Well, it certainly took me a while.

For anyone who's here from one of my other stories, and really, for everyone else, too; Hello, and welcome to Who We Used to Be! This is a story I've had on the backburner for maybe... two years now? I originally wanted to do it as a comic, drawing out the art and everything, but I eventually conceded the fact that I didn't have that kind of time when I was going to be starting college any day.

Of course, it then took me a year and a half to actually start college, but hey, hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

So, for now, here's Who We Used to Be! I hope you enjoy it.

Who We Used to Be

Chapter 1

She was back there again, standing in front of the same hospital bed, hearing the faint sound of the heart monitor off to her left somewhere, and crying.

That familiar uselessness reared its head, and Bianca felt barren of hope in the face of it, and in the face of her Pokémon's suffering. Before her, growing weaker and weaker by the minute, her Emboar tried its best to be strong for her sake.

He was dying.

She'd been here before. She'd been here so many times before.

"Please, Emboar!" She felt herself saying without having said anything at all. A record caught on the same lines, repeating over and over and– "Please, don't die!"

Her Pokémon looked up at her with tired, weary eyes. It gave a soft, grumbling bellow beneath its breath, trying to cheer her up.

And that was the last thing it did at all.

She cried, despite the fact that this was all so familiar. She screamed, and fell to her knees, and bawled into her hands. She felt snot dribbling down her face. She felt like the world was ending. She felt like, no matter what, no matter how someone immediately moved to her side, and tried to comfort her, she would never once feel warmth again in this world.

She'd been here before. She'd gone through all of this before. Somehow, all of this just felt so–


Bianca snapped awake with a quiet, but nonetheless sudden breath.

It took her mind a few seconds to catch up, but when it did, it rather helpfully supplied that she was laying down within her bed. She was not within a hospital, or any other medical building. She was in her bedroom within her parent's home, on a quiet, Monday morning.

She'd just been having a nightmare.

It was not the first time she'd had that particular one, and it likely wouldn't be the last, either.

She sat up mechanically, reaching towards her bedside table and taking up her half rim glasses. She placed them on her face and adjusted them slightly as she shimmied out of bed, and went about her morning routine.

She headed towards the bathroom. She took a shower and used the restroom without any real energy; her face neutral, her mood neutral.

She moved out of the bathroom and towards the stairwell, making her way down into the kitchen. She got herself a bowl of some nondescript corn-based cereal, and took up the TV remote, turning it on as she took a few bites of her breakfast at the kitchen table.

She flipped through the channels without any real interest, just browsing to browse. After a while, she placed the remote down on a channel that was on commercial, showcasing a new brand of Pokéblock that promised to 'make your Pokémon's coat shine!'. She tuned it out as she stirred her spoon through her cereal, waiting until she'd finished chewing so she could place another bite into her mouth.

"–This week we've got quite the announcement coming up! A massive event open to all challengers is said to be coming to Alola at the end of this year, isn't that right, Roxy?"

Bianca looked up at the news with the tiniest inkling of care as she spooned another mouthful past her lips.

"That's right, Gabby. They're calling it the biggest tournament ever! Something to one-up even the World Coronation Series that was held all those years ago!"

Bianca chewed what was in her mouth, swallowed, and kept watching.

"The Pokémon World Championships are set to be open to anyone who wishes to enter! So, if you're out there watching this right now, trainers, you may want to mark the date down on your calendars!"

"And yet, from what I've heard, they've run into some complications already?"

"Well, that's what they say, Gabby. Apparently, Sinnoh's perennial champion hasn't put in her bid to enter, citing a lack of motivation. This is a worrying prospect for the tournament's organizers, who fear their momentum might be cut before it can truly get off the–"

"Bianca, honey?"

Bianca found herself reeling back and away from the table in front of her, startled entirely out of the trance she'd found herself in. She looked over to see her father having come down the stairs, looking rather apologetic to have made her jump. Along with him, she noticed that her mother was behind her further into the kitchen, making herself something as well, having seemingly appeared there while Bianca wasn't looking.

When had she…

"You've barely been touching your food at all." Her father had a glint in his eye, as if quietly hoping for something. "Did something catch your eye, there?"

Whatever odd sensation it was that had come over Bianca, however, faded away the moment it was pointed out to her. She stood from the table without looking either her father or mother in the eye, moved to the sink, and poured out the remainder of her cereal.

"N-No, I'm fine." She assured them as she moved out of the kitchen, and towards the closet by the door. She took out her hoodie and slipped it on, zipping it up the front as she tried to think of something to say. "I just…" Nothing came. "I'm going to head to work. Love you guys."

"Oh, I see." Her mother smiled, then, but it seemed somehow put upon, like she was going through the motions.

It felt hypocritical for Bianca of all people to think such a thing about another.

"Well… Have a great day. We love you too."

Bianca nodded her head, and then pushed her way out of her parents' house.

Immediately, the last remnants of the winter season struck her, and she pulled the hood of her hoodie up and over her ears to try and conserve some warmth. It would be spring soon, but it certainly wasn't yet.

She was lucky her walk to work wasn't a terribly long commute. Just a few minutes and she'd be there. She placed her hands in the dual pockets of her hoodie, and moved further up the central road of Nuvema town.

She didn't think of very much as she did so. She hadn't in a long time. Yet, the conscious thought that she had not had thoughts was something new; something she hadn't considered in a while. She'd been almost… absent, and when she tried to think about what might have snapped her out of that…

She saw that advertisement again. Heard the voices of the two newscasters speaking about the Pokémon World Championships.

A shiver ran down her back, one not at all from the cold.

And yet, she couldn't think about it. Couldn't acknowledge it. Some part of her, one that hadn't been slain or given up in the interim years since… well, regardless, that part called to her.

She did her best to ignore that voice as she stepped towards the automatic doors leading into the research laboratory, feeling the heat immediately bring some life back into her weathered body.

"Ah, Bianca!" She heard a voice call out to her the moment she'd entered into the lab, and despite herself, her lips curled idly into the tiniest of smiles. "Come here a moment, something interesting just came in!"

It was nice, in a way, having someone she was so familiar with; someone she understood almost innately. There were few wasted words between Bianca and Professor Juniper, and the more the years went by here in the lab, the more that connection between them grew.

They weren't the only people there, of course. Professor Juniper had a good five or six aides within the laboratory every day, and at least another dozen or so who were out doing field work across the region. Still, Bianca was far and away Juniper's right hand, and she was proud of that position.

…She was. She was proud of it.

She moved towards the coat rack, took her white lab jacket, and slung it around her body.

"What is it, Professor?" She called out as she trekked up the stairs to meet Professor Juniper on the second level.

The Professor rounded on her with wide, passionate eyes. She was practically glowing with excitement, and it radiated off of her in an almost infectious way, to a degree that Bianca herself felt a faint stirring within her chest.
"This," Professor Juniper slammed down a folder of papers on the table just in front of her, and Bianca picked up the stack and began to lightly skim through them. "Was just transferred to us by Professor Sycamore. He believes he's been able to isolate something regarding the Bond Phenomenon!"

