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State of Mind
“I wasn’t expecting you two to team up on me so quickly.”
Nessa shrugged. “You kind of really pissed me off.”
“I could tell.”
Nicholas lay on their hotel bed, both pokegirls stripped nude and cuddling against him. Once they had gotten back Nessa had come up with some sort of half-baked excuse to get naked and Sera had followed, though neither pokegirl had gone beyond that yet. He’d just finished explaining what Team Rocket was and now the three were getting to know each other in a conversation that Nicholas realized should have happened before anything else that morning.
He couldn’t just bring a new pokegirl into the harem and expect her to instantly fit in the fragile dynamic he had been building. Especially a pokegirl as strong-willed as Sera had turned out to be.
In Kanto, he had had Dahlia from day one. The then-Bulbasaur had been a veteran of sorts, acting as a calm anchor even when Ashley and Elizabeth came in trying to tear everything down. By the time Victoria had arrived, the three pokegirls had found their common ground, and nothing had threatened the harem dynamic further.
But here, Nessa wasn’t a veteran. Neither was Sera. There was nothing to anchor the harem... except him.
“If these humans are our enemies, then there is no other choice. We will fight them.”
“You’re not strong enough,” Nicholas replied to Sera. “I still don’t know what we’re going to do if we see them.”
“Sera said it. We’ll fight,” Nessa said. “You’ll make us stronger and we will fight.”
Nicholas blew air out his nose. “I can’t just magically...”
Nessa waited as he trailed off. When Nicholas didn’t speak she nudged him. “The gym challenge. Isn’t that the whole point of it? We can use it to get stronger.” She blinked. “Was that why you were so angry at the closed gym?”
Nicholas grimaced. “I was angry because we couldn’t continue our challenge, but not because of you. Or, for you. I was angry, because... because...”
Nessa lifted her head so that she could look at his face. “Because?”
Nicholas didn’t speak. He knew why he had been angry, but should he really say it out loud? Would it offend them?
“...because I don’t want to do this in the first place.”
Nessa blinked. “What?”
“I’m not here because I think the gym challenge will be fun. I came to Johto because I’m the Champion. It’s my obligation to tour the region, and it was a way to get away from the bureaucracy of the League.”
Now Sera was sitting up as well, both pokegirls staring down at him. “When I was invited to Professor Oak’s laboratory, I didn’t expect to start a journey through Kanto. But it was my choice. And along the way, I found that I really, really enjoyed battle. I made it all the way to the Elite Four. I beat Gary Oak. I became champion.” Nicholas closed his eyes. “My harem, beat Gary. And now I’m the Champion. I’m no longer Nicholas Topolski, tamer. I’m Champion. I’m expected to act a certain way, do certain things. I hate that. So I made an excuse and came here.” His breath hissed between his teeth. “But now I’m trapped. I wanted to get this over with, to finish the gym challenge as quickly as possible. That’s why I was angry, Nessa. I wanted to go in there and get that badge so we could move on. Now I can’t. The gym’s closed, someone is spying on me, and Team Rocket is back. I have no choice but to fight them with a harem of fresh pokegirls and damnit, you both seem like great pokegirls but I really wish I had my harem right now!”
Nessa carefully took hold of his hand. “We are your harem.”
“You raised that harem to the level they are. Why are we any different?” Sera grabbed his arm a bit more roughly than she needed to. “Why aren’t WE good enough?” When Nicholas didn’t respond she bared her fangs with a hiss. “You are the Champion. The best tamer alive. What is so wrong with us that you can not fix? That you can’t help us grow?”
“It’s not you, it’s me-“
“Bullshit.” Nicholas’ eyes popped open in surprise when he heard the curse in Sera’s quiet tone. “If you can’t help us, no human can.”
“Sera, I appreciate your confidence in me. I really do. But you’ve only known me for a day. You don’t know that.”
“You know, maybe I don’t. Do you think it matters to me? Whether I know or not?” Nicholas grunted when he felt her climb on top of him. “You are my Master. If I can’t believe in you, then what can I believe?”
Nicholas lifted his head to see her straddling him with the same fierce eyes that she had shown him all day. So much like Ashley.
“Is this the part where you fuck me?”
Sera stared at him. “No. This is the part where you say something to prove that you’re the Champion you claim to be.” Her lips twitched up into a cheeky grin. “And then I get hot, and that is the part where I fuck you.”
Nicholas gazed at her for a while before ruefully smiling. “You still scare me.”
