A note from Fuggmann

A big thanks to NurseBold, Nicolas H, Tim M, ncskeeter56, Thomas D, Avo, S. Nutter, Lucy B, Lars H, Jesper B, Frogsamurai, Ethan S, Bunny Waffles, Kalafalafakah, Fabhar, Zach C, Dicky W, Sashank U, Patrick I, MidnightJayguar, Tyric Gaias, No Thanks, Alex G, Meadow, Spencer S, Taylor V, Jeremy H, Scott E, Johnathan C, Josh T, marcellis97, Powernap, rooster196, Johnathan D, Sukaleska, Ampharos3, Nick R, Tiemi, Ryan S, Irene, Xegzy, Earthpatriot117, CheesePie25, Thundatwin, TwentyThousandCats, MooMoo195, itsawaffle, Rafael B, Esquire, Spencer Kohlman, Siphon Rayzar, Mrbucky92, wishindo, Sandesh, Obsidianking, ToolsOfTrypticon, Jorge B, Kyle P, Cynicalto, Friendship is Carrots, Tayler, Dominic M, Aidan S, Duncan K, Webmaster, Planetace, xydra22, Konrule, Aros, Argent E, Orion D, Chris C, Vitruvius, Emeraldleafeon, Reviv3pls, Kiri, Michael S, Chaz, Swinter, Patroncrad, James M, Smaug, Buzztech, Phillip N, V, 2ScoopsPlz, Grant G, and KessOrangesoda for being patrons.

An extra big thanks to Teigen S, Lennert B, K, Andres, Stays Secret, Paul F, VandheerXLorde, Dusks_Lantern, Jordan M, Sprektomegankai, Berd, Cristobal A, Uratan, Enderchangeling, Alder, Bacchin, Rincewind, for being high-level patrons.

A special thanks to Spartanstoryteller and Eriermence for being mad-lad level patrons.

Last but certainly not least, a very special thanks to BrokenOlive, Nekusar, and Cait R for being top-level patrons, as well as a thanks to every donator who wishes to go unnamed.

Want to support me? As a thanks for donating, patrons get to see updates a few days early and suggest edits to the final draft before it goes live.

Entry #0: Foreword

In a (maybe futile) effort to keep my meta-physical resources in order, I'm going to start writing down whatever I remember and encounter. I have no doubts that there are more than I remember or can even sus out, but it would be grossly negligent of me to just play this by ear. At the same time, the stuff in this notebook is easily Forbidden Knowledge, so this is going to be written in Non-Standard Cipher β. If you can read this, go fuck yourself because I'm changing the cipher again.

Thank you for all the conversations on the subject of cryptology, Marcus. Why DARPA let a spec-ops spook like you be just a mere security guard, I have no idea. I'm not going to think too hard about the Suspicious Convenience of your insight.

I've meditated over what I can recall of Pokemon, even using aura to try and build a Mindscape (which hasn't worked. Yet.) and what I do remember is worth pausing at. In order to escape a true and final death, Lulu and I have our work cut out for us. Legends, rivals, criminals, gods, God, and everything in between - we invite them to oppose us just by becoming strong. In a world governed by the rules and tropes of an anime, they don't even need a good reason to try and kill us.

Step right up.

In the early morning of the dawn, Julian watches his steamy breath spiral and dance through the thin rays of sunlight peeking through the leaves of the trees. It does little to distract him from the anxious excitement running up and down his body like jolts of electricity. At his side, Lulu stands and waits serenely with her paws folded behind her back, but he can feel the excited flutter of her aura just under her skin. Her paw rubs the stone in her gauntlet.

It's day 92. Today, he and Lulu leave.

Gathered around them in a semi-circle stretched around the entrance to the encampment, most of the pack waits along with them to see them off. Some are impassive, though their rolling aura gives their feelings away. Others bear their emotions openly with wide, proud smiles or something more melancholy. Regardless of the few flaring auras jubilant to see them off, the early morning meeting carries the bitter-sweet taste of parting ways.

The sound of paws shuffling through grass cuts through the quiet, and the semi-circle of furry bodies opens a gap in the middle, letting a stoic Pops and Lady Luca through.

In Pops' paws is a somewhat ratty canvas messenger bag with a leather shoulder strap. Julian vaguely recognizes it as one of the bags that the foraging parties take with them on missions. As Pops walks, the contents inside shuffle and clink.

Just behind Pops, Lady Luca holds something much more eye-catching; A whole, intact pokeball.

The red-and-white bit of miracle tech is scuffed and dirty, as expected of something scavenged from the field, but it's in one piece and if Lady Luca bothered bringing it, then it must work.

Pops and Lady Luca stop just an arms-length away, and for a moment, no words are exchanged.

"Daughter…" Pops quietly addresses Lulu, drawing all eyes to him. He doesn't waver the slightest. "I've meditated on your words throughout the night. You wish to see the world and face the challenges it has to offer so you might stand all the taller through the hardship. You wish… to be like me." The old Lucario pauses to take a deep breath and seemingly mull over his words. "Make no mistake, Daughter. The night of your birth, the first time I held you, I fell in love once more. Where I failed to protect the ones precious to myself before, I was determined to make amends with you."

Julian looks over to Lulu, watching her ruby eyes grow wider and wider as her father speaks. As much as he wants to call the speech cheesy, the very real emotions being thrown keep him quiet.

