After resupplying and saying their goodbyes in Oldale, Lee, Brendan, and Zinnia set off onto the road after deciding to leave the same day. The heatwave of the week prior had finally subsided, allowing the trio to shorten their break at noon for more progress. After the sun had vanished over the horizon, they would build camp and rest for the night, often training and socializing before bed. Three days of progress saw them a mere part-day outside of Petalburg, leading to now, the end of the third day in a darkened forest clearing.
Above a crudely outlined battlefield in the grass, a ghostly ball of fire illuminates the dark surroundings, showing Brendan and Zinnia staring each other down in the middle of a heated battle.
"Swablu, duck!" Zinnia franticly cries.
A raging Watergun narrowly misses the flailing bird pokemon, instead crashing into a tree behind her and stripping chunks of bark clean off with a rip crack! from the force. Across the makeshift field, Brendan's Mudkip bellows in anger at the miss.
"Again!" Calls Brendan.
Unfortunately, Swablu is caught by the rapid follow-up. The blast of water is like a sledgehammer to her small body, throwing the bird to the ground where she crashes with a shrill cry.
Alongside the makeshift battlefield, Lee, Vulpix, Brendan's Shroomish, Zinnia's Shelgon, and Zinnia's final pokemon, a small Goomy, all watch. Lee is seated on an old log with Vulpix on his left. Shroomish sits at his feet while Shelgon stands with Goomy atop his shell.
Or rather all of them sans Vulpix are watching. Vulpix sits with her eyes closed, focusing on maintaining the hovering ball of flame above the battlefield to give the fighters enough light to work with. The sun has long since set, and Lee came up with the exercise as a way to kill two birds with one stone. The fighters get light, and Vulpix gets to practice.
Goomy's tiny body shudders as he looks at the savagely grinning Mudkip, who waits for Swablu to struggle to her feet. The little dragon burbles and chirps something with a shaking voice.
Under Goomy, Shelgon rumbles something that eases Goomy's trembling.
Lee glances back to the campfire, where a large pot of stew he's making for dinner simmers over a fire grate. 'Probably only a few minutes left on that,' he thinks to himself before pushing his thoughts outwards. 'Hey, love? Any idea what Shelgon said to Goomy?'
The fiery werelight above the battlefield wavers some, but Vulpix quickly stabilizes it and reaches out to him.
Fear. She sends an image of Goomy with Mudkip in the background.
Reassurance. This feeling comes with an image of both Shelgon and Goomy.
'So Shelgon was reassuring Goomy that he'd protect him from Mudkip then?' Lee asks, looking between Mudkip and the still unsteady Swablu. 'Not surprising. The Goodra line is pretty passive with Sliggoo as the exception, and Mudkip is downright monstrous sometimes. He's going to be a force of nature as a Swampert,' Lee sends back, thinking about yesterday when Goomy and Mudkip had clashed.
Even with Zinnia's superior skill as a trainer and Goomy's resistance to water attacks, Goomy was swiftly felled by Mudkip's sheer aggression.
Now it looks like Swablu was about to lose to Mudkip as well.
"Swablu! Circle around and use Take Down!" Zinnia orders, a note of frustration to her voice.
The bird pokemon arises back into the air on her cloudlike wings, quickly zipping around to Mudkip's flank before enveloping herself in a shining cloak of white energy with a furious trill.
Mudkip, already used to fighting opponents faster than he thanks to countless bouts with Vulpix, quickly pivots to face his attacker.
"Meet her head-on with Tackle!" Brendan orders.
Lee winces and closes his eyes. A second later, there is a bone-rattling thunk! as Mudkip and Swablu met head to head.
Mudkip's throaty, victorious bellow tells him exactly who won.
Lee feels something prod his knee and cracks open his eyes. Looking down, he sees the ever-dour looking Shroomish, who regards Lee with lazy eyes.
Just a week in Brendan's care has done wonders for the little mushroom pokemon. His once dry and cracked skin now has a dull, moist luster to it and his body filled out to a size more appropriate for his species. The boy trainer's care had an even greater effect on Shroomish's personality, as the little mushroom is heinously slothful and gluttonous, but would (reluctantly) rise and fight at 100% if Brendan commanded him. The lazy eyes of Shroomish wander off of Lee and over to the campfire.
Lee follows his gaze to the pot still simmering over the fire. Even now, after mostly recovering from his starvation, Shroomish still has a fixation with food, but Lee finds it hard to blame him. "Ah, it's probably done. Thanks, little guy."
Shroomish just replies with a wet grumble and follows when Lee stands to take the pot off the fire.