“No, I’m being serious for a minute.” Nicholas looked over but Nessa was content just watching the two. “You’re a fucking fierce pokegirl and you scare me. It’s a good thing.”
Sera felt her body reacting to the compliment but she held back and scowled instead. “And?”
Nicholas hooked one hand under his shirt. “And I intend to make you the most terrifying pokegirl our enemies will ever see.”
Sera felt a shiver run through her. “Good enough.”
Nessa watched Sera pop Nicholas’ shorts open, swiftly working him erect and sliding onto his shaft with a moan. His words worried her. Sera was correct, but Nicholas obviously was struggling with something and she didn’t know how to help him.
She hoped that they would find someone who could.
The sounds of battle grew louder as the three approached Sprout Tower. Nicholas could see a large group of monks and assorted tamers surrounding the building, sometimes up to two or three tamers rotating in on a single monk.
“Welcome, traveler.” Nicholas turned to see a monk bowing at him. “Please, feel free to step inside. If you are looking to join the exercises, then we are honored to have you.”
“I’m looking for the gym leader?”
“Ah, looking for Falkner.” The monk straightened as he brought his full attention to Nicholas, Nessa, and Sera. “In that case, please head inside.”
Nicholas led the way into the tower. Inside he could see a few smaller groups of monks and a handful of milling humans, but nothing jumped out at him until his gaze drifted to the crowd in the center of the room.
“That must be him.”
Falkner was surrounded by dozens of humans and pokegirls and seemed to be talking as they approached. When the three began to get close a diminutive pokegirl that had been perched on his shoulders noticed them and whispered in Falkner’s ear, causing him to begin speaking faster.
The gym leader glanced up just as the three made it to the edge of the crowd. “Hello there! I see we have some new faces with us today.”
Nicholas watched the crowd turn towards him. “Hi, yeah. I’m trying to challenge the gym.”
A low murmur sprung up from the crowd and Falkner grinned. “What’s your name?”
“You look familiar, Nicholas. Have we met before?”
“No, which is why I’m here,” Nicholas replied. “I need all eight Johto badges.”
“So do all gym challengers.” Falkner dropped his shoulder, allowing the bird pokegirl to jump down before he stepped through the crowd to extend his hand. As Nicholas shook he continued. “Unfortunately I’m not accepting challenges at the moment, and even if I was, I doubt you’d qualify.”
Nicholas was stunned for a moment before his eyes narrowed and he dropped the handshake. “You’re a gym leader. You have to accept my challenge.”
“Ah, not from around here. Kanto, then?” Falkner gave Nicholas a bemused smile. “I’m not in my gym, challenges are closed. I’m busy teaching my students. If you’d like to come by the gym over the weekend I can take your challenge.”
“What am I supposed to do until then?”
Falkner raised an eyebrow. “Train, I would think. You can’t expect me to believe that a tamer fresh from Birch’s lab is actually ready to face any gyms, do you?”
The assembled crowd had started whispering and Nicholas gritted his teeth when he heard scattered laughter. “You’re supposed to give me a fair fight, aren’t you? It doesn’t matter if we’ve trained for weeks or years, you’re supposed to match our skill level.”
“Oh, you’re definitely from Kanto.” Falkner smiled thinly. “We run things differently over here, Nicholas. Better. We don’t just hand out a badge to any child who knows how to find a hole.”
“I’m barely younger than you are,” Nicholas snapped back. “And I know very well how to battle.”
“And yet here you are, with two untrained pokegirls, expecting to face a gym leader? I said it before. You’re not ready.” Falkner turned away and held out his arm so that his pokegirl could find her perch. “But if you’re so determined to fight...”
The pokegirl giggled when Falkner turned back. “Defeat Yuji, and you’ll have your badge.”
“You tell me not to underestimate you.” Faulkner’s eyes narrowed. “I should be telling you the same.”
The anger that had been clouding Nicholas’ judgment faded slightly and he swallowed. “Oops.”
“Nicholas, I think this is a mistake,” Nessa stammered. “We just came here to get information, not this.”
“I, you’re right. I got carried away-“
“I’ll fight if you won’t,” Sera retorted, starting to step past Nessa. “What better training could there be than this?”
Nessa’s counter was lost when the Zubat leapt forwards without a word from either human. Falkner shouted a command and his pokegirl flew from his shoulders, a loud hoot echoing from her lips as she darted towards the attacking Zubat.