Professor Juniper sounded over the moon about this, and that made Bianca happy.

"The Bond Phenomenon…" She took a moment both to read some of the first few paragraphs on the first page, and also to jog her memory for information related to said terminology. "That has something to do with the unique Greninja that was seen in the Kalos region a few years ago, correct?"

"Indeed." Professor Juniper smiled at her. "C'mon, we've got a long day ahead of us. Ooo, I can't wait! It's been a while since something this enthralling's come through our door!"

That it had. When Bianca thought about it, she couldn't remember the last thing they'd worked on that had genuinely caught her interest. Certainly, most days were fun, in a quiet, absent sort of way, but…

…She tried to think on the last time she'd dedicated herself to something, genuinely, truly found herself captivated by it inside the lab.

And Bianca wasn't sure what to make of the fact that she drew a blank.


They worked well into the evening on that singular topic, researching based upon the conclusions that Professor Sycamore had come to, whilst also trying to draw their own findings based on what was already known about the Bond Phenomenom. It was scant little, unfortunately, and though Bianca wanted to be able to say she'd given it a hundred percent, she found herself frowning come the end of the day, as Professor Juniper let out a long, satisfied sigh.

"Welp, I'd say that about does it for today, Bianca."

Bianca nodded her head, setting down the file she'd been skimming through and sorting it back in amongst the others. They'd been trying to tie the Bond Phenomenon both to ancient cultures, like with mega stones and evolution, while also tying it to the, well, bond between the trainer and the Pokémon in question.

Bianca hummed something out noncommittally as she heard one of the other aides wish her goodnight, and it was only when Professor Juniper stepped into her field of view with a raised eyebrow that she realized her actions could've been construed as rather rude.

"They look up to you, Bianca." Her mentor said, scolding her lightly.

"I…" Bianca didn't really understand how that could be the case. "Okay."

Professor Juniper's expression faltered briefly, before she cleared her throat. "Bianca… there's something I've been meaning to tell you. Something that's been on my mind a while."

Bianca's brow furrowed. It was rare for the Professor to speak in so serious a tone. Incredibly rare.

"What's the matter, Professor? Is something wrong?"

"No, no, nothing like that." She denied. "No, it's more… well, there's no real delicate way to put this, so I'll just come out and say it. I've been thinking about retiring as Pokémon Professor."

Bianca's heart skipped a beat, and she lunged forward, grabbing onto the lapels of Professor Juniper's lab coat.

"You– What!?"

"Hah," Her mentor gently pried her hands off of her coat. "I didn't expect you to react quite like that."

"B-But Professor, I– everyone here, they all– when were you going to–"

"Bianca, slow down, honey." Professor Juniper chuckles. "I never said anything about retiring now. If you'd let me continue?"

Bianca nods a bit awkwardly, rubbing at the back of her neck.

"I've just been thinking recently that… I'd like to travel the world again. It's been a while since I've had the chance to visit any of the other Professors, and especially with Professor Oak getting on in years, I'd like to make sure I can see him again. Plus, I've never actually been to Paldea, and I hear it's lovely."

"I… I understand." Bianca looked away; she more than understood.

She'd only ever been to Unova and Kanto, herself. She'd flown over Johto, and had planned to visit Alola one of these days, but… she'd just never gotten around to it.

She thought, again, of that advertisement. She thought of the World Championships.


She snapped from out of her own head like a cut rubber band.


"If I were to retire as Pokémon Professor of Unova, I would need someone to take my place."

Bianca nodded her head. "And… who did you have in mind?"

Professor Juniper stared at her a while, seemingly trying to read the tone of Bianca's question. Bianca tilted her own head to the side, and at that, the Professor cracked, letting out an elegant laugh that had her reaching up and covering her mouth with one hand.

"Bianca, honey… I was going to offer the position to you."

There was a beat following those words where Bianca couldn't quite comprehend what she'd just heard.

Shortly following that was Bianca's legs giving out from under her.

Luckily, it seemed that Professor Juniper had been expecting as much. She caught her without much trouble, hoisting her back to her feet after a moment spent huddled against one another, giving Bianca a moment to recover.

"That… you…" Bianca's breaths came unevenly. "You must be j-joking. I can't… that can't…"

"I am completely serious, Bianca." Her mentor spoke, and her tone betrayed no lie. "There is no one in Unova more qualified than you. No one in Unova I would rather pass the position to than you."

Bianca couldn't help the way her entire chest filled with ice, then.

To become the Pokémon Professor of one of the regions of the world was an honor unlike any she'd ever been offered before. It was a dream that so many around the world wished to realize, and here it was, being handed to her on a silver platter.

And Bianca, she…

When she thought of being tied to this laboratory for the rest of her life, without Professor Juniper's presence… when she thought about making the same commute into this building, until the dusk settled, and she had to turn out the lights to do it all again…

"Would you mind if… I thought about this a while?" Bianca stuttered out, before realizing how disrespectful that must've sounded, and bowing her head towards her mentor. "I–I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude, I just–"

"Bianca, you're fine. Really. Take as long as you need, okay?" Juniper smiled reassuringly, placing a hand on Bianca's shoulder as she moved past her and began to shut the facility down for the evening. "But promise me something, okay? No matter what your answer, just make sure that above all else, you're true to yourself – to what you want."

Bianca wasn't certain how long she stood there, unable to say anything, as the iridescent white lights above her began to shut off one by one. As the final few dimmed, however, and she was left alone inside the laboratory, Bianca found herself leaning up against a wall, and sliding down it, until her knees were pulled up against her chest.

She needed help. She understood that. No, more than that, she needed to talk to someone. Someone who she trusted.

Someone who also wasn't Professor Juniper. It… she couldn't tell her about any of what she was thinking. Not after everything she'd done for her.

Not after everything that had happened over the years.

So, a few minutes later, she wiped her arm across her eyes, took a breath, and stood up. She moved through the dark halls of the laboratory on auto-pilot, and made her way out into Nuvema beyond.


Bianca's eventual destination was a house located in what was essentially the dead center of Nuvema town. It was a quiet place, where not much happened. No one congregated around it. Nor did too many go into or out of it.

Bianca had, a long while ago, decided that she quite liked coming here and sitting down a few meters away from the door. Just existing there, looking up at the town and the sky and the stars hanging above her in the heavens.

Today, she did just that. Sliding her way down the wall and taking up a similar position to the one she'd been in whilst within the laboratory just a few minutes prior.

Her thoughts were a whirlwind.

She could only stare at her feet for so long before her lips moved.

"Hey… Hilda."

The words brought long-shed tears back to her eyes, which she narrowly prevented from falling for the umpteenth time. It felt like that was all she could do these days; cry about things she should've long forgotten.

