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  1. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
    Level 40
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Posts:
    1,864
    PokéPoints:
    ₽1,107.1
    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers! Here's another early chapter! Not that anyone is going to complain as it's a few days from two weeks interval I've set up. Normally it takes me a little while to get another chapter rolling, but I hope this puts me back on track.

    I see through the reviews that much of the love story/triangle is going as I've planned. In no way did I ever say that Lillie and Elio getting together was going to be a smooth ride. This is one of the walls and it's certainly not going to be the last either. Definitely glad people do enjoy the HeavenlySunshipping. (My own term for Elio X Leilani) The term comes from both Leilani's and Elio's names with the former meaning: Heavenly Star in Hawaiian. Yup. Poor Lillie...but rest assured. She'll get her chance again.

    This is unrelated news, but my younger brother also formally received his Eagle Scout award on Sunday afternoon! Braviary fly in the family now!

    Now let's get to the chapter. We've got a lot of ground to cover. (that's a hint by the way of a new character debut)


    So what do I do? Elio clearly likes Leilani enough to ask her out on a date. I guess that means she's going to be the girl he hangs out with a lot.

    I should be happy for him, after all we're still friends right and we support one another. But for some reason I feel like I've been rejected again and am all alone with Nebby here, even though I know it's not the case. Elio has every right to be with Leilani.

    Maybe I'll look on the bright side of this. He got a new team member although I'm kind of wondering why he decided on a feebas of all things? But if I know my Sun, he has a knack for discovering potential in every Pokémon or a way to make them useful. I just hope it's not for a meal!

    One thing I also noticed Elio had stopped abruptly in doing in our letters is say "I miss you" at the end every time he wrote. I miss that…

    Sometimes boys are so strange. Mother did say that they were simply not worth my time. Is that true? I do like Elio, but I've just been so unsure on how to tell him and if he's so focused on Leilani, then how will he notice me?

    I wish I could go and meet up with him, but Team Skull has been lurking around Heahea City for a while now and I still don't feel comfortable going out on my own. Sina and Dexio were more than happy to escort me wherever I needed to go, but they had to go back to Kalos on orders of their regional professor. Sina did say they'd be coming back soon and they had given Elio something to unlock the power of a very special Pokémon.

    Dear Elio,

    It sounds like you had a lot of fun with Leilani and Lana. I didn't have much experience with fishing except hearing about the time my mother and father went on a trip doing something called flyfishing in northern Sinnoh in the summertime. I'm glad you got the hang of it with Lana's help! And be careful of the hook! It's really really sharp!

    I…I don't know what to say. I guess just be yourself. If it's something you really want to do, then go for it. Also just remember to be ready if she says no…even though she will probably say yes seeing how you keep telling me how beautiful and amazing she is. Remember there are plenty of fish in the sea too.

    So will you be going to see your next trial or going on your date? Either way, I hope you have fun! You tell me all the time to relax, but since you're going through these trials like what Professor Kukui would call just like "flare blitz" you deserve some downtime don't you think?

    I miss you Elio. I want to see you again…

    Sincerely,

    Lillie

    Hau Kealoha was patiently sitting beside the Hill's entrance when the trio arrived. He was already beaming from ear to ear and jumping up and down the moment he noticed them.

    "Alola! Aue! It's Elio!" His eyes shifted over and seemed to sparkle in the afternoon light. "Leilani! And mystery blue haired girl!"

    "Hey Hau." Sun waved his hands in the traditional Alolan gesture. "What's going on?"

    "Oh nothing!" The kahuna's grandson sauntered over and put his hands behind his head, cracking his signature grin. "Just training my Pokémon like usual! Dartrix and I are gonna take this trial down!"

    "Hell yeah you are." Automatically, the two high-fived, raising their arms up and swaying their hips. They stopped, clasped hands firmly to bring one another in for a hearty pat on the back,

    Their signature handshake complete, they had stopped to see the girls eyeing them with amusement before leaning back and laughing.

    "They're probably like; what in the world right?!" Elio grinned at his best friend.

    "Yeah! But it's what makes us all so special brah!"

    Sun was glad that the thought of Gladion had seemingly escaped Hau's mind. He was all for a good competition and rivalry, but that edgy blond teen seemed to take things way too seriously.

    If you want to get strong and go serious in your battles, go to the Indigo League. He dryly thought to himself. Those trainers don't fool around and if you let your guard down; they'll tear you a new one you didn't know you had. I'd like to see him and that experiment go up against those merciless trainers.

    Gladion had done nothing but jab at Hau ever since the two had crossed paths and that irritated Elio to no end.

    He has no right to tell Hau how to battle.

    It didn't help much that Hau lost pretty easily. He could've contributed it to the lack of effort like the latter had pointed out, but there was nothing at stake except maybe a small amount of prize money that was transferred upon victory. Most of which Elio had received and given through his victories and losses weren't large enough to put a dent in the savings he accumulated, but it was the rules and losing meant that the loser had to pay up.

    Most of the trainers he had lost to were fairly humble. A lot of them took the brief time afterword to discuss strategies or further find a way to improve battling skill before parting ways. Sure some were a bit arrogant, but in reality it was nothing worthwhile for him to lose his temper over. Losing did make him feel as if his reputation had been sullied, but there was no such thing as a perfect trainer.

    At least not yet.

    I have a feeling we're going to be seeing that Gladion person again. When we do…I'll beat him and that experiment again.

    "I'm here to take on the trial. One more step until I can beat tutu!"

    "Well perhaps I can lead you there Hau." Lana smiled, gesturing to the entrance to Brooklet Hill. "After you."

    Hau glanced back at Elio, "Hey you coming brah?"

    The other boy made a hang-loose sign. "Actually I'm going to run some errands. But if I miss you, then keep on going. I'm sure we'll catch up somewhere."

    "We could try Royal Avenue." The kahuna's grandson suggested. "It's a huge entertainment area here on Akala just down the road. Maybe a Battle Royale or something!"

    That's where Ed said he was coming soon.

    "Well I'd be more than happy to come and watch you take on the trial," Elio said glancing back up at the center and at the three compatriots. "But I've got a date with a shower and the buffet."

    "Suit yourself brah. You definitely look like you need a break."

    "I'll come with you." Leilani said. "Have to make sure all my friends progress through the island challenge."

    "Aww thanks Leilani!" Hau jumped up and down. The girl let out an excited squeal as he grabbed her with both arms and squeezed tightly in a hug.

    Although Sun smiled at Hau's affectionate display, he felt as if something was making him upset.

    I have no doubt that Hau likes her too.

    "Then we shall be off." Lana pointed to the Hill's entrance once again. "I think I do hear some vigorous splashing. Do you Hau, the brave grandson of Hala, kahuna of Melemele Island have the ability to assist me?"

    "Wha…I mean yes! Of course!"

    "We'll see ya Elio." Leilani sauntered over and gave him a gentle hug, indirectly causing him to furiously blush again. "Hope you're ready for surfing next time we're together by the water!"

    As she and Hau happily went back into the path that led to the trial site; Elio meanwhile saw Lana casting him a smirk as she turned to follow them.

    "You may want to confess nā manaʻo soon Elio. Like what you just saw here; my friend Leilani is a very pretty girl and you're not the only one after her hand."

    "Aaand done!" Hau snapped a picture of himself, holding his brand new sparkling Waterium Z with a big grin on his face. Just for kicks; he decided on a second one with Dartrix doing some silly poses behind him. He and Leilani shared a laugh at some of the comical antics captured through the lens before putting the formal one on his Festival Plaza page. Almost immediately, there were a few likes that had popped up just minutes after him posting.

    "The one with Dartrix is definitely worthy of being put into the photo club." Leilani remarked as Hau scrolled through the half-dozen pictures.

    "I agree." By now, the two of them were watching the low waves roll in from the ocean onto the sandy beach. Fishing rods were propped up beside them and they opted to go to the small drink stand back by the public entrance for refreshments. It had that unique Alolan vibe, a small bamboo tiki hut locally owned and operated to provide something cool for trainers and visitors alike.

    What was really neat; the drinks being served in the biodegradable coconut shells similar to the tropical cocktails that advertisements and other media painted in the paradise image. Once they were finished, the shells could be thrown onto the beach where the abundant population of crabrawler used their tough pincer fists to smash it into smaller fragments for an easy meal.

    Hau sighed, leaning back onto the slope and closing his eyes. The evening had approached, with the bright sun radiating a beautiful orange glow through the shadows of puffy clouds in between.

    He glanced over at Leilani, as she closed her eyes, mouth curled slightly upwards as the breeze gently swept her long locks of hair behind.

    The kahuna's grandson couldn't deny that he continued to harbor feelings for the girl who started living in Iki Town when he was four. Leilani lived with her older cousin Rey next door to his house and commonly had a good playmate in Hau.

    Not very many children populated Iki, so they did everything together after growing up so close. Go to school, homework, lunch and even dancing lessons. Leilani continued to be impressed at how quickly Hau had picked it up. Of course when he was overjoyed, all of that was all pitched out the window for jumping up and down to swing his arms wildly about in a euphoric rush of pure excitement. His amounts of boundless energy was contagious like a plague, causing others to dance just as easily with smiles just as big plastered on their faces.

    Of course as he grew up and became educated on the changes that came along as he transitioned from a child to a teenager, he now noticed that he was starting to behave differently and not look at her in the same manner when they were kids. It was a big leap from wanting nothing but to happily skip along the beaches to sitting down on one, staring into her gorgeous brown eyes and planting a kiss on her lips.

    Hau just had it…that hunger to hold Leilani close and have his arms around her as they intimately kissed with no other sense in the world.

    "Hau?"

    The kahuna's grandson was jerked out of his fantasy by the same eighteen year old who stared at him while sipping tentatively from her coconut cup.

    Ah man.

    "You okay there?"

    "Uh yeah." He scratched his head nervously. "Just thinking about things. That's all."

    "What kind of things?"

    "My gramps."

    "Your gramps is fine!"

    "I don't know about that."

    "Oh come on Hau!" She playfully smacked his arm. "I've known you since you were four. There's been nothing recently! He's going to be okay. It's something else."

    Guess I should just come out with it. He saw that she wasn't going to stop pressing the issue, so he sighed again and stared at her in the eyes. "It's Elio."

    "Elio." Leilani let out a happy sigh, much to the boy's dismay. "What about him?"

    "Do you…um…you know."

    "I'm afraid I don't."

    "Do you like Elio?"

    "What?!"

    "Yeah." Hau softly said. "Do you like Elio?"

    "Of course I like him! How can anyone not?!"

    "That's not what I meant. Do you like him?"

    Silence enveloped the two of them. Leilani's face turned red and she forcibly looked away.

    I guess that means I have no chance. Hau thought sadly to himself. As much as he liked Elio and considered him a brother, it was absolutely heartbreaking to find out that his new best friend was winning over his heartthrob.

    It's not fair. It's just not fair. But I have to remain positive. Gramps always said there's more fish in the sea.

    "I honestly don't know." She said quietly, almost unheard over the sound of the crashing waves. "I really don't."

    Hau nodded.

    Leilani let out a light laugh. "You got me Hau. I do have a crush on him. But what girl wouldn't? He's kind, smart, funny, really good with his Pokémon and incredibly handsome."

    "That's my best friend."

    "Truth is; I don't know if I'm ready to ask someone out or get asked. Dating just seems like something else and I just don't want to mess up. Elio…I…I don't know Hau. Why? Why do you ask?"

    "I'm...I'm just curious. That's all."

    He had never seen Leilani like this. All the time she was bubbly, cheerful and confidant like him whenever it was on her Pokémon journey or surfing. She was that role model to the even younger kids who were more than eager to go out with her whenever she took up a board to surf.

    The worst part was that he had no idea how to console her on the matter. At least any way without revealing his more intimate feelings.

    I have no idea how she would react. Probably in the same manner of not being ready to date. Leilani is my dream girl, but I don't want to rush anything even if she says yes.

    "Well uh…I know that when you do decide to go and date, you'll have no shortage of suitors! And you'll pick the right one."

    Redness crept up on her tanned cheeks as she embarrassingly looked away. "Mahalo Hau."

    He could only stare further into her warm eyes, drawn by their charm for a girl he had continued to harbor a crush for. "And maybe the right one is a lot closer than you think."

    The night passed by too quickly for Elio. A hot shower followed by writing a quick letter to Lillie and sending it off through the Alolan Fearow Courier Service took another exhausting half hour, amplified by the arduous walk back to the Hillcrest Pokémon center.

    There's always room for food. Which was why he was lying on his bed with a stomachache after hungrily returning to the buffet table multiple times.

    I don't want to eat another speck of food for the rest of my life.

    That led to a long night that was complimented to a couple of midnight trips to the bathroom.

    In the morning, he felt hungry, but instead he opted to go out for his morning jog before having something light to eat.

    Liked Hau's image on Festival Plaza, wrote back to Lillie. I don't see him or Leilani here, so I imagine they went on ahead.

    The halemai was relatively quiet in the morning when he finished a breakfast of cage-free eggs, sausage, some really good tasting Parmesan cheese potatoes and a frosty glass of moomoo milk. He noticed that the food from last night and today tasted different and fresh.

    His suspicions were confirmed when a sign indicated that all the food were from local farms close by in Akala Island.

    Kahananui Ranch was among them.

    That's an interesting touch for sure. I'm glad to see Dallas, Jerry and Georgia do their part in helping us trial-goers.

    "Mister Northstar?" He was brought out of his thoughts by the local nurse. "Your Pokémon."

    "Yup. Thanks."

    "Oh and I have a message for you from Mister Kahananui."

    Speaking of which.

    Elio signed for it and slit open the envelope, discarding it into the recycling bin.

    Elio,

    Word has it going around that you've finally passed your trial. One of my students was one of your guides from yesterday. Ho'omaikai'ana my friend. Best of luck on your other trials here on Akala, you'll definitely need it for sure!

    I was wondering if you had some time to talk? I'll be in Royal Avenue around the time of the FBC Pro Day. Come if you can.

    -D

    Elio nodded as he slipped the letter away. Pro Day is the one after tomorrow. I can make it.

    Now I just have to wait for that Aether employee. What can I do to pass the time?

    It was nearly an hour before Elio saw the man walk into the Pokémon center's lobby with a cup of komala coffee in hand. He was busy on his tablet, reading something and absentmindedly sat down at one of the tables close by.

    "Hey!" He had glanced up to see the young boy waving all the way from his seat.

    "Hey." The man looked as if he had a bit of a rough night with some patches of hair disheveled and him burying his face in a hand did little to conceal the evident fatigue. "I remember you. The kid who listened to me about the feebas."

    "Yup." Elio held up her ball. "And lucky for you, I caught one last night."

    The Aether employee's eyes widened and he shot up, nearly spilling his coffee and staining his crisp white uniform. "What? You caught one?"

    "Yeah. Took me two tries and some time, but I got it!"

    "No way."

    "Yes way." Elio brought Rotom 'Dex out and pulled up his Pokédex's feebas page with an additional Poké Ball icon that showed that he had successfully caught one. "I can show her to you if you want."

    "Actually I just really need most of the 'Dex entry. Besides, I don't think that the staff here would appreciate you with an ugly fish flopping around on their commons table."

    Ugly fish huh? "Yeah, that is a good point."

    The Aether employee opened something up on his tablet and typed for a couple of minutes. "So I'll just take your notes and findings of its habitat and submit the report to my boss. Once that's done I can call it a day."

    He stood up and quickly packed his stuff, forming a triumphant fist. "That means I have three days off in a row! Yes! Oh right." Glancing back down at Elio, he dug into his pocket for a wallet. "Forgot about your pay. Here kid. You've earned it."

    Sun went wide eyed at the wad of cash. "Hold on, you're giving me five hundred dollars?!"

    "Yeah. You really saved my skin out there. You can go ahead and release it now."

    Another one about releasing it huh? Is feebas really that undesirable?

    "Release it?"

    "Yeah, hardly anyone really cares about that Pokémon. It's hard to find and doesn't do much."

    Elio nodded. "Yeah some of my other friends told me that when I went to try and catch one to show you. I'm glad I did because I feel it was worth the money. Why all the interest?"

    The employee shrugged. "Could be a dozen different things. Some study my colleagues did was an analysis about their population for some reason their numbers seem to be growing. Its ugly appearance means there are few predators that deem it as food and its meat is substantial, but there's other fish that are better tasting and even more plentiful. Considering all of that, the only thing that we suspect is keeping their numbers from growing is their fertility cycles. The rising population around Brooklet Hill means that either they or something in the environment is affecting their breeding patterns."

    "That's really interesting sir. The Aether Foundation in general seems awesome!"

    "No sir needed. You've just made my day ten times better!"

    "Nice….uh I forgot your name."

    Sun found himself on the receiving end of a smile, the first time he had seen the man do so since meeting him and he stuck out an eager hand. "Call me Jul."

    "Elio."

    Useless Pokémon.

    Ugly as hell.

    All it does is splash around.

    All those words continued to echo in Elio's mind as he trod on the winding path back through Brooklet Hill. Lana was nowhere to be seen and he didn't see any other trial goers around, concluding that the trials were either not being held today or at a different time.

    More wingull flapped overhead, soaring in flocks as they caught the updrafts that carried them along. A group of psyduck played by the water and he saw an entire school of magikarp swimming idly in one of the lagoons. A poliwag stared at the trainer curiously, only to jump back into the pond when he had gotten too close.

    The weather was a sunny contrast to the drenching downpour he had experienced just twenty four hours ago. His pale skin, lathered plentifully with sunblock was kissed by the golden rays, sparkling off the beautiful water from the lagoons and ocean further out.

    He spotted another Pokémon he hadn't seen before. It had a small bluish body with a light blond hair on its top. It skated gracefully across the water's surface as if it were solid on four thin spindly legs.

    "Rotom?" Curiosity got him.

    "Yezz? Oh right! New Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Surskit. Pond skater Pokémon. Surskit in Alola frequently dispute with Dewpider over common food sources. It uses its flexible legs for impressive agility and moves as if it skates over the water. Surskit is a bug and water type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Interesting.

    He continued down the trail, finally stopping at the same body of water where he had caught the feebas. The place where he had reeled it in with the fishing rod and thrown the net ball was further towards the ocean.

    Elio shook his head, still contemplating the release.

    It's still bothering me. I know why, but this feebas might be better off back where I found it. I captured one and helped Jul out with his research. That's all there was to it.

    He held the net ball in his hand and hit the activation button, causing the hideous Pokémon to emerge into the shallow waters with a flash of light.

    This beach…just like the one in Cerulean City. The one where…Dad released him. Then he started ripping my family apart. Piece by piece.

    Blu.

    Ten-year old Elio tried to fight the newest barrage of tears as he stood by his father's side. They were standing in the wet sand opposite a somber looking vaporeon who pawed the ground in confusion.

    "Blu. Why?" Sun sniffled, still determined to remain strong. Recently his father had begun to say that showing all emotion to others was a form of weakness and people would use that to their advantage. Being young and looking up to the man; Elio took his advice to heart although this moment was threatening to break him down.

    "Vap!"

    "I'm sorry Blu." Calvera held out Blu's Poké Ball in his hand. "The station determined that my actions were enough to have us separated as partners. I have to either turn you back in for reinstatement or release you."

    "Vaporeon."

    "I learned my lesson." His father went on. "I was foolish. Reckless and all those people were depending on me. I let them down with you because my emotions had gotten the best of what I had. That won't happen again. It will never happen again."

    "Dad." Elio glanced up. Calvera was nearly an identical older copy of himself, dark hair and the same shade of steely gray eyes. His jaw and facial complexion were focused like lasers and he could charm an entire room with his smile or fill it with dread with a grim.

    He ignored his son. "So you're free. You're free to go back where you belong Blu. I don't need you anymore."

    "Dad." Elio pleaded, grabbing his pant leg. "Please. I don't Blu to go away."

    "I don't have a choice son." Calvera glanced sadly down at him. "Even if I don't release him, the department has rules that have to separate firefighters and their partner Pokémon. They'd take him away."

    "No! You can't! Blu is my best friend!"

    "Vap!" The vaporeon bounded right back to the two humans. Elio suddenly broke off contact with his father and threw his arms around the Pokémon, clinging fiercely to its side. Blu let out a low whine of sadness, comforting the boy as best he could.

    "Dad please! Don't let Blu go! He can be my Pokémon!"

    "I can't do that son." Calvera squatted down. "Sometimes if we have a weakness…we have to let that thing that causes us our weakness go out of our lives."

    "It's not fair!" Elio protested, still burying his face into Blu's skin. "It's not fair!"

    "You're right. It isn't fair. And I know how much he means to you; which is exactly why we have to let him go."

    "No!" Elio fiercely said. "I won't let him go!"

    He went to a pleading mode, just clinging to a single sliver of hope that maybe his father would change his mind. "Blu is my best friend dad! We do all sorts of fun things together and I don't want to leave him!"

    "It's too late son." Calvera held the open Poké Ball in front of him, removing a tiny device situated at the bottom before he curled his hand into a fist, crushing the capture matrix in it.

    Elio's eyes went wide with horror. "NO! DAD! WHY?!"

    "It's my decision to make son. Now stop crying." Calvera's tone was surprisingly calm as he opened it and let the shattered fragments slowly spill out onto the wet sand. "Say goodbye to Blu now or I'm dragging you to the car."

    "NO DAD! PLEASE DON'T TAKE BLU AWAY FROM ME!"

    "You're showing weakness again."
    "I DON'T CARE!"
    The boy had screamed, uncaring about the insane amount of hot angry tears that streamed from his eyes. "I DON'T CARE ANYMORE ABOUT THAT! YOU TOOK MY BEST FRIEND AWAY FROM ME!"

    Blu let out another sad whine, staring right at Calvera…his longtime partner before finally shutting his own eyes, understanding that nothing was going to change his mind.

    Sun's father cursed under his breath. He had to leave before he started breaking down too.

    "Let's go Elio."

    "NO! I'M NOT LEAVING WITHOUT BLU!"

    "Let's go!" Calvera's tone quickly became snappy and he grabbed Elio's forearm, dragging the bawling boy along. Elio's feet dashed on the sand floor, since he was being pulled at a faster pace than his legs could keep up. A lance of pain shot up his shoulder strong enough to make him visibly wince.

    "Dad stop!" He cried in protest. "You're hurting my arm!"

    It was close to eight in the evening when Elaine had arrived from work. Calvera was in no mood after releasing his Pokémon to make any food and she simply opted for takeout.

    The amazing aroma of custom bento boxes from Tanaka's wafted through the dining area of their Cerulean City home in the Orinda suburb, but strangely Calvera wasn't aware of it. That or he didn't care.

    Elio was nowhere to be seen.

    "Hi sweetie." She cautiously approached him from behind, wrapping her arms around his well defined torso. Calvera was wearing an athletic shirt and black shorts with his head down.

    "Hi." He didn't bother to look up at his wife.

    Elaine set the food on the kitchen counter, now noticing the half-empty bottle of sake seishu liquor and sakazuki glass in front of him. She knew that the colorful red and black label as one of the cheaper brands. It was also the third time in the week she had seen him heartily consume at least a glass.

    "Rough day?"

    "Yeah." He sighed. "Just a lot of things happening with the aftermath."

    "Cal." Elaine leaned forward, reaching across to gently clasp his hand in her two smaller ones. "What's wrong?"

    "It's nothing."

    The curt answer did all but steer away Elaine's curiosity. Ever since the aftermath, she had found her husband to not be the same person. His behavior changed from a man brimming with confidence to someone who seemed hollow, only filled by self-doubt and uncertainty. Calvera grew distant from her and her son. His attempts to make things seem as if everything was completely fine were failing.

    And then there were the drinks. They started out as beer with him bringing home twelve bottle cases and she was mildly surprised when its supply had run out in merely a week. Several weeks ago, it was turning into something much stronger in the form of sake seishu.

    "Cal." She whispered, using his nickname when it was just the three of them. "Cal. It's okay. Please tell me what's wrong."

    "I can't."

    "Yes you can." She leaned across the counter, gently kissing him on the lips. Right upon contact, he made no move to passionately reciprocate like he normally did and she received a strong taste of alcohol from him. This was clearly not the first or third drink he had. "Please love. I'm here for you."

    "I can't." They tenderly broke away and Elaine gave him another deeply concerned glance. "I can't Elaine…I just can't."

    "Where's Elio?"

    "In his room. He already finished his homework."

    While Elaine was certainly happy to hear her son completing all of his school stuff, the fact that Calvera was so nonchalant about it began to set off another alarm.

    "Cal, why was he crying when I came home?"

    Her husband sighed, reaching over to pour himself another glass.

    Elaine was quicker than him, sliding both the tokkuri bottle and sakazuki cup out of his reach. "Please no more Cal. I just want to know why I come home to him crying and you drinking like this."

    "Give me the bottle back."

    "I won't." Her eyes sharpened and a thousand different scenarios began to form in her head. None of them looked very promising. "Cal, you've been drinking for a while now. Please just stop and tell me what's wrong."

    Calvera looked at his wife. Her strong gaze belied something even more vulnerable. Concern, fear and desperation to understand him. She loved their family and would do whatever she could in order to keep it safe and happy.

    Knowing that she wouldn't stop prying and see through a lie of his, he decided to spill the news.

    "I released Blu today."

    Elaine gasped, putting her hands to her mouth. "Cal…what? You released Blu?!"

    He nodded. "Elio and I were beginning to show too much emotional attachment to him. And that's a weakness I won't have anyone exploit."

    "Weakness?" Elaine looked back towards the hallway where Elio was still inside of his room. "What do you mean weakness? You know that Blu has been your partner for as long as you've known me! Plus Elio loves him!" Realization suddenly hit her and her eyes narrowed. "Why would you torment your own son like that?"

    "It's best for everyone Elaine."

    "Best for everyone?!" She couldn't believe the words coming out of his mouth. "Because it shows vulnerability?! Weakness?! There was absolutely nothing wrong with the fire department! It's more like best for you! You just released Blu because it was reminding you of everything that happened!"

    Calvera's brow furrowed, a sign that he was getting irritated. Elaine had seen him angry before and it was definitely a very frightening sight. She never thought of herself being scrutinized this way.

    "You know what? Fine! You're right! Blu just reminded me of my failures! And I'll be remembered that way too! Nobody's going to give a damn about my successes, only my failures to ridicule on!"

    "That's not true." Elaine's voice was shaking. "That's not true! I know how good of a firefighter you are! Elio knows! You're his hero! He looks up to you so much in spite of what happened! Now he's sobbing his eyes out because you couldn't look at yourself when his best friend was around!"

    "That's exactly right! And why I had to release him! Elaine, it comes down to weakness! I won't let it get me again. Pokémon friends can be replaced. As much as I hate cats, Elio has other Pokémon for friends like that damn meowth!"

    "Cal…did you ever consider how else releasing Blu was going to affect everyone?" Tears began to pool in her eyes too. Angry tears. "You didn't just cut him out of your life, but Blu touched everyone in this family. He was Amp's mate! A dear friend of mine and the world to Elio! I can't believe that someone with such a selfless profession as yours would end up doing something so selfish and hurtful to your own family!"

    Calvera's voice was now starting to shake as well. "You can't see it right now Elaine, but it was only going to drag me down."

    "You talk all about this weakness Calvera, but I see weakness tenfold with Elio in his room right now."

    She moved forward, putting herself in his arms and burying her face in his neck.

    "Cal…please. Help me understand what is wrong! I want to help you, but I can't if you're going to keep me out! Please just go back to the man, the husband and father that we loved! I love you…I love you so much! Please!"

    "No. I have to do this by myself."

    Elaine separated from him and stared at him with wide disbelieving eyes.

    "It's the alcohol…isn't it? You've been drinking all of this to escape the reality and cutting ties with your Pokémon and family because you don't think you're worthy to live with yourself right now. I can't help or support you if you're not willing to change or let me listen to you."

    She moved away, now seeing that the time was far too late to enjoy a dinner. Tears streamed out of her eyes, not just for Blu, but how what a possible simple night that could've had plenty of happiness turned so sour in an instant.

    Shaking her head and wishing she had seen the signs earlier; Elaine closed the fridge and walked right past him.

    "I'm taking Elio to school tomorrow and once that's done, I'm telling my father to pick him up and have him stay there over the weekend while we sort this out. He doesn't deserve to see or hear any of this and there's no way he will be staying in this house if you're going to drink as much as you did today."

    "You better not tell your father about anything!" Calvera snarled.

    "Oh really?" Elaine's face flashed with defiance. "You really think that Elio or I would keep something like this bottled up merely in the household?"

    "If you know what's best for you, then you'll shut up."

    "That's not happening." She turned tail. "I'm going to bed. I've had a long day today and one that will probably be just as long and stressful tomorrow no thanks to you."

    Calvera shook his head, still unable to comprehend anything his wife had said to him thanks to the white hot anger burning through his head.

    "Bitch." He murmured. "I'm getting the final say."

    Elaine was halfway to her bedroom when she felt Calvera's strong arms grab her from behind. She gasped, unsure if it was from the surprise or the sensual feeling she was experiencing as her intoxicated husband began to brand her neck with his hot lips.

    "Cal stop!" She firmly said, trying to wrestle out of his grip, but he kept a firm hand on her arm, pinning it close to him so that she couldn't escape. Her second protest was silenced by another sigh and she cursed herself for turning into putty since he knew where and how to intimately please her.

    "You want me to turn back into the man you loved?" His voice had taken something else in tone. It was a very husky, animalistic one that would've been alluring in any other scenario. For the first time ever since marrying him; Elaine felt the icy flow of fear beginning to flood her veins.

    "Then I'll do that."

    Calvera hungrily captured Elaine's lips, overloading her with the disorienting sensation of alcohol that threatened to spell her with insane dizziness. His incredibly strong frame firmly pushed her back to their bedroom where she found herself shoved down onto their king sized mattress.

    He pounced on her like a stalking arcanine, barely giving her enough time to breathe. There was no way she was going to be able to fight back or resist. The alcohol controlling her husband had become a dominant force that she was powerless to stop. Everything felt completely foreign, as the man that she loved invaded her without relent.

    Her only hope through it all was hoping that Elio was asleep through all of it.

    Hours had passed, but Elio hadn't kept track of it. He had started hearing both of his parents yelling angrily at one another before it abruptly stopped and they passed by his bedroom into theirs. A few muffled sounds had come from it, but he had been too tired to investigate and thus crawled into his bed to sleep.

    The other Pokémon that commonly resided in the house, Meowth was also wondering where his dear friend Blu was located. After a tear filled revelation by the young boy, he hugged the scratch cat Pokémon close, crying constantly into his fur.

    Losing Blu was just too much for the little boy to handle and he sniffled and wailed himself softly to sleep.

    What scared him the most wasn't losing his best friend.

    It was his father. The firm determination in his eyes to separate the two of them and then grabbing his arm, forcefully pulling him back to the car. Elio had never seen his father so livid and angry before and it frightened him. It was a new experience from the other times when he had gotten stern about something trivial in nature. This occasion seemed like he was trying to deliberately hurt Elio.

    Even when Calvera commanded the boy to go to his room and do his homework, he was already halfway there, not wanting to experience any further bouts of anger.

    The door to his bedroom creaked open. Being a little sensitive to sound that night caused him to shoot up, quaking with a bit of fear that it was his father coming back to yell at him.

    "Elio?" A big rush of relief coursed through him as he heard the softer soothing voice of his mother.

    "M-mom."

    "Hi there my little angel. I'm so sorry I wasn't able to get you something to eat."

    "It's okay Mom." Elio softly said. "I'm not hungry anyway."

    Elaine knew that he had a loss of an appetite whenever he was very upset about something. Normally she'd at least encourage him to eat at least some substance, but considering everything that had happened over the night, she brushed it aside.

    His arms instinctively reached out and she took him in, holding his shaking form close in an attempt to keep him calm. In spite of hearing close to nothing, he had fussed and worried nonstop because neither of his parents were close by to provide any hint whatsoever or tell him what all was happening.

    Elio would never realize for a long time that the symbolic embrace between mother and son that night was just as comforting to her as it was him.

    "Mom?" He saw the look of worried fear etched on her face. "Are you okay? What's going on between you and Dad?"

    Elaine's heartstrings felt like they were going to snap. He had no idea that such an innocent question could possibly lead to her breaking down. She felt it too; how their family structure she had thought was impregnable…now crumbling into powder between her fingers.

    It was the way he stared at her with that same innocent eyes and facial complexion. He had truly inherited most of his father's physical traits. She was almost staring at an identical younger copy of her intoxicated husband.

    Both of his parents had that silent vow to protect him from any threat either external or internal. Elaine was now starting to wonder if the boy's father was beginning to become the newest one.

    "Your father and I," she swallowed, trying her best to find a positive from the roughly handled "conversation" they had in the bedroom. "Your father is having a very hard time right now okay?"

    He nodded, still not understanding everything. "Is it because of Blu?"

    Elaine nodded, now seeing the tears and sadness from Elio of how the vaporeon's absence really affected him. "Maybe sweetheart. But I think we should give him some space."

    "Okay. But Dad didn't come tuck me into bed."

    "I don't think he will be able to." Elaine had made certain that Calvera's alcohol induced deep sleep wouldn't rouse him awake while she went to console her son. "I'll be taking you to school tomorrow and your grandfather is going to pick you up. You'll stay with him for the weekend."

    "Mom." Elio always enjoyed staying with his grandfather, but was still wondering why. "Are you and Dad fighting over something?"

    "Elio."

    "If you're fighting, I don't want it to last. I liked it better when you and Dad were happy."

    "Me too. We will talk about this another time okay?" She leaned down and gave him a tender kiss on the forehead. "Goodnight my little angel. I love you."

    "Goodnight Mom I love you too." He lay back down, waiting quietly for his mother to leave. Once she was gone, he sat up and bowed his head, facing the ocean and his best friend.

    "Goodnight Blu. I love you."

    Elio glanced down at the capture matrix in his hand, nearly in an identical moment that he had been six years ago during his meltdown after the loss of his best friend.

    Feebas was swimming around just in front of him curiously, still relatively unaware of the dilemma that her new trainer was going through.

    If I were to release Feebas…how would this be different than when Dad released Blu?

    There was a wide margin of things to consider. Feebas was a relatively weak fish that he had just captured. Many people, including Leilani and Jul, the Aether employee had already discouraged him from adding it to his team. The shabby, mottled appearance of the fish deemed it undesirable, which was a likely culprit on why their numbers were starting to rise. Its apparent ugliness was another means that most predators avoided it.

    Blu in comparison had been his longtime friend. As a young boy, Elio and he did everything together. Play around in their backyard, swim at the community pool. One of his favorite things was to "pretend" battle, doubling as a means to exercise him in his fire suppressing attacks like water gun. Sun had wanted for the longest time to be his trainer whenever his dad decided to retire.

    Dad had so much going for him. His hat was in the ring for the station's chief…he just had to let the pressure of everything drag him down.

    Will I cave too? Will something come up and I can't meet those expectations?

    Feebas circled the shallows and emerged with half her body above the water. Her white beaded eyes glanced curiously at her trainer. While she may have never known what it was about, the creature had enough to understand that its species were not a favored Pokémon because of their mangy looks.

    She couldn't help it. She couldn't just change species and be done with it.

    Elio found her staring at him and it was just like seeing the desperation on Blu's face when he and his father were abandoning him all those years ago.

    Feebas may be a useless Pokémon, but I can't just abandon it. I worked so hard to catch it and got some money, but it would just be selfish of me to dispose of her once she's served her purpose. I can't...I just can't.

    Would it remain useless forever? Some Pokémon do have hidden potential.

    Feebas' becalming gaze told him everything. In spite of that ugliness, he found the Pokémon strangely able to subconsciously suppress his angst and sadness with a newfound determination.

    I see it now. Elio thought to himself. If I don't give up on you, then you won't give up on me.

    He slowly slipped the capture matrix back into her net ball, the matter decided. "Feebas, return."

    Sun's next destination highlighted by Rotom was the illustrious Royal Avenue. Located at the heart of Akala Island, it was among the most popular areas for tourists visiting the island region.

    The district was a large portion of the town called Pa'ani and the tourism industry had dominated so much of it that it was rarely ever called by its name, going instead to; Royal Avenue or simply the Avenue.

    Elio did manage to catch a glimpse at the visitor's area in the Tide Song Hotel when he met up with Lillie. Like many of the resorts had in their lobbies, there was a large shelf that held dozens and dozens of brochures depicting so many different things to do at various points around the Island. Compared to Melemele, Akala seemed to have fewer manufacturing firms, instead relying on its alluring tourist market to provide its industry. And it was only a fraction of what other fun things that could be done.

    The highway roared with cars on the midday traffic and he spotted a sign up ahead while trudging on the walkway that Royal Avenue was going to be another couple miles east…to his left.

    Don't think about Feebas right now. I made the right call. Just get to Royal Avenue…Dallas is waiting for us and Ed needs me as the man behind him. It's going to be great.

    Sun saw that the path up ahead was abruptly blocked off with a solid wall line. For some strange and inscrutable reason, it seemed to move minutely.

    Definitely odd for an inanimate object.

    The wall's height was still another head taller and he couldn't really see a way around by circling or leaping over.

    Maybe I can smash my way through. Except none of my Pokémon know rock smash.

    Torracat's double kick it is.

    "Elio!"

    Lana ran right up to greet him and skidded to a halt, bending over and putting her hands on her knees, breathing heavily.

    "Lana." He smiled, before it turned to something more concerned. "Are you okay?"

    "Y-yeah." She huffed with exhaustion. "Sorry. I forgot to tell you that there is a Pokémon called sudowoodo that likes to block the way for trial goers down to Royal Avenue at times. Looks like they're at it again."

    A very soft "Pilikia." Was muttered under her breath.

    "These are sudowoodo?" Elio peered closer, now knowing what they looked like.

    It made so much more sense now. He spotted their slender trunks and thin arms with three bulbous fingers at the end. A pair of small legs moved subtly about while most of their faces were devoid of any expressions at all.

    They look like bonsai trees.

    "New Pokémon detected! Bzzt!" Rotom buzzed in front before shuffling his screen to show off his most recent entry. "Sudowoodo. Imitation Pokémon. It is the evolved form of bonsly. A particular favorite among collectors and the elderly, there is a magazine devoted to this Pokémon over the length and angles of its arms. Sudowoodo with greener fingertips are considered more valuable. While it can easily camouflage itself in a green forest, it can easily be exposed as a fake in the wintertime. Sudowoodo is a rock type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "So they like to make a treeline just to screw with trial goers or something?"

    Lana laughed. "I guess so. For some reason they like this particular spot and every time I clear them out, they're right back at it causing pilikia. You'd think they would know better by now."

    "So uh, how do you get them out of the way?"

    "Easy." The trial captain pulled out a Poké Ball. "Shellder come on out!"

    The device exploded open to reveal a relatively small Pokémon. Its shell was a dark purple shade with a few spikes and spines lining its smooth surface. The two halves were barely open showing a pair of large white eyes and a long pink tongue that stuck out from the crack. In the broad daylight, Elio still couldn't see what the creature looked like inside.

    "Another new Pokémon?! Thizz izz awezome! Everything izz awesome! Shellder. Bivalve Pokémon. Its shell is extremely hard and ancient Alolans often used it to make heavy shields and armor during times of war. Shellder's tongue can dig through the seabed with great dexterity for filter-feeding and will remain stuck out even when closed. Yanking the tongue can cause it to open its shell back up. Shellder is a water type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "One way to get sudowoodo out is to realize that their biggest fear is water."

    Lana slid a familiar Z-crystal onto the ring on her left arm. "And now that we've got a waterium Z, it's time we show those sudowoodo what happens when they block the path!"

    The crystal in the ring was activated and it began to emit a harsh glow. In contrast to the whitish effect from the normalium Z that he had, this one was a bright blue, flashing an icon of a teardrop before vanishing. That same brilliant energy erupted from the ring, curling through the air to surround Shellder. Its eyes narrowed as it absorbed the intensive boost.

    Lana formed an X with her arms, then performing the waving motions to her left and finishing the pose on her right side.

    "Shellder!" She shouted, "Let's show them the potential of your Z-Power!"

    "Su?" One of the fake trees glanced with unease at the spectacle unfolding in front of it.

    Slowly, more and more of the sudowoodo in the path blockade started to watch with fearful expressions.

    "Go Shellder! Channel your water gun into HYDRO VORTEX! Z-Move unleash!"

    "WOODO!" Just moments before the bivalve Pokémon let loose with its ultimate attack, one of the tree imposters let out a earsplitting cry, jumping up and flailing its limbs about. It broke the wall's integrity, sprinting behind the rest of its comrades further into the thicket of trees.

    It didn't take long for the rest of its gang to follow suit and the pathway had been cleared within seconds.

    "Shellder stop!" Lana cried, hitting her Z-ring to abort the powerful move. Her Pokémon complied, dissipating the amount of excess energy stored up within her frame.

    "Wow. That seemed pretty easy. They were scared no doubt."

    "Heh," Lana giggled. "It never gets old and they never learn. By the way, did you happen to show that person that Feebas of yours?"

    Elio nodded. "I was gonna release her once that was done."

    Lana saw his expression grow distant and she knew that there was more to the story than what he let on. "And?"

    He solemnly stared at the ground in front of him. "And I changed my mind. I just couldn't do it."

    The trial captain looked even more curious at his musings, but he cut her off with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I grew up with daddy issues. It's no big deal."

    "I know." Lana sweetly put a hand on his shoulder. "Leilani told me. E kala mai iaʻu."

    I know what that means. "Mahalo, nui loa."

    "I know that your father may have given up on you, but you did the right thing in keeping her. It may not seem like it right now, but if you raise Feebas right; she'll pay you back in spades. I remember seeing one for the first time back with a man from Hoenn. He had named her Minerva."

    "Thanks Lana. Alohaʻoe i ka nui mai iāʻoe."

    This earned him a deep red blush from the trial captain. "Well I bid you Alola Elio. I'll be cheering for you on your island challenge!"

    "Right." Elio turned to her, offering a hand. "Thanks a lot Lana. You've been a big help."

    "It's my pleasure." Instead of taking his shake, she slowly moved forward and enveloped him in a hug. "E kōkua mau au i kahi hoaaloha."

    After parting ways with Lana, Elio continued down the trail, walking for a good hour and stopping for a quick break around each twenty minute mark. Similar to the rest of the day, the sun's heat beat down on the island, forming sweat under his brow. Soon enough, he felt his scalp become itchy and he took off his 'Canes hat to douse his long hair with a spray of water to cool him off.

    I keep forgetting how ungodly humid it is out here. That was really what made the heat index pretty high all the time. Elio had been to a steam room when on his recovery period after basketball workouts and the entirety of the steamy air was completely oppressive.

    Here in Alola it was the same way. And he knew that not all homes here were air conditioned like back in Kanto.

    I have to thank Mom later for making sure we have a good running unit. I don't know what I'd do without one.

    Another nice luxury he had taken for granted, especially in the summer months.

    The path snaked to the left, now showing that the highway featured an exit that allowed heavy traffic to pass on the road into a large open space. Sun could see a massive dome structure in the distance that had bright gray metal columns crisscrossing in a trestle format surrounding the main building.

    A growl of some Pokémon also caught his attention and he rushed forward, seeing a little bit of a commotion.

    Oh fantastic. These guys again.

    Two familiar black and silver uniforms of Team Skull grunts stood at the path's entrance, clearly up to nothing good. Standing opposite her was a short girl, roughly a head below him in dirty brown clothes. She wore a purple bonnet that covered the top of her hair, letting two bushy braids fall out from either side. A small sash hung out from beside her hip.

    Next to her was a large brown equine Pokémon similar to a rapidash. In contrast, its hooves looked sturdier and its elegant mane of fire was replaced with shiny dark hair hanging in ropes that flowed down the side of the neck. Its height was also much bigger, easily almost twice the size of him and the girl. Between the two groups, he could see the familiar balloon shape of a driftloon, floating over to her side with a frightened expression on her face.

    "Yo, yo girlie!" One of the grunts said waving his arms in that silly dance. Elio wanted to laugh at its ridiculousness every time, but kept it to himself. "Don't ya go turnin' ya backside on us! Y'hear?!"

    One of them noticed Elio and his eyes went wide behind the slit between his white cap and bandanna covering his face. "And it's you again! Ya that numskull trainer on dat stupid island challenge from Melemele yo!"

    "The island challenge is called a challenge for a reason." The girl stated firmly, turning around. "You there trainer! Will you be willing to assist me?"

    "Sure!" The answer came from Rotom first as he nearly jumped right out of Elio's back, floating in between them. "Right after I give another recording of a new Pokémon! Mudsdale. Draft horse Pokémon. It is the evolved form of mudbray. Mudsdale's endurance is second to none, able to pull ten ton loads for three days and nights nonstop. Its spit creates a special kind of mud when mixed with dirt that provides an incredible resistance to wind and rain, popular insulation for frontier homes. Mudsdale is a ground type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Yo put dat talkin' cellphone away. It's annoyin' the hell outta me!"

    At the mention of the familiar device, Rotom stopped and turned around, now suddenly having glowing reddish eyes and a furious expression on its normally playful screen.

    "Why doezzz EVERYONE have to call me a talking cellphone! I am nothing like that lower lifeform!"

    "Well you kind of are," Elio said, breaking that tense moment. "You take my calls. Take pictures…behind my back I might add, give me information and can look up stuff on the internet."

    "Don't you dare zay it! Bzzt!"

    "You my cell phone!" Elio said bursting out laughing. "A talking cell phone that's a pain in the butt!"

    "Careful! Bzzt!"

    "Alright I kid…I kid." He waved it off. "Calm down."

    "Nobody zayz Rotom izzz a cellphone again! You all hear? Bzzt!"

    "These scoundrels here are Pokémon thieves." The girl said after Rotom's irritated rant had worn off. "Are you on familiar terms with them?"

    Sun nodded, quickly finding another way to jab at the duo. "Yup. They made good target practice for my Pokémon."

    "Yo what?!" It had the desired effect and angered the two grunts. "We ain't no target practice for anybody!"

    "Then explain how I took both your Pokémon down with one attack at the berry farms."

    "I…I."

    "Heh." Elio snickered. "When you're doing that, it means you're stalling to find some excuse that neither of us will buy."

    "I wouldn't buy anything they come up with as long as they continue to steal Pokémon and make life miserable for the rest of us." The girl stepped forward. "It's a pleasure to meet you trainer. My name is Hapu. Hapu Encarnación. I must say you two, life in the big Hau'oli City sure is something else. Thieves and crooks roam about brazenly. Miles and I have this one and I shall leave that one to you."

    "What?! We ain't no thieves yo! It's a legit business!" The second grunt said, waving his arms again. "We're too legit!"

    "TOO LEGIT TO QUIT! YO!"

    "Whatever," his partner added. "Anyway, this stupid trainer screwed us from Melemele and the kahuna exiled us out, so now we gotta build back up in Akala! But we ain't goin' out like that."

    The first grunt turned to Elio as his partner released a zubat to face Hapu and her Mudsdale, now named Miles. He could only watch amused as the tiny creature attempted to use wing attack on the massive horse, only to receive a pair of battering double kicks from hooves with enough force that sent it careening right back at the grunt's horrified feet at seemingly little effort.

    "I'm still winnin' yo!" The skull facing Elio tossed out a long purple and gold snake Pokémon, who coiled around and hissed threateningly.

    Rotom beat him before he could "New Pokémon detected! And maybe I can finish my information without being called one of thozze lower lifeformzzz known as cellphonezzz! Hint! Hint! Ekans. Snake Pokémon. Ekans' favorite food is the eggs of small bird Pokémon. It is also capable of consuming prey larger than itself by dislocating its jaw voluntarily. After swallowing a large meal, it slithers into a safe spot to rest and allow its body to break down the food. Ekans is a poison type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Let's go Charjabug!"

    "Ekans, start out with a mad poison sting!"

    The creature hissed, opening its mouth and firing a pair of barbs at his battery Pokémon. Charjabug had taken the hit, not being very mobile enough to avoid it incoming.

    "Charge beam!" With impressive grace, the snake sprung out of the way, closing in quickly and encircling her with his longer body.

    Elio heard her let out a pained cry as the wrap attack began to slowly whittle at her health. It sensed that she was beginning to weaken, doubling his efforts.

    "Spark!"

    "Quick, get off it!"

    Ekans had been just a tad too slow, as Charjabug immediately cloaked herself in brilliant sparks of electricity, hurling her entirety at it. The attack collided, knocking it down.

    When the ekans recovered, Elio saw that a few stray arcs of electricity were dancing across its scaly skin.

    Paralyzed. Perfect.

    And then to his horror, he saw that the creature's skin became clear. Ekans effortlessly slithered out, leaving a molted shell behind that remained upright while it coiled back up to face Charjabug, completely free of the paralysis condition.

    What?

    "That izzz ekans' ability shed skin. It allowz it to heal itself from ztatuz conditionz over time."

    "Good to know."

    "Ekans, use bite yo!"

    Elio pointed, "Charge beam. Into the mouth!"

    As the creature lunged, jaws widening for a fanged attack, she gathered electrical energy again in between her mandibles, more than enough thanks to some being previously stored on the prior one. It didn't take long for her to reach her optimal strength and the shot threaded its way right into the maw of the snake's large mouth. Ekans was blown back in a pop of smoke, collapsing the moment it hit the ground.

    "What just happened yo?!" The grunt shook his head in disbelief after recalling his defeated Pokémon. "We can't be takin' all these losses! We just gonna anger our bosses!"

    "Yeah. It ain't fair at all. Tears taste like salt! It's all your fault!"

    "Salty much?" Elio made a sprinkling motion as if seasoning some food.

    "Ni-hiii!" A loud neigh from the mudsdale startled everyone…except for Hapu.

    She stepped protectively in front of the scared driftloon. "So what do you say Miles? We stomp these scoundrels? I will be a mess to clean up afterward, but I am willing if you are!"

    "Ni-hii!" Miles took a menacing step forward, causing the skulls to stagger back.

    "Yeah it's time for us to break out yo! Gotta tell y'all peace out yo!"

    "I totally agree B!" Grunt "A" said before turning to Elio. "I ain't gonna tell you this anymore…except when I tell you this! Ya better listen to what my homie G says and drill it into dat thick skull of yours! Ya better stay outta our way trainer! Otherwise ya and your friends are gonna get hurt real bad!"

    "Try me."

    All that earned him was a very appreciative gesture in the form of a middle finger before the two grunts quickly ran off down the path. They would most likely be going to cause mischief somewhere else.

    Next to him, Hapu let out a relieved sigh before crouching down to the driftloon's level. "Hey there. No need to be scared anymore. Will you be fine getting back to your trainer? Or shall Miles and I escort you home?"

    "Floo-on!" The small ghost type waved its small arms happily before turning back to Royal Avenue and floating towards the groups of buildings.

    I do hope it gets where it needs to go.

    "That driftloon…I'm happy she is confident enough to go home on her own. Those skulls took her from her trainer at Royal Avenue just an hour ago and I couldn't stand by to watch it happen. So I tracked them here and thankfully you were here to lend me a hand. Mahalo for that."

    Elio nodded. "You are right. I've seen them more and more often around Alola. They're nothing but a pain in the rear."

    "Perhaps. Say trainer; give me your name…especially since I have given you mine."

    "It's Elio." He stuck his hand out. "My mother calls me Sun and you can say whichever."

    "Elio is nice. It's quite a fine name indeed. And you handled yourself very well in battle."

    "Ni-hii." The mudsdale behind her stepped forward, reaching out with her head and gently nuzzling the boy.

    Elio laughed. "It's nice to meet you too!"

    "Miles here and I are wandering about Alola, trying to achieve our goals. It is possible we may meet again in the future someday. I am indebted to you for your aid after all."

    "I'd like that." And he did. He liked this Hapu character. "And there's no need to pay me back. I'm just doing what any trainer should do."

    "At least let me return the favor for you. I may not have anything at the moment that can be useful, but I will think of something."

    "Ni-hii!" Miles neighed.

    "Ah yes. Just down the road here is Royal Avenue with its most famous event as the Battle Royale. You may want to try your hand at a Royale or two. Seeing how strong you are, Miles here thinks that you can be well suited for it."

    "I'll keep that in mind."

    "Kamaha'o!" Hapu exclaimed before she reached up on Miles to pull down a strap. A large spot on her back unfolded to reveal a neat looking saddle that was firmly set in her center body. "Then it is time I bid you Alola!"

    "Alola!"

    With an incredible jump that he didn't think was possible for her size, Hapu scaled Miles' side, sitting firmly on the saddle and gently trotting off.

    Elio watched them as they vanished into the distance before turning back to the big entertainment area and resuming his journey towards it.

    Whew. Didn't expect this to bang into a 12k long chapter! I hope everyone enjoyed it and we're about to go to Royal Avenue, where I've got a handful of things planned!

    Translations:

    • nā manaʻo - Feelings (typically intimate)
    • Pilikia - Troublesome
    • E kala mai iaʻu - I am sorry
    • Mahalo nui loa - Thank you very much
    • Alohaʻoe i ka nui mai iāʻoe - That means a lot to me
    • E kōkua mau au i kahi hoaaloha - I will always help a friend
    • Kamaha'o - Splendid!

    As always thank you for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose. See you guys next time.

    Brav
     
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  2. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Okay! Alola everyone! Brav coming back to deliver the next update for A Hui Hou Kakou!

    So there's a lot I intended to cover coming into Royal Avenue and my original thought process was to squeeze it into just two chapters. It looks like that won't be the case as it's turning out to be a lot longer than expected. Nevertheless, I'm very eager to get to the Fire trial going. The gist of it has already been written since I wanted to strike while the iron was hot! (No pun intended) Of course, I'll have to do some adjustments because there's a chance that something else might happen...like a different totem Pokémon Elio has to fight.

    So bear with me for these next handful of chapters before the next trial. Trust me, I'm just as eager to get there as you.

    Opting to try something different since I'm going to be busy this entire day and wouldn't be able to get this chapter sent out the door until even later. So this chapter was updated through the wesbite's app. All edits were done beforehand and it was ready to go over the weekend. Hope it turns out good.


    Let's get started.

    Seemed like Elio has reached Royal Avenue! It's a big huge entertainment section of Akala Island and even bigger than anything Hau'oli City has! You can go see anything here from fancy water shows to the world famous Battle Royal matches! I hear it pays homage to how the four most important gods of Alola, the Tapu deities competed against each other to determine who was the strongest.

    I think Battle Royal is unique to the Alola region and the rules are pretty simple. Instead of having two trainers face off against one another; there are four who are competing to defeat the other three. Battles are predetermined on the number of Pokémon used with the minimum of one and a maximum of three with it being the most common. The match ends when there is only one trainer left and all others are unable to use any Pokémon.

    Easy right? Heh…totally wrong! While it is important to have your Pokémon in good condition, you also need to be able to score defeats on your opponents! You will receive three points per Pokémon surviving and two for each one you score the knockout blow! Having strong attacking Pokémon means that you will likely be targeted quickly by the others and having more defense means that they would ignore you, costing points. You have to find a fine balance in order to succeed.

    How do I know all of this? Well, I happen to be in the company of one of Battle Royal's most famous contestants to grace the stage. The Masked Royal! Very few people know his secret identity including me, but he's super famous! They even talked about making some superhero TV series about him, but I guess he declined. Professor Kukui is his agent or spokesperson and said that the Royal will be exclusive to the Royal Dome.

    What's cool about the Battle Royal was that a lot of the matches are televised, along with a bunch of other things around there! I knew that the Royal was going to make an appearance and I hoped to catch Elio on there too! He was showing Hau about an exhibition battle, through brief with Hala…and Gladion.

    Gladion.

    I can't believe it…I can't…Brother…he's okay!

    I am so relieved! I heard nothing about his whereabouts, on what island or even…even if he was still on Alola until just two days ago! But I'm trying so hard not to cry right now. He had left those two years ago without even saying goodbye…every night I looked out to the stars and prayed to the Tapu that they would be watching over him.

    And they were.

    I didn't see Elio participate, but I heard that the Pro Day thing is going to happen after the day's Battle Royal matches. I'll stay watching to see if I can see him in action. It'll be different than looking at tapes a couple years ago.

    Dear Elio,

    I'm very glad you're going to be playing with Ed! I wish nothing but the best of luck to the both of you!

    So apparently I heard that lots of stuff is being broadcasted around that part of Akala Island! Maybe I'll be lucky and get to see you do something! I don't like battling as you may know, but I know you will do your best for yourself and your Pokémon. I know you don't know much about Battle Royal, but I can actually teach you the rules if you want! I've got one of the best teachers in that!

    It's also nice that you get to do what I did, show a newcomer around Alola. Just remember to watch out for Team Skull okay?

    Nebby's been a little upset lately. I think it misses you.

    And I do too.

    I miss you.

    Sincerely,

    Lillie

    Gladion let out another deflated sigh as he stalked back through one of the many pathways lining Royal Avenue.

    The namesake street was located at the heart of the small town called Pa'ani. With a population of around ten thousand, it was in central Akala Island home to a large highway that connected the isle's eastern rural side and the major cities on the west. While neither serving Heahea or Konikoni city directly, the large international airport, named after famous kahuna Kamehameha provided a healthy flow of travelers going to and from here as well as both cities.

    Many lamp posts lining the sides of the walkways had colorful banners showing off a golden circle with a cartoonish representation of the Royal Dome. Neatly trimmed gardens and hedges kept the central entertainment district of Alola in good impression. Flitting about were several other wild Pokémon species such as cutiefly, cottonee and oricorio all jockeying against one another in competition for the flower nectar in the flowerbeds.

    Gladion paid them no attention, calmly walking forward and avoiding eye contact with anyone he crossed paths with. Having his hood up and hands jammed into his pockets was already enough to send a message that he did not want to speak to anyone, nor anyone to speak to him.

    Deep down, it did feel good when people moved out of his way when he approached. The notion gave him a sense of authority he didn't know he had. At one point, he saw a very concerned mother pull her two daughters away even though they weren't directly in his path.

    Can't exactly be good and all. He thought to himself. They're not moving aside because you're important. They're doing it because they're afraid you'll get angry.

    These people are not worth angering over and they think I'm some criminal. I'm not. Just don't mess with me. I'll show them.

    Alola was generally a safe place. Crime rates were significantly lower than the "mainland" regions to the east and west most likely due to the few, but strong police presence on the islands. It was also an unspoken but widely known thing that violating many laws did attract a lot of unwanted attention and could even anger the island tapu. Defying the law meant defying the deity itself. There was no way to prove how true it was, but the so-called empty threat did its job.

    That didn't mean that crime was nonexistent. As small as Alola was, there was its fair share of shady areas where dissidents often schemed into roping that one wayward tourist into robbery, either by force or even scams. Homicides? Incredibly rare. It was kept to a minimum nonetheless because even crooks knew how important the tourism industry was to the region. And nobody wanted to go to a place where it was certain they were to be mugged.

    The latest and largest crime syndicate to hit the Alolan streets was the same one he worked for as an enforcer. That was his title, although it was more like a go-fer errand boy. Much like the various trial goers had found out, they were much less competent when it came to battling and actually fighting than talking about it in a bunch of hot air. Still, the fear spread to most non-trainers and they were quick to either comply or flee to the police. If it was the latter, the thugs would disappear quickly.

    Go buy goddamn potions, full heals, revives. All the goddamn day. All of those seem to be in high demand all the damn time. If they actually think about training their Pokémon to hold their own in a fight, I wouldn't have to go to the marts buying things in bulk and they'd save money. I might get paid more too...fat chance though.

    He passed the section full of restaurants and food tents lined with throes of people where the smell of cheap fried foods assailed his nose enough to make him gag. Stopping to purchase a bottle of water, he gulped it down and continued on his way towards the large dome structure lying on the north end of the town and in the main street.

    Once a week.

    Once a week I actually have time to come and hone my skills to get stronger. In order to get stronger, I have to keep fighting different trainers. It's the only way.

    "Hmph." He grumbled out loud, rolling his eyes at the fancy display and giant posters of famous Royal battlers that adorned the sides of the giant arena. "Why do I do this? Every time something drags me down, I end up coming right here back again."

    Then let's see who I get to face today.

    "C'mon Null." On his belt, a special Poké Ball quivered in response. "Let's go and bury our sorrow in the crowd and beat everyone who stands before us."

    Elio had to admit that it was nice actually seeing a town for once.

    Sure, he loved Paniola with its old style Western theme and connection to agriculture, but seeing modern city buildings that didn't look like they were built when his great-grandfather was learning how to walk was a welcome change.

    Tall buildings of fancy hotels were close to the large dome and right off the main street. Another circular ramp curled around busy with traffic, connecting everything to Kamahameha Airport in the southwest section.

    While he knew that tourists frequented Alola, this was another hotspot for their congregation. Although still technically new to Alola himself, he found figuring out the difference between a local and foreigner was starting to get easier.

    Am I still considered a haole?

    He had two things mainly on the agenda.

    Today was the Pro Day, the exhibition skills show off for the Federal Basketball Cup league owners and talent scouts who would be coming to get a first look at some of the prospects and entrants into the draft held in a couple of weeks. It was also an opportunity for them to get their first taste of the publicity they would be under when finally becoming a professional player.

    Ed had texted him the address and he wasn't scheduled to go on the court until later in the day, so he opted for Elio to come to his hotel room to catch up, maybe go for lunch somewhere.

    The second one was meeting up with Dallas Kahananui. He was going to be at the Pokémon center for another hour since work at the ranch was demanding him to return.

    Elio opted to go to the center first. Thankfully for him, Ed was understanding and replied back he would see him later.

    Royal Avenue's Pokémon center was much larger than some of the others, namely the ones in Paniola Town and Hillcrest. The lobby's reception desk had three nurses on duty instead of one and it was much busier. The patrons were a mix of locals and tourists, with the latter looking a little surprised at how much effort had been put into the facilities to make the trainer just as comfortable as the Pokémon.

    People still smiled and gave the friendly Alola wave as he passed. He hadn't the opportunity to heal his Pokémon, so he had left it with one of the reception nurses before finally spotting Dallas sitting at one of the barstools of the café. Next to him on the floor were Troy and Rockruff, chowing down on bowls of feed.

    As he approached, the little tiny puppy perked right up, its expression lighting the entire center. It let out joyful yips and tore right away from its bowl, bounding right over to the boy's arms.

    "Rockruff!" Elio smiled kneeling down. The Pokémon jumped forward, nearly knocking him over with an impressive amount of force. "It's good to see you buddy."

    Another low bark caught his attention and Troy ambled over, nuzzling him with his snout.

    "Hey Troy. I missed you too."

    Dallas turned around and nodded his head, a thin smile gracing his masculine features. "Ah Elio. It's good to see ya."

    "Same." He stood up and accepted the firm handshake. "Sorry I'm so late. Had those Skull numnuts to deal with."

    "Ah know what ya mean. Couple of 'em tried to break into the nursery for eggs again, but they have no skills in entering quietly, if ya know what ah mean."

    "Yup."

    "They tend to skedaddle pretty quick when ya show up with a growlin' Troy and a twelve gauge shotty in ya hands."

    Elio paled just slightly. "Wait you'd shoot someone?"

    "Many of the farms around here provide a lotta food and supplies to Alola. Ya screwin' with a lot of people if ya interfere and many of us aren't afraid to pull the trigger if we feel our property is threatened."

    "Okay makes sense. So just don't go trespassing at night."

    "Basically. But ya need not worry 'bout that. Ya always welcome to Kahananui Ranch."

    Okay that's a relief.

    "Welcome to the café." The attendant had come over to him when he sidled up to the barstool. "What can I do for you today?"

    "Tapu cocoa. I'll take the twenty ounce." It had quickly become his favorite drink. Something else came to mind, especially with the locals. "Akala Maika'i style please."

    That had earned an appreciative smile from the attendant as he went off to make the drink.

    "Not bad kid." Dallas complimented, sipping his own beverage; a black komala coffee. "Ya startin' to look more and more like kama'aina."

    "Mahalo nui loa." Elio had learned that asking for tapu cocoa to be made Akala Maika'i style invoked an additional sprinkle of cinnamon and shot of vanilla cream. There was even an adult version substituting it for a whiskey-cream vanilla flavored liqueur. "It's good to see you again Dallas, but I can't help but think you made me meet you here for a reason."

    "Ya very observant. As much as ah love catchin' up with ya on ya island challenge, there's a favor ah gotta ask."

    "Yeah of course."

    After the attendant handed him the drink and Elio paid, Dallas leaned closer and cast an apprehensive look to make sure nobody was eavesdropping on them."Ya remember when ah said when ah wanted ya to take Troy and Rockruff with the egg?"

    Elio nodded.

    "Well ah think that after how well ya handled it, ah think it might be in the best that ya take 'em with ya."

    He glanced down at Rockruff, who was excitedly wagging his tail.

    Dallas pulled a smaller portable incubator holding the familiar egg safely inside. "Consider it my thanks for keepin' 'em safe from those salandit."

    "Dallas I…can't."

    "Ah think ya meant to say mahalo." He stopped and looked down at the puppy, who was receiving an affectionate nuzzle by Troy. "To be honest, ah think it wasn't just a coincidence ya happened to be in Paniola when Rockruff and ah were there. Same thing with the egg. Ah think it was meant to be."

    "Well,"

    "Call me crazy kid, but ah don't believe that there's a lot to be coincidences. Rockruff seems to have found a home with us, but ah feel he's longed to want to battle with a traveling trainer and see all of Alola. And if he's gonna go with ya, so does the egg. Ah am sure it'll hatch into somethin' special."

    "I don't know what so say other than mahalo." Elio said before turning down to Rockruff. "So buddy, I don't have any objections. Do you want to come on an adventure with me?"

    "Ruff!"

    Then it's decided.

    Elio took out a Poké Ball, this one having a way different design than all the others. It was black and darker green shades with an orange trim around the rim and release button.

    It was a dusk ball, a special kind that was often suited for catching Pokémon indoors, inside caves or during the nighttime.

    "This is a pretty comfy Poké Ball." He primed it. "I think you'll like it."

    With a firm toss, the ball soared through the air, opening midway before finding Rockruff's signature. He was sucked in a red beam of light as the device made a metallic clacking sound when it hit the floor.