“Yuji, tear her wings.” Nicholas looked over to see Falkner watching the closing pokegirls without any hint of emotion on his face. “Pattern three.”
“Pattern three?” Nicholas frowned. “What?”
Nessa gasped when the bird pokegirl flipped in midair. “Sera!” She grabbed at Nicholas’ arm in a panic. “Help her!”
“You’re our tamer, command her!”
Command? But pokegirls can think for themselves, Nicholas thought. All I’ve ever really done is shout encouragement...
Sera flapped her wings once more, landing and pivoting to deliver a devastating kick to her opponent. But the strike never landed and she yelped as her momentum threw her off balance.
The other pokegirl finished her maneuver and flared her own wings, dropping perfectly behind the floundering Zubat. Sera screamed when the girl’s talons tore into her shoulder, splatters of blood decorating the floor underneath her. She whirled, bringing her still-functional wing forwards, but the pokegirl simply smashed her shin into Sera’s strike and struck again when the Zubat reeled backwards, tearing a massive hole in the wing membrane.
Sera’s face went white as her wing spasmed, more blood covering the floor. “I’ll kill you for that,” she gasped.
Nicholas stood frozen. “S-Sera-“
“ENOUUUGH!” The pokegirl turned when she heard the scream and dodged, narrowly avoiding Nessa’s jaws as the Totodile attacked. “SERA!”
Falkner was watching Nicholas and shook his head when the other man didn’t react. “Pathetic. Yuji, drop them both.”
Nessa’s crazed movements were stopped when the pokegirl used one wing to hold her in place before driving her knee up into Nessa’s chin. The Totodile’s eyes rolled back as she fainted and the pokegirl turned to Sera, the Zubat now on one knee with both useless wings hanging beside her.
Nicholas found their pokeballs before the bird pokegirl could strike and recalled the two, quickly moving towards the door, but not fast enough to escape Falkner’s words. “All talk and nothing to show for it. Come find me when you’re ready to act like a real tamer.”
“You made some mistakes.”
Nicholas clenched Sera’s pokeball in his fist. The words echoed through his head but try as he might he couldn’t remember why. Were they positive, forgiving? Or mocking him?
He had stumbled back to the pokegirl center after the humiliating beat down and now sat motionless in the lobby. He’d frozen up. Everything had happened so fast, he-
“You made some mistakes.”
Nicholas started. That’s right, those were Brock’s words. The Rock-type gym leader’s face swam into view, his half-formed gym around him.
“When you’re ready, I’ll see you back here again.”
He’d come back almost immediately then, with Ashley urging them on. But it had been Brock’s words that kept him from breaking down, from giving up. This time the gym leader had not been so kind.
If he couldn’t even beat the first gym leader, then he definitely wasn’t anything special.
Did he even deserve to be called Champion?
Nessa took another look at where Nicholas sat silently.
The conversation he’d had with them had been somber. A lot of quiet apologies, and not much direction. Sera was sulking nearby but Nessa just couldn’t sit still. She didn’t want to give in to the negative atmosphere - she itched to move, to fight, anything but wallow in self-pity.
One of her hands crept to the pendant around her neck and she took a deep breath. It was something that she could focus on. Maybe she could help by giving the others something to focus on too.
Nicholas didn’t look up when Nessa began throwing fake strikes, the Totodile clumsily moving around the recreational area they’d come to. Come on, Nicholas, she thought. Notice that I need your help.
But he only looked up when Nessa yelped, her foot twisting under her as she sprawled to the ground. “Are you all right?”
Nessa quickly got back to her feet. “Yeah.”
“Good.” Nessa growled when Nicholas’ eyes dropped back to the ground. “Try not to hurt yourself.”
How else had he come back? It hadn’t just been Brock’s words, it had also been...
“Nicholas.” Nicholas looked up to see Nessa standing in front of him. “There’s something bothering you. Beyond just losing a battle or a couple mean words. I can tell.” She crossed her arms. “Yesterday you confided in me. I want to help.”
“This isn’t something you can help.”
“Well then I guess I’ll just give up. Head back to the laboratory, and- NO. Are you crazy? How am I supposed to get stronger? How are YOU supposed to MAKE me stronger? I’m not giving up because of one bad fight. I wish you weren’t either.” Nessa turned away from him. “If you refuse to train me, I’ll just train myself.”
“You don’t get stronger by giving up,” Nicholas mumbled.