"I see now that you aren't a pup to be coddled any longer," Pops closes his eyes and crosses his arms, making the bag on his shoulder shift. "Your blood burns with the fire of a true Lucario. Already, our pack runs thin with things to offer you, and you strain against these constraints like a new Beedrill might its Kakuna shell. It's time…" His face twitches as if in pain. "It's time for you to go. The world awaits you. Do not return too soon, even if you are missed." He says. He hides the emotions on his face, but in his aura, Julian can feel his Love for Lulu.

"Father…" Lulu smiles, her eyes misty.

Pops then turns his stern gaze to Julian, making the teen stiffen. "Remember my words, Julian Angelo. For my daughter's sake, you will succeed. Understand?" Pops jabs Julian's bare chest with his paw, right above the boy's Keystone pendant. Without waiting for an answer, he takes the messenger bag from his shoulder and slings it across Julian's, making the contents rattle again.

"Understood." Julian grimaces and adjusts the twisted leather strap of the bag digging into his shoulder. The old leather creaks in his hand. 'Hardass…'

Lady Luca clicks her tongue and gently nudges her mate aside with her hip. "Enough, My Love," she scolds as she takes his place. "There is no need for that."

Pops says nothing as he steps aside, just keeping his now neutral gaze on the boy and his daughter.

With a great sigh, the Alpha Female plants a solemn smile on her face and steps forward. "Daughter, you are my beloved first pup. It pains me to see you go out into the world without myself there to watch you, both to marvel as you grow and to keep danger away, but as do Starly spread their wings and take to the sky from the nest, so must you from our pack. I've witnessed you grow from a tenacious little pup to a brave and beautiful young adult in what seems like no time at all. O' my daughter, I fear I can't go on or I might change my mind and never let you go." Luca's smile contrasts sharply with her budding tears.

Lulu quickly steps in to pull her mother into an embrace, one the older Lucario gladly returns. "I promise to come back as something that'll make you proud," Lulu murmurs.

Luca almost chokes up. "Daughter, already I'm so proud…" Her words, like Pops' carry Love. She pulls away from Lulu and turns to Julian, who tries his hardest to not fidget awkwardly under the matronly visage. "Julian…" Lady Luca begins slowly. "It's been only ninety days, less than a full season since you've entered our lives. You've taken our way of life to heart, moving forward without tears. You might be young by the reckoning of both humans and Lucario, but you have grit rarely seen. Despite the short time, I've come to see you as my own." She steps forward and tenderly takes his hand in one of her weathered paws before setting the pokeball into his palm. "Yours and Lulu's friendship is something special, and already I can tell that together you'll do amazing things." With her other paw, Luca closes Julian's fingers around the ball. "Promise me that you'll take care of one another and that you'll return one day. You're my second pup, Julian."

Julian swallows the lump in his throat. Luca's words warm his face, and in his chest, an emotion he hasn't felt since his mother's death stirs. "Sure thing…" He lets a small smile bloom on his face and steps closer, surprising Luca with a tight hug. Inside of him, he feels the tingling, almost overpowering Power of Love. "Sure thing, Ma."

The floodgates break and Luca's breath hitches. Tears run down her cheeks and stain her fur as she hugs him back, poking the boy with her spike when she holds him with too much strength. "Go!" She suddenly pries herself from his grip and points to the gap in the tree wall. "Go now and begone! If you don't, I'll change my mind and keep you two in my arms forever!" She begs.

Julian and Lulu share a look. On Lulu's lips is a smile both elated and melancholic. As one, they turn and begin walking, but not before Julian can turn back and say; "Thank you. All of you."

Pops looks away, but on his face is a ghost of a smile.

Lady Luca - no, Ma covers her mouth with a paw to keep from bawling.

In the crowd, Scout grins with pride.

A few paces away, Spot smiles and shifts the wide-eyed Riolu pup in her arms. At her side, Tyke waves at them with sad, watery eyes.

With a flare of aura, man and 'mon race away.

The burn in Julian's muscles is ignored as he and Lulu hop through the trees like ninja from an old anime he forgets the name of. They leap, hop, twirl, and duck through the branches and around startled pokemon. No words have been exchanged since they started south roughly an hour and a half ago, both of them focused on beelining for the town of Sandgem.

'Don't think I can go back to enjoying fast food and video games,' Julian spares a look down at himself, mentally comparing his lean, tanned, whipcord form to his old pale and lanky self. He isn't going to even think about his pudgy adult form. 'Hell, if urban legend is right, fast food grease makes you sick once you lose your taste for it. But you know what I miss having? A good shower.' He smiles and glances at Lulu, who can barely contain her excitement. If not for him, she mighthave blasted ahead. More than once she's almost left him behind. 'I think a hot bath is something she'll quickly grow fond of.'

Thoughts of returning to society after what feels like a lifetime bring up new concerns, however. 'Aw shit. I have no ID, no money, and no legit way to get either one. I bet you need some kind of license to be a trainer, too.' Julian frowns as the reality sets in. 'Do I just say I was raised by wild Lucario and hope for the best? I mean, it's not untrue per se, but it's going to look odd that I know perfect English and can function like a normal person. I don't trust my acting abilities to not break when things get dicey, either. Even then, they might try to put me in a home or take Lulu away.' He sighs under his breath. 'Great. Way to plan ahead, Julian.'

"Julian?" He looks to the side when Lulu calls his name. She looks concerned. "You're deep in thought. Is everything okay?"

The man-turned-teen grumbles. "Fine. I just realized some hang-ups."

"Like?" She asks, not breaking her hopping even as she ducks under a thick branch.

