Selene feels terrible, leaving Nebby in a Pokeball most of the time. She tries to take the poor thing out for walks and cuddles and things, but. Well. Nebby’s not a tiny little Cosmog anymore. Selene can’t use them in battles at the battle tree. She can’t even really take them out where other people can see. And whenever she lets them out to try to cuddle, it doesn't go. Super well. It turns out a little like if she tried to cuddle with a jumpy Caterpie, except she's the jumpy Caterpie, and her trainer keeps scaring all the other jumpy Caterpies that she coexists with.
Nebby, whether or not she likes it, is pretty much a god of Alola. People freak out at the sight of them, and not always in a good way. Sometimes it’s in a terrified way, or an angry “how dare you keep god locked up in a Pokeball way” or even a “having a legendary Pokemon is cheating!” way. Exactly none of them are conducive to the way that Selene wants to live her trainer life.
Nebby’s sad most of the time too, even when Selene’s able to take them out of their Pokeball and attempt a cuddle sesh. Selene thinks that they miss Lillie. Selene knows that she misses Lillie.
She misses traveling too. And catching new Pokemon. And doing anything that isn’t grinding and grinding at the battle tree in the hopes that she might keep a streak long enough to get clobbered by Red or Blue instead of one of the lower level trainers instead. Being the champion of Alola doesn't automatically make her an equal to Red or Blue, who have been training their whole lives to be the best, apparently. She's still no match for the battle husbands of Kanto, even after everything that's she done.
So now, she’s bored. Nebby’s bored, and all in all, that’s not the best way to keep moving forward. A change of scenery is exactly what she needs. She pulls up her Xransciever and dials her mom.
“Selene!” her mom says, “are you alright?!?!”
“I’m fine, mom,” she says, rolling her eyes.
“Well, you only call when you’ve almost been murdered by thugs,” her mother says, “so excuse me for jumping to conclusions.”
"I'm just planning to travel to Kanto," she says, "it's not big deal."
"Well," her mother says, "you did live in Kanto. It's not like you're going to Galar, or anything. I heard they're having some serious problems with that Team Yell group." Selene took on both Team Skull and the Aether Foundation, so she thinks that she'll manage.
"It's going to be fine," Selene says, "Kanto hasn't had trouble with Team Rocket in age. I'll just fight their gyms, maybe beat their league. Hopefully taking on some new trainers and catching some new Pokemon will help me get out of my rut."
“And it doesn’t hurt that your friend Lillie’s there too,” her mom adds.
“Mom,” Selene says.
“I’m just saying,” her mother says, “if you get to hang out with that lovely Lillie girl, that certainly won’t hurt you.”
“I’m hanging up now,” Selene says.
“You should bring her over for dinner!” her mother says, the way that she always used to say that Selene should bring over a boyfriend. She feels her cheeks heat up, and is suddenly very glad that her mom can't see her.
“Byemomloveyou,” Selene says. Then, she hangs up. She calls Hau next, and lets him know that she’s on her way to Kanto. He’s alternating his time between the battle tree and Aether Paradise with Gladion, and apparently, she’s supposed to tell Lillie hi “from both of them”. She doesn’t know what to make of that, exactly, but she decides that it’s easier not to ask.
Then, she gathers up her stuff, and hops on a ship bound for Vermillion City.
The moment that Selene steps off the boat in Vermillion City, she realizes something. Being back in Kanto is strange. It’s only been a year and a half since Selene moved, but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. Selene has gotten so used to the sunshine in Alola, the warm sun, and the ocean breeze. The cooler air in Kanto feels almost chilly when she steps off the boat, and the terrain looks unwelcoming.
Selene hopes that she finds Lillie and her warmth soon.
Of course, before she starts her search for Lillie, she has to beat the Vermillion City gym leader. He puts up more of a challenge than she would really like since Selene doesn’t have any ground types on her team, but she still wins with a Pokemon to spare. Someone can’t end up a league champion without figuring out a few strategies to make up for the weak spots on their team.
