee blinks and glances back with a sheepish smile. "Uh, sorry girl. Just crunching numbers. Let's give that another go, but this time..." He spins the log to its unblemished back and pulls a little piece of bark in the middle away, exposing bare wood. "Try to focus on this little point as hard as you can. The more Embers hit the very middle, the better. I'll watch and give the signal."
The man retreats back to Vulpix's side and crouches to watch her, notebook and pen ready. "Alrighty girl, Ember on the log."
Vulpix takes a deep breath, her chest swelling as orange flames glow in her mouth and lick at her lips. "Vul..." She draws her head back then thrusts it forward with a cry of "Pix!"
Small orange fireballs shoot from her mouth with a sound not unlike a submachine gun rattling through it's whole magazine. The Embers scream towards the log and explode against it's bark with a staccato of Pop pop pop!, stripping a circle of charred bark around the original.
Lee watches the entire process from start to finish, ignoring the flare of unease the open flames invoke inside him. 'It's Vulpix. She would never hurt you.' He watches it all, from Vulpix's deep breath and flourish, to the first Ember loosed, to the first impact against the bark.
'Does she even need the breath and flourish? Once the attack began, she didn't empty her lungs to maintain it, and I have no idea what part thrusting her head out did.' He wonders. "Alright love, that's good."
Vulpix closes her mouth and cuts off the attack. Once the last Ember impacts and the resulting smoke clears, it reveals a smaller area of effect on the smoldering log. Not by much, as only a few inches of intact bark remain at the edge of the log, but the improvement is still noticeable.
Lee grins and strokes Vulpix gently down her back, making the vulpine smile slightly and purr under his hand. "Great work, love. Memorize the feeling of narrowing down your attacks like that. I can already imagine the faces of some flyer when they think they're safely out of range only for a rail of Embers and shoot them down. And yes I meant 'rail' and not 'hail'."
Vulpix preens under the praise and turns her nose up, a small smile on her face. Her trainer shakes his head, but he wears a smile as well.
Both Lee and Vulpix look up to see Brendan racing towards them from the lab with a blinding grin on his face, but he's not alone. Scampering at his heels is a large Mudkip that follows him closely.
'The starters must have come in, and Brendan got the pick of the litter. That Mudkip must be a good six inches taller than normal,' Lee thinks to himself. "Morning Brendan. I take it the starters are in?"
Brendan and Mudkip stop just short of Lee, both youngsters needing to skid to bleed off momentum. Brendan's megawatt grin is almost dazzling in its intensity. "You know it! Just look at this guy! Isn't he fantastic?" He asks, bending down to pick up and cradle the mudfish pokemon, who accepts the attention with a happy "Mudkip!"
Lee can't help but smile fondly at the scene. The sheer joy and wonder on Brendan's face reminds him of himself when he began his career in animals. "He's certainly a biggun. You two will go far together, I can already tell."
Both boy and pokemon flush under the praise, but Brendan bounces back quickly. "So dad said you and Vulpix where out here training? Pokemon grow fastest in battle, soooo how about we battle, huh?"
The question makes Lee freeze. 'I've spent the last few nights gazing up at the ceiling, dreaming up battle strats now that the game rules aren't a concern, but the prospect of actually battling... Can I actually order a pokemon to be harmed?'
'Can I stand to see Vulpix get hurt?'
The very thought makes his gut twist into chilled knot. All he can imagine is cries of agony, cries of accusation. Why didn't you do anything Lee. Who said I wanted to fight?
Vulpix steps up with narrowed eyes and a flick of her heart-marked ear, slicing against Lee's left as she steps forward and plants herself infront of her trainer, facing Brendan.
"She's eager," Brendan grins, looking back up to Lee. "So how about it?"
Lee gulps and does his best to keep his voice from trembling. "Y-Yeah, if Vulpix wants to, then I'm game."
The boy pumps a fist and retreats back about seventy feet before putting his Mudkip down, who steps forward with confidence.