    C'mon. Shake. One.

    Two.

    Three.

    Snap!

    YES!

    Dallas gave off a sad smile, knowing he'd be losing a good friend to him, Troy, Emmitt and Michael, but at the same time it was a sense of gratitude that he was going to the right trainer who'd raise him to be his maximum potential.

    "Come on out Rockruff!" The dusk ball spun open, releasing the brown puppy, who jumped up, yipping playfully.

    "Yeah that's right." He laughed, flinching as the creature's coarse fur bristled against his neck when he jumped for a hug. The feeling was like scrubbing his skin with a sharpened pumice stone. "Welcome to the ohana."

    "And don't forget the egg." Dallas said, handing the capsule over. "Rockruff would be pretty upset if he's separated from it."

    "Right." He gently took it and made sure there was enough room in his pack to safely store everything. "I'll take good care of the both of them."

    "You sure will!" Rotom buzzed, hovering around all of them. "Analyzing! Bzzt! Rockruff is now added into your party. It iz a male and knows the moves sucker punch, rock throw, bite and sand attack. Itzz ability izz keen eye, which allows its accuracy to be undeterred and see through an enemy'z increazzed evasion movezzz like minimize and double team."

    "Sucker punch?" Dallas wondered aloud leaning forward. "Ah never knew you could learn that, but it's not entirely impossible either."

    "What's so special about it?"

    "Funny ya asked. Normally like people, Pokémon inherit some traits by both of their parents. And sometimes ya get newly hatched Pokémon who learn a move not normally learned by their family line. Under normal circumstances, Rockruff wouldn't be able to learn sucker punch by training or growing up. He must've inherited it from his father."

    "Hold on," Elio inquired. "If you say that Rockruff can't normally learn that move, then how did his father?"

    "Things can get complicated when it comes to breedin'. It's very possible that Rockruff's father wasn't a rockruff or lycanroc himself. There's a lot we still don't know 'bout Pokémon breedin' and family, but it's somethin' we learn new every day." Dallas stood up, glancing at his watch. "Well ah gotta get headin' back to the ranch. Ya keep on goin' for the island challenge kid. Haven't really been done now, but the next one trial's gonna put ya in the spotlight, as it shows off some real potential in trainers."

    "Sounds good."

    "Sure does. Ahm off now. Alola!"

    "Alola!"

    As he turned to leave, Troy moved over beside Rockruff, giving him one last affectionate nuzzle before turning to leave.

    "So buddy." Elio held up the dusk ball, admiring its interesting design. "I think this ball suits you."

    The hotel was one of the more opulent ones along the Avenue's main street, featuring a warmly lit lobby area with rich oak wood walls and fancily toned metal shaping into a four pointed star logo that was cut so that the dark area of the background made it appear like waves.

    Ed had apparently checked in as part of Pro Day's prospect rooms. He'd be staying for the next couple of days for the skills showcasing and addressing the media. Although the FBC's draft wasn't happening for another few weeks away, it was apparently important for some people to "simulate mock" draft and speculate on who would go where to what team.

    Much of it was trivial and really had no relevance until the draft of selecting the eligible players actually happened, but the tradition was longstanding even before he was born and it gave the sportscasters something to talk about since it was a long lull during the FBC offseason.

    Room 445. Aha!

    Taking a deep breath, he rapped his knuckles twice on the door's wooden frame. A few moments passed before he heard the latches click open, revealing his grinning childhood friend.

    "Elio!" Edmund Dahm opened up his arms and nearly swallowed the smaller boy into a bone-wrenching hug. "Bro! It's really you!"

    "You lazy excuse for an asshat." The playful insult caused both boys to laugh heartily as he was released. "I still remember Mister Toriyama mumbling that under his breath."

    "That brings back so many memories baby bro!" Ed's laughter faded, but his smile didn't. One of the other off topic things about him as a prospect was that his charming grin being captivating especially to the female basketball fans.

    That smile is going to make all the girls piss themselves in excitement.

    "Come on in bro! We can't catch up if we're standing in a doorway!"

    You got it.

    Ed led him into the suite, where he heard a speaker playing a hit rap song. Elio had heard it before and knew the basics of the music and hip hop world. He was also well versed in that the particular track playing was done by an emerging star by the name of Ryuki.

    Elio saw that there was a balcony lanai that provided an excellent view of the rest of the town and even a distant line of azure ocean. The sun was shining perfectly and he could see a set of utilities that Ed had been using while working out. He spotted weights, a white jumprope, medicine ball and long mat.

    The joys of having to do the Ab Ripper X. He dryly thought to himself. It was one of the morning workouts he did when going to practice before the coach arrived.

    Much of coach Noshimuri's philosophy was atypical from the standard basketball coach. Sure, his schemes and plays had been above average, but it was his treatment of the players what made him stand out.

    Practice was Monday through Friday right after school on the gym. Classes ended at three in the afternoon and the players had until four to grab snacks, drinks and report to the gym which was when he arrived.

    Some thought it was just a time to simply goof off. Others took the opportunity to complete homework.

    Elio and Ed?

    As soon as the bell rang, the two of them met up in the team locker rooms, already sliding on their workout clothes and spending the entire hour long intermission in getting their heart rates up and improving their stamina. By the time coach Noshimuri arrived, both boys were already looking as if they had finished his workout.

    The coach's style was done precisely to see how determined and badly they wanted to move forward in playing the sport. Colleges would be coming around to recruit prospects very soon. Even some pro scouts would attend games to see potential selections. Under normal circumstances, the FBC required at least one year of college basketball experience with the pursuit of a degree to be an eligible draftee, but there had been some exceptions.

    The dedication both boys did in pushing one another was a testament to how both of their aspirations would take them to the professional level.

    And then it all happened on one play for Elio during one of the regular season games. It was a double cross move he attempted while trying to shake off the other guy that was guarding him when a scuffle between one of his teammates and a player on the opposing team had broken out. His shooting guard had shoved the other person into Elio's own guard, who toppled forward. Sun tried peeling out to avoid it, however his leg had gotten snagged and twisted horribly thanks to the awkward position he was in while falling.

    It didn't need a professional to diagnose that his Achilles tendon in his right foot was torn. His season and eventual hopes for the pros had taken a big hit.

    He was beginning to accept that he'd never make the spotlight in the aftermath of his family's turmoil and eventual move to Alola.

    Look. It's done. You're done. Besides, if I wasn't going to be a pro basketball player, I'd go for something just as good…maybe even better. A Pokémon trainer!

    Now we just have to focus on Ed's big accomplishment. I know the University of Goldenrod was his best bet.

    Ed stood at an impressive height of six foot three. It was considered small for a forward position, but considering that he had several years to grow, his projected height eventually would be another four or five inches, more optimal. His body frame was much bulkier than Elio's, another characteristic demanding of his player type. He had buzz cut jet black hair and light blue eyes. His jawline was strong and although his imposing figure could be daunting, it underlay a very outgoing and outspoken individual who could bond easily with teammates and others.

    The soon-to-be-pro could often be seen wearing smooth basketball shorts and athletic tops. Today it was a stark white with a single black text across the shirt's center "DEFIANT". The single logo of a stylized MAA for Maple Apparel Outfitters symbolized the name brand.

    It was hard NOT to like the guy.

    Ed's suite was definitely worth the hefty price tag it was claiming. Rich dark floors with an elegant kitchen complete with a range and dish washer. He saw that there was a bowl of fresh fruit at the center dining table and Ed had been helping himself. The bathroom was all tile and marble, having a large shower stall with a head that had three different spray modes.

    And of course the balcony with the view.

    "Look at you!" Ed playfully punched Elio in the shoulder. "You look real good. A lot happier than when you were in Kanto."

    "And look at you!" Elio grinned back, extending his hand out. "Getting yourself a nice ass hotel room and not paying a dime!"

    It's been so long. But I remember it like we just did it yesterday.

    The two of them exchanged a handshake before forming fists and bumping them against one another. Concluding their handshake ritual was another clasp, bringing both in for a hug and friendly slap on the back. There was a clear difference in size, but it had been so ingrained into them that he could do their special handshake in his sleep if asked.

    "I missed doing that." Ed sighed, going over to the lounge area and sitting down on one of the couches. "I missed ya baby bro."

    "I missed you too Ed." Elio followed, sitting beside him. "But there's a lot to take in."

    "For sure! Alola's something else! Speaking of which, how do you and your mother like your new home?"

    Sun's thoughts drifted to his original resentment and he found himself trying to find a reason to hate it. The region had subtly grown on him so much that it felt normal, even though he had only been living here for a period that was barely longer than three months.

    "I'm not sure bro. Like you may have imagined, I didn't exactly want to leave any of you behind. You, Evan, Kenji, coach Noshimuri, Jadyn. All of you were some of the only friends I had and it's extremely daunting having to move to an island in the middle of the ocean."

    "It's clear to me that you think it's more than just that."

    "I do. I can now say that it's not as bad as I expected." Elio finished. "It's hot, humid and it's got all these weird traditions. People speak this impenetrable language and dance strange with nothing on except coconut bras and grass skirts."

    "They did say that Alola has developed a unique culture different from anywhere else in the world."

    "I agree. There really is not place like Alola and I like it."

    Ed leaned forward. "And it seems that you've made a fair share of friends here."

    "I have. I've told you about Hau and Leilani."

    "And gorgeous."

    Oh come on!

    "Really Ed?"

    "Yeah. You can't forget her! Or are you just trying to subtly push her my way? Oh man you'd be doing your brother an ultimate solid! I'd love to have her in my arms, her face buried in my neck and-"

    "Ed what the hell?!" Elio's face had reddened quite almost to the shade of a tamato. "Why are you always calling Lillie gorgeous?"

    "Because she is!" The bigger boy was very close to bursting out laughing. "Seeing how I can get such a big defensive action out of you every time I say something like that just proves how right I am! Come on! We gotta see her! You're not hooking up on your own initiative, so I'm doing it for you. Thank me later!"

    "I don't know if that's such a good idea." He countered. "Lillie's at the Tide Song Hotel in Heahea City and she's afraid to leave because of Team Skull."

    "Team Skull?"

    "They're a bunch of nimwits who like to cause trouble for everyone else. I've ran into them quite a few times during my island challenge. Pretty good for practice battling."

    "So not much of a challenge to you huh?" Ed sneered. "I can totally see that. But what does that have to do with gorgeous? Lillie…sorry bro. I'll try and break that habit."

    "That'd be good." Although Lillie is very pretty. I don't know about gorgeous.

    It'd suit her.

    Elio took a deep breath. "Lillie's not a trainer. In fact, she hates battling."

    "Oh."

    "Ed, I understand that you're just doing what any good bro would do, trying to find him a girl of his dreams. I just don't know if Lillie is that person. There's a lot going on for her and like I had said earlier, she might not be focusing on dating."

    "Elio."

    "Lillie's running from something…or someone. I'm not sure what it was and she won't tell me, but whatever it is, she doesn't want to be found."

    "Oh." Ed's face turned into realization. "So you're protecting her?"

    "Well…"

    "Gonna take that as a yes."

    "Yes."

    "Oh man," he grinned again. "Then there is almost no better time! Girls love that handsome protector guy! I'm just saying."

    "Well maybe, but I actually think I'll go and ask Leilani out on a date. Hau says that there's a lot of guys who want to, but they're all unsure."

    "Do what's best for you man. I'm just saying with her all insecure...she's got that need to be protected and you're filling that role. Bro, ladies love that stuff. They want a strong handsome man like yourself to protect them from danger. Just do it man. After all, I know you have a thing for blondes."

    "I will. Say, do you actually want to go and meet them? Hau did text me before I got here saying he was going to meet his grandfather for a Battle Royal match. Leilani's going to be there."

    "What's a Battle Royal?"

    "I'm not sure, but it sounds fun. Wanna come?" Elio glanced at the clock. "It's almost lunchtime and our Pro Day isn't until this evening."

    Ed nodded. "Sure. I still wanted to go and see gor-I mean Lillie, but yeah. I suppose this will do. You got something in mind for lunch?"

    "I sure do." Elio stood up. "Puka dogs?"

    "What's a puka dog?"

    "Remember those hot dogs sold at Tanaka's that were baked in that sweet roll?" A big grin spread its way across Elio's face. "Prepare thyself to be punched in the face so good."

    Sun had been spot on. There were plenty of food stalls and restaurants the closer they got to the Royal Dome having everything from Kanto bento boxes to hamburger and fries.

    They had found a puka dog stand just shy of a block from the giant stadium. Elio had texted Hau if he wanted to meet up for lunch and to his surprise, he got a confirmation that both he and Leilani would be there.

    Ed had simply gotten the same thing Elio did; a combo sandwich with garlic relish with a bag of sweet Akala chips and freshly squeezed lemonade.

    As they ate, it amused him to no end as he watched the basketball star's face go from mildly surprised to eyes widening, a common trait when he was biting into something incredibly delicious.

    "Holy freaking crap! This is soooo good!"

    "Right?!"

    "Tell me about it! I should maybe go order another one!"

    "Actually don't. They're deceivingly filling and we both know you shouldn't play on an overloaded stomach. Save your appetite for the hotel's dinner buffet."

    "Yeah good point." Ed took another bite. "Say Elio, I almost completely forgot you're a trainer. How many Pokémon do you have on you?"

    "Oh right." He took off his belt, showing the six poke balls. "I'll do you one better."

    "Come on out guys!"

    Six flashes of light blinked from the balls, each releasing the Pokémon that called it home.

    "Tor!"

    "Grime!"

    "Ssk!"

    "Ruff!"

    "Rockruff!"

    "Oh wow!" Ed leaned over the table to see Elio's full party of six all gathered beside their table. "Dang man! You've come a long way from being just your regular old basketball player!"

    "And don't forget me! Bzzt!" They heard an electronic voice buzz from his backpack as Rotom wiggled his way out of the bag and floated between them. "I'm technically a Pokémon too!"

    "Oh that's awesome." Ed reached out, running his finger along Rotom's screen.

    "Gah! Hahahah! That ticklezzz! Make sure your fingerzzz aren't greazzy!"

    "No worries Rotom, I'll clean your screen later. Yeah, so this is 'Dex. He's basically the next generation of pokedexes that are supposedly going into production to trainers all around the world."

    "And I am zo much better than thozze lame machinezzz! They have horrible designzzz too Bzzt! Like they were dezigned by a group of windowzz or something!"

    "Right? Anyway," Elio quickly divided trays of poke food and left them munching while he made introductions. "This is Torracat. He evolved from Litten as my starter."

    "I like him." Ed leaned down to ruffle his fur and earned a delighted purr from the feline. "And I know you wanted a charmander or cyndaquil if you were to go to Kanto or Johto. But this is a match made in heaven. Does Meowth like him?"

    "He's like Meowth's best friend."

    "That's so you."

    "I know right? Wait…how do you know?"

    Ed smirked. "Dude I know you. And I also am aware of your father's less than favorable opinion when it comes to cats."

    "Okay, you got me there." Elio moved on with the introductions. "Grimer, Rufflet, Charjabug, Rockruff and Feebas."

    "You've made some awesome choices there. Well except Feebas. I don't know what you hope to accomplish with it."

    Even Ed knows Feebas is a liability?

    "I'm not going to give up on Feebas." He adamantly said. "I won't be like what happened to Blu."

    "Now I see. Well I wish you luck man. If anyone can see potential in a Pokémon as a trainer, I bet it's going to be you." The basketball player leaned down to get a good look at Grimer. "Bro, what's up with Grimer? He looks different."

    "Funny you mention that." Elio gesture for Rotom to come over and he scrolled up for the Pokédex entry. "Grimer have turned into some sort of subspecies here in Alola. They call it the original name of Alolan Grimer and they adapted because they had little supply of their original food like wastewater and sludge. So they started eating trash instead which changed their appearance and even typing. It's now half poison and half dark."

    "That's actually really impressive."

    "Yeah. So once we're done with lunch here, he'll eat our garbage. It's pretty awesome when you've got the plants across the region dedicated to the recycling of it. Alola has like no trash generation whatsoever."

    Ed made to reply, but was cut off as a big, loud "Alola!" cut through the food court.

    Hau dashed his way through, almost reminiscent of an agility move and sidled at the seat right next to Elio.

    "Yo Elio! Howzit!"

    "Hey Hau!" Across from them, Ed smiled at Elio as he did his own custom handshake. "How have you been!"

    "Oh just meeting tutu because he's gonna battle with me in a Royal later!"

    "That's great." Elio glanced around. "Uh, where's Leilani."

    "Right…here." They heard her voice from behind, followed by a huffing sound.

    "Hau, you have to remember that I'm wearing…slippers." She was leaning over on the side of the table to catch her breath. "I can't run in them."

    "Oh." He rubbed his hand behind his head sheepishly. "Sorry."

    "I can run for sure, but not in these kinds of shoes."

    "Sorry."

    "Well I'm glad you could make it." Sun said, glancing up at Leilani with a big smile gracing his face. "Hope you're hungry."

    "Starving!"

    The look he had given her did not go unnoticed by Ed.

    "Thank you guys for meeting us here too." He added. "I want the both of you to meet someone. Ed, this is Hau…Leilani. Hau, Leilani, this is Ed."

    "Hold on." The surfer removed her sunglasses so that she could peer at the new face with both of her amber brown eyes. "You're Ed? Ed as in Edmund Dahm? The future basketball superstar?"

    "That's me. Pleasure's all mine. Elio's told me a lot about you two."

    "I can't believe it!" Leilani shrieked joyfully. "I can't believe I'm next to a basketball superstar!"

    "I'm flattered! Really! But Elio's always told me to play good in the pros first."

    "Yeah that's a good decision. But it's always an honor to meet a future superstar!"

    Elio smiled as Hau went to buy lunch and the four of them kept on talking as they continued to eat.

    Glad I could spend time with both my new friends and old.

    The four of them found themselves an hour later walking up the wide concrete steps that surrounded the massive dome. Elio could see that the large beams that helped support the big structure were adorned with colorful banners, showing action intensive shots of past matches as well as victors holding up championship belts. Some of them had elaborate costumes and posed beside their Pokémon.

    Others seemed to wear casual trainer outfits, clasping their trophy while their Pokémon celebrated behind.

    "Daaang!" Ed was still taking all of it in. "Talk about grand! The league has GOT to play games here in Alola! We can show the islands what basketball is all about!"

    "You'll have quite some competition my boy." A familiar elderly voice said from behind them.

    All four heads turned and Hau practically jumped for joy, nearly toppling old Hala over as he made his way towards them.

    "Tutu!"

    "Tutu?" Ed asked.

    Leilani nodded. "Grandfather."

    "It's been quite a while my boy." Hala glanced up at the others. "And it's the kaikamahine Leilani and Tapu Koko's waia kekahi Elio."

    "Alola kahuna Hala." Both he and Leilani said at the same time.

    "Alola to you both. And I see you've brought a friend here." He extended a hand out to Ed. "I'm glad to have met. Was originally going to say child, but I feel that is not necessary."

    The basketball draftee swallowed nervously. He had originally envisioned the man as some relative, but seeing how Elio and Leilani reacted addressing him as kahuna in his title meant he was an important figure.

    His tone, voice and posture commanded nothing but the utmost respect.

    Can't joke around him.

    "Hello kahuna. I'm Edmund Dahm. Just call me Ed though." He was surprised at such strength in Hala's grip. "I uh am going to participate in the Pro Day later so that a FBC team could possibly select me coming soon."

    "Ah, you're one of those for the event happening later today."

    "Yeah. I have to ask sir, what is a kahuna? You don't mind right?"

    "Not at all my boy. A kahuna serves as the chief of one of the islands of Alola. We are the final step for trainers going on the island challenge to defeat us in battle that's called the Grand Trial. That must be complete before they can earn a stamp and move onto the next island. As a kahuna it is also my duty to solve and address issues and matters concerning my island."

    "So then are you the kahuna of this island. A-ka-a?"

    "Akala?" Hau's grandfather shook his head. "No. I am the kahuna of Melemele Island, which is Akala's westerly neighbor. We do have Akala's kahuna come here often to make sure everything is alright."

    "So did Elio have to defeat you in battle?"

    "Yes. And he did, with flying colors I might add on his first try."

    Elio opened his mouth, knowing well that he had lost in his first time. "Kahuna I did-"

    Hala held up a hand. "Now let's say we get going to the Battle Royal. I'm sure people will want to meet you and it is quite disappointing if you don't have good seats. They fill up quite quickly."

    The interior atrium of the massive dome was nothing short of spectacular. All along the entrances was a large glass face that allowed everyone to see the upper floors from other visitors to the many concessions and gift shops stationed inside. More banners hung from the walls and ceiling, graphically depicting matchups of upcoming Battle Royal matches and future events such as a special Pokémon Performer's event as well as a visit from famous actress and former Kalos League Champion Diantha LaRue who would be stopping by as part of a promotional tour for a new movie she would be portraying a villain in. She would also be giving a lecture session regarding her life story. There was a sign just beneath both events that indicated that all tickets for both events were already sold out.

    As the group entered, Elio caught sign of one person he didn't particularly want to see. The dark jacket and tattered pair of pants all but gave it away along with the icy blond hair.

    "C'mon Null. Let's go bury our sorrow in the crowd and beat everyone who stands before us."

    Oh fantastic. Him again.

    "Hot damn!" Ed whooped out loud, taking everything in from the elaborate staircases, catchy music, throngs of people milling about that were chatting amongst themselves to the giant logo on the atrium's floor. It consisted of a purple starlike design with four gloves squared in its center, one blue, red, green and yellow.

    "Glad you could make it!"

    The four teens and one kahuna's eyes drifted up to the voice's source. Standing at the top of one of the stair flights was a shirtless man who had on nothing but a strange mask and tight…very tight shorts that snugly clung to his waist and hips.

    Elio's eyes widened at the man's figure. He couldn't see a single ounce of fat on him. His chest was well chiseled with abs and pecs glorious enough to blind anyone. The face underneath the multicolored mask was a familiar shape, but he just couldn't remember anyone like that.

    It's so close. Just out of my mind!

    "No way." Leilani had that same starstruck gaze in her eyes just after meeting Ed. "That can't be him!"

    "Who?" Ed and Elio asked at the same time.

    "The Masked Royal!" She squealed with Hau nodding to in excitement and jumping up and down. "It's really you!" Her exclamation had caused some of the other people to turn their heads and hurriedly congregate around the new mask.

    "Well Alola everyone!" The "Royal" waved. "I'm here to spread the word about Battle Royal! Oh yeah!"

    Sun's eyes widened at the habitual catchphrase.

    Doesn't the pro-

    "Professor Kukui is that-?"

    "THE MASKED ROYYYAAL! Woo!" He assumed a wide stance, throwing up his massive arms that were extremely well toned with solid muscle. It had both basketball players gawking since it dwarfed either of theirs. "I'm the Masked Royal! That's what they call me!"

    He strode forward, gazing intently at the teenagers. "I'm here to teach you yeah, about the royal battle format that has been passed down in Alola for generations!"

    "But-"

    "No buts here!" The Royal interrupted again. "But Royal, what is so royal about the Battle Royal anyway?!"

    "A total tongue twister." Hau deadpanned, causing the entire group to heartily laugh.

    "Four trainers!" He held up a hand. "Four trainers will each pick the same number of Pokémon yeah for a four way free-for-all battle oh yeah! When the one trainer remains standing and the other three defeated; the battle concludes! Oh yeah! The winner will be the trainer who has knocked out the most Pokémon and has the most left still in fighting capacity! Oh yeah!"

    "That's super awesome!" Hau pumped a fist. "I wanna try!"

    "And try you shall." Hala set a heavy hand on his shoulder. "Let us see how far you've grown."

    "You too!" The Royal was looking past them at someone else.

    Elio grimaced as he saw Gladion turn upon being addressed. He had that same scowl on his face when they first met.

    Maybe it's glued onto his face.

    "Hmph." The blond let out an uninterested huff, but surprisingly he stalked over to the entrance. Crowds inside the main arena must've gotten word about the Masked Royal coming to make his appearance because Elio heard a loud roar of applause emanating further inside the building.

    "And it looks like we have our foursome!" The Royal pumped a fist. "Let's get this show on the road yeah!"

    I swear he talks JUST like Professor Kukui.

    "So uh Sun," Hau looked back at the three of them. "You gonna participate in one later?"

    "Yeah brah, I might." Elio looked over at his taller friend and clapped him on the shoulder. "Gonna catch up with this loser first."

    "Okay sounds awesome! See ya out there!"

    "Good luck Hau!" Leilani called as the group ventured down the main steps towards the stage.

    Unbeknownst to her and unseen by everyone else, the kahuna's grandson couldn't help the redness of flushing on his cheeks.

    Leilani led Elio and Ed along one of the bleachers. The dome's interior was reminiscent of the Storm's Eye Arena back in Cerulean where up to almost twenty thousand people could be seated in the three tier stands around the main floor to watch games. The Eye was also frequently used for concerts, shows and speaking events including visits from the premier of the Kanto-Johto Confederation.

    The Royal Dome seemed slightly smaller, but like many other sports arenas it had multiple colorful signs of advertisements for sponsors and endorsers. Towards the center was another tier of seats that surrounded the closest distance from the action. Leilani had explained that although Battle Royal matches were commonplace with most being free to attend, being close to the action required payment for tickets and even the "free" seats higher up would have fees, especially in higher profile matches.

    All along the ceiling were banners of famous participants in days past. Elio didn't know hardly any of the dozen or so that surrounded the enormous viewing screen, but he liked their stage names and the big amount of titles many of them had such as the most six time steel type trainer known as Ikaika the Unbreakable.

    He did recognize one.

    The famous Sinnohan water type gym leader Crasher Wake had been a two time Battle Royal champion just a couple years ago. One of the headlines that he remembered reading one day was a matchup between him and the illustrious Masked Royal. Despite being heavily favored; Wake the "Water Warlord" was unable to keep up with the Royal's adapting strategies and lost in one of the most anticipated matches and upsets in the sport's history. Since then, both the Royal and Wake were said to have a much cooler and friendlier rivalry than at the peak of their careers.

    The screen showed multiple angular shots of the participating Pokémon, courtesy of the many cameras that dangled from wires above and personnel stationed at various points around. Further away from the arena's ring were four elongated entrances all in the shape of different Pokémon where each contender would walk out. There was a blue, red, green and yellow section with a gyarados, charizard, tyranitar and haxorus respectively.

    "Wow." Ed said as they found seats with excellent views of the battle below. Marveling at the crowd was awesome as well since there were a LOT of seats already occupied. "This is awesome. Can't you believe that I'm going to be down in one of these places playing for a bunch of awesome fans?!"

    "It's gonna be great." Elio added before turning to Leilani. "But what are the rules for Battle Royal anyway?"

    "Oh I can tell you most of the rules! It's basically like what the Royal said; a four way free for all that goes down until one trainer stands unopposed. The winner is whoever scores the most points. Everyone uses three Pokémon and you earn points by either scoring knockouts on your opponents or being the last one standing."

    "So all you have to do is basically survive to win?" Ed asked.

    She shook her head. "Nope! Wouldn't it be awesome if it was that easy? Just because you will be the last trainer standing won't necessarily mean you will win. You earn two points for each knockout and three points for surviving. If you manage to eliminate everyone else and have additional Pokémon still able to battle, you earn another three points."

    "That actually makes sense." Elio said. He was sitting between both of them and staring intently at the unoccupied ring. "And it requires a lot of strategy, more than a standard battle."

    "Exactly. And you have to be dynamic. Sometimes you have to work with another one of your opponents if someone else is a bigger threat towards you."

    "I can see where people specialize in stuff." Ed said. "I'm no trainer, but it's almost like the best kind of play style for this is to balance out a team between offense and defense."

    "Right. The others can possibly gang up on you if you become too aggressive or conservative. Gotta also remember that you can't just score points by keeping your Pokémon in play…they have to make moves for themselves. You might be hard to dislodge, but focusing too heavily on defense means they'll either combine attacks on you or ignore you entirely and that loses a valuable opportunity to score a lot of points."

    She pointed up at Ikaika's banner. "He was known for having a strong defense when coming into games. It was very difficult to break him…hence his name. One strategy he devised and used often was starting strong with a defender."

    "What's a defender?"

    "Oh right!" She put a hand behind her head in embarrassment. Elio noted that the gesture was similar to Hau's own quirk. "Sorry!"

    Those two are really alike.

    "There are multiple types of different Pokémon used for this competition and you get to see kinds that aren't even native to Alola coming with their trainers from all over the world! Anyway, the Royal Dome's leagues classify Pokémon into three categories; Strikers, Defenders and Rounders."

    She made to say something else, however the lights were dimmed before a lone bright spotlight centered on an MC dressed in a very elaborate suit inside the ring. He beamed up at the crowd before raising a dark microphone to his lips.

    "Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the Battle Royal Dome! Your mecca for Battle Royals and the birthplace of awesome!"

    At once, the crowd let out a loud cheer, some bringing out their own phones to record the new event.

    "We have an exciting bout for you today! Now tell me WHO'S EXCITED?!"

    Another loud roar came from the crowd. To Elio and Ed's surprise; Leilani joined in with a cheer of her own, clapping her hands.

    "That's the enthusiasm I like to see!" The MC declared, spreading his hand out. "So there's some new faces making their Battle Royal debut as well as some older veterans and a face we all know and love!" At the mention of a "know and love" sent a lot of murmurs among the crowds.

    "Let's not keep you folks waiting any longer! Time to introduce our contenders!" On the big screen, it showed a dark moving silhouette in one of the tunnels below.

    "From the Haxorus Corner! He hails from Iki Town and has begun his island challenge as the rite of passage to conquer it and be recognized as an adult! Making his very own debut in the career of Battle Royal! Give it up for the kahuna's grandson! HAU! KEALOHA!"

    Another big chorus of cheers and applause rang out from all the spectators. To Elio and Ed's surprise again; Leilani screamed along with them, cupping her hands to her mouth. He quickly joined suit as the kahuna's grandson waved eagerly to the stands, grinning from ear to ear before taking his place at one of the stands beside the main ring.

    "Yeah! Let's go Hau! Show 'em what you're made of!"

    Wow. Didn't expect that from her.

    "Dang!" Ed had to almost shout himself at her after the applause had died down again. "You're really one of Hau's biggest fans!"

    "You bet I am!" She made a fist. "Hau was here when I started my first Battle Royal! He cheered just as hard and I want to make sure he has the same experience!"

    "You sure it's not just that?!" A smirk made its way across the basketball player's face. "I think our resident surfer has a crush!"

    "Wha?" Elio saw her face flush briefly as she stammered. "I don't!"

    "Oh so you're denying it?"

    "N-no!"

    "Chill out Leilani." Elio calmly said. "ʻO wau wale nō e'ōkō ana meʻoe!"

    His reassurance seemed to calm her down, but it still failed to remove the red blush on her face.

    "What in the hell did you say to her?" Ed's own eyes looked about ready to pop out of his head.

    "Just chill out. I found that speaking bird tends to calm the locals down if they're embarrassed."

    "That's incredible bro. How much do you know?"

    "ʻaʻole kokoke." He laughed when Ed gave him a blank stare. "Quite a bit actually."

    "Say, why don't we let out our Pokémon to enjoy the show too?"

    "Sure." Elio agreed. "Don't see why not." He gripped the balls and triggered them open. "Come on out guys!"

    Every single member of Elio's party, save for Feebas emerged and scampered to the edge, peering with utmost interest at the new surroundings.

    "Get ready guys, we're going to be on the big stage too one day."

    Leilani soon let hers out; Brionne, Machop and a third Pokémon Elio didn't recognize. It was humanoid, with a large bulbous hip and small legs that seemed almost impossible to support its entire weight. Large pink eyes dominated its face and mouth curved upward in a constant smile. There were a pair of elongated sepals stretching on either side that drooped down as if it were a hairstyle.

    "Woah there!" Rotom was quick to catch onto the new species. "We've got a new Pokémon that hazzz been detected! Bzzt! And before I begin, I muzzzt zay that you Leilani are for sure Hau'zzz biggest fan! Bzzt! Don't change that! Bzzt!"

    'Dex flipped open his screen, ignorant of the reddening that had made its way back to the surfer's cheeks. "Steenee. Fruit Pokémon. It is the evolved form of bounsweet. A steenee's pleasant aroma and lively attitude often perks up others. While no longer threatened by bird Pokémon, it swings the sepals on its head to both defend itself and abandon, delivering painful smacks! Steenee is a grass type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Wow," Elio looked over at the new addition. "So Bounsweet evolved?"

    "Yup! She finally did! I'm so glad because now no more birds trying to steal her for snack."

    "Yeah I'd be glad to be like that too." Ed added. "You've got some cool Pokémon. Both of you."

    They were once again cut off by the MC, who paraded to the next corner. "And now in the Charizard Corner! He's an enigma of a trainer! Master of the fearsome beast only known as Null! Let's give it up for GLADION!"

    Similar to the Haxorus Corner, the massive head of Charizard hallway filled with white steam to the crowd's wild applause. Unlike Hau, who had run in bursting at the seams with exuberant energy, Gladion walked with an air of confidence, casting a long look up at his surroundings.

    As he took his spot; he sent Hau a death glare that even made Elio feel just a bit uneasy.

    What is that guy's problem with Hau?

    "From the Gyarados Corner! He's been the longtime kahuna of Melemele Island and Alolan Sumo champion!" Even before his name was called, the atmosphere in the dome began to pick up. The MC sensed this, his smile growing even broader than the first two. "Let's give a warm welcome to HALA! KEALOHA!"

    Instead of the loud applause and cheers, most of the attendees stood up, cupping their mouths and giving a hearty. "HOOO-HAAH!" The stark shout made everyone not used to the kahuna's crowd introduction practically jumped out of their skin in fright.

    Ed included, which made both Elio and Leilani laugh at his expense.

    "That's not cool man." He grumbled, leaning back and crossing his arms. "I never did something like that to you!"

    "You were about to smear bacon grease on my deodorant after a practice." Sun reminded him.

    "Finally in the Tyranitar Corner!" As soon as the silhouette appeared on the big screen, the crowd's volume of cheering suddenly went to the same as the introductions of the other three. "He's the most feared…strongest wrestler and Battle Royal contender of all Alola! Four time Royal playoff champion and hometown hero! Give it up for the one and only! MAAAAAAASSSSSKKKKEEEEEDD! ROOOOOOYAL!"

    With the elaborate introduction concluded, this sent the entire stands into a wild frenzy. Elio wasn't sure if the noise could get any louder.

    And he was proven wrong.

    The smoke intensified as the shirtless figure emerged, arms up and mouth open in a fierce expression. He thrust them down, shouting a "Woo!" that couldn't even be heard over the crowd's roar. At the sight of his entrance, he saw that a pair of carts shot up enormous columns of flame, continuing to intensify the crowd's already amping vigor.

    "ROYAAAAL! ROYAAAAL! ROYAAAAL!" Everyone was chanting, performing a flexing pose with their arms.

    "Wow." Was all Ed could muster at the display. "This is right outta a wrestling match!"

    Down below, they saw the Royal had stepped to the side before squatting low and sweeping right. He jumped up off the ground, landing and throwing a knee into the air while spreading his large muscular arms outward with a fierce expression on his face.

    "And those are our contestants!" The MC shouted. "Good luck and may the best trainer win!"

    As he walked offstage, there was a referee stepping forward. He was wearing a dark collared shirt and shorts with a metal whistle around his neck.

    "This will be a single-elimination Battle Royal with the victor being the last man standing. I want to see a no-holds barred battle from each of you. Keep it clean and let's have some fun. Any questions?" He got four shakes of the head. "Then trainers! Send out your Pokémon!"

    "Rockruff! Let's go oh yeah!" The Royal tossed out his puppy Pokémon. At the sight of it on the big screen, Elio saw his own go wide-eyed and take on a sudden renewed interest.

    "You like that buddy?" He got a happy bark in return.

    "Go Dartrix!" Hau spun his own starter out on the field.

    "Null, let's get them." Gladion's entrance was more subdued and the appearance of his unique creature let out a bunch of surprised gasps from the crowd. Unbeknownst to everyone else, he actually enjoyed it since even though he had been in quite a few matches, the reaction from the spectators was as if they had never seen it before.

    "And Kazuhiro! We will win this together!" Hala threw out his own contender. A massive creature that resembled an obese human slammed into the ground with enough force to rock the stands, eliciting another loud cheer from them. Its hands were also enormous for its size, split into three fingers from the palm. The Pokémon's upper body was slightly thinner than its large round legs and it glared at the fellow competitors with intensity.

    "Woah there! We gotta get thizzz new Pokémon detected indexed away before a writer endzzz here! Bzzt!" Rotom floated in between the three humans and put his screen to showcase the new encounter. "Hariyama. Arm thrust Pokémon. It is the evolved form of makuhita. A single slap from a hariyama can send a truck flying. It is also kind and honorable Pokémon, praising worthy foes that it defeats or defeat it in battle. Hariyama is a fighting type. Additional information is available upon capturing this Pokémon."

    "Wow, a hariyama!" Ed and Elio leaned forward. "It looks so huge!"

    "And now!" The referee raised a hand, noting that all four competitors were all eager to launch off their starting points. "The Battle Royal shall begin!"

    Whew! This one was fun to write! Hope everyone liked the many surprises I put in here! I think this chapter answered a question a lot of you were asking. Another one I'll go ahead and answer is that this will be the last Pokémon for a while that Elio will capture.
    Translations:

    • Kama'aina - Refers to a native resident regardless of race of ethnicity. Anyone born in Hawaii/Alola is considered kama'aina and on occasion given to foreigners who have lived there for a long time or done something heroic to be deemed in that manner. To be considered kama'aina is a very special honor.
    • Mahalo nui loa - Thank you very much
    • Tutu - Grandmother/grandfather
    • Kele kaikamahine - Surfer girl (Often refers to younger female surfers)
    • Waeia kekahi - Chosen one
    • Ikaika - Sturdy
    • ʻO wau wale nō e'ōkō ana meʻoe! - I'm just screwing with you!
    • 'a'ole kokoke - Just about nothing

    Puka Dog - Although this isn't a Hawaiian word, Puka Dogs are a local delicacy with a Polish sausage inserted into a roll of Portuguese sweet bread and garnished with a fruity relish (usually mango or coconut) and served with freshly squeezed lemonade.

    Mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose! See you guys next time.

    Brav

     
  3. ShinigamiMiroku

    ...Jirachi?
    (Jirachi Egg)
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    I've always wanted to try a Puka Dog. :sweat:

    Anyway, sorry I haven't reviewed in awhile; been busy with schoolwork and theatre. I have been reading, though, and I can't help but continue to get even more excited for each chapter.

    A big reason why I refuse to get drunk is because I hate how alcohol 'turns even the most respectable man into complete scoundrels,' (to quote Elizabeth Swann) though in many other cases it's just a coping mechanism for much more deeply-rooted issues (and a poor one at that, as it is a depressant).

    I'm happy that Elio decided to keep Feebas, but does he know how it evolves? It's not an easy task, to be sure, in any generation...

    I'm surprised you had Kahuna Hala take Sun's place in the Battle Royale. It'll be interesting if Hau takes the opportunity to eke out a win (especially knowing who the Masked Royal is, and that he has already lost to both Hala and Gladion so far) or if he's going to continue to 'have fun' regardless of the outcome. Just because you recognize a problem doesn't mean you will automatically take the steps to correct it unless you focus your attention solely on that until the change is made.

    It'll be interesting to see the dynamic between Hau and Leilani plays out... and how Sun copes with it.
     
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  4. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

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    Alola everyone! Next update is here!

    A few days over, but the 2nd of March was the one-year anniversary of A Hui Hou Kakou since I put it up on fanfiction.net!
    Since this story's inception; it has become my second most popular fic after Advanced Commando, despite this being almost two and a half times longer. However I'm confident that this one will definitely trump all of its statistics since there's still plenty of story left!

    Whenever I look back, I am completely floored by the overwhelming amount of support I've gotten through the views, favorites and follows, but most especially all the reviews. Everyone plays a part in making A Hui Hou Kakou my pleasure to write and entertain; from all of those awesome people who comment/critique on every of my updates as well as the others who favorite, follow but silently read. I see you guys too and can't thank you all enough.

    Big thanks again to @ShinigamiMiroku for his amazing feedback: I'm glad you're still enjoying the story and taking the time...no matter how long. That too is a big reason I don't drink to get drunk as I've seen alcohol destroy families and lives. It's something to have in moderation. For the most part; Elio is unaware of how or what it evolves into and I think it'll be a nice surprise. It's kind of hard to write a fish Pokémon in battle, so I don't have much time where it's used in battle as a Feebas.
    As for Hala, I'll be explaining in a few chapters on why he's there. It's for a reason :) Also get ready for some more shenanigans in the love triangle...or love rectangle of Elio, Hau, Leilani and Lillie.

    Without further ado. Let's get to the chapter before my praise start going on about how your reviews can turn water into wine...


    The Pro Day thing happened right after the Battle Royal! Wow! Much of it was kind of disappointing since I was hoping to see a lot of basketball being played, but I actually got my wish later on! Elio looks really small compared to Ed and I have to admit that the apparel he wore kind of suits him…almost as if he's made for that! You go Elio! Show Alola and the world that you're more than just a brave, handsome and skilled Pokémon trainer. You're also a brave, handsome and skilled basketball player too!

    Dear Lillie,

    Royal Avenue is something else huh? You sure you don't want to come and see the Sensational Sisters on their water show tour? They're supposedly coming later this year. The Cerulean City gym leader Misty is the youngest of them, but she runs the gym instead of traveling. I promised her I'd challenge her to a battle when I become a trainer and I hope she hasn't forgotten.

    But first thing's first! The Pro Day! Ed and I are going to be partners in his skills showcase and it's going to be broadcasted around the Alola region! Be sure to catch yours truly being an awesome point guard! (that's the position I play in basketball)

    I also noticed something interesting too during the Battle Royal match. Yes the Masked Royal is pretty cool, but I swear he looks and talks just like Professor Kukui. Is it true that's some alter ego or something? If it's not, then can you ask him if he knows the Royal by any chance? Anyway…that's not it, even though it's still strange…oh why am I still dwelling on this?! Okay…anyway…I have to stop repeating that. Leilani seems to be a very enthusiastic cheerleader for Hau when he was out there battling. He didn't win, but she made sure he wasn't going to be down about it and Ed seemed to be poking fun about her little crush on him. That makes me think that she might like Hau more than me. What do you think? I might go and get something to maybe win her back!

    I miss you.

    Sincerely,

    Elio

    Today had been strange for Lillie. Professor Kukui didn't stop by to do any early morning field work and it was the first day in a long time she actually had nothing to do.

    Nebby had resorted to being more active in the evening and night, being all excited for some unknown reason before tucking itself inside her duffel and sleeping for most of the day.

    It felt strange too about not having to tell it to stay inside.

    After having another room service breakfast, she decided to lay back down on her bed. A hand found the remote and she turned on the television, flipping between channels that were broadcasting some drama shows, commercials for the local malasada shop and the Battle Royal between Hau, Masked Royal, Hala and Gladion.

    Wait, where's Elio?

    Gladion?!

    Her body froze like ice as she hesitantly grabbed the remote again and turned it back to the channel.

    There he stood, wearing ripped dark and red clothing and an rebellious hairstyle that would make her mother flip out if she ever saw it. But she knew that face…those eyes.

    Tears threatened to well up in her eyes. She didn't know if they were from sadness or overjoy.

    Her brother was okay. Gladion was okay!

    For the longest time nobody dared to move. The four contestants were creating a rising tension quickly amongst themselves and the spectating crowd.

    It was Hau who decided to make the first move. "Dartrix, use peck on Kazuhiro!"

    With a loud screech, the blade quill Pokémon accelerated forward, swooping down with a glowing beak.

    "Fake out." Was all Hala had to respond before the large hariyama clapped its hands together the moment Dartrix had dived for the strike. Caught right in between, the owl wobbled in flight before crashing to the ground.

    "Now use arm thrust!"

    Kazuhiro branched out his arms and was about to hit the struggling Dartrix when it was struck by two separate tackles. Rockruff from the Royal's side had done some damage while Null's larger body mass was enough to knock it into the side of the ring. Immediately an invisible green barrier shield flared to life as it hit the edge, fading away as the crowd oohed at witnessing the action.

    I was almost thinking Gladion was going to go after Hau there. Elio thought as he watched from his seat.

    "So hold on," Ed started. "Does this mean that it's a three on one?"

    "Not exactly." Leilani said. "Remember while you are free to attack anyone else in the ring; however it's quite common that two or three contestants will gang up on another because they pose a bigger threat."

    "Right." Elio added. "So if that hariyama's a fighting type, then it means that Dartrix has the best chance to take it down. It poses a threat to Rockruff since it's rock and possibly that experiment called Null which means it's likely weak somewhere to fighting moves."

    She nodded. "Exactly. We call those "silent alliances" because it's mutually beneficial against a common enemy. Now do expect both of them to target Hau once Kahuna Hala has been eliminated."

    Back down on the ring, Kazuhiro shook off the effects and assumed a low stance.

    "Very interesting." Hala called out to his three opponents. "You all see me as the biggest threat. Good. Because I am."

    "And that's why we're all after you kahuna!" The Royal spun around. "Now use tackle on Null!"

    Gladion was more than ready, barking at his beast to lumber aside. Despite its large and heavy appearance, it shifted easily to dodge the charging attack. He saw Kazuhiro and Dartrix clash in another intense battle of pecks and arm thrusts. As much as he wanted to personally see Hau put down to prove his point, he needed him still in the game to take care of both Rockruff and the hariyama, the latter of which was more dangerous.

    I can take on the dartrix and rockruff. But it's the hariyama that's the problem. That's my top priority.

    "Aerial ace on hariyama!"

    With a furious roar, Null's body clanked together as he lunged forward. At the same time, Dartrix jumped towards them, jabbing the larger Pokémon's side with a peck. Hala's massive fighting type stumbled, but its endurance was showing as it refused to go down.

    The Royal was getting ready for another round, tossing a rock throw into Hau's direction. The owl retaliated with flinging its wing and releasing a volley of razor sharp quills.

    With its hind legs, the rockruff propelled itself above the blades, but Null had been too slow to avoid it. The creature's thick hide and armored head managed to absorb and splinter the quills, however some damage had been done.

    Gladion growled in annoyance and clutched his arm. A low whine from Null was almost unheard, but it indicated to him that his partner was fine and willing to continue.

    Hala had finished with his hariyama, who had backed itself into a corner and glowing red while enhancing its strength. When the bulk up had finished, he pointed at Dartrix, already shouting additional orders. Hariyama's large glove hand flung out in a shovel type pass. A white stone flew out with incredible speed.

    Despite Hau yelling at Dartrix to dodge; the bird was hit on the right wing with the stone and the super effective move caused it to plummet back down to the arena's floor.

    The crowd let out a gasp.

    "And now you are all battling on my terms." Hala said, all while assuming a squatted competitive stance. "Kazuhiro, use bulldoze!"

    "HARRI!" With incredible strength and agility, he jumped up into the air a good ways and slammed his feet into the floor. The ensuing shockwave covered its entirety, shaking out the other three combatants. Rockruff and Null were unable to withstand the blast and collapsed, however they both rebounded with the latter doing so rather quickly. Dartrix merely stumbled back, shaking it off at his trainer's encouragement.

    "Hold on a moment." Elio went wide eyed as he remembered his move typing effectiveness. "I thought bulldoze is a ground move. Dartrix is part flying…how does that work?"

    "That izzz correct!" Rotom replied. "Accezzing move database! Bzzt! Bulldoze izzz a ground type move that can deal damage to multiple foez and slow them down! Bzzt!"

    "Yes I know that. So then how did Hala's hariyama manage to hit Dartrix?"

    "Analyzing! Bzzt!" His screen shuffled to a recording of the battle not thirty seconds ago. "Move found! Bzzt! That izzz smack down! It'zzz a rock type move that can deal damage and cause flying typezzz and Pokémon with levitate ability to fall and be vulnerable to ground movezzz now."

    "That must be why Hala did that." Leilani said, still focusing on the battle. "Hariyama isn't the fastest Pokémon and since bulldoze can slow the enemy down, he can level the playing field in terms of speed. But he needed to find a way to keep Hau in check because it's the only Pokémon strong against him. Bringing him to the ground makes it open that everyone will have falling speed since bulldoze can attack multiple opponents."

    "That'zz right! And Elio will need to help Rufflet dodge that kind of move! It pozez the biggezt threat to him!"

    "Wow…talk about genius."

    Leilani almost laughed out loud. "Yeah. You thought Hala was a pushover? Wait until you battle him when he's serious."

    "Null, use flame charge on Dartrix!"

    Hau spotted the flaming Pokémon running his way, but he also saw that Royal's rockruff was a bit dazed still.

    It has to be almost down by now. Let's see if I can score a knockout!

    "Peck on rockruff!"

    "DAR!"

    The two paths nearly intersected, with Null missing the Dartrix by roughly a foot. It stopped and turned back around, surrounding itself with embers and running forward again.

    A razor leaf sent his way did nothing to damage it, as the flames quickly caught onto the flammable projectiles, burning them up well before they reached him. However Null did have to momentarily break charge to avoid them directly shot.

    If I can catch up to Hau; I can take both it and the rockruff down. That will just leave me and the kahuna's hariyama.

    Gladion didn't see that Hala and Kazuhiro had recovered. Before he knew it, the creature slammed its arm into Null's side like a hammer with incredible force. Null was knocked off his feet and skidded into the arena's side with a loud crash. To his relief, he saw the hind paw flail in the cloud of dust that was kicked up as Null used the motion to slowly, but surely roll back on its feet.

    "Let's go for the kill Dartrix!" Hau pumped a fist. "Leafage on rockruff!"

    With a loud "Dar-trixxx!" he swept his wings together, unleashing a handful of feathery leaves that pelted the puppy Pokémon. The super effective move was too much for it and it crashed down onto the arena mat, out cold.

    "Ooh! And Hau Kealoha upsets the Masked Royal with a super effective leafage attack!" The MC boomed into the microphone, eliciting more cheers to come from the crowd. "We've got our first knockout of the match! Only three remain!"

    Back up at their stand, Elio couldn't help rising to his feet and joining the rest of the onlookers in the applause and loud cheers. Beside him, Ed stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled loudly.

    "Woo! Yeah cousin!" Leilani squealed as she was practically jumping up and down with excitement. "Way to go Hau!"

    At the sight of that; both Elio and Ed exchanged a knowing smirk. He was grateful that this time it wasn't going to be about him…or so he thought.

    "Looks like someone's got a crush on the kahuna's grandson."

    "What?" Leilani's face still smiled, betraying her strong denial. "No I don't!"

    "She can't." Elio doubted. "Not if she's his cousin. That'd be awkward."

    "I'm not his cousin."

    "Then it's still possible!"

    "Stop it!" She mock pouted, crossing her arms over her chest as realization that the two boys had her verbally backed into a corner. "I do NOT have a crush on Hau."

    "You know what's funny?" Ed smirked again. "Is that you're even more readable than Elio!"

    Why do I feel like this is both a good and bad thing? I'd love to ask her out, but is it strange knowing that she has a crush on my best friend?

    Wait…which best friend? Can't be Ed…oh wait. That's right. Hau.

    "That was truly impressive mo'opuna."

    Gladion tuned out Hala's compliments and thought back to that maneuver. He did have to give credit where credit was due. The razor leaf to just slightly disrupt Null's advance proved enough to hold it off so that he could score. Of course the rules and situational differences would be present in a one versus one battle, but the move seemed to be brilliantly executed.

    I can try for the hariyama now. He thought to himself, clenching his arm again. Dartrix will be an easy picking. Plus as much as I hate it, I'll need Hau's help in taking it down.

    Hala must've seen Gladion plotting his next moves. "I see you've already begun to plot your next move keiki. However whatever you are thinking is not going to work! Kazuhiro! Arm thrust!"

    "Null, use flame charge to dodge it!" As the bigger Pokémon advanced, Null cloaked itself in a wreath of fire, using the increased speed to leap out of the way.

    Hau quickly joined in on the fun, throwing a razor leaf attack that pelted both Null and Kazuhiro.

    "I think it's my turn to show this off. Ready Dartrix! Roost just like we practiced!"

    "Trix!" His owl, now airborne once more had done a midair flip before spreading his wings wide and slowing as he reached the ground. His body glowed white as some of his lost energy was being regained. Some of the wounds on his feathers slowly disappeared as he used the brief lull in the battle to preen himself. By the time the glow of healing had faded, he had spread out his feathers again in preparation to jump back into the action.

    "Roost?"

    "Yep! Bzzt!" Rotom scrolled through the move database again. "Move found! Roost izzz a healing move that helpz to heal injuriez and izzz especially uzeful for flying type Pokémon!"

    "Sweet. Maybe Rufflet can learn it too."

    "You have to also know that using roost will render it vulnerable to ground moves." Leilani said. "Hau just got Dartrix up in the air again and using it could mean he may have to face bulldoze's damage and speed reduction."

    Down on the match; Hala had secretly been counting on that the entire time.

    "Use bulldoze Kazuhiro!"

    "Null!" His Pokémon automatically responded, building up additional fire for the flame charge. Kazuhiro jumped up and slammed back down, sending a tremor that could be felt even up in the stands. Now more prepared, the beast jumped to avoid the brunt of the shockwave before clanking forward, building up additional speed as it moved. That familiar clanking sound increased in pace, sounding something like a locomotive.

    Gladion saw the kahuna's smirk grow just slightly more.

    Why do I feel like this is what Hala wants me to do?

    "Now!"

    At the instance; Kazuhiro's sheer bulk deftly moved aside with the quickness of the dancer. Gladion's own gasp of surprise was synonymous with the onlookers, who were still in shock at the earlier bulldoze and seeing such a heavy Pokémon move with ease.

    Null had built up a considerable amount of speed already and Kazuhiro's sudden dodge made him realize he was headed straight for Dartrix, who was now grounded and trying to recover.

    The flame charge hit Hau's Pokémon, crashing into the side where the invisible barriers flared up to prevent the strong power from escaping and harming the spectators. Gladion watched as Null crouched low, glancing at a now defeated Dartrix.

    "Woah!" The MC was exaggerating surprise into the microphone. "Dartrix was the true victim as kahuna Hala pulls off an impossibly amazing dodge move that takes out one more fighter! Let's give it up for Hau for an amazing effort!"

    Gladion scoffed. This kid doesn't even put half the effort into amazing. Why applause for that? Only reason I needed him was to take down the hariyama.

    Wait.

    He cursed under his breath, finally realizing that while it felt satisfying to eliminate and put Hau in his place, he had dug himself into a deeper hole. Hariyama's strength against normal types and a one on one focus.

    Oh no. Hala counted on this. I can't let my guard down now.

    Null exploded forward in an aerial ace attack. Gladion hoped that the faster speed could remain a constant. He just had to watch out for that bulldoze again.

    Kazuhiro stumbled back, growling when it heard the encouragement of its trainer. He flexed his arms, surrounding himself with a harsh reddish aura.

    I have to act now before that bulk up is too much for Null. It will only improve its attacks and defense! Gladion thought, making a fist. We'll just have to keep attacking!

    "Tackle!"

    The hariyama braced itself as Null led with its horn, surrounded by wisps of glowing white light. It budged just slightly, trying to hold ground; however the beast succeeded in knocking it into the wall barrier.

    The MC jumped back up to his feet. "Will you look at that folks? Null just learned take down!"

    "Use vital throw."

    "Hari!" In another flash of quickness; Kazuhiro's hand found Null's mask and it effortlessly lifted it up, rearing back and tossing it across the arena with a high velocity.

    Amazingly, Null had managed to crash into the safety ropes feet first from the safety barrier. The catlike paws on its rear found purchase at the end of one of them and it sprang back to the mat using a catlike grace that defied its character.

    "Hi'ona." Hala couldn't hide the fact that even he was impressed. "You have trained your partner Null well."

    "We'll continue to get stronger." Gladion said. "We have to. Starting with defeating you kahuna!"

    "Then come at me with everything you have!" Hala bellowed. "Kazuhiro, arm thrust!"

    The hariyama charged forward, arms outstretched. Null took one to the midsection, but it jumped above, managing to avoid the others. At Gladion's command, an aerial ace was ordered and it slashed leading off with its horn crest across the slower Pokémon's body.

    This is it.

    "Take down!"

    Null roared again, rushing forward and enveloping itself in more white energy. Kazuhiro was dazed quite a bit from the previous aerial ace and the fatigue of taking two other Pokémon's attacks were finally beginning to catch up.

    The two Pokémon collided in a crash that caused large cloud of dust to erupt in the center. With the entirety of the action all fast paced as per most Battle Royals, everyone was anticipating the outcome. Most every spectator sat at the edge of their seats and whispered amongst themselves at what could possibly have happened.

    Null shuffled out of the dust when it began to clear, huffing lowly and gazing out at the crowd.

    Kazuhiro was lying facedown at the ring's center, clearly knocked out and sporting fresh new wounds.

    "And Gladion takes the match!" The MC said when the ref confirmed. "Gladion, the master of the beast Null has emerged as the victor for this Battle Royal! Let's give him a hand as well as the other participants!"

    At the announcement of the obvious, everyone had stood up and loudly whistled and applauded with a newfound roar rumbling from all the bleachers. Elio was among them and even though he still thought of Gladion as a jerk, it would be rude not to give credit where credit was due.

    The MC beckoned Gladion onto the center podium after returning his Pokémon. He leaned the mic down to the boy's level.

    "So Gladion! Congratulations on yet another fascinating win! What motivated you for that final showdown with the kahuna?"

    For a good several seconds, he didn't seem to speak. Much of the crowds were slowly filing up or down the stairs to exit the dome. Those that stayed were leaning forward once more in anticipation.

    The blond opened his mouth after casting a long glance around the crowd. "I play to win." He gave a simple nod when the MC was almost ready to go into a frenzy for him to continue.

    "Well…um. You've done a fantastic job holding your own against an island kahuna and our very own Masked Royal!"

    "Hmph. It's all part of getting stronger." He said. "There's someone who didn't come into the battle who I want to beat and I won't stop until they're down."

    Before the MC could feed off that, Gladion turned away and stalked back into his corner, disappearing into the tunnel and leaving everyone in wonder at what his words exactly meant.

    "And there you have it! Gladion…a master of the Null beast and a man of few words himself! He's looking for a bigger fish out there! Will we find out who it is? Or his ideal competitor shrouded in mystery! Thanks everyone for coming to the Battle Royal Dome today and we'll see you guys again next time!"

    Elio stood there unmoving as he processed Gladion's words inside his head. To many others it was simply just talk to the media and let them have a frenzy over his speak.

    To him; he felt as if the edgy teen had subtly jabbed and called him out.

    I'm the person Gladion wants to beat.

    Why? What would he gain from beating me other than the satisfaction? Does he just hate knowing that someone has defeated him before and he needs the final say?

    Sun couldn't really think about it anymore than obsessing, which was what he was thinking that Gladion was doing.

    Gladion, you're taking this way out of proportion.

    With that thought banished from his head, he stood up and followed his two friends down the steps back out into the lobby.

    Gladion just about scoffed to himself when he saw the tall girl squeal excitedly and nearly jump on top of Hau in a bone crushing bewear hug. Just behind him was an even taller boy who looked strong enough to crush him with one arm and then he saw him. The boy he had subtly challenged to show himself and face him down in battle. He looked just as interested in the overwhelming acts of unrewarding praise that Hau was being showered with.

    You're going to hug him after that? He once again didn't even put forth half the effort into that battle. It was kind of meaningless, so something like that would only be acceptable here. His lip curled upward as a thought crossed his mind. Least you're in your element where nobody cares how good you are at battling as long as they get a show.

    "Ho'omaikaian'a iaoe!" Leilani said, grinning from ear to ear. Hau's red blush covered almost his entire face. "You did great out there Hau!"

    Sun joined in, reaching past a hugging Leilani to fist bump Hau. "Yeah brah, you gave your gramps and the Royal a run for their money."

    "And you showed me that a Battle Royal could be a whole lotta fun." Ed added. "For a first timer, you looked like you knew what you were doing."

    "Heh. Thanks guys." Hau said. "It really was a bit of a thrill." His gaze wandered over to see Gladion standing just a few feet away. "Gladion…congratulations on the win."

    The edgy blond perked up at hearing his name and rolled his eyes.

    "It means nothing. It's just another day."

    Elio saw anger flare up in Leilani's eyes from him brushing off the praise and she stepped forward. He was quick to react, putting an arm out in front of her and shaking his head.

    "Another day?" Hau asked out of curiosity. "So it's just another battle to you huh?"

    "Say whatever you want. Winning these battles get you nothing but temporary fame. That's something I don't need and I won't want. What I need to do is defeat strong opponents," His gaze centered right on Elio. "And ones that defeat me."

    So it's true.

    Gladion glared right back at Hau. "You even couldn't beat your own grandfather on that big stage. How do you expect to get stronger if you only enjoy battles?"

    Hau stepped forward to confront him.

    Okay. I better stop this all before it really escalates and causes a scene. I'm pretty sure a news report of a kahuna's grandson hitting another person wouldn't go well for PR.

    Elio slipped a hand on his shoulder. "No." He whispered, glancing back at Gladion. "Don't do it. He's baiting you."

    "Better listen what I have to say Hau, because otherwise, you're just going to get trampled on over and over again." He gripped his arm in that strange pose again. "You better start taking battles seriously. If you're not in it to win it, then there's no point in even trying to battle. You can't prove anything if you're weak or a loser."

    "Is that so? Is that why you fight?" Elio challenged. His tone wasn't particularly angry, but he wasn't going to stand by and let his friend get verbally jabbed multiple times.

    Gladion stepped forward, now having his back to them before stopping like he was still continuing to contemplate Sun's question.

    "I'm not here to play…or make friends. I'm here to get stronger so I can protect her."

    Her?

    He turned back around. "You can't protect anything when you're weak."

    "Says who?"

    "All of you are spoiled and privileged." Gladion spat, a small fire of fury brimming in his emerald eyes. Again Sun was at a loss of where to make that connection. Why did it look so similar? He saw someone else there as well…but who? The answer continued to elude him. "None of you know what it's like to be abandoned."

    Worry flashed across Ed's own face when he saw Elio's own expression darken. "Elio."

    "You want to bet on that?" Sun lowered his voice threateningly. "Trust me; whatever you got is nothing compared to the shit I've seen and experienced."

    Gladion didn't show it, but he was taken aback by the language Sun had said. He studied him, the furrowed brow, glaring eyes, almost like he was begging for the blond to say something stupid as justification for him to react aggressively. There was nothing that betrayed his demeanor whatsoever. He sighed and shook his head, turning around and exiting the arena without another word to anyone.

    You're also incredibly lucky that my best friend is here. That's the only thing stopping me from seeing how colorfully red I can paint these floors.

    "Wow." Leilani said. "A total ray of sunshine huh?"

    Elio had to blow air out of his mouth in order to calm himself down. Another reminder was sent because he realized that if he had decided to use any murderous physical violence or even just the thought of it, he'd be no better…or perhaps the true villain in the situation.

    Perhaps Dad was right in a way. I can't let my own emotions get the best of me. Even if it means defending a friend and putting that walking rectum in his place. Nothing but negativity comes out of this guy's mouth.

    "You were on fire during that battle Hau."

    The new voice prompted everyone to glance behind them. A tall man that looked to be in his early twenties strode forward towards the group. His skin was a darker brown shade and Sun realized he was looking at a lot of it. This new face wasn't even wearing a shirt. He showed no shame in it either. There were a lot of well-defined core muscles and broad shoulders that showed he was well disciplined when it came to staying in shape. A long necklace was neatly set on his chest with bright amber beads and a wooden ornament at the bottom that had incredible detail in carvings.

    His face was well defined with a strong jaw, intense dark eyes and his hair seemed as if it had taken fire of its own; sporting crimson streaks at the ends of the gelled spikes.

    So this is what would probably happen if I did the Ab Ripper X three times a day like coach ordered.

    Ed lightly tapped Elio's shoulder. "People go shirtless in here? They can't do that in Kanto."

    "You'd be surprised."

    "What about the girls?"

    "I hate to burst your bubble on that one." Sun whispered back. "But no."

    "Alola Kiawe!" Both Hau and Leilani greeted him traditionally while spreading their arms out in the rainbow wave.

    "Alola you two." Kiawe's expression remained unsmiling, but he seemed friendly enough. "Good to see all of you here."

    "Likewise." Hau stepped aside. "This is Elio Northstar…he just moved from here from Kanto and undergoing the Island Challenge. And that's Ed. He's here for the Pro Day skills showcase for the basketball thingy…whatever…sorry Ed."

    Ed gave him a dismissive smile as if to say that he didn't take any offense.

    "Well Hau, Elio. I hope you bring that fire with you and burn up my trial. For those of you who don't know, the name's Kiawe Iokua." Sun's eyes went wide at recognition of the last name, now knowing that this was the son of the person he had met in Paniola Town.

    "I run the fire type trial which will be the next one you undertake. It's set at Mauna Wela's peak in the volcano park. If you plan to see your island challenge through to the end, climb to the top with your strongest team! Get there as early as you can because there will be a lot of preparation we will need to do." A faint curling upward of his lip was seen. "And put your game faces on. Lots of people will be watching."

    With that he turned to make his exit, leaving some very confused teenagers behind.

    "Watching?" Hau wondered aloud. "What did he mean by that?"

    "You'll see." Leilani said. "E mākaukau."

    "Huh?"

    Elio spoke up. "I think that means we just have to be prepared."

    "So Elio, Hau, how are your trials going? I bet your Pokémon are working hard and havin' a blast! Oh yeah!" Another voice; this time around much more familiar, had picked up from behind them, revealing itself to be the Masked Royal and kahuna Hala approaching at the six.

    "But Mister Masked Royal," Hau piped. "How did you know that we were on our trials?"

    Elio saw the Royal's face blanch for just a moment and he was about to crack the masquerade wide open like a walnut before his best friend cut him off.

    This is my chance. You're not able to fool me Professor Kukui!

    "Oh right! I bet it's because of our amulets right?"

    Damnit Hau!