When she finishes the battle, she goes back to the Pokemon center to drop off her Alolan Raichu and pick up Nebby in her place. She can’t exactly reunite Lillie and Nebby if she doesn’t have the Solgaleo on her team, and her Raichu can handle a few weeks back in storage. She’s a tough little electric rodent, and hopefully, after she meets up again with Lillie, Raichu and the rest of her team will never have to go back into storage again.
Then, Selene sets off North to Saffron City. She fights her way through the core four cities of Kanto within a few days, and decimates all their gyms, but she still hasn’t found Lillie. Once she gets to Cerulean City, she decides to head through Mt. Moon. If she knows anything about Lillie’s taste in Pokemon, she knows that the other girl will want to get a Clefairy eventually. Those Pokemon are rare, so it’s possible that the other girl has gotten holed up in the mountain searching for them.
Selene’s starting to doubt the wisdom of her “no calling Lillie so it will be a surprise” plan. Kanto’s a lot bigger than she remembers it being as a child, and there’s a whole lot of places that Lillie can hole up and a whole lot of places that Selene might not think to look. After looking up at Mt. Moon, she knows that just searching Mt. Moon could take weeks, let alone the whole of Kanto.
Mt. Moon takes Selene’s breath away. As a kid who grew up in Kanto’s far South in a coastal village near Fuschia City, Selene had never seen it before, and it’s. Well. It’s stunning. Before coming to Alola, she’d never even seen a mountain. Mt. Moon is not as tall as Mt. Lanakila. She can’t see snow coating the top, nor does it seem to be a whole different ecosystem than the terrain around it. But it’s far wider. Mt. Lanakila resembled a spire with a semi-narrow base, quickly growing skyward. Mt. Moon, however, seems like a whole range of smaller mountains packed into one, almost continent spanning medium-height mountain.
“Mt. Moon is the widest mountain in the world,” Rotom tells her.
“Just how wide is that?” Selene asks.
“Wide,” Rotom tells her, helpfully, “Back in the day, it would take weeks to summit the mountain and work across the pass from Pewter City to Cerulean City. Because of how treacherous this journey was, a lot of folks took Diglett’s Cave to Vermillion City instead, and then went North from there.”
“Do we have to summit it?” she asks. Back at Mt. Lanakila, she got to ride the conveyor belt thingies up the mountain. She’s never actually climbed a mountain. Could she ride on Lycanroc’s back, maybe? Would that work?
“Of course not,” Rotom says, “that was a long time ago. Nowadays, people go through the caves. Now that they have them mapped, it’s way more efficient. Plus, that’s where all the rare Pokemon live. Up top, there’s only Geodudes and a few Sandshrews.” Selene would like to catch a Kanto Sandshrew. She never actually got to see one in the flesh when she lived here because she didn’t live in the right part of the region for that.
Selene keeps walking towards the enormous mountain, and finally spots the entrance to the caves. She peaks her head in, and sees that a tiny bit of sunlight is peaking in from the entrance- but it seems as though it’s pitch black past that.
“Uh,” she says, “it’s really dark in there.”
“Yeah. that’s a cave’s natural state,” Rotom says.
“I was kinda hoping that I could see where I was going,” she says.
“Just take out your Raichu and have it do one of its sparkly moves,” he says.
“Well, Rita’s not here right now,” Selene says, “and I think she’d get really tired if she had to make her cheeks sparkle the whole time. That would be like using spark constantly, for days.”
“Turn on the flashlight on the dex then,” he says. Oh, she thinks, that’s actually a good idea. Selene flips on the flashlight and holds it out in front of her. It lights up the warm, brown rock walls of the cavern, and she walks inside without fear of the dark.
After walking about a hundred feet, the scenery on the walls starts to change. Instead of just the bland, brown rock walls, the cave starts to sparkle with light pink crystals.
“This is amazing,” she says, staring at the walls in awe.
