A Light in the Darkness
The sound of several wings flapping upward and the rustling of bushes could be heard as a flock of Pikipek took to flight, in the otherwise dark and quiet night. Underneath a tree, and well hidden by bushes and greenery, Lillie sat hunched over, clutching her big, white sun hat tighter over her head as she shook at the sudden sound, trying to keep quiet. Her long blond hair was slightly disheveled, even her braids were less organized than usual, and her otherwise neat white dress was covered in dust and dirt. One of her knees had a scratch, and her left shoe was now more brown than white after having stepped into wet mud.
"How could I get lost like this?" she breathed out to herself, her heart beating so fast she could feel it pound against her chest.
Earlier that day, Professor Kukui had decided to take the class on a late night excursion to study Pokemon's nighttime activity. Lillie had actually looked forward to it at first, being excited at the prospect of seeing what she'd studied first-hand. However, as soon as they had started walking into the forest behind the school her excitement had quickly turned to dread, as every single rustle and cry of Pokemon had her jumping up in fear. And then they just had to accidentally walk too close in on a Bewear's territory, something they only realized when it came charging at them, screaming its high pitched cry. Of course, it was an honest mistake, it was dark and it was hard to keep track of exactly where Bewears were located in the forest.
Chaos ensued, with everyone running as hard as they could to try to escape. Professor Kukui ran in front and tried his best to lead the group by yelling out to stay close, and which direction to run in. He was trying to shake the Pokemon off by having the group run in a sporadic fashion. Lillie, of course, was in full flight mode and barely aware of anything apart from the feeling of dread and imminent danger, and her feet felt less like they were running and more as if they were leaping and flying off the ground. Despite her desperation, though, she was running behind everyone else, and was having a hard time keeping up with the Professor's instructions.
Lillie was so scared she could hardly keep track of her surroundings, and very soon all she could hear was the loud thumping in her ears from her rapid heartbeat. She could swear the forest was spinning around her, but she just kept running and running as fast as her feet could carry her. It wasn't until she slid her foot on muddy ground and fell face first onto the hard forest floor that she finally came to, and it was then that she realized she had gotten separated from the group. Tears welled up in her eyes, and for a few moments she was so terrified of everything that she was unable to move. After taking a few breaths to calm herself down, not wanting to have a full blown panic attack alone in the forest at night, she stumbled to her feet and tried to walk around as soundlessly as she could in hopes of finding the others again. After a while, though, her fear took overhand, having jumped at even the slightest sound every few minutes, and she took to finding a hiding place, hoping she could listen for the others instead.
And now, here she was, huddled under a big tree, behind a thicket of bushes, still startling at the smallest sound. Lillie wiped her eyes of the tears threatening to fall.
"I wish I'd just stayed home today," she managed to whisper, "why did I ever think this was a good idea?"
A million thoughts and fears swirled in her head, what if they never found her? What if she had to stay in that forest for the rest of the night? And who knew how long it would take for anyone to find her even in daytime. After all, she had no idea where she was.
If that weren't enough, mixed in with her feelings of dread were the creeping thoughts of hopelessness.
Lillie loved Pokemon, despite her aversion to being close to them. Pokemon was her passion, she loved reading and learning about them, her dream was to know all there was to know about the many strange creatures that inhabited their world.
But, she thought, how can I ever do that when I'm like this?
Although she hated to admit it, she was scared of Pokemon, and this fear was a barrier to her dream. After all, theory could only get you so far. How could she ever hope to learn everything about Pokemon if she jumped at the very sight of one up close?
Lillie shook her head, wiped her eyes once more and, taking a deep breath, slowly got to her feet. She had been hiding for what felt like close to an hour, and she had yet to hear the slightest sound from anyone in her group. You can't just keep waiting like this, Lillie, she thought, you have to get up and keep looking. Slowly, her shaking feet carried her to where she could look out over the thicket of bushes. Although it was too dark to make out any details, she could still see the small hints of a path going forward. Lillie swallowed hard and closed her eyes, taking a moment to breath. After what felt like a long time, but was really only a minute, she finally opened her eyes and stepped out from the bushes with resolve, and started slowly making her way down the path.
Apart from the small rustlings of movement from forest life every now and then, it was a quiet walk. Lillie, while still terrified, was slowly getting used to the small sounds and understood they were generally far away and not coming towards her in any capacity. Her rapid heartbeats slowly calmed down to a regular rhythm, and she finally felt like she could breath comfortably after what had felt like long time of constant fear. Despite the darkness, she tried her best to keep her eyes out for any sign of her friends, and she tried to listen as well as she could for any sounds that might help her find them.
Lillie jumped and let out half a squeal before slapping her hands over her mouth to stop it from coming out. That was the sound of a twig snapping close by. Too close, and now she was hearing what she definitely made out to be footsteps coming closer. Lillie stood paralyzed, afraid that if she ran whatever was coming closer would notice her and start chasing, but also scared that it had already noticed her and was making its way toward her. The steps came closer, and seemed to increase in speed. Lillie's breathing quickened and her heart rate went up, and she felt dizzy once again. She could no longer keep her thoughts in order enough to plan what to do, the world around her was spinning and the only thing she was keenly aware of was the sounds of the steps getting closer and faster.