    "Well I'm having a great time! Me and Dartrix, Pikachu and Eevee here all the same! And it seems like Sun is too!"

    Elio nodded.

    "That's fantastic! When you dragon rush your way into a Battle Royal, you get recognition, prizes and your Pokémon get to partake in the fun too! You also have a chance to make a name for yourself! Woo!"

    "I think it would be hard to concentrate if people yell like that though." Sun added.

    "What?" The Royal recoiled in shock before thrusting his face right in front of the boy's. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN'T CONCENTRATE WHILE I'M YELLING?! RELAX!"

    Woah there. Take a breath man.

    "I'm just saying." The group was then interrupted when throngs of people began to gather around, chatting excitedly with themselves about the presence of both an island kahuna and the Masked Royal.

    "You best be off on the trials." Hala said. "If you set off today, you can make it all the way to the base of Wela Volcano Park to set up a campsite by nightfall."

    "What about you gramps?" Hau asked.

    "I have my own business to attend to here on Akala. You keiki run along and enjoy yourselves. And always remember your Pokémon at your side."

    "Okay." The four teens waved as he peeled away from the group and exited the building. "Alola!"

    "And we," Elio elbowed Ed in the side. "Have a skills showoff to get ready for. It's not for a few hours, but I still say we try and reserve part of the court in order to warm up."

    "Ah, so you're going in the Pro Day too?"

    "Well I'm not an official entry since I'm not eligible," Elio answered. "But they do allow me to be Ed's partner for the drills and a potential replacement for an injured or absent player if need be."

    "That sounds fantastic! Woo!" The Royal said. "I shall inform your mother! And it is now my time to bounce out of here! You there Elio! Stop by when you return! We shall trade punches!"

    Trade punches?

    He leaned forward, a smirk playing on his face. "I'll let you go first."

    "Hold on a second," Ed inquired as they were exiting down the steps from the Dome. "How in the world does the Masked Royal know your mother?"

    His question seemed to strike a chord into Elio's head and he whipped around, furrowing his brow in complete confusion.

    Because it's freaking Professor Kukui!

    "Yeah that is kind of strange."

    "I'm not one to say anything, but you've probably been on your guard with your mother and all. I'm sure she's invited some guy over for wine or something. Maybe that island professor I saw in the Alola ad once. He seems like her type."

    Elio gave him a nasty look. "Ed, I love you like a brother. I really do and I'll say it again…some of the stuff you say is really strange."

    "I know." His lips curled in a devious smirk. "That's why I do it."

    "I think your new nickname is gonna be Ed the Matchmaker. I'm making it stick once you get drafted…mark my words."

    "Hell to the no! Ed the Playmaker is way better!"

    "You don't give yourself a nickname! It's earned!"

    "What? Then explain the Dark Knight?"

    "That's…different. That guy wanted to be called that and everyone liked it, so it stuck!"

    "Alright hoopsters!" Leilani called from a few feet ahead as she and Hau had begun walking away from them. "Decide on your nicknames later! How about we go shopping?!"

    "Shopping?!"

    "Eh, why not?"

    The eastern side of Pa'ani's main Royal Avenue was more of the residential section. Parts of the main highways and streets branched off into the capillaries of homes and a couple of schools. There was a big park that the quartet crossed through complete with a very fancy fountain complete with stone statues of magikarp spouting streams of water from their "mouths" A big field separated it from the streets where excited kids ran around playing a game of tag with others and some baby Pokémon while parents stood on the side, keeping a watchful eye.

    There was a big sign at the park's entrance stating that wearing a mask to obscure the face was prohibited. It seemed like it was also recently erected.

    Looks like this town's already tired of the crap Team Skull gives it.

    "Hey cool check this out guys!" Ed was kneeling down at one of the gardens surrounding the fancy fountain. He smiled as a tiny little Pokémon that looked like it was clinging to a flower was rubbing its head against his finger. The colors of the plant attached to it were a beautiful pink.

    "This is such a neat Pokémon!"

    That's a strange Pokémon for sure. I've never seen it before.

    "Hey Rotom, what kind of po-"

    "Hi there! Bzzt! Interrupting you becauzze I feel like it!" The loudly buzzing 'Dex was ready to jump right out before the boy could finish his question. "We've got a new Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Flabebe. Single bloom Pokémon. This Pokémon is found in gardens and is not safe until it finds a flower it likes. It will take the time to find the perfect flower, with some waiting for decades before deciding. Flabebe is a fairy type and a female only species. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "A fairy type?" Elio asked. "Don't see many of those around."

    "That'zzz becauzzze the fairy type was recently discovered! Bzzt!"

    "Discovered? So then what the hell was it before?"

    "Do I look like I know everything? Bzzt!"

    Sun rolled his eyes, trying not to direct it at the snickering trio behind him as well. "You're a Pokédex. You're supposed to know everything."

    "Indeed I do! There are more than four hundred recorded speciezzz found all over Alola'z four islandzz! And there are more being dizcovered every day! Bzzt! Zpeaking of which; we've got a couple more new Pokémon detected!"

    Everyone's gaze drifted back to Ed and saw that the flabebe he was playing around with was joined by a slightly larger fairy that resembled it. Instead of it clinging to a plant that was three times its own size, the newcomer held it in its arms like a parasol umbrella to shield the majority of its body…or provide it with sunlight.

    "Floette. Single bloom Pokémon. It is the evolved form of flabebe. A floette spends its time raising flowers and harnessing their power to defend flowerbeds. More beautiful blooms contain more power. Floette is a fairy type and a female only species. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Rotom's screen shuffled off and panned to what looked like an oricorio. Unlike its yellow counterparts Elio had seen in Melemele Meadow, it was pinkish in color with a light feather crown and a long skirt. Its wings were less feathered, ending in three longer ones at the tips. They saw a pair of them flying down to sip from some of the pink flowers in the garden.

    "Oricorio in the Pa'u style allure its foes with gently swaying hips that melts their hearts. This elegant dance is widely recognized as the traditional dance of the Alolan people. Pa'u oricorio is a psychic and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "I've actually never seen the traditional Alola dance before." Ed said. "But I've heard that it lifts spirits and is amazingly soothing."

    "Do you remember seeing those girls in those green skirts?" Hau asked. When Ed and Elio nodded, he continued. "The traditional Alolan dance is done to please the tapu and express thanks for them watching over us and giving us happiness. Much of it tell stories both old and new." He glanced at Leilani. "Plus I remember seeing her in the dance outfit."

    "Hau!" She looked away, trying to hide the flushed expression on her face.

    "Hey, I got nothing to say bad about it! You looked great! Even fantastic!"

    The blush remained in her cheeks. "Oh…uh mahalo."

    "Now we just gotta get Lillie in one too! Deck her out in a grass skirt, coconut bra and lei!" Hau added. "And then I bet even Elio would lose his mind!"

    "Count me in on that!"

    "Really guys?" Elio glared at them. "Really?"

    "This is gonna be so fun trying to hook those two up!"

    The last statement had escaped his thoughts, as he descended into a very interesting realm of imagining a certain blonde in the described outfit. He had seen it in advertisements back in Kanto with the long garlands of the flowers…lei as Hau and Leilani had described around her neck. The grass skirt woven neatly frayed up as the wind tugged on the loose blades. Elio could almost see Lillie right there, blonde hair blowing behind in a sexily manner. Her warm green eyes were radiant with a smile as she swung her arms about with a carefree joy. Elio felt his "gaze" wandering right down to her mesmerizing hips, centering right on her pale slender stomach as she drew nearer.

    "I think I broke him." Hau whispered. Sun, now realizing that everyone was silent and staring at him, yelped in surprise when Ed poked him in the shoulder.

    "Sorry. Did we ruin your fantasy with gorgeous right there?"

    "Okay, guys you all need to stop with this crap!" Elio suddenly snapped. "Will you ever let me off with this?"

    "Only until you admit it?"

    "That's it!" Sun pushed past them and walked on the path ahead. "I'm outta here. If you want to come shop at the center with me, be my guest, but this conversation is over!"

    "I'm with Elio on this one." Leilani chuckled. "He's too good for her."

    "I don't think so." Ed said, reaching out with a fist to Hau and the latter bumping it. "Just a hunch though. I'm still on board for the grass skirt and coconut bra operation."

    "Straight up brah." He leaned down to whisper into Hau's ear so that the others weren't able to eavesdrop. "By the way, I know now from a basketball team bonding night of spin the bottle that Elio's favorite part of a woman is her stomach."

    "What?" The kahuna's grandson was less subtle than he had hoped and the sudden question to break the silence. "Why?"

    "Keep it down," Ed glanced up, now seeing that Sun and Leilani were engaged in their own discussion and seemingly uninterested in what he had to say. "I have no idea. I suspect that he likes it because it's where his future baby will be growing or something."

    "Dang." Hau had to admit that it made sense. The basketball hopeful saw that the other boy glanced over at Leilani, zeroing in to stare at her stomach before back at him again. "You know, that's actually pretty deep."

    In front, but well aware of the others conversing; Sun gave another long roll of the eyes in exasperation.

    My two best friends conspiring to bring me down. What kind of people do I hang out with?

    I have to get that image of her out of my head. I'll be a full-fledged pervert by the time my island challenge is over.

    Lillie is a friend…nothing more. Just a friend. A. Friend.

    Elio silently thanked the tapu that the rather uncomfortable conversation had died down as they approached the town's retail section.

    Unlike Hau'oli's massive and sprawling shopping district, the one at Pa'ani was more open air, with long concrete promenades lining either side of the building. Overhead there was a slanted roof that protected the shoppers underneath from the sun's harsh rays or a sopping rainfall. Just on its inside was wooden signs sporting logos of the various shops that made up the center. Every now and then there were other stands selling food and other accessories seen in the malls from cell phone cases to sunblock.

    I keep forgetting how crazy overpriced it and relief lotion is here. The demand's always going to be there, so it's a good idea to go into the sunblock business here in Alola.

    They must have come at a more crowded time since the four had lost one another on occasion from the large crowds of people. They saw all different kinds from other groups of teenagers loudly chatting with one another to simple families going on a stroll in the Alolan afternoon.

    Surprisingly, the one that got a lot of attention and publicity was Ed. Being an up-and-coming basketball superstar that was constantly mentioned in the news meant that many were going to recognize his face. A lot of people he had never seen or met before constantly came up to the quartet, centering their gaze on the tallest boy within the group. They came up to shake his hand, wish him luck and there were a lot that were brandishing their cameras on their phones, hoping for a photo with the eventual pro player.

    "Man you're gonna rock the FBC!"

    "You're unstoppable Ed!"

    "I hope you play for the Pouncers!"

    "You'd make a great big three with Davis and Cousins!"

    "Eddie! Please marry me!"

    And then there was Elio's favorite. "The 'Canes uniform would look best on you!"

    Ed was definitely flattered with all his newfound attention, still not able to believe that he was this well-known and not even a professional yet. To their surprise, he remained quite humble about the showering of praise sent his way. He also wanted to prove to Elio as well as his peers that the newfound stardom was not going to make its way in over-inflating his ego no matter how sweet it tasted.

    The four checked out multiple shops, mostly boutiques at Leilani's insistence and talked among themselves about various things, from life on Alola, the island challenge and the future of basketball as they waited. The surfer seemed to take forever, beginning to test the boys' patience.

    "Whew." Ed breathed a sigh of relief as they exited the store. When she emerged from the doors back outside with yet another shopping bag that was put into a struggling Hau's hands, he and Elio echoed his sentiment.

    "So uh Leilani," Sun asked as they were nearly ready to exit the shopping center. "Are you finished?"

    "Well…yeah. You guys seemed to be getting bored. Remind me to never take boys shopping again." She glanced over at Hau, who had at least four large paper bags that appeared to hold considerable weight. "At least someone shows some mahalo for shopping with me."

    That's because he's probably head over heels for you. Which essentially makes you my rival for her heart! Loser goes for Lillie! There. Settled. Worst case scenario is that we'll just be friends anyway.

    "Now it's my turn." Ed gestured to one of the stores they hadn't seen just yet. Inside they could see that it sold a wide array of different sports and outdoors equipment with much of it looking very high end. Elio could recognize several famous name brands.

    "Uh Ed." He glanced at 'Dex's clock feature, showing that they had a little more than an hour. "We should probably start heading back to the Dome. Not that much time left."

    "I know bro, but we gotta get you something to wear." He gestured to his white and blue striped tee. "And that is not going to cut it. Remember, you're gonna represent and I need someone else in style to be my partner."

    "C'mon Elio!" Leilani encouraged. "Don't be so much of a stick in the sand!"

    "I'm not being a stick in the sand. I just don't want us to miss the pro skills showcase. The last thing all those teams want to see is you reporting for them later than your deadline. What do you think that tells them when you've got meetings to attend?"

    "Please Elio?" Ed bent his knees so that he was at the other boys' level, giving him an endearing look from a pair of pleading eyes. "I'll buy!"

    The boy sighed, knowing that he wasn't going to get out of this situation. "Alright. Let's be quick okay?"

    Some trendy music beat down from unseen speakers as the quartet made their way around the athletics apparel store. It had marbled floors and dark carpet with a sterile white lighting that reflected off the gray walls.

    The layout was very typical of a usual store that tailored to the athletes and enthusiasts who followed them in a less-than-obligated manner.

    Its back was an entire section dedicated to footwear, featuring hiking boots for those wanting to trudge Haleakala Point or Mauna Wela to the casual urban kicks with a rainbow of bright cheery colors in abstract patterns that turned heads.

    Some of it was way out of Sun's price range and apparently the better the shoe meant a higher asking price.

    One particular section had Elio all in awe however. He rifled through the display racks and shelves all devoted into finding that one perfect shirt. It had been so fixated through his mind that he failed to notice his three friends crossing their arms and smirking knowingly at him.

    "I had no idea he loved shopping for fashion." Leilani said, unable to hide her own surprise.

    "Well you talk about fashion like dresses and casual clothes? Nah…his mother does all that for him." He gestured to the basketball and trainer apparel. "This however…another story."

    "You guys are going to help me?" Elio half asked, half snapped. "Seriously, I can't decide here."

    They were in the section dominated by the dark sign close to the ceiling with the logo. It spelled Maple Apparel Outfitters in formatted arcs of what looked like electrical energy. The first word was in a dark ruby red color, middle in a bright white and finally the last word was a deep sapphire.

    In the sign's center and behind the text was a faint image of a Pokémon. It was humanoid in appearance with more along a female's figure. Her hands were slightly apart with the energy lances conducting in between to "formulate" the brand's logo.

    "Heh," Hau put his arms behind his head. "I kinda forgot that Elio is a big fan of Brendan Maple."

    "Elio follows Brendan too?!" Leilani practically squealed. "Oh my goodness he and May are soooo cute together! I can't believe they're getting married!"

    "Aaaand there she goes." Ed grinned. "You girls and your weddings!"

    "What? It's going to be sooo romantic! They just announced the wedding site and all!" The surfer took out her phone, tapping on it furiously and then turning it around to her companions.

    Ed and Hau peered at the article, depicting it as a beautiful site in the island city of Mossdeep overlooking the ocean. They stared at the couple overlooking the section while meeting with a minister and going through the ceremony in a rehearsal.

    Hoenn League Champion Brendan Maple was a young man in his early twenties with short messy brown hair and determined gray eyes. He had a very strong athletic build that was quite visible underneath the flamboyant band T-shirt and shorts he was wearing.

    Beside him, May was just slightly shorter with nearly an identical shade of brown hair. Unlike that of her fiancée; hers was straight and neatly tended to, flowing down just below her shoulders to meet the blouse.

    "I do have to admit they're an attractive couple." Ed said as he handed the phone back to her.

    "I know!" She looked at the image again. "Huh…are May's hips…a little bigger?"

    "Gotta love those hips."

    Okay, you need to decide man. Elio thought to himself. They're both so good! But I can only afford one! Why in the world does this stuff have to be so much?!

    He was holding two shirts, one in each hand that he equally liked, but was only able to buy one of them. Each one was his large size; made with a blend of cottonee and polyester thread and had the signature "vent" design on the back starting from the collar at the upper shoulders and circling underneath around the armpit to his front. The supposedly radical design called "Vent-TEK" made Sun roll his eyes, but it was effective for sure. That section was covered in mesh, allowing heat buildup in the underarm area to escape from within, keeping the wearer cool in both ways. The purpose was also to minimize odorous sweat from building up.

    The shirt on his left was colored blue with bold white letters "MOST FEARED"

    The shirt on his right was colored green with bold white letters "BECOME LEGEND"

    Both little quips were typical among the athletic wear of Maple Apparel Outfitters. Their message was to go out and achieve your goals and let nothing or nobody stand in your way. In one of Brendan's interviews after he had become the champion of the Hoenn League, he had stated that one of his aspirations was to help influence others to attaining their own goals as well. Seeing how younger trainers in Hoenn began to copy much from him including his fashion sense and hairstyle, he and May decided to partner up with a clothing brand and launch their own line tailored especially to trainers, performers and coordinators.

    Do I buy both and break the bank?

    There was another area to the Maple section across the aisle from all the men's trainer gear. Since Brendan focused on battling and becoming the world's strongest trainer, his fiancée May was taking a different approach, even though there were similar athletic shirts and shorts in a section for women as well.

    They were just like a supercouple, adored by fans, well known in the high profile area and news of their eventual matrimony was just as big of a news as them stopping the rampant entities of the land and sea just a couple of years ago.

    May's section of their brand included many fancily designed dresses with the signature line mimicking Brendan's star Pokémon, a gardevoir. Each one was slightly different in design but mainly featuring a pure silky white skirt with glittering gems neatly sewn into its surface. Some had reflective materials that changed color slightly depending on the light they were cast in and others had radically contrasting shades. The latter were off to the side in an entire area that had the dresses specifically for Pokémon performers and coordinators.

    "Wow." Leilani whispered and ran her hand along the smooth surface of one of the dresses. "They're so beautiful."

    "I know right?" Hau agreed, giving it a good look. It was a pure white color, strapless going down mid-thighs and flaring just slightly before the edge. He glanced up at the price tag and nearly had his eyes popping out of his head.

    Holy-! It's THAT much? I'm so glad I don't have to pay that for my clothes!

    Leilani's eyes went up to a picture board of May with the famous Grand Coordinator swiftly pointing at something out of camerashot and her fierce, but elegant bipedal fire Pokémon was in the midst of creating a dazzling inferno display. There was a similar shot of Brendan on the men's side but instead he was commanding a large greenish lizard Pokémon as it charged up a glowing blade on the side of its arm. "Use charm and style to steal the spotlight both in yourself and your Pokémon." She glanced back at the others. "This one will make me feel like a princess."

    Then I'm getting that. Screw the price.

    "Bro, we gotta get going like you said. You wanna come back to this Brendan shrine and do your daily bowing to him later?"

    Elio had decided on the Legend shirt and stared back at his friend. "What?! No! I do not worship him!"

    "You basically do. You just told me from memory of the ten best battles he's ever fought."

    "Okay…maybe I am a bit of a fanboy."

    "I'm still yanking your chain," Ed jerked his thumb across the aisle where Hau watched Leilani walk towards the front of the store and he had scooped up one of the white dresses the moment her attention went elsewhere. "And I think your pal Hau has a crush on your surfer friend."

    Hau likes her too?!

    Elio's hand began to curl itself into a fist.

    No. I'll get her one myself and give it to her first.

    He walked over to the gardevoir dress section.

    "Elio, what are you doing?"

    "I gotta do it before it's too late." He scanned the row of different designs. Which one would she even like?

    Sun decided on one that had a slightly longer skirt in a bodycon fashion. There was a thinner section right on the mid-stomach that was a mesh insert see-through with a glittering sapphire that hung from the lower cut neck. He had no doubt that she would look absolutely stunning in it.

    Get me a nice suit and we can go to a festival or dance together.

    Ed shook his head in disbelief as Elio made another last minute decision, grabbing the other athletic T-shirt and did a beeline for the closest checkout counter.

    Oh shoot. Do I have enough money?

    "That's life for ya." Ed couldn't stop laughing to himself as they walked behind an excited Leilani and Hau back towards the Royal Dome. The evening had settled in and after grabbing something to hold them over for food, made their way in that direction. Elio hadn't checked the price tag and nearly got lightheaded when the beauty cashier called out his total.

    This thing was almost a fifth of my savings. Goodbye Mom's pocket money.

    Even worse, she had gotten the idea that he and the boy before him were buying the dresses to impress the girl that accompanied them. Much to his dismay, she had opinionated that the first boy's dress would look better on the girl.

    "So who would you think this would look good on?"

    "Oh besides myself?" She had laughed lightly. "Heh, I'd say a blonde. It's hard to mess up finding a dress for one of them."

    Those words were unprocessed by Elio as he snagged the bag from her outstretched hand and bolted out the door. He did not notice the ravishing smirk growing on Ed's face as he followed.

    "You'll have to excuse my friend here." He chuckled as they made their way out the door. "I think he lost all his mannerisms while he was still in the womb."

    "I wish you would have warned me about it." Elio grumbled when they began to step up the flight of stairs that led back up to the dome. The surrounding crowds were a much different one in addition to the mix of tourists. Many wore different jerseys or fangear indicating the team they followed or favorite players. Others were coaches, officials and analysts in fancy dark suits. Seeing them made Elio realize that this was the first time he had actually seen people dress for business in Alola.

    It's kind of strange seeing all of them for the first time. People around here don't dress like that out in the open and those that do get all these funny looks.

    Hau and Leilani stood back just as Elio and Ed were about to enter. Sun noticed they weren't following and turned around.

    "You guys coming?"

    The latter shook her head. "Sorry. I gotta head over to Mauna Wela since Hau is going to try his trial tonight. My father helps out captain Kiawe and I'd also like to be there when he passes."

    "Yeah sorry bro." Hau stuck his pinkie and thumb out in a "hang loose" sign. "This is my perfect opportunity to get ahead of you." The lopsided smirk told him that it was more ways than just the island challenge.

    Elio turned to Ed, "See what you've roped me into? Now I'm going to be behind."

    "Hey, you didn't have to be my partner."

    "You asked!"

    "And you didn't have to say yes!"

    Can't back out now, but if Hau's going to be with Leilani, then he's going to give her that dress…maybe they'll go on a date and I'd lose my chance.

    Before he could act on anything; Leilani stepped forward with an eager smile.

    "Oh don't worry you two! I'll still be cheering for you both! Ed, I have no doubt you'll make it to the pros and make sure Elio gives you a fight!" She turned to him. "And you! I am going to get you onto a surfboard if it kills me! You gotta learn how to surf!"

    Elio smiled back at her. "I seriously can't wait! Good luck Hau!"

    "Thanks brah." He shook Ed's hand. "It was great to meet you."

    "Likewise." The taller boy said while returning the gesture. "Alola!"

    "Alola!"

    Elio and Ed watched as the two descended hurriedly back down the stairs before taking a pathway heading east where it began another road up to the mountain just around the corner that loomed in the distance.

    "You've got some great friends. I'm glad you're settling in good to your new life here."

    "Thanks Ed."

    "Look," He shook his head apologetically. "I'm sorry about all this pestering of you and-"

    "There's no need to apologize."

    "What? I'm trying to be serious here!"

    "As am I!" Elio couldn't help bursting out in laughter at his best friend's expense. "You're still that big bully from the damn playground and you say you read me like a book!"

    "You have a funny way of being serious and not at the same time. Just let me talk here."

    Elio nodded. "Sure."

    "Look man, I didn't want to be all pushy when it came to gorg…I'm sorry, Lillie. You're absolutely right. I've known you for more than half your life by now and all of your ups and downs. I get it that moving to Alola wasn't something you wanted or planned and it looks like I was right in that you hated the place when you got here."

    Ed looked back in the direction of where Hau and Leilani had gone. Of course they were well out of sight, but Elio knew exactly where he was going.

    "Even though you've got friends like those two, I can also tell that you and Lillie both hold a very special relationship. She seemed very delicate and vulnerable. She needs someone to comfort and protect her from all the uncertainty that's happening in her world. Be that person. Be that person she can hug tightly and have that shoulder to cry on."

    "Ed." Instead of his usual aggravated defensive tone, his name was whispered in a placid one.

    "After the shit you and your mother have been through, you both deserve to be happy. And I will do everything I can to make sure that happens whether you like it or not."

    "Ed."

    "Don't you try and protest this."

    "It's not that." Elio softly said. "Ed, you…you might be right."

    He opened his mouth to reply but was abruptly cut off by an announcement saying that all draft prospects needed to report to the locker rooms within the next few minutes. Elio had found a sign up above and pointed in its direction.

    "We better get going."

    The conversation had been stowed as Elio quickly got out his Legend shirt and basketball shorts. With another brotherly handshake of back patting and fist bumping, the two basketball players started weaving through the crowds, determined not to be late.

    They playfully bumped fists again at the entrance as a good luck charm that was done many times before big games.

    "Let's go make you a superstar."

    So another part of Royal Avenue down! We've got some more to cover and then hitting the accelerator to go back towards the fire trial. Some neat surprises are along the road too, so stay tuned!

    Translations:

    • Mo'opuna - grandson
    • Hi'ona - Very impressive
    • Ho'omaikaian'a iaoe! - Congratulations to you!
    • Mauna - Mountain
    • E mākaukau - Be prepared
    • Pa'u - Skirt. Refers to the grass woven skirt commonly seen at hula dances during luaus

    Mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose. I'll see you all next time!

    Brav
     
  5. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers!
    So I survived March Madness...I'm talking about the flying standby one...I don't do that bracket stuff. And it took me one and a half days to get back home across the country from Florida. Thankfully I did slip onto a flight that got me back home late last night and I was wayyy to tired to finalize the chapter. So...sorry about missing my two week deadline. I'll do my best to meet it next time.
    Anyways, at least the basketball March Madness part helped me out a little bit concerning the Pro Day stuff, which I found a little challenging to write. Hope it came out okay since the last part was one that I've decided to split into this chapter and next to avoid compressing it into one huge update.
    Enjoy the chapter guys.


    Elio looked like he had so much fun out there playing with Ed. They way he moves when he dribbles that ball is really something and I couldn't help but laugh at the couple of times during the exhibition game where he made the other person slip and fall. He's really something. I wrote a letter to him saying that Nebby and I happened to be flipping channels when we saw him play.

    What I found interesting was that his Pokémon were on the sidelines cheering him on too! I'm so glad he had Litten evolve and saw his new friends for real. I can't wait to meet all of them.

    There's a lot of other things happening too. Hau seems to have left to go to take on the trials while everyone's been talking about kahuna Olivia and how she suspended passage through the Diglett's Tunnel since there have been these weird sound anomalies that have been recently popping up in there.

    I hope it's nothing bad. If Elio goes through...please let him be safe! I don't want anything to happen to him!

    Dear Elio,

    Nebby and I were watching TV when I couldn't believe you were in that basketball game! What a huge coincidence when we were looking around and saw both you and Ed on there! No offense, but you look kind of small, but you have surprisingly big muscles too!

    Just so you know, Nebby and I were cheering you on from the hotel. I know you can't hear us all the way in the court, but we're here supporting you all the way! I don't know all the rules of basketball, but you seem to be great at shooting the ball from far away! Every time you scored that…was it called a three point shot? Anyways, every time you did that; Nebby went crazy excited and I had to keep it from bouncing off the walls. Hehe. Even your Pokémon looked like they were having a good amount of fun too!

    But I'm sure you're wanting to get back on your trials! You've knocked down two so far! It's a long way ahead, but if anyone can do it all…it's you!

    I miss you.

    Sincerely,

    Lillie

    "Ladies and gentlemen, this has been quite an interesting matchup thus far." Lillie leaned closer as she sat on the bed in her Tide Song Hotel Room, listening to the middle aged anchors chat to the viewers and one another about the intense game going on. Nebby was cradled in her arms, watching the screen with intent. "The entirety of the Pro Day Skills Showcase has been one of the most spectacular so far kicking off in its new location here on the Alola Region's very own Akala Island! A region rich in tradition and culture unlike any other place in the world, we say mahalo for your hospitality!" The two men waved their hands in the rainbow greeting, laughing to themselves.

    "Enough about that. You've all been waiting for the final few minutes of the Rising Stars versus the Up-And-Coming where we pit the draftee players up against one another in an exhibition game to help tune them to how the FBC is going to work. For those that are playing, this could make or break their chance to don an FBC jersey and have their name called up to join the professionals in just a couple of weeks!"

    "That's right Kevin, much of the players have impressed the majority of team managers however the highlight has been on Edmund Dahm all game long! The elected team captain of the Rising Stars has pummeled the Up-And-Coming defense to a pulp with his inside rim attack and layups, which is one of his biggest fortes. Dahm leads the game in scoring with twenty two points, eight assists and six rebounds!"

    As they were discussing Dahm's skills, Lillie saw a reel of clips from earlier in the game of how aggressive Ed was in basketball. He dribbled insanely well and used his larger size against the player guarding him for an advantage. Many times, he picked the perfect opportunities to advance right to the basket and lay it up in the backboard for a quick score.

    "Dahm's big and physical ability allows him to play adequate defense and keep other small forwards at bay. This guy is a once in a generation player and it will not surprise me if teams start trading up on the board to get a better chance at his services."

    "Also interesting is Dahm's Pro Day partner. Elio Northstar."

    Lillie's heart stopped. Even Nebby's eyes went wide upon seeing Elio in his basketball uniform. The Rising Stars sported black and silver jerseys with two stars on the upper sleeves and an imprint of their last name on the back. Elio's required almost the entire space.

    "Northstar would've been invited to participate in the Pro Day Showcase had an injury not caused him to miss the majority of his final season. However it shows that he hasn't lost a step since then. This is the reason why Ed picked him! The duo compliment each other so well! Pick your poison. Elio is just one of a perfect fits for a point guard here! He can direct the players where he wants to go, sling passes through tight windows like a quarterback and his three for six three point attempts have been like daggers in the Up-And-Coming. Sadly, Elio will not be eligible for draft due to his absence and we're also getting word that he has picked up a career as a Pokémon trainer, evidenced by the team of Pokémon that is on his side."

    Lillie felt her heart flutter just slightly as one of the clips played from a different angle. Ed held the ball, dribbling it as if driving up for a layup, but then at the last second one handed passed the ball over to Elio on the court's other side, who circled to the outside semi-circle of the court.

    Another boy was jumping up in his way in an attempt to block his shot, however he had anticipated it too early. Elio hesitated, waiting for the blocker to move. He faked an outside attack, stopping suddenly and making the blocker wipe out on the floor. The entire crowd had gasped as he raised his arms and arcing the basketball in a perfect release. The shot was replayed in slow motion and her eyes drifted to the contoured muscles on his broad shoulders in mid-form that looked so...amazing. His expression was nonexistent, but she knew that he was using that same laser focus as he did whenever he was engaging in the middle of an intense Pokémon battle.

    So...perfect...Gah! No! Stop thinking about him like that!

    Even though it was just a highlight of a play happening earlier, the blonde couldn't help but bounce up and down at the end of the bed. Nebby had caught her infectious enthusiasm and it was just as happy at seeing the boy do something to excite the crowd.

    "Yes! Go Elio!"

    "Pew!"

    "There's still three minutes left in the game to determine the winner and despite efforts from Dahm and Northstar, the Rising Stars are still behind the Up-And-Coming by seven. Can they rally from the deficit to win the final event? Or will they be snuffed at the buzzer? Let's find out now!"

    Come on Elio. Lillie said to herself. I've been waiting all day to watch you since Professor Kukui said you were going to be on TV. I believe in you! Just win baby!

    Elio had to admit that this was among the most fun he had during a basketball game. His adrenaline fired through his body like thousands of electric shocks, people were all up on their feet cheering both teams on and he loved their elation when someone made a big play.

    Especially when it was him.

    Heh. I still got it.

    The team's coach normally was the head for the Jubilife Blues, having been selected among his peers in the tradition of having two FBC heads coach either side of the upcoming draftees in the game. The Blues were far from his favorite team, but he still felt very honored to briefly play for someone who was used to coaching the professionals.

    So far, the game had been a back and forth pendulum. His team, the Rising Stars had jumped to an early lead thanks to the center and Ed's efforts. However they had quickly noticed the defense had been fractured by the end of the second quarter. The first's lead of sixteen points had dropped to four by the time half struck.

    The Up-And-Coming took advantage of their lull, instead of focusing more on their own offense, cranked up the defense and forced mismatches to turn the ball over. Elio had the ball stolen from him twice and missed a crucial three point jumper that would've placed them back in the lead once the third quarter came to a close.

    The fourth quarter had a total of six lead changes thus far and the Up-And-Coming had built themselves a seven point lead. There was three minutes remaining, still plenty of basketball to be played.

    We can do this.

    Sun was breathing heavily as he dribbled the ball hurriedly back onto the court. His guard kept up with him, knowing in the back of his head that it was the point guard's intention to remain beyond the boundary line to try and cut the lead down to four.

    No matter how much Elio tried to juke him, his defender stayed rooted in front, waving his arms about in an attempt to block him. He furtively glanced about in an attempt to find people open. Many black and silver jerseys were moving about, but the guards had kept close.

    Suppose I'll shoot.

    Elio raised his arms, just as the player guarding him took the split second advantage to swipe his hand in and tip the ball's trajectory ever so slightly.

    It was just enough for it to fall down out of Elio's reach as the opposing player quickly scooped it up and began dribbling back to the other side of the court. He only watched helplessly as a particularly large center had gotten the best of Ed and raised it up for a dunk.

    The smaller boy had jumped up at the same time, tipping it almost in a same manner as Elio had done to himself a moment ago. As the crowd gasped, Ed had used its momentum to bounce it in mid-court.

    Most of the other players were already just beginning to transition to the opposing goal when Elio rolled right to his feet, intercepting the loose ball and positioning himself within three point range.

    Everyone in the bleachers stood up as he raised his arms, letting the projectile arc through the air. He held his breath as it sailed to the rim. There was no metallic clang of it deflecting off and he had already turned around when everyone was loudly cheering from the result. Down by four.

    Unbeknownst to him, there was a certain blonde and tiny Pokémon who were jumping up and down with excitement at his score.

    It went back the Stars' way. Their defense had held on the opposing possession as Elio took the ball once more. He saw a mismatch to the center; passing it forth and then receiving it back moments later. A second mismatch opened up with Ed and he tossed it forth, allowing the larger player to grab it with one hand and throw it down in a nasty dunk. Elio couldn't help but laugh and grin like a maniac when he briefly saw his friend stick his tongue out for all the cameras to capture.

    Fourteen seconds left. Once again, the Stars defense held their ground and Elio had to either make a three to win the game or a two to at least tie it.

    The Up-And-Coming kept their defense tight as usual, trying to stay within the boundary of the three point goal line in order to keep him at bay. He had to make his decision soon and knew that it was a safer option to go for two points instead of risking a three to lose the game. He was very confident in the ability, however he wasn't playing for keeps as much as his teammates.

    And I don't want to let them down.

    Elio dribbled for two seconds, moving to the left and suddenly changing directions to the right, leaving his opponent suddenly unable to keep up. He stepped aside, now seeing how it was four seconds. Another defender was approaching him, ready to block.

    Ed!

    "ED!"

    The small forward glanced up as Elio narrowly threw a pass across the court, almost in danger of getting stolen. He reached out, grabbing the ball and putting his arms up to shoot.

    And then disaster struck. The buzzer sounded a split second after the ball left his hands. It sailed through the air and everything seemed to get drowned out as the rim clanged, sending the basketball back down onto the court.

    We failed.

    "That is the ball game!" Elio tuned out the announcers. "The Up-And-Coming have barely held onto a win against the Rising Stars! Final score…Ninety two to Ninety one! Thanks for coming folks!"

    Elio felt his limbs go numb, even as the two teams met in the court's center to congratulate one another. Things started to spin in his head as he contemplated on how much he failed Ed and the rest of the team.

    We didn't win. It's my own damn fault.

    "Hey, don't be such a downer." Ed playfully slapped Elio's shoulder as the two began to throw on their casual clothes. Elio's arms were just slightly wet from the shower where he had stood in silence, wondering if his efforts had all been in vain.

    "We lost though."

    "You gotta stop worrying all about that. There's a reason that the Pro Day is more about having fun and publicity than who tops the scoreboard."

    "But I could've cost you draft stock."

    "Maybe." Ed said, "But it doesn't matter. It's for fun dude! Stop taking things so seriously!"

    Maybe Hau is right. I do take competitions a bit too much.

    That Gladion kid is a reminder of what I could be if I did do that.

    "Because then, you'd be as friendly as Hau is. If you're not having fun, you'll be as grouchy and have a stick up your ass just like that edgy Gladion kid…which is zero percent approachable. That guy has no people skills."

    "I'll tell him that next time we meet." Elio said.

    "You can say that I said that too. Shove the stick in a little further."

    Elio laughed. "Alright. All for fun then. Thanks Ed."

    "Anything for you brother."

    Elio had awoken the next morning early as usual and was joined by Ed as they jogged together a couple blocks around the town. They opted for their athlete clothes; a pair of basketball shorts and their Maple Apparel quick-drying shirts. Ed had his "DEFIANT" one that had just come out of the washer while Elio wore the one he didn't use during the Pro Day Showcase "MOST FEARED" Wanting some of his Pokémon to have some exercise, he decided to have Torracat and Rockruff tag along and they kept pace alongside their trainer on the sidewalks.

    Surprisingly, the sun was barely up and other early morning runners gave a friendly wave and "Alola!" as they passed by. Elio returned the gesture while Ed was marveling at the warmth and outgoingness of the Alolan people. They kept a slower, but steady pace to chat sparingly as they got their heart rates up and sweat beading down their foreheads.

    "Wow." He breathed as the two of them stopped at the park close to the shopping venue they had visited yesterday. "I'm just amazed at how friendly people here in Alola are."

    "Right?" Elio agreed. He reached into the fanny pack strapped around Ed's waist and removed two small bottles of water. Caps were twisted off as they gulped thirstily while catching their breath beside one of the benches.

    "I'll go ahead and say it again; you and your mother picked a fantastic place to live." He glanced around. "What I would do to get a summer home here."

    Elio's eyes lit up. "Well maybe once you've got all that money after playing for so long, you can get yourself a house on Melemele Island. I'm sure something will be within your price range and your parents would appreciate it too."

    "Yeah sure."

    "It's definitely good to consider."

    "Gonna miss here for sure. The sun, beaches, food and everything."

    Oh that's right. Sun's face fell as he realized that Ed's stay in Alola wasn't indefinite. He'll have to go back to Kanto soon.

    "When are you leaving?"

    "Oh uh." He glanced at his Poketch 2.0, the evolution of the Sinnohan designed Poketch that had taken off as a fashion trend in the last decade. "Day after tomorrow. Flight leaves in the morning."

    "Nice. Really neat that you can use the Poketch. Wish I had one."

    Introduced by the company of the same name in Jubilife City, it had quickly taken off in the northern region, able to link up with most of the modern phones to log events, read news and even take or respond to messages sent by others. Elio had listed one down in his Christmas and birthday wish lists, however he had yet to receive it as a gift.

    Trainers going on a journey in Sinnoh did have an opportunity to earn a special stripped down model called the Poketch 2.0T that was specifically tailored to them, featuring additional apps exclusive to the T such as a summary of a trainer's roster and analysis of different type matchups determining their effectiveness.

    Since their introduction and the world slowly modernizing into a digital format, the Poketch Company was integrating itself into everyday life, offering more apps and features to allow it a multitude of uses. It had grown from a simple garage company in the Jubilife suburbs to a mega-tech corporation that was headquartered in one of the tallest towers in Sinnoh's largest city.

    Elio heard that one app in the standard versions had an automatic payment app. All you had to do was flash it to the payment pad and it would automatically transfer the allotted money and complete transactions even easier than ever before.

    Ed wore the Poketch 2.0S model, the sport model that was more durable than its normal counterparts, also being able to be used at a depth of twenty five meters underwater. A pedometer showed that he had already exceeded his daily goal of fifteen thousand steps. A second monitor was keeping an eye on his heart rate, set at a hundred fifteen beats per minute, five underneath his maximum limit.

    "Well I was wondering."

    "Yes."

    "I didn't even say it yet."

    "And I already know what it's going to be." Ed bent his knees down to Elio's height and put on one of his mocking faces. "Oh Ed, I was wondering if you could travel with me as I go take on another trial to impress gorgeous for my island challenge."

    Wow. From teammate to annoying older brother in a day.

    "How about yes? I'd love to come and see a little bit of Alola for myself! And if you can conquer a trial two days from now, I'm down for it!"

    "Then it's decided." Elio bent down to ruffle Torracat and Rockruff's fur. "We'll have to head out tomorrow morning and get there by midday."

    "You have to do me a solid though."

    "Sure." He was certain he wasn't going to like it, but the thought of having his friend along for the ride to watch his next trial had him thrilled to bits.

    "You need to tell Lillie how you feel."

    Tell her?

    "Ed I can't do that."

    "Why not?"

    "What am I going to say? I really like you?"

    "Yes!"

    "But Lei-"

    "Forget about Leilani for just a moment. What if I told Lillie that you were crushing hard on Leilani and wanted to keep her as just a friend?" Ed's face turned serious. "Think about that for a second."

    Elio did just that.

    I like Lillie. I really do. But does she have enough time or worries enough about other things like Nebby to even consider me?

    "You know the dreaded term friendzoned?"

    "Yes."

    "Well it may surprise you buddy, but it's not just guys who get friendzoned. Girls can get it too."

    "I know."

    "That's exactly my point." Ed said as he finished his water. "I can see how much you really care about your surfer friend Leilani there, but don't forget Lillie too."

    "And if she says no?"

    "You're not asking her to marry you!" The basketball player spread his hands out in exasperation. "Well not yet. But the point is, that if Lillie were to find out that you wanted to ask Leilani on a date, not only would you have to compete with Hau, but she'd feel left out."

    Elio sighed. Ed was right. In all of him contemplating in the letters he had written to her, he had indicated numerous times of his intention to ask the surfer out. It also escaped his oversight in the fact that she was very encouraging and stole several glances at Hau whenever she had gotten the chance. The kahuna's grandson was not shy about letting her know he was interested too. Since he could tell that both of them harbored strong feelings towards one another, he realized that throwing himself into that mix would drive a rift through everyone.

    I want to still remain friends with all of them. Ed has a point. I could put a strain on my own friendship with Hau and Leilani as well if I decide to come in between them.

    But Ed's right again. Lillie needs me…she needs me to be this friend and someone in her corner.

    "What should I do?" Elio whispered. He felt a strange pitted feeling right in his gut just at the thought of her not being close by.

    Through the entire journey, he had forgotten all about her aside from the letters. It was different from Melemele, when he would often wonder aloud while going along the north shores of his home island about how Professor Kukui's young assistant was doing. On Akala, any thoughts of her had been rearranged to the back of his mind once he had sealed the envelope. Same with Nebby. Sun suddenly felt very regretful that he had never inquired about the little cosmog he had started to grow very attached to.

    I will fix that in my next letter. Lillie needs to know that I think about Nebby too.

    There had been so much going on. Team Skull, trials, the basketball showcase were to say the least. He would fully admit that it was difficult juggling all the priorities doing the island challenge.

    He also had to admit that he was thinking about Leilani much more than Lillie.

    Writing to Lillie to show her how much she means to me is the least I could do. Best keep that up.

    "Okay." He finally said. "I'll think of at least something."

    It was the next morning, close to nine when Elio and Ed were set for the road. Judging by the map on 'Dex's display screen, it would take them at least a couple of hours to get to the base of Mauna Wela, where the trial captain Kiawe would await his arrival.

    Elio quickly hopped in the shower before drying himself off and throwing on his black and red shorts and striped blue tee. When Ed walked out, releasing a puff of steam into the hotel room, he had shook his head at seeing the younger player's outfit.

    "You and that shirt."

    "This shirt and I have been through it all."

    "But the stripes! That's so three years ago!

    "It's sentimental to me!" Elio shot back.

    "You're gonna look odd."

    "The only way this shirt is coming off is if it gets ripped." Sun pulled on it before slinging his backpack over his shoulder. "You know it better than anyone. Plus it's cheap."

    "Don't tell me your mom still picks out your clothes for you."

    Ed opted to wear one of the Maple Apparel shirts, a white shaded one that stamped "CHALLENGE ME" in the same bold black letters across the chest. A pair of basketball shorts, a hybrid coloring of dark gray and neon yellow draped low down his legs past the knees and covering part of the shin. Only a slight bit of skin was completely exposed thanks to the long socks he was also wearing.

    Initially he was against wearing a backpack, but agreed after Elio had insisted that he need some water, food and possibly a hiking stick.

    "A stick?"

    "Yes a stick." They had neared the ramp onto the highway going on Akala's east side and Elio spotted a large building with a parking lot that seemed to be getting a lot of business, evidenced by the good amount of cars parked and moving about in the asphalt lot in front. "Technically they're called trekking poles, but they're used often to keep a hiker's balance and assist in climbing slopes. I assure you we're going to see plenty of that judging by where 'Dex is pointing at the next trial site."

    "Are those the things you see hikers use when they backpack across Kalos, staying in those hotel thingys?"

    "You mean hostels?"

    "Yes those."

    "Then yes. You're correct." Halfway around the world was the Kalos region; another area that was well known for its extensive tourism industry. One popular thing to do was to slide on a backpack with a handful of essentials and trek the nexus of rural paths cutting through the region. The hostels served as stopping points in both the city and backwater areas of the region. For a small fee, the owner of a house or apartment would allow a traveler to sleep in a bed in a dormitory style room. Most would have kitchenettes for cooking and common lounges for the duration of the stay.

    Elio had always wanted to do a short backpacking trip, possibly across Unova or Kalos and the hostel system made things easier. He knew that he could even meet new people this way.

    I've even heard people find their future spouses just because they happen to be staying in the same hostel.

    "Do whatever you need to do man." Ed said. "You're the one taking me on the adventure."

    "And the best thing you can do," Elio pointed to the store's entrance, glancing over at the sign next to the road's opening "Thrifty Megamart". "Is being properly prepared."

    Elio had been to many retail centers before. Tanaka's was one of the largest all-purpose hypermarket chains on mainland Kanto and Johto with a few locations in southern Sinnoh. There were also the HALO grocers that offered higher quality products at the turnaround of higher pricing and the Neighborhood Market which had stuck to smaller communities and put an emphasis on obtaining goods and food from localized sources.

    So he wasn't completely sure what to expect when he walked into this Thrifty Megamart. Either way, he was short on medicine and poke balls and had to compromise since a sign back at the halemai had stated that the next shipment of things for the mart inside of it was going to be delayed a couple of days.

    Sun saw other trainers that he had seen earlier from the Battle Royal and inside the Pokémon center already shopping around. They had gotten the same idea as him to get their own supplies before the next rush hit.

    "Damn." Ed whistled lowly as he looked around the white sterile floors and tall elongated aisles full of colorfully arranged products. Some vibrant upbeat music softly played from unseen speakers overhead. "You can get everything here. It's just like the Super Tanaka's."

    "Alola!" Both boys turned around to see a cheery employee dressed in what they had presumed to be the Megamart's uniform. It was a pale yellow polo shirt with long pants, belt and a bright blue apron over his front. "And welcome to the Thrifty Megamart! It's where our sales are just as explosive as our products!"

    Wait the products AND sales are explosive?

    "Here!" The employee reached into one of the pockets of his apron and handed both boys a slip of paper each. "This is a discount coupon that can be only used at our store!"

    Oh wow. Fifty percent off the entire purchase?!

    "Now shop until you drop! Or at least until you run out of savings!"

    "Thanks!"

    "Mahalo!"

    Elio laughed as soon as the two grabbed a shopping cart and pulled down one of the aisles. Ed's face was already snickering even before they had gotten out of earshot.

    "Hahaha!"

    "Oh my freaking goodness!"

    "Did you hear what he said?" Elio burst out into another fit of giggles again. "The sales are just as explosive as our products!"

    "They better lawyer up if that's true!" Ed's grin never faded. "But still, you see how dirt cheap stuff is here?"

    "I know. We best stock up."

    Even though Elio was aware of the rule bringing Pokémon into public retail, he figured that Torracat and Rockruff were mild mannered enough to suffice. Both Pokémon let out quiet cries of affection and nuzzled their trainer's leg.

    "Heh." Ed found the stifled laughs of his younger friend to be heartwarming to say the least. He couldn't help but smile as Elio knelt down in front, saying something that excited both Pokémon and ruffling their heads.

    "Now let's see what we need to get. Rotom, start a shopping list."

    "The trekking poles." Ed reminded him.

    "And that means a backpack for you."

    "What's wrong with what I have?"

    "I ain't carrying your shit."

    "Can you at least pay fo-"

    "No."

    "And that should be it." Sun dropped the traveler size tube of toothpaste on his side of the cart. One of the things he had needed to resupply on was his toiletries, hence his visit to the pharmaceutical section. Along with the tube, he also was set to buy a compact toothbrush, stick of deodorant, towelette and bottle of multipurpose hair and body wash.

    "We're back." Ed said, finally setting a rain cover over his pile of things. Aside from the backpack, he had gotten the trekking poles, a pair of longer hiking pants and a hat. He opted to use his basketball water bottle, which could fit into a strap holder on the side of the pack.

    Elio raised an eyebrow when he saw Torracat and Rockruff staring up at him beside Ed. The former had a bag of premium assorted flavor poffins in his mouth.

    "Really guys?"

    "Tor?"

    "Ruff?"

    Sun shook his head. "You guys even know how much those cost?"

    "Ruff."

    He sighed again. "Alright fine. But you will all get them when you've all worked hard. Understand?"

    His Pokémon nodded eagerly.

    "Good."

    "Hey, do you think your mother would want a photo of us at the game to add to your scrapbook?"

    Ed's inquiry had just set off a delayed time bomb in Elio's head. "Oh shoot! I totally forgot! Son of a…ugh!"

    "What? Did I trigger some PTSD or something?"

    "What? No!" He jerked his thumb back to Rotom who was trailing behind them. "Back when I started my journey with Hau and Lillie, this jokester thought it would be funny to take a surprise picture of the three of us."

    "Yup that'zz right! Bzzt!" Rotom floated in front of Ed, shifting its screen to show a rather comical picture of them right on Hau'oli City's Kalakaua Avenue with the ocean in the background.

    Elio was in the middle, with a half-angry, half-surprised expression on his face and frozen in the image as he dove forward to contain the mischievous device. Lillie to his left had her eyes and mouth open in a mix of surprised horror.

    To his right; Hau had the perfect opportunity to flash a photogenic goofy smile while the pointer and middle fingers on his left hand were extended in a "peace" sign.

    "Wowee!" Rotom spun around happily. "You zhould've heard Elio here freak out! He wazzz all like Rotom! Go and put that shiBZZT away!"

    There it was again. What's the deal with Rotom doing that?

    "Hold on," Ed leaned forward, surprised to hear the 'Dex cut out in the middle of a word by a burst of static. "Elio said what?"

    "Go and put that shiBZZT away!"

    "He acts up like this sometimes. Did it at Brooklet Hill too."

    "Strange. Anyway, I think it would be really cool to send some pictures out to your friends. Maybe one to your mother, one to Hau and Leilani since those two seem to be attached at the hip now and lastly one to gorgeous."

    Elio nodded. "That does remind me that I totally forgot to send Hau and Lillie a picture of us three. Rotom actually took a nice one."

    "Alwayz ready to zerve! Bzzt!"

    "Then let's do it." Ed pointed towards the other side of the store, where there was a large section dedicated to photo development. "Looks like you can even send it out here."

    The process didn't take long to upload it into the laminated printer, however the development time would take a while. The attendant and her Pokémon companion, a small pink and blue squid-like creature were hard at work to stock the machine up with strains of ink.

    "Bzzt! New Pokémon detected!" Rotom buzzed just after he fed a copy of the pictures into the printer. "Inkay. Revolving Pokémon. Inkay communicates with others of its kind by flashing the light patterns on its body. The rhythm of flashes is complex and can also be used to draw in its prey. Inkay is a dark and psychic type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Pretty handy little guy huh?"

    "All right." The counter girl displayed the photos, which Elio approved and seated them next to a set of envelopes. He almost flipped when he saw that the stock of them too were in short supply with only three kinds available and one of each. There was one that had a black and orange design of an angry pattern called War Paint, another was plain white and the third…Sun cringed at the third one.

    Even Ed was a little unnerved at the hot pink shade of the Amour envelope, along with the dark outline of a luvdisc on its front and the hula girl. Emanating from it somewhere was a slightly sweet pecha fragrance. Both boys found the scent disorienting.

    Just my luck.

    Elio quickly paid and practically scribbled down addresses on a paper that would copy it onto the envelope to make it seem neater. Since Hau was going to be moving about, Elio had instead used his trainer account on Festival Plaza. A delivery fearow from Alola's famous postal service would track him down at the nearest Pokémon center for the postmaster and send a notification through the app. This was done since the nomadic nature of traveling trainers made it almost impossible to nail down an exact location. Something else caught his eye and he had blitzed over, wanting to be at least a little more thoughtful to one of his friends.

    Yeah I bet she and Nebby are pretty lonely there at the hotel all the time. I'm sure they'll appreciate this.

    "Thank you sir." The girl accepted the envelopes and gasped in surprise when Elio suddenly placed down a blue box full of macadamia nuts all covered in chocolate.

    "Can you ship this along with the one going to the Tide Song Hotel?" He remembered Lillie's room number as well. "It's at room three eleven."

    "Of course sir. Do you care which?" She had glanced back up to find out that Elio had run off again. Ed had looked in the direction where he had gone, only to shake her head.

    "Sorry about that. When it comes to shopping and all, he does that all the time. I swear all his manners got lost while he was in the womb."

    "Okay." Elio shuffled through the baskets of poke balls close to the checkout lane. His cart was now stocked with various capsules of medicine and potions he would need for the journey ahead. "Nest balls? Already got some. Pass. Heal balls? Useless when you've got a full team." He saw a new kind of Poké Ball that was gray and red trim over the white surface. "Oh what's this?"

    "That'zz a timer ball! Bzzt!" Rotom piped up. "They have a better chance of capturing wild Pokémon the longer the battle! Bzzt!"

    That will definitely be useful. Sun said as he grabbed a handful and dropped them into the cart. He glanced down to see Torracat and Rockruff by his side.

    "You guys need anything else?"

    They shook their heads.

    "Good. Let's find Ed and check out."

    "Seriously, can you believe how much we spent on that?" Ed grinned as they walked along the path. After finally paying and seeing that the letters and his box of chocolate macadamias had been set to be shipped out, the two of them stopped at the curb, packing stuff away.

    Elio had to take a second glance at his receipt. It was much much lower than what he had initially suspected for the amount and quality of items that he had bought.

    Quality's questionable though. Cheaply priced stuff tends to be cheaply manufactured.

    At least the poke balls were legit. Elio knew that each one had a seal and serial number of authenticity applied to its bottom from an official manufacturer; this one coming from the Silph megacorporation based out of Saffron City in Kanto.

    Trainers were urged to only use them from officially licensed fabricators as the crudely made or substandard variants had the chance to seriously hamper the Pokémon's physical and mental health. Nevertheless, there had been those who have tried to sell off cheaply made counterfeit poke balls to naïve trainers.

    Elio just had to be careful, but at least he was in the clear for the Megamart. The Poké Ball section had a large certificate hanging at its entrance depicting the Silph Corporation as its supplier. Just about every single government in the world with a Pokémon league imposed sanctions regulating the sale of the capsules to licensed retailers. A violation by the trainer or retailer could result in serious fines and reprimanding action.

    Even the manufacturers themselves weren't safe. Quality control had to be strictly enforced and intervals for testing of quality and safety for trainer and Pokémon were random and frequent. It was still difficult to produce a copy of a Poké Ball; however counterfeiters were continuing to get craftier.

    Those timer balls would come useful for more stubborn Pokémon to catch. Elio also received a pair of white and red ones called premier balls that were supposedly more of a cosmetic. He did have to admit that they looked a lot cooler than the standard.

    "Stuff bought. Stuff sent out." Elio pulled the straps of his backpack over his shoulders and shrugged into the loops. "You good to go? We've got a bit of a hike in front of us."

    "Ed is ready for anything." He hefted his own pack and slipped on his silver designer sunglasses. "Bring it on!"

    Talk was abundant as the two friends joked and laughed together while trudging the path. The temperature now began to go from the warm morning to the steaming hot midday. Sun shining directly overhead, the two stopped in the shade of a large tree to quickly slather on a layer of sunblock to protect their skin from the rays.

    East Akala was much less urbanized than the western part. It was home to more craggy rock coastlines and long outcroppings where fishermen often sat on buckets with their rods cast in the drink. It was a particularly hot day, so he seldom saw anyone with a successful hook.

    One of them however did manage to hook a blue and pink fish Pokémon with large rear fins that looked like a butterfree. Even after congratulating him on the catch, he decided to challenge Elio to a battle after the boy said that he had Feebas.

    "New Pokémon detected!" Of course 'Dex had to have a say in prior to them starting. "Finneon. Wing fish Pokémon. Its double finned tails propel its impressive jumps out of the water. Sunlight absorbed by the pink areas of their skin will reflect during the day and glow at night, making them popular for night swims and dives. Finneon is a water type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    It was there that he learned she was more than just a splashing fish. Much of her movements were sporadic when she fought. Not every attack order of his was followed instantaneously, but she still had a strong dragon pulse attack that was telegraphed on charging miles away and slow moving, giving the more agile finneon more than enough time to dodge it.

    One however had found its mark, amazingly taking out the fish in one single blow. The fisherman remarked that it was definitely a special feebas before handing Elio some money for the winnings.

    "Good luck on your trials kid. Now I just gotta get back to Heahea in order to go back home to Konikoni City. Figures I'd blow my ferry money on some battle."

    Ferry money?

    "But zir?" Rotom buzzed, catching the man's attention again. "What about Diglett'z Tunnel? That would zave you approximately forty eight minutezzz of travel az well az twenty dollarz for a ferry fee. Bzzt!"

    "Yeah." Elio held the money back out. "Here. Use it to get home."

    The fisherman laughed, but waved a dismissive hand. "Thanks kid, but you've earned it. I'll just have to explain to the wife what's going on during my days off is all. Hopefully this ruckus in Diglett's Tunnel will die down soon enough, but if it doesn't, I'd advise you to have a strong water Pokémon at your side if you need to go through."

    Elio and Ed thanked him and they parted ways, although not before the former attempted once more to try and hand back the money for the ferry fee. He was once again allowed to keep it.

    "He waz correct though. There are zeveral reportzzz of abnormal activity in Diglett'z Tunnel! Bzzt!" Rotom brought his screen up in a live shot of an attractive reporter standing next to Kahuna Olivia in front of a large mouth of a cave. He noticed that the dark skinned woman was wearing what appeared to be a cream colored robe that covered some bare sections of her normal outfit. Bits of sound filtered through 'Dex's speakers crisply.

    "I'm here with Kahuna Olivia Rios of Akala Island who has brought us an update on the recent spikes in aggressive activity in Diglett's Tunnel." She turned to Olivia. "Miss Rios, have you or any of the Akala County Authorities gained any headway on the unrest?"

    "We're continuing our investigation now." The kahuna calmly replied. She could clearly hold her own when speaking to the media on public relations. "However the unrest of the diglett in the cave seem to be distressed by loud intense sound waves that seem to be coming from a deeper section of the cave, which we haven't been able to originate."

    "When can we expect the tunnel to be safe again for trainers and travelers to transit through?"

    "I am fully aware of the importance that the passageway has for transportation through Akala. County officials as well as a specialist team from the Aether Foundation are searching as fast as possible to find and quiet the source of the noise. That is the focal point of our investigation and we will work as fast as possible to get the tunnel ready sooner."

    The reporter turned back to the camera. "Does this put a damper on trainers going on the island challenge?" At the mention of it, Elio leaned closer, wondering if he was going to have to take the tunnel eventually. Judging by the anchor's question, he had gotten his answer.

    "Unfortunately so. Due to the severity of the situation and the pressure of the upcoming Kumu Reef Triple Crown surfing tournament, I have to suspend all travel through the tunnel until this issue is resolved. I only have a few trial-goers here on Akala at this time, although I do expect the tunnel to be back up to speed with the anomalies cleared by the time the first one is ready to go through. For those needing to challenge me for their grand trial, please contact my jewelry shop where my staff can arrange a battle meeting place and time."

    Oh great. I have to schedule it?

    "Our very own kahuna Olivia Rios with the update on the noise disturbances in Diglett's Tunnel and their plan of action. Back to you Derek."

    Rotom cut out the news feed and flew around rapidly.

    "Loud noizez going on in the tunnelz?! Oh thiz iz horrible! Bzzt!"

    "Rotom calm down." Elio reassured him. "It's probably nothing."

    "I wouldn't say that." Ed said. "It must be serious if the kahuna just halted travel through the tunnel."

    Elio countered. "You heard the fisherman right? As long as we have a strong water type with us, we should be okay."

    "Strong." Ed pointed out. "He said strong water type. Feebas is your only one and it barely got that dragon pulse off in time."

    Strong water Pokémon huh? That was certainly something I saw out of you, however inconsistent. I'm still learning more and more about you every day.

    "Then we best figure out how to make her stronger."

    They continued on towards the large mountains to the north. Haleakala Peak dominated the landscape and could be seen almost from everywhere on the island. Just below it on the southwest side was Mauna Wela, one of the most active volcanoes in the Alola region.

    "Wait a second." Ed said when they reached a sign indicating that there was one mile left to the Wela Volcano Park. "You're saying we're on top of a volcano?"

    "Bro, this entire region is a bunch of volcanoes."

    "What? You can't be serious!"

    "Maybe if you paid attention in the Geology section of Junior Science class, you'd know that this is one of those regions with volcanic hotspots."

    "So are we going to have to watch out for py…um…what were they called again?"

    "Pyroclastic flows?" Elio asked. "Did you even study for the test?"

    "I got a ninety!"

    "Yeah you did. You also asked me and Aki to help you."

    "What's wrong with that?" Ed pouted.

    "Absolutely nothing. Kahuna Hala once told me that there is no shame in asking for assistance however you may need it." He cleared his throat. "Anyway, pyroclastic flows don't happen here. They're mostly for explosive eruptions that happen in composite type volcanoes with more viscous lava. None of those are in Alola. You're fine."

    At least I hope so.

    Elio and Ed finally saw the sign indicating the entrance to Wela Volcano Park. It was backed by a pathway that was roughly ten feet wide cutting through the center of some rather sharp rocks as it sloped up the face of the mountain, curving off to the left around the bend.

    "Wela Volcano Park. Pio ka ahi a wela ma kahi!" The basketball superstar read out loud. "Do you know what this means?"

    "Sort of. Ahi means fire and wela means heat."

    "Maybe it's saying to don't get burned to death by fire."

    The two boys shared a laugh and stared up at the sun. It was now just thirty minutes past noon, having some of its strongest light beating down upon them. Their skin was slick with sweat.

    "It's probably also saying don't get heatstroke or something."

    "Just don't joke about that." Elio warned. "Alola often gets a high rate of people with heat exhaustion and heatstroke, especially to the underprepared." He looked at the long path, "We best get going. If I want to finish the trial, captain Kiawe said to get to the summit as soon as possible."

    At the base of the volcano, the vegetation was bright green with healthy colored grass. A few varieties of Pokémon inhabited within it, vanishing when the humans had gotten close.

    Rotom again was having a field day of recording some of the species.

    "Plenty of new Pokémon detected here! Bzzt!"

    "Give us the highlight reel buddy." Ed said.

    "You betcha! Bzzt!" He started out with a small biped Pokémon with a pinkish body and conelike mouth in the midst of spitting a ball of fire. "Magby. Live coal Pokémon. This Pokémon lives around volcanoes and frolick in pools of magma. They can exhale flames up to eleven hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Magby is a fire type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    The slopes gradually got steeper as they walked along. Ed now had broken out the trekking poles, using them as assists to help him along. On the contrary; Elio didn't need them. He knew that much of Alola was hills and had gotten so accustomed to climbing and descending that it was less of a bother.

    They still had to take caution due to the higher altitudes. Sun had almost gotten altitude sickness on his first time going up the hills towards where Verdant Cavern was situated on Melemele Island, so he made sure to regularly pace himself, drink plenty of water and stay within his partner's sightlines. Continuing up even further, Ed began to fall behind.

    He had fully caught up when Elio stopped at a rest stand, featuring a small plaque depicting Mauna Wela's previous violent history millions of years ago when Akala Island was no bigger than twenty miles in diameter. Another embroidered sign showed information about ke kālā pahi kaua…an extremely rare plant called the silversword that was only found on the slopes of Mauna Wela and Haleakala. Looking down the mountain, he could see several of their glittering stalks in the rocky jutting sections all along its side.

    Ed panted heavily, finding relief in both the stop's latrine and the water filter, which he used to fill his bone-dry bottle back up. Elio was nearby chatting with three almost identical women in their early twenties who were more than happy to talk to him about something.

    "Is the big baller basketball player all tired?" Sun playfully sneered and yelped in surprise when he had playfully swung one of the poles. Elio brought his own out as if countering a blow from a sword and it elicited a laugh from them before finally bumping fists and calling it a truce.

    Elio made introductions when his friend walked up beside him, leaning on his poles in exhaustion. The three girls looked amused at their spectacle and were known all as the Seismic Sisters. They were three girls in their mid twenties who were aiming to one day climb all of the tallest mountains in the entire world. Newest goal was Mount Silver on the Kanto-Johto border. It was known to be one of the most notorious peaks to summit due to its unforgiving weather conditions and dangerous pathways up.

    Mauna Wela was a mere fraction of its height and just a practice run to break into how the first trek was going to be.

    The Seismic Sisters reassured the boys that the trial site wasn't that much further, however even the less intense areas were still going to be a challenging climb.

    "I hope you brought some sturdy shoes." One of them said.

    "Because there can be some sharp rocks up there." Another added. "And you seem to be a trial-goer. Make sure you've got some rock, ground or water Pokémon on your team!"

    "I've already cut my ankles when I was younger while climbing." The third chimed in. "Just watch your step, be careful and have fun! Once you get to the top of Haleakala Peak, the view is totally worth it!"

