Hey what up I'm back
There's been some confusion re: the ending of the last chapter so I went and changed it. All you really need to know is that the people sitting a few rows in front of Cyrus isn't a mystery; it's just Thomas, Dawn, and Megan. I clarified that in the edit.
Okay, on to this chapter!
I dialed Looker as I rushed back to the green room. "Cyrus is here."
"In the stands. South side. He was watching my battle." I grabbed my backpack off an armchair in passing.
"I'm on it. Revive Definite and get to the Center."
"I'm gonna find my friends."
"Don't do that."
"You can't stop me."
"You'll be leading Cyrus right to them."
I froze midstride. Fuck. He was right.
"I don't know where Lucas is," I said, suddenly aware that I was shaking. "And Megan… Megan's here."
"I'll take care of them. You get to safety."
His voice softened. "I'll see you soon."
He hung up. I dug through my pockets for a revive.
I felt sick. Galactic knew Dawn and Thomas, sure. And Lucas, too, which made me worry about his whereabouts. But they'd all been fighting Galactic for months now, and at least they were all six-badge trainers well-versed in battle. They'd made the choice to stand against Galactic, time and time again.
Megan had done no such thing. She hadn't acted against Galactic or agreed to do so, and she couldn't defend herself the way trainers could. In theory, there was no reason Galactic would go after her. But I realized very suddenly that there was nothing I wouldn't do for Megan Talbot, and that was all Galactic needed to know.
Someone entered the room. I jumped, but it was just Ashley de Leon.
She frowned. "You okay?"
Ashley paused. "Okay, well, if you need help, I should be free in like, thirty minutes. Or now, if it's really bad."
"Thanks, but I think it'll sort itself out," I said, hoping it would. "Good luck."
She walked out to her battle. I revived Def and soon we were in the lobby of the Pokemon Center.
Megan and Dawn were already there. "What's going on?" Dawn asked me. "Looker didn't explain anything."
"Cyrus is here," I said. Thomas appeared with a natu. "Galactic's top commander."
Lucas took a little longer to show up, but he teleported in with a natu, his alakazam, and Jonathan. As I explained the situation to them, I heard a ping from my poketch. A message from Looker:
Have pokemon out. I'll be there soon.
So the six of us waited in the lobby with several pokemon out, and I got my team healed, and we watched the semifinal match between Ashley and Sean Obi on a screen above the fireplace. I checked my bag in case anyone had dropped something in it while it was unattended in the green room, but found nothing.
The doors slid open, and I did a double take. It was Looker, but in plainclothes – dark-rimmed glasses, a greenish plaid shirt and gray fleece vest, navy slacks. He looked like an accountant, or somebody's dad.
We gave him scattered confirmations.
"I followed him to the lake's edge, but he let out a porygon-Z and disappeared," said Looker.
"So, what, he was just here to observe us in battle?" I said.
"That or observe just you."
I blinked. "Why me?"
"You did make it furthest in the tournament. Maybe the fact that you reached the semifinals scared them. We don't know for certain that he wasn't here for other battles, though."
"But why not just watch the livecast?" Dawn pointed out. "It's nationally televised."
Looker shrugged. "Why are your friends from Twinleaf here? Being physically present at an event changes everything. Camera angles dictate your perspective of a battle. Witnessing it live would give him a better idea of what it's like to fight you."
"But that's speculation," I said. "You said he went down to the lake. What if they're gonna…?" I trailed off, not wanting to ask about the Galactic Bomb in such a public place.
"I doubt it… That shouldn't be for another month…" Looker frowned. "I'll check on the other lakes, to be sure. At any rate, you all should stay around other trainers and pokemon, and when the two of you are ready to head home, I'll take you directly," he said, pointing to Megan and Jonathan.
"That's not abusing your IP powers?" I asked him, shocked.
"Civilian protection. Lyn, I still need to talk to you; everyone else, thank you for your time."