Vulpix stand back to four legs and assumes a ready stance, her head low and tails fanned out. She glances back to Lee, her normally placid eyes filled with burning energy and such eagerness that the man is almost taken aback.
'They're much hardier than people and made for combat,' a little voice in the back of Lee's head says, condescension dripping from every word. 'A battle with a fresh starter won't hurt her. Man up and live your dream.'
Lee gulps again, his tension slowly draining in favor of a nervous energy that threatens to make his limbs shake. He quickly pulls out his Pokedex and points it at Vulpix after hitting the mute button. The Dex lights up with a picture of Vulpix, then quickly lists Vulpix's attributes. Lee skips all that and goes directly down to the movelist.
Ember, Tail Whip, Roar, Baby-Doll Eyes, Quick Attack, Confuse Ray, Fire Spin, Payback, Will-O-Wisp.
The list is still the same as it was the first time he scanned Vulpix, and he quickly dedicates it to memory before stashing away his Dex.
"So how are we doing this?" Brendan calls from across the way. "Forfeit or knockout good?"
Lee steels himself and nods. "That's fine. If either side calls a timeout or gives up then it stops immediately, okay? And are you sure Brendan? Even with a type advantage on your side, Vulpix isn't a pushover."
A small part of Lee hopes Brendan reconsiders, but he just grins and dashes those hopes. "No way. That's the whole reason we want to battle."
The older trainer sighs. "Vulpix, ready?" He asks despite knowing the answer.
The fox growls, her hackles raised and tails lashing as she and Mudkip locked eyes.
Brendan looks at his feet and picks up a rock. "When this rock hits the ground, the battle begins," and without waiting for a reply, he tosses the rock into the middle of the impromptu arena.
Time seems to slow as Lee both watches the stone and takes in the entire field from his peripherals.
'The wind is traveling southward and the arena has a slight tilt to the south,' Lee thinks silently as the stone inches closer to the ground and his nervousness transforms back into high-strung tension. 'The area is sparse grass, mostly dirt. Little danger of a wildfire. The other Pokemon in the corral have backed up, so little danger of collateral. Mudkip is about fifty feet out.' The stone is almost to the ground. 'Start strong. Debuff, stack DOT, then use Vulpix's speed to play keep away. The Mudkip line has unreal physical attack, so we'll start out with...'
Thud! The stone bounces off the ground.
"Vulpix, Baby-Doll Eyes!" Lee orders before Brendan or Mudkip can even move.
The vixen lets her hackles fall and looks intently at Mudkip with wide, sparkling eyes filled with false innocence. Her chocolate orbs faintly glow with Fairy energy.
Mudkip falters, as if suddenly having second thoughts about fighting. At the same time, the sunlight suddenly becomes sweltering as Vulpix's Drought activates, and Mudkip flinches and sways on his feet.
"W-What gives?" Brendan calls, shielding his eyes from the harsh sun with a grimace. "How did Vulpix use Sunny Day and Baby-Doll Eyes at once?"
"That wasn't Sunny Day," Lee calls back, fighting back his own grimace as the oven-like heat makes his burns throb. "Vulpix has the ability Drought," Lee debates ordering an attack immediately, but holds off, not wanting to come off as a bully in a friendly match.
"I've never heard of Drought before..." Brendan mutters, wiping at his sweaty brow. "Doesn't matter. We've got a match to win. Mudkip, Watergun!"
Lee watches carefully as Mudkip steadies himself and takes a deep breath in the same windup as Vulpix, his eyes locked onto the fox. Just as Mudkip stops the brief charging and starts moving to launch the attack, Lee reacts.
"Vulpix, dodge left now!"
The vixen darts to the left in a deft hop just as Mudkip's Watergun leaves his mouth. The water gouges into the ground with a muddy splash.
"Now, Confuse Ray!" Lee follows up.
Vulpix's eyes glow a sinister red with a growl from her.
Mudkip suddenly reels back with a cry as if struck and screws his eyes shut. The poor mudfish stumbles and opens his eyes, revealing them to be unfocused as he staggers around almost drunkenly. Mudkip then trips over his own feet and falls to his side, squirming helplessly.
