Piplup felt like it was bearing the weight of the world on its stubby little wings.
It was a feeling it was quite used to. It was a very serious burden on a small unevolved pokémon, being responsible for the safety and happiness of a beautiful young coordinator, her two male companions, a good score of sadly unpowerful, confused and naïve pokémon, and ultimately the security of the entire world. Piplup had to contend daily with Team Rocket, legendary pokémon, really big boulders and confusing mazes. Then there was the grave and serious duty of being an exemplary role model to Pachirisu, Buneary, Ambipom and Mamoswine, all of whom Piplup knew looked up to it to show them how to be the best companion and contest pokémon in the world. It was a lot of responsibility for one little penguin pokémon to bear.
Fortunately, Piplup had no problem meeting the challenge.
This new challenge, however, was something else. It had known, ever since it first rescued Dawn from a hoarde of rampaging Ariados, that she was his human to protect, love and keep happy. It knew it had done a very good job at it. It had won her two contest ribbons, and its guidance and cheering had won two more. But now Piplup was a little worried.
It had had fun at Snowpoint City. It thought pokémon doors were very good inventions, and almost wished Dawn would retire from adventuring so it could have its own little door to run in and out of all day. And it was very proud of itself for allowing Ash’s pokémon to win him a battle through its invaluable advice and cheering.
It had liked Candice very much, and been impressed by her Abombasnow, which was nearly as powerful and talented as Piplup was. Dawn had seemed to like Candice, too.
The only thing was that Zoey seemed to like Candice too. A lot.
Piplup rolled over, careful not to disturb his sleeping coordinator, as it turned the problem over in its head. It was sure it was a problem, although it wasn’t sure why. After all, Dawn hadn’t seemed to mind, even when Zoey kept calling Candice “Miss Senior” and talking glowingly of their childhood together. She hadn’t seemed to feel left out, at all. But somehow it felt all wrong to Piplup that after being so happy to see Dawn arrive at the city, Zoey had spend so much time talking to and about Candice.
Piplup understood about rivals. He knew that there could be mean, horrible rivals, like Paul, who made Ash so unhappy, even though his pokémon were quite nice to Ash’s. (That was right and proper; pokémon should be above petty human rivalries.) Mean rivals served their own purpose, in giving humans and pokémon an incentive train harder. Then there were rivals who were also friends, like May, who competed against Dawn in contests but spent the night in a sleeping bag giggling with Dawn and Zoey, and cheered them on when she wasn’t fighting against them. Nice rivals were useful rivals too, in that they set standards to work against, and they were much more pleasant. Like Piplup and Pikachu, in fact. Piplup was sure it wouldn’t have become quite the powerful and wise pokémon it had without Pikachu to spur it on.
Then there were special rivals like Zoey, who seemed happiest when she and Dawn had exactly the same level of ribbons, and seemed to want Dawn to win as much as she did herself. In some ways, Zoey was just like May. In others, she was… more important.
And not to be stolen by any Miss Senior.
Piplup jumped down from the bed, wandered across to where Buneary was cuddled up to Ambipom and Pachirisu, and gently and delicately bubblebeamed it in the long floppy ear. And a little in its mouth.
Buneary awoke, spluttering, and made out as if to make a very loud fuss about its precious vest getting damp. Piplup hushed it quickly, and once Buneary realized it was about Dawn’s welfare, it listened quietly.
When it had realized the problem, it jumped up and down excitedly.
“Buneary?” You mean, Dawn is like a phione?
“Pip – lup?” A phione? Pipulup asked, confused.
“Bun – eary!” Or like you?
“Piplup!” Piplup acknowledged. It and Dawn were very, very alike, only of course she was a bit helpless compared to her partner pokemon, but they were both beautiful, talented, intelligent, brave and spirited. Of course they were alike.
“Eary! Buneary!” Like you and Marril! Buneary qualified, and went into little pokémon giggles at the thought.
Offended, Piplup marched off and jumped back onto Dawn’s bed. It was just like Buneary to make fun of the one great love and tragedy of its life.
Once it was back on the bed, however, it thought it over a bit. Dawn was, of course, very young, but even male and female nidorans paired off sometimes, and they still had two stages to evolve. Dawn and Zoey were, of course, both female, so it wasn’t exactly the same, but Piplup remembered the time it and Pikachu, both males, had been so attached to each other by the friendly machine that they had been blissfully happy only when firmly attached to each other… Piplup blushed at the memory.
The more it thought about it, the more it was convinced Dawn and Zoey were the same. They would both be much happier if they were cuddling and holding hands all the time, it decided. So long as Zoey didn’t pick Candice to hold hands with instead. Piplup was aghast at the thought.
There was no time to be lost. Dawn needed a hero! And there was only ever one hero in Dawn’s life.