Julian holds off on answering her to jump and flip over the branch she ducked, feeling a thrill of excitement when the maneuver makes his stomach drop to his toes. His senses, enhanced by aura, guide him as he comes back down feet-first onto a thick limb of wood and resumes bounding along with Lulu. "Well, unless we want to keep to the woods, we'll need IDs and money. You can't exactly get one without the other, so…"

"Things will be more difficult for us," she finishes with a lopsided frown. "I am no expert in human affairs. Do we really have no recourse without eye-dees or money?"

"We could work for money in an under-the-table job. Hard cash greases a lot of wheels." Julian pauses and looks to Lulu in case he needs to explain, but from her comprehending expression, aura-speak translated the idioms without issue. "If reading aura to talk to pokemon wasn't an advantage worth keeping secret, I could just offer to translate for trainers and make fat stacks of cash. Sadly, that's attention we don't want... yet."

Lulu reflects quietly for several more tree-hops. "I'm quite strong, and you're certainly stronger than most humans. Is there not something that just requires brute force to accomplish?"

"We can see if we can battle for money." Is the first thing out of his mouth. He knows all of Lulu's moves, but he doesn't need to coach her in a fight, not when she's the better fighter. Really, he just needs to keep an eye on her blind spots and warn her if something is coming. "If not, we could see if some crooked warehouse manager or construction foreman will take a homeless kid and a Lucario and give them a job. The pay is going to be garbage, though."

Lulu nods. "It's a start."

"I'll also try to play the orphan angle to the local Nurse Joy and see if we can't get any freebies or help becoming official," Julian adds as an afterthought. "Maybe even see about getting contact with someone higher up the chain. I think there's a pokemon professor in Sandgem." He thinks hard, trying to remember the hazy playthrough of the Sinnoh games nearly fifteen years ago. "Roran or something?"

Lulu's brow creases. The waver in her aura tells Julian she isn't pleased by the idea of handouts or acquiring them dishonestly, but she keeps her protests to herself.

After just twenty more minutes, the trees begin to thin out and force Julian and Lulu to the ground, where they both run along the ground dodging between trees. Before long, the tree-line in the distance comes to an abrupt end at the crest of a hill, where Lulu and Julian slow to a stop.

"Ooohhhh…" Lulu looks down at the town below with wonder.

Down the hill and nestled in a gentle, rolling valley of verdant green, Sandgem is very much a small town seen only in storybooks. Rustic houses and buildings with generous space between them are laid out along the handful of paved roads. Many of the homes have large gardens or fields to their rear, all of them tilled and seeded for the beautiful spring upon the region. To the north, mountains with brilliant white caps frame the town, and around those white caps are halos of orange and pink from the rising sun. The town is a picturesque scene worthy of an artist's canvas.

Julian fills his lungs with the cool morning air, feeling a smile take over his face. The beautiful little town, the crisp wind cooling his sweaty body, Lulu's awed aura rolling over him, it all fills him with a magnificent energy. "So much prettier than the city," he comments, scanning over the buildings and finding the red-roofed Pokemon Center. "Let's take stock then head into town." He drops to his rear and leans back against a tree.

Lulu nods slowly, still staring down at Sandgem as she seats herself next to Julian with her legs crossed.

The blonde teen pulls the gifted bag into his lap and opens the flap to peer inside.

In the berry-stained bag are what few pack-scavenged things a traveler might find useful. Several fresh Oran berries wrapped in a cloth, a large single-edged knife in a crumbling leather sheath, a hunk of flint, a small tarp, a compass with a scratch in the glass, his notebook and pen, a metal water bottle with the logo faded off, and the pokeball for Lulu. About a third of the bag still has room for more supplies.

Julian takes the pokeball out and rubs his thumb over some dirt on the side, scrubbing it away. 'I should probably catch Lulu now so no one gets any ideas in town. I'm pretty sure Lucario are a rare breed of pokemon.' He presses the button, watching with interest as the ball flippantly defies science by seamlessly expanding out of its tiny travel form into a handful. He then turns to Lulu and holds the ball out. "Ready?"

She eyeballs the little capsule with something akin to distrust. "I don't want to be in there when I don't have to be."

"I was about to say the same thing," Julian agrees with a smile. "I just don't want anyone to get any funny ideas about catching you in town. You don't need to be in the ball for the anti-catch protection to work."

The explanation makes her expression ease somewhat. "Okay…" She reaches out slowly, almost nervously, and taps the button in the center.

The pokeball pops open on an invisible hinge, revealing the solar panel-like guts inside. At the same time, Lulu's whole body is covered in a bright red light that writhes and jumps like flame. In the light, her body fades into a mass of red energy and is promptly sucked inside the ball before it clicks shut.

A whining noise comes from the ball and it shakes in Julian's hand. Through the metal shell, he can feel his partner's aura spike in panic, but after a fitful moment, she calms herself and the ball stops shaking. A second later, the pokeball makes a quiet bing sound, signifying a successful capture.

Julian tries to hold back a smirk as an idea suddenly strikes him.

"Yeah!" He jumps to his feet and yells to the sky, starling a flock of Starly out of the tree above. He holds the pokeball high above his head and can imagine a camera dramatically panning around him as he makes a wide, shiny-toothed protagonist smile. "I caught a Lucario!"

Through the ball, Julian feels Lulu's embarrassment.

"Alright, alright. Enough fooling around," he giggles and drops the silly pose. He taps the ball's button with his middle finger and it pops open with the distinct pokeball snap-hiss. In a flash of white light, Lulu rematerializes before him and sways slightly, blinking stars from her eyes.

"Was it weird?" Julian shrinks the ball and drops it back into his messenger bag. "Being in the ball, I mean."