"No, Mudkip!" Brendan cries, reaching out with a hand. "C'mon Mudkip! Get up! I know you can do it!" He pleads with such hurt and desperation that forfeiting instantly comes to the forefront of Lee's mind.
Mudkip grimaces and wobbles to his feet, struggling to maintain balance. It's a perfect time to attack, but Lee can't bring himself to issue an order. Vulpix looks back at him, her tails whipping impatiently as she waits for the call to strike.
"I told you, Brendan. Vulpix and I aren't good first opponents. Maybe call this off and find another trainer to challenge?" Lee asks, crossing his fingers behind his back.
"No way! No rough start can scare us!" Brendan roars. "Mudkip! Watergun the ground and cool off with some mud!"
"Mud!" Mudkip calls in his high pitched voice. In a lucid moment, he takes a breath and Waterguns the ground below himself, kicking up a plume of muddy water and obscuring himself.
"Now Tackle!" Brendan calls over the roar of the water.
Mudkip charges out of the mud plume in a full sprint, eyes clear and form refreshed. He locks onto Vulpix, who freezes up.
'Shit shit shit!'
"Vulpix, Quick Attack to dodge right!" Lee frantically calls.
"Dodging with an attack..?" Brendan questions with a blink.
The vixen snaps out of her shock just in time. A white energy envelopes her form as she jukes to the right as little more than a blur of red. Mudkip just barely misses her and skids to a stop, looking around.
'If I don't do something, Vulpix is going to get hurt, but if we fight back, Mudkip is going to get trashed...' Lee takes a shaky breath. The choice is neither hard or long. 'Sorry Mudkip.'
"Now, Quick Attack into Mudkip!"
Vulpix's eyes gleam at finally being on the offensive. She lands from her dodge with Quick Attack still active, then in a flicker of red, crashes into Mudkip at full speed.
The mudfish's eyes go wide and he can't even cough the air from his lungs before he's thrown a solid fifty feet across the field. He bounces once, twice, then skids to a painful stop on his side, a shallow trench in his wake.
Lee can feel his heart stop as Vulpix tips her head back and howls in victory. The sunlight fades back to normal as the battle ends.
"Mudkip!" Brendan cries, rushing towards his motionless Pokemon.
'Jesus Christ. What have I done?'
Brendan skids to a stop by Mudkip's still body with slumped shoulders. Lee numbly follows, trying to not let his rolling stomach vomit. The younger trainer picks up the limp Mudkip with a sigh. "You did great, pal," he murmurs, holding Mudkip to his chest.
Then Mudkip suddenly twitches in Brendan's arms and lets out a groggy "M-Mudkip?". The water pokemon shifts in his trainers arms in a clear sign of life and looks around, blinking stars from his eyes.
Lee's stomach uncoils as quickly as it came and he lets out a breath he had no idea he was holding. "He's okay?"
'They aren't common animals. You know that,' the niggling voice in the back of his head says. 'You can't permanently take down a pokemon without making a deliberate effort.'
Brendan nods as he looks down at his pokemon. "Yeah," he replies in a more subdued voice. "I guess you were right. Vulpix is way too strong and you're too skilled," he says with a sigh. Brendan fishes out Mudkip's pokeball and enlarges it. He smiles down to his starter and says; "You did great Mudkip. You hung on where others would have crashed and burned. Enjoy your rest, okay?"
"Mudkip..." Mudkip murmurs, looking away with melancholy in his eyes before he's returned to his ball in a flash of red light.
Brendan clips the ball to his belt before standing and turning to Lee, then in a surprising show of maturity, holds out a hand with a smile. "Good match. Don't expect it to be that easy next time."
Lee takes the offered hand and shakes it weakly. "Yeah, sure. Anytime."
Vulpix takes time to slide up beside him, pressing herself into her trainer's leg as she looks up at him with worry.
Lee bends down and pulls her into a light hug, murmuring a congratulations for her victory.
'Am I overthinking it? Am I treating them like animals? Are pokemon just that durable?'
'Pokemon are stupid durable.'