Nessa looked back. “What?”
“You don’t get stronger by giving up,” Nicholas repeated, louder this time. “That’s what I was told back then. And it’s true.” He finally raised his head to meet Nessa’s eyes. “I’m sorry, Nessa. I’ll try to do better.”
Nessa smiled. “That’s good enough for me.”
After a minute the Zubat poked her head out. “What.”
“Get over here, please.”
Nessa shifted to the side when Sera joined them. “What do you want.”
“I want you to stop moping for a minute. Can you do that?”
Sera’s eyebrow rose. “That’s pretty rich coming from you.”
“I know. I’m a hypocritical human. Get over it.” When Sera blinked and straightened up he continued. “I apologize. Before I tried to take either of you into battle I needed to reevaluate my mindset. I’m still stuck as the Champion. But right now, I’m not the Champion. I’m a tamer with new pokegirls. You two don’t have years of experience like the rest of the harem does. You have days, maybe weeks in Nessa’s case. And I expected you to fight like you had more.”
Sera folded her wings across her torso. “I am so happy that you realized that AFTER I got my arms torn off.”
“But you don’t have arms yet.”
Sera shot Nessa a withering look. “Arms, wings, same thing.”
“If you’re going to be mad at someone, be mad at me,” Nicholas said. “I’m the one who goaded Falkner, I’m the one you had to pay the price for. Not Nessa.”
Air blew out of Sera’s nose when she snorted. “I can’t be mad at you. Not when you’re finally sounding like the Champion. So, what’s the plan? Obviously we can’t stand up to that guy yet.”
“I want to head back to that tower. It looked like a good place to train and, if we see Falkner again, we’ll ignore him.”
“I want to kill that pokegirl of his.”
“And you’ll get your chance. Once you’re stronger.”
Sera finally smiled. “Yes, Master.”
I’m still nothing special. But they deserve my best, Nicholas thought as the three took back to the road.
Nessa, Totodile – Level 11
Sera, Zubat – Level 8
“All I have to do is-“
Sera yelped when the Bellsprout she had been reaching for lashed out, a vine slapping the Zubat’s outstretched wing.
“No, she’s… And you already moved.” Nicholas rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration.
“Through cooperation, pokegirl. You, tamer, speak faster if you must. Your pokegirl is only getting herself hurt.”
“Yeah this would be easier if she’d slow down,” Nicholas griped to the monk that was watching them.
“Slow down? I know what I need to do, I just need to- AH!” Sera recoiled when the Bellsprout slapped her again. “Why you little-!”
The monk shook his head when Sera was sent to the floor. “This is not a combat exercise, pokegirl.”
“Sera, calm down.” Nicholas reached out but the Bellsprout stopped him before he could reach the prostrate Zubat. “Every time you move, she stops you. Whenever I move, she does the same.”
“So get better,” Sera growled as she got back to her feet.
“No, listen.” Nicholas focused on the Bellsprout. “Choose a side. But if I say something, listen.”
“What are you going to say?”
Nicholas took a breath. “I need you to trust me.”
Sera gazed at him. The robed Bellsprout between them stood patiently until she nodded. “All right. But if you get me hurt again, I won’t be happy.”
“That is a price a tamer and their pokegirl must pay sometimes,” the monk chided. “Sometimes…”
“Sometimes I won’t make the right decision.” Nicholas kept his eyes on Sera as he spoke. “But if you rush ahead without me, you’ll get hurt just the same.” He glanced at the monk. “That’s what you’re trying to teach us here, isn’t it?”
The monk only smiled.
Sera gazed at him. “I ran ahead, didn’t I.”
“And I didn’t do my job as a tamer.”
“Well aren’t we just a couple of failures.”
Nicholas cracked a smile. “Ready?”
Nicholas watched Sera dive towards the Bellsprout, waiting for the pokegirl’s vines to begin extending before he shouted. “LEFT!”
Sera twisted, her feint swapping directions and the Bellsprout tried to turn with her, but she had committed in the wrong direction. Sera laughed and threw herself into Nicholas’ arms, cuddling close as the Bellsprout turned and bowed to the pair. “I like this exercise.”
“What, now that you’re not getting beat up?”
“Take the lesson you have learned here today and remember it. Practice it.” The monk bowed with his pokegirl. “Your journey of many miles begins with these first steps.”
Sera hummed as the monk walked away. “This has been a good few days.”
“The monks here have helped a lot, that’s for sure.”