“That would be a giant deposit of moonstone,” Rotom says, “the stuff grows naturally here. It’s why the native Clefairies and the Jigglypuffs started evolving because of it. Too much exposure made them evolve, then the whole species caught up to them.” Selene reaches out and breaks off a small deposit of the moonstone, stuffing it in her backpack. She doesn’t know when she might need a moonstone, and it’s not like she’s had abundant opportunities to get one back in Alola.
The only time she could have gotten one was at the rock store, and she wasn’t about to waste her money on a moonstone when she needed a thunderstone for her Raichu.
As they move deeper into the cave, the colors of the crystals start to shift into even more radiant colors, and Selene’s sure that she would never get tired of a view like this. She always thought that Alola was prettier than Kanto, but now she’s wondering if she just never knew where to look for the best scenery when she lived here.
Selene walks deeper and deeper into the caverns, finally finding a room resembling a great hall, with high, smooth ceilings and a lot of room to move around. It’s the perfect place to camp out for the night. She sets up her camping supplies and releases all her Pokemon from their Pokeballs- including Nebby, as big as they are. Then, they fix themselves some food and she settles in for the night. Her Alolan Ninetails lets her set her head over the fox Pokemon’s tail, and the group of them form a cuddle puddle to sleep. Selene turns off the flashlight on her phone, and they settle in for a good night’s sleep.
When Selene awakens, she’s a little bit confused. There’s a faint glow behind her eyelids, as if she had fallen asleep in a room that still had the lights on. But she’s in a pitch black cave, why would there be lights on? She opens her eyes to see what the problem is, and sees that the walls of the cave have been lit, dimly, by a fire. Across the cavern, she sees a tiny flame- about the same size as a candle. It illuminates the soft, russet fur of a Kanto Vulpix, and she can see the candle flame flickering back at her in its little black eyes.
For a moment, she considers reaching for a Pokeball to get ready to catch it- but then she remembers that the Kanto Vulpix isn’t native to the mountains, but the plains. This Vulpix belongs to someone.
“Hello?” Selene calls out, “is anyone there?”
“Yes,” a female voice calls back, distorted by the echoes of the chamber, “I hear you! I’m on my way over.” Selene listens to the footsteps as they grow closer, and finally- she sees the figure beside Vulpix appear more clearly as they stand a few feet apart.
The figure is a girl, the same height as Selene. She’s wearing bright white that glows starkly in the candle light, and her braided blonde hair gleams as well. Then, Selene meets her eyes, and well. Selene would know those bright green eyes anywhere.
“Selene?” Lillie’s voice asks cautiously.
“Lillie!” Selene shouts. She doesn’t bother waiting for a response, and just goes in for a hug. Lillie hugs her back almost immediately, tight as she can manage.
“What are you doing here?” Lillie asks, “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“I didn’t expect to see you either,” Selene says, finally breaking the hug, “Mt. Moon is really big. It’s easy to get lost down here.”
“Vulpix and I’ve been wandering for a few days,” Lillie says, “I don’t have anything brighter than his willow-the-wisp.” Selene feels her eyebrows knit together.
“Doesn’t your dex have a flashlight?” she asks. Lillie tilts her head for a moment.
“A flashlight?” she asks. The faint glow of Vulpix’s willow-the-wisp makes it hard to see, but when Selene bends down to find her Pokedex, she doesn’t have too much trouble. Then, she hits the flashlight button and the room explodes with light.
Lillie looks at it in awe for a moment, then she takes the dex, moving her hand in front of the flashlight.
“I guess I didn’t know it had one,” she says. She reaches into her own pocket to grab her dex.
“Could you show me how to do that?” she asks. Selene goes straight to work, showing Lillie how to work her flashlight. Then, when the light bursts forth from hers as well- the light is almost blinding.
The sleeping Pokemon in Selene’s cuddle puddle start to rouse, starting with Solgaleo at the back. When he lifts onto his haunches, he sends poor Lycanroc and Primarina, who were sleeping on his back, sliding down his tail and onto the hard ground. He stands up to his full height, and Selene glances back at Lillie, who’s staring up at him in awe.