Mudkip catches Vulpix's Quick Attack to his side, and despite digging his feet in, is still rocketed off his feet. He twists mid-air and roughly lands on all fours almost sixty feet away from his lift-off point.
Mudkip tries to look away on impulse, but Vulpix's eyes light up with Fairy energy too quickly, and he lets out a frustrated cry when he feels his muscles slacken.
"Mudkip don't give up!" Brendan calls from his side. "Use Watergun! Quick!"
Mudkip takes a breath to build up Watergun, but before he can fire, Lee's voice calls out across the field with; "Confuse Ray!"
Vulpix's eyes light up again, this time an evil red, perfectly fitting the smirk on her muzzle.
The building Watergun in Mudkip's throat suddenly loses cohesion and just explodes out of his mouth as the confusion ensnares Mudkip's mind. The mudfish chokes and panics, forgetting his ilk can breathe water in his confusion.
Brendan growls and grabs at his hat in frustration. "Confuse Ray is such a bullshit move!" He yells to the heavens.
Across from him, Lee can only shrug. "Embrace the bullshit. It works."
Ever since their first match several days ago, Brendan and Mudkip would come out to challenge Lee and Vulpix whenever the younger duo would see a lull in the training of their seniors. Each day, Mudkip would be soundly defeated, and each following day, he would be right as rain. Brendan was unbothered by the losses and Mudkip, being a little glutton for punishment, gladly threw himself at Vulpix no matter how much he was brutalized the day prior. All of Lee's fears about either pokemon being hurt beyond help evaporated like a puddle on a hot day thanks to Mudkip.
The spread on Vulpix's ranged attacks closed by a fraction of a degree each day, and now her Ember could reliably hit objects her size at about fifty feet. The little fireballs raced a little faster and exploded a little harder with the repeated practice as well. Firespin, being the signature move of Vulpix, is already powerful, more powerful than the games give it credit for. For how aloof the little vixen usually is, she's taken to Lee's training with aplomb, and the results are already beginning to show.
Back to the battle, Mudkip barely has enough time to hack the water out of his lungs before Vulpix leaps into the air, coats herself in the shimmering aura of Quick Attack, then shoots down upon him like a meteor
Lee huffs and wipes the sweat from his brow as he focuses on his running pace around the corral. Vulpix has lapped him at least seven times, even with the convoluted, zig-zagging course of he's set up for her. He stops for a moment to watch his pokemon weave between spots he's marked into the ground with agility and grace that would make a mundane fox green with envy. She skids at a particularly harsh turn, but quickly corrects herself and is back in a full sprint in hardly a moment. As Vulpix runs, she pants short tongues of flame in an effort to cool off some. Then something strikes Lee as strange.
The flames aren't in sync with her breathing. The fire licking at her lips ebbs and surges independent of the movement of her chest. It's almost like it doesn't even correspond at all.
'Wait, no. No way in hell. It's such a leap, but if it's true and this works...'
"Hey love!" Lee calls, making Vulpix skid to a halt and look towards him. "Let's head inside for a short break. I've got a few things to look up, then we can keep training."
The vixen doesn't verbally reply, but walks to Lee's side as she tries to steady her breathing. Now up close, Lee can see for certain that the flames she's panting aren't matching up with her breaths at all.
Both man and vixen walk towards the lab at a sedate pace, letting Lee think's sure there must be a high level trainer out there somewhere that has already discovered this, but after recalling the Emerald dex entry on Vulpix, he has to try it.
...But how much can gamedex entries be trusted?
Lee lets out a relieved groan as he and Vulpix step into the air-conditioned lab. Vulpix fans her tails and does a full-body shake, airing out her orange pelt with the cool air.
"You look tired."
Professor Birch walks in to the lab's main room with a clipboard under one arm and a plastic bottle of water held in the other. The stocky man tosses the bottle to Lee, who snatches it out of the air.
"Running around during the heat of the day does that," Lee quips, unscrewing the bottle cap and kneeling so Vulpix could latch onto the bottle and greedily drink. "Mind if we use one of the PCs for a bit? We've got a bit of research to do."