    "I hope so." Ed grumbled, still leaning on his poles for support.

    "Then we wish you the best!" The center sister quipped as they turned to head back down the trail. "Alola!"

    "Alola!" The boys waved back and sat down to catch their breath again. Even though they were still a ways from the top, Elio was already finding it a tad harder to breathe. The air up here was already thinner.

    "Pretty neat huh? I've heard an author hopes to do this for fun."

    "Author? Don't they write books?"

    "Yeah. But one I recall enjoyed writing and backpacking. He even went up some mountains which gave him inspiration for a book."

    "What was his name?"

    Elio stopped short. Yeah what WAS his name?

    "To be honest I don't know. But his books were pretty good."

    "New Pokémon detected!" Rotom interrupted, pointing towards a couple of small gray and orange birds that were perched on the side of the sign, eyeing the two humans curiously. "Fletchling. Tiny robin Pokémon. This bird is mellow and amiable, perfect for beginner trainers. It has a fierce disposition when battling and its body temperature can double whenever it's excited or agitated. Fletchling's warm body also makes it ideal for trainers to snuggle with in cold weather areas. Fletchling is a normal and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Oh so that's why those heated pillows are called Fletchlings.

    Ed was about to stand up and indicate that he was ready once more when Elio, put a hand on his shoulder. He was staring out at something else in the distance.

    "Look." He whispered.

    The basketball player followed his gaze and spotted a large brown creature moving. It was bigger than any other Pokémon within the vicinity and possibly towering over both humans as well.

    "Another new Pokémon? Yay me! Bzzt! Kangaskhan. Parent Pokémon. A kangaskhan vigilantly watches over its child even if it appears to be playing alone. It has zero forgiveness and tolerance if it feels as if its offspring is endangered, hurling ferocious punches and blows from its hammerlike arms. Kangaskhan is a normal type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Kangaskhan were pretty rare anywhere they could be found in the world. They had both been a ways up on the mountainside, but they still kept their distance from it. No intention crossed both of their minds to evoke the wrath of a protective parent.

    The final stretch was in sight. Rockruff moved along happily in front of his trainer since he seemed to be brimming with enough energy to last days. He sniffed the ground as if his life depended on it as Elio and Ed walked just behind with the former trying to put together a game plan. Right now, it was as if getting to the site itself was a trial of its own.

    Elio had the rest of his team save Feebas out in a semi-circle while sitting on a rock. He had ruled Charjabug as someone who was going to be effective and had decided to use her when he needed it the most. She was more focused on avoiding Rufflet than listening to his plan. The tiny bird had still been confused on why that one Pokémon was trying its hardest to avoid him.

    Rockruff was going to be a main offensive weapon since he had rock-type attacks that could prove useful against fire. As for the rest; he'd have to place them when the time came right.

    And the ironic thing is that as soon as the trial and totem battle…there is one I assume happens…this plan is going to hell anyways.

    "Rockruff." Elio snapped his fingers, bringing the puppy out of his thoughts. He had started gnawing on a fine bone that landed a little ways from them. "Give it back."

    He glanced over to see a trio of small biped Pokémon waving their arms about. Two of them were holding identical bones in their hands.

    "Ruff."

    "Good." Elio stood up with the third one's and tossed it back. Next to him, Ed gawked as the tiny Pokémon jumped up an impressive height to one handed catch the thrown object. He heard a cheer come from the trio as they waved and disappeared somewhere into a hole in the mountainside.

    "Wow. Talk about all wide receiver right there. You still got them quarterbacking skills."

    "Point guard too."

    "And that catalogues a new Pokémon!" Rotom added. "Cubone. Lonely Pokémon. It is widely believed that it will eventually evolve when it comes to terms with the death of its mother. Cubone wildly swings its bone in a futile attempt at its natural mandibuzz enemy. Cubone is a ground type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    For Pokémon that seem so sad all the time. They looked to be having a lot of fun. Can't really spend all this time weeping. I know this firsthand.

    Trial captain Kiawe Iokua grunted as he held the final pose in the center of the ground. The long stick in his hands resembled a slightly shorter kun staff with small oiled wicks at either end.

    Practice during his spare time had been crucial to honing his abilities when not conducting trials or on his part-time job. The loosely organized Alola league had paid well and augmented with his position as a head stocker at the Thrifty Megamart earned him a good nest of money. However the two had split his duties and he had felt that preserving tradition was more important than keeping the store's shelves faced and full of product. All of his allotted vacation time had been used and he still had at least a couple more years to go.

    Things are looking good. He smiled to himself before launching another series of poses, all under the watchful eye of a middle aged man with tanned skin and dark hair that was tied up in a bun. He wore a simple T-shirt with a ceremonial hook in a necklace atop his chest.

    "And I am sure that Ecruteak State University will be more than happy to accept you on the Alola League's behalf Kiawe." The man's scowl was replaced by a flicker of a smile. "No doubt you have proven this to be a true preservation to Alola's traditions. In the face of modernization, I hope this can be a view into the past on what makes our people and this region unlike any other place in the world. And another reason why I believe that your trial is among the best in Alola. Even my daughter had some difficulty surpassing it."

    "As do I. And she made defeating the totem look simple if you ask me." Kiawe held the pose again and resumed moving once the older man gave a nod of approval. "We must always remember who we are as a people. And that is why I do wish to study at Ecruteak State in Johto for the history of dance and how it can tell stores in the past, present and future."

    Before either could go on, one of the uniformed trial guides had entered the ring. With three points of entry around the outer rim, it was flanked by large posts of lights and rows of bleachers that remained empty. If the guide brought the news he was expecting, then perhaps they would be full of spectators.

    It's always interesting and enriching for locals and visitors to see what going on the island challenge is truly like. I'm definitely glad that this trial is open to the public and broadcasted.

    "Captain Iokua." The guide gave a curt bow of his head to both men. "We have a trial goer. He seems to have heeded your advice and arrived as early as possible from Pa'ani."

    "Excellent." Kiawe's lip curled upwards. "Bring him in."

    Elio and Ed were led by a guide past the ornate gates of the final slope to the peak of Mauna Wela. Beside them was Haleakala Peak towering another five thousand feet to the northeast. Normally its top was invisible due to the lower hanging clouds, but today it was nothing but blue skies and blistering heat courtesy of his namesake continuing to shine down on the land.

    He saw that it was a massive ring of sorts, with bleachers facing every direction and tall posts which seemed to house both spotlights and torches that were unlit.

    Kiawe was the familiar face to both of them and he gave a nod as they began to enter. Beside him was another middle aged man that was dressed very simply and a pair of trial guides that happened to be on duty.

    "Kūlia!"

    The bark came from the older man, whose face contorted into confusion. It was stark and had a commanding edge to it that froze both teens in their tracks.

    "What are you two doing here? These are sacred grounds." A thought had put itself into his head. "Are you here for the trial?" When he received nods, he went on. "It will not occur until possibly this evening. Please leave and return when we permit haoles to enter."

    "I don't fancy a long hike back down after getting nothing." Ed quietly remarked.

    His snark hadn't gone unnoticed. "Then perhaps you should have thought about not trespassing while you made your way up."

    "Makoa!" Kiawe snapped irritably. "Ua lawa!"

    Elio's knees felt weak. So I can't even take the trial because I'm a haole? Thanks Professor Kukui.

    "I'm here not to watch the trial." He said, taking just a moment to gather some courage left inside him to speak. Even though his stature didn't have it, the man named Makoa was quite intimidating. "I'm here to take it."

    "That cannot happen." Makoa shook his head. "Only kama'aina and those who have the blessings of the tapu are allowed to go on the island challenge."

    "All the more why he should." Kiawe cut him off. "I overheard at the Royal Dome about how kahuna Hala called you Tapu Koko's waeia kekahi. Is that correct?"

    Elio nodded. "People have been calling me that since I got here. Whatever that means."

    "It means chosen one. The land spirits of Alola are capricious by nature and we must honor and respect their actions. Tapu Koko has clearly seen something in you that is truly special Elio."

    Makoa's scowl didn't fade, but he gave an agreeing nod.

    "I see that you've made an impression on old Hala. And I now change my stance. Disagreeing on you undertaking the trial would be to protest the tapu's actions directly…and I have no intention to displease our gods and goddesses." He walked towards them, taking advantage of his taller frame towering over Elio's. Sun estimated him to be close to six and a half feet tall…much more than Kiawe…who skirted just above six.

    Don't recoil. Whatever you do…don't show any sign of fear. This is a test.

    "However, just because you have been saved by Tapu Koko does not mean that you will receive any special treatment. This trial will test the might of your physical strength, mental strength and how well you can battle alongside your own Pokémon in the face of adversity."

    Kiawe gently took the back of Elio's head in one of his hands and gently pressed their foreheads together to exchange honi.

    "E mālama ka tapu mai ka lani mai. A alakaʻi iāʻoe i loko o ka hoʻokolokoloʻaneʻane e kokokeʻoe e piʻi."

    Makoa stepped back, but the permanent scowl he had previously plastered on his face started to disappear.

    "And perhaps you can prove to a member of the Ka mālama that you are more than just a tourist haole and truly kama'aina. My own daughter is a trainer that is on her own journey and she has taught me time and time again that it is wrongful to establish prejudice in the way I do. And I like to be proven wrong."

    "I won't let you down sir." Elio said.

    "Best of luck Elio." Ed encouraged. The two bumped fists and the latter managed to get Makoa's permission to sit on the sidelines to watch.

    Kiawe nodded, accepting two smaller sticks from another one of the trial guides. He held them switchblade style before bringing the ends of them together. A twist of the hand and it locked into place as an identical staff that he was using just a couple of minutes before.

    The heat of the sun was relentless as he walked and handed over the staff to Elio.

    "Very well. Let's begin."

    Next up is the fire trial! As you can tell, I will be making it MUCH different that what it was in the game. I felt that it was very underwhelming and could've been so much more. I'm excited to show it to you all!

    Translations:

    • Pio ka ahi a wela ma kahi! - Fire burns bright and hot here!
    • Wela - Heat
    • Ahi - Fire
    • Mauna - Mountain
    • Ke kālā pahi kaua - Silversword. This is an extremely rare plant that can only be found at Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. It is a protected species, listed as vulnerable in conservation status.
    • Kūlia! - Stop!
    • Ua lawa! - That is enough!
    • Haole - Haole literally means "no breath" in pidgin. Native Hawaiians use the term in a derogatory manner towards people not native to the islands (mainly towards those of Caucasian descent) It is a similar racial slur to gringo which is used in some Latin American countries, geared towards Caucasian Americans.
    • Ka mālama - The Keeper. This refers to a group of individuals who work with the island kahuna to preserve and uphold the traditions of Alola. A similar practice exists in Hawaii.
    • Kama'aina - Refers to a native resident regardless of race of ethnicity. Anyone born in Hawaii/Alola is considered kama'aina and on occasion given to foreigners who have lived there for a long time or done something heroic to be deemed in that manner. To be considered kama'aina is a very special honor.
    • Waeia kekahi - Chosen one
    • E mālama ka tapu mai ka lani mai. A alakaʻi iāʻoe i loko o ka hoʻokolokoloʻaneʻane e kokokeʻoe e piʻi. - May the tapu watch over from the heavens and guide you through the trial you are about to surmount.

    As always, big thanks for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.

    Brav
     
  6. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers again! Brav here for the update!

    This chapter is a tad bit shorter than my normal 10k, but it's still action packed and I personally had a lot of fun writing this one.

    A lot of this will delve into Alolan mythology, which is loosely based off real-life Hawaiian mythology. While some of it was pretty heartwarming and epic similar to others, there are a lot of darker stuff involved and parts of this chapter will briefly tap into that all with a twist to immerse it into the Pokémon world. I will explain much of it at the chapter's end.

    Enjoy everyone.


    I don't remember much about the fire-type trial other than the fact that it's quite different from the others. Professor Kukui said that Hau had easily won which is really good! Now it's Elio's turn.

    I was by the TV all day again. By now, I've basically seen the entire first and second season of Five-0 and while Nebby enjoys watching all of these not-by-the-book cops break the rules every episode, it came as a breath of fresh air when I got to see Elio and Ed in the basketball showcase.

    Now it was time for the trial. I wasn't able to catch Hau's, but I saw Elio's.

    Lots of it seemed to go around some sort of story. I've read in a book that Alolans tell stories through dance and it's definitely…interesting.

    You know how I said when it was strange Kukui walked around half naked? Yeah…there's that too. But wow, I couldn't believe Elio has that good of a physique! Had he not been a trainer, all he would need maybe is to clean up his long haircut and he could be a model for a fashion brand or something.

    Dear Lillie,

    I'm at the top of Mauna Wela right now! It is a dormant volcano, but there are active lava floes in the caldera that really provide this cool reddish lighting!

    So Kiawe's trial is a little different than Ilima's and Lana's. Those ones you had to battle smaller Pokémon in order to battle the totem. This one…you have to do both that and appease it.

    And that means you have to dance for it. With everyone watching.

    The trial actually starts before the night and it's a long day of practice right under the sun. When you're several thousand feet closer, it gets hotter for sure! Good thing that there's water around!

    The trial is also overseen by this guy named Makoa. He's supposedly Ka Malama, which means that he is one of the people who is charged to preserve the customs and traditions of Alola. He's also the kind of person who thinks that only the natives should be going on the island challenge. Needless to say, I'm not his favorite trainer.

    Time to prove to him that a haole can do this!

    I also am sending you something you might enjoy. I think Nebby will like it too. I miss you by the way. Been thinking about you a lot recently.

    Sincerely,

    Elio

    The fire staff was a long lightweight pole that was up to his elbow in length with each end covered in a clump of wicking material that had an odd smell. Elio found that it moved with incredible swiftness as if it were made of fine paper.

    Kiawe had explained the trial out to him in the center of the ring and under Makoa's hawkish eyes. The totem Pokémon resided somewhere nearby and the captain's description of it was one that was difficult to impress. In order to grasp its attention for a rightful battle, he had to conduct a specific dance that involved using the fire staff and a choreographed performance that would have to awe more than just the captain or the totem itself.

    "You see this?" Kiawe pointed around in a panorama to the empty bleachers surrounding the small ring in three distinctive sections. "You will be undergoing the trial under the spectators' eye. This trial is the only one available to the public and one of Akala Island's most popular attractions. For those wanting to see an enjoyable show, it is also broadcasted around Alola. Triumphing through this will begin to put you in the spotlight as a talented trainer undergoing the island challenge and stronger opponents will take note."

    No pressure.

    "The trial is simple. You will perform the dance here in this ring and once it is complete, you shall hear the totem Pokémon. If it deems you worthy enough, then the battle will commence. Defeat the totem Pokémon tonight to complete the trial!" He lowered the staff. "Any questions?"

    "So I just have to complete the dance you show me in order to," Sun wiggled his two fingers as quotations, "Impress it?"

    "That is correct. For showing purposes, the dance is also used to tell mo'olelo and one of the longstanding ones about Alolan history. You will play one character and the totem will play another."

    "If you manage to impress it." Makoa let out a barely concealed huff of annoyance.

    Kiawe sighed. "I do have to apologize for Makoa's behavior. He is very…strong willed and believes that many of Alola's traditions should only be told and passed down by Alolans."

    "Basically not me."

    "Yes. However I do not share the same narrow-mindedness of him. I believe that Alolans should be warm and welcoming to outsiders and visitors, provided that they give our tapu and ka moʻomeheu (way of life) the respect it deserves. We would do the same to the likes of you should we travel and visit your homeland."

    They started out with the basic stance. Elio noticed previously that the staff could be twisted to release a locking pin in its center and allow it to split into two. The time had been mid-afternoon and the sun's oppressive heat continued to bake the mountainside. He was feeling it for sure, as beads of it continued to drip down his arms and legs. His back had already perspired enough to soak his shirt and he whipped it off, welcoming the brief rush of cool air. Now only in a pair of basketball shorts and shoes, he continued as Kiawe took him through a series of stretching drills, limbering and poses to hold.

    Elio found it already tough enough. Even as they began moving to the opening stages of the dance, he found himself already panting for air. Oxygen was thinner ten thousand feet up from sea level and several times he had to tell Kiawe to stop for him to take a breather. As an athlete himself, he had been trained by coaches and his peers to push and test his own limits. Some of the workouts he and Ed had done before were the epitome of being ground right into dust.

    Yet the multiple factors here, holding strenuous poses in sweltering heat when the sun was among his strongest…with thinner oxygen levels. Doing the task closer down in altitude would be trivial, but he had a feeling that this one would test his limits to another level.

    Thankfully the captain was more than willing. Makoa had sat on the side, saying nothing but still Elio could feel his judgmental eyes boring into his back like a drill.

    This has got to be one of the more intensive workouts I've done. I know I'm relatively fit for my age. What about others who are not so?

    "You may ask questions." Kiawe said, breaking the silence after Elio had sat back down to take a swig of water. He had set his pack in the shade of one of the bleachers to keep it from getting hot. "I am sure you have them."

    Sun looked him over. Kiawe was breathing calmly in and out and barely looked tired. Sweat did shine on his dark complexion, running down his smoother chest. Elio easily knew that his well-defined core would be more than enough to have throngs of girls running up in admiration.

    He glanced down at his own bare chest in self-consciousness. Like him, he preferred to stay in decent shape with his working out and trying to limit the addicting sedentary activities. But he also liked to eat copious amounts of food; some that was definitely tasty, but had little to no nutrition.

    "Captain."

    "And I prefer to be called Kiawe." A smile graced his face. "Captain is a little too formal for my tastes."

    "Kiawe." Elio corrected himself and went forward to ask, already knowing the answer. "Why aren't you tired? Not to brag or anything, but I'm a basketball player and can do something like this easily without wearing down."

    "That is because we are on the peak of Haleakala." The answer came from Makoa as he stood up and strode forward in front of the two posing men. "Being a member of Ka Malama is more than just keeping the light of our ancestors alive. We must be the embodiment of Alola itself through our physical, mental and emotional abilities. The peak of Haleakala is but one place where the finest warriors trained for battle against the other kahunas and their clan."

    "Warriors?"

    Makoa nodded. "Alola was not always all peaceful and serene. The tapu were not always with us in times of need. Hundreds of years ago, our people began to grow distant from one another and without the guardians of the islands to keep peace; Alola soon fell into conflict."

    "Clan warlords soon overruled the islands of Alola with iron fists." Kiawe said. "They fell into conflict over everything from food, territory and water rights. There was even a war between two of the largest clans here on Akala Island because the daughter was betrothed to the son of a kahuna and refused. This would've united the two clans together had it succeeded."

    "So Alola was once a warzone." Elio surmised. He followed Kiawe's next move by sliding his feet on the ground and crouching low in the newly taught basic stance. It had his knees slightly bent with his left hand outstretched in front and the staff clutched in his right, almost as if he was holding it like a hanbo staff.

    "That is correct. Alola did not have as peaceful of a history as many would think." Makoa said. "There were such things as human and Pokémon sacrifices, many of them in thanks for their gifts they bestowed upon us."

    Elio felt the blood drain from his face.

    Kiawe laughed lightly. "It is nothing to be afraid of. We are not savages. I can't say the same if it were three hundred years ago however."

    "Why me though?"

    "A haole." Makoa answered. "Haoles who ventured to the islands during the times of war would find themselves captured and held against their will. Disobedient ones or those that didn't have a use were used for said sacrifices to the tapu. On occasion, they could eventually buy their freedom and live amongst the people by working directly for the kahunas themselves. The spot where you stand now is one such place where warriors trained and where kahunas would come to commune to the tapu."

    Hold on a sec. "Is that why you want me to prove myself as more than just a haole?"

    He actually got a rare smile from the older man. "Yes that is correct. I may be a man who believes that outsiders should not participate in sacred Alolan customs, but it is also part of us as a people to welcome them should they prove themselves worthy."

    "This is a kapu kawahi." Kiawe added. "That's Alolan for sacred place."

    Kind of flawed since this is where visitors come to see a trial.

    Elio shifted his stance, mirroring Kiawe again. "I do not mean any disrespect to your culture or customs in any way. But if you are all closely guarding this place by saying its forbidden for myself to go on the island challenge, then why open this trial for everybody to see?"

    Makoa sighed. "I can't say for sure. Even though Alola is a popular destination for outsiders to visit, we are still relatively isolated from the rest of the world. I suppose you could say that we show others on our culture to help define to them who we are. Much of the reason why we have opened up to others is the first monarch of Alola, King Kamehameha. He had ended the multitude of feuds thanks to the blessing of the tapus and united the islands of Alola as one which continues to this day."

    "Is he from Akala Island?"

    "Why yes." Kiawe said. Elio could also see that Makoa had been taken aback by his inquiry and impressed. "Perhaps you saw that the main airport here on Akala is named after him."

    They finished the limbering practice and Kiawe had Ed come and assist him in carrying out a large drum that had a rich brown oak lining. Unlike the modern drum instruments he had seen in bands; this one had a conical base that opened outward to its main body. Ornate carvings were all along the wood and Elio could tell that hours upon hours had been spent carefully crafting it.

    I don't have the time or patience to do something that good.

    Kiawe set a beat with one of the wands, finally going onto the dance itself and leading Elio through the steps. He noted while following that the movements they did were very fluid and connective. His breath was running short even now, but it had been longer in duration from the last time he needed a break.

    Makoa did sense his fatigue however. "Do you need to take a breather?"

    Sun panted and wiped some more sweat off his brow, but he shook his head.

    I'm not going to show weakness in front of you.

    "I say we do. You will prove nothing by wearing yourself out."

    "Yes sir. It's just a good sweat."

    Kiawe showed him the next steps; crouching low before waving the staff about in front of him. "Perhaps. But the purpose of learning the dance is not to break or destroy you, despite what you may think. But a trainer cannot rely on their Pokémon to carry the entire burden of a load. While they may train them to their limits, it is also imperative that the trainer themselves be in the best possible position to face the challenges ahead. You may remember the saying of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger yes?" When he got a nod from Elio, he continued. "That is true. The remainder of the island challenge from here definitely has people putting emphasis on challenge. So as a result, it is our duty as trial captains, kahunas and Ka Malama to test young boys and girls to their limits so that they can be recognized as men and women."

    "I want you to fall." Makoa spoke as he circled the trial-goer. Elio did his best not to follow his gaze and memorize the steps of the dance that Kiawe had reset. "It is every objective of the trials and grand trials. You will eventually fall. A true Alolan on the island challenge will stand up again."

    So this is a test of persistence. I now see why we have a lot of flunkies in Team Skull. They didn't stop the island challenge because it was too difficult. They were the ones that stayed down when they were knocked.

    Surprisingly, the remainder of the dance had been simple. Kiawe took him through it again, twice, three times and even a fourth.

    "I want you to be comfortable doing it. Next time it will be in front of hundreds of people…and thousands more watching."

    "I'm confident enough." Elio answered. "I'm ready for the trial."

    "Very well."

    Night had fallen with the evening clouds rolling away to reveal a myriad of twinkling stars and bright moon hanging overhead in the sky watching over everything.

    Torches were lit at the base of the arena in a full circle and the air was full of excited chatter as many sightseers and locals alike were filing in for an evening show.

    The fire trial was only one on the island challenge that could be openly attended by the public. On occasion, if they happened to be in the area when a trial was being conducted, they were free to watch. Others were done behind closed doors and out of the public's eye.

    While it was free to attend, many of the tourists and sightseers opted to pay a small fee of the bus to take the road side of the mountain that was accessible from Heahea City. It was a long thirty minute drive that offered scenic passes as it wound up higher and higher in a meandering path that would drop them off just a little ways from the ring. The dirt road continued higher, most likely for the purpose of volcanologists going to the research facility that was near the caldera.

    Ed was allowed to go "backstage" a small building that was just behind the back of the ring where Kiawe, Makoa were with Elio. Several other guides were slowly arranging everyone into seats as soon as it hit the half hour mark of when the performance was set to begin.

    The small building was one of the storage sheds that were used to keep supplies for the study facility for the volcanologists and one side specifically for the trial captain and his guides to keep supplies about. Elio saw drums, staffs, torches and many other items that they used around the ring.

    He now sat on a stool, wearing nothing except his basketball shorts. A red loincloth had been tied around his waist. Smaller grieve-like leggings were over his shin and calves, flowing down nearly to his shoes. There were similar grass linings secured around his shoulders.

    Sun had repeated the poses with the additional attire on for Kiawe and the latter had made a final adjustment by giving him a bobby pin to keep it from unraveling.

    "Best we prevent a wardrobe malfunction now."

    Then this means it's happened before.

    Makoa and another guide had him sit down once it was all in place. They approached with bowls of an inky black thick substance that they smeared on their fingertips.

    Elio felt it; a cold and uncomfortable sensation in the warm air as they drew upon his arms and back. He had to almost bite his own lip to keep his sounds of discomfort from being known by them.

    They go all out here don't they?

    "It feels like you are drawing a picture."

    "We are." Makoa said, not looking up from his work. "Every warrior trained in Alola fights for something. Whether it be for glory, honor, territory…survival…acceptance. Regardless, the markings on their bodies used to be that of inkay and octillery ink, etched as tattoos to reflect where they had come from, their heritage and their purpose. What I am putting upon you is only temporary and can be washed off in a shower by the time your trial ends."

    "So what symbols of mine?" Elio asked, glancing in the mirror. He had to seriously admire Alolan art being very ornate and couldn't help but truly be amazed at the incredible detail Makoa was putting into it.

    "Your symbols indicate that you are a boy. A foreigner who seeks to immerse himself as one of the people. You may be undergoing a trial, but many watching will be seeing a show. Every trainer's trial tells a story as will yours."

    "It is almost time." Kiawe said pushing through the door with Ed in tow. The basketball player's eyes widened at the transformed trainer in front of him and whistled lowly.

    "Damn bro. They decked you out good huh?"

    "You like?" The trial captain asked. "We could do the same and the two of you could come back to do a double showing."

    "I don't have Pokémon though," Ed said. "But it's all good. Best thing now is to make sure Elio is all set to go."

    He walked over and kneeled down in front, as if a coach talking to his wrestler in the ring. "Remember about staying focused. I've heard the totem Pokémon are more than just oversized freaks of nature on their own species, but they're also cunning…smart. You need to think the same."

    "Ed, I know this is a fire trial." Elio shot back.

    "I'm trying to give you a pep talk here man! Why don't you just listen for once! Just because you may have water, rock or ground Pokémon doesn't mean you're going to win. Even trainers who have their entire party like that can still struggle. It's like what Makoa here said in practice. You're gonna fall. Be that true trainer and stand up again. Let it know that it doesn't matter whether you're a native or a haole! Any trainer who puts forth the effort and dedication alongside his Pokémon will triumph over this trial!"

    Elio nodded, still trying to process through the words. "Dang brah. Did you read that out of a book or something?"

    "I kinda made it up on the fly." He put a hand behind his head in embarrassment. "Sorry."

    "Sorry for what? That was a really good speech." Kiawe and even Makoa had nodded in agreement. "You're ready to be a team captain once the league drafts you."

    The fire trial captain cleared his throat. "As inspiring as that speech was; the crowd has all been seated and our show is about to start. Elio; anything you want to go over last minute?"

    The boy shook his head. "I'm good. Let's do this."

    "Excellent. Take the next few minutes to bring your Pokémon up to full strength. Whenever you are ready, go and meet Makoa at the end of the ring."

    Elio felt his nerves turn his own stomach into an oily mess. Truly it was no different than any other basketball game in school especially during the regional playoffs. However now after being a trainer for almost two months, he was about to face yet another colossal totem Pokémon that he had no idea about.

    The raticate was already tough enough and it had taken the efforts of Litten and Grimer to bring it down. Wishiwashi had been completely unexpected; scaring off the gyarados he had anticipated facing.

    What kind of fire Pokémon was going to challenge him this time?

    Either way. We're going to beat it.

    His Pokémon team had his back and knew their roles. Charjabug was going to be less effective since her bug typing wouldn't last long against fire. He planned to use her as much as possible, maybe even inflict a paralysis. That would make things so much easier.

    And her mud shot move is my little ace up the sleeve. Gotta love the Shirona Effect.

    Grimer and Rufflet both had mild effectiveness against fire types. If Charjabug failed to paralyze the totem, he could always try and use the former's poison touch ability to whittle its energy down.

    Torracat and Rockruff would be the bulk of the offense. Even though his starter didn't know any good moves against fire types, Elio was counting on his deft agility and strong moves to be able to last. Fire types were yet another that were ineffective against itself. Rockruff's own rock moves had the potential to do immense damage, however he wasn't necessarily fast. His mind went back to the paralysis, knowing that his job would be much easier if he scored a successful hit that inflicted the status.

    "Alola ahiahi!" Kiawe's voice over the hidden speakers around the ring brought Sun out of his thoughts. He peered around the glow of the lit torches surrounding the ring now able to see that the entire sections of seats had all been occupied by visitors. They all chatted excitedly to one another as they waited for the show to begin.

    "Alola!" He heard a unanimous chant back from everyone else.

    "My name is Kiawe Iokua from Paniola Town and I am the current captain of the trial here at Mauna Wela Volcano Park. The trial is a special rite of passage for young Pokémon trainers in Alola as part of a transition from being a youth to being recognized as an adult. All of the trials are supervised by us captains who have completed our respective trial when we were at that of age."

    He took a deep breath and looked around the ring.

    Full house tonight.

    "Before we begin our performance for tonight, let me inform you of a few rules. They are simple to follow. This is a live fire Pokémon battle that will be taking place. Due to the immense power of both the totem and the Z-Power, should our trial goer opt to use it, we have installed a Ward of Dawn shield around the ring in order to keep everyone safe. Second; please do not use any form of flash photography while the trial and show are active."

    Murmurs rang out across the crowds.

    "Now let's bring in our trial goer." Kiawe extended a hand out to Elio's direction. He now noticed that there was a cameraman sitting in a designated spot and pointed the lens directly at him.

    "He hails from Cerulean City of Kanto and has blazed with a molten resolve through the trials of Melemele Island and the trial of Brooklet Hill. The boy has been blessed with special attention from our deity Tapu Koko as its waeia kekahi! Elio Kai Northstar!"

    Instead of loud cheers and whoops like in basketball, the audience clapped loudly as Elio himself was gestured forward by the trial captain.

    "Now our trial goer today plays an important role in our show tonight. See much of the land you had traveled on to get here was once where our ancestors tread their feet. They still haunt these trails and grounds, providing us today with guidance in our relationship between ourselves and our Pokémon."

    Kiawe circled back to Elio's side. "Our ancestors often passed down stories in the form of dance and we today use that to pay tribute. Our dance tonight is about a love story that happened here on this mountain. Many of you who have spent much time here know about the romantic interludes between Pelei and Kamalono'a in how he had slain the mo'owahine to rescue his love. For those that don't, allow me to explain."

    With a wave of his hand, Elio stepped out of the spotlight. To everyone else, it was as if he had disappeared entirely. Sweat began to course through his palms, slicking the staff.

    Almost there.

    "Kamalono'a was a warrior demi-god of fertility, valor and peace. He is associated with the Tapu Bulu of Ula'ula Island and is commonly represented by obsidian and gemstones. He was known to many as a very attractive, handsome young man in which many women of his clan on the island had sought after his hand."

    Elio had yet to hear the story itself, but it had already fascinated him. From the fact that he was "playing" a handsome demigod to how Kiawe described on the virtual girls all going for his hand.

    He took another glance at the trial captain, seeing him walk to various points of the ring and looking up into every part of the audience. No one section was left out and even if it had been, there was no one bored by his story. Kiawe crouched low, waving his arms in motions to amplify his tale and the myriad of expressions on his face mirrored the tone.

    The trial captain was truly into the trial and Elio couldn't help but admire the amount of dedication and passion he was throwing into it. It wasn't just a show for the tourists, it was a way to honor and uphold the traditional story.

    "While there were many fine women of his clan; Kamalono'a had his heart set on Peleia. A similar demigoddess as the embodiment of many things. Fire, emotion, love. She hailed from the rival tribe on Akala Island, she was known as the girl who was born of fire. The tribes on Akala and Ula'ula had been at odds for some time and thus both sides had made it forbidden to come into contact with one another at any time. Of course, Kamalono'a had refused this."

    Oh it's one of THOSE stories. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Mom and Dad on both sides refuse to let them marry.

    "They had agreed to meet up in secret. And because the all-seeing kahuna on Ula'ula Island would sense him meeting with a member of their sworn enemy." As he said this, the lights dimmed, causing Kiawe to vanish entirely from view. His voice continued to carry over the speakers and connected wirelessly to the small microphone he wore on his side. "He had to go on a rite of passage of his own."

    Sun sucked in another deep breath, closing his eyes. We've been practicing all day. This is for real. We're doing this for the totem battle, the completion of my next trial and another stepping stone in my own rite of passage to properly call myself a man.

    "However before he could even leave Ula'ula in his own carved candlenut ka moku," The audience gasped as a pair of ghostly green flares flashed to life just opposite him. "The kahuna had discovered his intentions, declaring it hewa to discreetly fall in love with a member of the rival clan."

    This is a trial battle! Elio's mind raced as he reached for his first Pokémon. "Charjabug! Go!" Kiawe continued the story, paying mind to the battle about to commence for the show purposes while speaking. His battery Pokémon landed nimbly on the ground, clicking her mandibles together and ready to face her opposition.

    "Kamalono'a was undeterred by the kahuna, saying that love had no boundaries and he was free to choose whomever he wished."

    "Woah there!" Rotom was out to assist his trainer at the same time the spotlights snapped on, revealing a small dark bipedal Pokémon. It held a stick in his right hand resembling a femur bone that had been the source of the spectral flames that crackled in the night sky. An elongated skull covered its face with dark markings etched into various parts of the bone.

    It looks like a…

    "New Pokémon detected buddy! Bzzt!" He floated in front of Elio, displaying a more familiar shape of a creature he knew was native to his homeland Kanto. "Marowak. Bone keeper Pokémon. Marowak will throw bones at its natural foe; mandibuzz with a violent temperament. Marowak is a ground type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Hold on." Elio stopped him. "This is a fire trial. How can a marowak be in here if it's ground? Even the cubone were the standard ground type."

    "That'zz becauzze marowak hazzz a zubzpeciezzz here in Alola! Bzzt! Marowak native to Alola use bones that were once its mother's. It beats foes with its club, spreading cursed flames wherever it strikes. Alola Marowak are ghost and fire type."

    So there's the fire typing.

    "Now what will you do koa?" Kiawe asked, booming his voice in a challenge.

    The Alolan marowak didn't wait for a signal to begin, already throwing its spectral bone right at charjabug. The throw had been right on target, spinning slowly before speeding right up until it was a blur of green and white, throwing off sparks erratically.

    Charjabug easily saw the flame wheel attack coming before she scrunched up her own body to propel herself out of its way. At his command, she gathered bits of electricity between her mandibles, centering her aim and firing quickly.

    Anyone else from Kanto watching him must've thought he was crazy at using an electric type. Kanto native marowak had the ability lightningrod, which absorbed electric attacks to boost its own. Even if it didn't have that ability, the standard form was ground type; the only one that made electric attacks obsolete.

    I probably should have made sure I took some precaution before ordered an attack that would end up being useless.

    To his surprise, the marowak flinched from the beam of fine energy, staggering back. Just as it finished, there was a dark purple aura that enveloped his entire body. It shot out, surrounding Charjabug and then suddenly dissipating.

    "What? What was that?"

    "Oh no!" Rotom wailed, flailing its arms about. "That wazzz the marowak'zzz ability! Cursed body! Charge beam izzz now disabled! Bzzt!"

    Huh. Smart. We'll have to go in close.

    Unless I play my hand with her mud shot.

    Decision made. "Charjabug, stop. Mud shot it!"

    "Ssk!" She hissed in compliance, using her smaller mandibles once again. This time around, it was a long stream of dark mud that splashed right over the marowak's body. It grunted in protest and planted its bone on the ground to slow its reeling.

    The creature had spun around again, now releasing the bone in a perfect throw. Charjabug's eyes automatically drifted to the spinning projectile, seeing if it was headed to hit her.

    What she didn't see was the marowak powering up his fists in similar green fire. He rushed forward on both feet, closing the distance between the two combatants.

    Charjabug responded with a spark attack, meeting it head on. The two clashed right together, culminating in fire winning over electricity. She was hit once and then a second fire punch struck her side before she had a chance to react.

    As marowak jumped away, Elio saw the blur of spinning fire bone curving right back.

    "Charjabug! Look out!"

    It had been too late. The bone rush attack had sped up its pace from behind, smashing itself into Charjabug's back and sending her flying up in the air. She had managed to recover and land upright when falling, however Elio saw that the attacks had taken a lot out of her.

    The main trial hasn't even started and she's already tiring out. Marowak's a smart one. He throws the bone as a distraction, strikes and then lets the bone curve around for a second behind the back attack.

    Had he looked to the marowak, their visible efforts wouldn't have been in vain. The Pokémon opposing them had leaned onto his flaming bone for support when he had struggled back to his feet. Elio was suddenly aware that the cursed body effect had now worn off. He pointed for a charge beam and she gathered just enough energy when he spun his bone around. It wasn't enough to deflect the fired electricity and his crackling form had collapsed to the ground.

    The audience had opted to clap proudly for the young trial goer instead of loud cheers. He acknowledged the praise, although said nothing as he returned Charjabug to her ball and slipped it on his belt.

    "Marowak was very pleased by your battling ability." Kiawe commented with several murmurs coming from the crowds in agreement. "It just had to battle you."

    He knelt down and gently offered it some berries. As it ate, the creature had enough energy to stand up again. Elio felt beady eyes fall on him and the skull had nodded down.

    It was a nod of respect.

    PleasebecarefulEliopleasebecarefulEliopleasebecarefulElio. You can beat this. I believe in you.

    "Pew!"

    "I know Nebby." Lillie whispered as she laid at the edge of the bed in her hotel room. She had been waiting for almost an hour before when it was time for Elio's trial to air on television. The reason the trial had been broadcasted wasn't to her understanding, but it seemed that the local populace around Alola enjoyed one publicly shown trial that displayed the rite of passage for young boys and girls.

    "Pew!" Nebby's cry came out a little more forceful. Lillie realized that she had been hugging it just a little too tightly to her chest.

    "Oh I'm so sorry Nebby!" Lillie brought the cosmog close so that it could rest in the crook of her right elbow to remain comfortable. "I didn't realize I was hurting you."

    Hurting. You've gone through so much pain and I'm fussing over hugging you too tightly. I can't help it. Not when I'm worried about Elio.

    Don't worry Nebby. The blonde glanced down at the tiny Pokémon, who was still watching the TV and perking up with excitement whenever the shot panned over a certain boy. We'll protect you and I'll be sure to make certain you are back home safe and sound. And then I will have to find a place I can call home too.

    "Pew." Nebby's curious cry brought her out of her thoughts and she found herself staring directly at the screen where Elio's bare chest could be clearly seen.

    She admired the handiwork for sure. Plenty of ink had been applied on his shoulders and upper pectorals with sharp edges and curved lines, all in a very elaborate and carefully crafted design. It was almost like the work of a tattoo artist and many of them appeared similar to the ones that the ancient Alolan warriors of long ago had adorned their bodies with.

    Nebby watched the girl with a curious expression on its own face. Her eyes had wandered over it, looking past the tattoos onto the fine lines.

    Lillie had seen them on occasion; hastily hidden underneath some of her own mother's fashion magazines she had subscribed to and in the posters for name brand stores. Much of the men's section had featured images of well sculpted handsome boys.

    Still in the middle of her teenage years, she couldn't help but admire the finely crafted pectorals, abs and broad shoulders.

    Seeing Elio shirtless made her realize that his body shape was quite similar to those models. On the television screen, he had branched out his staff to the marowak who had struck it with its bone. Balls of flame suddenly sprouted from both sides, illuminating the markings on Elio's body as if it were war paint. He began a choreographed dance as a drumbeat began to pound somewhere at the site. The staff was spun in his hand so easily as if he had done it for years.

    Nebby's own gaze turned to amusement when it noticed that her face was starting to redden at the sight. It may not have been a particularly old Pokémon, but after spending so much time around the blonde human, it had picked up quirks, habits and many things that others would overlook.

    Lillie always seemed to pay extra close attention whenever Elio was mentioned and it assumed that tall the letters she read on the bed with it snuggled by her side were from him. She had stared at most of them with a smile on her face, but there had been one or two where she looked a little distraught.

    "Pew."

    What a handsome person. "I know Nebby. Don't you worry. We're here to cheer Elio on right? He sure is such an amazing and handsome trainer."

    And dreamy. Just look how he dances. How he looks. Those abs…I wonder what they would feel like?

    Elio had been briefed on how the ritualistic dance was going to do. Kiawe would tell the story and he would do the dance that would reflect the tale.

    Marowak approached after it had regained enough energy for a moment and then tapped Elio's unlit staff with its bone.

    Almost instantaneously, bright orange flames flickered to life on both wicking ends. Sun felt heat warm his arms and glow flicker off his body in flashes. Similar to what he had seen from a Kalos' delphox; the flames had a different characteristic than normal fire and he was tempted to gaze right into its alluring embrace.

    "Kamalono'a had defeated his clan's kahuna and with no other choice, he had to ensure that courting Pelei would mean peace between the two tribes. It was perhaps a trivial task for Kamalono'a…after all, he is an embodiment of peace." As Kiawe said that, a dark expression crossed his face. None of the crowd had noticed it, too occupied with the low laughter from him pointing out the obvious.

    The drums thundered again and it was Elio's signal to start the next phase of the dance.

    Bending his knees, he kept low to the ground locking his stance at a forty-five degree angle and holding the staff to his side. The flame came close to his body; however he had pulled it back to a regular arm's length to avoid scorching himself. The drumbeat came in fours with him shifting forward opposite every fourth time.

    "Kamalono'a set his ka moku in the water and paddled west towards Akala Island. He braved stormy seas, killer sharpedos and the relentless sun in a trip that took him six days to reach the eastern shores. Today the voyage takes only a couple of hours, but six days can seem like forever when you merely have an oar and the night stars of Huinakolu as guidance."

    This was Elio's cue to stop and he stood rigidly at attention once more. When the drums beat at a slightly faster pace, he started the next phase.

    No longer encumbered by the slower speed of the ka moku, he sprinted up, jumping, spinning in midair all while moving the staff in a blur of artistic motions. This had been the longest thing he and Kiawe had practiced on and even though it looked purely trivial, contorting the body and maintaining balance were crucial. He was even told that it took years for fire dancers to perfect some moves.

    Stick the landing. Don't lose the staff. Don't screw up.

    Something on his side wiggled and he glanced down in the middle of the next routine to see that Charjabug's ball hadn't been fully secured and threatened to fly off.

    Crap.

    Just as he landed again, the impact was enough to jar the ball out of its hold. Elio was more than welcome to retrieve his ball if one got separated from him, but they were too close to begin the trial and he felt as if making a mistake as minute as losing one of his Pokémon because of it not secured to his side would immediately put the sense of doubt in the heads of everyone watching.

    Screw it. I have to get rid of the staff…just a little early is all.

    It was completely off routine, but Elio gingerly released the long stick into the air. He saw it begin to arc just slightly forward in front. However since it was bright and in motion, he had figured both those attributes would have the audience's gazes on it rather than him.

    Hope this better works. Or else this is going straight to featured on Fails of the Week!

    Tucking in his head; Sun extended his arms hoping to minimize the impact of his head on the ground. Instead, by either adrenaline or luck, only the palms brushed the smooth rocky floor and he had done a flip, propelling himself right back up to extend a hand and seamlessly catch Charjabug's ball and slip it back on his belt. Elio made certain through the noise of the drumbeats in snapping her capsule securely in his belt.

    Still in motion, he halted himself, skidding slightly and close to losing his balance. He had come to a stop right in front of one of the cameras and stared right into it with the blazing staff held in front of him, illuminating his entire body.

    Oh my goodness! Holy freakin' crap! I can't believe I just pulled that off!

    Offstage, there were several additional marowak at the center just before the rift opening where they were preparing to commence the beat that set the cadence for the next dance when Makoa held up a hand. Even though it was regular for the trial continue; he felt as if the pose was to make a perfect picture moment.

    Elio knew he was staring right into a camera and would've done a smile or goofy expression to break the tension, but he kept it in check. The trial was serious business and he wanted to look as fierce as possible.

    Sorry Mom. If you're watching, I can't say hi.

    The marowak resumed their drumbeats a second later and Sun twisted the staff in his hands, one hand went clockwise and the other counterclockwise. Action caused an inner bolt to split the item in two and he crossed them over one another, making sure that the flames still were burning on their wicks. It would do him no good if they were extinguished.

    "Kamalono'a soon found out that the rival kahuna of Akala had lured Pelei to Mauna Wela where the much feared mo'owahine dwelled. She was a strong powerful beast capable of breathing the hottest fire imaginable and secreting the most noxious poisons. The mo'owahine preferred to lure unlucky men to their deaths off cliffs by appearing as a beautiful maiden. She would also use women to her advantage, sealing them away and manipulating their cries for help. Even demigods were not immune to her power."

    Sun held them as if they were a pair of swords, slashing at the air towards "imaginary foes" while Kiawe depicted how Kamalono'a had battled his way through other mythological beasts as he made his way up to Mauna Wela.

    "Kamalono'a was not fooled by the mo'owahine's attempts to trick him and he forged himself a path ahead. However more stood in his way, including those enthralled by her."

    Elio "fused" the staff back together and crouched down, holding it behind him and using his free hand as an outstretched warrior pose.

    A wet sound came from the dark pit as a spotlight snapped on to reveal two small Pokémon emerge from its depths, quickly finding Sun and hissing threateningly. Both were lizardlike in appearance, with dark gray skin and black appendages. They seemed to rest on their hind legs while their forelegs went underdeveloped. A long thin tail trailed at the end.

    "Woah! We got a new Pokémon detected!" Rotom buzzed at his side. He shuffled his screen to a matching image. "Salandit. Toxic Lizard Pokémon. It uses its own bodily fluids to create a poisonous disorienting gas. There are roughly seven males per female. Salandit is a poison and fire type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "The mo'owahine's thralls had come to challenge Kamalono'a." Kiawe announced, indicating this was another battle. "And still he was undaunted by her treachery."

    "Charjabug! You're back in it!" Elio used his free hand to throw her back out. "We're gonna go right into this! Spark!"

    "Ssk!" She hissed loudly and jumped forward, cloaking herself in bright electric power. The salandit's eyes widened as she slammed right into them. One of them tumbled backwards, landing on its feet but barely standing. The other had been luckier, avoiding the attack entirely. It launched a volley of embers.

    Each tiny ball of fire struck Charjabug and pushed her back. She was still determined not to show any weakness from being hit by a super effective attack.

    "Charge your core!" Elio shouted.

    She obeyed, using just a little bit of energy to gather into herself. By Rotom's indication, her special defense had been temporarily increased by a pinch.

    The second salandit hissed, opening its mouth and releasing a cloud of foul-smelling gas. It had spread quickly, enveloping Charjabug inside.

    "Girl?"

    "Ssk!" He heard a weak hiss from within.

    "Sal!" The first salandit leapt forward with its own open mouth and shooting another ember.

    "Ssk!" Charjabug responded with a charge beam. The wild Pokémon was caught off guard and it had zapped it down to the ground where it didn't get up.

    "Be advizzzed! Bzzt!" Rotom buzzed. "Charjabug iz poizoned and running low on energy!"

    "One problem at a time buddy." Elio said.

    "It izzz already a problem. She hazzz been defeated! Bzzt!"

    True to Rotom's word, Charjabug was unmoving as the salandit prowled right in front, looking rather pleased with its handiwork.

    Without warning he saw that her eyes shot open again and quickly fired a second successive charge beam attack that blew out the salandit next to its comrade. When it stopped rolling; it was pretty clear that the blow was too much for him.

    "Ssk." Charjabug had turned her head to face him. Her expression gave her trainer the understanding that she wasn't going down until she took both those opponents with her.

    You're an amazing Pokémon.

    "Thank you girl." Sun whispered, taking her nest ball. "Return."

    I've got five Pokémon left. I can do this.

    As he had called back his defeated Pokémon, the crowd clapped loudly again.

    "Truly impressive!" Kiawe exclaimed, getting up from his seat and crossing to the center of the stage. "You are a true disciple to Kamalono'a and his resolve! Now that you have defeated her thralls and suitors, the young warrior had to battle against the mo'owahine herself."

    More drumbeats followed as all the lights finally shut out, leaving the only sources as the stars above and Elio's fire staff.

    This is gonna knock people dead.

    Part of his body could still be visible reflecting off the fiery glow. And just like how he predicted, the crowds had both amazed and nervous looks when he flipped the staff in his hand and threw it towards the top of one of the sections as if it were a javelin.

    The staff looked like it was being thrown right at pitch blackness before it moved again on its own and brought down to reveal the marowak who had caught it. The same one he had battled earlier.

    "You have passed through my trial with much ease Elio." Kiawe said. "Like Kamalono'a before you, your final destination is in sight and it will be up to you if you can withstand the mo'owahine's powerful onslaught or not."

    Marowak twirled the staff in his hand before planting one of its flaming ends into the ground.

    Bright orange flames flashed to life all around the ring, finally bathing everyone within in a dazzling show of illumination. Shadows danced on the floor as Elio centered his gaze on the pit at the ring's other side.

    "Come! Mo'owahine!" Kiawe called out. "Let us begin!"

    For a few moments nothing happened. And Then Sun heard a low gurgling sound that made his limbs freeze.

    A slender dark scaly limb emerged from the pit with little droplets of glowing lava still attached.

    Next up is a very exciting Totem battle! Stay tuned because I may have a few surprises in store for the next few upcoming chapters.

    Translations:

    • Mo'olelo - Story, Tale
    • Kapu Kawahi - Sacred place
    • Ka moku - Boat
    • Hewa - Heresy
    • Alola ahiahi! - Good evening!
    • Huinakolu - Navigator's Triangle. Although I am unsure of this, but I believe history has said that ancient Polynesians used these three stars as a basis for navigation at night. The star's western names are as follows: Humu is Altair, Hawaiki is Deneb and Keoe is Vega.
    • Mo'owahine - Literally Lizard-Woman. The mo'owahine is a mythical creature said to linger around the Nu'uanu Pali Highway pass and lure male travelers to their deaths off the cliffs when it took the form of a beautiful woman.
    • Kamalono'a and Pelei are based off the demigod Kamapua'a and Pele respectively.
    • The story of Kamalono'a and Pelei is based off the romantics of the fertility demigod Kamapua'a and his courting of the Hawaiian goddess of fire Pele.

    Mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.

    Brav
     
  7. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
    Level 40
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Hey everyone! Back for another update.

    We're up to the totem battle! This one was kind of tricky for me to write and I'm unsure of how it's going to end up going. Had the rough draft completed last Sunday and was ready to actually put it out last Monday...that surge of reviews did give me a boost to try and finish a chapter sooner.

    Speaking of which, thanks for all the amazing feedback last chapter. That was something I was anticipating for quite a while and I'm very glad it was an enjoyable read. Now if I see a lot of good reviews...I will go that extra mile and try to see if I can get a chapter released within the next week. Not going to say it's happening all the time, but just wanted to let you all know that it does not go unnoticed and I'd like to hold up my own end.

    But seeing how I missed the deadline with the edits last week, it turns out that this one was going to end up going out at the two weeks deadline. Much of this ended up being taken out since some parts didn't sit well with me and the revisions took all until yesterday evening to complete. Was tired like crazy when I reported for work, but I hope the new iteration is worth it.

    So enjoy everyone.


    Wow. It's amazing that the dance Elio did was to wake up the totem Pokémon. It was hiding in the lava pit at the end of the ring and he had to battle it!

    I don't like Pokémon getting hurt, but Nebby and I did our best to cheer him on from here in the hotel. I just want to see him again. He looks like he's grown so much stronger as a trainer and maybe even a person! Who would've thought he would be dancing like a crazy person for a lizard woman? He scores a total one hundred and ten on looking good doing it!

    It was such a thrilling battle and even I was excited! The totem Pokémon nearly defeated him!

    Elio's own eyes went wide as the totem Pokémon finally unlimbered itself in front of him.

    The creature was slender in appearance, rising on its hind legs to tower over him by a full foot. Its features were arguably reptilian with dark gray scales covering its entire body. The stomach was a light purple with pink linings. Both of its long arms ended in five digit hands and it used them to deftly move around while crawling on all fours.

    "Rotom? For some reason that looks like a really big salandit."

    "ALERT! BZZT! TOTEM Pokémon approaching! Bzzt! Well yezzz!" The haunted 'Dex buzzed, shuddering a little at the sight of the giant across from them. "That izzz a totem salazzle! I have a new Pokémon detected and urge to releazzzze itzzz data! But I'm too terrified to do anything! Bzzt!"

    "Rotom!"

    "Oh zorry! I'm just scared shBZZZTless!" He shakily brought up the image after the timely buzzing censor had cut off his word. "Salazzle. Toxic lizard Pokémon. It is the evolved form of a female salandit. A salazzle lives in caves and lava pits, luring attracted salandit to serve it with pheromones. This Pokémon will create a reverse harem of male salandit and forces them to bring it food. Salazzle is a poison and fire type and a female only species. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Sounds like she's going to be a dangerous foe." Elio murmured to himself. What IS a reverse harem? What IS a harem to begin with?

    "Trial goer in the name of Kamalono'a!" Kiawe's voice cut through the marowak's drumbeats. "You are challenged by the mo'owahine if you are wishing to proceed to your love! Back down now and she will not pursue or harm you!"

    Again part of the script.

    "I'm not backing down!" Elio said defiantly. He glared right at the massive lizard, which hissed and narrowed her eyes at him as she approached.

    "Yeah?" He asked with a bit of bravado. "You wanna dance? C'mon!"

    The totem let out a loud gurgling wail, raising herself up to full height. Just like with the totem raticate and totem wishiwashi, a familiar mysterious orange aura summoned itself out of thin air, surrounding her and flaring right to life.

    "ALERT! Be advizzed!" Rotom buzzed again. "The totem'zzz aura hazzz activated! Her zpecial defenzzze hazzz increazed!"

    Noted.

    "Rufflet!" Elio summoned his first choice onto the field. His small eaglet Pokémon let out a caw eager for battle and he swooped down to land opposite the giant lizard.

    Totem salazzle made the first move, arcing her tail over as if like a scorpion. She flicked it forward, allowing a fine glob of noxious looking purple liquid shoot forward with incredible speed.

    Elio was in the middle of shouting for Rufflet to avoid, which the bird had already done, spreading his wings and flapping them twice to easily get clear of the incoming sludge bomb.

    "Move in Rufflet!" Sun commanded. "Wing attack!"

    He changed directions, soaring forward and stretching out his wings. The appendages were iron hard as he slashed through her right side. The totem let out a grunt of pain as his attack sent her staggering back, however it remained upright on both feet. Just as he had predicted, he had done little damage. Salazzle's smaller front limbs swatted at him to no avail. Rufflet had pitched up and done a barrel roll to avoid them.

    Sun had him dive at another fury attack and he obeyed, sharply jabbing at the massive totem repeatedly. The salazzle finally managed to stop him when she had opened her mouth to fire a ball of flame that exploded on contact.

    Rufflet screeched, flying away and landing a bit harshly for Elio's tastes right in front of him.

    "You okay buddy?" He got an affirmed caw in reply. "Let's keep up the pressure!"

    The bird spread his wings for another attack. At the same time, the totem had spun around, readying a glowing ball of dragon rage.

    Rufflet rolled again as it fired. The audience right in its path had instinctively flinched as the attack headed their way. Luckily the shield systems had come to life, having it impact harmlessly on the barrier. Although invisible, it flashed green as the dragon rage struck before fading again.

    He had honed on his target, set to strike right in the same place where his previous wing attack had hit. Salazzle bellowed in fury as this time it produced enough of an effect to knock her over. Her fall onto the rocky ground was brief as she was quick to roll back onto all four legs again and back up.

    Elio noticed this too. The totem had been constantly firing different attacks, a sludge bomb, dragon rage and flame burst all from a considerable distance. Since Rufflet's attacks required him to get up and close and personal, he would have to avoid most incoming to land successful hits. Salazzle had held her fire when he was close, using that flame burst as a last resort since he was at such a point blank range.

    That's it! The eureka moment hit him. Salazzle can't fight very well up close. That's why she moves away…to maximize the distance so that she won't have to worry about close combat. That's where I gotta do the most of it.

    Salazzle made another gurgling sound before launching her tail in another bullet sludge bomb. Rufflet automatically flapped his wings to gain altitude.

    And then she opened her mouth to spit a stream of noxious looking purple liquid that was brighter in color than the sludge bomb. Rufflet had flown right into its path and let out a screech of pain. As he steadied himself up high, Elio could see the similar filmy effects of a poison condition coating his feathers.

    Except it looks even worse than before.

    Oh no. That was toxic wasn't it…

    "Alert!" Rotom buzzed and flew around worriedly at Elio's side. "Salazzle hazzz uzed toxic! That izzz a move that gradually increazez in wearing down itz foe!"

    Great. Rufflet's got a limited lifespan. Let's make the most of it. You may go down, but we're all in this together as a team.

    "Rufflet, we're gonna go down swinging!" Elio called out to him. "Why don't we make things a little harder for our totem friend?"

    The eaglet gave him an affirming caw and nodded eagerly.

    "Alright, let's give our new move a try! Use roost!"

    Salazzle hissed furiously and started gathering energy in her mouth while his bird landed on the ground, flexing his wings. There was a brief green glow around him as some of his worn energy returned from the recovery move. Roost didn't cure his poisoning, but his regained strength meant he was able to fight for just a little longer.

    "Fury attack!"

    The totem now opened her mouth, spouting a lot more poisonous liquid. This one had a nasty acrid smell that immediately hit his nose once it splashed onto the floor. In the lights of the surrounding flames, Elio could see thin noxious vapors trailing up from the puddles.

    Rufflet was hit with a full drench and even the regained energy from the roost move hadn't been enough to keep him in the fight. He stiffened and fell over limply.

    Elio felt a rush of frustration of losing him so handily, but concern had also set in on how quickly he had been defeated, even with using a recovery move like roost.

    Rotom seemed to have another timely answer to that. "Be advizzed! Bzzt! That move wazzz venoshock! It dealz increazzed damage if itz target izz already poisoned! Bzzt!"

    Now I'm down to four. And this is going to be a short fight if that totem keeps on using the toxic venoshock tandem.

    "Buddy," Elio gave a small smile as he pulled out the great ball. "You were great out there. We'll finish this as a team. I promise."

    So what do I do? Salazzle wants to poison my entire team and that's a death sentence right there.

    Wait…poison types can't be poisoned. I have one.

    "Grimer, you're up!" Sun called out, throwing the sludge Pokémon.

    "Grime!"

    Salazzle hissed again, opening up her attacking ability with another flame burst.

    "Minimize to dodge and bite it when you come back up!" He had obeyed, immediately shrinking his own size down to avoid the ball of fire. As soon as it passed overhead, his amorphous body expanded once more, biting down right on the totem's leg. She shrieked and wriggled it in an attempt to dislodge him, however his form made it difficult with the viscous and malleable surface. His fangs sunk into her lower leg area with another bite before she fired a point blank dragon rage that gave enough opportunity for her to escape.

    Predictably, she had backed into one side of the ring, although this time instead of readying another long range attack immediately; the totem raised its head high up and emitted a screeching roar that made the hairs on everyone's skin stand on end.

    Moments later, movement caught both trainer and Pokémon's eye as two small salandits crawled from the lava pit and rushed frantically towards the larger reptile. In comparison to the two salandit he had faced earlier, these ones had a frenzied expression on their face. Jaws open and tongue hanging lazily out like some dog. Their gazes were fixated on the salazzle.

    She hissed threateningly at the two lackeys and they had seemed to obey, turning around to face the trainer and his own poison type.

    "So you got some help huh?" Elio asked aloud. "That's not going to help you! Grimer! Use pound!"

    "Grime!" He had raised his arms up as the salandit rushed forward at their totem's orders. Instead of bringing them down however; they turned dark with some power brimming about. He swung them in a hammering strike that was strong enough to knock both salandit back right towards the salazzle totem.

    "Woah amazing! Bzzt!" 'Dex exclaimed. "Grimer juzzt learned brutal swing!"

    Brutal swing looks more powerful.

    "Again!"

    "Grime!" His arm had stretched to nearly double its length and he swept it at the three lizards. One of the salandit was unlucky enough to catch the brunt of the attack and instantly knocked out. The totem salazzle and salandit had survived, but he had knocked them down onto their backs.

    A whirl of motion and the totem was back on her feet. Elio now noticed that she was just a little slower in getting up. That meant it was starting to wear out.

    Before Grimer could attack again, the totem unleashed another toxic attack. Because he was too slow, Elio's sludge Pokémon wasn't able to avoid it in time and he glanced about at his arms and body before suddenly flinching.

    "What?!" Sun saw that the similar poison filmy coating was now all over Grimer's body. The Pokémon let out a low grunt at the pain, retaliating with another brutal swing attack that knocked out the second salandit lackey. That filmy toxin continued to whittle down his health and the totem salazzle knew it. She fired a dragon rage that Grimer deflected with a brutal swing, however he had once again flinched from its continuous damage.

    How in the world did Grimer get poisoned? He's a poison type!

    "Rotom?" A thought made its way into his head and he was pretty sure he now knew how it was possible. "How did salazzle manage to poison grimer? He's poison type…so therefore, can't."

    "Actually that'zzz wrong! Bzzt! Salandit and salazzle have the ability corrosion! Bzzt! Corrosion allowz them to produzzze ztronger poizonz that can affect both poizon and zteel type Pokémon! Bzzt!"

    Fantastic. Now my entire team is vulnerable to that. "So there's nothing that can counter that?"

    "Wrong again! Bzzt!" Rotom chuckled just slightly, enjoying the fact that his writer kept on teasing his trainer. "A Pokémon with the ability immunity cannot be poizoned! Pokémon with the ability magic guard can be poizoned, however it prevents them from being damaged continuouzly by itz effectz! Bzzt! There are wayz around it! Bzzt!"

    "Then there's no way around it." He would have to make do.

    Salazzle made to open her mouth with venoshock and then reeled back suddenly as a blue line suddenly wrapped itself around her. She coughed again and again, but no toxic liquid had come forth.

    "Yes!" Elio pumped a fist. "The disable worked!"

    "Grime!" His Pokémon took advantage of the totem's surprise with a toothy smirk.

    She was undeterred, instead crawling back to another corner and roaring into the sky again. Moments later, another pair of smaller salandit burst from the ground and stood protectively at her side.

    Oh come on! More?!

    "Brutal swing! Aim for the totem first!"

    "Grime!" The poison continued gnawing away at his energy, but he mustered both of his arms, expanding them and clearing the entire space. The totem reflexively ducked under the swinging boom of an arm; however both salandit lackeys were caught once again and tossed away like toys. They tumbled to the ground and ended upright, charging back into the fray.

    Grimer's next move was a second brutal swing that caught onto a quickly fired dragon rage, deflecting it away into the sky. He let out a cry of persistence, showing the larger foe that he was not intimidated in the least.

    The first salandit attacked, summoning an ember. Sludge shrank rapidly in size, avoiding the fiery ball before re-sizing and clamping down on the small lizard's tail in a vicious bite. It collapsed to the floor when he released his grip and turned to face the second one.

    Grimer suddenly shook again from the poisoning effects and slumped over.

    The toxic had done a number on him. Elio knew it worsened every time and this turn around, it had erased the final bits of his energy and he succumbed.

    He felt the frustration start to build. Three Pokémon down and this totem seemed to have an infinite number of salandit allies to call upon. Salazzle could poison virtually anything with her toxic and corrosion ability which meant that if his entire party was stricken with the condition, his entire team would be whittled and worn down until he had nothing left.

    So what happens in a show like this? Would that mean I have to fight the totem myself?

    "Grimer return." He recalled his next defeated Pokémon and stared back out at his newest adversary. If there was anything he could be optimistic about, it was that his damaging efforts hadn't gone to waste. The totem salazzle had crouched low to the ground, sporting many fresh wounds and bruises. The aura that boosted her special defense was still there flickering in bright orange to indicate its presence.

    How do I win against this? It's going to be poisoning my entire team, which means I'll have to take it down fast.

    Fast. Both Rockruff and Torracat are fast, but do I use him as a trump card? I could end this quick if she's weakened. If she's not and Rockruff gets poisoned and knocked out by a couple venoshocks, I would've played my ace and lost it.

    Let's see what happens.

    Elio spun out the next Poké Ball, this one containing his starter. "Okay Torracat, let's go!"

    "Tor!"

    The salandit didn't hesitate and lunged to attack. Torracat jumped at it as well, lashing out with its forelegs in a twin successive strike. The double kick was enough to bring it down.

    Kiawe walked along the battle's perimeter to continue the story as the second minion fell. He kept an eye on the ongoing conflict as to make sure he wouldn't be in the fray of it.

    "Kamalono'a battled scores of the mo'owahine's enthralled, all until he reached the summit of Mauna Wela here at this very point and confronted the mythical creature herself."

    Salazzle gurgled again, flinging her tail forward to fire a series of sludge bombs. She followed up those attacks with streams of venoshocks. It was a deadly maze of attacks and her shrill screeches when attacking made it clear that she was angry and had enough of this long game.

    Torracat had been patient, just as Elio had reminded him. He used his strong legs to nimbly dodge each poison move that was shot his way. He managed to retaliate with an ember that briefly disoriented the totem, but otherwise did little in terms of damage.

    It all heated up to the point where salazzle crouched down on all fours once again and she fired a rather large flame burst that arced high up into the air before teetering and beginning a long plummet down to the ground.

    Elio first thought that it was just another one of those distractions. Since it was nighttime, people and Pokémon's perceptions tended to react strongly to contrasting things of motion. It was similar to the common two-piece technique that he had applied often to become an ace at dodgeball. The concept was simple in terms of the most popular sport at his school; one would throw a ball higher into the air that was easily catchable. The victim would react to that, temporarily become distracted and end up as an easy target for a more linear second shot.

    This isn't dodgeball though. And Torracat doesn't even have to move in order to avoid that.