Her long-since missing best friend not even chief among them.

"If you were here… I wonder what you'd tell me to do."

She prevented herself from thinking any further on Hilda's fate by just… venting. By opening and closing her lips and forcing sound out of them. She had to, it felt like.

She'd explode if she didn't.

"It's just… this should be such an obvious decision, shouldn't it?" Bianca asked the nothingness. "It shouldn't even be a decision. I… I have a good life. My job is filled with wonderful people. People who respect me. And… I could become Pokémon Professor… one of the most prestigious rolls in all the world."

She couldn't help a sad little laugh that echoed out beneath her breath.

"It's almost funny… at twenty-eight years old, that would make me one of the youngest Professor's ever. They might even call me a prodigy… just like they used to call you."


Of course, it was silent. Hilda… she'd been gone a long, long time. At first, she'd just been 'missing'. She'd, according to N, gone searching for him, and then gotten lost in translation. Bianca had always expected her to show up one day, as if nothing had changed.

And then two years had turned to three. Then five. Then ten.

And then one day she'd realized her closest friend wasn't coming back.

The ache that had once caused didn't hurt quite as much as it used to. Time dulled all wounds. But even so… it hurt again, tonight.

It was a spiral for Bianca. Thinking on Hilda had her thinking on her problems, which had her thinking on Professor Juniper's offer, which had her thinking on…

On the newscast from that morning.

In her mind's eye, she saw a grand stadium, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. All of them cheering the name of the victor of the Pokémon World Championships. And for a moment, a fleeting absent second of time, she imagined herself standing there, her arms raised towards the crowds.

And it felt so wrong and so right that she wanted to scream.

No! She rebuked herself mentally. That's not… that can't be… I'm… I'm not…

Suddenly she was fourteen years old again, standing alongside Cheren and Hilda as they received their first Pokémon. Professor Juniper was standing there, smiling over at all of them. Hilda went first, and then Cheren went second.

She was last.

She was always last.

"You and I both know that I'm your only real competition." She could remember Cheren's voice from oh so long ago as he crossed his arms and glared at Hilda.

"Bianca, meanwhile, simply lacks the talent for Pokémon battling." N had said once. He had done so without malice, without cruelty. It had been a simple admission of fact to him.

"I'm not… good enough for something like that." She found herself saying aloud, watching as her breath showed in the cold night air, a nearby streetlight the only thing making it visible. "Remember… they all… they all said that I was–"

For a moment, she felt she could feel the warm, easy aura that Hilda gave off. That lack of judgement; that will to spur on any that walked alongside her. She remembered Hilda smiling so dazzlingly at her as Bianca had stood before her, more shocked than happy, after somehow defeating Hilda in a Pokémon battle.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, and nearly jumped out of her skin.

She turned to look, to see just who it was happened to be behind her, who had managed to sneak up on her without her noticing, but…

There was nothing. No one.

"Hil… da?" She asked to the black night surrounding her. A moment later she shook her head, feeling like a fool. "I must be going crazy. That has to be…"

Bianca leaned forward somewhat, looking down at her right hand as she splayed it open. She imagined, once more, winning the battle. Winning the tournament. Standing there with her arms held high in front of the entire world.

What would that feel like? What would that be like?

She had nothing to equate it to. She had always been an underachiever; she'd never made anyone proud, or happy. And yet, when she thought of it, it was like her stomach was alight with sparks running all across it.

"…All that time ago, when we went on that journey together," She wasn't sure if she was talking to Hilda, or Cheren, or no one at all. "I had all these dreams in my head that burned so brightly. I think I thought they'd died along with…" Her breath hitched. "But no… they're all still there. Still… I still want…"

And then, quite suddenly, the door off to her right opened up, and Bianca nearly jumped out of her skin yet again.

"Bianca?" A voice called to her, and though she couldn't see terribly well with her glasses fogged up from her own breath, with her only light source being a street lamp, and through the smattering of tears in her eyes, she knew already who the voice belonged to.

It was Hilda's mother.

"Oh, Ma'am, I'm so sorry!" She must've looked like such a weirdo, sitting outside someone else's house and talking to herself.

And yet, before she could apologize herself into oblivion, Hilda's mother interrupted her with a knowing smile.

"Here to talk to Hilda again?"

Bianca's eyes went wide. "I… you knew?"

"I'm sorry, Bianca dear, but you're not quite as subtle as I think you try to be when you visit. I've known for quite a while."

Bianca let out a groan as she pulled her hoodie up over her head, and tried to tune out the woman's quiet amusement at her plight.

"In truth, however, tonight I happened to be by the window when I heard you discussing something with yourself. You sounded quite downtrodden so I stopped to listen to what you had to say. I apologize for eavesdropping."

Bianca went red with embarrassment; that and shame. Her thinking about something as asinine as… it was ridiculous. Well and truly ridiculous. She hadn't had the talent for it when she'd been young and obsessed with Pokémon. Now, she was double the age she'd been when she'd first left on her journey; and she'd not given Pokémon battling any serious thought or attention since…

She forced herself not to finish that thought. That way laid more long-shed tears.

"I… it's silly, isn't it?" She asked the woman, almost begging her to confirm her fears. "I have everything I could ever want here, and here I am dreaming of something so… so…"

"Dreams aren't often beholden to such things as reason or logic."

"E-exactly!" Bianca exclaimed. "That's why I should just… push this out of my mind, and focus in on my life here–


Bianca cowered away from the gentle, almost reassuring tone of Hilda's mother, who walked towards her and sat down beside her. She offered her a gentle, understanding smile as Bianca slowly turned to face her.

"You don't have to tell me everything; I can tell you didn't mean to tell me anything at all, despite my hearing most of it. But if there's one person in the world who you shouldn't lie to," She leaned forward, so that their eyes were level with one another's. "It's yourself."

Bianca couldn't stand to look at her. Not with everything gushing through her.

"You know, it's not that late out. Why don't you go by Professor Juniper's house? I'm sure she'd like to hear how you're feeling."

Nothing had ever sounded more terrifying to Bianca in all her life.

"But… what if I'm making a mistake? What if… what if…"

"Bianca, saying how you feel to yourself, on its own, doesn't mean anything." Hilda's mother stated, and her words made sense, even as her lips quirked upwards, and she offered, "But even if that's true… you want it to mean something, don't you?

For a long while after that, Bianca didn't say anything at all. She was caught wondering how this woman who hadn't even known her all that well had been able to read her so effortlessly off of a few offhanded comments. It seemed impossible, but maybe…

Maybe Bianca's words weren't what was giving her away. Perhaps it was possible that her actions, more than anything, were telling the people around her what she'd always been too afraid to admit.

That which she wanted, what she'd been wanting.

"…Okay. I'll go."

The smile on Hilda's mother's face could've lit the night sky all on its own.

"I'm so glad to hear that, Bianca dear. And… if you need someone to talk to, I'll be here. Okay?"