"All yours," Birch smiles with a wave of his hand. "What about, may I ask?"
Vulpix chooses that time to let the bottle go, now looking very refreshed with a few water trails down her chin and into her breast tuft. "Vulpix!" she says with a smile, nuzzling Lee's hand.
Lee smiles and gently strokes his fox before tipping the bottle of water back into his own mouth, drinking the remaining half in just three mammoth gulps. "Phew. To answer you, Prof. There are some..." Lee hesitates, trying to think of a good descriptor other than 'gamedex' "...legends about pokemon from my 'home' that I wanted to fact check. If some regarding Vulpix and Ninetales are true, then Vulpix here is in for a treat, and any future battlers are in for a nasty surprise."
Birch instantly understands and smiles. "You can't just give me the bare minimum like that and not expect me to ask more," he replies, his smile widening into a grin. "Whats the 'legend' say about the Vulpix line?"
"That they can freely control fire, and how that's how they control Will-o-Wisp," Lee begins. Vulpix jumps to his shoulders as he stands and turns to Birch. "I noticed when Vulpix and I were out exercising that she was panting flames."
Birch crosses his arms and nods. "Yes, that's pretty standard with a lot of Fire types."
"Here's the 'but' to that," Lee says with a smirk. "The ebb of her fire was not synced up to her breathing. It was close, but there were distinct points where she was inhaling and the flames would grow, or exhaling and the flames would shrink, usually right at the end of her breaths. That's why I think the legend holds water."
Birch's eyes widen a fraction. "Truly? Could the breathing be just a placebo for Vulpix then? If she is able to actually manifest fire regardless of body movements to control it..."
"She could cast attacks with zero warning," Lee finishes with an excited grin. "But if she really can freely control fire like described, then she can control any fire and manifest it from anywhere."
'Fire attacks against her would be worse than useless. She could shoot attacks from any direction, or even manifest it right on her target with no travel time. Hell, with skills like that, no Fire move would be outside her reach. She might even be able to make new moves.'
The professor's jaw slowly drops, the implications are not lost on him. Vulpix likewise looks at Lee with wide eyes before looking away and furrowing her brows in thought.
"So I need to look up the mechanics behind some Fire moves and see if Vulpix can remotely manifest them. Something on the simple side to start..." Lee mutters out loud.
"Don't force it, love. Rome wasn't built in a day."
Vulpix growls and closes her eyes as yet another tiny fireball fizzles out before it can leave her mouth. She leans her head back and opens her mouth as a tiny, flickering candlelight of fire is born between her lips. The little flame wavers as it shakily tries to hover away, but it flickers and dies in a flash hardly an inch into it's travel. Vulpix opens her eyes again and looks at the grassy ground with a smoldering glare that Lee didn't expect to see on her usually aloof self.
Lee sits off to her side with his notebook in hand, jotting everything he watches down. When he sees her staring a hole into the ground, he sets his notebook aside and scoots closer, tenderly placing a hand on either side of her head and lifting so their eyes meet. "Hey, no need to look so frustrated. This is a whole new thing we're trying here. Your moves seems so easy because they're instinct. This? This is totally unexplored territory that we're working with," the man quietly murmurs, petting his vixen's cheeks gently. Vulpix slowly melts into his touch as she listens. "You've already made incredible progress. Just making flames at will with no move being used first is great. Now we just have to practice. Lets take a breather to clear our heads for a moment, yeah?"
Vulpix sighs. "Vullll. Vulpix, vul." "Four days of no progress is good?" He can practically hear, but she closes her eyes in contentment and nods into his hands.
'She's so much more reasonable than a lion,' Lee thinks fondly as Vulpix crawls into his lap and nuzzles her head to his stomach with a smile. She opens her eyes to reveal them glowing. He then feels her fledgling psychic powers touch his mind for a moment, just long enough for a burst of raw gratitude. 'She lets me get away with so much.'