“Yeah, but you’ve been as awesome as I thought you would be.”
“Heh.” Nicholas ruffled her hair. “I should be saying that to you.”
Nicholas turned and smiled when he saw Nessa running up. “Hey Nessa. What’s up?”
“This is him.”
Nicholas continued past Nessa to see a woman a bit older than him walking up at a much more serene pace. “Good afternoon.”
“Uh, hi.” Nicholas looked back to Nessa. “Who is this?”
“This is Celine. She was my partner just now and wanted to meet my tamer.”
The woman held out her hand and Nicholas was taken by surprise when he felt her firm grip. “Nessa is a wonderful pokegirl so I had to find out what kind of tamer brings her strength.”
Nicholas grimaced internally. “I’m just lucky that she is who she is.”
“Oh? But pokegirls change themselves to match their tamer,” Celine replied. She still hadn’t let go of his hand and Nicholas felt her fingers tighten slightly, but it almost felt… reassuring. “For good or bad. For Nessa to still be, as you say, ‘who she is’, you must be a tamer that can reinforce her strengths.”
“Well…” Nicholas trailed off. For some reason, his usual excuses deserted him and he was left awkwardly holding this woman’s hand. Finally he cleared his throat and pulled away, relieved to feel Celine release him. “I guess I do.”
Nessa blinked and turned to look at him. He’d sounded…
“It’s obvious from what I have seen,” Celine said firmly. “Be proud of the tamer you are.”
Celine smiled at him before turning back to Nessa. “Now, did you want to try that again?”
“Um…” Nessa glanced between Celine and Nicholas. “…Actually, could you show Nicholas how to do it?”
“Oh, of course! It’s only natural that you’d rather be with your tamer.” Celine gestured at him. “Come on over, and…”
Nicholas turned when he heard raised voices and Celine turned with him. An elderly monk was standing in front of a man and Nicholas sighed when he recognized the voice.
“You are indeed skilled as a tamer,” the old monk was saying. “But you should care more for your pokegirls. Remember, pokegirls are not tools of war.”
John snorted and turned away. “Hmph. I suppose your title is simply honorary. You lost because you were weak, and I won because I don’t care about weak pokegirls. It’s as simple as that.”
Nicholas’s fingers clenched into fists and he took half a step forwards before stopping. No, there was… He glanced over and blinked. Celine had vanished.
By the time he had turned back to John the other man had walked past him and was stepping out of the tower without even noticing them. Nicholas let out his breath, his fists relaxing as the door closed. He should have…
Nicholas turned to see Nessa looking at him with wet eyes. “Nessa?”
“You wanted to. I saw it. Thank you for not doing it.” Nessa sniffed. “Not now.”
Nicholas slowly nodded. “Not when we’re working on our own problems.”
“You know that guy?” Sera asked.
“Just that he’s an asshole.”
Sera snorted. “Can I kill him too?”
“Eh, probably shouldn’t kill anybody.”
Sera sighed. “Phooey.”
“Where’d Celine go?” Nicholas looked around. “Nessa?”
Nessa wiped her eyes and glanced around. “Um, I don’t know.”
Nicholas frowned. After a few seconds he shrugged. “Well, I’m just glad she helped you.”
“She also…” Nessa trailed off. “She helped you.”
Nicholas blinked. “She what?”
Nessa rapidly shook her head. “Never mind.”
“She never showed me what you two were doing, though.”
“No, not that.” Nessa turned to him and Nicholas felt himself smiling to match her radiant grin. “But she still helped you.”
“I’ll just pretend I know what you mean,” Nicholas chuckled. “Hey, let’s go talk to that monk John was yelling at. He said something about being the Elder.”
The monk bowed when they approached. “Greetings, tamer and pokegirls.”
“Good afternoon,” Nicholas replied, bowing slightly. “You’re the Elder here?”
The monk nodded. “I am Elder Li, yes. It is good to see a tamer who has come here to strengthen the bonds between themselves and their pokegirls.”
“Yeah, well… I’m not like that other guy.”
Li nodded. “I saw you watching him. Do you know him?”
“We both received our first pokegirls at the same time.”
“Ah, a rivalry born through happenstance, then.” Li nodded sagely. “Or perhaps one born of necessity. But tell me, why did you seek me out? Do you have the same goal as him – to battle our student Falkner?”
Nicholas blinked. “Student?”