Lucas and Jonathan headed back outside. Dawn watched them leave with kind of a forlorn look on her face, but stayed with Thomas and Megan in the lobby. Looker and I rounded the corner to the elevators.
"Did he contact you?"
"No, I only saw him in the audience."
"Did you check your bag?"
"Yeah. Nothing there."
"Good. Aside from checking the lakes and bringing your friends home, I'll be staying around here for the time being, to keep a lookout."
"Okay. 'Preciate it."
Looker was silent for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak right as I said, "Um, could you actually take Megan back now?"
"Yeah, I just… I don't want her around Galactic at all, if possible."
Looker nodded. "All right, I can do that."
"Were you… gonna say something?"
He shrugged awkwardly. "No, I… well, I saw your battle."
I cringed. "Yeah, that was rough."
"That's not what I meant at all," he said, surprised. "Even with the unexpected circumstances, you nearly defeated a powerful opponent. Not to mention you reached the semifinals of a national tournament. And it looked like you didn't timeskip even once?"
"I – yeah, but it wasn't… I still didn't beat them, and I still haven't found an anchor… I'm working on it, though," I added quickly.
"What I'm trying to say," Looker said deliberately, "is that I've been simultaneously over- and underestimating you. All of you, really, but you especially. You're an extraordinary trainer, and if you're in the top 2% of this tournament but can't singlehandedly take out Galactic… that's not your fault. It's mine."
I shook my head. "Looker, it's not your fault–"
"No, this isn't me trying to guilt you," he said, raising his hands. "This is me saying there's more I could be doing… And you know this already. I know this, even though it's taken me this long to come to terms with the fact that… well, that you're right. Galactic is stronger this time, and IP rules aside, there are more people I should ask for help."
I blinked. "You don't mean… the Sinnoh League?"
"I mean, they are charged with protecting the region. We can start with just a few, because I still want to limit how many people are involved behind the IP's backs, but–"
"Looker, that's amazing," I said, beaming. "I'm so glad."
"I hope you're not offended," he said, looking genuinely concerned. "I don't mean to insinuate you're not enough, it's just… one or four trainers against an entire… I'm sorry I insulted your battling abilities last week."
"It's okay, " I said. "I'm sorry I blew up at you. I know you're doing your best. You didn't deserve that."
Looker gave a small laugh. "Well. Hopefully now I'll actually be doing my best."
In the silence that followed, several pieces clicked together in my head. Looker had shown up quickly but in plainclothes, and he knew I hadn't skipped in time during my battle. Which, as he'd pointed out, would be impossible to know through the continually-shifting cameras of live television.
"You came to my battle."
"I did, yeah."
My own parents hadn't even come to watch.
"It really was impressive," he said. "I'm glad you're the one I'm working with– not that I wasn't already, but–"
I hugged him. He tensed like he didn't know how a hug worked, but put his arms gingerly around my shoulders.
"I'm glad to be on your team," I said.
I sent Megan home immediately. "I'll see you tomorrow, though," I said, sort of as a consolation even though she didn't seem that sad.
Megan smiled. "Okay. I'll see you then."
Maybe she wasn't the one I was consoling.
There was a tug somewhere in my chest, like my throat was trying to pull up secrets and breathe them free. But I wouldn't know what words to turn them into – Megan, I might or might not have feelings for you, but also maybe for Thomas, and I'm not exactly over Lucas? What kind of a confession was that?
I turned to Looker, who was waiting by the elevators. He walked over.
"Ready?" he asked Megan. She nodded, and he let out a pair of natus. They vanished.
I should have hugged her, I immediately thought.
No, then Galactic might get ideas, I argued. And you'll see her tomorrow.
I'd regret it til then anyways.
Dawn and Thomas were still in the lobby. Thomas was watching the semifinal highlights onscreen, but Dawn was looking at the spot where Megan and Looker had disappeared.
"Ashley won," Dawn let me know as I approached.