Lee picks his notebook back up and looks over the corral with a smile. The gentle sea breeze from the south drives away the sun's oppressive heat and makes the short grass of the corral roll in mesmerizing waves. Pokemon of all sorts lounge and play in the field, and an uncountable number more watch and rest in the shade of the forest where the corral fence vanishes into the treeline. The breeze, the rustling of the distant leaves, and the happy calls of all the pokemon mingle into a tranquil background noise There's not an ounce of conflict to be found.
'How strange it is to think any one of these adorable things could rip me in half,' Lee muses, idly stroking Vulpix's back all the way down to her tails. He notices a black spot on the edge of his vision and looks over.
In the grass just in front of the depression where Vulpix was seated previously, there's a small burnt spot. The grass is limp and blackened, but not ash, like it was only exposed to a flame for a moment.
'But Vulpix didn't let any of her flames touch the ground. Hell, she hasn't even faced the ground in the last two hours besides...' Lee furrows a brow. 'Besides when she got frustrated and glared at the ground.' He stops petting the vixen as he thinks, making her whine and paw at him.
"Are we going about this the wrong way?" the man thinks aloud, making Vulpix open her eyes and look up at him. "Vulpix, lets try something else. We might be doing this wrong."
The vixen reluctantly extracts herself from his lap with a full-body stretch and a jaw-cracking yawn. "Pix..." she murmurs, standing ready.
"Alright, lets try this," Lee begins, opening his notebook and ripping a page out. Vulpix looks on with a raised brow as he holds the paper up. "Now, no more meditation or all that jazz that Medicham suggested on this. I want you to focus on this paper as hard as you can. Focus on seeing it go up in flames. All you want in the world is for this paper to burn because it's wronged you, so you give it more focus than anything in the world has ever gotten."
Vulpix gives Lee a dubious look, but focuses on the paper intently. She narrows her chocolate eyes and flicks her tails in concentration.
Several long minutes pass with nothing happening. The only movement is from the rolling grass and the swap of the paper in the wind. Lee's arm begins to grow tired, and his cross-leg seated position makes his legs fall asleep, but he dares not move least he spoil Vulpix's concentration. Vulpix begins to grit her teeth, her frustration beginning to surface again.
Slowly, the middle of the white paper begins to darken and smoke, and the sun's rays grow a little hotter.
Lee looks between his almost-snarling pokemon and the sheet of paper in his hand. "You want the paper on fire more than anything, Vulpix," he whispers just loud enough to make her twitch an ear. "It wrongs you, mocks you by existing. Take your feelings and show it who you are. You are Vulpix, the one who will one day be the strongest Fire type-no, the one who will one day be the strongest pokemon. Take all that passion to grow and succeed, and show everyone you have what it takes to master fire!"
Vulpix growls and her eyes glow faintly. The sunlight becomes so hot that Lee's burns tingle in pain.
The paper bursts into flame, making Lee yelp and drop it.
For a moment, both trainer and Pokemon stare at the paper in open surprise. When it burns down to naught but ash and blows away in the wind, Lee can't help but grin and snatch up Vulpix in a hug.
"You did it! You actually did it!" Lee says with a joyful laugh and a beaming grin. "I know you could do it. You have no idea how proud I am of you! We've been here for like, what, two weeks and we're already pushing limits and breaking rules? You're the best, love."
Vulpix can't help but smile herself and wag her six tails as she sinks into her trainer's arms. She gives him a lick on the chin and nuzzles into the crook of his neck.
Again, Lee feels Vulpix poke his mind with hers, and this time comes a pulse of raw adoration.
He hugs her just a little tighter.
Lee peers at the new scars on his side and drops the unwrapped gauze to the bathroom floor. The glass cuts had healed nicely and evenly courtesy of the Oran extract infused gauze, but the largest ones still scarred over, giving him a new set of tender pink lines in his side. He touches one with a grumble, noting the lack of pain. He looks further up in the bathroom mirror to his face.
The trio of linear burns are mostly healed, again thanks to Oran infused ointment, but they are definitely leaving scars. The skin on the left side of his face feels pinched and taut, and just smiling pulls at the lines. A childish part of him thinks the scars look fearsome, but that part is quickly beaten into submission by the more practical part of his mind. While not too painful, they're definitely uncomfortable.