“Hi Nebby,” she shakes her head, correcting herself, “I mean Solgaleo.” Nebby shakes their head, and takes a step forward.
“What’s wrong?” Lillie asks. Nebby just shakes their head again.
“They still want you to call them Nebby,” Selene says, “that’s their name.” Nebby nods their head right along with her. Lillie smiles.
“Oh,” she says, a faint blush crossing her cheeks, “okay. It’s good to see you, Nebby.” Nebby takes another step forward, and another, and another- until suddenly they’re right in front of Lillie. They lie down like a Skitty waiting for someone to pet their face, and Lillie reaches hesitantly up to their face and pets. Nebby leans into her touch, and Lillie smiles.
She increases her pace, and starts talking softly to them.
“You’re just the best Pokemon in the whole wide world, aren’t you?” Lillie asks, and Nebby roars in response. The sound echoes throughout the cavern, and Lillie just pets them more. Lillie keeps petting, but then she turns her head to Selene.
“Thank you for bringing Nebby back to me,” she says, “I’ve really been missing them.”
“They’ve missed you too,” Selene says. Nebby stands up at that, and then readjusts his body. He fluffs himself for a moment, and then comes up to rub gently and carefully against their backs. He sits down behind them and lets out a tiny groan.
“What do they want?” Lillie asks.
“We’re supposed to get on their back for cuddles,” Selene says.
“Cuddles?” Lillie asks, “they still want cuddles?” Selene’s been dealing with full-size Nebby for long enough now that his demands for cuddles don’t surprise her, but she knows that Lillie hasn’t been around him much since this last evolution. She must really think that being a majestic god of Alola changed an intrinsic part of Nebby, when it really, really didn’t.
They still just want cuddles from Lillie, but they’re willing to take them from Selene since she’s the one that’s available.
“Primarina!” Selene calls, “can you help us!?!” Selene’s Primarina comes over quickly, and gives them a boost to get onto the back of their full-grown Solgaleo. As soon as they’re both firmly in place and Lillie starts running her fingers through their fur, Nebby starts purring.
“Wow,” Lillie says, “I can’t believe it. They used to purr like this when I used to pet them as a Cosmog.”
“Pokemon don’t change personalities when they evolve,” Selene says, “they just get bigger.” If Pokemon changed personalities when they evolved, her Primarina wouldn’t still steal all the Pecha berries out of her bag when Selene isn’t looking. He would know better.
“But they’re a god now,” Lillie says, “I thought that they wouldn’t want me to baby them anymore.”
“That’s why you gave them to me, isn’t it?” Selene says, “you thought that they’d outgrown you.” Lillie frowns as she looks down at Nebby’s bright white fur.
“They evolved into a god,” Lillie says, “they shouldn’t be with a trainer who was too weak to even say she wanted to be a trainer.”
“Hey,” Selene says, putting a hand on Lillie’s shoulder, “you are not weak. You saved Nebby from your mother. You kept them safe for all this time. Then, you made the decision to leave the region that you’d always lived in to try being a trainer. That was strong.”
“I’m still no good at being a trainer,” Lillie says, “I didn’t even know how to work my flashlight .”
“That’ll come with time,” Selene says, “the important part is your relationships with your Pokemon. Your Vulpix clearly trusts you. It takes a lot to keep up a willow-the-wisp that long. He wouldn’t do that for just any human.”
“Really?” Lillie asks.
“Yeah,” Selene says.
“I thought that I wasn’t training hard enough,” Lillie says, “we aren’t winning very many battles, and my Pokemon haven’t advanced very many levels.”
“You aren’t an intense person, Lillie,” Selene says, “I couldn’t see you implementing a strict training regimen.”
“But that’s what good trainers are supposed to do, right?” Lillie asks.