I nodded. "Okay. Do you guys know what you're doing til tonight?"
Thomas checked his poketch. "My family's sticking around til the Trainer Ball, and I still gotta rent a tux."
"I don't have plans," Dawn said, shrugging.
We stuck together through the finals between Ashley and Zeke – Zeke Ren won – and then Dawn and I separated from Thomas. It was a little awkward at first – Dawn and I weren't exactly strangers, but we also hadn't really hung out one on one before – but pretty soon it felt natural enough. Dawn was easy to be friends with.
Dawn and I stopped at a shop in the resort to rent formalwear for the Trainer Ball. I eyed the men's section – there was a mannequin wearing a light blue shirt and a navy blue vest with silver roses shimmering on the back – but I followed Dawn to the dresses.
Over the course of the next hour, Dawn found a dress almost immediately but stuck around to help me out. Instead of letting me settle for one that fit (mostly) and I liked (kind of), she pushed me to keep looking til I found one I really loved. I didn't know it was possible to find that kind of thing, but when we eventually left, I was carrying a long navy blue dress that made me feel like a princess. I was embarrassed to have taken so long, but immensely grateful for her help.
We spent the last few hours leading up to the tournament getting ready. Dawn offered to do my hair and makeup and I agreed, having no idea how to use a curling iron or the various face paints she pulled out of seemingly nowhere.
"So what's next for you?" she asked me, brushing my eyelid with powder.
"I'm spending a week in Twinleaf, but Snowpoint's next," I said, eyes closed. "What about you?"
"I'm heading to Snowpoint in a few days. Lucas too."
The brush left my eyelid and I took a peek. I caught a glimpse of Dawn looking forlorn again before her brush returned to my eye.
"How are you and him doing?" I asked.
She laughed a little. "Like, as an item? We haven't really talked about that yet."
"You're really lucky, though," I said, letting a little jealousy leak through. "Just… finding someone. Both of you."
"Yeah," she said unconvincingly. I frowned briefly before realizing I needed to keep my face still.
"Are things okay?" I asked her.
"Open your eyes for a sec."
I obeyed and watched her examine the symmetry of her work. "Things are good with Lucas, but it's hard feeling like you only have one friend, you know?"
"Do you not… But you were like, super popular at school," I said, omitting the worry that she didn't consider me a friend.
Dawn shrugged and swapped her brush for a black pen. I closed my eyes. "No, keep them open," she said, reaching up to line the edges of my eyes. I struggled against the instinct to shut them tight.
"I thought I had a lot of friends at school," Dawn admitted. "When we were picked as trainers, though, I think… I dunno, it felt like everyone I considered a friend resented me for it. I overheard Zoey telling Kenny I was lucky, but like, implying there wasn't any kind of merit involved. And then when we left Twinleaf and were on our own, I realized there wasn't anyone I knew well enough to vidcall. Not like Lucas and Jonathan, or you and Megan and Tricia."
I was silent. The idea of Dawn Berlitz being jealous of me in any way was too bizarre a thought to respond to.
Dawn let go of my face and I blinked wildly, trying to dispel the tears that had built up in the eye she was lining. "It's fine though. I've got my pokemon, I've got Lucas, I think I've got you and Thomas as friends now, too."
She moved to my other eye. "I'd say you've got us," I said. "At least, I sure hope you do. I'd like to be friends."
Through my already-watering eye, I saw her smile.
There was a nervous sense of anticipation in me all afternoon – once I didn't have a battle to think about and Cyrus was gone, there was nothing preventing me from overthinking the Trainer Ball.
This was… this was the night, last time, when Lucas and I danced.
This was the night that felt like a million gold lights, and even the distant, conjured memory of it made me warm and happy.
Tonight had a lot to live up to.
Awwwww yeah it's TRAINER BALL TIME BABYYYYYYY
This week's chapter is brought to you by Dimension 20 which you can find on youtube it's so good holy shit