Lulu shifts on her paws. "A bit, yes. I was here with you, yet not all at the same time. I could see and hear, but not move." She shakes her head, throwing her ears and dreadlocks around. "Not... bad, but I didn't want to leave the pack just to spend our journey in your pocket," she says, resting her forepaws on her hips.

Julian smiles and nods. "Good. A lonely adventure is a shitty adventure. Now, let's get going."

Side by side, the teen and Lucario descend the hill into Sandgem, walking through the grass until happening by a footpath of worn dirt passing by a small farm and leading into town.

As they leisurely stroll past the simple wooden fence, Julian watches a small group of Miltank, rotund, bipedal cow pokemon, mill about the pasture. Some bend down to graze, others simply rest in the sunlight with content smiles, and a few of them are gathered in a small group near a barn on the other side of the field. Near the barn, a Rapidash watches the going-ons with careful eyes.

Julian squints and tugs on his latent aura, stretching his 6th sense out into the field to try and read the pokemon.

Unlike the powerful and refined aura of a Lucario, the auras of all the Miltank are weaker and chaotic, making them a chore to read. It's an issue Julian has run into when trying to read passer-bys with the pack. The Miltank flit from one emotion to another, and the wavy flames representing them in his mind's-eye are hazy. It's like trying to read a language you barely know when the script is blurry.

Many of the Miltank simply feel happy or content, easy emotions to identify. One young mother on the west side of the field with her young calf is simply elated as she watches her curious child toddle.

The distant Rapidash, a horse-like pokemon with a cream-colored coat and waving orange flames for a mane and tail is much more complex. She carefully surveys the pasture with emotions Julian can't figure out deep in her core, and as her eyes pass over himself and Lulu, Rapidash's aura slowly pulses in open wariness.

The dirt path into town eventually intersects with a sidewalk that dead-ends on one side with the other leading into Sandgem, so Julian and Lulu make for the distant red-roof of the Pokemon Center. A few people on the early morning streets look at them oddly as they pass. Whether it was seeing a Lucario, seeing a homeless kid, or some combo of both walking together, Julian can't rightly say.

'A job might be a bit harder to come by than I thought…' Julian grimaces as he takes in the rural haven of Sandgem. 'Everyone here looks so… Honest. I've not seen one expression of disdain for looking like I was raised by wolves, just confusion and concern.' Like he did with the farm they passed, Julian focuses on the aura of the people around them and receives a shock.

Are the auras of normal people just this weak?

If he is a candle to Lulu's bonfire, then the people of Sandgem are mere embers in comparison. There is almost nothing to sense, which makes divining the feelings of the people around him nearly impossible. What little he can glean is that there's simply nothing negative in their gazes.

"Lulu?" He whispers. "Any idea what the people around us are thinking about when they look at us?"

The Lucario shuts her eyes in concentration as she walks. "Pity, bewilderment, concern, some apathy, and several smaller things. Nothing seems hostile, however," she says as she opens her eyes again.

"That's what I thought…" Julian murmurs. "Was I this weak when we first met?"

Lulu hesitates. "Yes."

'This is the norm, then.'

The thought of being an ember so easily snuffed out...

After walking past a number of houses and small businesses, like a tiny electronics shop proudly boasting that they sell pokeballs with a colorful sign in their window, a grocery store that would have fit in a gas station back in the city, and a farmer feed-and-seed store with two overall sporting men lounging outfront in wooden chairs, Julian and Lulu finally reach the pokemon center.

The sliding doors open automatically with a squeak, almost making Lulu jump, but she quickly composes herself with an embarrassed blush when Julian snickers. "Doors scare ya?"

She huffs. "There is a difference between being startled and scared," she grumbles. "Human territory is so cluttered."

The pokemon center invokes odd feelings of nostalgia in Julian, who scans around and sees that it looks much like he recalls from hazy memories of childhood mornings watching Pokemon. There's a small lounge in the far corner, with a large L-shaped couch, a table with old magazines, and a TV mounted to the wall. A short ways away along the wall is a shuttered window saying "Cafeteria" with a few circular tables and chairs nearby. Along the opposite wall are a number of rental computers sitting on desks with dividers between them, one of which is occupied by a person with purple, neck-length hair in the middle of a quiet video call. Against the furthest back wall, between two sets of doors, the main reception desk sits along with a trio of the near-magic pokemon healing machines. The machines themselves are still the blocky, photocopier-esque shape he remembers. At the sides of the desk, the doors lead to the bathroom on left, and deeper into the center on the right.

In the early hours of the morning, only the signature Nurse Joy is manning the front desk of the pokemon center, as her Chansey is busying herself moving several boxes stacked by the reception desk into the back of the center one at a time. Just like the anime, Nurse Joy is a pretty young woman with rose-colored hair styled in a pair of loops and kind blue eyes. With her pink dress, white apron, and red-cross-marked cap, she's a spitting image of the first thing people think when they hear the word 'nurse.'

As Julian and Lulu approach, Nurse Joy looks up away from the computer she's diligently typing away on to give them a smile, then her brows furrow, and her kind smile is replaced with a scolding frown. "Young man," she begins. "Unless there is an emergency, I'm afraid we have a shoes and shirt policy. I'll have to ask you to appropriately clothe yourself."

Julian looks down at himself, silently kicking his own ass for not realizing this would be an issue. "Ah, sorry nurse." He tries not to trip over his words, having not spoken to another human being for months. "I kinda don't have anything else. I'm flat broke."