    Wait.

    The sludge bombs. The venoshocks.

    Elio's eyes widened at the revelation.

    "TORRACAT! GET OUT OF THERE NOW!"

    The flame hit in the center of where the majority of the sludge bombs and venoshock attacks had puddled out. Most of their toxic effects were neutralized as soon as they missed and hit the ground, however it did leave lingering pools of their volatile fumes. Elio saw them as sickly wisps of vapors that dissipated for the most part when they were higher than a foot off the ground.

    As if the entire area had been doused in gasoline, the ground ignited in a massive inferno that shocked the hell out of everyone. Even presiding trial captain Kiawe couldn't hide the surprise. He was aware of the fumes trap that salazzle employed, although this time it was nearly twice as large as she had normally executed. Elio put his arms in front and staggered from the sudden explosion. His attempts to shield himself from its scorching heat were futile.

    Luckily the Ward of Dawn shielding had flared to life, holding strong against a rolling wall of flame that was snuffed out just moments later from running out of fuel. The shields had not however prevented the heat from escaping, so thus standing inside the ring felt momentarily as if he had been in the inside of an industrial oven.

    It was perhaps she had seen this trainer to be far more dangerous than her previous challengers. If that were the case, it added to the foregone conclusion that he was truly indeed Tapu Koko's waeia kekahi.

    Torracat's strong limbs were enough that he escaped the majority of the cluster explosions, however its rapid growth and rush of air knocked him off balance and send him tumbling to the ground.

    The totem salazzle pounced on her downed prey before Torracat could roll back onto his feet. He glared at her on top of him and let out a feral snarl.

    She had been a little too gloating of her victory to sense him charging an ember attack through his flame bell. He spat it out, smoking her eyes and mouth and causing her to shriek and scramble off him.

    Elio's starter wasn't about to let her get away that easily. He used his front paws to pin her leg down to the ground. When she opened her mouth to shoot out another ranged attack, the fire cat had used his hind ones to lash out in a devastating double kick to her side.

    "Don't let up!" Elio cried. "Bite its tail and fling it down!"

    With a nod and purr of compliance, his fangs had glowed a brilliant white as he found and clamped down on the creature's whiplike tail. The totem did not like this at all as she screeched shrilly and thrashed about in a vain attempt to dislodge him.

    I might have an idea. What if we can use that explosion trap against it? I'll just have to make a tempting target. Someone maybe a little slower.

    "Torracat. I'm taking you back."

    "Tor!" His head whipped around in protest.

    "I've got a plan, but it needs rockruff right now. You'll get your chance."

    "Tor!"

    "Thanks buddy." Elio used his Poké Ball to suck him back into his micro-home while at the same time, using his other hand to toss Rockruff out into the fight.

    Rockruff's my ace here. He's just a little slower than Torracat, so maybe we can do that dodging dance again to see if the totem decides to lay out an explodey trap like last time.

    Salazzle gave off an unimpressed hiss and folded her arms before opening her jaws once again to fire. Elio had Rockruff act much faster. As soon as he knew that it was getting ready to attack, Rockruff's sucker punch went off as he threw his entire body weight into the attack and knocked the much larger foe back down.

    "Rock throw!" Elio commanded with a wave of his arm. He fully intended to use his advantageous type matchup as much as he could. "Let's bring this thing down."

    Rockruff growled and flicked his tail forward. Instantly, a barrage of rocks shot out.

    Salazzle was ready and she deftly dodged the attack before perching herself beside the lava pit and doing that same shrill cry again.

    "And here comes her fan club again." Elio was tempted to roll his eyes when three salandit crawled out from the pit, hissing lowly at Rockruff. The puppy growled back, but his inexperience still had him glancing behind him at Elio for guidance. His trainer stared curiously at the smirking expression.

    Ever since they had commenced the battle, he had noticed the totem had many little deceptions that he had to counter. The timely arrival of salandit minions, the venoshock and sludge flammable traps. He was beginning to wonder if she wasn't done dipping into her bag and was getting ready to deceive him again. It was no secret that she was continuing to call her enthralled salandit to her aid because she knew that losing imminently was very much a possibility.

    Elio instructed Rockruff to take care of the incoming salandit as they charged forth, firing embers and clouds of smog. However he kept his own focus on the totem in seeing what she would do.

    Sun did have to give her credit for another deception. While Rockruff was preoccupied with battling the four salandit on his right, she had spent the bought time in spraying sludge bomb and venoshock fluid onto the left side of the ring. A good patch of ground was covered in the sickly substance and he immediately knew it by the intoxicating smell that hit his nostils.

    She's setting another trap.

    Rockruff managed to knock out one of the salandit with a well-placed rock throw. However there was little he could do to prevent himself from taking damage in a three on one scenario…especially considering the smaller lizards were bloody fast. One of their rushing smog attacks had gotten lucky and his puppy was now shivering constantly from the poison coating on his body.

    In the middle of their fight, Rockruff was ready to use bite on another one of the salandit when the totem salazzle had stepped in. She winked one of her eyes, causing a small pink heart to fly out and hit Rockruff smack dab on the nose.

    "Do not be afraid koa!" Kiawe shouted in the middle of the action. "Bring down the beast and fulfill the promise you had made to Pelei and your Pokémon!"

    He waved his arms around to the crowd and soon enough, chants of the same thing he had urged at Elio began to echo from every side.

    "Alert!" Rotom screeched, although Elio had to strain to listen since the spectators were starting to shout. "The totem salazzle hazzz uzed attract! Rockruff izzz in love! Not a good time to zeeek zoulmatezzz! Bzzt! Noize levelzzz increazzzing!"

    "Yeah I know!" Elio snapped, feeling the pressure starting to build up. He had lost three Pokémon already to the totem and its battle beforehand and now it seemed that he was going to lose his fourth.

    Rockruff's mouth remained open and his tongue was hanging lazily out as his eyes seemed to sparkle with infatuation at the female Pokémon opposite him. The totem brushed its dainty hand against the side of its head as if it were a woman smoothing out her hair in an attempt to appeal herself.

    With him immobilized, she gurgled again, firing another stream of venoshock liquid that splashed over Rockruff's fur. He let out a sharp cry of pain as one of the salandit readied and fired a successive dragon rage attack. The impact blew Rockruff down to the ground where he tumbled to a stop closer to Elio's side of the field.

    "Rockruff!" Just at that moment, the chants had stopped as a collective gasp rose amongst the crowd.

    I'm sorry. I'm so sorry buddy. Elio shook his head in frustration. Now the embers of anger were beginning to smolder in his mind. Every strategy he tried to get around was effectively countered by the totem's corrosion ability and toxic which left his entire team vulnerable to its biting effects. If it wasn't the poison that got him, it was the attract move. All of Elio's Pokémon on his team were male, making it a sure weapon in disabling his ability.

    So this is it? Down to just Torracat? He's already spent a lot of his own energy and we still have to contend with all of her salandit who are all smitten with her?

    Wait…the salandit. Another idea came to his head.

    I still haven't used my Z-move yet, but maybe if I can get a breakneck blitz in there, this should be enough to end it once and for all. Maybe even take down the others while I'm at it.

    "Okay Torracat!" Elio was starting to feel uncertain if he was going to be able to win this. At least he was planning to put on a show, even if he was going to end up losing.

    Just like what coach said. If you're going down in the spotlight, go down swinging and end it with no regrets. That's what we're going to do. Put everything we got into this and be ready to try again when we're ready.

    The chants had returned, continuing to grow in volume until Sun had to almost shout in order to give Torracat instructions. It was clear that his own Pokémon was having difficulty hearing as well, since he had to shout at least twice each time and his own combatant barely heard him.

    I have to trust him if we're gonna win.

    Crouching low to the ground, Torracat pounced up, powering up a fire fang that bit down onto the totem's neck. Although the attack did little damage, he used her own weight to his advantage, tossing the massive beast away.

    Just as he had predicted; the battle and sudden attack on her had clearly angered her enough. She made that similar gurgling sound and flicked her tail about.

    Torracat was ready, being able to see and partially hear that queue that she was ready to fire off a sludge bomb.

    Elio glanced back at the salandits. They were all gathering in the trio cluster to attack again.

    His starter saw them too and all it took was a glance back to his trainer and a nod. Since their main means of communication were hindered by the loudened chants, they had battled together long enough to generally know what the other was thinking. Back on the other side, totem salazzle winked again.

    Here it comes.

    All three salandit leapt up to attack.

    That was where he made his move. Torracat powered up his bell and shot forward, but instead of going for the totem itself, he was targeting the minions.

    Each toxic lizard felt their eyes widen as a pair of iron hard forelegs rapidly beat them in their stomachs and hurled them in front.

    Salazzle released her attract attack and Sun decided to use that opportunity to throw her a taunting grin as she had realized he was now using her charm against her.

    The heart splashed itself over the three salandit in the pile just in front. They quickly got back up on their feet and faced their totem ally.

    No longer did they have that same sly gleam in their eyes when they attacked. Jaws open with bits of clear saliva oozing out from in between their teeth and tongues hanging halfway down lazily. With their gazes turned towards their enthrall, the salandit advanced rapidly and moved away from a recovering Torracat.

    That bought me some time. Now I just have to do this Z-move dance right. Scratch won't do here, but we can probably power up double kick to at least do us some good even though it's not going to be very effective.

    Salazzle shrieked, firing a flame burst that scattered the approaching salandit, however it did little good. Her lackeys were now free of what little restraint they had in their adoration.

    Elio was already powering up his Z-Ring while rotating to the Fightinium Z crystal in his bracelet. He felt an awesome surge of power as it crackled with brilliant light.

    Time for the pose.

    "Torracat!" He wasn't sure if he could be heard over the crowd's roar, but Torracat had gotten the order by standing in front and allowing the Z-Power to envelope his lithe body and briefly gather superpowered strength. "Unleash the full potential of your Z-Power!"

    It had been some time since he had practiced the fighting type dance, but Hala's example made it look easy. Crossed arms with chambered fists. He unleashed a barrage of punches, bent his hips and struck out with his right fist. The stored power in his bracelet feeding his Pokémon had ceased having reached maximum power.

    "Z-Move unleash! Channeling double kick into ALL-OUT PUMMELING!"

    "Torr!" In a much shocking display, his exhausted Pokémon growled lowly before rising up on his hind legs. The forelegs lashed out, but they didn't fire just two kicks.

    A flurry of reddish orange fists fusilladed as the salandits all piled upon the larger salazzle with frenzied abandon, hissing loudly with savor. They had been so fixated with the object of their adoration; none were ready to avoid Elio's oncoming Z-move.

    He heard a series of loud protesting screeches from the tangle of salandit and totem salazzle. Torracat kept thrusting his paws forward, lancing out blows. The noise from the move was beginning to overpower the crowd's roar.

    By now, the punches had knocked out the three salandits garnering for the totem's attention and his Pokémon sent one final big blow that sent the totem flying right up in the air towards the bleachers on the far side of the ring.

    Everyone had gasped and those right in its path were already up and scrambling for cover. Luckily for them; the shield barrier had activated, deflecting the large scaly body with a muted hiss, averting all potential injury.

    Elio was surprised to see her stir after just a moment and rise to her feet, albeit slowly and sporting many new wounds and scuffs.

    "Torracat." He gasped.

    His own starter Pokémon weakly swayed on all fours, slowly turning his head around. Elio couldn't read his eyes in time before they slid closed and he collapsed onto the dirt.

    That Z-Move took everything he had.

    Elio felt his face fall and he stared at the ground as the weight of the entire battle was now beginning to settle in once more.

    I failed it. This trial is too much.

    The first emotion that went through his mind was anger. Anger at coming in unprepared and giving all of what he had into this battle and still coming up short. There had been so many things he could count off the top of his head that he could've done in preventative measures in avoiding such a loss. He knew that the crowd's chants behind him were part of the noise factor in hindering a key cog in a trainer-Pokémon battle relationship, but now he realized that more than ever did he have to instruct his combatants into thinking for themselves instead of following his commands to a t.

    We'll try again sometime. I just need to analyze what information I've gotten.

    In the front of the ring, Makoa held up a hand causing both the crowds to quiet down immediately and the ceremonial marowak to halt their drumming cadence. "I did say that our Kamalono'a here was going to fall." A few short chuckles from the crowd caused Elio's cheeks to heat up from embarrassment.

    However he swore that a smile flickered across the orthodox Ka Malama's face. "So koa, what will you do to stand up once again? The Mo'owahine is not yet defeated."

    "But I am."

    "If my memory serves me right. You still have one Pokémon left to battle."

    Do I? Sun reached down to his right side clips. Ever since starting on his island challenge, he had developed a habit of placing his able-battlers on his right since he was respectively handed and shifting his defeated Pokémon into the left side of his harness.

    Only one Poké Ball remained. His heart suddenly skipped a beat when he noticed the dark netting pattern over its top.

    Oh no. Oh no. Crapcrapcrapcrap.

    "You must send out your final Pokémon trialgoer." Kiawe softly said. "Otherwise this will count as a forfeit."

    I'm not forfeiting. I never forfeit anything!

    But can I still send Feebas into a no-win situation? She's battled the least out of my team and I can't rely on her right now.

    The thoughts of forfeit still did cross his mind though as he did not want his last defenseless Pokémon to get unnecessarily hurt and with no water around, she was out of her element in a possibly life threatening environment.

    Lack of water mixed with fire and poisons do not bode well for fish.

    Across from him the totem gave off another one of her cunning smirks.

    And it was enough for him to snap out of his contemplative stupor.

    I'm not giving into that!

    "I choose to continue Kiawe." Sun said, tossing the net ball in his hand. "However I will remove her and forfeit the challenge if it means that her health and safety is endangered."

    "Very well." The captain nodded. "Hiki iāʻoe ke hele."

    The brief Alolan phrase spurred the totem right back into action as Elio threw out his final Pokémon.

    Here goes nothing.

    Murmurs rang out across the crowds as Feebas flopped about on the ground before finally finding a point where she could balance herself without laying on her side like a magikarp.

    Elio felt his stomach do another flip as Salazzle lunged again. She raised her tail again, gurgling in that familiar queue. He thought that since she was out of water, her maneuverability was severely limited.

    And he was proven wrong.

    He wasn't sure about how good a fish could splash in an area with no water, but Feebas suddenly lurched on her side before smacking the ground with her tail hard enough to launch her entire body into the air.

    A green orb of energy formulated in front of her jaws and she hastily fired it to meet the oncoming sludge bomb. The two attacks collided in a giant explosion.

    As she fell back onto her fins at the ground, the fish's beady eyes had glanced at him. He interpreted it as full of trust and understanding, going all the way back to his indecision of releasing her.

    What are you trying to tell me?

    It was then when he noticed a pinprick of white light coming from his backpack. He had set it away at the edge of the ring when he had first started so that it wouldn't trip him during the middle of his dance routine.

    "Keep it distracted." And then he was off.

    "Bzzt! Elio! What are you doing? You have a battle to win! Bzzt!"

    Elio ignored 'Dex and dashed right to the bag, immediately drawing everyone's attention. His hands frantically unzipped the side pocket and snagged the small object.

    It was the prism scale, the one he had gotten from the Alola Sunrise accessory boutique when tagging along with Lillie on her own shopping excursion. The lady who had given it to him had mentioned something about using it to evolve a Pokémon found at Brooklet Hill.

    That was also the place where he had captured her.

    Could this be how she evolves? Into what though?

    One way to find out.

    "Catch!"

    Elio slid the scale between two of his fingers and flicked it as if tossing a card. It sliced perfectly through the air before landing smoothly on the ground and sliding over.

    Salazzle must've figured that this would give him another fighting chance and sprung up after it. She stretched a scaly arm out, just finding it within her grasp.

    This fish continues to surprise me. Elio thought to himself as he and the entire crowd bore witness to an impossible move.

    Feebas had seen the scale being slid towards her as well as the totem bearing down on it from behind her. She did the same move again, planting her fins down on the ground and using the upwards motion of a splash to propel herself right on top of the scale and slide effortlessly away from salazzle.

    The lizard had hastily judged her trajectory and she crashed into a heap onto the ground having missed her target.

    Elio had to take his eyes away from everything because now there was a harsh white glow coming from the ring's center. A big collective gasp rose from the entire audience in unison. Even Kiawe and Makoa looked to be a little surprised at the untimely evolution.

    All right Feebas! This is just what we needed!

    The glare had lasted for just a few seconds and Sun glanced back to recoil in shock.

    Feebas was no longer there.

    The Pokémon standing opposite the totem was vastly different than the small mottled fish he once had. Instead, she had taken a lithe serpentine appearance with a primarily cream colored body. Long reddish fins draped on her sides and she fixed her foe with an unnerving gaze with her changed eye color; a dark crimson.

    Elio saw her tail swishing from side to side idly. It had several noticeable blue and black colored scales that ended in four long tips that looked like fan blades.

    What captivated him most was that.

    She is incredibly beautiful. He thought to himself. The way Feebas now poises herself is confident, calm and elegant.

    Everyone had seemed to come to a similar conclusion and another round of murmurs were beginning to surface at the new sight.

    Even the totem salazzle was in a little bit of a shock.

    "Here'z the bezt place to interrupt!" 'Dex said chiming in and flying right over to Elio's side. "New Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Milotic. Tender Pokémon. It is the evolved form of feebas. It is often referred to as the most beautiful and elegant Pokémon of all. Those that behold its loveliness are said to have their hearts purified. Milotic is a water type. Your Milotic has the ability Competitive, which will strongly raise its special attack power if another one of her statuses have been lowered."

    "Wow!" Was all he could muster before salazzle jumped right back into the fight. I swear I've seen this Pokémon before somewhere.

    Milotic reacted, springing her body low and dodging a dragon rage attack with relative ease.

    "Alright let's go girl!" Elio pumped a fist, his confidence igniting a return at his new evolution. "Show me what you got!"

    Salazzle snarled, gurgling again and raising her tail.

    "Here comes another sludge bomb!"

    To his own surprise; Milotic's own tail went right into action. Her two outermost scales were short and curved inward while the two in the center were longer. She straightened them with a metallic sliding sound akin to a blade unsheathing before all four scales seemed to glow and interlock together and form a solid blade.

    "Woah! Bzzt! That'zzz iron tail!" Rotom exclaimed. "It'zzz a very ztrong zteel move! Bzzt! And it lookz like Milotic izzz taking it up another notch! Bzzt!"

    She struck her tail in a forward stab, knocking the large totem off balance. Salazzle misfired out of reflex.

    So you got a super cool sword iron tail huh? Let's see what else you can do!

    Milotic let out a soft coo before opening her mouth and shooting out a small orb of water. The supereffective attack struck again before salazzle had a chance to counterattack and she had tumbled to the ground and struggled to get back up.

    "That'zzz water pulse!"

    "Now's our chance Milotic!" Elio shouted. "Let's finish this! Use dragon pulse!"

    She spun around with captivating elegance and let out another coo; this one sounding fiercer than the last. Her old attack had now gotten an increase of power and she launched it with an incredible velocity and accuracy at her target.

    Salazzle disappeared into the pulse as it exploded with tremendous force. Energy dissipated before suddenly gathering together once again and exploding a second time just a split second after the first.

    Elio stared in confusion as it coagulated to detonate a third and final explosion right behind the second before finally subsiding with a good amount of dust kicked into the air.

    Everyone, trial captain, guide, trainer and spectator alike held their breath as it began to settle.

    Salazzle lay in a tangle of limbs and wounds. Her body occasionally twitched reflexively, however it was evident that she was not going to be able to battle any further.

    Kiawe stepped forward to examine the defeated totem Pokémon. When he stepped back, there was an ear to ear grin spread across his face.

    "And so Kamalono'a finally triumphed over the mo'owahine! He slayed the beast and finally rescued Pelei! Our fine warrior faced everything from adversity, frustration and of course…heat. However as he had been knocked down before, he stood up and persisted until the very end for the thing he loved the most! Kamalono'a and Pelei were reunited at last, finally bringing an end to the hostilities of their tribes and married soon after…living happily ever after!"

    Now it was the crowd's turn to cheer loudly and Elio felt his face go warm with a long round of applause.

    He could see Makoa feeding the totem some sort of root before she hissed again softly and rolled to her feet. As her reptilian eyes looked around the crowds, she had spotted Elio and gave a slight nod of her head before crawling on all fours to herd the salandit minions back into the pit at the ring's end.

    "Ladies and gentlemen!" Kiawe called out. "Mahalo for each and every one of you for coming and witnessing one of Alola's oldest traditions! We hope you enjoyed the spectacle tonight and wish Elio the best of luck on his island challenge!"

    "I must admit that as prejudiced as I was," Makoa said when the ring was devoid of all spectators except for Ed. "You have proven to me that malihini are more than capable of taking on the island challenge and passing."

    It was half an hour later when everyone watching had taken the buses down the trails and others mounted various types of ride Pokémon to leave the area. Kiawe and his marowak kept their fire staffs ready and provided some more lighting so that it wasn't straining dim.

    "Thank you sir." Elio said. "That means a lot."

    "It should. I do not give praise lightly."

    "Well I have to give credit where credit is due." The boy gestured behind him to his recovered party of Pokémon, who were looking at him with admiration and respect. "My Pokémon have met and exceeded all my expectations and I'm proud of every single one of them for the roles they played tonight."

    "Needless to say you were spectacular!" Kiawe exclaimed as he stood up and walked to stand beside the older man. "With your keen observations, skills in battle and perseverance, you were able to successfully put on a fantastic show for people all around Alola! And you defeated the totem Pokémon with such ease."

    "More luck than anything." Elio said as Milotic slid up next to him and gave him a slight nudge with her nose. "We're headed back as soon as we're done for some rest. They've earned it."

    "A Firium Z is awarded to each trainer who completes the trial here at Mauna Wela. It is yours now."

    Sun held out his hand and shook from barely concealing his excitement.

    His new crystal had the pattern of a swirling flame that seemed to shimmer from the torches surrounding the ring. Although inconclusive, he swore that it was glowing a very dull amber.

    "Firum Z! Acquired!" The boy crouched low to the ground, kneeling down and holding the gem close to himself, spinning around in a circle and thrusting it up in the air, striking his celebration pose; right hand in a victory fist and left hand with the crystal. "Yes! Trial is complete!"

    When he didn't hear a corresponding cheer from his party, he had glanced behind. Just like him, they were extremely eager to let out some bottled up excitement.

    "Yes. You can celebrate. You don't need my permission for something like this."

    His Pokémon all went wild.

    Makoa chuckled. "This is how you use the fire-type Z-power!"

    He stepped forward and made an "X" shape with his arms, but stopped short as if something had come to his mind.

    "Ah I'm sorry Kiawe. You're the captain here and should be doing the honors."

    The trial captain smiled. "My pleasure. Just follow my movements."

    He crossed his arms, spreading them back out akimbo before holding them out in fists down to his waist. They were then spread out again waving upwards to imitate a climbing blaze before snapping his right arm fully outstretched and crossing his left just at the crook of his elbow.

    Okay. Easy enough.

    "And your red petal."

    Oh the trial flower. That's right.

    "Thank you both. Mahalo."

    "A'ole pilikia." Both Kiawe and Makoa had said in unison.

    "It is late." The older man said. "You two best be getting back to town for some rest."

    "Yeah we best get going bro." Ed scooped up Elio's backpack and handed it over to him. "We got a long walk ahead of us."

    "Hope you brought your flashlight. I ain't using Torracat's bell as a light. Maybe talk that cubone you met earlier into evolving."

    "What about your fire staff?"

    "What you kidding? This is trial property. No way they're going to let me take this!"

    "Perhaps I can help reduce the time to a fraction." Kiawe interrupted. "Elio, your ride pager?"

    Wordlessly, he handed it over. Kiawe hit a few buttons and it was just moments later that a large Pokémon dropped from the sky to land just a few feet away from them.

    "Woah."

    "Woah is right."

    The Pokémon in question was draconic in appearance with an orange and yellow body with long green wings and small wiry arms that ended in three digit claws. His neck stretched up so he towered over the two teens by several heads. His lizard tail had a small crackling flame burning at its tip.

    "And thizz izz a new Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Charizard. Flame Pokémon. A charizard's fire burns hotter as it experiences harsh battles. This Pokémon flies about in search of powerful opponents and is reluctant to use its fiery breath on anything weaker than itself. Charizard is a fire and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "I've always wanted to have a charizard." Elio said. "Always wanted to ride on its back and see the world from high up top."

    "That's what you are about to do. Charizard here will lend you his strength and can take you to nearly any location you have previously visited in record of your Rotom 'Dex. You could fly home if you want to."

    "You know what? That's actually a good idea. What do you say Ed? Wanna see my house?"

    "Yeah sure. But you sure we have to fly on that?"

    "Unless you prefer walking. What's the matter?" He lightly punched the basketball player's arm. "You're totally fine when you're flying on a plane?"

    "Yeah but we're on a Pokémon who doesn't even know us."

    Sun sighed. "Just don't piss it off and you'll be fine. You and I know what happens when one gets riled up."

    "Yeah sure. Whatever you say."

    Kiawe and Makoa suggested that they take a few pictures to add to the scrapbook in which Elio, Ed and his Pokémon were more than happy to oblige. Milotic was currently the center of his attention as she calmly continued to nuzzle the boy's face with her own.

    Elio found her skin to be incredibly smooth and dry, with no trace of anything slimy or sticky on her skin. Her red eyes seemed to just erase any tension or anxiety he had and the nirvana of being just calm felt really…really good.

    "You're a very pretty Pokémon. I just wish I had a nickname for you that would stick."

    Let's see here….Gorgeous? Not really fitting. Ikora? Too fiction-y. What about Lil…okay that's just weird and creepy if she found out. That's a no-go. Hmm…what to do? Wait…now I know where I saw this! The ex-champion of Hoenn…crap what was his name? He used one in his battle against Brendan Maple in that amazing battle broadcasted worldwide! Her name…was….um…Minerva! That's it! Wish I could use that though, Minerva sounds fitting for Milotic.

    "Nani."

    Unsurprisingly the suggestion had come from Makoa. "It means pretty in Alolan. Milotic are very rare in these parts, but they always capture the attention of others due to their incredible beauty and elegance. It's not just rare either. Some coordinator that visited Mauna Wela had once told me that milotic are not just difficult to find, but difficult to attain as an evolution. Nani fits her pretty well."

    "I agree." Elio looked at her. "What do you say Nani? Want to go home?"

    "And show that Firium Z to the guide at the beginning to the Dividing Peak Tunnel. As for us, it is time to return to our dance! We shall convey the feelings of our people, our Pokémon and the true nature of Z-Power! Answers will lie in our dance and we will dance on to bid you farewell!"

    "Quite an interesting duo those two." Kiawe said as he sat at the foot of one of the bleachers in the ring just after Elio and Ed had departed. The marowak had finally taken down the torches and gathered to sit beside them, chatting amongst themselves.

    "That Elio keiki truly has something special about him." Makoa said. "Had he been kama'aina, I may have had a different approach to him. It has truly been a spectacular night, even if he is a haole. You may be right in that the way we carry and uphold our culture as a people must not be forgotten…but also shared with malihini."

    "You were raised that way Makoa." Kiawe softly replied. "The feeling is something that's not going to disappear overnight."

    "It is not. There are those haoles that ignore and disrespect our culture and land…and those that seek to honor it. Elio was one of those people that I can consider kama'aina."

    "I think your daughter is making you go soft old man."

    "Perhaps." Makoa chuckled. "She is carving her own path as well. And perhaps winning the Kumu Reef Triple Crown is her first step into becoming the first Alolan to become the Champion of the Surf Association."

    Whew...all done with that one. Elio enjoys his first final form Pokémon and it's one of my personal favorites! Milotic is a fantastic battler and I hope everyone enjoys what I have in store for Nani in the coming arcs.

    Translations:

    • Ka Malama - Keeper/Caretaker
    • Hiki iāʻoe ke hele - You may proceed
    • Koa - Warrior
    • Malihini - Visitor
    • Kama'aina - Refers to a native resident regardless of race of ethnicity. Anyone born in Hawaii/Alola is considered kama'aina and on occasion given to foreigners who have lived there for a long time or done something heroic to be deemed in that manner. To be considered kama'aina is a very special honor.
    • Waeia kekahi - Chosen one
    • Nani - Pretty
    • A'ole pilikia - You are welcome/no problem
    Mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.
    Brav
     
  8. ShinigamiMiroku

    ...Jirachi?
    (Jirachi Egg)
    Level 22
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    ₽931.2
    Red Orb ★★★★★
    I had the most trouble with Salazzle as well...

    I love the pacing of the progression thus far. It gives a fair balance between Sun's challenge, his relationships with his friends, and the other various aspects of the journey. As a side-note, if I'd ever gotten Milotic in RSE (requires a super-rare berry that needs to be PERFECTLY blended, which is impossible without friends to help with the mixing) I'd definitely named her Minerva, after one of my favorite Fire Emblem characters:

    [​IMG]

    She's a wyvern rider from the first Fire Emblem game, and the ruler of her kingdom until she was deposed by her brother. A strong woman who is aware of her weaknesses but perseveres despite them, she is easily one of the best characters in the series. (Plus, that armour is awesome!)

    That aside, Leilani being the daughter of Makoa is surprising (and could be one other reason he was so hard on Elio), and could prove to be an interesting plot point should Leilani continue to waffle between Sun and Hau.
     
    BraviaryScout likes this.
  9. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
    Level 40
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Posts:
    1,864
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    ₽1,107.1
    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers!

    Yes this is a day late.
    So before you go and snap at me for it being overdue, I was in the process of finalizing edits. This entire past weekend I had spent comprising this chapter since even though I had a plan down, doing the execution part had a few setbacks. Add that to having to stay extended work hours from the early morning and not being able to come back home until the sun went back down is extremely exhausting. I had maybe about 8 total hours of sleep over Saturday and Sunday morning. Not 8 each...8 total...it is very unusual for me.

    Thank goodness for coffee though. That is the true fuel that powers the airline industry XD

    Come Monday when it was time to upload and I was literally knocked out at my desk in the middle of edits. It was only when my dad woke me up at ten in the evening last night when I realized I was in the middle of editing and all.
    But now it's Tuesday, which is the start of my weekend, so I just finished what I had started. I'll be taking the opportunity as well to possibly get ahead and rough draft my next couple of chapters. There are some interesting things going to happen before we get to the grass trial.

    Big thanks to @ShinigamiMiroku for reviewing. I am doing a collaboration/X-over with another author who novelized Omega Ruby. Wallace acts as the champion battle from Emerald in his story and Minerva is the name of his Milotic. And do expect Makoa to return soon...after all, Elio does not know he is Leilani's father.

    So enjoy the chapter everyone.


    Another trial down for Elio! He's going so far and not looking back one bit! Nebby and I were cheering him on from our hotel room and kept watching the television!

    The battle was extremely intense, but he made it through. I know I'm supposed to not like battles because it's with Pokémon getting hurt, but all of them, even the big totem seemed all into it! Surely it can't be that bad right?

    What my favorite part was seeing Elio all into it too! He has so many cool adventures while out there on the island challenge. All the stuff he posts on his Festival Plaza page is pretty interesting…he and Hau are the only two trainers I follow there…hehe. You know…maybe one day I can possibly try my hand at being a trainer myself. A complete longshot so what am I talking about anyways?!

    Dear Elio,

    Congrats on passing your trial! Nebby and I are extremely proud of you!

    All those markings on your body looked very detailed and like real tattoos! Really loved looking at all that art up close! I'm wondering how long it took for them to paint it all on. Kind of sucks that all the hard work is going to come off when you take a shower…it does come off right? Better hope so!

    I guess this means you're heading to your next trial? But I figured out what we can do once you're done with your trials here! I'll ask Professor Kukui if we can use his boat as long as it still floats! I swear we were going to sink if he went any faster!

    So I got your gift! How did you know those were my favorite? You're so sweet and thoughtful! Just one question though…why would you want to go to war with me?

    Anyways, please be careful Elio. I miss you.

    Sincerely,

    Lillie

    Sunlight filtered through the silky drapes inside Lillie stirred awake. She leaned up in her comfortable mattress, grunting as she stretched her back.

    It had been a long night in watching Elio's trial on television and both she and Nebby had been thrilled to bits. A nail biter to the very end, she had closed her eyes and silently willed for Elio to triumph as if her thoughts could be heard by him in encouragement not to give up.

    "Pew."

    "Good morning Nebby." She smiled down at the little cosmog who had perched itself at the edge of the other pillow. "Did you sleep well?"

    "Pew."

    "That's good." Lillie felt another yawn escape her lips as she rolled out of bed and crossed over to the wardrobe to get dressed.

    She took a moment to stare at herself in the mirror. Her nightgown was a simple cloth robe with shortened sleeves and lapels that overlapped smoothly. It was a pure white color, woven from an incredibly soft material as if made from clouds.

    The nightgown made her suddenly self-conscious.

    I always want my daughter to look beautiful. Even when she is asleep.

    Lillie chided herself for not recognizing the signs of her own mother's neglect. She spent long hours away down in the labs as soon as morning struck and she would return for dinner on one day of the entire week.

    Even that was rare.

    Only two other people came into the house on a regular basis. Wicke and Chef Giraud.

    Naomi Wicke had been hired out of necessity, after multiple complaints from Branch Chief Faba about the constant irritations of being short-handed. With the title of Assistant Branch Chief, the position would have been better named as a glorified secretary. She reported more to the President…her mother more than she did to Faba.

    However since her joining in the Foundation, she had grown quite fond of both her and her brother. Lusamine read on her bachelor's in Education from Viridian Tech and ended up making her a private tutor to both her children. Gladion was a couple of years ahead, but Lillie had constantly surprised the both of them when she wanted to read at a higher level.

    Wicke was very soft and sympathetic around children, which made her the perfect person to step in and become their surrogate mother.

    And it was because of her that Lillie had managed to successfully get Nebby out of Aether Paradise.

    She wished that there was some way to communicate with her. Ever since leaving four and a half months ago, Wicke had not reached out to her and Lillie feared that attempting to contact her would expose her own involvement in Nebby's theft. She had been the person that had planned to meet her in the hotel's lobby to catch up; however scheduling conflicts prevented Wicke from leaving the Paradise entirely. Lillie was disheartened, but understood why.

    Wicke must feel really lonely again. She thought to herself. Just like when she lost Xander.

    The other person she saw on a regular basis at the Aether mansion was the private chef; a Kalosian named Giraud. He had apprenticed under renowned executive Siebold of the Kalos League Elite Four and was hired by Lusamine to cook dietary meals specific to the needs of her children.

    Lillie found his food to be impressive tasting, but his dishes had emphasis on presentation and taste over heartiness. She found herself going hungry after a couple of hours. Any attempts to convince him to make additional food were fruitless. Giraud was presented with certain guidelines by her mother and she had made it very clear that stepping outside those boundaries meant either a serious pay cut or possibly losing her as a client. Sadly, he had to deny her the request.

    I wish I could talk to one of them right now. Maybe see how Mother is doing…but at least now I can eat as much as I want.

    The Tide Song Hotel had two dining areas both open to the public and the food options grew even more if one ventured out into Heahea City. There was the Sunset Beach Bar, a full sit-down restaurant that got crowded during lunch and dinner hours. Patrons dressed up with men in uniform black, brown and gray suits while the women wore elegant dresses that glittered radiantly as if they were jewels.

    The second place was her favorite; a buffet style restaurant where there was only one flat fee that allowed guests to eat as much as they liked. It had multiple long tables lined with heaping portions of all kinds of food.

    Lillie found herself becoming less and less of a picky eater as time went on. Back in her single digits, she had often grabbed the vegetables and pushed them to the edge of her plate while the rest of the things were eaten. Although not entirely a vegetarian, she did find that beef, pork and poultry were enjoyable if prepared right. Meat was eaten on occasion.

    Her usual routine was to shower, dress up and then head downstairs to eat. It was still mid-morning when she had stepped off the elevator after seeing Nebby back to sleep. This time around, the tiny Pokémon was rather fussy and refused to sleep. It was only when she lied that she was going to see Elio did it end up calming down.

    Briefly.

    The fussiness returned, not from wanting to go to sleep, but because she was going to see him without bringing it along.

    I'm sorry Nebby. Even though Elio would love to come and see you, he's on the other side of the island.

    She helped herself to eggs and a granola cereal with mixed berries before getting ready to head back up to her room.

    Recently, things had been nagging at her mind about Nebby from its origins to its purpose. There were texts that depicted a Pokémon of similar characteristics to the cosmog and its unclear relation to the four guardian deities of Alola. Those texts were in a book located in the big library in Malie City. That plus the ruins were all she had in her efforts to get Nebby back to its own home.

    And that's all on a whole another island. She solemnly thought to herself. Great. Now how am I going to get there?

    Elio and Hau were still on their island challenge and likely staying for Leilani's Kumu Reef Triple Crown tournament later in the week. It was probable that Professor Kukui was waiting for them to finish or on his own duty.

    "Oh hello Miss Lillie." The hotel's receptionist smiled at her when she crossed the front desk. "How are you this morning?"

    "I'm good. Tha-mahalo for asking sir."

    "Of course. Oh and one more thing." He reached behind him and handed her a box plus an envelope. "I believe this Elio person has sent you another letter as well as gift. The two of you sure like to exchange a lot during your travels!"

    "Oh." Lillie had to turn away from him to hide her reddening face. "Mahalo."

    "You are most welcome. And one more thing…there are two people…they sound like they're from far away with an accent. They're looking for you."

    Does he mean those two Kalosians Sina and Dexio? What would they want to do with me?

    Lillie retreated to her hotel room and stared at the envelope.

    It was a sharp color of gold, orange and black with an almost intimidating pattern to it. The box underneath had a slight sweet smell to it with a metallic gold finish and a small ribbon tied over the top.

    She opened the envelope, finding a Tapu Koko picture in the card's center. The deity was surrounded with lances of arc lightning as it charged forward in an aggressive warlike pose.

    Her head shook itself in confusion.

    Why would Elio want to go to war with me?

    "Pew!"

    "Nebby?" She set the card down and untied the ribbon on the box, opening it to reveal.

    "Oh my." Her heart fluttered and Nebby's eyes expanded to nearly double their size.

    "Pew!"

    Elio, how did you know I love chocolate covered macadamias?

    It wasn't until a couple hours later when Lillie had gone to the lobby again and found a pair of familiar faces waiting for her. They waved her over the moment she had saw them.

    "Alola and bonjour! Comment allez vous?" Sina had a gray tanktop on with blue shorts. A pair of designer sunglasses dangled down from her neck and she fixed Lillie with an easygoing smile.

    "Uh…good. I guess?"

    "Stop scaring her Sina." Dexio chided from her right. "Or muttering incomprehensible stuff."

    "Gotta remind her where we're from."

    "Kalos right?"

    "Yup! Anyway, we just wanted to make sure you are alright. We'll be heading back to Kalos the day after tomorrow, but Sycamore is going to send us right back out after a little bit since our work here is far from done."

    "What kind of work?" Lillie asked, now a little more curious.

    "Well that is why we asked to meet with you." Dexio revealed to her. "Much of it involves ultra energy and it may be related to cosmog."

    A spike of fear crept up in her body as a hundred different outlandish possibilities came to mind.

    Sina and Dexio are agents for Mother?

    No…they can't be.

    "Miss Lillie?" Sina asked out of genuine concern. "Is everything okay?"

    "I…I…Nebby."

    "Nebby?"

    "N-nebby is a Pokémon called cosmog. I found and freed it from people that wanted to do very bad things to it. It's supposed to be a secret, but how did you two find out about Nebby?"

    "That's why we wanted to speak to you. Our own Pokémon professor in the Kalos region is reading unusual spikes of an energy caused by ultra wormholes." Sina explained. "Normally your friend professor Burnet has readings of them around the Alola region, but our own professor Augustine Sycamore has had colleagues at the Lumiose Scientific Academy of Technology report to him these readings. Most of these ultra wormholes fluctuate in parts over Kalos for a shorter time than a millisecond, but that's all it needs in order to be detected."

    "Wha-?"

    "Miss Lillie," Dexio gently said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Professor Burnet told us about your," he glanced around the lobby to see if anyone in particular was listening. "Fugitive status. Sina and I have no intention to turn you in. We're just like you in trying to help your friend Nebby go back to its home and understand why so much of this ultra radiation is fluctuating around Kalos. We just want to talk."

    Lillie felt a little bit of relief at hearing that. "Okay. Thank you both."

    "Of course. How about we go somewhere more comfortable? The beach perhaps?"

    "I don't have a swimsuit." Lillie murmured.

    "No worries. How about just at one of the patios? We can do lunch."

    An hour later, Lillie sat down at the table in between Sina and Dexio who were both enjoying salads. A waiter brought her a third one once she arrived and the conversation turned light as comments ranged from the quality of their food to the laid back life in Alola. Lillie learned that Kalos held many high-end institutions including the Lumiose Scientific Academy of Technology, or LSAT as they had called it. Sina and Dexio were both alumni.

    The view of the ocean was absolutely breathtaking, crashing down sprays of white foam as surfers graced the waves. Children built sandcastles on the beach while the parents sat in the sand or sunbathed. A volleyball net had been set up and two men and two women were engaged in what seemed to be a very intense match.

    Nebby stirred uncomfortably in the duffel she had placed beside them. Even though they were in a secluded area of the patio, she couldn't risk it being seen.

    "How was your salad Lillie?" Sina asked. "It's the lunch special at the Sunset Beach Bar."

    "Really good. Thank you for having me."

    "You're welcome. It was our pleasure."

    "So." She began, "What is it you wanted to talk about Nebby?"

    "Oh right." Dexio leaned down to grab a Silphlet, the multi-purpose portable computer that had a revolutionary design for everyday use and developed by Kanto electronics megacorporation Silph Co.. He folded out a miniature kickstand and turned it around to the girls after pulling up some files.

    "As you can see, Lumiose City was in the middle of a thunderstorm when ultra energy readings had spiked. They were invisible to the naked eye and the lightning had temporarily severed LSAT's power grid, preventing the readers from giving us any visual proof."

    "These readings are a possibility that someone or something is trying to come to our world from another."

    "Another world?" Lillie's eyes widened, now suddenly much more interested.

    "Sina and I are working with Professor Burnet on the research into this mysterious world. We've called it Ultra Space."

    "Ultra Space."

    "Even though much of our research has seen new breakthroughs, there is evidence that beings originating from this Ultra Space have been on our world well before any of us were even alive. Even our ancestors."

    "Wow." Lillie said. "As amazing as this all is, what does this have to do with Nebby?"

    "May we see it?" Dexio asked.

    "Um," she hesitantly looked back to the duffel. "I don't know. Nebby hardly likes to sit still and it tries all the time to get out of the bag."

    "I can see why." Sina said. "Alola is quite hot and if heat gets trapped inside, it's bound to be nearly twice the temperature in there as it is out here."

    Lillie looked down remorsefully at Sina's explanation.

    I'm sorry Nebby that you're so uncomfortable in that bag. I know it's hot in there, but I have to do whatever I can to keep you safe.

    "I have to do it for Nebby's own protection. I know I'm hurting it, but what people will do to it if it's ever discovered is even worse!"

    "Not to worry Lillie." Dexio activated one of his poke balls and released an espeon. The lilac mammalian creature strode beside his trainer and let out a purr of delight as he brushed its head. "Espeon here is good at catching elusive Pokémon. He can sense them when most others can't. Plus, he enjoys talking to new faces."

    "O-okay."

    Lillie hesitantly reached over and pulled on a zipper. She stopped, wincing automatically and expecting Nebby to shoot out of the opening like a rocket.

    "Hey Nebby. I'd like you to meet a couple friends of mine."

    "Pew?" The tiny Pokémon seemed just a little bit uncomfortable, but floated cautiously out of the opening to look up at the three humans.

    "This is Sina and Dexio. They helped rescue us from Team Skull when we first arrived here." Lillie smiled, remembering their selflessness that night in how they valiantly came to her rescue. "I still need to find a way to pay you back."

    "There is no need mademoiselle." Sina smiled at her. "We had to deal with a similar gang back in Kalos few years back."

    "Really?" As she said this, Nebby curiously floated on the top of the table and happily ate one of Lillie's chocolate covered macadamia nuts. She had come to find out that it seriously enjoyed the confection.

    "Yes. Thanks to the efforts of five young trainers, we managed to stop their scheme of using an ancient weapon of terrifying power."

    "Danger still lurks though," Dexio added, taking a moment to pop a piece of bread into his mouth. "It's very alarming considering we have all these ultra energy readings over Kalos. I'd say they're loosely connected after hearing the Scions had moved a chapter into Lumiose City and began spouting their conspiracies."

    "Anyway, Professor Burnet and Sycamore compared analysis of their ultra energy readings and we found out that they are very similar to the aura if you could call it being emanated by Nebby."

    Lillie glanced over at the small Pokémon, who was jumping up and down happily while playing with Dexio's espeon. Perhaps this could be the breakthrough of her mission to safely carry it to its refuge?

    "So then you believe that Nebby's home is this Ultra Space."

    "Precisely. However opening said portal may allow threats from the other side to enter our world."

    "What threats?" Lillie felt her blood run cold.

    "We're not entirely sure since encounters are extremely rare and overemphasized. The Scions claim to be able to offer ways to avoid the destruction of the entities that come through, but most others take it with a grain of salt. There have been reports of encounters of beings with incredible strength unlike any other who attack anything and everything in sight."

    "But why?" Lillie asked. "Why would it do such a horrible thing?"

    Sina cleared her throat. "Think about it this way. You are unwillingly dropped into a place you know nothing about and completely foreign. Nothing around you can be trusted or confirmed, so therefore, you will do whatever it takes to ensure your own safety and take action. For these things, it's neutralizing through hostility."

    "The ultra energy readings are still having an impact on Kalos lands." Dexio said. "It's subtly disturbing the ecosystem and increased activity may accelerate it. We'll need a balance."

    "And that's another purpose of why we are here. There are small cells of a legendary Pokémon called Zygarde that lie in hiding around Alola. We've tasked a trainer named...uh," Sina paused for a moment. "Ah! Northstar! That's his name! Anyway, this Northstar trainer displayed similar characteristics to the five we mentored in defeating Team Flare those years ago."

    "Elio?"

    "Ah so you know him."

    "Y-yeah." She had to fight a blush on her face as she brought out the laminated picture that was with the warlike card he had sent earlier that day. "He and Hau, the kahuna's grandson are out on their island challenge. Nebby and I are cheering him on!"

    "That's fantastic! You've found a couple of cute boys to protect you and that little bundle of joy." At the praise, Nebby shook its entire body and babbled something similar to a laugh.

    Lillie was intrigued by all this new information, regardless of how scary it sounded. "So what is Zygarde?"

    The two Kalosians glanced at one another before nodding once. It was Sina who broke the silence.

    "Zygarde is a Pokémon of legend in Kalosian folklore. It is said to be responsible for keeping the ecosystem in a fine balance between overflowing with life or devoid of it. It is an immensely powerful Pokémon, however its power has been the stuff of legend. Nobody has ever seen Zygarde or provided valid proof of its existence."

    "So you think it's in Alola?"

    "Maybe. The legend goes that the ultimate weapon; the same one Team Flare had nearly used a while back had been done to end a bloody war three millennia ago. The ecosystem was in disarray and it was said that Zygarde revealed itself to the world and used its special power to bring back that balance. As a safety measure, it would split itself into two forms and be scattered at opposite ends of the world. One of them is believed to be hiding within the depths of the Terminus Cave east of Anistar City. You may recognize the name as being a hotspot for danger due to people claiming a monster lives inside."

    "Zygarde."

    "Possibly."

    "So what about the second one?"

    "Zygarde splits itself into small cells to distribute its power even further. To prevent those with malevolent intentions from exploiting its power, the second Zygarde scattered parts of itself in an area somewhere around the Serrano Ocean where only true-hearted individuals would be able to find and ask for its help. Alola is in the middle of it, so it was a place for us to look."

    Realization hit Lillie at that bit of information. They sure know how to pick one. "So that's why you tasked Elio with finding the cells. You need Zygarde's help."

    "Not right away, but if the pattern anomalies continue it's very possible we will have to turn to him."

    Lillie felt both thrilled and a little nervous. She knew that Elio was such a selfless person after throwing himself onto the bridge at the Mahalo Trail to save Nebby and he had already claimed multiple times he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

    Now he was assigned by these two powerful Kalosian trainers to help track down missing "cells" of a Zygarde to summon it out of hiding for its help.

    "People depend on Elio so much." She whispered. "He just has that dependability about him."

    "You speak very highly of him."

    The blonde nodded, glancing back at Nebby again. "When I first…escaped with Nebby…I was on my own…almost three months. I was lost, confused and helpless. I truly did not know what to do and my…uh when my life was in danger, Nebby saved me…and I couldn't do the same to it."

    Sina and Dexio exchanged an uncertain look, but they remained silent and allowed Lillie to continue her story.

    "Professor Burnet took me in and her husband Professor Kukui have been helping uncover the mystery about where Nebby came from and how we can send it back home."

    She sighed, almost smiling at the memory of that night her life changed forever. When she had met him.

    "One day, Nebby was begging to go to the Ruins of Conflict where Tapu Koko lives. It was late at night, but that didn't deter its excitement. I tried to keep it hidden because we would get in trouble if anyone spotted us. But it was so determined to go and explore on its own."

    Lillie lightly laughed. "It escaped from my bag for what seemed to be the millionth time and ran across a bridge over a gorge that is used to access the ruins. And then some spearow had attacked it while on the bridge. I thought they were going to hurt or even kill it!"

    She saw Sina gasp just slightly and Dexio raise an eyebrow.

    "So then what happened?" The female Kalosian asked.

    Lillie stared at the ground, feeling a little bit of heat rise in her cheeks.

    "I…I was too scared to go across the bridge to help it. My legs felt so weak and I never felt so weak and powerless in my life." She sighed. "I had worked so hard to save Nebby from its suffering and it pained me to see that I would lose it again."

    "Lillie." Dexio whispered, reaching over and gently taking her hand in his. "What happened? How did you save it?"

    "Elio." The answer came out barely audible and the two older trainers leaned forward to listen better.

    Lillie went ahead and answered for them a little louder. "Elio saved it. He went across that bridge without a second thought and used his body to shield Nebby from the spearow."

    "That is very good thinking on his part." Sina remarked. "Spearow often get disinterested in attacking if their victim is being covered by someone or something."

    "Yes. He was so brave and fearless, even when Nebby tried using its power to scare them off and destroyed the bridge. I…I thought both of them were going to die that night. Icould only watch and pray that something could happen and they could live. Little did I know…heh, Tapu Koko was listening and it answered my prayer. The guardian deity of Melemele Island swooped down and grabbed them before they hit the ravine."

    "Tapu Koko…is that the being that Elio wore around his neck."

    "Yes. He has a pendant." Lillie explained. "They say that trial-goers who see Tapu Koko before they go on their island challenge are said to be watched over and kept safe by it."

    "Then our assumption was spot-on." The sandy blond said. "Elio is truly a talented trainer."

    "Yes. He is amazing. Brave, handsome, strong, smart."

    Both Kalosians exchanged a knowing smirk as the young girl's expression grew into a big smile as she named off nearly a half dozen characteristics about the boy.

    "Did you remember about the part where he can turn water into wine?"

    Lillie opened her mouth to reply, but it was cut off by the ringing of a device. Dexio had more of a reaction than Sina, so she assumed it was his phone or whatever communication device.

    "Well…I better take this." He jerked his thumb towards a balcony that overlooked the beaches, "I'll be over there if you need me."

    "Go on." The purple haired woman waved him away. "Lillie and I are going to have some girl talk."

    The girls glanced at him as he walked away to pull out a device that projected an image of a young man in a lab coat. He appeared to be in his late twenties and had longer dark hair. As he left, one of the hotel restaurant waiters had come by and Sina quickly paid, rebuking any of Lillie's offers to cover herself in terms of food expenses.

    "So Lillie," she began after the dishes were cleared. "Have you told Elio yet?"

    "Wha?" she stammered. "Told him what?"

    "Your crush. Judging by how much you've praised him about saving Nebby and how he conquered this latest trial, I must say that you remind me of me."

    "I do?"

    "Quite so. My fiancée and I used to be very awkward around one another. We first met back in a lab club in my college years. He was quite a big flirt and all the girls loved him. Handsome, strong, smart, but most of all, he was a genuine person. Very down-to-earth and not caring who or where you came from. He is just so approachable."

    Wait, Sina is engaged? To who? Lillie's green eyes wandered down and she finally saw a silver band shining brightly on her ring finger.

    She laughed lightly. "It's just like what they said in college when hanging around boys. Be ready for the persistent ones. They enjoy playing the long game. He wouldn't stop and even though I hated it; the feeling was so great that I was coveted and desirable by someone. Thankfully he wasn't one of those that were looking to get into my pants. At least not back then."

    "So…how did you know he was the one?"

    "I didn't. At least not immediately. It took him a while and I have to give credit for his said persistence, but we both ended up working with one another for a long time. Partnerships turned into a special relationship after I finally agreed to a date. Soon enough, we went out on a second date, then a third, a fourth and so on. I knew he was the one when I felt completely at ease and in love with this other person. It was only fitting that we will soon marry when we both began to discuss the topic of a wedding without feeling uncomfortable."

    I wonder if I'll get married and be happy like Sina and her future husband?

    "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I was just like you when I was single and the way you talk about him is similar to what my fiancée used to do around me. Remember that boys can be shy about confessing their feelings too."

    Lillie nodded, as the feeling of self-pity surfaced in her body. "But wait! What if Elio doesn't like me the way I like him? There's this…other girl he likes to talk about a lot and I can't help but wonder if he's in love with her."

    "Unfortunately that can be the case. Best thing you can do is show that you care about him and respect his decision regardless of what it is. Sometimes trying to ruin his relationship with another girl may widen the gyre even further between you. I don't think you want that."

    "No."

    "I'm not telling you to go and kiss him to death. But in the world of relationships; you will find that it's necessary to get out of your comfort zone. What if the two of you are soulmates and he's too shy to confess anything? If you don't take that initiative, the both of you will lose out. Take this advice from a Kalosian…the land of amour."

    "Of course." Lillie said, now feeling her confidence gain a newfound surge. "I actually wanted to go and do something fun together after Elio completes all his trials here."

    "Oh that's fantastic! I bet if you talk to him again and mention it, he'll be excited!"

    "Hey ladies!" Both turned to see Dexio walking towards them and stuffing the holocaster back into his pocket. "What did I miss?"

    "Lillie confessing her undying love for a certain trainer we've met."

    He just about groaned out loud, rolling his eyes. "Oh merde."

    "Dexio!" Sina scolded, lightly smacking him upside the back of his head. "Relax! It's nothing inappropriate!"

    "Well regardless of what kind of things you poisoned in her head…we gotta get going. Sycamore got a tip from Interpol that the Scion cultists are doing more of their conspiracy stuff and possibly looking to make a play. He wants us back there. I've already booked us a flight that leaves later this afternoon." He sighed and glanced around at the beaches. "Guess vacation's over for now."

    "Oh fantastic." Sina groaned, stretching out her tanned limbs. "I still had two more days lying on the beach planned."

    "Gonna have to put those on hold because once we're done there, we're being whisked back here to assist with the composition of Zygarde. So keep your swimsuit handy."

    He turned to Lillie and extended a hand. "Mademoiselle Lillie, it was an absolute pleasure to make your acquaintance, but sadly we must bid you au revior for the time being. Should we arrive back in Alola again, I would love to catch up. Do you have anyone to help look after Nebby?"

    "I uh…have Professor Burnet. She's in Hau'oli City right now as part of the Alola Lady nominations. But she'll be back soon! I'll just hang around the resort and stay out of trouble."

    "Best you can do right? Until your chevalier arrives."

    "Yes." She shook his hand and smiled again. "Thank you both for everything."

    "You take care of yourself Lillie." Sina gave her a one-armed affectionate hug. "See you soon."

    Dexio spoke up, "One more piece of advice before we go. I overheard some of Sina's girl talk here and know some people who are in a similar boat as yours. My advice? Suis ton coeur."

    "Merci." She and Nebby stood side by side as the two Kalosians walked away. As Dexio's left hand came into view, she spotted something that glittered in the Alolan sun set on his ring finger.

    Elio and Ed instead took a shorter flight back to their hotel room on Pa'ani's, Royal Avenue on Charizard's back. The estimated travel time to Melemele Island was significantly longer than the jump to the nearby town, so they instead opted to spend the night at the hotel and then the majority of the next day back at the Northstar's house.

    Hau and Leilani had taken up Ed's offer to stay in his room, although sleeping arrangements were going to be a bit tight.

    Apparently both had called the couch.

    Elio was fully dressed for the flight and his ride gear offered a bit of protection from the winds. Luckily, the ride charizard had come with a spare base layer to keep Ed warm as well.

    It failed to keep his food inside his stomach. After retching over the side while the flame Pokémon swooped down rapidly as if it were a roller coaster, Elio felt bile rolling up his throat too. Thankfully he had managed to hold his own food down.

    A quiet sneak up to their room since the time was eleven thirty in the evening and Ed slid his card to the reader, allowing them entry.

    The television screen was flashing various shades off the far wall and the two of them crept forward.

    Scandalous!

    This is sooo going on Festival Plaza!

    "Rotom." Sun whispered, exchanging a devilish grin with his best friend. "Engage camera mode, automatic."

    The haunted 'Dex got the memo to stay silent and snapped a quick picture with the flash being indistinctive from the television's. As soon as the image rolled up on the screen; Elio and Ed quickly typed in a message and posted it right on their account.

    "Post on The1_NorthStar. Hashtag, cuddling."

    Lying very closely to one another were Hau Kealoha and Leilani Taula who had been up watching television for what looked to be quite a while. However it was their poses while sleeping that had the two boys gushing and giggling like a pair of schoolgirls.

    Leilani's mouth hung open just slightly as she rested her head right on Hau's shoulder. A slender arm was draped across his lap, resting on the opposite thigh.

    She looks so peaceful like that.

    Hau was just as adorable, uncaring that she was taller than him. His own arms were on top of hers as his head leaned on her side for mutual support. Unlike her, his mouth was shut, but it was just curled up ever so slightly as if looking back to a fond memory.

    Or maybe because someone he cares about is using his shoulder as a pillow.

    Ed's smile didn't diminish as the two of them made their way over to the pair of beds. He glanced back and began to mouth.

    They. Are. So. Freaking. Cute!

    I. Know. Right?

    Interestingly enough, neither awoke when Elio hopped in the shower. He let the jets spray his body, blasting the detailed inkwork off and turning the flow through the drain a dark gray.

    Man, it sucks having to erase all that hard work. I loved all of it too. I hope everyone did.

    The past few hours of trekking up to the summit of Mauna Wela, the practice, the dance and the thrill of the trial had caught up to Elio. Full of energy on his way up, he had met the trial to his own expecations. His Pokémon helped him power through and now that it was all over, it was time to crash and recover.

    Elio leaned forward in the stall, resting his hands on the wall and letting out a deep sigh of relief, allowing the warm water to wash away all the sweat, dirt and ink off his skin.

    Ed knows how to get a good shower stall for sure.

    And he's gonna be leaving.

    Sun had been so hyped on the trial and spending time around all of his friends that he temporarily forgot that Ed was going to be headed back to Kanto the next day. It was just a couple of weeks away when it was very possible that he would have his name called in the annual League draft to become a professional basketball player.

    Why can't he stay?

    It was another peaceful Alolan morning as pikipek chirped.

    Elaine slid the spatula underneath the next pancake and flipped it out of the pan onto a plate. She sliced off a chunk of butter, spreading it on and adding forks.

    Her smile only grew as she heard a pair of voices shout excitedly from Elio's room. The two of them had arrived in style on the back of a mighty charizard only to wrap her body in bone crushing hugs. It was a welcome relief that both boys were tired but happy and she sent them to his room to play video games while she whipped up some breakfast. Elio was talking all about Alola and how happy he was to be home, albeit for a brief time.

    She was amazed at Ed. He was now taller than her by several inches with a broadened physique and a much more mature attitude although it didn't stop his charm. He had been a longtime family friend all the way back when he met Elio in grade school.

    In a way, Ed was Elio's rock in training him to better himself and vice versa. The two had been inseparable since making the basketball team consistently and driving the others around them to play as hard as they could to win.

    Now they were on separate paths in their careers. Ed was going to be a professional player in a matter of weeks and Elio was on his way to mastering the island challenge.

    Her own boy had nearly doubled the size of his team since she last saw him. The three new members surprised her and got along so well with Meowth. He, Rockruff and Torracat ran to the backyard to roughhouse with Grimer in tow. Charjabug set herself on the counter, watching Elain cook with a lot of interest and keeping an eye to stay clear of Rufflet. The little eagle Pokémon was more than happy to accept its trainer's offering of berries and busied himself by grabbing the fruit out of the bowl.

    Nani was quite larger than most Pokémon Elaine had come across, but her lithe serpentine form allowed her to easily bend around the areas of the house and they had come to find that she was very caring and affectionate. Elaine knew a milotic was a very rare Pokémon and even more difficult to attain due to the high amount of care it required in its feebas pre-evolution. She was almost hesitant to ask if Sun had caught it in this form or raised it from its baby stage.

    I think he evolved it from a feebas. That would be much rather him. My little baby is growing up.

    "Boys!" She called into the hallway with Meowth scampering inside. "Breakfast is ready!"

    Elio was heard first. "That's not fair that you pick Blaziken every time! Why don't you use another bulky fighting like Machamp?"

    Ed smirked. "Gotta stay at the top of my game bro. That means honing my skills on my best character."

    "I will own you with my strategies and beat you with my skills. Just you wait."

    "You couldn't even stand up to me with Garchomp. No match for the speed boost stuff!"

    "Just you wait. They made Gardevoir a counter to slow down Blaziken's speed along with the other fast fighters. I'll kick your ass."

    "You're on."

    "Boys." Elaine chided, but still held her smile. "Before you two go at one another again, please sit down, eat some breakfast and talk to me about your adventures!"

    "Yes Mom."

    "Sure thing Mom."

    "Ed, you can call me Elaine. I've told you that before."

    "I know. Calling you Mom sounds good too."

    "Leave my mom alone Ed."

    "So Ed," Elaine started as she cut into the pancakes and took a bite. "How did the game go? I heard Elio here actually filled in for an absent player."

    "Yeah. He did fantastic. Almost like that injury never happened. Too bad we lost."

    "The game means nothing; it's just a showcase of all your skills. You think you impressed enough to get drafted high up?"

    "I hope so." Ed took a bite and wiped his mouth with a napkin. "I hired an agent earlier this month and we've been going over different scenarios." It wasn't uncommon for future basketball players to already bring on agents to negotiate contracts on their behalf with teams. "But although I'd like to be drafted as high as I can, that means I'd get more money. Looks good and all, but it won't help the team in the long run once my contract expires."

    It was true; more valuable players picked earlier in the draft would warrant higher paying salaries. Good for the player, but less so for the team.

    "I'm sure you can come to a compromise."

    "Yeah I hope so. It's all really much of a dream come true. I've always wanted to be a basketball superstar when I grew up."

    Elio grinned at him again. "How about you? When you get that big contract, what are you gonna buy?"

    "Beats me. First off, I'd like to finally get my mom that car she always wanted. Then maybe a house or something." His face turned serious. "So anyway how are you settling here in Alola?"

    "It's…had its ups and downs." Sun finally said. "I told you all about how I hated this place in the beginning, but really I just didn't want to move so far away that it was unfamiliar." He bowed his head. "Everything wasn't perfect back in Cerulean because of what happened with Dad, but it was enough to keep me happy."

    Elaine silently put an arm around her son's shoulders, silently offering him her support.

    "I reacted badly, like a total asshole to Mom because she was taking me away from all of this. Everyone tried their best to show me all the positives of being here, but I didn't want to hear any of it."

    He sighed. "Guess it takes almost falling off a bridge to save a Pokémon and then being rescued by Tapu Koko changing my life. If he were to hear anything I had said about this place when we initially moved, I have no doubt it would've left me for dead. I am so grateful for it in saving us that night. I owe it my life."

    "Sweetie. Please understand that making this move was not an easy decision on my part." Elaine soothed. "I didn't want to move away from my friends and job either. I also wanted you to have that opportunity to become a trainer and finding out that the island kahuna was more than willing to give you a Pokémon would fulfill that dream."

    "I know Mom. But I can't stay down about Kanto forever. We've met so many amazing people in the few months I've been here. Professor Kukui, Kahuna Hala, Hau, Lillie, Leilani, Dallas and all those trial captains and others. Plus I have an ohana of my own here with my Pokémon. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

    "I'm happy for you." Ed clapped Elio on the back. "Happy for both of you."

    "Thank you Ed." Elaine said. "Now why don't you two go and play that rematch of yours before you head back out?" Her smile widened again. "I'll play the winner."

    "Uh."

    "Don't underestimate me." Elaine said and cracked up laughing again. "Now that you are on your island challenge, Meowth and I have been spending time learning the controls and winning battles. Are you prepared to face me and Aegislash in Pokken?"

    "Be safe sweetie." She hugged him. "And remember that you are more than welcome to call me at any time you want okay?"

    "Thanks Mom." Elio returned the gesture and allowed her to plant a kiss on his cheek. He had half expected Ed to snicker out loud. "I love you."

    "I love you sweetie. Now go on and have fun you two! Ed! Best of luck in the draft! Elio and I will hopefully be watching!"

    "You better be!" As Sun called a charizard to pick them up, they quickly threw on the ride gear and took off into the sky, waving back at the woman as the ride Pokémon flapped its wings to gain altitude and turn for Akala Island.

    "I still can't believe she beat the both of us." Ed had grumbled while they were settling down at the airport. He had called ahead to have his luggage transported to the airport when he had checked out. Hau and Leilani would meet them at the dropoff point in Kamehameha to bid him farewell.

    "You and me both. How did she know to expose our weaknesses in our fighters like that?"

    "Aegislash is a wildcard fighter bro. It's an all rounded high offensive and defensive player."

    "Blaziken man."

    "Yeah RIP Gardevoir too."