Bianca nodded clumsily as she stood from off of the ground, dusted off her pants, and tried to keep her expression even; a tiny determination set in her brow.

"Thank you, Ma'am."

"Anytime, sweetie." Hilda's mother nodded back to her.

And so, working off of that little bit of resolve settling within her heart, Bianca made her way to her mentor's doorstep.


This wasn't the first time that Bianca had been over to Professor Juniper's house. Despite how fearful she was in the current moment; the way that her hand shook as she moved it towards the wooden door before her, the two of them had had a long and storied relationship that stretched on for over a decade and a half at that point.

She'd become Professor Juniper's de facto second in command fairly early on in her career, and whilst she'd never really sought out a higher position, her mentor often gave her more and more responsibilities over the years.

Bianca held some small amount of pride in herself that she'd always managed to rise to the occasion on those matters.

Still, she often visited Professor Juniper's house during the holidays, and she even invited the woman over for dinner at her own home whenever her parents were having a cookout or some other event of that nature.

They were quite close.

Yet that didn't really stop the way that Bianca's entire form quivered with nervousness as she finally managed to build up the courage to knock on the woman's door. Almost instantly, she took a step back, wondering if it was too late for her to make a break for it and play all of this off as some childish prank.

Unfortunately for her, Professor Juniper was always incredibly energetic, so the fact that the door swung dramatically open only four or so seconds later came as no surprise.

"Ah, Bianca!" Professor Juniper beamed at her, hugging a bath robe around herself. It seemed she'd just gotten out of the shower. "I was actually hoping to see you again this evening. How are you?"

"Oh, uhm… I'm okay. Did I interrupt you? I can leave if–"

"Hah, Bianca dear, I just said I was hoping to see you again. Even if you were interrupting – which you're not, to be clear – I would still want you to come inside. Now, chop chop, let's get you out of the cold!"

Professor Juniper turned around and marched back inside her home with gusto, showing an amount of energy at eight or so in the evening that Bianca herself didn't quite possess anymore. That hurt just a bit, given Bianca was younger than Professor Juniper by a good decade, at the very least, but she just grumbled under her breath, and then followed her in.

"Take your shoes off at the door, I'll fix you a cup of coffee!"

"Oh, uhm, I don't want to trouble you–"

"It's no trouble, darling! You take yours with four creams and a single sugar, correct?"

Bianca called out in the affirmative, and did as she'd been asked, taking off her shoes and setting them off to the side of the entryway to Professor Juniper's home.

It was a large, spacious place. Being a Pokémon Professor evidently paid rather well.

To be fair, being the effective second-in-command of a Pokémon Professor also paid pretty well, so that didn't really surprise Bianca that much.

Still, it had a certain warmth to it – this place – that fit the woman in question, and perhaps it was because of that that Bianca had always liked it. The heat was on, blasting through the vents, and as Bianca stepped inside, Professor Juniper's Stoutland came moseying on out of the living room, grumbling under its breath, seemingly preparing to begin barking at the intruder into its home.

Upon seeing that it was only Bianca, however, the Pokémon's tail began to wag, and it excitedly called out to her as it waddled up to her and practically demanded she pet it.

"Hey there, buddy." She spoke under her breath, reaching out and ruffling the good boy's 'mustache', if that particular detail of Stoutland's form could be called as such. "How've you been?"

Stoutland answered with a series of grunts and calls, and Bianca laughed.

"Well, I'm glad to hear it." Even though she hadn't actually understood any of what Stoutland was trying to tell her.

After another thirty seconds or so of being petted, Stoutland seemed to have had enough, and waddled off to go back to the living room and sit down on its favorite couch. Bianca chuckled under her breath, even as she traveled past the living room and towards the kitchen, where Professor Juniper was just finishing preparing their drinks.

"So," Her mentor spoke as she handed Bianca her mug. "What did you want to talk about?"

Bianca took a sip of her drink first, unsure of quite how to broach this topic, and using the motion to disguise her hesitance.

The drink was, unsurprisingly, made to her exact specifications.

Professor Juniper always paid such careful attention to her.

"Well, I… I was thinking about your offer for a while."


"And uhm…" Bianca paused again, feeling like a coward. "I talked with Hilda's mom a bit, and that helped. She gave me the courage to actually come over."

"I'm glad."

"And… I…" She took a deep breath, trying to calm her beating heart. "That is to say–"

A hand on Bianca's shoulder had her looking over, letting her see Professor Juniper offer her a reassuring look.

"Bianca, honey. I want you to know that no matter what you have to say to me, I'm not going to be angry with you. I'm not going to be upset, or discontented. I want what's best for you."

Bianca breathed out some of her worry, laughing quietly.

"You say that like you already know what I'm about to say."

The Professor smiled in a way that, to Bianca at least, communicated that she very much did.

She swallowed on the nothing in her dry throat, trying to bring some moisture into it. Nothing came, however.

She would just have to continue regardless.

"I'm… I'm truly honored by your offer to become Unova's Pokemon Professor." She spoke, looking up at the smiling face of her mentor. "At the same time, however…"

She trailed off, fear and doubt and a million other things hanging off of her words like anchors on a galleon. They tried to drag her down into the cold, dark depths, but instead of allowing that to happen, Professor Juniper moved her hand down, lightly squeezed her arm, and nodded to her.

It was a subtle 'keep going'.

And it was the final thing Bianca needed to bow her head, and say, "I can't accept."

She'd feared Professor Juniper might get upset, or angry. She feared she might sigh and say something like 'that tracks, I suppose'. But instead, she was smiling ear to ear, looking entirely giddy with Bianca's answer.

"Oh? And why is that?"

"Because… w-well, because I…"

And for the second time that day, she thought back on her childhood. She remembered standing alongside Hilda, and Cheren as they received their first Pokémon. She remembered sitting around a campfire during the evenings, with her Pokémon at her side.

She wanted to cry, but she couldn't let herself.

"Because I want to be a P-Pokémon Master!"

A thousand voices all jeered inside her head. They shouted out at her that she'd never even come close before. That she'd been so far behind the others, that she'd never been able to challenge Cheren, or Hilda, or even N, who despised battling. They pointed out the times that Bianca had had her own Pokémon stolen from her, and how she'd needed others to help her get them back.

She wasn't good enough. She'd never been good enough. She'd failed her team. She'd failed her Pokémon. She'd failed Em–

In the next moment, before her mind could complete that thought and break her entirely, Juniper crushed her in a hug, wrapping her arms around her and practically strangling the life out of her. she rocked the both of them back and forth within her kitchen, and laughed in a sing-song manner, sounding vaguely like a Chatot.

"I'm so proud of you, Bianca."

Bianca felt her cheeks heating up in embarrassment. That, and… maybe the smallest amount of happiness herself.

Her inner self, however, never once hesitated to doubt such things.