Nurse Joy plants her hands on her hips. "Young man, you shouldn't let yourself get to this state. If you're in such dire straits on your journey, then you need to call your parents!" She clears her throat and smiles. "We'll let it slide this time, but you're calling your family before I'm letting you leave. Now, you are a trainer, aren't you, young man? Your Lucario looks very healthy."

Lulu returns Nurse Joy's smile. "Thank you."

"She says 'thanks,' but that's more her own effort than mine." Julian translates. "And, uh, I guess I am a trainer." The phrase feels so strange to say. Julian Angelo is a pokemon trainer is a factual statement now. He rubs the back of his neck with a hand, unsure how to proceed. "Quick question and I know this might sound odd, but, uh, do I need a license to be a trainer?"

The nurse blinks, perplexed. "Well, in most cases, yes. No one will harass someone for keeping a pokemon as a pet or for having a casual battle, but to participate in any event sanctioned by the Pokemon League, you must be a licensed trainer," she regards Lulu critically. "And Lucario are typically seen as battle-oriented pokemon…"

Julian cringes and Lulu's ears fold back. "Ah…"

"You don't have a license, do you?" Nurse Joy asks knowingly. She must take Julian and Lulu's silence as an answer because she sighs before smiling encouragingly. "Don't worry too much, it's better late than never. Here." She opens a drawer behind her desk and takes out a packet of paper stapled in one corner along with a ball-point pen before laying them on the desk. "Fill this out, and I'll get it to the League. You'll get another form in the mail confirming your parent's permission on the matter. Head on home after this, okay? League officials aren't fond of unregistered trainers galavanting about, and I'm sure your parents are worried sick about you."

Julian takes the pen and clicks the point down. At the same time, he begins reading what needs to be filled out on the paperwork. 'Name is easy. The current date is… uh.' He glances at the digital clock on the wall behind Nurse Joy and writes down what he sees. 'Height is...well. Not sure on weight… Birthplace? Birthdate? Prior trainer credentials? Oh shit.' The blonde teen realizes his plans are quickly becoming unraveled by bureaucracy of all things. He has no answer for most of what the application form wants and hesitates.

"Is something wrong?" Lulu asks, peering over his shoulder.

"Yeah, I just realized I don't know most of these." He glumly answers.

"And why is that?"

The teen jumps and looks back up at Nurse Joy, who he completely forgot was there due to how he missed her aura entirely. The nurse watches them with a raised eyebrow.

'Channel your inner Tragic Backstory and Heartwarming Orphan, Julian.' The blonde feels rather vile as he prepares to manipulate the kind nurse, but… 'You can live or die by bullshit, and I'm living forever.' He glances at Lulu, silently asking her to play along and hoping she understands.

"I'm sure you can put two-and-two together, Nurse Joy…" Julian sets the pen in his fingers down and bites his lip, turning his eyes away from her as he does so. "A ratty-looking kid comes in asking dopy questions like mine… There isn't an address to get that permission form to, or parents to sign it. After mom passed, things just kinda… fell apart. I've been wandering for a long time," he pulls at his pants. With the knees worn into holes and the legs ripped short by many a spar, they're in a sorry state. "Lulu's pack took me in during the winter, and it's a good thing too, or I think that would have been it for me." He turns his face back up to meet Joy's shocked expression, hands balled up before her mouth and all. "I don't want to be some homeless orphan forever, Nurse Joy, and with my friend, Lulu at my side, being a pokemon trainer is the best shot at that."

Julian can feel Lulu's eyes boring in the back of his head, her aura shifting in discomfort with his words. He knows she can feel his dishonesty by omission. Both to make the unpleasant feeling stop and to let Nurse Joy's imagination jump to conclusions and fill gaps, he stops. 'I should tell Lulu the full story soon… if aura-speak can translate the idea of temporal and dimensional freak-outs that is.'

Nurse Joy finally comes to her senses. "O-oh, dear!" She exclaimed. "Oh, young man, I'm so sorry! I didn't realize that…!" She stops, her expression of genuine mortification and the distressed rolling of her tiny aura making Julian feel even worse. "I understand completely. Let me make a few calls and we'll get this sorted out. Please make yourselves comfortable."

"Uh, well if you insist-" Julian begins.

"I do," Nurse Joy says resolutely.

"-then we'll play ball." Julian smiles. "Thank you, nurse."

"You're very welcome mister…" She trails off, and the blonde realizes he never introduced himself.

"Julian Angelo, Nurse Joy. I know I've said her name already, but please allow me to introduce Lulu, my first pokemon and best friend," he gestures to the Lucario at his side.

Lulu includes her head slightly. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

Joy smiles. "Manners like that will get you far in life, Mister Angelo. Anyway, sit tight!" She turns away and picks up the phone receiver from behind her desk, so Julian takes that as their cue to leave her for now.

Beckoning Lulu along, Julian makes for one of the terminals along the wall. "C'mon, let's do a bit of research while we wait." They take the one furthest away from the purple-haired person, who is still on a quiet video call, so as to not be overheard.

Julian scoots to the side on the uncomfortable desk chair so that Lulu can squeeze in and rest a bit as well, but as she sits, rest isn't what's on her mind.

"Julian? What is this thing?" Lulu blinks uncomprehendingly at the computer screen, seemingly unsure what she's looking at.

The teen hums under his breath, wondering how one explains something like a PC or the internet to a pokemon who has lived her whole life in the woods. "This is a computer. Think of it as a machine so advanced that it can essentially... think. Humans use these to communicate over long distances, store and share information, things like that."

The Lucario shifts as she thinks the explanation over. "Don't humans have jobs to carry messages on paper around? And a book seems as if it would be more durable than this glass and plastic."