Suddenly, something, whatever was taking those steps, jumped out in front of her. Lillie screamed, closing her eyes and falling backwards onto the ground. Her mind went completely blank for a moment, and her entire body stiffened, preparing for the worst.
"Lillie! There you are!"
A bright light flashed over her, and at the sound of a familiar voice Lillie snapped her eyes open. A young boy around her age came into sight, with a familiar white-and-blue striped shirt, loose pants and messy black hair covered by a red cap. It was Ash, the new student at school, who stood over her holding a flashlight. He grinned wide when he saw her, and sighed in relief. Lillie felt herself breathe out in relief as well at the sight of him, and a big smile spread on her face.
She quickly got up on her feet, and couldn't help herself near-yelling in joy, "Ash, it's you! I was so scared! I almost can't believe you're here."
Realizing the state she was in, she quickly tried to brush any dirt off her in hopes of looking less disheveled, though it didn't make much difference. Ash didn't seem to care though, being more concerned with the situation at hand than how she looked.
"Man, everyone's been looking for you all over the place," Ash exclaimed, "we were so worried!"
"I'm so sorry for causing worry," Lillie frowned, feeling guilty.
"No, don't be sorry! That's not what I meant," He replied quickly, not wanting his friend to feel guilty. That was the last thing she needed after what she'd just been through, he decided.
"Anyway, forget about that, are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?"
"No, not at all!" she shook her head, and then smiled, "I'm just happy I finally found one of you. I almost thought I'd have to stay here the whole night."
He flashed his flashlight over her to try and get a closer look, and stopped at her scratched knee.
"Hey! Your knee's scratched badly!" His eyebrows furrowed, looking worried, "Are you okay? Does it hurt?"
Lillie looked at her knee which was red and sore. She'd completely forgotten about it in her frenzy, and later relief. She'd barely felt any pain before, but now that she noticed how red and swollen it looked, she could feel the stings of pain emanating from the small wound. But she decided to ignore it, the only thing she wanted was to be reunited with her group as soon as possible, and finally get out of the forest which had been nothing but a source of terror for her so far that night.
"N-no, I can't even feel it," she lied, "it's okay, really!"
Ash didn't look completely convinced, but decided to believe her anyway, "Well, if you're sure…"
"I am," Lillie smiled, but her face quickly turned to worry, "Wait! What about the others? What happened with the Bewear? Did anyone get hurt?!"
In her relief at being found, and after so much time had passed, she'd almost forgotten for a moment the circumstances which had led to her being lost in the first place. Now she felt a pit in her stomach with worry for her classmates and professor, had everyone made it to safety?
To her surprise though, Ash didn't look worried at all, and his whole face lit up in a huge grin as he answered, "Yeah, we made it out okay! But man, it was so close to getting us," he laughed, "You won't believe how we finally shook it off us!"
Ash's eyes sparkled as if he'd just been through a thrilling adventure, and from the excited way he was talking you could hardly guess this was a kid who had nearly been a victim of a vicious attack. Lillie couldn't help but smile, Ash's optimism and energy was contagious, and somehow he could make even a seriously dangerous situation seem like a fun experience.
"Really?" She smiled, clasping her hands together behind her back and tilting her head slightly to the side, "that's good to hear."
"Yeah!" Ash's eyes sparkled, "Even Pikachu was worried for a moment, weren't you buddy?"
"Pika!" the little yellow mouse Pokemon exclaimed with a smile, after having stayed relatively quiet through the whole time.
Lillie startled slightly when Pikachu spoke up, but she quickly composed herself again seeing as how he had jumped up on Ash's shoulder, and so she felt safe. Ash didn't say anything, only smiled - he was used to Lillie's reactions by now.
"Come one," He flashed his flashlight at the road in front of them, "The others are waiting for us. I'll tell you about what happened on the way."
"Yeah," Lillie replied, smiling, then quickly added, "Hey Ash?"
"Thank you for finding me."
Ash beamed and nodded in response, then motioned towards the road ahead of them before starting to walk. Lillie breathed a last big sigh of relief, and followed after.
It was a long walk, or at least it felt that way to Lillie, who still felt somewhat shaken up. Ash, who was walking a few steps ahead, was excitedly explaining how the group had gotten away from the angry bewear, but she couldn't seem to focus on his words as her mind kept wandering back to the prior events. This was something she felt guilty about, seeing as he was so animated in his recounting of the event. She felt endlessly grateful to Ash for finding her, and ending her nightmare experience. She tried her best not to think about what would have happened if he hadn't showed up, and convinced herself that she would have eventually found someone from the group anyway. There is no need to even think about it anymore, she thought to herself, it's over, and I'll be home soon.
But her thought was soon interrupted when she suddenly bumped into Ash's back, who had for some reason come to a standstill. She hadn't even noticed that he'd gone quiet. Lillie took a few steps back, and tried to look past him, but there was nothing there.
"Ash?" she asked, clearly confused, "What's wrong? Why are we stopping?"