"…Professor, may I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"Did you… did you just offer me the Pokémon Professor position because you thought it would encourage me to do this?"

Juniper shook her head as she pulled out of the hug.

"No, Bianca. I offered you the title of Pokémon Professor because among all those who've worked for me over the years, you are the one who deserves it the most. You've put in years of work at your position. But, at the same time, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't hoped my offer would push you to reconsider what you really wanted."

Bianca couldn't help but be somewhat overwhelmed by everything happening right now. What she'd just decided, what Professor Juniper had done for her, everything… it was all happening so fast.

Professor Juniper, as always, was there to catch her before she fell.

"Bianca, it's no secret that you've never really been satisfied here." Her mentor spoke, and it hurt, even if Bianca knew it to be true. "Sure, you've been happy, but never… fulfilled, not truly. All those years ago when you first came here there was a fire in your eyes; a skip in your step. But I've seen as it's dimmed over time. I watched as it burned brightly again, all those years ago, when you planned to…" She cut herself off, and Bianca was grateful she did. She still… she wasn't sure if she'd ever be ready to have that conversation, but she knew she wasn't yet. "Well… regardless, I'd hate to trap you in something you have no passion for at all."

Professor Juniper cocked an easygoing smile.

"Especially when I know there's something out there you want to do far, far more. You've been pining for it for a long time, haven't you… this journey?"

Bianca nodded, even if her eyes welled up somewhat.

"Then, please, Bianca." She said as she wrapped her arms around her again, squeezing reassuringly.


She heard the words come out of her mentor's mouth and felt a well of panic filling her chest. It was so like her to do something so foolish; to panic at what were probably supposed to be comforting words.

"My heart… it's telling me to, but I don't know how I'm… I don't have any idea how I'm supposed to go about starting this!" She said, and before she knew it, her lips were pouring out word after word. "I have no plan in mind, I don't know where I'm going, I don't know how much has changed since I was last a trainer, and I don't even know how to… should I collect eight gym badges? Or just train on my own, or– but I don't even have a single Pokémon anymore! What am I supposed to do when I… when I…"

Professor Juniper let her speak. She let her ramble on aimlessly, and just nodded her head at her. She'd always been so helpful; so calming. It was what eventually let Bianca still her mind, what let her release a shaky, but nonetheless steadying breath.

"I don't know what to do, Professor. And… and I'm scared."

Professor Juniper nodded into her shoulder, before pulling away again and gesturing with her head. "Come with me. I can't help you with everything, but… I might just be able to solve one of those problems."

Bianca's eyes widened, and before she knew it, she was being led out of the kitchen, out of the living room, even, and towards the door.

Bianca put her coat and her shoes back on as Professor Juniper unlatched the door, giving her Stoutland a final pet before they set out into the cold evening air once again. Bianca didn't initially know where they were going, although judging based on the direction, she had some idea.

When they did finally step up towards the lab, Bianca wasn't exactly surprised. Professor Juniper unlocked the door, stepped inside, and flicked on a few of the less energy-intensive lights. It left the entire lab dimly lit, but more than enough to see.

They made their way upstairs, towards where Professor Juniper's personal desk was. She reached towards the top drawer, pulled it open, and took out a Pokéball.

"This…" Professor Juniper began. "Is a Pokémon that came into my care recently. I'd been looking to give it to a Sanctuary since I could not fit it in the laboratory or in my home were it to evolve and grow bigger than it is now… but I feel it would be far better served in your care."

"In… mine?"

Juniper nodded, clicking the button and sending out the Pokémon within the ball. It took a moment for the white energy to converge into a recognizable shape, but when it did, Bianca found herself stunned. In front of her was an extraordinarily rare Pokémon, one she'd seen but once or twice in her life.

A Bagon.

The Pokémon looked up at Bianca and gave a little noise of interest, one that had Bianca's heart melting almost instantly. It was adorable, truthfully, and the thought that such a Pokémon could be hers was…

"Bagon isn't exactly an easy Pokémon to raise; or, at least, that's what I've been told. Not to mention they're quite rare, and I think that only the most dedicated of Dragon-type trainers have them. But… well, I think if anyone could manage this little guy, it'd be you."



Bianca leaned forward as Juniper pointed the Pokéball towards Bagon, and called it back into it. then, without any fanfare or ritual, as casual as anything, she simply handed the ball to her.

Bianca cupped the ball in both hands, letting out a great breath of air. Her heart was beating a hundred miles a minute as she, on half-rotted instinct, set the Pokéball along her waist. It set into place with a soft 'click'.

In the next moment, she practically fell into Professor Juniper's arms.

"Bianca, are you alright?" The Professor asked worriedly.

"I just… my legs… are shaking." Bianca spoke honestly. "I-I feel like I'm going to throw up. Professor Juniper, I… I'm…"

Her mentor didn't seem to need to hear anything else in order to divine what she was trying to say. She just pulled her in and held her there, giving her all the time in the world to speak if she wanted to, or just a warm embrace to exist within if she didn't.

Bianca did, after a while, say something.

"…What if I fail?" She practically whispered. "I keep thinking that, over and over again. It's… I've already failed twice, what if it happens again, and I–"

"Bianca, you didn't fail either time."

Bianca felt her lip quivering. "It was my fault."

"No, it wasn't." Professor Juniper rebuked her in a far harsher tone of voice than normal. "And you know that."

Bianca didn't say anything. It was all she could do to squeeze Professor Juniper's form, and to bury her face in the woman's shoulder, to try and dry her tears.

"I'm sorry." She croaked out. "I just… I just feel so weak and afraid and… I feel like I'm fourteen again, and all of this is so far over my head and… and I'm going to lose it all again somehow…"

Professor Juniper let out a sorrowful breath. "Then… for as long as you need, just stay right here, okay? And when you're ready…"

Bianca did her best to nod with how flush she was against Juniper's body.

"…Thank you, Professor."

"Of course, Bianca."

"No, for… for everything. For always being there for me, for taking care of me through thick and thin all these years."

"Hah… I could say the same to you, Bianca. Thank you for all that you've done for me."

Bianca knew that the professor was just saying that to be kind to her. It was obvious. But still… it was a white lie, and a nice one to hear.

So, Bianca didn't correct her mentor. She just stood there with her, in the dim light of the laboratory, and wondered how long it would be until she was back here again.


Despite what she'd thought that evening within Professor Juniper's embrace, Bianca hadn't immediately set out the next day. In fact, it was a good week or two of packing, preparing, and letting both her parents and colleagues at the laboratory in on the fact that she'd be leaving.

She'd expected at least some of them to be surprised, but instead, every single one of them had nodded their heads as if totally expecting what she had to say. It made her wonder, idly, if she really had been projecting her thoughts onto others. If she'd been so obvious about her dreams, despite the way that she herself had tried to hide away from them.

Regardless, after a day spent packing up her things from the lab, then a day packing a few travel bags for the journey, and then a few more spent finishing up anything outstanding, there she was, at the edge of Nuvema town, being seen off by an entire crowd of people.