    It was loosely called a battle when Elaine took the second controller to play Pokken. She had used a character known as Aegislash, a Kalosian native creature that had a sword and shield to represent its offensive and defensive capabilities. What made it such a versatile fighter was its ability to change forms in an instant to either strike quickly or maneuver into a defense posture to deter enemy attacks.

    Ed's style of playing Pokken was similar to his basketball play, all complete offense. Blaziken was among the fastest and hardest hitting fighters of the game, yet Elaine had timed it so that his attacks would strike her Kingshield maneuver that weakened his attacks every time he hit in the shield stance. As soon as he was weakened, she would switch to an offense and use that to her advantage. Blaziken's lower defense and recovery only allowed him just a couple of opportunities to attack, which he had used to no avail.

    Elio didn't fare much better. Although he had beaten Ed and Blaziken using it, Elaine must've known that Gardevoir's own offense was less powerful and struck quickly with Aegislash. He had met a similar fate to Ed, leaving Elaine has the undisputed champion of Pokken within their house.

    "We best brush up on our skills bro. We ain't going out that quietly."

    "Amen to that."

    Checking into Ed's flight was smooth and the two lovebirds caught sleeping on the couch together had caught up with them just before he was headed to security.

    "Alola!" Hau ran up to their side with Leilani behind them. Elio and Ed noticed that both had a little bit of unruly hair from bedhead.

    "Alola Hau!" Ed fist-bumped him. "How was your sleep?"

    "Oh it was awesome! Sorry about missing your trial. I was tired."

    It was also noticed that her face was just slightly flushed and she looked away from him. "Y-yeah."

    "Well good. I hear that everyone is setting out for their journeys in the morning, so I convinced my agent to have the hotel room for one more night."

    "Oh really?" Elio's eyes lit up. "Thanks Ed!" He looked back at Hau and Leilani again. "You guys want the couch again?"

    "Sure."

    "Y-yeah."

    Before anyone else could say anything more, there was an announcement over the PA that was beginning a boarding process for Ed's flight.

    This is it.

    "Well that's me. I seriously wish I could stay with you all, but I gotta get going."

    Leilani acted first and widened her arms out to embrace the superstar. "Mahalo Ed for everything. Best of luck out there."

    "And you too. Show the world what kind of surfer Alola has."

    "I will."

    "And you Hau, keep being awesome."

    "You know I will!" The two of them bumped fists playfully.

    "Elio."

    "Was really good to see you bro." Sun said, grabbing his outstretched hand and getting pulled in for a "bro hug" "Make sure you invite me to that fancy new apartment or mansion of yours once you buy it."

    "No problem. Remember what I said now right?"

    "Right."

    "You're the best damn trainer I've seen and if you can conquer that trial like you did last night, then there's nothing gonna stop you."

    "I know. Hey, say hi to Coach and the team for me."

    "You got it." Ed pointed at them while smiling before he turned and walked through the airport's door. It closed and he was gone.

    "So Elio," Hau began as they sat on one of the benches just outside the dropoff area. "I'm very curious to know why you sent me the picture of yourself, me and Lillie in here."

    Sun was watching the planes as if he could see Ed's own flight moving out for takeoff at the runway, but he glanced back over and feigned surprise. "Well uh, I did say that I was going to send both of you a picture when Rotom did that surprise snapshot. There it is."

    "I know that. But you also sent it to me a Luvdisc envelope…you know, the kind that's in love letters." He leaned forward, a hint of concern etched onto his face. "Uh…is there something you want to tell me?"

    Wait…Lillie got the one I wanted to send to Hau.

    Mom got the one I wanted to send to Lillie.

    And Hau got the one I wanted to send to Mom.

    Shit.

    Leilani was on Hau's other side and she watched Elio's own expression go from confused to complete horror.

    It didn't matter they were in the middle of a semi-quiet part of the airport with people coming or going about. She burst out laughing. Her fits and giggles were enough to catch the attention of others, immediately causing both boys to fluster.

    "Oh my goodness! ʻAʻohe ala hele! That has to be the single funniest thing I have ever heard!"

    "Leilani be quiet!" Elio hissed, noticing all the indignant looks being cast their way. "Way to tell the entire world I messed up!"

    "And it made it all hilarious!" She opened the card and put it in Hau's lap. "Read this here…I wish you knew…how much I think about you! Wow brah! It's official, you two are my BrOTP!"

    "BrOTP?"

    "Yeah. Like OTP as in one-true-pairing…but instead it's the bromance version! BrOTP!"

    "We do not have a bromance!" Sun denied. It was at that moment, Hau had chimed in to further prove Leilani's point.

    "Wait, what's a bromance?"

    Whew...and that's done. Again apologies for the late update.
    Hawaiian Translations:

    • 'A'ohe ala hele! - No freaking way!

    French Translations:

    • Mademoiselle - Missus (refers to single woman)
    • Bonjour! - Good day!
    • Comment allez vous? - How are you?
    • Amour - Love
    • Merde - Shit
    • Chevalier - Knight
    • Au revior - Good bye/Farewell
    • Merci - Thanks/Thank you
    • Suis ton coeur - Follow your heart

    We're getting close to finishing the final Akala regular trials part where more stuff is gonna happen afterwards! Stay tuned to that! And I for one am looking forward to putting Lillie and Elio back together! Seems so far away, but my aim is to have the two reunited back together within the next 5 or so chapters.

    As always everyone, mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.

    Brav
     
  10. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers.

    Before I get started, let me say that this has been a physically, mentally and emotionally taxing past few days for me. Normally I don't prefer to share explicit details on my personal life on here, but I feel compelled since I considered it a bit of both celebration and hardship.

    I'll start with the bad first. This past Friday afternoon; my mother arrived home from work complaining of severe abdominal pain. She works at a hospital and the many times I've cut, scraped and bruised myself...I've been told by her that I don't need a bandage and to tough it out.

    Regardless, I took her to the emergency room Friday night and she was diagnosed with appendicitis. For those of you who don't know what that is; it's inflammation of the appendix. So therefore, she underwent emergency surgery for an appendectomy. Thankfully, the operation was a success and she is in the process of recovery, having been recently discharged from the ER.

    Because of this unexpected turn of events, my mother had to spend both my brother's high school graduation as well as Mother's Day this past Sunday...in a hospital bed. It didn't help that this chapter was a bit difficult to write...but a lot happens and the next few are ones that I think will be interesting. Certainly eager to get those done and out of the way.

    That brings me to the other news that I have. Work has assigned me to go on temporary duty to Las Vegas. I know right? "Work" in Sin City :P I leave tomorrow afternoon and will be gone for at least two, but no more than three weeks. I'll be bringing my computer with me so I can continue to work on chapters while on downtime, but there is a fairly good chance that the biweekly update will take a bit longer. We'll see.

    Onto the positives though. We've nearly hit 125 faves...did manage to get 150 followers and pass the 40,000 view milestone! Last but not least...this now has the most reviews of any fic I've written.

    I feel extremely lucky to have such faithful readers and fans. You all are amazing. It does excite me to wonder what other possibilities this story will achieve...and I'm not even halfway done with the island challenge! Could we reach twice as many in faves, followers, views and reviews? I think absolutely!

    And I hope everyone enjoyed Mother's Day. I know that not everyone reading this may be on good terms with theirs, but considering the little scare we as a family had...I made sure that the card and gifts I gave my own mother reflected my utmost appreciation for everything she has done for me. There's a little part I slipped in here as a bit of nod to Mother's Day...kind of wished I had an Elaine and Elio mother/son moment here...but heh...this will do.

    Okay behavior that made me seem bipolar aside; this chapter had me editing for far longer than I normally do...as does the AN. I hope everyone enjoys it.


    It's too bad Sina and Dexio had to leave for Kalos. It sounds like something really serious is happening over there. I've never really cared about danger before and only see it on the news.

    But the bad news is all stuff that happens to other strangers. Not people you know and call friend.

    Either way, if they have need of Elio in the future, he needs to get stronger. And finishing the island challenge to become the island challenge champion is the first step!

    I have to admit though; the chocolate covered macadamias were pretty thoughtful. I love chocolate and the nuts have this perfect crunch to have a fine balance of sweet and salty flavoring. They're really good and one of the few things that Nebby likes.

    There's not much on the north side of Akala Island, except for roads that take you over to the small quiet town of Kulou. It's a common rest stop for trial goers going to the Lush Jungle.

    I loved Elio's picture of Hau and Leilani sleeping next to each other! They looked so cute cuddling!

    Dear Lillie,

    Ed had to leave yesterday to go back to Kanto. It was nice seeing him for a change and although I'd probably be regretting it later, I would have liked you to meet him. He's not always an annoying big flirty brother, but a guy who genuinely has my back. Maybe I can introduce you to him another time.

    Anyway, it looks like I'm on my own again. Hau and Leilani left earlier this morning to head to Lush Jungle thanks to her ability to use Charizard Glide. Hau didn't have the authorization to go there since it wasn't a place he visited yet, but he freeloaded off her account to go to a place previously inaccessible! How's that fair? Now I have to walk all the way!

    On another note, did you see the picture I posted on my Festival Plaza account? I'm pretty sure that's why Hau and Leilani didn't bother to talk to me at all after we left the airport to drop off Ed. But do you think they like "like" one another?

    Like I told you before, I was planning to maybe ask Leilani out on a date, but I'm having second thoughts about it. I think she definitely likes Hau and he's gushed about her to me multiple times. It would be bad on me if I were to come between the two of them. I say the next time we meet up with them; let's give a little bit of a push. What do you say?

    I miss you.

    Sincerely,

    Elio

    It wasn't until late in the morning when Elio had an opportunity to check out of Ed's room and go about to the next part of his journey.

    Of course, his entire team save Grimer were allowed to sleep in various parts of the room and he had gotten a universal protest when it was time to leave. None of them wanted to say goodbye to some of the most comfortable beds and furniture they had ever slept on.

    Torracat for one had thrown a tantrum. He growled and ran circles around the mat he had used as his own bed using his strong legs to deftly dodge each and every callback beam Elio shot to return him to his ball. It was only Nani's own intervention by blocking his laps with her huge serpentine body that delayed him enough for Elio to finally hit his target and put away his rambunctious Pokémon.

    "Thanks Nani." He received a coo of affection in return and laughed lightly when she nuzzled her face against his. "I really appreciate it."

    Unlike him, she was accepting that the time for relaxation was now over. Nani didn't like to leave as much as anyone else, but when her trainer said it was time to leave…it was time to leave.

    Hau and Leilani had left earlier in the morning with the former able to travel quickly to Lush Jungle using the latter's access to the town of Kulou. Elio had found out that while the Charizard Glide feature in the ride pager was among the most useful, flying solo meant that you could only visit places already visited in the past. New cities and towns were off-limits until it was confirmed that he had physically been there.

    Well that's lame.

    Lame or not, it was the rules.

    Ride charizard were always in high demand around Alola. There were plenty of trainers that needed quick flights in between the islands and it offered a free and convenient alternative than the couple of airlines that island hopped in between Alola's four main islands and two satellite ones. The Alola Transport Bureau had apparently entered into a partnership with a ranch-like valley in the Johto region that was home to a large number of charizard and their families. They would train several of their Pokémon to serve as ride transporters.

    So the ATB had already stated that the average wait time for a ride charizard was going to be around ten to fifteen minutes. And it was going to increase. Not because there were a lack of charizard to ferry people around, but because the demand was going to get higher and the Bureau still not being able to keep up with the trend.

    That was another reason many flying Pokémon in a trainer's team knew the move fly as a backup. ATB was more than happy to have individual trainers use their own Pokémon to go about to different places.

    The only Pokémon he was pretty sure that could fly on his team was Rufflet. But as strong as the small bird was; it wouldn't be able to carry his dollar twenty five pound frame.

    Riding on their charizard's back to Melemele Island was an experience. Elio loved the freedom flying gave him from when the enormous dragon took off into the sky and effortlessly glided high above the islands. He had accelerated in between, passing other riders who slightly gestured to wave. Most charizard went fairly fast in flight and sticking an arm or hand out from the saddle would end up getting caught by the rush of air. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of aerodynamics was able to understand that sticking an arm out when moving fast would make it feel as if the limb was going to rip right out of its socket.

    Still, their own ride Pokémon was mild mannered and went slow enough for them to enjoy the ride. Ed had reluctantly held onto Elio's shoulders as he guided their ride around. The basketball superstar wasn't a particularly big fan of flying and had been fine with airplanes, but apparently something about a couple of carabiners and straps being the only things standing between you and plummeting six thousand feet down had his stomach doing gymnastics.

    At least he had the decency to blow chunks overboard rather than on the back of my shirt. That happened and I'd never get it out.

    With the lack of having a charizard glide option to Kulou, which was the closest town to the Lush Jungle, he had to instead head north along the trails that circled the north end of Akala Island.

    There was little along the route except for a few buildings and homes for people who enjoyed the isolation from the bustling sprawls of the island's southern area. Elio also heard that it was a big water hotspot, with many marinas and beaches stretching along the coast where anything could be done from deep sea fishing to taking on waves with a surfboard.

    Judging the time it took from him to get to the summit of Mauna Wela Volcano, he estimated that the trek would take the majority of the day.

    All the more reason to get a head start.

    Sun ate a quick breakfast while he waited for the checkup on his Pokémon back at the center. The food at the hotel was definitely better tasting, but it had come with Ed's staying reservation and as soon as he left the building, it would require some payment to dine again. It was still relatively early in the morning and there weren't many other guests helping themselves to the breakfast buffet.

    Elio's eye caught the television over the bar and he saw a figure of a surfer maneuvering a large Pokémon atop the waves, climbing several feet above the top before twisting down like a skateboarder to ride the crest back down.

    "As you can see, I'm here at the Keoki Beach just north of the Hano Grand Resort where the Kumu Reef Triple Crown Surfing event will take place in just four days from now! Alola has been selected to kick off the Surf Association's World Surfing Tour season as the first of ten different sites where at the end, one man and one woman will each be crowned as the tournament's champion!"

    This is what Leilani was preparing for! I wonder if this was the thing on her story.

    "Last year it was the women's tournament that had the headlines here in Alola as it was one of our own that was in the final five running for the championship. Miss Leilani Taula from Iki Town on Melemele Island had broken onto the scene as an unlikely candidate in the running. She had quietly scored the highest in the longboard and mantine competitions within her heats."

    Elio felt very proud as the television began a playback of one of her prior plays. Leilani was clad in a sleek dark suit that hugged her curvy frame and sparkled from the water's reflection. There were a couple of logos from sponsors along the suit's chest and shoulders.

    He found himself staring at her again; this time around through a television.

    Eyes up. No more of this gawking.

    The screen zoomed on her as she guided a large raylike Pokémon through the rising swell. She cleared the top of the wave as the ray performed a beautiful twist.

    Sun's eyes went wide as she literally jumped off her steed and did a perfectly timed backflip that landed right on the Pokémon's backside again as they descended. As she finished, a loud cheer came from the spectating crowd on the screen. He paid less attention to the ovation and more on her as she dropped off her Pokémon mount in the shallows and waved back, blowing a kiss at the camera, swishing her locks of matted dark hair and smiling joyfully.

    "This unseen victory had ended up putting her in the first championship finals of her career! Unfortunately, it was the Kalosian Sabine Joyeux that had taken the lead with her performance on the longboard. Joyeux would go on to her final event to win the women's Surf Association champion and has arrived on Akala Island to defend her title."

    The screen then panned to one that he recognized as Kamehameha Airport on the southern section. People lined up the sides of the terminal as a young woman walked out.

    Sabine looked to be in her late teens or early twenties. She had long blonde hair that was elegantly swept to one side of a silky white dress. Her expression was indistinguishable as she neither smiled nor frowned, sweeping her gaze across the crowd with icy blue eyes. However it was her movements with a flair of elegance and grace that seemed to allure the crowds. It seemed that her poise and swagger remained the same whether she was on or off a surfboard.

    Elio had to admit that she was still pretty attractive.

    So this is the person Leilani has to beat in order to advance? She can take her.

    "We will all see you here in a few days where the World Surf Association will begin the season here on Akala Island! Alola!"

    "Digezzting information!" Rotom buzzed from Elio's backpack before popping out and hovering in front of his trainer. "According to thezze ztatizzzticzz! Bzzzt! Leilani hazzz an eighty perzzent chanzze of winning the Triple Crown event! She hazzz been practicing on her bezt movezzz that should score a lot of pointzz! Bzzt!"

    That immediately got Elio excited, especially when she had constantly gushed about teaching him on how to surf. "It's in four days. Do you think we'll have conquered the next trail and grand trial within that?"

    "Anything izz possible."

    "You're an amazing help buddy."

    "We bezt get going then!" Rotom buzzed. "It'z a fantaztic day in Alola!"

    "Agreed. Breakfast is over."

    "But Leilani hazz another ztatiztic! She has a one hundred and ten percent in winning Hau's heart regardlezzz of where she placezz in the competition. Bzzt!"

    She's already won his heart.

    When Elio returned to the center to retrieve his Pokémon from their checkup, the receptionist informed him he had gotten one more delivery and presented him with a disposable insulated lunch box. The address was easily recognizable; 1224 East Kininui Drive in Waimanalo, Melemele Island.

    Sun slid open one of the clips and was greeted with two different aromas, but each was heavenly to his senses. A tiny note was tucked in between both cartons with a small biodegradable fork and knife attached.

    Elio,

    Here's your favorite meals as a little taste of home. You did amazing on that fire trial and I am so proud of you. Keep on going and remember that you've got me, your friends and your Pokémon to support you!

    Love,

    Mom

    Florentine pasta and agedashi tofu? Mom; you're the best.

    With food and Pokémon both secure, Elio set out on the same road that he had taken to the Mauna Wela Volcano Park. Instead of heading northwest, Rotom-Dex's navigation function had put him on a northerly course that went on the dirt roads that were separate from the freeway. As he walked along, the rumble of cars and trucks in the distance were still audible.

    He passed the second entrance to the park, now seeing that the automotive traffic took a turn inland while the trainer trail kept to the outer edges. A little ways away led to open cliffs and metal guardrails that stretched for at least a quarter mile before he saw the familiar markings of a trial gate.

    Oh that's funny. Walk all this way and have to turn back if you don't have the Firium Z.

    Luckily for the young trainer, he examined his newest Z-crystal to ensure it was within his possession. The sunlight angularly struck its clear surface, causing it to almost glow bright amber as if they were smoldering flames.

    Elio took a moment when he reached the center of the viewing area to take a look around. He could no longer see the edges of Pa'ani since the long hilly landscape dropped off sharply just before it hit the ocean. The freeways hugged its edge, often having wide and narrow twists and turns. Since the sunlight was beginning to get more intensive, he applied a thin layer of sunblock and refilled his water from a purifier station. Sun had learned that while there were many natural forming freshwater springs at various points around Alola, many of them contained dangerous bacteria, rendering them unsafe to drink from the spot.

    Instead, he had purchased a new cap for his unbreakable water bottle. This one was commonly used by hikers and high adventurists and recommended to him by a hiker he had beat on Melemele Island. It easily fit on as a replacement cap and used a two-stage water filter applicant that employed both a physical means and strong ultraviolet light to eliminate as many sickening agents as possible. It had cost a fortune, but even on an island where he was surrounded by water, the worst thing that could happen to him was dehydration.

    An indicator on the top would tell him when the filtering process was complete and the only maintenance it required was be left to dry once every forty-eight hours. Even the light did not need to have replacement batteries, thanks to it being solar powered. Just in the scenario that his filter stopped working; he had a pack of chemical treatment tables as a backup.

    This time around though, the water was already pre-filtered and he did not have to use either method to drink.

    Underneath him it was a good drop down to the craggy rocks where he noticed some wingull and a larger yellow billed bird were cawing and circling. The smaller birds dove down, plucking tiny wriggling wishiwashi from the water's surface. Waves crashed on the rocks, bursting into a white foamy mess before sliding back out to sea.

    "We've got a new Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Been a long time zince I did one of theze!" Rotom buzzed and shifted his screen to the larger bird. "Pelipper. Water bird Pokémon. Newly evolved males are tasked with gathering food in its spacious beak. It can devour more than thirty wishiwashi in one go by swooping down and scooping them effortlessly into its bill. Pelipper is a water and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "We're gonna be seeing a lot of those." Elio scanned the shoreline and spotted another Pokémon. This one a familiar sight at Fuschia City's wharfs and the Seafoam Island chain.

    "Rotom…is that a seel?"

    "A seel?" The haunted 'Dex asked in inquiry. "Uh yeah. Zo we have two new Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Seel. Sea lion Pokémon. A distant cousin of the popplio family, seel has a thick layer of fat underneath its fur that keeps it warm in colder seas. In tropical warm waters, this fat acts as an insulator and causes it to tire easily. Seel is a water and ice type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "So what's a seel doing all the way out here?"

    "Unknown. Bzzt. It could alzo be the fact that many of Alola's islandzzz have cavez that lead out to the ocean that are cooler in temperature than the outside. Bzzt!"

    "And that's why you see them so rarely." Elio concluded. "Because it's too hot and their fat traps the heat inside."

    Good thing I'm not fat. Would that mean if I were, I'd be warmer than normal?

    Elio stopped from his break and continued down the trail. He could now see that it winded past another thicket of trees and straight for the slope connecting a gradual section of many valleys that the island was known for.

    A couple of trainers stopped him for battles and he ended up winning two and losing one. In the process of it; Charjabug had learned a new strong bug type move. Dex stated signal beam's sinister strobes of light could briefly disorient and confuse the target.

    Slowly but surely we're getting there.

    "Well what do ya know. A nice new Firium Z!" The beaming guide said. "Ho'omaikai'ana for clearing Kiawe's trial! And in that case, you are now free to pass! Captain Mallow's trial is on the far side along this route in the Lush Jungle!"

    "Thanks."

    The barricade was blocking access to a long tunnel that stretched for at least three-fourths of a mile where there was a similar pinprick of bright blue sky. It had walls that were pleasantly cool to the touch and separated at a good diameter allowing more than four people to walk abreast. What was most noteworthy to him was not just the temperature of the stone, but the incredible smoothness of its surface. Elio often felt bits of sand and other things when he touched other kinds of rocks. Out of his own curiosity, he slid his fingertips across a section of it and didn't feel a single impurity or blemish. Had it not been for the sign at the tunnel's entrance informing him that this was a lava tube, he would have gone as far to think that it was artificially crafted.

    The only thing that stuck out from its edges was a series of small striations that were just barely visible running along the sides at the level of his waist.

    There was a system of lights all along the upper arch with metallic rims, however they remained off. Sun guessed they came on when the outside natural illumination was replaced by night.

    "Rotom?"

    "Yezz? Bzzt!"

    "So this Dividing Peak Tunnel." Elio said. "That sign said it was a ke kahe pele. What is that?"

    "I'm a Pokédex bro! I only have information regarding Pokémon! Bzzt! Pluzzz I have to make zure you're thinking with your head inztead of your pantzzz! Bzzt!"

    Why does this machine always have to give me a hard time? Wait…what does he mean by thinking with my pants?

    "Rotom."

    "I'm juzzt mezzzing with you! Bzzt! Becauzze the Alola region izzz a group of volcanoezzz, the islandzzz themzelvezzz are the peakzz of underwater eruptionzzz! Often the rock coolz at the zurface, but lava will ztill flowzzz through tunnelzzz that are burned through and zmoothed out. Theze tunnelzzz are called lava tubezz! The Dividing Peak Tunnel izz the largest known one on Akala Island."

    Wow. Lava once flowed through here.

    "Good thing it isn't now."

    "It izz ztill very possible. Eruptionzz at Mauna Wela, the mozzt active volcano on Alola often have lava floezz that spill into the ocean! Zometimezzz they can come here into the Dividing Peak Tunnel!"

    "Then its best nobody gets stuck in here when an eruption is going on."

    "Very true my awezome trainer! Even though people living around the volcano getzzz evacuated, there are zpecial channelzz dug around to divert lava floezzz zafely into the ocean and away from populated areazzz! Bzzt!"

    "Can't mess around when a volcano is erupting. Not much you can do to stop a lava floe either."

    "Unlezzz you have enough water and ice type Pokémon! Bzzt!"

    Maybe. Elio thought to himself. He took his hand off the wall and continued walking.

    With the lack of abundant lighting, Elio's own eyes began to adjust to the dark surroundings and he could see the faint white trim on his sneakers as he took each step. The soles of his shoes hit the ground with a wet smack.

    I can just imagine the bottom as soon as we're out of this tunnel.

    As he was roughly two thirds of the way through, he heard a faint scratching sound somewhere along the far side of the tunnel.

    "What was that?"

    Someone watching us?

    Sun figured it would be best not to think about what could be hiding in the dark. He wasn't afraid of spiders or bugs, but just about anyone is going to be uneasy and jumpy if something they don't know about happens to crawl up their leg.

    The flashlight attached to his backpack strap cut a beam of light with a simple twist of its head and he now saw that the ground was relatively flat with the exception of various footprints. Granules of sand were irregularly set on the floor in an artistic pattern with the darker solid rock underneath.

    The cuts in between the sand weren't large enough to trip him, but it was interesting nonetheless. Almost like something had eaten it out.

    Elio's light flashed off something with an iridescent sheen and it vanished as soon as his eyes swung in their direction. He heard that same scuttling and scratching sound as it faded away.

    So there is something in here with us.

    He decided to let out Rufflet. The tiny eagle had those same predatory instincts in both the day and night.

    "Hey buddy." With a caw, he landed gently on Elio's shoulder nuzzling the side of the boy's face playfully. Recently, he found that the bird's large razor sharp talons dug into his skin rather uncomfortably, so the two of them had trained for a little while to prevent that. He couldn't help it, but Rufflet did not intend to hurt his trainer at all. "Thought you could use some exercise flying around. There's something running around here and it's creeping me out."

    "Ruff."

    "So just keep your eyes peeled."

    With a nod, he spread his wings and soared to the top of the tunnel, stopping at the end and then flying right back. The motion was repeated as Elio made his way towards the end.

    As he walked, Rufflet suddenly let out a bloodcurdling screech and dove right down at something. Sun's light moved to where he was going and he saw that same shining reflection off a chitinous exoskeleton.

    The creature moved at unfathomable speeds, making his own skin crawl at the thought. Rufflet had swooped down, beak extended out.

    "Woah I've never zeen thizz Pokémon before! Bzzt!" Rotom said, popping out of Elio's bag and lighting up his screen.

    Elio stuck a hand out to shield his eyes from the sudden brightness. "Rotom!"

    "Oh…zorry about that! I have new information on a new Pokémon I've never zeen before! But how do I come up with all thizzz ztuff then? I dunno, it'z the writer'zzz fault!"

    The haunted 'Dex showed a Pokémon that was fairly small in size, maybe a little larger than his foot. But it was a flat, hard-shelled insect with a long purple spiky tail. The edges of the creature were the similar purplish shade and smaller parts of it had contributed to that iridescent sheen Elio saw when his light reflected off its shell. Two long wiry antennae spokes spread out from its eyes.

    It reminds me of the kabuto I saw in the Pewter City Museum of Natural History. They have the same body shape.

    "Wimpod. Turn tail Pokémon. It desperately dashes away with a whir of its legs, leaving a spotless trail in its wake. It will consume anything worth scavenging no matter how rotten. Wimpod is a bug and water type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Really?" Elio wondered. "So then that's why the surfaces were smooth like that. And those parts in the ground too."

    "Wimpod izzz like the janitor of Pokémon! Bzzt!"

    "In a way. Someone's gotta do it." They were interrupted by Rufflet's screeching as he renewed his chase of the terrified insect. While the bird was faster and had the air advantage, wimpod turned tail on a dime, making him miss every attempt.

    It had finally come to a point where the creature rushed towards another part in the wall. Rufflet sensed he had cornered his quarry and sped down on a course. With a final hiss and scuttle, the little wimpod disappeared into some hiding hole in the wall that was impossible to fit just about anything else.

    Rufflet screeched in protest, unable to stop his rapid swooping and Elio visibly flinched as the bird crashed into the wall before falling on his back. A poof of bluish feathers exploded outward, falling from side to side in his wake.

    He ignored the angry squawks and flailing of wings as he grabbed his Pokémon to set it on its feet. Rufflet's expression was a bit irritated that he had been bested in chasing something down.

    Elio returned the troublesome Pokémon back to his great ball. "Sorry bud, but it looks like you just got outmaneuvered by a horrified insect."

    With all the shenanigans of the tunnel past, Sun was actually more than happy to have his namesake shine back on his skin. The passageway opened up to a series of fields where the road curved to the left. He could now see that the car traffic had met up with the trail once again after its own shortcut through the taller hillside.

    Glancing back, he saw that the entire slope was a vivid green of varying plant species and trees in a wide contrast to the bare rocky face when he had started close to Mauna Wela.

    Like crossing through the tunnel and you're in another world.

    Further along the trail, the road had many parking lots that were beside flights of stairs that descended down to long sandbars. Water lapped the shore and he could hear shouts and laughter as people and families of all ages played in both the surf and sand. On the far side from the beaches were trees with beautiful flowers including the purple and white hibiscus. Elio knew that it was an iconic image for Alolan girls to wear the flower atop their ear and it was woven into elaborate wreaths known as the lei. Visitors and the like would be greeted by having a lei placed over their head.

    There were hardly any buildings around, except some that looked like RV motor homes and tiny shacks, all of which had either long surfboards or some intense fishing gear stashed just outside. Elio was amazed at how openly people were in leaving things like that out.

    You do that in Cerulean City and it'll be gone before morning.

    The only larger building other than those parked vans and mini homes was this stark white building situated on knee high stilts. A short set of stairs connected its entrance from the sidewalk. From the first section, it expanded into a second and third section with the fourth another full story up. The complex was almost like those portable research laboratories Elio had heard about on informative shows.

    "You there!"

    Elio was brought out of his thoughts by an older man who approached him from the lab's entrance. He appeared to be in his early thirties with icy blond hair and another part of it much more strangely shaped that seemed to circle the back of his head.

    The man was dressed in a dark gray lab coat with a multitude of datapads and buttons on both arms.

    How is this guy not sweating bullets?

    "Oh pardon me!" He laughed lightly with a little bit of an accent that sounded like "part" "I am a freelance scientist traveling Alola. My name is Colress and I've come here to Alola for more answers in my research."

    "It's nice to meet you Colress." Elio shook his outstretched hand, still a little bit confused on why the strangely dressed person wanted to flag him down. "My name is Elio. Elio Northstar."

    "Elio!" Colress spread out his hands. "I'll be sure to remember your name. I am trying to see what brings out the potential in Pokémon the best! What best does that I believe is the bonds that they share with their trainers!"

    Sun cast a sheepish look downwards. "I actually started on my island challenge here a couple of months back. Even though I'm a little older than most."

    "I disagree! You are never too old to go on a journey with Pokémon at your side. That is why my attention however is drawn to trainers such as yourself! You are bound to your Pokémon through the power of your Z-Ring!"

    "My Z-Ring?" Elio had given it a subconscious look as soon as it was mentioned.

    Colress nodded with enthusiasm. "Precisely. I know that look you have in your eyes too. I've seen it before." He turned away, uttering something under his breath that Elio had barely caught.

    "Perhaps you can be one to help us dispel all those absurd theories that the Scions keep conspiring."

    "What?"

    "Oh nothing. How about I give you a little something to commemorate our little chat here? It's a Technical Machine. I am sure you are familiar with them."

    "Yeah I've found quite a few so far."

    Colress reached into his pocket and produced yet another disc, this one bright orange to signify that it was a fire-type move.

    "That TM contains flame charge. I believe if you are able to utilize it fully with a strong fire type Pokémon, then you will be able to have a great battle with the next trial in the Lush Jungle. Flame charge will gradually increase the speed of the user and allow your fire type to keep pace with faster foes. Don't let your guard down at the totem okay?"

    "You got it Colress."

    "Fantastic. Could Z-Power be the true potential that I seek? Surpassing even the Mega Ring? Could it be strong enough to battle the coming darkness of the Blinding One?"

    Blinding One?

    "Oh my apologies again!" Colress covered his mouth. "I am musing to myself too much these days. Thankfully Alola's beautiful weather has made it a fascinating place for both the resolve of people and the strength of Pokémon. Keep on your island challenge Elio! There is much to explore and discover! Now if you will excuse me.."

    He stepped forward past the boy and disappeared into the lab.

    "Nice to meet you Colress." Elio got a wave in return before the man was out of the Alolan heat.

    Yeah good idea. He's probably twice baked wearing that trench coat.

    "Flame charge huh? I know the perfect Pokémon to know this move."

    Torracat skidded to a halt as the cloak of flames dissipated once again.

    For the past hour after Elio had brought him out, his starter was more than happy to learn a new move. The only catch was that he was having difficulty perfecting it.

    I guess TMs aren't instantaneous like I thought.

    Torracat growled in annoyance again. He was clearly frustrated that almost no progress had been made in all of his attempts.

    Flame charge involved covering his entire body in fire as he blitzed the target. It had all went well, except for the fact that it began to burn out as he picked up speed. Elio couldn't figure it out, so he tried gradual increases. He and Torracat jogged to get into motion before doing dash sprint laps. They'd run fifty feet beside the tall grass before quickly turning and running in the second direction. Torracat continued to grunt as he produced some more flames into a full flame charge, however the problem persisted; he lacked enough energy to keep it running at his top speed.

    Elio tried the best he could. There was no manual for a Pokémon on how to proficiently use the move and he didn't see any tutorial videos either. Not liked they would've been much help.

    However he admired the resiliency of his starter Pokémon. One thing he did as a trainer was that he would push his Pokémon to their limits in their training and practice sessions. They weren't meant to be enjoyable or fun and everyone knew it. Nani was still getting the hang of her new improvised iron tail move after the two of them did a workout session in honing its technique. She could chain it together and swing with the swiftness of a ninja after their rigorous training that lasted an hour. Still a few things were needed to be improved, but much of it would be done in the middle of a battle.

    Torracat knew that Elio was more than willing to stop their training whenever he wanted. Much of the desire to succeed and improve their battling was the willfulness of both parties.

    "We'll keep going until it's done. What do you say?"

    He had gotten a nod in agreement.

    "Alright. Again!"

    Colress' excuse to duck out of sight had lucked out when he was in the upper floor of the research facility and happened to glance from the one-sided window to see the same trainer.

    Elio was in a little enclosed area just a off the path where he and Torracat were engaged in the same activity for quite some time.

    He was intrigued as they sprinted laps, weaved through patches of the grass and practiced shooting fiery embers at rocks. To the untrained eye, it looked as if he was just trying to find a way to burn the foliage down. To someone seeking the true potential in Pokémon, this was a conditioning challenge.

    Elio's training was similar to many he had seen during his travels, yet it was unique in his own way. Like others, he cared for his own Pokémon's well being while he pushed for them to draw out their power and apply it in the ways that had seen a lot of success.

    If only all those that used to work for me showed this kind of care towards their Pokémon. Some of which I am grateful it had taken the wrong turn. Colress frowned while thinking to himself. I will still need to find a trainer that can help us in our struggle against the Blinding One. It is coming soon and we need to be ready to meet it once it arrives to our world to devour our light.

    Panic hadn't gripped the region of Kalos just yet, but the region's leaders had yet to release an official statement regarding the brief anomalies of the ultra energy that radiated in the skies above Lumiose City.

    What had concerned Colress most was that the Scion cultists that pounced upon those statements as a warning that a deep change was coming. Few believed them, stating that they were zealots and fanatics but he did. Not to follow to their teachings and ideals, but instead on a scientific manner to put an end before the light was drained from the world they called home.

    Colress would have thought of nothing except just another run of the mill trainer using an opportunity to help his Pokémon learn a new move. That was commonplace everywhere.

    It was the way Elio did it. Most of the time, he saw them stand around and have them practice moves or battles while they watched.

    This one was different. Elio ran with his Pokémon as they continued to work on their flame charge move, both doing similar exercises in their little workout area. The remainder of his party, a grimer, charjabug, rufflet, rockruff and milotic were standing on the sidelines watching intently as the practice session continued.

    Elio had a big smile on his face when Torracat finally broke into his full sprint speed and the cloak of fire surrounding his bright fur didn't dissipate initially. While the power was beginning to surface from all the practitioner of a focus, it still wasn't quite there yet. But all the others seemed to join in the encouragement with the small bird and brown puppy jumping up and down in excitement being the most notable.

    Colress smiled to himself at witnessing the display. He treats his Pokémon as if they are like a family.

    "Doctor Colress." A smooth female voice came from behind. Standing at the doorway was a petite woman with wire-rimmed glasses and long dark hair with a hint of a purplish shading. A familiar gold emblem shimmered from its place on her coat's lapel.

    She furtively glanced around as if in fear that someone was eavesdropping on their conversation. "I can't explain everything and I have to be back as soon as possible before she notices my disappearance and where I am at." The look in her eyes was pleading. "You are the only one I trust with this."

    "Of course." The scientist watched as she reached back into her lab coat and pulled out an ordinary Poké Ball. It apparently had been a well-used once, evidenced by the dings and small scratches on its metallic surface.

    "Here. This is the only thing I can do to help. It used to belong to her husband, but she had planned to add it to her collection after he disappeared. I need your help in giving it the capability to infiltrate the software of the Paradise."

    "I understand where you are coming from Naomi," Colress said. "But you must have a reason for it."

    "It would be much too obvious that foul play was involved if I were to shut it down myself. There are only three people besides the technicians who work on our mainframe with access. The President, myself and Faba."

    "And they would just trace who accessed it and cross reference with the time the security and things had been shut down." he finished. "Leading it right to you."

    "Precisely. I just want it to penetrate the Paradise's top level security and give young master unrestricted access without raising any alarms or evidence of inside help. If the President catches him while he tries to sneak back," she paused, taking a moment to dread the unthinkable. "I do not know how far her wrath may go."

    Colress swallowed. He had heard of the Aether President and her reputation for getting what she wanted. The two didn't know one another extensively, but had worked with mutual colleagues in the past. It seemed that their reputation had gotten one another's attention.

    "I will see what I can do. It is not the first time I have been tasked with installing a worm to compromise a security system."

    "Thank you for everything."

    "It's the least I could do concerning Mohn and his family. I only hope that I can help in any way possible to reunite this torn family again." And do what is right to save the world from consuming darkness. Guess I took a bigger plate than I imagine. Way to go John.

    Colress looked back out to the fields, noticing that Elio and his Pokémon were now gone from sight.

    "It is getting late. You best get back to the Paradise before your superior notices your extended absence."

    "Of course. Thank you John." She had turned to leave but stopped. "Oh and young master also has a sister. She also had run away from the Paradise a few months ago and has kept in contact with me on a very rare occasion. If you manage to find her…please…please make sure she is safe."

    "Lillie?"

    "Yes."

    "I…I can't believe it. Those two were just little infants when I met them on their trip to Unova. They have grown up so much and to believe all this was put on their shoulders. My heart goes out to them for doing this. It is incredibly brave and dangerous for the both of them."

    "I know." The woman bowed her head. "It's a lot for them to bear and I am positive the scars will run deep. I need you to find her as soon as possible. Kaiser is hot on her trail and he will do whatever it takes to drag her back to her mother. There's no telling what she will do if Lillie gets captured either."

    Colress' expression darkened and she saw his jaw begin to clench.

    "I'll be on the lookout for both of them. You have my word."

    "Thank you John…thank you so much."

    Knowing Kaiser, I will not have much time. Fortunately, he likes to toy around with his quarry especially if he is being paid over time…I have to find Lillie and make sure she's safe and under someone's protection.

    Can I do it? Can I seek out the potential in the Z-Ring to find Zygarde? It is bad enough that Sycamore had to have Sina and Dexio return to Kalos…but that boy. He actually does fit their description to a "T" knowing the potential he has in his own self.

    I have to keep working. It's only going to get worse from here on. The Scions will not stop until their blasphemous prophecies are fulfilled. With this in play, it could accelerate their plans tenfold.

    That's not acceptable. Naomi…I will do whatever it takes to ensure Gladion has the tools he needs to go back into the Paradise and ensure that Lillie and the precious cargo she carries is safe.

    Colress examined the Poké Ball in his hand after Naomi had left. The thought racing through his mind was how she had apparently become increasingly concerned and tasked him with looking for her. Yet, she gave no hints on her whereabouts.

    If they exchanged letters. It is possible they left a clue. This will be entertaining. I love deciphering complex problems.

    He smiled to himself, fondly remembering all the unfinished jigsaw puzzles that he took upon himself to complete in his childhood.

    The dents and dings in the ball's surface provided no clue with an erratic pattern and no sign of an encrypted message.

    Wait…what is that?

    He noticed a barely visible smear on the red top, which appeared slightly oily in appearance.

    Releasing a Pokémon of his own, it had floated on stubby brownish limbs that had multicolored fingers. Its body had a similarly colored trenchcoat and the green visor on its head scanned its surroundings with curiosity. Upon seeing its trainer, the strange Pokémon buzzed and chirped happily, the noises sounding otherworldly.

    "Hello Zim." Colress curtly greeted the strange Pokémon. "I need your help as always. Decipher this ball."

    Zim buzzed again and reached out with a hand. A bright ray of light slowly separated from it and enveloped the capsule, illuminating its metal surface before fading away once more.

    Slowly, the scientist began to see carefully crafted words glow into existence on the ball's darker surface.

    The corners of his lip curled up in impression to the delivery of the message.

    Professor Linda Sophie Burnet-Kukui

    Dimensional Research Lab

    6052 E Nāmakamaka Drive

    Akala Island, Alola

    This was a testament to the timeless use of the old technique of invisible ink.

    Do not worry Mohn. I will make sure nothing harms either of them.

    Elio should have known that Team Skull would turn up eventually since it had been quite a while following their last appearance.

    He hadn't had a run in with Alola's self-proclaimed baddest group of thugs for almost a week after handily defeating a group at Pa'ani. They hadn't had the nerve to show up when he was with Ed, which had actually turned out to be quite a shame. Defeating their Pokémon time and time again in battle had really proven that they were the ones responsible for their own failures.

    So Sun was a little bit surprised when he found that the town of Kulou had a handful of the thugs strutting around as if they owned the place. Many of the others avoided them, going as far to cross the street away from their destination just to keep a good distance and avoid getting picked on.

    Some of the locals had already advised him to pass through to the Pokémon center as soon as possible. They were safe havens of sorts since many trainers going on the island challenge tended to stay around there. Since the majority of the Skull grunts had limited successes against trial-goers, it remained relatively "bone free"

    Elio stuck to the main pathway, still doing a normal Alolan greeting to passerbys. The majority of them greeted back in the same warm Akala manner he had experienced back at Pa'ani, Paniola and Heahea City. He did notice however that whenever Skull members were close by, people began to close up and give him a cold shoulder. None made eye contact with him and their walk to and from places was a brisk, focused one.

    Skull's loitering around the place had taken an effect. Nobody wanted to be dragged into a battle and end up having their Pokémon or possessions taken.

    In spite of the freeze he had gotten from the townsfolk when Skull was around, Kulou still gave off the touristy vibes. Colorful shops and stands lined the main road and the block behind led to large beaches where more sunbathers and people played in the surf and sand. The road turned to the southwest to continue its loop around the island while a large sign at the center had pointed in the direction of the Lush Jungle.

    It seemed that Skull had stayed closer to the light industrial side of the town, close to the shipping warehouses and hoping to catch someone that was lost. It was apparent that the companies running the distribution centers in the area were stepping up their game. Elio did see at least one uniformed police officer with a growlithe patrolling one of the corners. Many of the other buildings had mounted cameras catching recorded footage for suspicious or illicit activity.

    As soon as a member of a security firm or police officer showed up, the Skull grunts would generally disappear as quick as they came.

    Elio knew that his Pokémon were strong enough to take on any grunt on his own. Yet, he still wanted to keep his party relatively healthy in case he ran into that one trainer who wouldn't take no for an answer when it came to a battle.

    "I swear yo, dat little shit Gladion doesn't know how to have a good time."

    Elio's heart skipped a beat. The mannerism in which they talked meant they were part of Team Skull.

    He did recognize the name though and immediately negative thoughts about the edgy blond came to mind.

    At least the guy knew what he was talking about. Just thinking about him makes me want to give him a broken jaw.

    "Dat still wasn't cool yo." A new voice said, clearly another grunt that was much younger. "Girl's probably traumatized by now."

    "Yeah. What da hell is wrong with ya Lars?"

    "Dude, she was hella pretty. How am I supposed to not rock smash dat?"

    Elio heard a pair of hands slapping foreheads. "Dat has to be the worst pun I have ever heard."

    "Yeah." A third voice joined in. "Besides, ya a sick twisted one. Girl's lucky to still have her v-card after Gladion pulled ya off her. Police are gonna be lookin for us if they be seein the nasty cuts and bruises. I don't agree with everythin dat weird ass kid does, but dat's the lowest of the low right there."

    Elio felt suddenly nervous. Oh fantastic. This Lars guy is a sick predator who happens to want to attack everything in sight. He was oddly very relieved to hear that a near-victim of sexual assault was lucky to escape…thanks to Gladion's intervention.

    I'm sure anyone with their head screwed on right would do the same…right?

    "Whatever man."

    "Yo, why do ya have to do this? There's a bunch of hot ass chicks back at our mansion who love to have a good time. Hit up Abby when she's all got a bunch of liquor in her."

    Elio now had crept along the far side of the parking lot he was in. The long building had a neon sign and slightly dilapidated appearance of a cheap motel. Only a few cars were in the lot and he used them for cover to avoid being spotted by the three grunts.

    Lars scoffed. "I've already done her like four times. Ready for somethin new."

    "You're a piece of work Lars." The second grunt shook his head. "I still can't believe the boss broke ya outta prison."

    "Yeah stayin in the system for life after multiple convictions of sexual offense…no offense to ya though, but ya better off locked up. Soon enough, Plumes isn't gonna care what ya do…if ya hurt more people like dat, she'll march ya right back to ol' Nanu. He won't hesitate to book ya right back to da cell block."

    "Alright alright yo, I'll stop. Gotta say though, stealin is still a lot more fun than hittin people. The boss don't care what we steal so everythin' is open for da takin!"

    "Piece of work I tell ya." The third grunt said. "Why don't ya go to the licensing offices and steal one of dem certifications so we can finally open a food stand or truck?"

    "There ain't nothing worth stealin in the office kid. Ya will end up getting caught easily for what? Paper?"

    "It's a license to run a food place! It's what I've always wanted to do."

    Elio heard a shuffle of footsteps and bent down to peer underneath the car. He could see six shoes walking around to his direction.

    Oh shit.

    Thinking fast, he nimbly stayed low to the ground and made sure his shoes made as little sound as possible. He glanced back to see that the three grunts looking away, assuming Lars was the big muscular one with the ripped tanktop in the center.

    He used it to his advantage, darting rapidly to the motel's small deck walkway and smoothly grabbing the top beam to pull himself over the side. Sticking the landing was easy and he made no noise other than a dull thump.

    Maybe in another life I'd be a parkour expert or whatnot.

    However that dull thump had caught all three grunts' attention.

    "What was dat?"

    "Your mind is playin tricks on ya dumbass."

    Elio heard them start to walk in his direction. Looking left and right, he saw no avenue of escape or evasion that would end up with him being able to sneak away successfully. Sure, he could do another triple battle, but considering that half his party was exhausted from battling prior would limit his strategies.

    Best hope there's an open room I can maybe hide inside.

    Directly in front of him was room number fifty five. It puzzled Elio since there were clearly much less than that number in the motel's total capacity.

    Whatever, let's just hope it's open.

    Hearing the grunts coming up the stars to his right, he hesitantly turned the knob, eyes widening as it slid the bolt inside the door back before twisting out of sight through the threshold and shutting it behind him.

    What a timely and handy save by ducking into an open motel room :P

    Translations:

    • Ke kahe pele - Lava Tube. Lava tubes are subterranean tunnels made by lava floes from volcanoes. Many of them no longer have active veins and it's a common activity to go spelunking in them.
    • Ho'omaikaian'a - Congratulations!

    As always everyone, thanks for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.

    Brav
     
  11. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
    Level 40
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    Apr 18, 2017
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers! I'm finally back! Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day.
    My mother has been out of the recovery process for a while and has eased herself back into work. I did show her all of your comments and wishes for her to get better and she has been amazed at all the support that has been poured in from family, friends and total strangers such as yourselves. A big thank you from me as well for all your kind words. I deeply appreciate it.

    It was a pretty eventful trip in my temporary work assignment in Las Vegas. Had a lot of fun and met some awesome co-workers. Remember everyone; what happens in Vegas...yeah, you probably know.

    Again, sorry for having this out late.

    Before we start, I want to give a very special thanks to Chocolexii for my commission on the new cover art for A Hui Hou Kakou on fanfiction.net! It was in the planning the last couple of months and I'm completely floored by the end result; easily twenty times what I was expecting. Thank you for helping in bringing this story a little bit closer to life with your awesome artistic talent! I highly recommend you check out her gallery on Deviantart!


    There really isn't much for me to say here. Elio said he was on his way to the grass trial, but he stopped writing for some reason! Oh no! What if he got injured? Or killed?

    I have to be more careful when I think about Elio around Nebby. Whenever I'm worried about him and holding it at the same time, I instinctively squeeze anything I'm holding and if it's Nebby…it gets uncomfortable. I'm so sorry, I just can't help it.

    Professor Burnet has been feeling a little strange lately. I hope she's not sick!

    Dear Elio,

    I wonder if you'll be back here in time to see the Kumu Reef Triple Crown surfing tournament! It would be great to see you again and go see these people ride waves with so much confidence. Plus seeing you again! I really do miss you a lot if you can't tell already. Nebby too.

    I hope you're having some fun while on your way to the next trial! The grass one right? I met the captain when I first came onto Akala Island…well actually that's a story for another time as you like to say! Just be careful, she likes to flirt with boys and Hau looked like he was about to lose his mind that time we first stopped there! I wonder how he is going to react if Leilani is with him? Just be yourself okay? Don't flirt with other girls unless you have to!

    Please be careful, I miss you. Nebby misses you. I want to see you again.

    Sincerely,

    Lillie

    Elio felt a growing pit in his stomach as the voices just outside began to grow closer. He slowly got back up on his feet and peered through the peephole.

    Breath hitched in his mouth and it suddenly ran dry when he saw the three rather large skull grunts just loitering around right on the balcony outside the main entrance. The only other exit was through a pair of windows on either side of the door and going through them would still giveaway his location.

    Guess I'm here for the time being.

    Glancing at his new surroundings, the room seemed pretty average. A bed with a slightly worn covers had an oceanic pattern. There was a nice-looking lamp atop the nightstand to his left which was followed by a dark wooden wardrobe that looked recently used.

    All in all, the room was clean and Elio would consider it an acceptable stay if he were spending the night himself.

    The door to the room's far end was shut and his heart skipped yet another beat as he heard the toilet flush.

    Oh crap. Someone's home. Fantastic.

    With the voices outside and someone using the head on both sides. He was trapped.

    A low rumble caught his attention and he heard shuffling movement from the bed's other side. A gray axelike crest emerged from the side as a very familiar quadrupedal Pokémon awoke from its slumber.

    Type: Null's head snapped towards the source of the foreign sound. Elio felt himself freeze.

    The creature's dark crimson eyes narrowed as they locked onto him and it moved in his direction on its mismatched forelegs that lacked some much-needed finesse in its step. A low guttural growl emitted from its hollow sounding mask.

    Elio tried his best not to panic, as doing so under the eye of a threatened Pokémon usually provoked them into attacking.

    Try not to focus on this experiment's…claws.

    That was a little bit impossible, as the sharp talons tapped on the floor with a resounding clack that could be distinctly heard over that familiar clanking the strange Pokémon made. As soon as the thought of it as an experiment had crossed his mind; Null lowered its head and narrowed its eyes, huffing threateningly.

    The hell am I supposed to say? Nice Null?

    "Take it easy." Elio slowly brought his hands up in compliance as well to show that he wasn't a threat. "Easy buddy."

    His thoughts soon soured afterwards after figuring out the trainer he had remembered fairly well at owning the Pokémon.

    So if this experiment's around…then that means.

    "What is it now Null?" That voice had asked from inside the bathroom. Elio had no time to react before the handle twisted and Gladion stepped out. "You can't go out to say hi to everyone who passes the room. No need for those Team Skull assholes to come back for a stupid reason."

    The eyes of both boys widened in shock as soon as they locked, just as surprised to see the other.

    Sun felt his mouth go dry as he saw Gladion's brow scrunch and it took on that familiar scowl. As usual, he didn't look happy to see him. The older blond teen was wearing a plain gray T-shirt that was unseen through his dark torn jacket.

    He had caught a glimpse of some nasty looking scars that were on the insides of his forearms. At first, they could've just passed for nasty scrapes or lacerations, but they were in a perfectly ramrod straight line as if they were intentionally inflicted.

    "You!" The declaration came out as a fierce snarl. "What are you doing here?"

    Here comes the snark.

    "Sightseeing." Elio replied as nonchalantly as he could. "It's too hot in the parking lot, so I ducked inside."

    "I'm sure it is." Gladion replied icily before pointing towards the door. "Get out."

    "What?"

    "I said…Get. Out."

    "You gotte be kidding. Right now?"

    "Yes. Get out before I kick you out."

    Like you're gonna do that. One of your stick arms might snap off before you move me an inch.

    The voices of the grunts had not diminished outside, which meant that they were still lingering around. For what, Elio had no idea. He hadn't been spotted, so maybe it was a little place where police seldom came or whatnot.

    "There's a few Team Skull grunts outside. I'd rather not get their attention."

    "Why not?" Gladion sneered. "You're actually tired of being them around too?"

    "They may not be competent battlers, but my Pokémon aren't all in the best of shape right now."

    He saw that the boy's expression lit up at some realization.

    Oh no. He's going to realize I'm an easy picking.

    Glancing at the status of his Pokémon party, all were upright and conscious, but really only Torracat and Nani were in any decent shape to fight. He remembered that Gladion had three Pokémon in their previous battle just a little ways west from the motel. In spite of their best efforts, he didn't like the fact he was outnumbered in healthy battlers.

    I have full confidence that Nani can take two. We've been working hard on her sword style iron tail. Torracat's flame charge should be able to match Null's.

    The edgy blond had a similar thinking. With many of Elio's Pokémon less than capable of fighting, he would probably lose and he could get his revenge for being beaten so handily. Right after he had proven his point to that Hau brat, this Elio person wiped the floor with him and then decided to rub salt into his wounds.

    The worst thing is that Elio probably made Hau feel less bad about losing. I'll just have to find him alone and show him that strength is the only way to win or prove points.

    It was a golden opportunity except for one thing.

    Beating Elio here wouldn't do me much good. He's a strong opponent, but not at full strength. We'd be wasting energy and probably money in trying to repair this craphole of a motel room.

    Gladion waved a dismissive hand. "No. It does me no good for that." He glared back at Elio. "Why are you still here? I thought I told you to get out!"

    Elio still didn't move, but he opened his mouth.

    "Listen, there's th-"

    "Null! Shove this asshole out of my sight!" His loyal experiment beast glanced back questioningly and had a little bit of surprise in its expression. As long as it had known him; Gladion had never ordered it to attack another human at all, regardless of how they irked him.

    "There's three Team Skull people right outside on the balcony!" Elio had to nearly shout to get his point across. "I don't want to get into a meaningless battle and have my stuff get stolen!"

    Just when I thought those stupid assholes wouldn't leave me alone. They're back again.

    "And why should I care? What's to stop me from telling them the guy who's been beating on them is vulnerable to attack? They'll drag you out and beat your ass senseless. What will I do? First, I'll get paid and then watch a good dose of karma get served."

    Yeah, I should have figured that. He still works for Team Skull.

    Gladion leaned closer and Elio could see his poisonous gaze trying to drill its way into him.

    All the more reason to hate this prick.

    "Of course, I'd rather it be Hau because that kid is blind to everything that happens around him."

    "The hell is your problem with Hau?" Elio growled. "He's done nothing wrong."

    "He's done everything wrong!" Gladion growled. "He pays no attention to what is really happening and takes battling as if it's a joke!"

    The smaller boy felt his temper smoldering, especially when it came to his friend being ridiculed like that. "So it's illegal to battle casually?"

    "No it's not. But you can't prove anything or protect anything when you're weak."

    "Prove what? Protect what?"

    "This is getting me nowhere." Gladion muttered under his breath. "Don't try to defend him. You know he's weak. I'm sure you use him and his Pokémon for your own practice."

    "What? What are you saying?"

    "You obviously know he's weaker than you. So you're just using him as a stepping stone for your own gain."

    What?

    "Look." Elio held up his hands in compliance, prompting Gladion to briefly stop. "I know we have our differences in the way we see the world. Maybe another time I'd love to bait you into some meaningless argument where I make you eat your own words, but right now I'm just trying to get to my next trial and go about on my business. There are some of those stupid Team Skull jerks outside and I don't want to get dragged into that meaningless battle that won't net me much experience or money."

    And that's the worst part of it too. Some of those guys take the cheap exit and bolt before paying. That needs to be illegal. You dragged me into the damn battle, so you better make it worth my time.

    "And besides." Sun had an idea pop into his head, especially after thinking about what Gladion was absentmindedly saying before bumping into him. "From the looks of it, you don't like Skull hanging around any more than they have to. Throwing me out there just means you'll get dragged into whatever trouble they're trying to stir up. Even if I'm getting beat, they'll take you away from anything you're trying to do here."

    Gladion opened his mouth to protest, but as he thought about it, Elio nailed the point right on the head. Sure, he could get back his peace and quiet by letting or kicking him out, but he was right. Every time he was outside of the room when someone from Team Skull was around, they'd find something to annoy or take his time away from training.

    Go get them food, get medicine, and hold onto the spray paint when they go on a graffiti raid in Heahea City. For the tapu's sake! Can't Guzma just call me to do stuff instead of sending all these people?

    "Fine." He rolled his eyes and pointed to a chair beside the bed. "But you don't move from that spot until they're gone. And you're out of here as soon as they are."

    "That's fine by me." Elio finally stood up and sat down on the cushioned part. The old wood frame had a slight squeak of protest as soon as his weight pressed down on it.

    The faster they're gone, the faster I can get away from this prick.

    "Do something stupid and I'll have Null shove you in the corner. He hasn't forgotten what you've called him."

    As if to emphasize his point, Null clanked his quadrupedal frame over and growled at Elio before lying down on the floor like a dog and putting his helmeted head just in between his forelegs so that he could watch the newcomer.

    The longest twenty minutes in Sun's life had passed by with the voices of the three grunts still talking, laughing and shouting to make a disturbance through all of it. It took five of those twenty before the motel's manager on duty had come out to tell them to either leave or quiet down. He ended up having to leave after taking a blow to his pride. The three gang members apparently gave a spot on satirical impression of his motel's less-than-impressive standards that sounded pretty humiliating.

    Even though he had no desire to spend a night in this particular establishment, he did feel a bit of pity on how they mercilessly mocked the manager's career and in essence, annoyed him to the point where he blatantly left, allowing them to continue loitering about without so much as a pause.

    Looking across, he could see that Gladion's patience had begun to wear thin. Their earlier discussion had all but confirmed that he didn't want Sun around and for him to be gone as soon as possible. He had gotten another message from Wicke at the Paradise saying that she did find someone who was able to help them in dealing with the state-of-the-art security and would stop by shortly.

    Gladion wanted to digest the information as quickly as possible, but had to restrain himself from opening it from within his own private room. He had a "guest" in his home.

    His stomach growled, another reminder of the inadequate food that could only be bought off the minimal wage that Skull paid him. All with pointless trivial jobs that made him feel like he slaved away to bring food, medicine and battling items while the rest of Guzma's ragtag gang were in the middle of recovering from hangovers, embarrassing battles or whatever trouble they were causing in either Po Town or the rest of Alola.

    Ugh…hate going to that damn dump. But I guess it's better than them coming here to annoy me every time.

    He stood up, walking over to the small kitchenette halfway between the living area and the bathroom. The layout wasn't designed to have one for a long-term resident and it was a simply two burner stove with a small counter, microwave and single storage fridge and freezer. Each compartment looked large enough to hold only three or so meals.

    Elio watched as Gladion opened a thin door on the opposite side to take out a blue and white cup that he recognized as one of those cheaper instant noodle brands. Just before he closed the pantry door, he could also see many more of the same styrofoam cups.

    Is that all he eats? No wonder the guy's a stick.

    Seeing the cheap room, food and how hostile Gladion seemed to everyone else made him very eager to leave once the grunts were gone. The other boy shot Sun glares frequently and he found his welcome wearing out with every passing moment.

    Just don't give into it. You're better than this jerk.

    However Elio had to wonder where he had come from. He was a firm believer in that not everyone was as openly hostile as Gladion was being towards him. Something made him this way.

    Or someone.

    "To be honest," The edgy blond surprisingly broke the silence in a manner that was thinly civil while he ripped off the top of the cup to fill it partially with water from the sink. "You actually made the right call. Granted it just had to be my damn room, but those three Skulls out there are a piece of work."

    "How so?"

    He waved his hand out towards that section. "Lars…the big one did some time in prison for sexual assault and battery. The other two; Ken and Hiro are a bit better, but turn back into assholes when Lars comes around. When I say that most of Skull is just a bunch of misfits with nowhere to go," Gladion paused, wondering if he was included in that group. "That guy is an exception. He's the worst of the worst. I think I even heard the boss say something about him being "quality control" for some old trafficking gang in Sinnoh. Didn't sit well with him, but he needed some muscle to keep everyone in line."

    "Then I think you guys need to get rid of him somehow."

    "What?"

    "You know, I'm sure not all of Team Skull is like him. Sure, some of us had crappy beginnings, but we're all forged and made into the choices we make. Him included; he chose to be a bad person and one day it's going to come down on him…hard. We've all had it rough here and there."

    Gladion's expression and tone turned to ice. "You have no idea what hardship is like. If you even listen to half of what grief and burdens I have to carry, you won't even begin to understand."

    "Try me." Elio's reply had caught him off guard.

    "What is there for you to say? You get everything spoon-fed to you. A Pokémon of your own, the Z-Ring, respect, even a syllabus on how to be a trainer. You get all your friends a dime per dozen." The last one came out with a barely suppressed malignant hiss. "I've had none of that. Everything I've had to do to get where I am at is on my own. And it is something we will continue to do on our own until I get the strength I need."

    "Had I never moved to Alola, none of this would've happened." Elio snapped back. "And respect and friends aren't something that get spoon-fed to you…all said in your own words. You earn both of those. Best way to start is to stop being an asshat to everyone you meet. You think I made all the friends I did by treating them like garbage?"

    "Friends. That's something I can't afford to have distract me."

    "Then I guess that's your answer on why you stand alone in whatever cause you're doing. It's clearly not Team Skull's motivation, because they don't have much…if at all."

    "I have to do this on my own. Having friends or others will only distract me."

    "That's the thing too." Elio said. "You don't have to do whatever crusade you're doing by yourself. People help one another in need all the time. Doesn't hurt to ask, but I'd stop with the edginess if that's what you are wanting. Give help to others if you want help in return."

    Gladion made to reply, but stopped for a moment as both boys listened to the sudden silence that came from outside. A moment later, they heard the familiar rolling sound of thunder.

    "Rain. Fantastic."

    The sky darkened as clouds rolled over, moving across the sky swiftly and ominously.

    Elio had learned in Alola that it could be bright, sunny weather without a cloud in sight and then have a torrential downpour in the next twenty minutes.

    I love rain.

    Gladion opened the blinds, seeing an approaching wall of grayish mist suddenly explode into fat raindrops. They first started as a couple of successive taps before quickening in pace until a low roar of a downpour seemed to come from all sides. Sheets of rain pelted the asphalt outside in silvers of tiny little splashes.

    The Skull enforcer did say that Elio had to leave once Lars and his lackeys had left, but with the oncoming storm…

    I should just throw him out to the rain and watch him wallow in his misery. But would you do that?

    Maybe to Hau for my amusement, but Elio hasn't really done much except jab me. I don't deserve this. Can I stand him being a jerk for just a little longer? These rainstorms only last maybe ten or fifteen minutes.

    "You can stay." He said, actually surprising Sun with the statement. "But you're out once the rain stops."

    There, that's all you're going to get. Any more and I might turn into a nice person.

    The motel had its roof remade recently, which worked well in both boys' favor as the sealant kept the water from leaking inside. Elio was already expecting it and glanced up to see if there was a stained area that looked like it was about to begin dripping. He didn't find any, putting one relief at ease.

    Most of these motels have leaky ceilings. Looks like this one is fairly new.

    He turned back to Gladion, "Not a fan of cooking?"

    The other boy shot him a dirty look. "What's that supposed to mean?"

    "Don't like to cook? That's all there is to it. No subliminal messages, nothing snappy and nothing to argue on. Unless you want to argue on the fact."

    "What?"

    "Just answer the question before it becomes a waste of my breath. I'm trying to make this a bit less of an awkward silence."

    "Wouldn't you like to know?" The blond rolled his eyes. "Whatever. I can cook the basics, but I don't care for it much."

    "Funny. Neither do I. Can't cook to save my life."

    "You're on the way to the grass trial. Maybe have Mallow teach you something."

    Kiawe and Lana did say something about her having a peculiar taste though. Least he's actually talking in a non-jerk way.

    "Maybe. But my mother is a pretty good cook. So was my father. I'll learn from anyone willing to teach."

    "Hmph."

    "There a reason you're living here on cup noodles?" Elio asked.

    Gladion scoffed in annoyance. "There's a fine difference between whether you're capable of cooking or whether you can afford to cook."

    You know what? That's actually fair and understandable.

    To his surprise, he continued to drone on. "I used to have really good tasting food when I was younger. My parents had a chef from Kalos hire to cook for everyone. All of it was delicious, but most didn't keep me full for very long. My mother always said that we didn't need a lot of food because she was scared we'd go overweight."

    Elio had to stifle a laugh. "It worked. You're practically a stick."

    "That's what happens when you're being paid minimum wage. Only thing you can buy is tray noodles."

    "But what happened between you and your family? If they hired a private chef to cook for all of you, then you must've come from a rich family."

    "That's one way to put it." Gladion had been clenching his jaw and had a darkened expression on his face as if he had disliked being called rich or wealthy. "I ran away."