“I do that,” Selene says, “but that doesn’t mean that you have to.” Not everyone has to be the champion of the Alola region. Selene sees Lillie clawing at a small handful off Nebby’s fur and balling it in her fist.
“But you’re a good trainer,” Lillie says, “you’re what I want to evolve into.” Selene shakes her head.
“We're from different evolutionary lines,” she says, “you evolving into me would be like- I don’t know. A Charmander evolving into a Blastoise.” Lillie looks like she’s holding the fur even tighter, and Selene snakes her hand underneath to disentangle Lillie’s hand from the fur and give her something else to clutch. Lillie squeezes her hand like a stuffed Jigglypuff that people carry around to squeeze away their stress.
“But what if I’m stuck at Charmander forever, and what if Blastoise is better than Charizard, and what if I’m just- just not cut out for this?” Selene grabs the other hand, and forces Lillie to turn around and face her. Her eyes are wet with tears.
“Hey,” Selene says, “you are fantastic. Nebby loves you, no matter what part of your evolutionary line you’re in. Maybe you’re at the Charmander stage, but you know what that means?”
“What?” Lillie asks.
“You just have more room to grow,” Selene says, “and when you’re a big Charizard?” Selene smiles, looking down at Solgaleo, “you can still need cuddles. Growing up and getting better doesn’t mean you have to change that.” Lillie wipes away her tears, and she seems to have gotten a hold of herself. Mainly, at least.
“Why are you in Kanto?” Lillie asks.
“I came to look for you, actually,” Selene says. Lillie looks startled by that.
“Look for me? Why?”
“I thought that you needed Nebby more than I did,” Selene says, “they missed you, and you- you just- you have a lot more love to give, I think. And he needs a lot of it. I wanted to give them back to you.”
“You have a lot of love to give, Selene,” Lillie says. Selene shrugs.
“You do,” Lillie says. Selene shrugs again.
“That doesn’t mean that I should keep Nebby,” Selene says, “I think that they belong with you.” Lillie runs both her hands through Nebby’s fur again, soothingly.
“Would you take them back?” Selene asks. Lillie looks down at him for a second, with a look of longing and regret.
“Yes,” she says, “if they’ll take me back.” Selene feels a smile spread across her face. Her mission has been accomplished.
“Why else did you come here?” Lillie asks her, “it seems a bit excessive to come this far just to reunite me with a Pokemon.”
“And maybe I missed you too,” she finds herself smiling softly.
“That is part of it,” Lillie says, “but that doesn’t explain why you didn’t call me to arrange a meeting. You didn’t have to search the entire continent for me.”
“Okay,” Selene admits, “Maybe I missed adventure too. It's just so boring fighting in the battle tree day in and day out.”
“Now that sounds like the Selene that I know,” she says. Selene surveys all their Pokemon, and watches Lillie’s Kanto Vulpix as her own Alolan Ninetails grooms its fur.
“So, what are you doing next?” Lillie asks, “you had a bit of an adventure. Are you going home now?”
“Oh no,” Selene says, “I only have four Kanto gym badges. I’m not leaving until I become the champion.” The question hangs in the air, unspoken. You're staying in Kanto, I'm staying in Kanto, what if we stayed in Kanto... together?
“My Vulpix sure likes your Ninetails,” Lillie says.
“Yeah,” Selene says, “she looks so excited to have a pup to mother.”
“It would be a shame to separate them,” Lillie says.
“A terrible, terrible shame.”
“It would be a shame for Nebby to lose one of us, too,” Selene says, “it would be such a drain on their mental state, when they need so many cuddles.”
“So, we’re going to travel together?” Lillie asks. Selene smiles a little.
“It only seems logical,” she says, “that way, we can evolve into our best selves together.”
“That’s really cheesy,” Lillie says, “but I think I like it.” Nebby roars underneath them, and they feel the vibrations of the roar move through his body like an earthquake. It feels like the start of something big, all of them together. Something exciting. A whole new adventure, just for them.