"Do you hear that?" Ash asked, turning around to face her with a slightly serious look on his face. Pikachu's ear stood right up, as if he, too, had heard something.
"That sound, kind of like a faint flapping noise."
Lillie tried straining her ears, and sure enough, there was the sound of flapping. She felt a bit relieved, it was probably just some flying type Pokemon somewhere deeper in the forest.
But no sooner had she thought that when a lone Pikipek suddenly flew straight past them, it's wing slightly grazing against Lillie's arm.
"Eeek!" She squealed, instinctively jumping behind her classmate's back and grabbing on to his arm.
"It's okay, Lillie, it's gone now," Ash tried to calm his friend.
Lillie peeked one eye open and, seeing as he was right, relaxed and let go of Ash's arm, letting out an audible sigh. Ash looked at his friend with a perplexed expression.
"Hey, Lillie? Why are you so scared of Pokemon?" he asked.
Lillie quickly turned her face upwards and away from Ash, crossing her arms and huffing indignantly, "I-I'm not scared of Pokemon! I love them."
She hoped Ash didn't notice how embarrassed she really felt, especially after what had happened that night.
"A-and if I decided to, I could even touch them," she stuttered, "If I really wanted to, I could."
That was a lie, of course, but she wasn't exactly sure who she was trying to convince. She wanted so much to believe what she said, that she didn't really have any fear and it was all a matter of waiting for the right time. But she knew the truth too well. No matter how much she loved Pokemon, she was terrified of them. Deep down, she was all but sure that she would never get over her phobia.
"It's okay, I believe you."
"Huh?" Lillie turned to look at Ash again, meeting his eyes. In spite of the dark she could make out his face, lit up with his own unique smile.
"Yeah! I know you'll be able to touch them one day," he beamed, "After all, I know how much you love Pokemon. I've never met anyone who knows so much about each and every one of them before."
His eyes twinkled with confidence and admiration. Lillie didn't really know what to say at first, the way he'd been so quick to reply and so confident in what he said had taken her by surprise.
Her friends were always understanding and quick to support her, and they always stood up for her whenever she would get teased. But although they never said it outright, after a while she felt like even they had started to take it for granted that she'd ever get over her fear. They'd just gotten used to her always being that way, as if it was an ingrained part of her personality. Before she'd even realized it, even Lillie had given in to that kind of thinking, though she'd never fully admit it - even to herself.
But here was Ash, a new student who she'd only known for a short while, who couldn't possibly have any kind of definite answer. And yet, she could feel from his unwavering smile that he wasn't just trying to make her feel better, he really believed in her.
Perhaps her emotions were heightened because she was tired and because of everything that had happened, but she found herself filling up with optimism as well. How strange it was that with just a few words he'd brushed away her doubts and fears, and replaced them with hope. It made Lillie think that it didn't matter how scared she felt now, there would definitely come a day when she could face her fears. Her eyes twinkled, and tears formed at the corners. But she wasn't sad at all.
"And hey," he added, pointing his thumb towards himself with a warm grin, "In the meanwhile, I'll always come find you if you ever get lost again."
A gentle breeze blew past just then, and it made Lillie more aware of how warm her cheeks suddenly felt. Her chest felt tight, and there was a strange tickling in her stomach. She was suddenly grateful for the darkness of the night, as it was too dark for Ash to see any small change in the details of her face. Her lips curved into a heartfelt smile.
"Ash…" She breathed out, but before she could finish, the sound of numerous tiny wings fluttering suddenly filled the air.
The two kids and Pikachu looked up to see a whole swarm of tiny, yellow bug pokemon flying around above them. Though Lillie was startled at first, her eyes widened in amazement when she saw the tiny beings. Ash's excitement shone on his face, mouth gaping wide and sparkling eyes intently focused on the small creatures.
"Wow, what kind of Pokemon is that?" he asked.
"Pika pi!" Pikachu chimed in, ears lowered in amazement.
"Those are Cutiefly," Lillie replied, her gaze fixed on the small creatures, "they collect nectar and pollen from flowers, which they find by sensing their auras."
Ash didn't say anything more, and neither did Lillie. They just stood for a moment and stared upwards in awe and wonder at the Pokemon flying around. It almost looked like they were dancing. Lillie thought back to what she'd studied about the little creatures.
Cutiefly tends to gather around beings who are feeling strong emotions.
Standing there alone with Ash, under the swarm of Cutiefly and the clear starry night sky, Lillie was keenly aware of the swirl of emotions inside her and the pounding of her heart. But it didn't hurt or feel uncomfortable like all those times she'd been startled by Pokemon. It was different this time, but she couldn't quite place why. How strange, she thought.
It actually felt kind of nice.
Author's Note: I had this idea in my head and I just couldn't forget about, so I had to sit down and write it. I really love the Sun and Moon anime so far, and I am absolutely in love with Aureliashipping! Ash and Lillie have so much potential for an interesting relationship, in my opinion, because their personalities complement and contrast each other so well. Whether it ends up leaning more towards friendship or romance in the anime, I really look forward to seeing where it goes.
I was really nervous to publish this, as it's the first fanfic I've ever published online. I hope it's enjoyable! :)