    "You ran away? What happened? Did you parents put you into a forced marriage or something?"

    The blond didn't laugh at Elio's joke. "No stupid. There's no way in hell I'm telling you anything."

    "Fine, stay and be a jerk. I get it."

    Gladion's eyes narrowed. "Will you stop calling me a jerk?!"

    "Oh my bad." Elio placed a hand over his heart in mock hurting before a smirk found its way onto his lips. "A sensitive jerk."

    "I AM NOT SENSITIVE!" Beside him, Null made a sound as if it were scoffing at the denial. "You want to see someone sensitive? Look at your aloof friend Hau."

    "Yes you're sensitive. Quite a bit actually. You do all this grumbling, griping around and being a jerk to other people who don't deserve it, but all of a sudden, you get defensive when someone else does it to you. I'm going to guess you don't like the taste of your own medicine. And bringing Hau into this?" Elio challenged. "You can't be serious. This is the stupidest thing I've heard all day. I already warned you what would happen if anyone threatens him. Physically or verbally."

    "Just stop trying to defend him. You know he's being all battles being fun to cover up that he's weak."

    "So what?"

    "You're wasting your efforts doing that."

    "They're my efforts to waste." Elio grumbled. "Why are you so fixated on how Hau battles?"

    "You may not see it, but that carefreeness of his is going to come back and bite him. What goes around comes around."

    "Then that's his problem. Not yours. You have no right to dictate how he runs as a trainer." Elio looked at him dead in the eye after finishing that. "And what comes around...goes around."

    "I can't afford to have fun in battles. Not when there's this much at stake. So pardon me for raining on his parade because he can go around doing whatever the hell he wants because he's Hala's grandson!"

    Elio felt raw fury bubble up inside him. Hau wasn't even here, but hearing Gladion's entire tirade made his blood begin to boil. In his own mind, while rivalries did involve a bit of trash talking, this was on an entire new level. Gladion wasn't just jabbing Hau at his fun battling style, it seemed a lot more personal from his upbringing.

    "I don't understand you." He shook a fist at the dark-haired boy. "Hau can't protect anything when he's weak. Just like me. I can't protect anything either."

    "I'm not defending him because he is weak. First off, he isn't weak at all. Second, I'm defending him because you are telling me that you despise him on a personal level."

    "That's because I do. He stands for everything I couldn't become. And as long as he doesn't change, I'll still do whatever it takes make him see the error of his ways."

    Elio almost had to laugh at his logic. "See the error of his ways? You sound like a fanatic from Team Plasma. I'll give you another newsflash; you can jab him all you want with this thing…maybe beat him constantly in a battle, but I'll tell you something. You're not going to change who he is as a person. You have no more control over his character than me. He won't let you." He stepped forward, threateningly. "I won't let you. You ever want to pick on him again; you're going to have to deal with me."

    Tension in the room remained thick enough to slice with a knife, but finally Elio stepped back, noticing the orange light of the setting sun finally peeking its way through the blinds. With the raindrops being reduced to the occasional tap on the roof and the annoying grunts gone, he was free to go and Gladion was likely ready to physically shove him outside at this point.

    "You're an asshole." Gladion finally said.

    Real mature. Sun shrugged off the insult. "I've been called worse." He reached into his backpack. "But an asshole certainly wouldn't do this."

    Both he and Null were surprised to see him slide a pair of food boxes onto the dining table. There was a little note taped to one of them at the top lid.

    "What's that?"

    "What does it look like dipshit? Ice soup. Thanks for letting me stay."

    Before Gladion could say anything more, Elio opened the door and briskly exited the room.

    That prick. Calling me sensitive AND a dipshit! I am not! I just can't make friends! I have to keep going. Keep on fighting stronger opponents. I can protect her. I can!

    Okay, maybe I was a little too harsh on Hau. But he's still not going anywhere if he doesn't get serious! And Elio! I'll make him eat his words. Just you wait.

    Gladion shook his head in annoyance and let out a frustrated sigh, finally able to lie down on the bed with the peace and quiet that had come following Elio and the grunts' absence.

    I can now relax a little bit.

    A slight nudge on his side caused him to glance up at Null's taller form. The strange Pokémon set its clawed legs on the bed's sheets and pressed its head further into Gladion's ribs.

    "Heh." The edgy teen let out a chuckle. "I'm sorry all that had to make you nervous. I know you're still not over him calling you an experiment."

    Null huffed and cocked its head inquisitively.

    "What?! No, I'm NOT sensitive!"

    The same hollow laughing sound from before was heard within its mask. Null's normally stoic eyes seemed to lighten up with a hint of mirth as it showed a good amount of amusement at his denial.

    "Whatever. Things are just so hard right now Null. What do I do? I just can't get Elio or Sun…whatever the hell he's called out of my head! It's driving me crazy!"

    Another huff.

    "Whatever. And then he gives me food as if that's supposed to say anything."

    Another huff. And then Null crept closer, bending its heavy head down and takin a whiff of the food in the open container. Gladion watched as he placed a paw on the top of the container and slid it over.

    He could almost hear it reprimanding him for the thought of being given the food over the food itself.

    Well it is free food. But did Elio poison it? No, I think that's below him. There's some grunts I know that would put laxatives inside.

    Prying off the lid, Gladion slid it into the open microwave and punched in a time limit, waiting the thirty seconds it took to heat up the food.

    He took one glance at the note in neat handwriting that was written to Elio before crumpling it up and tossing it into the wastebasket.

    Looks like it's from his mother or something. Must be nice having an actual one.

    Gladion thought about everything that had happened in the past two years since breaking into the Paradise and stealing Null. He wandered aimlessly after stowing away on a ferry that led to Ula'ula Island with little direction. It was lucky enough for him that the law enforcement was much more lax than the others. Much of that was thanks to Ula'ula's kahuna.

    The older man was jaded, unsmiling and his piercing red eyes had immediately turned Gladion's insides into jelly when they first crossed paths. The kahuna was more concerned with the grieving shouts he had screamed into the night as a noise complaint more than anything else. With ragged clothes and an unapproachable air around him, he was directionless and forsaken for the first time in his life and on his own.

    That was when he had gotten the job with Team Skull as an enforcer. He would never admit that he once stooped low enough to raid a hotel room for its complimentary snacks as a means for nourishment. But right after nearly getting caught by one of the managers while doing so in Malie City, a woman named Plumeria had taken him to Po Town where he met the majority of the eighty plus members of Team Skull.

    In his eyes, many of their brains had deteriorated until whatever remained was barely salvageable. Drunks, drug addicts, felons, convicts, sex offenders…in Lars' case. He did find a lot of similarities that they were all in a way; the rejects and outcasts of Alolan society, all the people that nobody wanted to associate with.

    It was the perfect place to lay low until he could make his move. He'd go back, show his mother how wrong her ways were and rescue her from her clutches.

    She didn't deserve that. I only hope that Mother's focus on me will spare her from any harm.

    Just thinking about that made the scars on his back burn briefly.

    At first, Gladion seemed to fit right in with Skull. But it was clear among the general population that he was never going to be a member officially.

    The boss had pulled him aside as soon as he had gotten there and refused to talk to anyone else. No remark was made about Null, no comment put on his appearance. He was straightforward and to the point.

    You got two choices kid. You can stay put where we found you, whining about Mommy and how she's the root of all your damn problems. Or you can come with us, do some work for money and show the rest of the world that you don't give two shits about them.

    Gladion shook his head. All this errand work was beneath him. The rest of Skull treated him like trash. Even the rejects of Alola treated him like a reject among themselves.

    I deserve more.

    He opened the microwave's door, mindful of the burning heat that came from the container's bottom as he made his way over to the dining table. The steam carried an aroma that he hadn't experienced since their own private chef had presented them with their less-than-hearty meals.

    Agedashi dofu? It's too bad Lillie isn't here. This used to be one of her favorite Kantoan specialties.

    Tofu was either a hit or miss with most people. Served in two varieties; firm or soft, some loved it to death, taking advantage of its moderately bland flavor to mix with other spices and marinades. Others such as vegetarians used it as a protein substitute. Others stated a blatant dislike of it since it had a unique taste and texture that didn't sit well with some.

    Gladion did eat tofu on occasion, but nothing this way. And it smelled deliciously enough to make his mouth water.

    He speared one of the lightly fried cubes and brought it to his mouth. Sprinkled atop were negi thinly sliced and katsuobushi seasoning. It was tested just inside his mouth, careful not to burn himself. Sensing that it was at a temperature just a little hotter than he had wanted, he proceeded to chew thoughtfully.

    Huh…it's not bad.

    And then a barrage of intense and delicious flavors from the katsuobushi hit Gladion in the mouth and he stopped, unable to prevent a joyous tear from escaping his eye.

    What? Why? Why does Elio get to eat food like this? It's not fair. It's NOT FAIR!

    He had to force himself not to eat all of it at once. It may have been that he had rarely eaten anything outside of instant meals for the past two years, but finally having a taste of home cooked food was something else. Even if it wasn't his own.

    THIS IS SO GOOD!

    Beside him, Null let out another amused huff before clanking to his favorite spot in the room to lie down.

    Gladion helped himself to two more pieces before putting the rest in the fridge along with the second container tucked behind the tray meals out of sight. There was no way that he wanted to take a chance of any Skull grunts raiding his fridge and finding something that tasted that good.

    A knock on his door immediately caught his and Null's attention.

    Better not be Elio again. I told him to get the hell out.

    "Stay there." He ordered while crossing and peering through the door's peephole.

    It wasn't Elio, but a taller blond haired man in a warm-looking gray lab coat and wire rimmed glasses. He had his arms behind his back as if patiently waiting.

    Is he with Mother? Gladion still ran through the possibilities of his newest visitor while opening the door.

    "Ah, hello. You must be Gladion. My name is Colress. I'm an old friend of your parents." He held out a worn Poké Ball in one of his hands while the other dug into his pocket and revealed a tiny magenta colored disc case. "I believe Miss Wicke has entrusted me to give these to you in order to use in the future."

    I don't even know what to think right now. Elio thought to himself as he walked through the sliding doors of the Pokémon center. The remainder of his journey to the small settlement was short and uneventful. The bottom of his shoes were caked in reddish brown mud, so as soon as he had stepped onto the concrete foundation of the building, he went to the side to use a garden hose and spray it off the soles.

    With the conversation of Gladion still fresh in his mind, Sun felt like it was a hopeless cause to have his opinion on Hau changed.

    I can't believe it. Just what is that guy's problem? He keeps on saying that strength is the only thing that matters. Does it? He's in pursuit of raw power with that experiment. I've never seen anyone get stronger by calling other people weak.

    Through it all, he was lucky enough to get a room at the Pokémon center for a night, but decided to take a walk back down the route to explore. His party was quickly healed, allowing him to take them back out for some more training.

    There's always stuff to explore and find. Adventure's out there!

    This must be part of the Lush Jungle. He had come across a fossil restoration lab down an offroad path beside the main road. The sleek modern-looking mobile facility looked closed for the day, but he did see large tablets in what looked like information displays for some prehistoric Pokémon scattered in front of large fenced areas. Possibly habitats of some kind.

    It looks like someone's trying to make an exhibition for the Pokémon that went extinct millions of years before us. But there's no construction, no workers, no nothing. Who's running this? And where are the dinosaur Pokémon?

    "Thizzz place izz ztrange." Rotom quietly remarked as they trudged further inside. The cries of bird Pokémon echoed through the jungle growth and he saw that the trees climbed up even higher at this point. At the top branches, he could see bulbous fruit hanging from the branches. There were a pair of pikipek that together pecked at the stems of one of them, causing it to fall down.

    "Woah!" Elio deftly dodged to the side to avoid the oncoming projectile as it made a rapid descent to the floor. The fruit landed close by with a sharp crack as the tough ground had split it open into three pieces, tumbling aside.

    Sun watched as the pikipek were joined by several more of their species as they all began pulling out parts of the fruit's fleshy interior as a source of nourishment.

    The green outer skin of the fruit was tough-looking with small spikes mottling its surface that seemed almost like rubber to the touch. It served to protect the interior, which had a white appearance with a starch-like consistency.

    "Bzzt! Dodged the 'ulu like a pro right there! Bzt!"

    "'Ulu?"

    "That'zzz right! 'Ulu, az it iz known in Alola iz a ztaple food in the entire region! Very tazty! You zhould try zome zometime!"

    "Suppose so." Elio took one last look as the pikipek finished their meal and flapped their wings to fly off somewhere else. "What is this place?"

    "I don't know. Bzzt. But I've gathered data on the tabletz around the area, depicting prehistoric Pokémon! Lookz like zomeone wanted to build a theme park around the dinosaurz and quit halfway. Bzzt! I'll give you the highlightz because putting all the entriez together would go for a long boring time and no author wantzzz to bore a reader. Bzzt!"

    "Pretty sure, there's a series of books on why that's a terrible idea."

    "Here'z the data. It iz limited becauze I don't have live zpecimenzz or you don't have them az partnerz, but it be the bezt I could do! Bzzt! I omitted the "Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon" becauzzze it iz repetitive and the writing ztaff didn't want to put it in after every entry. Needless word filler and all. Bzzt."

    "Makes sense." Elio said, peering through the multiple 'Dex entries.

    Omanyte. Spiral Pokémon. Omanyte were restored from fossils excavated from oceans long ago. Omanyte is a water and rock type.

    Omastar. Spiral Pokémon. It is the evolved form of omanyte. It uses its strong tentacles to immobilize its prey and then finishes them with sharp fangs. Omastar is a water and rock type.

    Kabuto. Shellfish Pokémon. This Pokémon thrived nearly 300 million years ago. It is said that a few living specimens can still be seen in a certain region today. Kabuto is a water and rock type.

    Kabutops. Shellfish Pokémon. It is the evolved form of kabuto. It swam through the seas at a speed of 29 knots, using its razor sharp scythes to attack its foes. Kabutops is a water and rock type.

    Lileep. Sea lily Pokémon. It has powerful suction cups at its base that it uses to keep itself anchored to the seabed. They remain in place no matter how rough the seas will get. Lileep is a rock and grass type.

    Cradily. Barnacle Pokémon. It is the evolved form of lileep. It normally lives in shallow sea shoals and actually came onshore to look for food when the tide went out. Cradily is a rock and grass type.

    Anorith. Old shrimp Pokémon. With its eight wings, it could apparently swim a lot faster than you'd expect. Anorith is a rock and bug type.

    Armaldo. Plate Pokémon. It is the evolved form of anorith. Armaldo lived on land and went into the sea to hunt for prey. Its sharp claws were its greatest weapons. Armaldo is a rock and bug type.

    Cranidos. Head butt Pokémon. Although its skull was its most distinguishing feature, it lacked any intelligence within. Cranidos is a rock type.

    Rampardos. Head butt Pokémon. It is the evolved form of cranidos. In ancient times, people apparently dug up fossils of this Pokémon and used its skull to make helmets. The structure of their skulls remained sturdy even after millions of years after dying. Rampardos is a rock type.

    Shieldon. Shield Pokémon. A mild mannered herbivorous Pokémon, every shieldon fossil discovered have shown no signs of visible facial damage. Shieldon is a rock and steel type.

    Bastiodon. Shield Pokémon. It is the evolved form of shieldon. While impervious to attacks from the front, it is significantly slow to turn and vulnerable at its flank. Bastiodon is a rock and steel type.

    Tirtouga. Prototurtle Pokémon. Based on studies of its skeletal structure, it can apparently dive to ocean depths of over half a mile. Tirtouga is a water and rock type.

    Carracosta. Prototurtle Pokémon. It is the evolved form of tirtouga. Carracosta eats every last bit of its prey, even the shells of omanyte and omastar, to further improve the strength and integrity of its armored shell. Carracosta is a water and rock type.

    Archen. First bird Pokémon. Despite being flightless, archen moved from hopping from tree to tree and glided down from above to snag fast moving prey. Archen is a rock and flying type.

    Archeops. First bird Pokémon. It is the evolved form of Archen. While it is believe to be the ancestor of all bird Pokémon, archeops' wing muscles were undeveloped and needed a good amount of speed and running space in order to take off. Archeops is a rock and flying type.

    "So all these were Pokémon supposed to be featured in the exhibits?"

    "I guezzz zo. But there'z nothing here. On the bright zide, you managed to fill in zixteen entriezzz in your Pokédex! That'zz like one twenty fifth of all data for Pokémon in the Alola region! Congratulationzzz izz in order! Twenty four more zectionzzz to fill! Bzzt! You better get ztarted az zoon az pozzible! Bzzt!"

    "Way to make it sound easy. And we should probably leave this place before we get into some serious trouble or do anything stupid."

    "Agreed. Bzzt!"

    It was going to take more than a trip to a seemingly abandoned dinosaur theme park to lift Elio's spirits. The conversation part-argument with Gladion was still fresh in his mind and making everything he thought about just a little angrier.

    Still have no idea what in the world that guy's problem is. He pisses and moans about how he can only do this alone, but it also sounds like what he's trying to accomplish is impossible unless he picks fights with every trainer he sees. People would be more inclined to help if you ask. But knowing how you act around me and Hau is an absolute hell no. You're gonna have to come kiss my ass if you want my help now.

    But he's trying to protect something. Or someone. Just who?

    Elio knew that all the negativity had to be gone. All of this thinking about the edgy blond was not merely getting on his nerves, but also providing a fine distraction from the grass type trial.

    Can't think about him right now. There will be a time where I'll put him in his place. Having that bitter conversation with Gladion makes me want to take a shower and rinse it all off. Enjoy the food…friggin walking rectum. Next time he insults Hau; he can do it through a bloody lip and some missing teeth. Sun actually smiled a little, feeling a bit of satisfaction as he imagined his bony knuckles swinging to clock Gladion square in the jaw.

    Elio did just that, spending longer than usual under the spray in his normal stance of both hands against the wall with his head bowed and letting the streams of water run down the side of his body. He had the temperature cooler than normal since the humid Alolan heat made his clothes stick to his skin. The coolness pushing the heat out was as if feeling like his stress finally beginning to ease its way out of his body.

    How about some positivity for a change? Another trial is right around the corner. Game plan needs to be made. Sooner I finish it, sooner I can go see Lillie again. I just want to go be with her and Nebby again. I miss them both. Haven't seen them for what…almost a month now?

    Lillie makes me happy…really happy. I wonder if she had something planned for when we get back like what I promised before leaving. Oh yeah…great going Elio. Totally…think about a pretty blonde girl while you're showering….

    The next trial was just a short distance away in the Lush Jungle. Hau had posted on his own Festival Plaza account when he dried himself off with a picture as proof that he had triumphed over it. He proudly displayed an emerald green crystal that shined in the sunlight in one hand.

    Next to it was a link to a congratulatory picture of himself, Dartrix, Pikachu and Eevee in something called the Alola Photo Club. Elio hadn't done much through social media, except follow the Hurricanes basketball team and a few other popular trainers. And of course Hau and Leilani were two of those that were mutually following him.

    I still have to think of a good catchy line for my island challenge campaign. Sun Journey? No. Uh...TrainerNorthstar? That sounds too mainstream. Why do I have to have a strange last name?

    Eliohana. Ha! I like that! Elio as the start of my name and ohana as family! Perfect!

    Hau's other arm was around an equally smiling Leilani, who had stuck her pinkie and thumb out in the traditional "hang loose" sign to denote the Alolan people's carefreeness.

    Elio felt the corners of his lips curl upwards just seeing them so happy. They were so happy together.

    "Watch out. It's a tricky one. But we beat the trial!" That had been the only text Hau had sent along with the image.

    Wow. Those two are soooo cute together!

    "We got a busy day tomorrow." He said while letting out all his Pokémon to sleep. "The next trial isn't going to be a slouch and Hau says we might get tricked, but I have a feeling we're gonna conquer it just the same. I'll have to conjure a plan, but in the meantime, we should all get some rest."

    He was met with a unison cry from all his Pokémon before they all lay down. Nani was easily the largest of his team, but coiled herself in the corner around Rockruff and Torracat. Grimer used part of a box to keep his noxious self from spilling onto the floor. Elio really liked how considerate his poison type was. He was inherently aware of his less-than-sanitary properties and did what he could to prevent others from getting ill or injured because of him.

    Charjabug had crawled up on his nightstand, keeping an eye on Rufflet. The tiny bird opted instead to perch on the dresser opposite the bed and tuck his head into his wings.

    Still scared of birds huh? Elio put a comforting hand on her side. I better figure this out, otherwise this is going to be an interesting team…and that's not always a good thing.

    "Goodnight everyone."

    Elio flopped down on the mattress and pulled the covers over his body. Letting out a relaxed sigh, he closed his eyes, intending to get as much rest as possible to face his next trial tomorrow.

    The phone ringtone went off without warning, its catchy melody startling him and abruptly breaking the comfortable silence. It had gotten a similar reaction from most of his Pokémon, save Rufflet, who were all alert and looking towards him.

    "Ugh." He groaned, reaching over to the nightstand and took it off its charging cradle. Glancing bleary-eyed at the screen, he didn't recognize the number, but did notice that the area code was northern Kanto.

    Elio knew better than to answer a call from strangers. His mother worried constantly when she finally relented and gave him a phone of his own whether or not he would be talking with the wrong people. Luckily for her, he had stuck to his word and seldom texted anyone outside his friends or family since obtaining it. The most recent number he had added to his contacts was Lillie, who used a temporary phone given to her by Kukui whenever they were separated.

    But for some reason, there was a gnawing feeling that he was in for a shock if he picked up the line. It was impossible to tell if it was in a good way or bad.

    Might as well. After all, who could it possibly be?

    Sitting up on the bedside, Elio stared at the screen as if it were going to change and provide a real identity of the caller. He sighed and thumbed the answer button.

    "Hello?"

    "E-Elio? Is that you?"

    Immediately Sun's blood ran cold and he nearly dropped the phone.

    N-no! It can't be!

    A series of cries within the room caught his attention and he saw that his entire team of Pokémon were inching closer to him, all with expressions of concern etched on their faces.

    They sensed his unease.

    Sun didn't know what to say. His lungs suddenly began to struggle with breathing, as if a hand had lunged out, grabbing his throat and slowly squeezing the rest of the air out of him.

    He finally opened his mouth a tiny bit and his voice trembled as he tried to speak.

    "Dad?"

    Up next we've got the grass trial! Elio's pumped and all to take it down! But he had to tolerate Gladion's bitterness and now someone he never wished to hear from again is calling to talk to him! How is he going to handle the trial with all of these complications piling up on him? That's all coming next chapter!

    Translations (all are in Japanese this time around, except for the last one):

    • Agedashi dofu - Literally means "lightly deep-fried tofu" (ironic huh?) in Japanese. It is a popular way to serve hot tofu. Usually the firm version is used and it is cut into bite-sized cubes and coated in potato starch to be deep fried. Often served with hot fish-based dashi broth.
    • Negi - Scallions/green onions. It is a popular garnish thinly sliced over some Japanese hot dishes.
    • Katsuobushi - Katsuobushi is dried and fermented skipjack tuna shaved into extremely thin flakes and occasionally replaced by bonito fish as a cheaper alternative. It has a distinct savory taste and can be used in a variety of Japanese cuisine dishes from being an added spice to the basis of dashi broth. When placed on hot food, heat waves can cause the light flakes to move about in an interesting aesthetic manner.
    • 'Ulu - Breadfruit. It is a member of the jackfruit and mulberry family native to the tropics of the South Pacific and Polynesia, but has expanded to parts of South America and the Caribbean. Very abundant in Hawaii. The tree has many uses: the fruit is a staple food in Hawaiian cuisine. The wood is light and sturdy as well as resistant to termites; perfect for constructing homes and ships. There is a legend about the breadfruit in Hawaiian mythology, but more on that once we get to the next island!
    Mahalo as always everyone for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose. See you next time.
    Brav
     
  12. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers. Let me start by saying that I suffered a tragedy in losing all my edits literally just as I was about to save it all on the Document Manager. For whatever reason, my computer decided that the editing page took too long to respond, so it was reloaded...with all edits erased.

    So...here I am trying to edit it once more with as much as I could remember before losing all of it. This is as close as I'll get to my original. Pretty rage-inducing...Thankfully most of the edits I do on the Manager is mostly grammatical stuff and little tidbits added in, as well as the AN at the beginning and end.

    How about that Let's Go Pikachu and Let's go Eevee? Pretty cool and an unusual step...something I didn't expect. Was more hoping of a new region with all the fixins'. Anyway, it seems more tailored towards Pokémon Go fans which is okay I guess.

    Anyway, the rest of E3's reveals were pretty damn exciting. Halo: Infinite, Gears of War 5, Anthem, Destiny 2 Forsaken. Damn, every time I try to save up money for flight school and to pay off my bills, here comes E3 to steal a good chunk of my savings every summer. I'm already broke enough as is.
    Onto the chapter, since I'm getting sidetracked. I've got some strong language, suggestive themes and a whole lot of heart-wrenching emotions in this one. The sequence took me a little bit of time to arrange around since it didn't flow the way I wanted. Hope the one I finally finished is clear enough and not convoluted whatsoever.
    The final scene in this chapter had some lyrics from "Go to the Light" by Death by Murder. I was debating between three songs (including this one) to use for the scene that I feel sticks very well. Hearing it in an E3 trailer, pretty much cemented my decision...as well as another one in a trailer script I've made up for this story's second half. I do not own the song.

    Hope everyone enjoys.


    Elio...I knew something was wrong with him when he wasn't writing letters. I just didn't expect him to reach out the way he did.

    "Oh no. Oh no! No….nononononono!"

    Elaine Speier suddenly felt numb. Numb with waves of nausea and beads of sweat beading over her clammy skin. Acid burned in her throat, threatening to emerge, however it had been the least of her worries.

    "Please let it be something else. Please."

    The entire room of her apartment seemed to enclose all around her as she walked from the toilet to her bedroom where the calendar was tacked onto a headboard beside her bed. Her finger ran down, skipping three weeks past a marked date.

    Several months ago, Elaine Speier was in the top percentage of the Nursing College at Cerulean University with one final semester before graduating. She had studied hard, set to graduate magna cum laude and already been offered many different positions around the metro area for a job.

    Three months ago, she had met a charming young firefighter in a bar known as Dual Barrels.. A popular hangout for college students, she noticed him on her own twenty-second birthday celebration after many of her own friends had ordered one too many drinks. Similarly, many of his own coworkers had left after dinner and a couple of beers, but he had remained behind, occasionally glancing at her just on the bar's opposite side.

    She still wasn't sure who had been the first to say an icebreaker, but after hours of talking, she had consented to his offer for coffee one morning. He had beamed at her with a smile that made her insides turn into muk while introducing himself as Calvera Kai Northstar. Elaine's accepting of his date invitation was not done without being flustered herself.

    Since then, their relationship had grown from being casual friends to actual dates. While he did fit that dreamy physical appearance of a strong jawline, clean shaven with dark hair and steely gray eyes, she was drawn to his caring side. In spite of their busy careers and line of work, both had managed to find Friday evenings for a date of dinner. Sometimes they'd go watch a movie mutually chosen, while others would just be on casual walks in Cerulean City's beautiful night.

    And then it happened.

    It was just like any other Friday. Cal had left the firehouse, changed clothes into something a little more presentable and picked Elaine up. They traveled up to the north area of Avondale that was past their residences in Orinda out towards the countryside. The cityscape grew more distant and was replaced by a suburban quiet little town with a fancy boardwalk situated just above the calm oceans which was a common place for young couples to spend evenings. The sea breeze had blown her hair apart in a manner that refused to escape his attention.

    The dinner was expensive with most of the cost coming from the many glasses of sake both had consumed alongside their food. Somehow between there and when he had taken her home, she developed something within her, a desire to grow closer to him.

    He had felt the same way.

    Elaine didn't know whether it was from being tipsy on the alcohol or her own desires that mercilessly ravaged her hormones. All she knew vividly from that night was giving off a sultry giggle after he walked her back to her Orinda condominium and turning around to plant a firm kiss on his mouth.

    Cal returned it with an equal amount of affection, actually showing a bit of surprise as she tugged him towards her open door, fumbling both it and the entrance to her bedroom shut all while collapsing on the bed in a frenzy to remove their clothes from one another.

    She took it back. Elaine now fondly remembered it, waking up after the best night in her entire life.

    Until now. The consequences had reared their ugly heads. Cal didn't have condoms and she wasn't on any pills or other concubines. Their carefulness had been broken by the spur of the moment and a combination of both desires and hormones finally taking a firm hold, refusing to let go.

    The display on the white stick in her hand slowly formed into view…with a big red plus sign in the middle.

    Her eyes remained glued to it; before the wave of tears crashed down to swamp her own hopes and aspirations. She let out a despaired wail that echoed off the walls in a melancholy fashion, all while internally cursing her own stupidity.

    It had been an hour later when Elaine's best friend and roommate Heidi Kershaw had found her sitting beside her bed, head in hands and continuing to sniffle and sob her eyes out.

    "Hey Elaine, I got us some more cheese for that Florentine pasta bake you make so well." She was almost the opposite of her in terms of physical appearance. A few inches shorter with a slightly stocky build and golden blonde hair, her compassionate attitude made studying grinds easier and Elaine's closest confidant for years.

    "Elaine?"

    "H-Heidi…" She stammered.

    "Elaine what's wrong?" Heidi set the bag of Tanaka's groceries down and walked into her room, sitting beside her.

    "I…I just want this to go away."

    "Want what?" She knew this was clearly out of Elaine's own personality to act all bottled up and grieving without letting her know.

    "H-Heidi…I…I'm…"

    "You're what?" She was touched by her best friend's concern, but she wasn't sure how it was going to be handled in a reaction.

    The answer had come out in a whisper that was barely heard. "I'm pregnant."

    Her roommate's eyes just about popped out of her head. "You're what?!" She almost shouted, making Elaine flinch.

    "Heidi stop it! You're going to make everyone in the complex know! Yes...yes I'm pregnant! Please don't make this any worse! This is just awful! A nightmare!" Elaine cried in the midst of another sob. "I-I'm going to be having a baby!"

    "But I always thought you wanted to have kids!"

    "Yes! I did! But not when I'm twenty-two! Heidi, we still have another semester to go before we graduate! What am I going to do with studying and having a kid? My father is going to lose his mind!"

    "Does Cal know? It is his right?"

    "Yes! Of course it's his! And no…he doesn't know."

    "Well I think you have to tell him. He deserves to know."

    "I can't! I can't just tell him that I'm pregnant with his child! What will he think?! What would he do?! I just want this to go away…maybe just shake myself awake from a nightmare! What if I just got rid of-" Elaine stopped herself, shaking her head. "No…that's just awful. I shouldn't even be thinking of that."

    Heidi sympathetically shook her head. "Elaine…this isn't a dream."

    "We're so close to graduating! This baby is going to be a huge distraction!"

    "So you want to leave your own child?!"

    "No! I…I don't know what to do Heids," Elaine hastily accepted a tissue from Heidi's outstretched hand and dabbed at her teary eyes. "I've always wanted kids…even with him…just…we did it…so early."

    "Nothing is wrong with having kids early. You're twenty-two years old! There are plenty of women who balance out their jobs, school and still have children that young!"

    "It-it seems impossible!"

    "I never said it was easy." Heidi said, bringing her in for a gentle hug. "But I think that telling Cal is the first step and if he truly loves you…he will understand."

    Elaine sniffled again. "And if he doesn't?"

    "I-I don't know."

    Calvera Northstar sighed as he walked briskly through the halls of the firehouse. He had gotten a call from the chief of the station to report to his office as soon as he clocked in. Excitement ran through his blood as he thought about the multitude of scenarios.

    It was close to the week of promotions and his sudden transfer to Orinda's 37th fire station had been all for the better. Increased pay, decent coworkers and the chief had been very impressed with his work and dedication, making him one of the frontrunners to be promoted to Lieutenant.

    "Northstar."

    Calvera shot the man a glare who had said his name. "Cepeda."

    Cepeda was the only firefighter in the station who had not approved of his move. To Cal; he was brash, arrogant and full of himself. But he was definitely good at his job, which was why he had been kept around.

    He was also the other one competing for Calvera's promotion to Lieutenant.

    Calvera ignored him and rapped his knuckles on the chief's door.

    "Come in."

    For some reason, his heart was pounding in his chest as all the thoughts centered around how he was going to be told about his inevitable promotion to Lieutenant. In his own eyes, his own sense of getting along with his workmates was the deciding factor over Cepeda.

    However Chief Speier had a stern look on his face and he didn't flash his normal smile.

    "Chief."

    "Take a seat Northstar." Speier's tone was blunt and straightforward, unusually devoid of emotion. His stare was different compared to the normal jovial one he had when cracking one of his easygoing jokes while off duty. The voice he was using was one where he was not to be challenged or something concerned him enough to reprimand someone.

    Calvera sat down in the gestured seat, but found himself on the edge in no way relaxing.

    Chief Speier took off his glasses and sighed. "I'll just get to the point Northstar."

    "Sir?"

    "Why did you sleep with my daughter?"

    The man suddenly felt the room's temperature drop at least several degrees. Adrenaline pumped its way through his body and looking over at the chief's stern expression, it was all signs that he was in no shape or form joking around at all.

    "I guess I'll just fill you in on that." Speier said, his gaze hardening once again. "You've been seeing my daughter Elaine behind my back and you're sleeping with her."

    "Sir…I."

    "Don't sir me." Speier pointed at him. "The only reason keeping me from punching you square in the jaw right now is that we're both on the clock. So I figure we have a man to man conversation as professional as can be."

    Calvera felt as if the chief was holding a sword pressed against his throat and daring him to say something.

    "I like you Northstar…I like you and Blu a lot. But I never thought you'd backstab me like that in keeping something like this in the dark."

    "Sir."

    Without warning, Chief Speier brought a hand down on his desk, swiftly throwing a bunch of files and folders off in a dramatic fashion. The leaflets fluttered all around the air in between them and the sudden action had almost caused him to instinctively flinch. He willed himself to stay strong and not yield with the revelation.

    "Don't you dare sir me right now!" He growled through clenched teeth and malicious eyes. "I'm doing the talking. While she is my little girl and all the family I have left in this world, what she does as an adult is her business. Even if it is sleeping with men."

    "Then why?" Calvera blurted out. He had grown increasingly irritated that he wasn't able to explain his own case…how he had fallen in love with the woman long before taking her to bed. "If you are so claiming that her business in that part is not of your concern, why all this?"

    Through all of it, Speier was actually impressed at Calvera's defiant claim. That characteristic had appeared to be a trait of the Northstar family. "Because when it involves someone from my team and consequences, it affects me on both a professional level and a personal one."

    "Consequences?!"

    "Yes consequences."

    "So you're going to pull back my promotion and fire me?"

    "I am. But you're not getting fired. You're going to need the money."

    "Cal."

    Calvera whirled around to find Elaine standing in the doorway. The redness in her eyes and hand over her mouth told him that she had been distressed for quite some time.

    "Elaine." He ignored Speier's glare behind him and crossed the distance, throwing his arms around his love and holding her close, doing as much as he could to soothe her uneasiness.

    "Cal," she had sniffled while burying the side of her face into his shoulder. "I'm sorry…I'm so sorry."

    He stared at her in disbelief. "Sorry? Elaine, what is going on? How come you never told me the chief was your father?"

    "I didn't know you were with his group until recently! I had thought you came from another station!"

    "Elaine…please tell me what is going on." He looked at her in the eyes with all the concern he could muster. "Please. Don't shut me out."

    She searched his face to see if he was kidding, but the open mouth and fearful gaze was beginning to work. Remembering Heidi's words and willing to be strong; she took a deep breath and said the infamous two words.

    "I'm pregnant."

    Calvera's expression went blank. "You-you're pregnant?"

    "Yes!" A fresh wave of tears flooded down her cheeks as she began to cry her heart out. "I…we're going to have a baby!"

    He was stunned beyond belief. Of course he had remembered that night and subsequent morning of passion where both of their inner desires had gotten the best of them. Any thoughts of caution were thrown to the wind. Neither had cared about using protection, afraid they'd ruin the moment.

    Being a father was something he had always wanted to do. But like the usual Northstar family charm, it came at the worst of possible occasions.

    "Cal…please say something."

    "I-I don't know what to say." He could only just hold her close and hope that this little display would calm her father down enough to talk civilly. It wasn't there yet, but he could feel the weight of consequences as they started to rest squarely on his shoulders. The woman he had met in a bar just a few months ago was now pregnant with his child. It was even more pressure that she happened to be the daughter of his superior.

    "Elaine…I don't know how to feel. Surprised, happy…afraid. I never meant to get you pregnant, but you do remember what I said to you the next morning? I would never deny you anything."

    "I know. And I want to keep this baby."

    "Me too. I love you. I can't wait to become a father."

    "I love you too."

    Speier had remained silent as his daughter and subordinate embraced before finally clearing his throat. As angry and upset as he was in being kept in the dark, he was not one to deny both of them their moment together.

    "Cal, you're dismissed. Go to your station. I'd like to talk to my daughter alone."

    Shakily, he nodded his head. "Yes sir."

    The distance between him and the door felt like a mile and he could envision the chief's eyes drilling into him like lasers. He gently shut it, finally glad to be out of sight before leaning against the wall and collapsing down with his head in his hands…just beginning to wonder on the start of the magnitude from his actions.

    "Elio?"

    At the mention of his name, he stopped, recognizing the person on the other line. Along with freezing in place, so did his heart.

    That voice.

    "Dad?"

    "Elio…son. Thank you for answering. You sound so grown up."

    Standing the center's room, hearing that voice with all of the threats, shouting matches between his parents and hiding in the closet with Meowth; the air threatened to squeeze itself out of his lungs. His voice had been paralyzed, no matter how hard he tried to muster and say something, no sound could come out.

    Or maybe he just didn't know what to say.

    "Son?"

    "Dad." He finally managed to croak out and the start of tears beginning to well in his eyes. A deep breath was taken.

    "That's what happens in five years." Elio finally managed to say, now having a strange feeling of anger rising in his head. "I grow up."

    "And you sound so mature."

    "Oh wouldn't you know."

    Calvera sighed and Elio quickly noted that his breaths were short, barely audible through the airwaves.

    He decided to address the donphan in the room and over the airwaves. "Why did you call me Dad?"

    Another sigh…or a deep breath. He was unable to tell which. "To try and make things right."

    Sun shook his head, already knowing where this conversation was heading. "That's not possible. Mom and I have moved on."

    "I want to at least try. Try and regain you and your mother's trust. Please Elio…I'm sorry."

    "You're wasting your effort. And you're sorry for what Dad? What now?" The hostility began to creep even more into the boy's tone. "Go on…tell me what you're so apologetic for. Are you sorry you were lying to me and Mom about rehab? Sorry you fought and hit her all the time?" He took a ragged breath. "Or are you sorry that you released Blu into the wild because I was getting too attached to it."

    "I've been making progress." Calvera's voice was now shaky. "Please…I haven't had a sip of alcohol for two years. And I know what I did was wrong."

    "Well good for you." Even now, he couldn't believe he had such a poisonous tongue or lash out this viciously at anyone. However the pent up emotions, having to tolerate the edgy asshat Gladion earlier that day had built up a storm of emotions inside that he had wanted to keep buried. "Because you destroyed Blu's life too!"

    And an unexpected phone call from the last person he wanted to speak to had unleashed it in full force. Never had he felt such a massive wringer of conflicting emotions boiling within his body. Off to the side where his Pokémon had been sleeping, his agitation had roused them awake again. They all cast concerned glances at their trainer, not knowing exactly the conversation was about save for the fact that it greatly upset him.

    "You don't even know what happened to Blu, do you?" When he heard no response, it had been exactly the answer he suspected. "I never told you this…but after you left us. I went and found where Blu lived at a beach off the coast. I visited him as many times as I could."

    A tear finally escaped his eye and streamed down his cheek, unchecked. "He got hurt one day…I-I held Blu in my arms, where he died from his injuries."

    Calvera's end remained silent before he choked out a sniffle. "I'm sorry son."

    "I'm sorry?!" That did it for Elio, even though it had been said with grave sympathy. "That's all you have to say?! I bet you went and got yourself another partner Pokémon for your job! You didn't even give Blu a second thought."

    "Son, that's not true. You have no idea how much Blu meant to me."

    "Oh yeah?! Well to me; Blu was everything! He was my best friend! You know what Calvera?!" He hoped that saying his actual name would be enough for the man who fathered him to understand what he had truly done. "As a firefighter, you're supposed to be other people's hero! You're supposed to save lives! Why couldn't you do that to ours?! Why couldn't you try and work things out with Mom?! Go to rehab the first time you were advised?! Yeah, you saved lives out there, but you destroyed mine and Mom's and Blu's!" Elio went back to the time where both he and his mother's jolteon Amp couldn't stop crying together; no matter how much his mother tried to comfort them without breaking down in tears herself. "So what makes me think that you've changed at all? People go into rehabilitation all the time for years and remain the same. You're not going to come back into my life or Mom's to rip it all down."

    "I promise I will do whatever it takes to earn your trust back. Yes…I'm so sorry for everything I've done and everything I thought about raising a child." Calvera said. "I don't know how or what I can do, but please. Please just give me a chance Elio."

    Even though Sun's gut was nagging at him against opening out his arms, he still felt a pang of sympathy. From what he had heard thus far; Calvera's patience remained and he had likely been informed that reaching out to his family would be met with a stiff resistance. He had understood that, but continued nonetheless, continuing to try even if it was going to come off as a failure from the start.

    I really feel like I should give him a chance. But it's true, what happens if I forgive him and he hasn't really changed? The damage has already been done and neither me nor Mom have spoken to him for four years with that divorce.

    "Why Dad?" More tears began to cloud his vision. "Why did you continue making all those stupid selfish choices?! You could have decided to do what everyone thought was best for you. Things could have gotten better. The only reason you actually did go to rehab was because the chief threatened your job if you didn't!"

    "I know Elio. Listen, I know you won't forgive me."

    "It's not that I won't." Elio said, trying not to cry.

    Not here. Not in front of Dad. He was right about one thing. Crying and showing emotion is a weakness. I won't yield to that now.

    "It's that I can't forgive you." His voice dropped down to a whisper. "All of that alcohol made you a horrible person Dad! You yelled at Mom almost every other day and she became scared that all the support was going to waste. Mom unconditionally gave you everything she had in order for you to move on and find closure. So was I. You were my hero Dad and you still could've been! But you pissed it out with all that liquor you drank every day."

    Calvera continued to remain silent. Elio wasn't sure if he was still on the line or not, but he continued to vent his own frustrations out at the man who changed his life.

    "I just don't know if I can forgive you for everything you've done. From Blu to the awful fights you had with Mom all the time. You called her a bitch more times than I can remember and you even called me an accident that shouldn't have happened! How do you think that made both of us feel?!"

    Calvera sighed. "Worthless."

    "Exactly!" Elio sighed. "Dad. To be honest, we've moved on. I'm happy in my new home. Mom's happy. I have a bunch of friends and I'm finally on a journey with my own Pokémon! Life is really good. I just don't want this to be ruined again and if you come back into me or Mom's life…that's exactly what will happen."

    "No it won't. I'm a changed man. Please don't give up on me."

    Are you seriously kidding right now? No means no!

    "We never gave up on you until it was clear that you were not going to make the right choices. Why should I even give you a chance?"

    "Son…"

    That did it for Elio to snap. "I'M NOT YOUR GODDAMN SON!" He was fairly sure that everyone in the center was going to hear that emanating from his room. "YOU ARE NOT MY DAD! You lost the right to call me that when you walked right out on us! We are done! We've moved on with our lives! If you can't do the same, then that's your damn problem! I don't care how long you've been in rehab and changed, whether it is one year, two years or twenty! I will NEVER forgive you for how you destroyed my life! How you destroyed Mom's!" He felt himself sweating and heartbeat racing as he released years of emotions that had been bottled up. "You want to know what happened to Mom after she had the divorce finalized? She cried! She cried herself to sleep and couldn't stop being angry and sad with herself because the family that she worked so hard to raise was torn up into pieces and burned without mercy! Even through the divorce and the pain, she still loved you! What did she get in response? Someone who called her a bitch and gave her bruises that lasted for days. She got threats from you that if she or I ever spoke out about this, we'd be hurt again!"

    Elio was now practically growling with each breath he took as the vicious anger that had built up in his system continued to surge through him like volts of the Z-Power. "I don't want you back in my life anymore! I'm sorry it has to be this way, but it's irreversible now! Nothing is ever going to make things right! Now if you want to stay on neutral terms with me and Mom. Let's never speak to each other again."

    Without waiting for a reply, he hit the terminate call button; feeling as if he had essentially now severed any possible salvaged relationship with his own father. Looking at the call timer, he got surprised that they had been talking for nearly ten minutes.

    Who the hell does Dad think he is? Calling me in the most random time and thinking all of this could be a time for reconciliation!

    "Son of a bitch!" Elio abruptly screamed out loud, as he threw the phone as hard as he could without bothering to aim for any particular thing. The small device rocketed right into the lamp in the room's nightstand, piercing its porcelain side with a sharp crack and sending shards everywhere. "Goddammit!"

    Sun let out a yelp of surprise, instinctively raising his arms to protect himself. He braced for the impact of several of the pieces hitting his skin.

    Except they never did.

    From her side; Nani had sensed her trainer's discomfort earlier than his other team members. She acted first, lunging forward, forming her signature iron tail sword as she gently wrapped herself around Elio's body to shield the boy and used it to swat away the pieces. The remainder of his Pokémon were still just as surprised and nervous from seeing their trainer act so angrily. He had never done such a thing when talking to anyone else.

    Through all of his own painful rage, Elio took just a moment to breathe in, glancing around at the destruction in his room. Seeing that with the Pokémon all glancing at him with concern on their faces made him stop and think about what he had just did. Rotom looked back and forth between its trainer and the Pokémon, unsure of what to say or do.

    That would be something my father would do. He thought bitterly. Life just isn't fair!

    A coo from Nani got his attention again as she slowly wrapped her tail around his body and gently pressed her face onto the side of his. A hum of content came from both of them as he felt like the red hot flares of anger began to die, replaced by something soothingly calm.

    He took in a deep breath, forcing himself to relax and not think about the outrageous act he or his father had just committed.

    I just threw a tantrum like a kid. And my Pokémon saw the worst of it.

    "Nani." He breathed, finding his own rhythm to return to normal. The thoughts of sadness and how his own family was ripped apart returned to him and he felt warm tears begin to sting his eyes.

    Any act of defense he tried to put up to look stoic and strong that his Pokémon had seen him by was broken down in an instant from the sheer amount of grief and sadness he experienced. He wept without restraint. Elio cried again. He cried for the loss of his best friend Blu, for the suffering that he and his mother had to endure under their drunken father. The worst part of it was that Calvera had little to no idea that his own actions and choices were hurting his own family the most out of anyone.

    "I'm sorry." He whimpered through more sobs. "I'm so sorry everyone. Why? Why did all of this have to happen to me?"

    Elio's Pokémon looked at one another before turning back to him.

    Torracat made the first move, cautiously moving by his trainer's side.

    "Tor."

    "I'm sorry." Elio said, catching his Pokémon off guard. "None of you deserved to see me act like that."

    "Tor."

    Tears brimmed in his eyes again. "I know. C'mere." He reached out, grabbing his starter Pokémon and hugging him closely, wanting and needing comfort from someone...something. One by one; Rockruff, Rufflet, Nani, Charjabug and Grimer moved in to place a hand or paw on their trainer.

    "I know I'm supposed to be your leader…but how am I supposed to be a strong person if I can't even contain my own emotions? Dad was right about one thing…showing all this compassion and emotion is a weakness and I won't allow it again."

    He sighed to clear his head from the distraction of emotions and took a deep breath. "You all deserve an explanation. On why I acted like that. My parents had a falling out. Dad was a firefighter…meaning when buildings or places were on fire, he was responsible for putting them out and rescuing people. He was everything to me; a father, a friend and most importantly, my hero."

    "Then one day…he changed. I was ten years old when he had come back one day just not the same. Apparently he was blaming himself for something. My mother and I still loved him, but for some reason, he couldn't let go of whatever was gnawing away at him. His guilt had gotten the best of him and he turned to alcohol to escape from his problems."

    "Ruff?"

    "Alcoholic drinks when consumed in excess can lead to addition and abuse. People do a lot of bad things when they're addicted like my father. He was angry all the time, yelling at my mother and me. He even released Blu, a vaporeon who I had as a best friend since I was born. I visited Blu every chance I got and then he died protecting me one day. I'll never forget him."

    Elio let out a longing sigh, not bothering to wipe away the tears that trickled down his face.

    "There are all of these days where I wonder. I wonder to myself, what did I do to deserve all of this torment? I wonder to myself what I could have done to maybe change my father into someone I loved." He knew that much of it was out of his control.

    But I don't want to think that. I want to believe I could change him. Now that is gone too.

    Elio wiped his eyes again, wondering if his own pained rant to his father actually did more harm than good. It was completely true and understandable that he didn't want to trust him and allow him to tear down what both he and his mother had reconstructed. Letting Calvera back into their lives risked everything.

    We moved to Alola to get away from him. But it was more because we couldn't stand remembering Kanto like that.

    "I moved from the Kanto region two months ago." Sun quietly said, also realizing that all six of his Pokémon were giving him their undivided attention. "My father came home one day after things had gotten really bad and got divorce papers. He went out of our lives four years ago and I haven't seen or heard from him until just now."

    Look at me. A laughable excuse of a person who has daddy issues at sixteen years old!

    "I was called an accident. An experiment...a disaster." At that revelation, his Pokémon's eyes went wide with shock. "Yeah I know. I'm not a planned child. I never was. Now my father is just someone who got my mother pregnant."

    He sighed again, suddenly caught off guard when Torracat moved forward, rubbing his head against Elio's side. Rockruff joined him as Rufflet landed on his shoulder.

    Nani nuzzled him again as Grimer and Charjabug didn't make contact, but they gave him supportive gazes.

    "We may ztill be Pokémon. Bzzt. And we may all come from different livezz and familiezzz." Rotom said, floating in front of everyone. "But everyone here iz behind you wherever you decide to go. You are juzzzt az important to thiz family right here az anyone of uz. Bzzt!"

    "Thank you. Mahalo everyone. You're all the best partners I could ask for." Elio whispered. Through the sadness, he forced himself to smile tenderly and look strong for his team. "I know this isn't what I expected or any one of us wanted to deal with before we went to our next trial, but it's not going to stop us."

    His Pokémon let out a unanimous cheer in response. Unsurprisingly, all had been thinking the same exact thing.

    "We'll think of a plan and we'll stick to it."

    I feel like I should just call someone. Get this Dad stuff off my chest.

    Elio gasped as he saw the mess on the floor beside the bed, made from the flinging of his phone after being pissed off by the call.

    I didn't mean to do that. It was kind of in the middle of the moment and…ugh, it got the best of me. I'll talk to the receptionist and see if I can pay for the damages.

    Fortunately for him, the phone didn't have any signs of visible damage and its functions were perfectly alright. He had heard of certain models getting completely destroyed in scenarios where ordinary glass would've survived, so either the materials made in them were extremely delicate or glassware was stronger than he gave credit for.

    Careful not to cut himself, he scooped the big shards of the vase into a wastebasket, setting it aside and giving a warning to his Pokémon not to go over there. A memory of exploring on the coast by Cerulean City had come to his mind as he thought about stepping on tiny slivers that were irritating beyond belief.

    Elio wanted to call his mother, but he was afraid he would break down in tears again when his father would come up as the subject. Skipping over her name, he looked through his other contacts. In the history list, he noticed that the number Calvera used to call him wasn't one he recognized, but the triple digit area code was from the Cerulean City area. It wasn't done through his father's own personal cell phone, as he had forgotten to delete the contact number even after the divorce.

    I was hoping that maybe…just maybe Dad would call back to apologize to us about everything. Bring back Blu and become a loving family once more.

    His eyes drifted one another person's number and he quickly hit it to initiate the call, holding the phone to his ear to listen to its iconic ringing. He only could hope she was awake and not upset at him calling just a half hour until midnight.

    Come on. Come on, pick up…please. I need to talk to you.

    "Hello?" A sleepy female voice greeted from the other line. He found his spirits lift when he heard her.

    "Hi." Elio said automatically, still a little disbelieving that she actually answered.

    "Elio?" Lillie asked. "Elio is that you?"

    He felt his face heat up when she recognized his voice. But why? Why does it feel hot all of a sudden?

    "Yeah it's me."

    "Ah…hi. It's good to hear your voice again."

    "Yeah. Yours too."

    "I miss you. So does Nebby."

    "I miss the both of you. Just wish my trials could be done sooner so that I can come back. Hope you found something fun for us to do in the meantime."

    "I did!" Lillie's voice seemed to be more awake now over the airwaves and the shuffling of steps had indicated that she was walking someplace. "I think I'm going to like it and I think you will too."

    "Great. I can't wait to see the both of you again." Elio saw his Pokémon still looking at him, unaware that they were very much enjoying the goofy smile playing across his features. "Listen Lillie…I uh. I wanted to know if you had time to talk about something."

    "This late?" She questioned. Nevertheless, he almost could see her nodding agreeably to his request. "Of course Elio. Anything for you."

    My heart is fluttering right now. Lillie stop it.

    He took a deep breath before suddenly stopping. The words refused to be spoken out of his mouth and he was at a standstill of where to even begin. "Okay…I-I."

    "Elio? Are you alright?"

    "Yeah. Yeah I think so."

    "You don't sound alright." Lillie said with a hint of worry. Over on her end, she had seen him as someone very strong willed and able to hold his own. Here in this abrupt phone call late into the evening, she had gotten something different from him. Something that sounded like he was afraid, nervous.

    Vulnerable.

    "Elio, you're starting to make me nervous." Lillie was beginning to feel very uneasy at his shaky voice. For some reason, it was beginning to make herself nervous. "Please just tell me what's wrong. I'm here for you."

    Can I? Can I tell her how awful my father really was? Or was this call to disturb her sleep for nothing?

    "Okay." Another deep breath was taken. "My father."

    "Your father?"

    "My father called me today."

    "Oh." She waited for a moment as they silently thought together about what he had said. "What happened?"

    "I lost it. Listening to Dad…it…it brought up all those painful memories. Of everything. He did bad things Lillie." Sun felt another fresh wave of tears pooling in his eyes. "And how he wanted to come back into our lives…saying that he's a changed man. I-I don't know if I can let him. I don't know how I'll feel about that."

    "Elio." She whispered. "Why won't you forgive him?"

    Why won't I forgive him?

    "Is that even possible?"

    Lillie had nodded on her side of the phone. "Yes Elio. You can always forgive people and you should. It's not good to hold grudges like that. Especially when it comes to your own family."

    "I know. But how am I supposed to say I forgive you to someone who killed my best friend and hit my mother?" Elio felt the strings of anger start to pull within him. "Go on…how do I go forgiving that? To me, that's the worst thing you could do. Dad did it voluntarily. He drank himself under the table when we weren't there. He says he has changed…but how? Better or worse? I can't take that chance with either Mom or myself."

    "Elio?"

    "Yeah?"

    "I don't know the situation of where you stand with your family. Me? I always try to see the best in people especially family. Your father may not have been the most perfect person in the world, but he's the only one who can be called that. Nobody else is your father."

    "I just had to have the best of luck with my family huh?"

    "Elio, stop selling yourself short. Please. Maybe you can't forgive him right away, but try to understand if he's making things right or not. What if he is truly trying his hardest to learn and atone from his mistakes?"

    "And I just destroyed his chance…" Elio's voice trailed off. "I don't know. He had gotten away with faking rehab for almost six months…but would he fake it now?"

    Dad sounded different. Little nervous, but there wasn't that tense tone I always heard when he had broken out the alcohol. So what if he had went to rehab and became sober? Did I just lose the one chance to actually see if he was a changed person? What would Mom think?

    "Elio…I know what it's like."

    "Know what?" He snapped back. "You don't know my family like I do."

    Okay, that was a bit harsh. Sorry.

    Lillie instinctively flinched on the other side of the line at his harsh bluntness. Since starting the call, she had never sensed this much hostility from the boy she had grown closer to. Clearly it was a sensitive subject.

    I know a lot more about family hardship than you think. At least yours could be mended.

    "If…if you can't try to forgive your father for yourself…please…do it for me. I know too many people who have had their families destroyed by these problems. Remember how I said how I can't stand it when Pokémon get hurt in battle?"

    Elio didn't say anything, but he gave a solemn nod.

    How could I not? That's the reason I didn't like you in the first place. But you're such a nice, sweet, lovely person. You didn't care that I loved battling, but you still found ways to grow our friendship as a person.

    "The one…one thing." He heard a brief sniffle in the background and could've sworn she was silently weeping. "The one thing…that I can't stand more than Pokémon battles…families being separated or torn apart. It's horrible Elio and I don't want anyone to suffer like that. So please…please find some way to at least understand your father is trying to tell you that he has gotten help and wants to try to be a family again. I know he…he has hurt you and I understand your pain…but wouldn't you want your own father to give you the same chance if you were in his role?"

    "Yeah…yeah I would." Sun sighed.

    "Elio…you have a good heart and deep down, I feel that you want to forgive and love your own father like you did once before. I see it in you…and maybe one day, you'll see it in yourself too."

    Maybe it's my own turn to ask for atonement. She is right…I kind of was a little harsh on him. Guess emotions got the best of me…just like he used to say.

    "Okay Lillie. I'll find a time to call him. At least try to talk again like a civilized person."

    "Mahalo Elio."

    Hold on, did she just?

    "Did you just speak bird?"

    "Speak what?"

    "You did!" His face broke out into a goofy smile. "You say you don't know much about Alolan language, but you just thanked me in bird!"

    "What?! I-I mean…Professor Kukui says it all the time over the phone when he's happy."

    "Here's one for you. He nani loa'oe."

    "What does that mean?"

    "I'll leave it for you to figure out until I see you again." The young trainer felt a yawn tugging at his mouth and parted widely. "It's getting late Lillie. I've got a trial to go to in the morning and I'll come and see you either tomorrow or the next day. I seriously can't wait."

    "I can't wait to see you either." Her voice squeaked with excitement before dropping to a genuine, sincere whisper. "Thank you Elio. Thank you for at least trying to give your father a second chance. I'm sure he would appreciate that…and maybe someday you will too."

    "I'll think about it okay? It won't be tomorrow, but I will one day find myself ready to reach back out on my behalf and see if we all could be a family again. Part of me would love it."

    "I'd love it too. Oh…and the thing…you know…the thing we were going to do together?"

    "Yeah? Well I hear that the Kumu Reef Surfing Tournament is going to have a ton of fun stuff to do! Arcades, food, festivities…they seriously go all out for this kind of thing!"

    "Actually the thing was a little more private…just you and me. Alone."

    Me and Lillie?! Alone?! She was unable to see it, but Elio was fighting a furious blush on his face. "Uh, okay. I mean I trust you."

    "Good! It's gotten me excited just thinking about it!"

    "I'm glad to hear that. But as much as I'd love to talk more, I have a busy day tomorrow."

    He almost heard her sigh over the airwaves again. "Okay…I suppose. Um…good luck on your trial Elio…Nebby and I will be cheering for you the whole way!"

    "Thank you Lillie. It means a lot…coming from you."

    Through the entire night, Elio laid down on his room's bed. The entirety of it was silent and the temperature within was cool and dry, one of his more ideal sleeping conditions.

    But no matter how much he tried…counting mareep, refusing to open his eyes or merely lying still, nothing was able to get him to finally doze off into dreamland.

    More and more thoughts surrounding his father plagued the young boy's mind, gnawing and tormenting its way though. Memories of how he yelled at his mother, while she made sure he was safely hiding in his bedroom with Meowth while she dealt with him. There was the time she had sent him forms for his appointment for sessions in rehabilitation, only to find out he had faked it by instead going to stay at a coworker's house.

    Elio didn't know better, but he still remembered that night where his own mother was crying nonstop in her bedroom, with nothing he could do to console her. Unbeknownst to him; Elaine was also weeping for him and the inevitable heavy conversation that would tell him that he wasn't going to see his father anymore.

    I hated it. Being powerless to change anything. Sitting by myself and watching my parents emotionally stab each other repeatedly.

    Just why? Why couldn't Dad accept the fact that he was a hero in doing his job?

    Elio would soon find the answers, but eventually come to realize that the truth and the knowing of it were better off hidden from his eyes.

    I don't get angry often…but I hate to say it…when I get angry. I get ANGRY….like pissed off and wanting to yell, scream and shout at anything…without listening to reason or calming down.

    But talking to Lillie. She calmed me down…even if I was arguing with her, which I shouldn't have done…she didn't deserve that. I said that she had no idea what I was going through, but her words and voice told me that she knew exactly how it felt to be stabbed in the back like Dad.

    Elio found it rather confusing at first. Lillie had never told him much about her own family, which left him entirely in the dark.

    What happened to her own family? Did she experience something similar?

    It explained on why she had really wanted him to at least extend a branch of amnesty towards Calvera.

    I want to ask her next time we meet up.

    The decision was a good one for sure. Only issue would be that it would be lost as the seductive embrace of sleep tightened itself on him.

    Upon reporting the next morning, the manager of the Pokémon center was thankfully quite understanding when he had blindingly lashed out, accidentally destroying the glassware with his phone. He had offered to pay for the incursion and damages at least thrice, being turned down each time.

    Not wanting to sound rube, Elio finally relented, allowing himself to enjoy an early breakfast and final checkup before he headed out towards the Lush Jungle.

    Let's finish this trial before my father decides to plague my mind again.

    Loading up on supplies and with a course plotted on Rotom's map function; he set out for the next adventure, curious to see what the trial entailed and the even stronger totem Pokémon he would have to defeat.

    "Lush Jungle here we come! Bzzt! That totem ain't gonna know what hit it! Bzzt!"

    Some thousand miles away, a warm glow was set all along a cobblestone path within an open field of waving grass in the soft sea breeze. At the side of this well-maintained park was a single bench that held a spectacular view of Mount Moon off to the west and the rolling waves of the ocean off to the east. All was illuminated by the mountain's namesake in a full phase hanging above.

    The lone figure held the cell phone at his side as he sighed and put his clean-shaven face in his hands. A soft, melancholy tune played from its speaker, just loud enough for only him to hear the vocals that well-reflected his own somber mood.

    "A lonesome star, in a bitter sky,"
    "I hear the hungry ghosts calling out in the night,"
    "Just a couple victims of this brutal reprise,"
    "Am I strong enough to let things just die?"

    "I fight and I fight,"
    "Just to keep the spark alive."
    "But if there's nothing on the other side,"
    "Why can't I leave well enough alone and go to the light?"

    His stark black hair was also buzzed short from a recent trim. Although still very much a handsome man, his mood and steely gray eyes told a story of sadness and grief. It was accompanied with the dreaded guilt of knowing that he alone had caused whatever to haunt him.

    He perked up when there were footsteps coming down the path. Thinking fast, he switched off the phone's music player and exited the call history page in hopes of hiding his latest one…a ten minute one that went halfway around the world. Instead, he had brought up an article on sports; namely how the name Edmund Dahm was being hyped up as the next big name in basketball and how lucky teams would be if they had a chance to draft him.

    "Here at your favorite spot I see." The other person was a petite woman with a kind face, warm chocolate brown eyes and a figure fitting her well into her early thirties. She wore a dull mint set of scrubs with the name R. Asano embroidered on the nametag just above her left breast.

    "Hey Ramona." He greeted sweetly, glancing up with a thin smile.

    "It's not every day I have security running Ripper around because I can't find you ten minutes before lights out." Ramona put a hand on her hip and gave him a stern look. "And it's not every day you don't tell me what you're up to. I thought I wouldn't have to keep you in line as much as the other patients."

    "Guard arcanine need exercise. Especially the ones that work here at the Coastal Kanto Rehabilitation Clinic like Ripper." He chuckled. "And there's nothing to fret about. Of course I wouldn't go and do anything without letting you know."

    "That's good to hear. As much as I do have to escort you back to your room, I have to ask. What were you doing out here Cal?"

    Calvera Northstar shook his head adamantly. "I don't know…just needed some air I suppose."

    "Really?"

    "Yeah."

    "I don't buy it." Her knowing smirk grew as soon as he instinctively perked up from that. "I know from the reports that your ex mentioned that you lied…but that one was terrible. I think we worked that out of you too."

    "Guess there's no hiding it now huh?"

    "Perhaps not." Ramona moved forward and sat next to him, placing a hand on his back. "Call it a woman's intuition."

    Calvera lapsed into silence once again, closing his eyes and enjoying the softness of the breeze that pressed itself against his cheeks.

    "I…I called my son."

    "So you finally did." Ramona leaned forward, now understanding. "How did it go?"

    "Heh. Pretty bad. Elio shot me down on the spot. He's merciless too. Didn't see that coming at all."

    "I did say that you had to be prepared for something like that."

    "I was hoping you were wrong." Calvera's words seemed more like he wanted to assure himself more than anyone.

    "Some family relationships can be saved. Many though; are broken beyond repair."

    Calvera looked up at the moon. "And I have nobody to blame…except for myself."

    "That is correct."

    "I just didn't realize how wrong I was. I led him down the wrong path, made him and his mother suffer because of my own selfishness. I called him nasty things while under the influence, stuff no child should ever deserve to hear. My Pokémon partner on the job was his best friend in the world…and I took that from him. His childhood…ripped away and shredded into pieces because of my own selfish reasons I'm questioning now on why I took." Calvera felt tears sting at his eyes. "And now he'll never forgive me and I won't have a chance to make things right."

    "I'm sorry."

    "Thank you." He sniffled, wiping away the waterworks with his arm. "I knew you had the sense to warn me that it could destroy any more relationship with my family. For what it was worth, I needed that. I need that lashing to know everything I've done and its consequences. Elio…Elio…that boy gets angry just like his old man. Takes a lot for us, but we don't hold back once we're fully pissed off. He told me that if we wanted to stay on neutral terms…we'd never talk again. If I actually had been a real father to him…this is one of those moments where I wouldn't be prouder."

    "Unfortunately, children can have long lasting scars from something like this." Ramona explained. "He may hold onto it forever."