“Even I am still a student, though I refer to Falkner as such because he has trained with us here for many years.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess that’s my goal.” Nicholas’ eyes wandered. “Though I don’t know if I’m good enough for that yet.”
“Do you wish to find out?” Li extended his hand, palm up, in a ready stance. “Shall I test the bonds between you and your pokegirls?”
Nicholas returned his gaze to Li. “I don’t know.”
Li nodded. “I see.”
“You know.” Sera took hold of his shoulder, her wing draping over his back. “We’ve been doing so much better ever since we started training here.”
Nicholas subconsciously nodded. “…yeah. We have, haven’t we?” He turned to look at Nessa, feeling his uncertainty slowly disappear underneath a rising confidence. “Do you think you’re ready for a battle?”
Nessa’s lips peeled back to reveal her bared teeth. “I’ve been waiting for one.”
Nicholas smiled and looked around, making sure that both she and Sera were set before turning to Li. “I guess we’re ready.”
Li’s smile had returned and he stepped backwards. “Then let us begin!”
“Sera, you want to lead us off?” Nicholas slid back with Nessa as a Bellsprout materialized across from them. “Let’s wipe away what happened here before.”
Sera’s breath hissed between her teeth as she laughed. “Gladly, Master.” She settled into a ready stance. “Command me.”
Nicholas nodded, turning his attention to the Bellsprout that stood in front of Li. He’d fought against this breed of pokegirl before, so…
“She’s a Grass-type. Stay at range, use your wings and whip up some cutting wind.”
Uncertainty flickered across Sera’s face. “I don’t know how to do that.”
“You can’t whip up a gust or anything?”
“No.” Sera glanced back guiltily. “I’m too weak.”
Li waited while Nicholas reached out and put a firm hand on Sera’s shoulder. “We’ll fix that.”
Sera breathed out, returning her attention to the Bellsprout and spreading her wings for stability. “I know you will, Master.”
Nicholas took a deep breath. He felt like a different person. What had happened to him? The doubt, the fear, the uncertainty, all of it was gone as he turned his attention to the battlefield. Just this morning he had had to put on his brave face, but now… He felt like he had a year or more ago, as he stepped into the arena with Gary Oak. He felt like the Champion.
Unseen by him or either pokegirl, Celine watched from nearby. When Nicholas raised his hand and shouted an order, she smiled.
The next time a monk walked in front of her, she had vanished.
Sera screeched and flapped once, giving herself a bit of rotation just as Yuji had and spinning out of the way of the Bellsprout’s first vine whip. As she landed the Bellsprout lunged, seeking to land a hit since Sera didn’t have arms to block with. Before she could connect Sera looked up, her blood-red eyes focusing on her charging opponent, and screamed.
Every ounce of frustration she felt, every iota of hatred that had surfaced upon hearing Nicholas say the same words that Falkner had said a few days prior, she channeled into her voice. It had been precisely what he’d needed to say to bring out the Zubat’s ferocity.
The Bellsprout staggered back and both humans had to clap their hands over their ears. The scream quickly rose in pitch until it seemed to cut off even though Sera’s mouth was still wide open and Nicholas winced when he felt a stabbing pain in his ears. He clutched his hands tighter, watching the Bellsprout writhe in pain with blood dripping down the side of her face.
Finally Sera closed her mouth, running towards the struggling pokegirl. “GET HER!” Nicholas grimaced when he realized he couldn’t hear his own voice and massaged his ears, feeling the ringing begin to subside. “BITE HER, DRAIN HER!”
The Bellsprout screamed when Sera sank her fangs into her neck, fumbling but still managing to orient herself enough to punch the Zubat away. Sera rolled to a stop, leveraging herself back upright to survey her opponent. The Bellsprout was on one knee, blood running from the punctures on her neck as well as her ear, and her vines lay still around her.
Nicholas heard the ringing fade and he cupped his hands around his mouth. “LEFT!”
Sera grinned and darted forwards, not even bothering with a feint as she went straight for the Bellsprout’s weak side. The pokegirl tried to turn, but her balance was gone – her ruptured eardrum confused her and she ended up spinning a full circle before Sera struck.
Blood sprayed through the air when Sera attacked again, tearing through the Bellsprout’s robes and grimly holding on when the girl tried to jerk away. The Bellsprout tried once more to knock Sera off her chest before stumbling, slumping back and crashing to the ground with the Zubat still latched onto her breast. After a few moments Sera let go, spitting blood a few times before cautiously moving back towards Nicholas.