It scrambled up onto the window ledge, causing Dawn to turn over and grumble in her sleep, and slipped out the window.
It was cold and snowy outside. But Piplup knew where to get help with that. Summoning a very curious Ambipom, it slipped in the window of the Pokémon Center room where Brock and Ash were sleeping, and woke some friends.
It took some effort to get Grotle’s heavy, massive form out without waking the boys, but fortunately they were deep sleepers and just demanded riceballs without waking. Soon, Piplup was surveying his troops with pleasure.
“Piplup!” he ordered, and Chimchar directed a stream of flame towards the ground, melting the snow and revealing a sad assortment of cold, squashed flowers.
Piplup turned to Grotle. “Piplup! Piplup!”
“Grotle!” Grotle focused on Synthesis, drawing power into itself. Then, on Piplup’s directions, it loosed a wave of warm, plant-friendly, magical energy onto the flowers. The effects entranced the watching pokémon, and were better than any of others (except, of course, Piplup) would ever have imagined. The flowers gradually unfurled their petals, the petals becoming plump and bright, regaining life and beauty. Then vines shot off from Grotle’s body, gathering the flowers up into two gigantic bunches, tied with their stems.
Piplup was delighted with the success of its brilliant plan. It could, it realized, soon be a famous gardener. It graciously thanked its friends, and scampered down to pick up the bouquets. They were many times bigger than itself, but it was sure it could carry them both at once.
Once Piplup had fallen down three times, but was still determinedly hoissting a pile of flowers, it was conscious of a small pink thing next to it.
“Piny!” Happiny scooped up one bunch of flowers in each little hand and happily toddled after Piplup.
“Piplup,” Piplup said, a little embarrassed for a moment. Fortunately it remembered that good delegation was the sign of an extremely successful leader, and actually far more impressive than carrying a bunch of flowers on its own, and straightened its shoulders proudly. It marched off, leading the way back to Zoey’s house.
Ambipom opened the bedroom window with its long arms, and then scooped Piplup and Happiny inside, retrieving one of the bunches of flowers from Happiny as it did. Piplup leapt up onto Zoey’s pillow, and industriously Pecked her ear.
“Ow ow ow ow!” Zoey batted her hands about ineffectually and woke up. “What on earth?”
“Piplup!” Piplup said proudly, pointing to Happiny and the bunch of flowers, which was big enough to dominate the entire room.
“Oh, how beautiful!” For all her tomboyishness, Zoey certainly still liked flowers. “But where are they from?” She looked at Happiny. “Are they from – Brock?” she asked uncertainly.
“PipLUP!” The little pokémon shook its head furiously. Humans were so slow on the uptake sometimes.
“Are they from Dawn, then, Piplup?”
“Piplup! Piplup!” it agreed excitedly, and Happiny joined it with a joyful “Piny!”
“Oh!” Zoey thought about it for a moment, and then her cheeks burned so red that Piplup could see it even through the dim light shed by the moon. “Oh!” she said again. “Flowers from Dawn – for me?” Her eyes shone in the darkness. “Tell her – tell her thank you very much. They’re beautiful.” She lay back on the bed, staring at the flowers, and she was still smiling as her eyes drifted closed.
Piplup was very pleased. One half of its mission was successfully accomplished. It waddled over to where Zoey’s Glameow was pretending to be asleep, peering at them through one disdainful half-closed eye, and Pecked it.
It hissed, but Piplup, backed up by Happiny, explained the situation. Glameow considered it, then lazily stretched. “Glameow!” it conceded.
A few minutes later, Piplup, Happiny, Glameow and a lot of flowers were deposited through Dawn’s window, and Piplup happily woke Dawn by jumping on her tummy.
“Wha – what’s wrong, Piplup?” Dawn asked, sleepily.
“Piplup!” Piplup gestured triumphantly towards Glameow, sitting primly by the huge heap of flowers.
“Glameow! But why – oh! Are those from Zoey?”
“Meow.” Glameow washed its face in affected boredom, then nodded.
“Oh, how wonderful!” Dawn’s eyes glowed through the darkness. “What a funny time of night to choose.”
“Piplup.” Piplup blushed a little itself. Perhaps, on consideration, it should have waited until morning.
“But – oh, they are lovely.” Piplup could tell just how happy Dawn was. “And so sweet of her. She’s such a good friend.” She raised a hand to her face, and Piplup was sure she was blushing, too. “Well, good night, guys. Sweet dreams. Glameow – please thank Zoey for me and tell her I can’t wait to see her in the morning.”
Piplup snuggled happily up to its trainer as Ambipom returned the other pokémon to its trainers. It was confident in the knowledge that, Candice crisis averted, Dawn and Zoey would be holding hands any day now.
Life always gave a lot of responsibility to a little penguin pokémon, but very fortunately, Piplup was always up to any challenge.