As he takes the sets the pot down off the grate and fishes in his bag for the set of bowls he bought back in Oldale, a very happy Brendan and Mudkip swagger up followed by a much more sour Zinnia, who cradles her barely conscious Swablu. She stops off to the side and pulls a Potion from her own bag to treat Swablu before returning the bird to her ball to rest. Vulpix retakes her usual spot stop Lee's shoulders after letting her fireball lantern fade.
"Sooo, anyone learn anything new tonight?" Lee ventures as he ladles out a bowl and sets it down for Shroomish, who digs in before it even cools.
"Mudkip learned Foresight tonight," Brendan replies with a grin, gladly accepting the bowl of hot stew and the spoon given to him. He quickly gulps down a spoonful only to almost spit it back out from the heat. He forces it down and pants to try and cool his mouth before continuing. "Usually a Mudkip will get Foresight and sometimes Bide down right before they evolve, so I think he's close!"
Mudkip raises his head from his own bowl and gives an excited cry in agreement.
Lee rubs his chin and inspects Mudkip. Indeed Mudkip learned Foresight, as when Swablu used Mist earlier in the battle, she began to pick away at Mudkip from the safety of the lowered visibility before his eyes began to glow. Following that, he knocked Swablu from the air.
Mudkip's skin in the last few days had begun to lighten in color like a Marshtop's, and the middle prongs from Mudkips gills had begun to lengthen, showing everyone versed in the Mudkip line that he had only a short time before evolution took hold.
"Already?"Lee wonders to himself aloud, idly ladling another bowl out and handing it to Zinnia, missing her words as he thinks. 'It's never really explained in the anime or games what sort of timeframe the adventures take place in. For such a huge change I would have figured it takes, well... longer. All the research I've poured over says it can take years for a pokemon to evolve. I fully expected inconstancies, but...'
A pair of fingers snapping in is face pulls Lee from his thoughts. He looks up to see a pair of ruby eyes staring at him.
The hand not holding an empty bowl rests on her hip as Zinnia raises an eyebrow. "Did you hear a word I said? You were staring into the fire awful hard."
Lee looks around, noting all the pokemon are in the process of eating. He lets out a short laugh and smiles sheepishly. "Sorry, I was lost in thought there."
Zinnia rolls her eyes and blows a lock of her hair from her face before flopping down next to him. "You do that a lot, you know? I said do you have any idea what pokemon you're getting next? If we're going to Rustboro first, I think you'll want something other than a fire type to challenge Roxanne."
'I do, in fact. If I remember correctly, Ash got his Treecko from the Petalburg Woods. Once we get back into civilization I can check online and see if any poke-watchers have spotted any Treecko in the area. A little unoriginal of me, but why fix what isn't broke?'
Lee can feel a flicker of irritation from Vulpix for the unintentional slight, but he just shushes her wordlessly. He sits, careful not to jostle Vulpix too much, and digs in his pocket, withdrawing his Pokedex. Taking the little device out of sleep mode, he scrolls over to the 'notes' function. Near the top of his list of 'potential additions' is Treecko. "I have it on good authority that there is a Treecko colony somewhere in the Petalburg Woods. The Treecko final form, Sceptile, is a fast attacker with fairly balanced physical and special attack attributes and the ability to learn rock and fighting moves to ward off pokemon with type advantages," Lee says with a grin, already feeling a boyish excitement over the prospective capture. "Sceptile's array of cutting attacks also makes it an excellent tank-buster with the ability to carve through defenses easily in a scenario where time might be critical. A Treecko would provide a great hard-and-fast offset to Vulpix's more methodical style."
Zinnia blinks and even Brendan looks over with surprise, making Lee flush some. "What?"
"You really thought that out," Zinnia says, hugging one of her legs and resting her chin on her knee. She smirks and says nothing else.
Brendan shakes his surprise away before grinning with stars in his eyes. "Hey, Lee! What pokemon should I get next?" Brendan asks, sitting close and pulling out his Pokedex. "I was thinking maybe, uh," he pauses for a moment then snaps his fingers when it hits him."Oh! A fire type because then I'd have the basic trio of elements, right?"
Lee sighs and makes himself comfortable. Vulpix noses his cheek, but her quick exhale and the mental tether makes her amusement clear as day. "I already know you're not going to stop pestering me, are you? Before asking 'what type', ask 'what role does my team need', then proceed to type. Type is important and all that but more often than not a poorly optimized but filled role is better than not having it filled at all. For example..."
Brendan hung upon each word, and although Zinnia's eyes were on the fire, Lee had her ears.