Professor Juniper was there, as were all of her colleagues from the lab. Her parents, of course, were present, smiling widely at her. Even her father, who'd disagreed with her decision to go on a Pokémon journey years and years ago now seemed ever so eager to see her set out on another, despite everything.

And Hilda's mother, too, was there. She stood a bit farther away from the crowd, but she was smiling over at Bianca, and waved to her as Bianca bowed her way.

She'd put on her hoodie, some sweatpants, and a beret, which she had always had an odd affinity for. It wasn't exactly stunning to look at, but it would do for Bianca's purposes. It would keep her warm, and, when the weather got a bit hotter in the Spring, also wouldn't lead to her overheating.

Nothing looked stunning with her inside it, anyways, so it wasn't like it really mattered.

She got the sense that the crowd was waiting on her to say something, which was a real shame given that Bianca had stopped being an extrovert around a decade ago.

"Everyone…" Bianca took a breath, trying to swallow her nerves, but eventually settled on just bowing her head. "Thank you for your help these past few weeks. Without you all, I–"

"Oh hush, sweetie." Hilda's mother interrupted her. "You'd have managed just fine without us. We just wanted to help you along."

"She's right." Professor Juniper cut in, with her arms crossed over her breasts and a wide smile on her lips. "All of this is you, Bianca. Be proud of yourself."

Bianca blushed, looking away as a few people chuckled good-naturedly. In the next moment, she realized that she didn't really have anything else to say.

Which meant that… this was it, wasn't it?

It was time to go.

"I… I suppose I should be off, then?"

Her parents came up to hug her one last time, giving her a final set of well wishes. Professor Juniper did the same, as well as Hilda's mother. She exchanged a few more words with her colleagues from the laboratory, and then took a step back from all of them.

"Mom, Dad, I love you. Professor, again, thank you for everything. When I get back…"

She found herself faltering in that moment, her words not coming to her. It occurred to Bianca in that moment that despite everything, despite how headstrong she had been in the past week or so…

She'd not really come up with a plan.

"When I get back…"

Her parents smiled at her, and though she wanted to smile back, she couldn't quite bring herself to. So, she turned herself around, and began walking the same trail she had fourteen years prior.

Out into the world of Pokémon.


Bianca didn't quite want to admit to herself that she'd essentially ended up taking a passenger ship to Undella Town on a whim, but in the end, that was a pretty good summation of the first week or so of her journey.

She'd had absolutely no idea what she was doing.

It was a familiar feeling, one that caused an ugly mass of self-hatred to begin whirling about inside her chest. As she got off of the liner and stepped onto the golden sands of Undella's shore, she had half a mind to simply fall to her knees then and there, and let out a horrid groan of frustration.

She was aimless. Barely a week into her journey, and she was already like this.

She made her way into the town proper without any real goal or objective. She'd come here, in truth, because it was the closest port to Humilau city, and she'd heard that since her original journey, that particular city had gained a gym leader of their own.

She'd been on her way to challenge them when she'd come to a rather frustrating realization.

That being that she had a single Pokémon that she knew very little about.

She knew, really, what she should've done. The smart thing to do would've been to call Bagon out of its Pokéball and try and bond with it over the course of the next few days. In theory, she might even be able to get it to evolve within the next month or so.

She made no moves to do so, however. There was just…

Well… Bianca didn't particularly want to think about that anymore, so she didn't.

Luckily, something showed up in order to distract Bianca from her internal ramblings. That something was a large procession of what seemed to be TV crews, interviewers, and cameramen and women all surrounding a single villa, shouting out questions to someone.

Bianca had no idea what that was about, and couldn't even see the figure they were all trying to address. She was curious, however, and walked a few steps towards the crowd, seeing if she might be able to listen in on what was being said.

Before she could, however, a pair of people – a cameraman and a reporter – broke off from the crowd with a frustrated huff.

"I can't believe that!" The reporter huffed, shaking her head. "We travel all this way, and she's holed up inside, not even taking questions!?"

"She hasn't been for weeks, Gil." The cameraman shrugged his shoulders when the woman rounded on him with an aggravated glare. "Hey, don't blame me, I'm just stating facts here."


Bianca wondered for a moment just who it was that had interjected into the two's conversation. After all, such would be incredibly rude given they'd been attempting to converse with one another.

It took her another moment to realize that it had been her who'd done so, and even then, she only came to such a realization as the reporter, Gil, turned to look at her.

"What's up?" She asked, sounding impatient, and Bianca wanted to cower away immediately.

"I-I was just wondering who you guys were uhm… trying to interview?"

"Oh? You didn't hear?" Gil cocked her head to one side. "Sinnoh's champion is staying in a villa here in Undella. She's one of the top trainers in the entire world – arguably the top trainer at the moment."

Bianca felt her eyes widening, and her desire to go over and see the woman, whoever she was, rising.

"Problem is, despite her skill, she's informed the media that she'd not going to be participating in the upcoming Pokémon World Championships."

"W-What?" Bianca couldn't help but feel shocked herself. "W-Why's that?"

"She said in the first and only interview she took on the matter that she just 'wasn't feeling motivated enough'." The reporter sighed. "Whatever that's supposed to mean. I mean, I get it, I've gotten worn out of all of this before, too. But given that she is who she is, at least a top 5 trainer globally, her not wanting to compete in the World Championships could kill public interest in the event before it even has a chance to get off the ground. Worst comes to worst, the entire event might even be canceled."

Bianca felt her chest constrict at such a possibility.

Perhaps it was stupid for her to worry about such a thing. After all, she'd just ended up in this town without a single thing to show for it, feeling like a complete and utter fool. She probably wasn't even going to get her first gym badge, let alone make it to the World Championships. Why did she care if they were canceled?

It wasn't like it was going to affect her.

But… she couldn't help it. The tournament had ended up being the final catalyst she'd needed to finally get herself up and out into the world again. To hear that it might be canceled barely a week into her journey was…

To call it soul crushing might've been a bit harsh, but it certainly dampened her spirits.

"I… I see." Bianca murmured.

"You a championship hopeful yourself?"


"You just seemed pretty invested is all." The reporter, Gil, shrugged her shoulders.

"Oh, uhm…"

Say yes. Some part of her, one that sounded an awful lot like Professor Juniper, tried to convince her. Tell her you are. Say that you want to win the whole tournament!

She opened her mouth, parted her lips, and…

And her jaw hung open like she was a Magikarp.

"N-No, I'm not," Bianca said instead, unable to meet the woman's eyes as she turned partially away.

"Oh, okay." The reporter seemed to lose interest. "Well, sorry, but we're on a tight schedule here."

And with that, the duo made their way away.

Bianca was left alone, standing in the middle of the path, feeling utterly pathetic.