"You can have mailmen carry letters and books around, yes, but watch this." The trainer of the duo looks at the password note taped to the PC case and pulls the keyboard a bit closer. "For one, this is a bit more secure than a book being physically carried around… Or a personally owned computer would be more secure. These ones for the public to use aren't what I would use if I wanted to see or send something confidential." He types in the password from the taped note, and after a few moments of listening to the old hard drive spin, the main screen loads, amazing Lulu when the image changes so suddenly. She blinks her eyes as if she wasn't sure of what she's seeing.

"See? If I was someone who didn't know the password for the computer, I would have been stuck there. Now, let's see…" The browser is just a very generic globe icon with the word BROWSER as a label. Taking the mouse, the teen double-clicks the icon and opens it up, bringing him to a search engine amusingly named 'FarFetcher', complete with a stylized background of a Farfetch'd holding up a rolled-up newspaper in place of the usual leek. "Using the keyboard here, I'm going to type out some words to make a query for the computer to search, and using its connection to countless other computers that may or may not have the info I'm looking for, this computer will try to find what I want and bring it here so I can see it."

"League Tournaments," Julian murmurs as he types in the words and taps Enter.

The old computer groans, but the page loads with the results after just a few seconds. Ignoring the PC fans spooling up in protest, he opens up the first result, a website called Battlenet.

'Man, I hope the rest of this pokenet is as unabashedly early 2000s as this site.' The former network admin grins as the messy, colorful, and unintuitive layout of 'Battlenet' makes nostalgia smack into him full force. He scans the page for the latest news and finds an article about the tournaments.

The League year is coming to an end, dear readers. As the tournaments begin to spool up, we've got some great contenders coming in this year. As always, your faithful Battlenet reporters will be there for all the battles to bring the best details just for you! Take a look at our list of trainers to watch this year!

Below is a list of names with short articles about each, and where they're competing this year. In the section for Hoenn's Ever Grande Conference, Julian spies a name that jumps out instantly.

'Ash Ketchum…' He rubs his chin with his hand. 'It's getting close to the end of the 3rd generation of the anime, and that means he's coming to Sinnoh afterward… Or is it after the Battle Frontier? Regardless, this does tell me where I am in the timeline.'

Now armed with the information he was looking for, he turns back to Lulu. "See? I wanted to learn about the various Pokemon League tournaments, and someone made this page with the info I wanted. This computer found it and brought it right to me. Granted, this is a crash course, so we can go over more later if you want." He turns to Lulu and feels his grin fade some.

The poor Lucario looks hopelessly overwhelmed as she looks at the webpage. She flicks an ear behind them. "I'm...I think I understand the idea behind this computer," she says, her aura not matching her words. She raises a paw to her chest spike and rubs the smooth bone unsurely. "But it's not very useful to me. I don't know how to read this."

Julian rolls his eyes and drapes an arm over Lulu's shoulders, pulling her into a one-armed hug. "Would you like to learn?"

She blinks. "To read human script?"

"Sure!" Julian grins. "It can't be that hard. You're smart and I bet you'll pick it up quickly. It'll make your life easier for sure. It'll be a change of pace for me to be teaching you for once, don't you think?" He asks, releasing her from the hug.

Lulu smiles back. "I'd enjoy that."

Julian researches a few other things like a basic Pokémon League rulebook that he skims, a type matchup chart to refresh his memory, notable points in history as to avoid looking like a suspicious doofus if the topic comes up, and a consumer guide to get an idea of how much it's going to cost to fund a pokemon journey.

Short answer? A lot.

When compared to USD, the price of normal commodities in the hilariously named pokedollars are all reasonable. Raw material cost like wood and steel is roughly the same as it was back on Earth. Consumer-grade electronics seem to be even cheaper. Then he looked at the price of the tools revolving around pokémon training and had a small heart attack

A regular run-of-the-mill pokeball has an MSRP of $200. For a tool with a high likelihood of breaking if the Pokémon you're trying to capture fights too hard, that's insanity. Potions? Also an MSRP of $200. Those at the very least are a bit more understandable considering they can just erase injuries like they were never there. The Silph Co goes on about some jargon regarding cellular regeneration, and Julian is certain that the rules of biology here are not the same as they were on earth. The tiny amount given in each bottle is bullshit, however.

'Yeah, definitely having Lulu teach Heal Pulse to everyone once my roster is full.'

It gets even worse from there. Things like evolution items, held items, the bottomless and seemingly non-euclidean bags trainers use, Pokegears, Poketches, Pokenavs, C-Gears? Thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. This is all before the cost of caring for your Pokémon, which in itself can be hundreds or thousands of dollars per month.

'The frugal life is the life for me…' Julian grimaces. 'Okay, I thought I was ready for a new team member right away since Lulu and I know each other so well. That's going to have to wait until we have a steady income or a backup plan.'

"Excuse me! I have something for you!"

Turning away from the computer and looking past Lulu who is sitting on his left, Julian sees the Pokémon Center Chansey waddling up with a bundle of folded clothing in her stubby arms.

Chansey looks just as he remembers them; a pink, bipedal egg-like creature with short, nubby limbs, a gentle if simple face, and a pouch on her front containing a large, white egg. On this Chansey's head is a nurse's cap to Nurse Joy's. If the 'voice' his aura-charged brain insists he hears from Lulu is like that of a spunky young woman, then Chansey's is high-pitched and cutesy, perfect for a pink blob.