“She got me.” Sera dabbed at a nasty purple bruise that was cut into the side of her face and down her neck, vanishing below her shirt. “But I got her. Didn’t I.”
Sera made a face and carefully took his arm. “She tasted horrible.” She gave Nicholas a coquettish smile. “Master?”
“No,” Nicholas chuckled and rapped a finger off her nose. “Bad Zubat.”
“Our battle isn’t over, tamer,” Li called as he recalled his Bellsprout. “Bring forth your next pokegirl.”
“Nessa.” Nicholas waited for the Totodile to step forwards. “Sera set the bar pretty high.”
Nessa ran her fingers through her hair nervously. “I know.”
Nessa’s expression firmed and she lowered her arms. “I’m ready.”
“Against a Bellsprout, try to…” Nicholas trailed off when Li released the same bird pokegirl that Falkner had had. “…never mind.” He thought quickly. “She fights at close range. You can take a hit, but you’ll want to douse her wings in water as soon as possible. Slow her down, then fight.”
Nessa shifted nervously. “I’ve never fired water before.”
“Didn’t you…? Never mind. I believe in you, Nessa. You can do it.”
I’ve failed to train them, to help them achieve even the most basic of pokegirl techniques, Nicholas thought as Nessa closed on the bird pokegirl. I’ve failed them. That… That needs to change.
His memories flashed back to when Victoria had first learned her own water technique and his face set. “NESSA! Reach into your chest, and PUSH!”
Nessa slowed. “What…?” She yelped when the pokegirl swooped forwards, taking a wing to her face for her trouble before she brought her attention back into battle. “My chest…”
Nicholas pulled out his pokedex when the bird pokegirl swooped again. “Hoothoot… Okay, nothing too special. COME ON, NESSA! YOU GOT THIS!”
Nessa fell back. From her chest, he’d said…
The Hoothoot was coming in for another run when Nessa’s cheeks bulged and with a surprised yell water blasted from her jaws to catch the pokegirl right in her face.
The Hoothoot’s head snapped back and she screamed, staggering back a few steps before falling on her ass. Li was saying something but his words were too quiet to be heard as Nicholas whooped in jubilation. “YES! You got her!”
“Enough!” Li shouted. “Enough. Holly is down.” He stepped forwards, checking the lightly moaning Hoothoot before returning her to her pokeball and straightening back up. “You should not question your bonds, tamer. Your pokegirls moved elegantly to your commands even when they did not understand why you gave them. That level of trust can not be forced. It will serve you well.”
Nicholas blushed at the praise. “Well…” He trailed off. Finally he smiled. “Thank you. We’ve worked hard.”
“Such is obvious.” Li walked forwards to clasp Nicholas’ hands. “We are honored to have you here with us, tamer. I wish you luck facing Falkner, and that you learn and grow along your journey.”
Nicholas nodded and Li stepped away. “I think Falkner said that he only opens the gym on the weekends though, so… we have a few more days before we can challenge him.”
Li smiled. “I look forward to watching you grow even more in that time.”
“How did you know what I needed to do?” Sera caught Nicholas’ attention when Li walked away. “I, I’ve never done that before, but you said what you did and… I just…” She turned and focused, this time controlling the bolt that fired from her mouth and splattered against a nearby wall. “I did it!”
Nicholas laughed and hugged her from behind. “You did. Victoria had the same reaction.”
Nessa squirmed so that she was facing him. “Victoria? She’s one of your other pokegirls, isn’t she?”
“She’s my Gyarados. She never knew how to fire water either, until I helped her learn.” Nicholas’s eyes unfocused. “That’s how I knew what you needed to do.”
He snapped back to reality when Nessa’s lips pressed against his. After a few seconds she pulled back. “Thank you.” Her eyes showed her suppressed emotion as she continued speaking. “And thank you.”
Nicholas cocked an eyebrow. “And?”
“What’s next, Nicholas?” Nessa smiled shyly. “I don’t want you to stop.”
Nicholas cleared his throat nervously. He knew what Nessa was saying, but the feeling from the battle was fading. He’d gotten lucky. “Let’s head back to the hotel and rest.” He turned and nodded at Sera. “Get that bruise healed up. We’ll come back tomorrow, and prepare to face Falkner this weekend.”
Sera nodded back. “Good plan, Master.”
Nessa, Totodile – Level 13
Sera, Zubat – Level 12