Definitely not as painful as losing the Zoo and everyone there.
Vulpix suddenly appears in the mirror as she hops to her favorite perch and settles cross Lee's bare shoulders. She looks over herself only briefly in the mirror before turning her attention to Lee's visage. Her eyes wander over his front, her eyes stopping at the few scars and marks adorning his front. She then looks back up this face.
"Ugly, aren't they?" Lee sardonically asks.
Vulpix twists her head and quickly nips Lee's ear, making the man suppress a yelp. Then she presses her cheek to his and purrs.
Lee sighs and reaches up to rub behind her ear, a half-smile that doesn't pull at the scars forming on his face. "Can't you let me have just a little self-pity?"
The vixen snaps her teeth, then goes back to purring.
Lee sighs dramatically. "Fiiiiine. Let me get breakfast for us whipped up then we can head out and get some supplies for your pyrokinesis practice."
Now - Day 22
Lee's thoughts return to the present as he and Vulpix approach the lab... which is clear on the other side of town from the library, making Lee blink. "Oh jeez, have I been spacing out that whole time?"
"Vul," Vulpix affirms, nosing his cheek from her usual spot on his shoulder. "Vulpix vul."
He sighs. "Yeah I know. Sorry about that, love. The last few weeks have been something else. I guess I'm still a little out of sorts."
Vulpix says nothing, but curls around his neck like a furry scarf.
Lee turns with Vulpix in tow to find both Brendan walking their way with a wave. "Heading to the lab?" Brendan asks, no breaking his strike as he walks up.
"MmmHmm," Lee replies, falling into step with the boy.
"So what have you guys been up to all day? Myself and Mudkip were out in the woods doing that strength training you told us about," Brendan grins. "I never knew Mudkips could actually smash boulders! When he gets to Swampert, he's gonna be unstoppable!"
The ball on Brendan's belt shakes.
"You'll need to beat Vulpix first if you actually want to be unstoppable," Lee quips, taking the wind right out of Brendan's sails and making Mudkip's ball go still.
"Easier said than done..." the young Birch grumbles. "Vulpix is freaky strong, and how does anyone fight you without getting Confuse Ray spammed to death?"
'Vulpix just learned Feint Attack last week, so she can only be mid-20s in level. I guess that would be tough to a definitely-below level 16 pokemon. Though, Mudkip has to be on the cusp of evolution. He's grown so much since his first ass kicking and just begs for more. Little masochist.' Lee muses. "Look on the bright side," Lee starts with a smirk. "Mudkip can snap himself out of confusion in seconds now."
"That doesn't really matter when you and Vulpix spam Confuse Ray so much."
"It'll matter against other trainers," Lee says as the pair enter the cool, air-conditioned lab and spy Professor Birch on the video phone in the corner. "Imagine the shock on some random trainer's face when Mudkip barely stumbles after being confused and knocks his pokemon into the stratosphere."
That makes Brendan grin and makes Mudkip's ball shake again.
"-tually, both just walked in now, Samuel," Birch says as Brendan and Lee approach. Birch turns and waves both over with a wide smile. "Brendan, Lee, I'd like you both to meet Professor Samuel Oak, The Pokemon Professor!"
Birch moves to the side to show both of his trainers the screen of the vid-phone, and on it is none other than the legendary Professor Oak, who peers at both of them with aged, wisdom filled eyes.
Lee has to struggle not to smile at the man he's always wanted to meet, but Brendan has no reservations and openly grins. "Nice to meet ya, Professor! I'm Brendan Birch, and this is Lee Henson! Don't be too upset if we thrash any of your trainers in the Ever Grande Conference!"
Birch chokes and blanches. "Brendan! I-" he stops when he hears laughing from the phone.
Oak chuckles a few more times and calms, but his smile remains, showing the lines on his aged face from how often he must smile. "My oh my. It's not often I see such bold enthusiasm," he says. "Well, I'd certainly not hold a grudge over a proper victory. Tell me young man. Who did you choose as your starter?"