The longer she stood there, the worse she felt. She stared at the crowd around the villa the Sinnoh Champion was staying in as it gradually thinned out, until finally, the last few reporters left, and the villa was abandoned entirely.

After that… Bianca headed towards the beach.

The sun was setting. It was pretty; beautiful, even, but Bianca wasn't really in a mood to appreciate it. In fact, all she really did as she stepped onto the beach was fall down onto the sand, and lay there, staring up at the sky.

She wasn't entirely sure how long she just… existed there, feeling sorry for herself. It was a bit of a vicious cycle, the way her own self-hatred led her to yell at herself for not doing anything, and how that venom only made her want to stay where she was even more. It kept her rooted to the spot, her form unmoving.

She wasn't expecting anything to interrupt her. Nor had she truly wanted anything to.

And yet, interrupt her something did.

"Are you alright?"

Bianca startled rather terribly, jumping up from her place on the ground and, when she realized that there were tears in her eyes, wiping away at her face with her arm. It was another two or three seconds before she was able to actually see just who it was that had addressed her, and when she did, she came face to face with an older woman.

She was gorgeous, in a word. She had that same ageless quality that Professor Juniper possessed; in that it felt like she could've been anywhere from thirty to fifty, and Bianca wouldn't have been at all surprised. Despite her rather ostentatious mane of hair, which easily extended down to her thighs, she had a rather subdued outfit on. It was a warm looking, dark gray turtleneck, with dark pants. The outfit fit her rather aptly, Bianca felt.

It was only then that it occurred to Bianca that she'd just been sitting there staring at this woman for what had to be at least ten seconds. Her face lit up red with shame and embarrassment a moment later.

"U-Uhm, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stare, I–"

"No, no," The woman laughed, shaking her head. "I get that response a lot. But returning to my earlier question; are you alright?"

Bianca couldn't help but want to read into the woman's words just a bit more; to ask why she was, apparently, often stared at blankly. Instead, however, she rubbed against the back of her neck, and nodded her head.

"Yes, I'm okay."

"Mm. Well, you seemed like you were having a difficult time." The woman stated. "Might I ask what was bothering you?"

Perhaps Bianca should've been hesitant to share with some stranger who'd just come up to her and randomly started a conversation. …Actually, yes, she definitely should've been hesitant to share with some stranger who'd just come up and randomly started a conversation. But she couldn't quite find it in her to turn the woman away.

In reality… she did kind of want someone to talk to.

Perhaps having someone uninvolved in her problems would make discussing them easier? Kind of like a therapist.

"I uhm…" Bianca wasn't entirely sure how to go about broaching this topic. "I'm… trying to become a Pokémon trainer again."

"I see." The woman nodded her head. "Again, you say?"

"U-Uhm, well… I went on a Pokémon journey when I was fourteen. That was fourteen years ago. Ever since, I've uhm… been a scientist of a sort. But it never really… well, I wanted to try being a trainer again. Even though I'm out of practice, and I don't even have my old team anymore. I have to go and gather gym badges again, and… well, I guess I don't have to, it's just… there's just a lot going on."

"I see. Well, regardless of your current standing, I think your goal is quite admirable."

"Thank you." Bianca answered half-heartedly. "But regardless of my intentions, I… I've barely even started, and I'm already feeling like this was all some waste of time."

The moment she said those words, she felt her heart lurching, her mind echoing out in agreement with her. Yes, this was just a waste of time. She was a failure, and she always would be. Maybe if she went back now, Professor Juniper would accept her back into her old position at the lab, and she could pretend like none of this ever–

"You think you're not good enough?"

It was such a brazen question that Bianca couldn't quite help but be snapped from out of the mental spiral she'd found herself in.

"Uhm, well… I mean…"

"Is that what you think?" The woman asked her, and for some reason, she seemed rather… invested. "Might I ask why?"

Bianca had no easy answer to that question. She had an answer, but it probably would've taken her a good two hours to try and even approach her true feelings on the matter. She just… wasn't really sure what she should be saying instead.

"I guess I just… when I last went on a Pokémon journey… I wasn't good enough. My friends that I traveled with were both incredible trainers. The both of them had the capacity to become champions! But I… I never even came close."

The woman watched her with slightly narrower eyes.

"And because of that, you doubt yourself."

Bianca nodded. "I guess."

"I see."

Bianca didn't say anything. The woman didn't either.

"What's your goal?"

Bianca turned towards the woman with wide eyes. She felt oddly caught, in that moment.

"Uhm… I suppose I…" It was embarrassing, with how talentless she was, to try and say it, but she felt she might as well try and communicate just how hopeless of a case she was by being honest. "I… wanted to try and win the Pokémon World Championships."

The woman beside her mimicked her previous expression, her own eyes going wide. "You… wanted to win?"

"Y-Yes." She hid her face away. "I-I know that probably sounds stupid, given I don't even have a single badge, and I've only got one Pokémon, but–"

Instead of demeaning her, however, the woman sat beside her let out a boisterous laugh. It was an odd thing, and it felt almost antithetical to the kind of woman Bianca had assumed the woman sat beside her was. She'd seemed like a very refined woman, almost like royalty.

Now she seemed a bit more… approachable.

"I see." The woman said, recovering from her laughing fit. "That is a truly admirable goal indeed."

"But…" Bianca felt defeated in that moment as she stared down at the ground beneath her. "I just… it's stupid, isn't it? I've never been good enough to do something like that; I never had the talent for Pokémon battling, and I wasn't a good trainer; I failed the last time. How could I–"

"There's no such thing."

Bianca gaped a moment. "Uhm…what?"

"Talent." The woman stated. "There's no such thing. I do not believe in talent. There is only skill; honed like a razor's edge."

Bianca looked down at her feet in the sand, the way that the particles fell away as she lifted them and dipped them back into it.

"Then why couldn't I ever beat them?" She murmured out below her breath. "I didn't try any less hard than them. But I was just… I was never able to do the things they could."

"Then perhaps the method of training you took was not as rigorous, or as varied, as theirs. Perhaps outside factors contributed to you not having the same opportunities that they did." The woman argued back. "There are a thousand different reasons; many that could have been entirely out of your control. Do not say that some mystical talent was what separated you."

Bianca frowned. "I guess… I just…"

"You want to be a Pokémon trainer, correct?"

Bianca looked over at the woman. "I… I do."

"Even despite the fact that you consider yourself to lack talent?"

"I do."

The woman smiled. "Then let me ask you; why?"


"Why do you still seek to become a Pokémon trainer; no, a Pokémon master? Why go through so much, suffer through so much, for something you don't even believe you can achieve?"

Bianca stopped a moment and just… took that question in. It was entirely valid, in all fairness. She didn't have an immediate retort, or even much of a response. It took her ten or so seconds to formulate anything at all.

"I suppose I… simply desire it regardless. That no matter what else I was doing, no matter how 'fulfilled' I should've been… I kept coming back to trying my hand at this, despite it all. Even without talent, or… or luck, or whatever else… I still want to… to raise my hand inside a stadium, and have an entire crowd acknowledge me. No matter how realistic that might be."