"Oh, thank you," Julian accepts the bundle of clothing from Chancy and leafs through the folds like he might a book, finding a simple red T-shirt with a pokeball logo on the front, basketball shorts with a hole worn in the pocket, some underwear that he hopes is clean, and a pair of plain jogging shoes with mismatched socks. "I hope I'm not imposing too much…"

"Not at all!" Chansey smiles and shakes her head, an impressive feat considering she lacks a neck. "Consider these donations from our lost and found bin. It's better if they're put to use with you rather than wasting away and taking up space."

"In that case, thank you." Julian smiles, and Chansey seems startled that he understood her, but quickly composes herself and smiles back.

"You can change in the bathroom and enjoy a shower if you like," Chansey offers kindly. "Joy told me a bit of your story. You've been taking care of this poor baby, haven't you?" The Normal-type gives Lulu a look.

Julian stifles a laugh at the indignant offense that crosses his first pokemon's face. "Of course I have!" She insists.

'Wait. Did I just get called a 'poor little baby?''

Chansey nods contently. "Good. Every human needs a pokemon with her head on straight, or they'll be hopelessly lost before long." She then turns and beams at the still bewildered teen. "I wish you the best! I'm sorry I can't chat more, but there is work to be done and pokemon to tend to!" Her piece said, Chansey waddles back to the staff door of the center and disappears into the deeper part of the building

"… I'm going to go take a shower, get changed, and forget that I was called a baby." Julian stands and tucks the bundle of clothes under his arm. "I'm a fuckin' grown-ass man…" He grumbles under his breath. "Horseshit…"

Lulu giggles and stands with him. "Fifteen winters isn't 'grown' by the reckonings of most."

The teen just grumbles again.

As he heads into the bathroom, Lulu leans against the wall outside to wait for him. He's a little surprised that she didn't attempt to follow him in but chalks it up to 'bathroom' and 'lavatory' potentially having overlapping meanings in the aura-translation.

Back in the pack, bathtime in the river was a rare but communal experience. Answering the call of nature, however, is still something no one wants witnesses for.

'I need to find another name for the aura-translation,' Julian thinks as looks around the large bathroom before spying a separate door labeled 'showers'. Heading in, he finds a trio of empty shower stalls each surrounded by frosted glass for privacy and a large shelf stacked with folded towels. He takes one of the stalls after setting his new clothes and his Keystone down, then strips out of his pants, which promptly go in the trashcan. 'Aura-translation is too much of a mouthful and doesn't really capture its full potential. Maybe if I make it into a proper skill with a cool name, it'll work better.'

Grabbing one of the little complimentary bottles of soap and cranking the hot water to nearly the highest temperature, the blonde groans as the first hot shower he's had in months warms him to the core.

Julian, now freshly washed and in a clean set of clothes, leans back against the comfy pokemon center couch as he and Lulu wait for Nurse Joy to call them up with news on their "arrangements". To pass the time, Julian decided to introduce Lulu to another human invention.

"I'm not quite sure I understand the point of television," Lulu admits.

"Barry…" The aged talk show host on the pokemon center TV shifts his microphone to one hand and uses a thumb to peel open the envelope held in the other. The camera shifts between the host, a hopeful young woman holding a bewildered-looking baby, an older looking man with graying hair who must be the woman's father, and a pale man in an Ursaring costume of all things who looks as if his life is about to come to an end.

"The DNA results are in. You…" The host pulls the paper from inside the envelope and looks down at it. "…Are NOT the father!"

The live audience erupts into an uproar. Meanwhile, the man in the Ursaring costume stands and cheers, even going so far as to do a gloating dance in front of the shocked young woman holding her baby, which apparently the ridiculous man didn't father.

With an exclamation of rage, the older man jumps from his chair and stomps towards the dancing man, who is busy pulling the head off his costume to twirl it around in happiness.

A pair of Machoke wearing tight T-shirts printed with the word 'bouncer' jump on stage and make an exaggerated show of holding back the raging old man, obviously not using any appreciable level of strength.

"Why would people want their familial drama to be seen by so many? Who would want to watch this?" Lulu crosses her arms under her chest spike and huffs.

"TV is called brain-rot-in-a-box for a reason." Julian shrugs. "There's more than trashy drama shows. Educational things, news reports, sometimes movies. This is just some cheap entertainment."

An arm covered by a blue sleeve darts down and snatches the remote control for the TV off of the magazine-littered coffee table. Just as quick, the hand holding the remote changes the channel to the news.

"-Low 50s to high 40s in the evenings with a 10 percent chance of scattered showers throughout the night. Travelers should take care to pack heavier coverings or keep a Fire-type handy in the event of a final cold snap."

"Hey!" Julian looks up with a scowl, noticing the purple hair of the same person he saw earlier taking a video call. "You just needed to ask if you wanted to change the channel."

Scowling back at him is a face that Julian recognizes immediately and not for a good reason.

Standing over him is Paul, Ash's rival for Sinnoh and someone known for treating his Pokémon like tools.

Disposable tools.

The boy looks to be roughly Julian's physical age if not slightly younger, with his previously described neck-length purple hair and a scowl far too harsh for a child seemingly carved into his face. A blue and black windbreaker covers his darker blue shirt, and gray cargo pants lead down to his blue and black shoes.

"Hn," Paul clicks his tongue. "Don't complain when I did you a favor. If you're not learning something from it, then TVs are best left turned off."

"I'm not going to argue with you on that," Julian mutters as Paul imperiously stalks past and sits himself as far away as possible while still facing the TV. "But still, would've been nice if you asked."