"Mudkip of course!"
Oak nods with a hum. "A sturdy, powerful pokemon. As your Mudkip grows, you'll likely find him to be a pillar of strength for your whole team. An anchor that would never let you be swept away, and a frightful tsunami in battle. Swampert are revered and feared for their sheer might. An excellent choice, young Brendan," Oak says, his words carrying impeccable strength and certainty even over the phone.
Brendan flushes and mutters a quick, "Thank you, sir."
Oak then turns his attention to Lee with a raised brow. "Well well, Mr. Henson. You look quite seasoned already. Why take a sponsorship?"
"Would you believe me if I said I was born on a small island nation with no pokemon?" Lee lies through his teeth, spooling up his story. "We had legends, but I didn't know pokemon were real until about a month ago."
Oak's eyes widen a fraction and his smile dims somewhat. "Truly? What was this place called?"
"The United States, a series of small states under one controlling body. I ended up on Hoenn after... Unfortunate circumstances," Lee grimaces, his burn scars flaring with phantom pain. He tenderly rubs the raised skin and continues. "Vulpix, being a sweetheart, found me and stuck with me. We came here to Little Root and met Professor Birch, who was kind enough to stick his neck out for us. The rest is history I guess," he finishes, reaching up to stroke Vulpix's neck.
Oak peers at both Lee and Vulpix with great scrutiny, making both man and vixen tense up from the intense, almost judging stare, then Oak returns to his grandfatherly smile just as quickly. "That's quite a tale. I have to say, would your home be open to communication?"
"They're pretty militaristic and isolationist..." Lee trails off. "Now that I'm out, I can't return. Not that I know where the US is from here anyway."
The smile on Oak's face falls some. "That's a shame. I would have loved to have a trainer like yourself. A trainer with a fresh new look at pokemon? Oh yes, now that would make for a fascinating study. I assume Professor Birch added such a study as a stipulation to your sponsorship?"
Birch freezes up.
"Oh Nigel, don't look like that," Oak gently chides with a shake of his head, making Birch slump. "Any pokemon researcher worth their salt would want to secure such an opportunity. I certainly can't blame you." Oak turns back to Lee, now looking at Vulpix. "Vulpix, hmm? A rare pokemon, even in their native Kanto. Revered as tricksters and mystics, Vulpix and the venerated Ninetales are difficult to raise pokemon who thrive under skilled trainers. Her excellent health and demeanor speaks volumes about your ability to raise pokemon, young man."
"That's just good genes on her part," Lee asserts with a shake of his head. Vulpix harshly jabs his cheek with her nose, but he ignores it. "I don't do much. Just what needs to be done." Vulpix jabs him again.
Oak raises a brow, his smile deepening some. "Vulpix are finicky as they are rare, so that loyalty of her does you no favors here. Just your willingness to hold a dangerous pokemon so close says a lot."
"..." Lee says nothing in reply, so Vulpix growls and paws him right in the eye. "Ow! Dammit love, don't do that!"
Oak laughs and turns back to Birch. "Anyway Nigel, one of my trainers, Ash Ketchum, just finished up his final preparations for his journey to Hoenn after the Silver Conference. Could you update his Pokedex once he arrives? He should be in Little Root in the next week."
'So it's some sort of mix between the games and anime here,' Lee thinks to himself, rubbing the smarting eye Vulpix bapped. 'Why the League website didn't have the Silver Conference results I have no idea, but at least I know now.'
"Of course Samuel," Birch says, visibly relieved his senior didn't hold tying Lee down against him.
Oak smiles at everyone. "Nigel, it was nice to speak to you again. You're doing wonderful despite your short tenure so far," he says, making his junior smile. "Brendan, Lee, I'll be looking forward to seeing you both in the Ever Grande Conference and how well you stack up against my trainer, Ash. Have a wonderful day everyone!"
And with that, Oak hangs up.
Lee hums as Vulpix settles again.
'This is where it all starts I guess.'