The woman watched her with a look that seemed to grow more and more interested as the seconds ticked by. Eventually, her lips split into a wide, almost Cheshire grin.

"I think I quite like you." The woman stated. "What's your name?"

"Uhm… I'm Bianca." She said, nodding her head.

"Bianca, hm? Well, then, Bianca, I have a proposition for you."

As she said those words, the woman stood up, dusted the sand off of her backside, and offered a hand out towards Bianca.

"How would you like to travel along with me?"

Bianca's eyes widened. "Huh?"

"You've already said that you have no idea what to do next in your journey; that you don't know where to go. So, why don't you travel with me? I'll take you where you need to go, get you to where you need to be. And together… perhaps we'll make a champion out of you."

Bianca couldn't quite help but swallow down on the lump that had formed in her throat. she was staring up at this woman she'd met no more than ten minutes ago, and…

And she was legitimately considering accepting the offer.

No… no, it was more than that.

She was going to accept the offer.

But before that…

"Why?" Bianca asked, turning her body so that she faced the woman now standing above her; standing within the woman's shadow, which seemed to stretch on for miles. "Why would you… do something like that for me?"

"Hm… that's a hard one." The woman stated. "I've always been told that I can be rather brash and impulsive at times, and that I often act on my instincts rather than taking time to think things through. Perhaps I'm making a spur of the moment decision; getting caught up in the energy of the here and now."

Bianca deflated a bit.

"Or perhaps…" The woman continued, the smile on her face softening somewhat. "You remind me a bit of who I used to be."

Bianca's brow furrowed. "I… remind you of you?"

"Mhm." She spoke. "I used to be in a similar scenario to you once. The circumstances were different, I'm sure, but… the underlying feelings that I carried within my heart were the same. And I suppose I'd like to help you through it."

"Oh." Bianca uttered, for lack of anything else to utter. "Uhm… thank you. That's very kind."

"Hah, don't thank me." The woman winked. "I've not done a thing for you yet. Now, let's see… I think we should work on building up some confidence in yourself first."

Bianca wanted to take offense to that, but she couldn't really, on account of it being a terribly accurate statement.

"And I know just the person to take you to." She stated, and then she turned around, marching up the beach. "Come along, Bianca, we've much to do."

Bianca wasn't really sure what it said about her character that she followed the woman she'd met at this point fifteen minutes ago without question, not bothering to ask where they were going. The only question she did have was, "Uhm, ma'am? May I ask your name?"

She wasn't really expecting the way the woman rounded on her with one of her brows rather high on her head, seeming like she couldn't quite believe what Bianca had just said.

"You… don't know who I am?"

"Uhm… n-no?" Bianca awkwardly muttered, looking away from the woman. "Should I?"

"No, no. I simply thought you did, given the way you reacted to me before." The woman let out a little laugh. "How humorous a situation this is."

"Uhm… are you like…" Bianca took one look at this woman – at her well-kempt hair, at her fashionable wardrobe and expensive looking jewelry – and came to a rather understandable conclusion. "Some rich businesswoman or something?"

She watched as the Cheshire grin from earlier returned with a vengeance.

"Sure." The woman said with a teasing smile. "We'll go with that."

"So uhm… what is your name?"

"Cynthia." She answered with a smile.

"You can call me Cynthia."


For a day that had started with her sleeping in until noon, avoiding her managers calls, and being hounded by reporters for hours and hours until they'd finally gotten the hint, Cynthia couldn't help but think that as a whole, this had ended up being quite the interesting day indeed.

She hadn't necessarily started it with the idea that she'd be taking on essentially a student, but at the same time… well…

She hadn't been lying during that interview when she'd said her motivation had been running dry. She'd not finished outside the top five in a tournament in nearly fifteen years, and for the last few years, she'd won over seventy percent of the tournaments she attended.

In all honesty, things had gotten stale. Monotonous.

But this… this was different.

Because even though she was known as one of Sinnoh's two perennial champions now, she hadn't always been. Before she had been Cynthia, the champion, she'd been Cynthia, the aspirant. She'd wanted, and she'd struggled, and she'd fought as hard as she could.

And she'd gotten lucky where many others hadn't. She wasn't afraid to admit that.

Talent didn't exist. But luck most certainly did.

She shook her head, not focusing on such things as she and Bianca made their way across Undella's private airfield, where her private jet – which she'd been given by one of her sponsors a few years back – waited to take her and her new protégé to their next destination.

It would be fun to meet another of her fellow champions again.

Still, before she could worry about that, she had another objective she needed to achieve.

So, she told Bianca she'd be with her in a moment, and left her to gape openly at the admittedly quite gaudy golden jet.

In all fairness, Cynthia hadn't picked it out herself. That had been her marketing team, who'd assured her that the gold and black of the jet matched her personal color scheme.

She thought it just made her look incredibly vain, but they often knew more than her in these subjects, so she'd held her tongue.

For the moment, she brought out her phone, dialed a familiar number, and waited for her manager to pick up.

The fact that it only took a single ring for them to answer probably meant they were quite upset with her.

"Hello, Manager. It's been a while." She tried angling for a calm, concise conversation.

Cynthia instead had her ear talked off for about ten straight minutes.

By the end, Cynthia's formerly giddy expression had drooped into a far more annoyed one, and she was considering simply hanging up altogether.

She didn't, however, since she needed her manager to do something for her.

"Yes. Yes, I know, I won't avoid your calls in the future. I'm aware that– yes, I'm aware. I'll talk with our sponsors in– I know. I know. But before you say anything else, know that I'm calling to let you know that I've changed my mind. Register me for the World Championships at the end of the year."

Her manager went silent for a moment, before the sounds of typing immediately filled the line. Cynthia snickered. Her manager wasted no time in booking her for the event the moment they'd received her consent, not giving her the chance to change her mind again.

When they came back on the line, they asked Cynthia a rather interesting question.

"What changed my mind? Hmm…"

She chuckled under her breath.

"Let's just say I found someone intriguing…" She said, gazing over towards Bianca, who was only just now seeming to get the idea that she was actually about to ride in Cynthia's private jet.

"And leave it at that for now."

And then, without any further delay, Cynthia promptly hung up.

End Chapter 1

So it begins!

This was actually originally going to be two chapters, with the first ending when Bianca leaves Nuvema. I realized, however, that chapter two wasn't nearly long enough on its own, so I tacked it onto this one. So this chapter's a bit longer than what will be customary for this story, probably around 6-7k?

I don't know how often chapters will be coming out for this story. I'll say weekly for now, but that might change next week depending on how classes are going, and also whether or not I get the job I'm interviewing for on Saturday.

For now, I hope you've all enjoyed the first chapter of Who We Used to Be! If you liked it, please leave a review/comment. They are my lifeblood.