Paul rolls his eyes before returning them back to the news broadcast on the screen, which is going over recent events in Sinnoh with little to actually report. "Whatever, sap. I heard you talking to your pokemon and that Chansey like you can understand them. You're one of those types who thinks that being 'nice' and tolerating every single letdown is a substitute for actual training, aren't you? That's how you ended up so broke that you couldn't even afford shoes, isn't it?" He snorts. "You must be the worst trainer this side of Sinnoh if you managed a losing streak like that."

Julian smirks even as his temper flares. In the corner of his eye, he can see Lulu level Paul with a scowl of her own. "Yeah, you wish. Reverse that, pal, I'm the one who knows your type. Wanna know what it is?" Julian doesn't give the other boy time to answer. "Asshole. An asshole who's always going to be second fiddle because he hobbles himself."

Paul's scowl transforms into something hateful, and Julian can even feel a tiny trickle of Killing Intent from him. Compared to what that rogue Garchomp, or god-forbid Pops can put out, it's almost nothing.

"I'd tell you to put your money where your mouth is, but that's a pipe dream from a broke failure like you," Paul crosses his arms and stands. "Under you, I'm sure even a pokemon like a Lucario would end up useless."

Lulu's aura violently churns just under her skin from the dig and a blue glow edges her red irises. "Julian…" She growls. "Challenge him."

'Oh man, kid. Being friends is a literal shortcut to power and you're going to deny it? Big mistake.' Part of him realizes that he's about to essentially bully a child, but… 'Maybe this can knock some sense into him. Might bork the timeline, but I think that went up in smoke the instant we stepped into Sandgem.'

The blonde nods, silently glad that he can give in to the vengeful pulse of Friendship in his gut. "Oh, so you're scared then?"

Paul snaps up the verbal bait without a second thought. "Afraid?" He questions incredulously. "There's nothing to be afraid of," he sneers. "If you're really wanting a beating, then fine. We'll settle this with a pokemon battle."

Julian and Lulu follow Paul out the front door of the Pokemon Center and around to the back, where a deserted battleground of packed dirt sits ready to be used. Wordlessly, each trainer takes a side.

Lulu takes to the field on her trainer's side and stands waiting, her arms crossed and her muzzle held high.

On the other side of the field, Paul raises the hem of his shirt to expose his belt of pokeballs. He brushes over three of them with a featherlight touch, then decides on the fourth one. He unclips it, enlarges it, and tosses it up into the arena with one smooth motion. "Chimchar, stand-by!"

The ball pops open and spits a mass of white light to the ground, which then collects and transforms into a small, monkey-like pokemon with brown fur and a short, bushy tail made of pure flames. Chimchar looks back at Paul with open adoration before standing at attention. "Ready!"

"Fire beats Steel, so you're finished here already," Paul says resolutely.

'Did he send out a first stage pokemon against a fully grown Lucario?' Julian shakes his head. 'No, I'm not going to correct his mistake. Anime logic. Don't bother.'

"Really?" Julian taps his foot against the dirt with an uncaring look that he hopes is infuriating. "Sure. If you say so."

Paul growls.

Then a terrible, vindictive idea with the potential to go horribly wrong makes the man-turned-teen smile.

"How about we spice this up?" Julian offers.

The purple-headed trainer just quirks an eyebrow.

"I bet that Lulu here is so well trained, that she can beat Chimchar without a single order from me!" Julian grins. "I won't utter a word, and she'll still win using the silent bond of kinship between us."

Deep in his brain, he feels something cool. It's both the feeling of a temperature change and the feeling of something exciting all at the same time.

Rule of Cool is activating.

'Easy, Julian. You could just as easily Tempt Fate.'

Taking a self-assured, borderline arrogant stance with his legs held straight and tight along with his arms held over his puffed chest, Julian feels the Cool begin to build. Better yet, he feels it begin to spread all the way to Lulu, who falls into a ready stance without any flaws in her defense. Just how he is aware of the Cool flowing through him and empowering his pokemon, he can't rightly say.

Chimchar shifts on his feet, and Julian can feel that his confidence is making the monkey pokemon's resolve waver.

"Talking to pokemon, persisting on a doomed journey, taking this battle and trying to handicap yourself…" Paul shakes his head. "You really are out of your mind, aren't you? I'll give you one more out. Forfeit and get lost."

Julian throws his head back and laughs before spreading his arms out in a mocking 'behold!' pose. "I'm the one who's out of his mind? Ha! I don't think so. You're about to get a very harsh reality check. I know for a fact that pokemon grow stronger the more powerful the bond between them and their trainer is. Lulu and I? Best friends. If you don't want to get crushed…" He stares at Paul and shunts aura to his eyes, making them glow a ghostly blue. The imagery makes his Cool rise even faster.

God above this feels so cheesy, but if it works, then it works.

In his head, Julian takes the rapidly building Cool and plugs it directly into his Killing Intent.

The air suddenly grows thicker, then thicker again when Lulu catches on and blasts her own Killing Intent.

Paul's eyes widen, his pupils dilating as he hunches over slightly, appearing as if invisible hands are pushing down on his shoulders. Sweat begins to dot his brow as he grits his teeth.

Chimchar's confidence has all but evaporated. He raises his shaking hands into a fighting stance and stares at Lulu with open apprehension. He glances back at Paul for reassurance, but there's none to be had.

"…Then brace yourself. We're going to show you what you're missing out on," The savage grin that splits Julian's face feels so satisfying.

Lulu tenses, her blood-colored eyes narrowing to slits.

Then she moves.



About the author


  • Somewhere
  • Inventor of Sex 2

Bio: I am the inventor of Sex 2. Wanna waste your money?

Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In