    "I don't want him to. I was just hoping I would get to explain everything I've been through. The sobriety, pain and separation I had from my family. It was among the worst painful experiences of my life and I have no desire to repeat it once again. I just hope Elio will one day give me a second chance. I'll hope and pray every day that he or his mother come to an understanding that I want to make things right, regardless of whether I see or speak to them again. None of it matters now."

    "It looks like I trained you well Northstar." She smiled again. "But sometimes it can take months, years or even decades until people reach out."

    "It doesn't matter." Calvera repeated himself. "I'll wait for the rest of my life if that's what it takes. I just want to hear "I love you Dad" from my boy one last time."

    The moment was suddenly interrupted by a soft chiming sound that came from the building just behind them. It echoed over the field and out into the ocean, calming all who heard with its soothing melody.

    "I never get tired of hearing that beautiful sound from Johtoan bells."

    "Me neither."

    "It represents the end of a day and a reminder for a reflection on the progress we make every day. There is always the next to look forward to and the most important thing is to never give up...ever. Even if your own family has severed all ties with you." Ramona said. "You have made strides that most of my other patients don't even reach." She put a hand on his shoulder and leaned into him slightly. "I'm proud of you Cal. I'm proud that you mustered up that courage and grit to show your son that you still care about him."

    "Thank you Ramona."

    "Now even though it is time to return to bed, I will allow you to remain up for a little longer. Perhaps we can keep that impressive progress going. What of his mother and your ex-wife?"

    "Elaine probably hates me more than Elio right now."

    "Maybe, but people…especially children have strange ways of forgiving. Sometimes they just need a teacher to help. Maybe it's themselves, Pokémon…or even a friend. You never know."

    Calvera glanced at the phone again. Elaine's name and number was still listed as a contact in his list; but he could already picture a heated and nasty conversation in his head if he went through with reaching out to the other member of his family. He had gotten enough for one day and didn't want to further upset either his estranged wife or son.

    "I want her forgiveness. I want her to know that I've never looked at another woman since I met her…and I never will. Elaine will always be the love of my life."

    He slipped the phone back into his pocket.

    "But I can't call her or Elio again. Not right now. I'll just make things even worse."

    Well...gotta say this was once again, a challenge to write. I hope everyone enjoyed the chapter and we'll be back on track for the trial next one! Stay tuned, since this one is going to be an interesting one. I found Lurantis' both iterations in standard and Ultra versions to be particularly difficult, as many of you can attest. I've got some pretty cool ideas for both the trial and totem battles, so something to look forward to!

    Review, favorite, follow if you haven't already. Every addition I see to one of those categories means I'm doing my job right. I want to keep doing my job right in writing this fic. :)

    Translations:

    He nani loa'oe - You are very adorable

    As always, a big mahalo from me for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose. See you guys next time.

    Brav
     
  13. ShinigamiMiroku

    ...Jirachi?
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    Red Orb ★★★★★
    ... This... hit a lot closer to home than I'd have wanted.

    I'll try to leave a bit more detailed review later...

    Okay. You were very effective in your delivery of the emotions you wanted to convey in this chapter. It really helped bring the first chapter into sharper clarity, and levels some serious weight to Elio's journey.

    Will there be any more forays into the present time, even as the journey is being covered? It'll be interesting to see how, after so much time has passed between this point in the journey and when he is reading the diary, he has begun to better process all of this.
     
    #53 Jun 13, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
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  14. FireSpartan5

    FireSpartan5 Pokémon Professor

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    Cooler Gary Oak ★★★★★Tapunium Z ★★★★★Choice Specs ★★★★★Flame Orb ★★★★★
    Another great chapter as usual Brav. Keep up the good work!
     
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  15. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers! Brav is back! And also 24! Yup, today was my 24th birthday. Was fairly interesting. Saw Incredibles 2 (fantastic movie) had dinner at one of my favorite sushi bars and got to spend time with both my immediate and extended family.

    Plus there's an update for this story! Who doesn't love that?

    Big thanks to @ShinigamiMiroku and @FireSpartan5 for the reviews. Appreciate the love and support guys! To answer the question, yes there is going to be more present day chapters. In fact, one is coming up right after he defeats the totem of the Lush Jungle!

    Going back to last chapter, I'm gonna be honest and say that reading some of the feedback I got had me grinning like a total dipshit. Because I can be that sadistic at times. And it's not just here on this site, almost all the places where this story is up had similar reactions. Like I said, this is not necessarily dark, but I do think it to be one of the story's more dramatic points and have a good standing of Elio's own moral compass and the defining of his relationship with his own father. And a fair warning, this is not the last time something dark and/or dramatic is going to occur. Those of you that know how the game goes and how I go will likely know what I am talking about.

    Fortunately I do believe that having darker dramatic moments should be counterbalanced by lighter ones with more humor and action. As of now, we're going to be stepping away from the angst/family drama for a while and get back on track with the main story! There's a trial, Dimensional Research Lab, Konikoni City, kahuna battle and a lot more happening very soon! And Elio's reunion with Lillie! Can you believe the last time I wrote the two of them together was last year?! I upload at a painfully slow pace I know...but nevertheless, I've got their reunion and time together on Akala Island to be very sweet, so those who are waiting for more Elio X Lillie moments won't have to wait much longer!

    Let's get on to the chapter. Enjoy everyone.



    I just hope that Elio doesn't let the thoughts of his father get to his head while he's on the trial. Just hurry back…that call made me especially worried about him and I feel like if I give him a hug or talk in person might be able to help him relax. I'll show him how to relax when this part is all over. At least the letters are still being written again. That's a huge relief.

    Professor Burnet had to take today off work. She still isn't feeling well. Is there something going around?


    Dear Lillie,

    Thank you so much for that talk. I know you were probably tired and sleepy, but I just needed to hear your voice.

    I guess I inherited my father's angry traits. Must be a Northstar thing… It takes a lot to get us riled up or aggravated, but we get completely pissed off with blown tops once we're at that breaking point. I kind of smashed up the room I was staying at by accident. Yeah…I guess I have some anger issues and it just has to be about family. You didn't deserve any of that tongue lashing I gave you, so I'm very very sorry about that. I promise it won't happen again.

    Negative stuff aside, I'm ready for this trial. I'll try my best to heed your warning about Mallow and her flirting. I ran into her back at Kahananui Ranch where she showed me how to use a ride stoutland…and yeah…definitely an outgoing person for sure. She's cute for sure…but I know at least one girl who's far cuter. Don't tell her that though and I'm not divulging no matter hard you try to get it outta me!

    And no it's not Leilani. She's seems more into Hau anyway and we've got an operation to plan on how to get those two to confess! Am I right?

    I miss you a lot. I can't stop thinking about coming to see you again!

    Sincerely,

    Elio



    Situated on the northwestern part of Akala Island, the Lush Jungle was one of the few final places where intervention by man was minimal. It was many, many square miles of constant dense overgrowth of massive trees, sinewy vines and steep grooves that were based around small creeks. It was a sacred place, home to many resources the Alolans relied on for food as well as being the grounds for Akala Island's oldest trial site.

    Elio could see the big thicket of trees that stretched up to a height equal of some mid-sized buildings. As he got closer, the chirps, screeches and cries of many exotic Pokémon species could be heard within its depths. As far as he could see, there were no pathways leading in or trails marked anywhere leading inside.

    The Lush Jungle. Where the final trial of this island awaits. Mallow is the captain if I remember right. So I wonder what we'll have to do?

    It began to get less dense as he moved closer to the ocean, to a point where the roads ended and left a quarter mile span between the brush and the rocky coastline. Elio could see a large group of hills off to his right and there were shouts coming from the other side.

    We've got all day. Might as well take a look see.

    Scaling the top of a mound, he was greeted with an unusual sight.

    Waves curled beautifully as they crashed against the sandbar, dissipating in a foamy white spray. Further out, he could see more of them starting to form as they advanced towards the shoreline.

    The voices he had heard came from the couple dozen beach-goers. Some were sitting underneath umbrellas in the sand, shielding themselves from the harsh Alolan sun. One little kid was flying a tailow kite that had caught the winds, flying freely above.

    Most of the action however was out in the ocean. As another wave picked up velocity, Elio saw one of the riders quickly zoom out in front while lying on their front. To his amazement, the wall of water had grown substantially in a matter of seconds before the rider's "board" suddenly changed directions and moved rapidly lengthwise.

    The surfer guided the "board" up at the crest of the wave and he could now see that it was a Pokémon of some sort. It had lengthy "wings" on either side with a dark blue back and grayish front. A long swishing tail trailed at its end.

    Elio saw the synchronization perfectly in what he had guessed was some sort of ride Pokémon. The creature spun around in midair three times before its rider jumped off in a well-timed flip. They stuck the landing with a big splash and rode its gradual descent right back to the shore.

    People applauded as the surfer came closer to shore and dismounted the ride. They waved to the crowd as the Pokémon was pet on the head before being returned to their ball and heading up the beach.

    Elio would have loved to stay and watch more of the surfing spectacle, but he had a trial to catch.

    And we best get going.

    Striding down the hill, he now noticed that a section of the jungle had been opened apart, flanked by a pair of the multicolored trial gates he had grown accustomed to seeing whenever one was nearby.

    The boy reached down to make sure all six of his Pokémon were ready to roll. All items accounted for. His mind? Not in the right place.

    But the sooner I finish this. The sooner I can see Lillie again.

    "The Lush Jungle. Bzzt." Rotom glanced at their surroundings. "A zacred place for Alolanzzz and home to zo many Pokémon zpeciez! Alzo the place where we're gonna rock this trial!"

    "You got that right buddy. Hope Mallow's here though."

    As he wandered deeper on the dirt path that was set in the middle, the overhanging branches and leaves became thicker, blocking out all but a few patches of sunlight that filtered down from above like beams. The entire surroundings seemed to get darker and Elio found himself just a little bit outside his comfort zone from hearing all the otherworldly sounds.

    The steamy heat didn't help either.

    Humidity was one of his least favorite things about Alola. Like being right in the middle of a damn rice cooker.

    Up ahead, he spotted a clearing where a large section where it was decidedly brighter but still shaded. The familiar figure in overalls turned upon hearing his approach and waved, smiling broadly.

    "Thanks for stopping by!" Mallow chirped as he hustled over. "It's definitely good to see you again Elio! You're going right through these trials like they're nothing huh? I knew it when I first saw you and your team! You bested the diabolo ke kai with Lana! Showed the mo'owahine who's the boss! I have to say that you looked good in all that ink and wearing nothing but that loincloth dancing around!"

    Here comes the flirting. Do I just activate a flirtation device of some kind whenever I'm around pretty girls?

    He wasn't lying when he silently admitted to himself that the trial captain was beautiful in his own opinion. She had a slender figure with long bright green hair that looked strikingly fitting, even as a grass-type specialist. He did notice that her shorts were definitely on the short side and if she were to bend over…

    I'd get a helluva fantastic look. Will she do that voluntarily?

    "Out of curiosity," Sun pointed to the pink and white flower that was sticking out of her hair's headband on the right side. "What is that flower for? I've seen girls wear it from time to time around here. Hardly anyone else outside Alola that I know of does that."

    "Oh this?" She involuntarily reached up to touch it. "This is a hibiscus; the official flower of the Alola region. It's often a tradition for Alolan women and girls to wear one during ceremonies and formal events. The flower's placement on my head indicates my status…if you can call it that. Wearing it behind my right ear or right side indicates that I am single, as you can see. A girl or woman who places it behind her left ear or side means that she is either married or seeing someone. Kind of neat if you ask me. Makes trying to pick up girls a lot easier. You know what I mean right?"

    Uh…yeah I do. But what's THAT supposed to mean?

    "So you're single?"

    "Yup! Why, you need a date?"

    "Maybe. Maybe not."

    "So now you will face the glamorous trial and totem of the one and only Mallow! Allow me to welcome my fine trial goer here to the Lush Jungle's trial grounds! This is a special place, home to many different Pokémon species found nowhere else in the world and special ingredients can be found here for delicious recipes and region renowned restaurants such as mine!"

    Here we go.

    "Yeah. I'm ready."

    "Well I knew it the first time I saw you and your team!" She stepped forward. First, the traditional Alolan blessing."

    Elio fought the blush that came to his face when Mallow gently wrapped her arm around the back of his head and brought him close, placing her free hand on his shoulder muscle. He felt her give it a squeeze and caused a little smile to grace her lips. Knowing what was about to happen, he took his own arms, placing one on her opposite shoulder and the other on the back of her own head.

    Their foreheads and noses made contact and he immediately felt as if a vibrant rejuvenation of life energy surged through him just by touching the other person. Both trial captain and trial goer inhaled simultaneously, like having done it before and then breathed out at the same time…sharing the breath of life with one another.

    To anyone else, the longtime trial practice appeared to be the prelude to some intimate foreplay and even though he still thought of it in that aspect, there was no denying the friendship and shared part that he was now one of the Alolan people.

    "E mālama ka tapu mai ka lani mai. A alakaʻi iāʻoe i loko o ka hoʻokolokoloʻaneʻane e kokokeʻoe e piʻi." Mallow softly whispered, while closing her eyes. Sun actually found himself reciting a part of it without having to follow the lead of the captain. Speaking so much Alolan at once was sure to get his tongue twisted around.

    At least I think I'm starting to understand parts of it now. It sounds more like a language than just gibberish that the locals do to screw with haoles.

    Mallow finally let go of their embrace and smiled back at him.

    "You ready to get in some hot water?" She asked with a growing grin plastered on her delicate features. "Because my trial is ready for you if you're ready for it!"

    "Okay yes. I am ready."

    "Splendid! Now as always, your Pokémon are only the finest ingredients."

    Ingredients for what? Are we going to have to do a sacrifice here? I hope not.

    "And thus, while they can be effective on their own, they can make something more together! We'll just have to do the Mallow Special!"

    "The Mallow Special?" Elio asked.

    "Yup! It's the best and you'll soon see why! So…for my trial; I'm going to ask you to find four ingredients for me! They can all be found somewhere in the Lush Jungle! Best way to find them is to use the stoutland search I gave you back at the ranch. One should be available for you to call."

    "Okay." Sun dug into his backpack and thumbed on the pager's screen. Within just a few seconds, the dispatch already was sending a ride stoutland his way from the closest station.

    "And I'll give you this!" She handed him a small yellow canvas sack with a twine drawstring at the top. "This forage bag will hold all of the ingredients I'll ask without bruising or damaging them! Better there than in your backpack. Another cool thing too! Bring that into a Thrifty Megamart or Tanaka's here in Alola and you can get a little bit of money back for groceries! Helps reduce the use of plastic bags!"

    That's actually a good point and good use. Elio thought to himself, feeling his backpack. It was all subtle changes, but as he went further on his island challenge, his bag slowly by slowly had been increasing in weight. Mom would love to hear that discount part.

    "All right then!" Mallow said, turning to walk back towards the jungle's entrance. "Wow, this trial stuff is pretty darn exciting! While you're going to get the stuff, I gotta make a phone call, we're gonna need some help! Laki maika'i!"

    That means something like good luck if I can translate right.

    Wait…she didn't even tell me what ingredients I'm supposed to find. Am I supposed to guess what they are on my own?

    "Mallow!" Sun yelled, just as he was nearly bowled over by a rushing blur of brown fur. The ride stoutland halted by his side and curiously licked the drivesuit lying prone in front. "What am I supposed to look for?!"

    "What?!"

    "What am I supposed to look for?" Elio shouted again, gently shoving the furry face out of the way. It seemed like he didn't have to do the bonding thing he had done with most rides since it seemed to like him from the start.

    He hadn't really noticed it before, but the constant noise of the jungle from various Pokémon species were at a volume high enough that he had to basically scream out loud to ask the question. Mallow was thirty or so feet away and her back was to him, but the ambient sound levels made his normal voice volume virtually inaudible.

    "Oh right! I totally forgot!" Mallow giggled to herself and cupped her hands to her mouth. "Silly me! The four ingredients you need to find! A mago berry, tiny mushroom, revival herb and a miracle seed! You got that?"

    "Elio hazzz it and I've recorded it in caze we forget!" Rotom buzzed from Sun's side. "Here'zz your shopping lizt!"

    "Okay then! Here in the Lush Jungle it's time for Mallow's trial to begin! Elio, your trial starts now!"

    "And we all know what that meanz!" 'Dex hovered to his front and played the similar catchy tune he heard from egressing over the water at Brooklet Hill. "Trial ztart!"

    Elio grunted as he pulled himself onto the saddle and hooked the straps into his drivesuit. "Hey buddy." He whispered, petting the thick fur. "Let's get this done quick yeah?"

    "Laki maika'i!" Mallow called out as he guided his ride out onto one of the makeshift paths to begin his search.

    Elio decided on the leftmost "path" to start, slowly moving the stoutland along. The grass grew taller with a single way cut through that was wide enough for one single person to traverse. The long blades danced lazily in the weak breeze and he saw flashes of motion inside as Pokémon moved about in the thicket.

    "I'm totally not a big fan of junglezz." Rotom grumbled. "Thiz zteam is mezzing up my zervomotorzz. Bzzt!"

    "Servomotors?"

    "Yeah. You know…droid ztuff."

    "Isn't that made up?"

    "Maybe. Bzzt!"

    Rotom's GPS kept them from getting lost, but seeing a thousand trees that looked identical and the tall grass blades that stretched over his head made it very easy to lose the sense of direction. The sun was directly above them, shining in its noon blaze, but with patches streaming down in fine beams.

    It took about another five minutes to reach the next clearing when the stoutland huffed and growled again, putting his nose close to the ground and sniffing eagerly.

    "What is it boy?" Elio asked. "You smell something?"

    He barked again and Sun let the Pokémon take control, slowly moving to the clearing's left. As they crossed over, he heard the chirping of birds rise in alarm. Without warning, a flock of red and black pikipek erupted from within the three, scattering into the sky.

    Elio had to struggle to keep his breathing under control and gripped the handlebars with white knuckles.

    It's okay. Just a flock of pikipek. Nothing to shit yourself over.

    Then why do I have the sense we're being watched?

    Elio glanced at his surroundings, but seeing nothing but a few other aloof pikipek sitting on nearby branches. A squeak had them alerted and they too had taken off, intent on chasing a bounsweet deeper into the brush.

    He didn't see anything else out of the ordinary. Yet the weighted gaze didn't take itself off him.

    I feel like we're sitting duckletts out here. Let's just get this done quick.

    He let stoutland keep on moving towards whatever had him excited and he abruptly stopped, barking out loud while pawing at a small green stalk that had a pair of leaves drooping out from its side.

    Elio was again nearly thrown off from the excited ride and he dismounted with shaking limbs, nearly falling over.

    I don't know if I'll ever get used to something like that.

    Stoutland moved aside as he gripped the bottom of the stalk and pulled. The plant was rooted into the ground firmly moving just slightly. He readjusted his hold and tried again.

    It took a couple of seconds, but his strength was beginning to overpower the roots and it jerked free from the ground in a plume of dirt that rained down on him.

    "Ugh." He wiped it off his clothes and arms with a flick of his hand. The object was a little bigger than his fist with a bright pink color and brown tip. The end was cutely curled like a spoink's tail.

    This is a mago berry!

    "Well, that'z one mago berry zecure!" Rotom didn't stop his catchy musical tune playing off his speakers. "You know what they always zay! Bzzt! The more curvy the berry, the zweeter and taztier it becomezz! Bzzt!"

    "Just like a good woman."

    Wait, did I just say that out loud?!

    "Mallow would be very proud if zhe wazz here to hear you zay that! Bzzt!"

    "Say what?" Both Elio and Rotom glanced up to see Mallow walking towards them with a hand on her hip and an inquisitive expression. "I'm already proud of you, mister handsome and sexy trainer! Don't tell anyone I said that okay? But we got the mago berry! The curvier it is; the sweeter it tastes! Just like a good woman!"

    The trial captain just spouted off how they needed three more ingredients and wishing them luck before happily skipping off and humming to herself. Both Elio and his Rotom 'Dex watched her go before looking back at each other with a half perplexed and half awed expression.

    "Let'z juzt get going. Bzzt."

    "Don't need to tell me twice."

    Good idea. He stuffed the berry into the forage bag and climbed back on the stoutland. With a gentle tug on the right handlebar, they were off to find the next item.

    So damn hot…okay it's not that hot, but the humidity is killer. Ever wonder what standing in a rice cooker feels like?

    Elio twisted the cap off his water bottle and took a swig. The outside was covered in condensation that slicked on his drivesuit. It was at that precise moment when the stoutland rocked forward, causing Elio to lurch forward himself and launch a spray of water from the bottle right in his face.

    "Gah!" He wiped it off and stowed it on his backpack. Stoutland was now moving up multiple rocks that were clumped together. Bright green moss covered their surface and he deftly leapt from the top of one to another, avoiding the narrow crevices that stretched underneath. While slipping on the moss wouldn't put him in a deep pit, the steepness of the curves and slippery moss would mean climbing out to be an ordeal of a task. Not to mention if he had broken a bone too.

    Stoutland's long claws found purchase easily on the sides and going up a bit had saved them some time from being in the grass.

    This is technically trailblazing. But I don't care. It's a jungle. There are no trails!

    Sun could see that the next part where the trees had separated were around another rock. What made it different from the ones they were standing on and the others around it was the more bright vivid green coloring. A patch of sunlight filtered from above, giving it a glowing appearance.

    Even as he guided the ride to approach it, he felt as if some strange hidden power was radiating out from its surface.

    "Thiz rock izz giving off ztrange readingz! Bzzt!" Rotom commented from his side. "Amazzzzing!"

    It is amazing. But how? How is this rock different from the others? The boy brought stoutland to its side and he ran his left hand over its surface after stripping his glove. The moss made it feel incredibly soft and despite the oppressive heat in the air; the entirety of the rock had a pleasant coolness to it.

    "Analyzing! Bzzt! This mossy rock haz zimilar propertiezz to one found in Eterna Forest in the Sinnoh region! There are more being dizcovered such as one in Unova'z Pinwheel Forest!"

    "Properties? What kind?"

    "I can't zay for zertain! Bzzt! But trainerzz zeem to be able to evolve an eevee into leafeon while near rockz zuch azzz theze! Bzzt!"

    So this is where I'd come with an eevee to get a leafeon?

    "Interesting."

    With the short break out of the way, he continued on, having to blaze another trail through the trees and circumnavigating around plants of all kinds.

    Some of the trees had among the thickest trunks he had seen, with gnarled roots that crisscrossed into the marshy ground. As he approached some of the little pits in between the trees, he could see grubbin crawling around. They quickly burrowed into the soil as the big dog padded over their area.

    Let's see…we need a tiny mushroom, a revival herb and miracle seed. Hmm.

    I bet we can find the revival herb somewhere around here.

    He signaled stoutland to search and the canine got right to work, putting his head close to the ground and moving from side to side as if indecisive. It barked again, moving around close to the roots and homing in on the blades of grass surrounding a particularly large trunk that had been completely cut down. All that remained was a stump that was almost as long in diameter as Elio's own height.

    The cut that had felled the tree seemed to singe it slightly, evidenced by dark burn marks at the edges. What was more interesting…or rather disturbing was the clean cut as if someone had cleaved it right through with a giant razor sharp sword.

    Elio was no forensic expert, but a normal person would have to angle something like a chainsaw multiple times, causing the aftermath to be serrated and uneven. The stump's top was incredibly smooth with no signs of resistance or interference. The felled tree itself was also nowhere to be found.

    What in the world could have caused this?

    And it came back. That feeling of being watched. Sun swore he was getting paranoid, even while glancing around to see nothing out of the ordinary.

    Did it do this? Is there something out there like the totem Pokémon?

    Dismounting stoutland once again, he noticed that several of those green blades spun together similar to the mago berry, being the outside of the plant concealed underneath the soil. A rather pleasant aroma was wafting in this part of the air.

    "Be careful! Bzzt!" Rotom warned him just as he was about to reach for one of the plants. "You don't want a revival herb that'zz too young!"

    Right.

    Most of the plants looked identical, with three or four spindling blades sticking out from the soil.

    Do four mean it's a mature one?

    With only one way to find out, he gripped it at its base and pulled. This time, it came out much easier than the mago berry and the dirt clinging at the hairy roots was much drier.

    That's right. These revival herbs prefer warm drier climates and grow closer to trees where the soil doesn't have as much water.

    "One revival herb! Bzzt! Check!" Rotom pulled the screen back up and added a green strikethrough of the ingredient on the list.

    "Yes! We got this!" As Elio moved his arm to place the herb into the forage bag, his elbow bumped a second plant, causing it to stir.

    "What?"

    The plant popped out from the soil and glared at Elio with two red eyes. It was small with the leaves on its head sticking out from the surface. The remainder of its body was red and pink with two tiny scythelike appendages for arms.

    "New Pokémon detected! I get to do my job on your job! Bzzt!" Rotom happily said. "Fomantis. Sickle grass Pokémon. The top of its head gives off a pleasant aroma that attracts cutiefly. A fomantis who soaks up more sunshine will grow with a more vivid coloration. Fomantis is a grass type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Why do they leave their headz out if they get zo angry when zomeone or something touchez them? Bzzt!"

    The fomantis hissed angrily at him before spreading its tiny sickle arms apart.

    "Not scared at all." Elio found his own sarcasm beginning to bubble up within him. He threw out Rockruff, who growled threateningly at his opposition. "Was that your head? I am sorry…really."

    His words seemed to fall on deaf ears as the creature flicked out a flurry of leafage attacks. Rockruff was ready, using his legs to dodge the attack and retaliate with a rock throw from his tail.

    The fomantis was down, but quickly got back up and lunged forward with a fury cutter that slashed the puppy's side. Rockruff growled in annoyance, recovering as Elio commanded a bite. The grass type was unable to get away as he chomped down on its torso, knocking it out.

    "There." Elio finally stuffed the herb into the forage bag and climbed back on stoutland. "Now let's hurry and go before we disturb another one."

    "Looks like you need just two more ingredients!" Mallow's voice said through a speaker. Elio glanced up, now seeing that her face was smiling at him through Rotom's center screen. "You found a fine looking revival herb! Its bitter bite is even a shock to a Pokémon, but that bitterness is what will add depth to the flavor.

    "How did you jack Rotom's facetime feature?"

    "Don't worry about that! I have my resources!"

    Why does everyone tell me not to worry about things?

    Whatever.

    "So we got a revival herb and a mago berry. That leaves a miracle seed and tiny mushroom."

    "Good luck in finding the tiny mushroom! Bzzt!"

    "Why's that?"

    "Becauzzze why do you think it'z called tiny?"

    Elio rolled his eyes at the obvious statement. "Really?"

    "Juzt trying to help. Bzzt!"

    Some help. Rotom's right though. It's called the tiny mushroom for a reason.

    "Just have to find a place to look."

    "Can I be of azziztance? Mushroomz and other fungi are often found at the baze of treez!"

    So we have to look for a tree? Shouldn't be a problem.

    Thanks to the ride pager's GPS, Elio had some sense of direction, but could understand how easy it would be to get lost in the jungle.

    Akala Island was the second largest island of the region, yet even after seeing it on the horizon for the first time upon approaching from Melemele, he never had understood how large it really was.

    Until he had seen enough foliage, leaves and massive tree trunks to last his own personal lifetime. He was in a less dense section, but could see where thick vines cordoned off ways even deeper into the wilds. There was no way he was passing it without a tool like a machete or a Pokémon with strong cutting abilities.

    Could really use a Pokémon with cut right about now.

    Sun had a feeling that Mallow was partially responsible for the "wall" of sorts. She did claim that the wild Pokémon living in the jungle were no laughing matter. It was probably the case beyond the barrier with even stronger Pokémon that he would have an even more difficult time dealing with.

    Maybe that's where the totem lives…or we get the ingredients to pass through. Who knows?

    Through all of his inner thoughts; Elio finally spotted a rather large tree up ahead. Its thicker trunk and huge gnarled roots were good evidence that it had been growing for quite some time, possibly when his own mother and father were babies.

    Maybe even longer.

    What caught his attention were the red and gold colored mushrooms that sprouted up from around the giant roots. The largest one was twice the size of his own two hands, but he focused on the multitude of smaller ones that outnumbered the larger.

    "Thoze look like tiny mushroomz to me! Bzzt!"

    Elio looked them over. All had the same reddish-gold pattern and coloring, but many were still various sizes from golf ball to a balled fist.

    "Uh…which one?"

    "What do you mean which one? Bzzt! They're all tiny!"

    "Yeah but they're all different sizes!"

    "Zo?"

    "Does that mean larger ones have a better flavor? Worse? I mean they look like tochukaso."

    "Juzt pick one already!" Rotom said, glancing around nervously. "I zwear we are being watched and judged!"

    "You know, you're very snippy for a Pokédex."

    "Juzt get the mushroom. It's hard to find more dialogue for thiz zcene. Can we get to the inevitable battle pleaze? Bzzt!

    "What battle?" Elio selected one that seemed average sized…for whatever average was for a tiny mushroom.

    "Elio, I'm picking up movement." Rotom warned.

    He saw it too, just beside the mushroom he had uprooted from the stalk, a pair of them wiggled in the ground before a creature unearthed itself and spun around on thin insect legs. It was crablike in appearance, with an orange coloration, beady eyes and long claws. The two mushrooms were spaced evenly on its back.

    The trainer recognized it nonetheless, having seen some in Kanto when he went on a field trip to the Viridian Forest.

    "That's a paras."

    "Correct! Here's where my newest Pokémon entry beginzz! Bzzt! New Pokémon detected! Paras. Mushroom Pokémon. The mushrooms on its back will siphon the majority of the nutrients this Pokémon eats. They can be dried and ground into a herbal medicine that can increase longevity through teas. Paras is a bug and grass type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "That's kinda strange." Elio said, now brought to attention that the paras spread its claws out.

    He was ready, bringing rockruff out for his second battle.

    "Rock throw!"

    With a swish of his tail, the little puppy flung a barrage of glowing rocks. The smaller Pokémon was hit directly with all of them, tumbling back into the base of the tree without being given a chance to attack on its own.

    "Nice job!" Elio pumped a fist before tossing the mushroom into the forage bag. "We got this!"

    "Nice!" Mallow said from Rotom's screen again. "That's a tiny mushroom for sure! There's a reason why they're so popular with people! Guess you gotta find out what it is! Heh! Just a miracle seed to go and we can start cooking! I can't wait to see the Mallow Special again!"

    It took another half hour to locate the area where the miracle seeds were the most abundant. Seeds by themselves were hard to come by, as they would quickly achieve germination and begin to grow into small saplings and sprouts at an astonishing rate. Rainfall was more than plentiful and Elio was happy to see that the weather predicted just about nothing for the scope of today.

    That could change. Alola weather is unpredictable.

    This part of the jungle was more open, as the hills and clusters of trees began to give way to patches of dirt where plants had yet to grow. A wooden bridge was closed off with a large trial gate, a sign that this was the boundary that he was not to cross.

    We'll cross it as we get stronger. Elio thought, giving a longing glance at the place across the gorge. It looked like any other part of the jungle with the same treetops and cries of hidden Pokémon, save for a rocky mound in the center. Clearly, there was some more exploring of this area to do. For another time.

    He would need some additional help to find the miracle seed, so he had Rockruff sniff in addition to stoutland. The massive canine was going absolutely crazy when scanning around for the buried objects and Elio suspected that the miracle seed's own location was masked by a bunch of other things buried in the ground with similar qualities. It was a seed, which all plants would sprout from.

    Rockruff moved off to the left while Elio guided stoutland to the right. Neither seemed to find anything and he had to laugh while dismissing his little puppy after it had brought him a clump of bulbous roots.

    "Not exactly what we're looking for buddy."

    "Nope! Bzzt! That'z taro root! It'z an important ztarch for many recipez, but not the Mallow Special!"

    With a low whine and dejected look, he moved off somewhere else to search.

    "Rockruff." Elio called out. "Persistence…not perfection. Okay?"

    He got a happy bark, perking up at the simple encouragement his own trainer had given him.

    "Gotta be somewhere around here."

    A seed out of all things! Mushrooms? Piece of cake. Herbs? Easy. Mago berry? Just gotta look in the right place. But SEEDS?! This whole place was built of seeds! Okay…grown…but you get the idea!

    Well first off seeds often drop from plants to reproduce. So if we find the kind of plant it comes from that increases our chances.

    Not by much, it could be under the ground and away from us even if we look in the right place.

    "Rotom, what is the plant the miracle seed comes from?"

    "Hmm? Analyzing! Bzzt! There are many variationz of the miracle seed per region! Bzzt! They have a strange ability to boozt the strength of grazz type movez! In Alola, the miracle seed refers to the candlenut particularly in the culinary azpect for itz highly nutritious oil. It iz multilayered with an oily consistency. Bzzt! It iz called the miracle seed in Alola because of itz many uzez from food, wood, oil, ink for tattooz and even how to keep track of time!"

    "That doesn't help me. They're buried all over the place and could be far away. We have to narrow our search."

    I bet this is what irritates most trial goers in this one than the actual totem itself. There's probably some buried right underneath me at this point…if this is a candlenut tree to begin with.

    Wait a second. Elio stopped short. He glanced down at the soil and the small shoots and saplings growing from it.

    Buried.

    "Rockruff, stoutland, start digging! I've got an idea."

    With complying barks, the two dogs used their front paws to scrape out parts of the earth, spraying brownish red dirt behind them in a typical digging fashion.

    Elio had to lean over stoutland's front coat to look inside the larger pit. He could see the edges of the tree's roots along with some more moist dirt. There was a grubbin who glared at him angrily after unearthing its burrowing place, but it dug into the soil wall to run off.

    Then he saw the mushrooms, thankfully none of them were paras. But one was much larger than the others, nearly a foot and a half in diameter.

    "Wait stop!"

    It was too late. The mushroom moved and as it did, Elio saw a silvery gold object slip free from its side. Glancing back at Rotom's display, it matched the exact profile as the miracle seed he was seeking.

    Got it!

    However the Pokémon he had disturbed was unamused by his enthusiasm. It was similar in appearance to the paras he and rockruff had fought earlier, however the mushroom seemed to dominate the entirety of its back. Moving around on the same skinny insect legs, it reared its claws threateningly as they began to glow a dull purple with a noxious energy.

    "Oh no! Bzzt! We dizturbed a Pokémon! But it'z an entirely new one! Zo here we go! Parasect. Mushroom Pokémon. It is the evolved form of paras. It will scatter toxic spores from the big mushroom cap on its back. These spores can be harvested, steeped and boiled down to prepare herbal medicines, however the spore quality of parasect found in Alola appear to be substandard. Parasect is a bug and grass type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "I remember seeing them back in Kanto too. This one looks fierce."

    The parasect hissed, rushing forward and lunged with the claws outstretched. Stoutland stood its ground nevertheless.

    It didn't have to take any evasive or defensive moves, as Rockruff had quickly changed its own directive into neutralizing the threat going right for his trainer. With a sucker punch, he knocked the larger creature off its course, growling protectively in front.

    Parasect flipped onto its legs with ease, readying another slashing attack with its claws.

    "Watch out for itz cross poison! Bzzt! It haz the chance to do even ztronger damage!"

    Rockruff was ready as Elio commanded a rock throw. Even with the barrage of pebbles pelting its mushroom hide, it kept coming, finally slashing upwards and catching Rockruff, sending him tumbling back.

    "Sucker punch it again!"

    Another bark and he struck forward with his paws. The parasect fell to its side, but still remained standing.

    Rockruff stood in front, triumphant before he shuddered and Elio could see the filmy coating of poison latching onto his body.

    "Aw crap."

    "That'z parasect's ability! Effect zpore! It haz a chance to inflict poizon, zleep or paralyziz on a Pokémon that makes contact with it! Bzzt!"

    "All the more reason to attack it from a distance. Thing's tough too," Elio said, admiring the bug's integrity. "Most of the trial Pokémon go down at this rate."

    Not all of them. They're going to steadily get more difficult as we go on.

    The parasect attacked again, jamming its claws into a stunned Rockruff's side. A glowing green energy radiated from him as it began to siphon and transfer.

    "Crap, that's giga drain." Elio knew of those sapping type of attacks where the attacker would steal part of its victim's energy and health to restore its own. Being a grass type move, it was going to do a lot of damage to Rockruff.

    "Hang in there buddy. You good?"

    He got an affirmative bark.

    "Alright. Break free with bite!"

    Rockruff had to wiggle around in the claws, but he wrested his own head free and found the its tip as the perfect place to chomp his jaws. The poison decided to whittle a little more of his health down, but like the parasect, Elio admired his Pokémon's toughness, which rewarded him with the larger insect dropping its opponent.

    "Rock throw!"

    Rockruff had to dodge another cross poison attack, nimbly jumping back before he swished his tail and fired three more pebbles that spread out in a tri-shot formation. They each found their mark on the large mushroom and the Pokémon disappeared in a cloud of dust and dirt.

    "C'mon, Rockruff! Grab the seed and we're done!"

    He heard barking in the ruckus that was abruptly cut off.

    "Rockruff?"

    There was no reply.

    What happened?

    Elio slid from the saddle back onto the ground, wobbling a bit from being off balance for so long. He waved his hand in front, clearing as much dust as possible before scanning the dirt for any signs of his puppy Pokémon.

    A faint whine caught his attention and he immediately took two steps towards the source, nearly running a prone Rockruff over had he not looked where he was headed. The small Pokémon was still covered in the poisonous liquid that matted his fur.

    "Oh no." Sun knelt down gently cradling Rockruff in his arms. "Buddy?"

    Rockruff weakly opened his eyes, sniffing his trainer.

    "The poison. I guess that and the giga drain took you out of the fight huh?"

    He nodded ashamedly, looking away.

    "You made me proud buddy." Elio said. "You really did. You went up against three Pokémon all of whom, you had a disadvantage and still took them with you. I admire your toughness. Wish I had it to face my own things."

    Rockruff slowly opened his mouth, showing Elio that he was securely carrying that miracle seed he was looking for within his jaws.

    The boy plucked it from between his teeth, rubbing the head affectionately while being careful to avoid the patches of poisonous film. "Thanks for giving it your all. You deserve the rest."

    Already, his mind was thinking ahead on the upcoming battle against the totem. He was one Pokémon down, leaving five at his disposal.

    All except Nani will be strong against grass types and she'll struggle against it. But something tells me I'm going to need everyone's help on this.

    "Miracle seed acquired!" Rotom said while spinning around in midair. "Now let'z get back to the jungle entrance! Mallow iz waiting for uz! Bzzt!"

    Elio quickly scrambled up stoutland's side and with a gentle nudge, the two of them were off, heading towards the newly established waypoint on their map GPS unit.

    Unbeknownst to him, the weighted gaze from a pair of ruby red eyes still kept track on him as he slipped the final item into the forage bag and took off back the way he had come.

    Ten minutes of shuffling through the jungle and a myriad of plants in his way, Elio finally had arrived back at where Mallow had told him to meet up once he had located all four of the ingredients she needed. He was even more surprised as he approached the clearing that two others had joined her.

    Both were recognizable, even from a distance. There was no denying that it was Lana Haukea from her longer blue dyed hair and easygoing smile. Next to her was the fire trial captain, Kiawe Iokua.

    "Alola Elio!" The girl waved at him while he had gotten a simple nod from Kiawe. "You're just in time."

    "Alola!" He waved back and dismounted the stoutland, petting it for a thanks and terminating his usage, allowing it to run off to its next job. "Nice to see you again."

    "Likewise." Kiawe nodded again. His face remained stoic, but Elio could sense the respect coming from him. "I must say, you getting to Mallow's trial this quickly after surpassing mine. ʻAʻole he mea kānalua."

    He turned back to Mallow. "Again, I apologize since I was running late. Supervisor didn't let me go. But it looks like I got here just in time."

    "Supervisor?" Elio asked.

    "Yeah. I'm a stocker at the Thrifty Megamart in Pa'ani. Part-time job and all."

    "Glad you could make it Kiawe." Elio shook his hand again. "Had I known I had an audience for my trial, I would have moved with more urgency."

    "Did he get stuck on the miracle seed?" Lana asked. "Mallow, you know how hard it can be to find a seed for a candlenut tree!"

    "How am I supposed to distribute them evenly? You try and hide seeds in a place that literally sprouted up from the ground on them!"

    "Ladies." Kiawe looked annoyed and rolled his eyes as if this was a conversation that was hashed before. "It took a lot of ass chewing from my sup to get off work today and it's the start of my weekend. Can we do this already?"

    "Oh right. Sorry." Mallow and Lana glanced away before the shorter captain produced a bottle of natural spring water as well as a helmet that had a couple of dark sharp-looking rocks protruding out of its side. "One bottle of fresh water like you requested. And the usual rocky helmet."

    "And here's the thick club and rare bone." Kiawe reached into his own bag, holding both items in his hands.

    "Maika'i! Thanks for your help Lana and Kiawe! We've got everything needed!" Mallow accepted the forage bag from Elio's outstretched hands and set all the items on a blanket already spread out on the grass. "I would have made you go get the other things, but we tried that once with some other trial-goers and it took them nearly eight hours to finish locating everything."

    "Good thing you didn't do that with me."

    "Yup! Now let's cook up a storm and lure out that totem Pokémon of the lush jungle!"

    Huh, that's an interesting way to do the trial. Find the ingredients that bait it out of hiding.

    "Always remember Elio," Mallow began. "While all of these ingredients can do many purposes and uses on their own; they can create something more, even better and improved if they work together to compliment one another. Just like any recipe, a Pokémon team that synergizes like that will accomplish much. You will need to find that type of harmony and balance if you are to win this totem battle."

    "Okay." He got down on his knees and looked at the array of ingredients before him. "Where do we start?"

    "Let's check everything first! One mago berry? Check! One tiny mushroom? Check! One revival herb? Check! And one miracle seed! Check! Plus the thick club, rare bone, rocky helmet and fresh water! We're all set and good to go to make the Mallow Special! The aroma of this tasty dish is going to draw the totem right to us! You beat the totem, you'll finish the trial! Ready to start cooking?"

    Elio cracked an eager grin. "Hell yeah."

    "Then…Allez cuisine!"

    "Okay Lana! First we're flipping the rocky helmet over and pouring some of that that fresh water inside! We'll use it as the papa ku‘i ‘ai!" As Mallow spoke, she produced a small paring knife from her own bag, picking up the mago berry and rapidly sliding the blade underneath its leathery skin.

    "Here you are." The water trial captain did as she instructed, twisting the cap off and dumping its entirety inside.

    "Good." Mallow was still working, but she twisted the fruit in her hands, continuing to peel it right off cleanly. Elio was quite impressed that she managed to avoid cutting herself, working so diligently while speedy at the same time.

    "And in go the mago berry." She sliced it into chunks, dropping them into the water. "The tiny mushroom. The revival herb." Those too was sliced quickly and added. "The miracle seed last! We only need the oil."

    Her knife blade bit firmly into the center and Elio heard a sharp crack before she set the tool down and held the opened pit over the helmet. Her hands glistened with a clear oily substance as she held both halves as if cracking an egg.

    "Kiawe, the rare bone and pōhaku ku‘i ‘ai thick club."

    "Here you are." He handed both items over.

    Mallow cracked the rare bone in the center, throwing something in that he couldn't see while Sun was given the thick club.

    "Now it's your turn Elio! Use that thick club and pound it all to a pulp!"

    Okay then. Here goes.

    Wielding the item wasn't as effective as he had thought. The club was as long as his arm from the wrist to the elbow and he found that he missed hitting the ingredients inside the bowl while using both hands to drive the club home.

    This is embarrassing. Out of the ten times he had tried to hit the mixture, he succeeded only twice…far from enough.

    Do something else.

    What about when Mom makes mashed potatoes? She holds the pot with one hand and mashes with the other.

    Elio tried that, cradling the helmet in his left arm as if holding a baby while using his right to wield the club. He was far more successful, losing power, but finally processed it enough to where it became a thick, sticky mess.

    Looks like mashed potatoes. Green mashed potatoes. Ugh…if that's green colored, then something's clearly wrong. This is why I don't cook.

    "Crush it! Keep pounding!"

    Elio frantically worked, now the mixture was becoming slightly thinner, but there were still large chunks of berry and the revival herb still mixed inside.

    "Grind it!" Mallow encouraged. "Come on! Pound it some more!"

    "Working on it."

    He kept his pace going, ignoring the burning sensation shooting up his right arm from the muscle fatigue. Lana stepped forward, pouring the remainder of the water inside. The thick mixture sucked it all in, losing its stickiness and slowly expanding outwards.

    There was an odd smell that was coming from the concoction. Elio could only describe it as a mix of mago berry sweetness as well as something exotic that must've either been the tiny mushroom or the miracle seed oil.

    "Turn it into goo!"

    Sun set the helmet back onto the ground and now used both arms to slam the club down. The water splashed before it was blended in. Eventually it began to turn into a viscous gooey substance that was thick again, enough to stubbornly cling to the end of the thick club like Grimer.

    It was starting to be more of an effort to pull the club out of the helmet than actually beat it, so Elio resorted to stirring in order to give some of his sore muscles a break.

    The aroma from the Mallow Special was getting stronger and he felt himself go a little dizzy from a sudden whiff.

    "There." He breathed, setting the bowl on the ground and admiring his handiwork. "Next time bring a blender."

    "Next time bring a Charjabug. Then that can be arranged."

    "I have one. And there better not be a next time!"

    "Ssshh!" Kiawe put a finger to his lips. "You feel that? Hear that?"

    "Yeah." Lana whispered and looked around at the trees that encircled them. "Like something's out there watching me."

    I feel it too. The same stare from before.

    "ALERT! BZZT!" Rotom screeched, playing a very creepy music piece that sounded like something horrifying was about to occur. "Totem Pokémon approaching! Bzzt!"

    Lana saw it first. She visibly paled, then placed a hand close to her mouth and stepped back, eyes wide with worry. Mallow and Kiawe's expressions changed shortly thereafter. A shaking finger was pointed right at him. "E-Elio."

    "What?" The boy turned around.

    The creature standing right behind him was massive. It was primarily pink colored with a skinny, mantis-like appearance with a skirt torso, a whitish face with stubby antennae and serrated scythe petals. It crouched low as it approached, as if trying to shorten its own size to spring a lunge attack.

    With a loud earsplitting cry, the twin petals slammed into the ground, sending a clump of dirt into the air. The sound sent shivers down his spine. Sun couldn't tell if they were from fear or excitement.

    The totem Pokémon of the Lush Jungle.

    Elio took out the first Poké Ball in his hand before his thumb hit the ready button, enlarging it to its original size.

    Ready guys? Prepare yourselves! Here we go!


    So we're onto (In my honest opinion) the most difficult totem battle in the game. I know Lurantis gave people a lotta trouble and I was no exception. It's not going to be a cakewalk for Elio either, but it wouldn't be a trial if there wasn't adversity sprinkled in there yeah?

    Translations:

    • Diabolo ke kai - Sea demon
    • Mo'owahine - Literally Lizard-Woman. The mo'owahine is a mythical creature said to linger around the Nu'uanu Pali Highway pass and lure male travelers to their deaths off the cliffs when it took the form of a beautiful woman.
    • E mālama ka tapu mai ka lani mai. A alakaʻi iāʻoe i loko o ka hoʻokolokoloʻaneʻane e kokokeʻoe e piʻi - May the tapu watch over from the heavens and guide you through the trial you are about to surmount.
    • Laki maika'i - Best of luck
    • Maika'i - Fantastic. Maika'i is a multipurpose word, but generically means something along the lines of good/great/awesome. In this case; fantastic.
    • ʻAʻole he mea kānalua. - That is no surprise.
    • Papa ku‘i ‘ai - Mortar
    • Pōhaku ku‘i ‘ai - Pestle
    • The recipe used in the Mallow Special is similar in properties to poi. Poi is a Hawaiian staple food made from boiled taro root (believed to be one of the earliest known cultivated plants) It is a thick gooey purplish substance that has a texture akin to peanut butter, but a taste that is described as anything from extremely bland to a mix of bitterness and sweetness. It is often eaten as a side dish to other Hawaiian foods.
    • Hibiscus flower - Not a translation, but the yellow hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii. The flower is very symbolic in Hawaiian culture from being a garnish on dishes (it is edible) steeped in herbal teas. It is also notable for being a common flower used in the traditional Hawaiian leis and worn by Hawaiian and Tahitian girls. The placement of the flower on her head is an indication of her relationship status. If it is on her right side, it means that she is single/not seeing anyone and open for a relationship. If it is on her left side, it means she is either married, engaged or seeing someone.

    So out of curiosity, if Elio gives Lillie a hibiscus flower later in the story to put behind on her ear, which side should he place it? Let me know in the reviews! I know which side he should!

    As always, mahalo for reading and reviewing! You give my writing purpose! See you all for the totem battle next time!
     
    FireSpartan5 likes this.
  16. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
    Level 40
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers.
    I wholeheartedly apologize for this being a week late. There were a bunch of things in both my writing and personal schedule that prevented me from having enough time to get this out as expected. (too much Destiny raiding :P) I'll be sure to double my efforts in making sure that the next installment rectifies my normal updating routine next week. It's not fair to you guys to have to wait longer because I was unprepared/procrastinating.
    Parts of this chapter and the drafts from the subsequent one caused me to have to make a decision and instead of these being two-shorter-than-normal chapters, I merged them into an average one. This one introduces a character I debated about bringing in for a long time due to some plot risks involved. I finally made the decision and hope it works out in the end with what I have planned.
    A big thanks to all the great feedback I got last update.
    Enjoy the chapter everyone.


    So Mallow's trial totem Pokémon is a huge lurantis! I heard it moves fast and swiftly using its petal scythes like swords! Elio please be careful! I want you to call me adorable more times! Yes…I had to ask Kukui on what he said. Let's just say his smile grew a little bigger than normal, with this coming from someone who smiles on a minute basis.

    You know, spending some time watching TV makes me wonder; what else is out there? I know Professor Burnet is doing her research on that plus getting Nebby home, but could there truly be life other than what's in Ultra Space? Heh, well that's what Professor Burnet calls it; I guess there's no real term yet.

    And I heard from one of her colleagues that a meteor that is headed for our world changed course! How is that possible? Could whatever control it help Nebby get back to its home?

    Dear Elio,

    I hope you conquer your trial. Don't you worry about being mean to me. I understand where you are coming from and how your father has hurt you. What's important is that you will always have my support and you try to better yourself. Now go and be my hero! We got some relaxation to do and I am totally onboard for getting Hau and Leilani to confess!

    I miss you.

    Sincerely,

    Lillie

    Before him, the massive creature rose to its full height of nearly twice its own. It looked down on him with dark red eyes as it took a ready stance. It spread its two arms out with the petal blades glistening in the sunlight.

    "Rotom?"

    "Yeah? Bzzt?"

    "The totem?"

    "Oh right. We got a new Pokémon detected! If I wazn't zo terrified! Thiz would be eazzzy! Lurantis. Bloom sickle Pokémon. It is the evolved form of fomantis. As it slashes at its enemies, it looks as if it's dancing. Its elegant appearance have made some call it the most glamorous grass Pokémon. Lurantis is a grass type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Bring it on!" Elio challenged, a fierce expression taking place on his features. "You wanna dance? C'mon!"

    Lurantis cried again, again causing the boy to tense up, but he remained strong.

    "Rufflet, let's lead this off!" Elio selected his brave eaglet first. The thought had crossed his mind that he often was using him as the namesake leadoff Pokémon.

    Strategy's developing. Every team member is starting to have their roles in my scheme.

    Rufflet was undaunted by the larger totem, even as a familiar yellow-orange aura of energy seemed to appear into existence. It surrounded the totem before plunging itself into its body, feeding energy. Lurantis stiffened from its power boost before emitting a sharp cry and flexing its long petals in a response.

    "ALERT! The totem Pokémon'z aura hazz fluctuated! Bzzt! Zcanz zhow that itz zpeed ztat haz received a zignificant boozt! Bzzt!"

    "Wait, a boost to speed?!" Crap, that pretty much eliminated my plan to beat it with being faster.

    Rufflet squawked, flapping his wings and already took to the sky.

    Elio made a fist. "Wing attack, let's go!"

    The bird nodded, spreading out his glowing wings and swooping down.

    Lurantis reacted faster than he had expected in unleashing a flurried leafage attack. Rufflet squawked in protest, trying his best to fight it off. However the leaves had prevailed with a wind force strong enough to send him tumbling back. While in mid-flight, he spread his wings to catch the winds, recovering easily.

    "Good job buddy." Elio watched him again. "We'll find a weakness outta you yet."

    Rufflet dove again for another wing attack and the totem did the same thing, whipping up another flurry of leaves to meet him.

    Elio gasped as the smaller Pokémon's eyes narrowed and he vanished just for the blink of a single eye, heading up and over as if performing a flip.

    Before reappearing right underneath the totem's large petals, slashing with his wings up in a move that actually made the totem flinch. Lurantis hissed with annoyance and prepared another leafage, but that was misfired as Rufflet disappeared just as quickly as he came and struck it again squarely in the chest in a matter of moments.

    "Holy!"

    Wow. Is that a new move? Even faster than the lurantis with its speed gain!

    "Looks like we got an ace up our sleeve!"

    "A literal one at that!" Rotom exclaimed. "Rufflet juzt learned aerial ace! It'z a move that can alwayzzz hit itz target! Bzzt!"

    "Good to hear. Aerial ace it again Rufflet!"

    With a caw, he got to work; vanishing while picking up speed before slashing upwards and then downwards. Lurantis skidded to a halt after being pushed back and hissed loudly again. Rufflet cawed right back in defiance.

    The totem charged again, brandishing both its petals as if they were giant swords. As Rufflet moved to intercept it, the huge creature vanished in midair to reappear just forward. One of the petals slashed Rufflet upwards and then downwards. It all happened so fast, Elio had no time to issue a command for dodging or another attack. His little bird was knocked out quickly, dropping to the ground.

    Wait, this thing knows aerial ace too?

    "Sorry buddy." Elio recalled him back to his great ball, stowing him and readying Grimer's. "This isn't over."

    Maybe I can poison or paralyze it with Charjabug's spark. Either way, we need to get something going otherwise this is going to be a very unfavorable fight.

    The totem moved almost the moment Grimer entered the field, firing off a swarm of leafage attacks. His sludge Pokémon while slow in overall speed, was quick in wit as he avoided them all with his minimize attack.

    "Brutal swing!"

    "Grime!" He popped back to normal size, stretching out his arm and swinging it like a hammer directly at the totem's feet. The amorphous limb was thinner than the rest of his body, yet the force had struck and knocked the bigger creature off balance with enough power to slam it unto the trunk of a tree in an explosion of dust and dirt. As it collapsed on the ground and rose back up on its feet; Elio could see huge chunks of bark and wood inside that had splintered off from the sheer strength of the impact.

    Grimer belched a cloud of poison gas that was easily avoided and he quickly minimized again to avoid another leafage attack. Lurantis narrowed its eyes again, giving off a stare that was daring them to continue their attack.

    Elio narrowed his own eyes. Thus far, the totem had been primarily defensive, only seriously attacking when he had dealt fair amounts of damage with Rufflet's newly learned aerial ace. Grimer's own brutal swing had done a number as well. Unfortunately to Elio's dismay, his poison touch ability hadn't activated when he contacted through the move.

    The totem hissed, firing its leafage attack. Grimer didn't have to be told to use his minimize and shrank down.

    As if waiting for the cue, Lurantis sprang forward, swinging its glowing petals up. The unexpected aerial ace attack caught Grimer off guard as it ignored his evasive stat boost from the minimize. It brought the slash down again and would've succeeded in a second consecutive attack had it not been for Elio's quick thinking.

    Grimer's instincts took over and his slimy hand lashed out, seizing its left petal and firmly holding it. Before Lurantis could wiggle itself free, there was a gleam in his eye as a blue aura of energy shimmered around the bigger totem. The disable tactic had worked, temporarily preventing it from using aerial ace.

    He didn't stop there, sucking a breath and belching out a noxious gas that enveloped the Lurantis' body. It stopped short, shuddering in pain as the poison began to settle on its body.

    Perfect.

    The creature prepared another leafage attack that forced Grimer to minimize himself again in order to avoid it. However in doing so, he had inadvertently freed the totem from his grasp, allowing it to scramble away and swat at the air to disperse the poisonous gases.

    Elio knew the damage had still been done and the poison would eventually wear it down. All he need was remain in the game long enough that the team outlasted it.

    Hissing in annoyance, Lurantis disappeared, striking with a second aerial ace. The attack bypassed his evasiveness boosts to knock him out of the fight.

    Aw no. This is going south really fast. This totem has all the tricks and things to disrupt my strategy.

    Elio shook his head as he returned Grimer and sent out Charjabug. After that it was only Torracat and Nani left.

    And it hadn't even called on an ally Pokémon yet.

    What is it waiting for? A reserve? A point to turn the tide?

    The poison had been the only good thing he had done so far. It whittled away at the totem's energy bit by bit, however even with the infliction; Lurantis seemed to still have enough energy for another go.

    Lurantis wasn't sure of what to make of this new foe. Elio's own battery Pokémon sat squarely on the opposite end with tiny arcs of electricity crackling down her thin body.

    The totem attacked with another one of its piercing war cries, spreading both sickle petals apart and crouching low. It shot forward with astounding speed, bolstered by the additional aura boost that it had received. A leafage attack was fired first.

    "Quick, go for a charge beam and dispel that leafage!"

    Charjabug obeyed, pulling energy from within in between her two small mandibles before firing it straight at the oncoming cyclone. The electricity immediately latched onto the objects, chaining and arcing through one another to create a big intrinsic cage of energy that shorted out and burned all of the leaves approaching it into a fine ashy crisp.

    Lurantis seemed to anticipate that and lunged forward not a moment later, striking swiftly with another aerial ace attack. It had used the leafage and Charjabug's own attacks to conceal its own movements.

    Elio was trapped between having his Pokémon take damage from direct attacks or be subjected to its tricks and take damage anyway.

    Charjabug was certainly resilient, shrugging off the attack and smashing into the totem's side with a spark. The two creatures connected sides for a moment before interestingly enough, she overpowered and sent it toppling to the ground. The lurantis was back on its feet in an instant, but it did jerk and flinch from the nagging poison that covered parts of its massive frame.

    "Use mud shot!"

    Let's see if we can slow it down a little.

    With a hissing cry, Charjabug fired off several globs of sticky earth that strongly struck and splashed over the totem's side. As it moved to dodge a second attack, Sun did notice that the first one made it slightly slower.

    It worked!

    Lurantis hissed violently at Charjabug before climbing up the side of one of the trees. It spread both of its arms up into the sky, issuing a shrill cry that made the hairs on Elio's body stand up on end and was nearly loud enough to make him wish he had brought earplugs.

    Yeah, let's get muffs or something next time. I'd rather not go deaf.

    Movement caught Sun's eye and he stared up at the trees as a bird of some kind flapped its wings and swooped down to join the battle by the lurantis' side. It had a plumage of black feathers on its head with a white face and belly. The narrow triangular beak was an orange color at its base with a red band and finally black at the tip.

    "New Pokémon haz been detected! Bzzt!" Rotom piped up from Elio's side before swiveling around to face him. "Trumbeak. Bugle beak Pokémon. It is the evolved form of pikipek. As it eats berries, it stores seeds within its beak and can fire them in single shots, bursts or in a continuous stream. It can bend its beak to produce a hundreds of varieties of calls and brand itself a nuance for its neighbors. Trumbeak is a normal and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Elio frowned at the totem's new ally. While he was counting on having to fight ally and support Pokémon, he had expected it earlier and a grass type.

    Every other trial with the totem battle had a similar typed Pokémon fighting alongside it. The raticate in the Verdant Cavern had an ally ratatta, wishiwashi in Brooklet hill had both singular wishiwashi and alomomola and finally salazzle had that army of salandit lackeys.

    More like adds. I have to start seeing if I can invest in some multi-hit moves to clear them out.

    Now it seemed that either the trials were aware of his thinking or were throwing him a curveball. If Elio's intuition was right; it was probably both. He was already beginning to factor in the trumbeak as a variable and ready to see what role it was going to play in this battle.

    Is it going to be a separate offensive tool like the ratatta were? Or supporting similar to wishiwashi and salandit?

    If he could get some good news out of the new ally on the opposite side; it was that trumbeak's flying typing rendered it vulnerable to electric moves.

    "We're gonna shift our focus Charjabug. Hit our new friend with charge beam!"

    She hissed in compliance, gathering another blast of electricity between her teeth. Aim adjusted, she fired it the moment she had stored enough power. As the long beam of crackling energy lanced out towards the trumbeak, the totem sprang into action.

    It launched itself forward, putting it directly in between the attack and the wide-eyed trumbeak that had been a little horrified to move. Placing its sickle petals together in an "X" shape, it expertly met the attack head on, dispelling it with a fierce cry and a spread of its arms. As soon as it was finished, it had crouched low to the ground.

    Behind it, the ally trumbeak used the momentum to soar right over the larger totem's head. Its beak glowed and it opened up, shooting out a glowing white fist sized rock at eye-blurring speed.

    Charjabug only had enough time to partially hiss in protest before it slammed into her top, knocking her over. The trumbeak continued its assault, rock blasting charjabug again and a third time.

    "No!"

    Charjabug laid on her side, weakly struggling to get back up for her trainer. As she did, the trumbeak landed beside her.

    It was a big mistake. The totem lurantis knew it too and it hissed as well, trying to warn its ally to avoid going near the part-electric type.

    With her remaining strength, she charged up a spark attack to smash forward into the bird's side. It caused them both to tumble to a stop in the center of the dirt arena, both prone forms unmoving.

    Elio sighed, but admired again the resiliency of his Pokémon and their unwillingness to give up. He took out Nani's ball and returned Charjabug, thanking her for the efforts she had put in. As soon as her ball was slipped back on his belt, he threw in his milotic.

    Watching from the side, the three trial captains were aware that Elio had a milotic on his team, but both Mallow and Lana couldn't hide their surprise.

    "Wait, does Elio know he could have left his milotic at the Pokémon center? It's water, so what good is she going to do against a grass type?"

    "You never know." Lana looked back at the field where Nani and the lurantis had eyed one another coolly. "Anything is possible. Remember his starter is Torracat and I haven't seen him deploy him just yet."

    "Elio probably has a plan. Good one on saving his fire type starter for last." Kiawe said. "Although the lurantis has certainly got some new tricks up its sleeves."

    Mallow proudly put her hands on her hips. "It took a painstakingly long amount of time to teach it them, but it's definitely not done dipping into that bag! Let's see how our little Sunshine handles them."

    "Speaking of tricks, I'm surprised the lurantis had called in the trumbeak. Is the castform still around?"

    "Oh yes it is!"

    Kiawe glanced back at the battle, just as Nani unleashed a water pulse that the lurantis slashed through while its leafage counter was swiftly dodged. "Elio best realize this battle is about to get a lot harder. He better take it out quickly."

    "Rotom, you have any plan?!" Elio was close to the ground having dodged a spray of water himself that was deflected.

    "At thiz rate, the poizon will not be enough to take the totem down before you loze everyone! Bzzt!"

    "We've still got our Z-move right?"

    "Affirmative! But do you remember how long it took to charge up?"

    "Doesn't matter," Elio didn't take his eyes off the battle as another one of Nani's water pulse attacks staggered the totem backwards despite the ineffective amount of damage. It slammed both sickle petals into the ground to steady itself before standing back up and uttering that wretched teeth-grinding cry again.

    Elio gritted his teeth and was just a moment from having his own hands fly up to his ears.

    I'm going to get me a pair of earplugs as soon as this is over.

    More movement was spotted at the treetops as a small teardrop shaped Pokémon descended down at the big lurantis' side. It was grayish white with a pair of dark glassy eyes.

    Sun stared at it, I swear I've seen this Pokémon before.

    "Rotom?"

    "Already on it! Bzzt! New Pokémon detected! Castform. Weather Pokémon. Castform's cellular structure can be altered depending on temperature and humidity. It is notable for having its entire form change while in strong weather conditions. Castform is a normal type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Wow a castform." Elio remembered seeing it alongside the weatherman on the morning news when he watched it with his mother before school. "What's the idea now?"
    The smaller creature happily cried out before spinning around and launching a bright orange orb into the open sky. It burst in midair and Elio felt the sunlight hitting patches of his skin to intensify in temperature.

    The sunlight's harsher beating down had made things hotter and he immediately retreated to a more shady section of the jungle. He saw that the castform had slightly changed its appearance, taking on a reddish orange color with an array of clear pale appendages that resembled a hood over the top and sides of its head.

    "Be advised!" Rotom said, joining him. "The castform haz uzed zunny day! It intenzifiez ztrong sunlight! Bzzt! It increazez the ztrength of fire type attackz and reducez the ztrength of water type attackz! And it haz become a fire type itself! Bzzt!"

    Increases the power of fire moves? That means-wait…no. I don't want to play my ace yet.

    Any other trainer would see themselves at a disadvantage, pulling out his Pokémon. But Elio had a feeling that the totem wasn't done dipping into its bag of tricks yet.

    Neither are we.

    Elio pointed directly at the totem. "You're outta reinforcements. We're wrapping this up. Dragon pulse!"

    Nani formulated her glowing sphere of energy, firing it away. The totem lurantis deftly rolled right out of its path, causing it to explode at the trunk of a large tree three successive times as her honed technique was displayed for all to see.

    Kiawe was the only one that was unfazed at Elio's improved dragon pulse attack, having been the only one to see it in person firsthand.

    "I didn't even know you can use dragon pulse like that!" Lana exclaimed, her eyes sparkling with admiration.

    Lurantis was relatively uninterested or unimpressed. It shot another leafage attack through the dragon pulse, parting ways around it that slammed into Nani and knocking her over. She coiled up again, glaring at the totem.

    "How about we show them what we got for our iron tail?"

    She nodded flicking it at the end. Her four fins extended with a sliding metallic sound just like unsheathing a blade and glowed white as the power coursed through. Nani waved it threateningly at the totem Pokémon.

    Elio had worked with her for a little while in helping to balance efficiency and defensive moves with the swordlike move. She was able to deftly swing to strike, slam it into the ground or even spear opponents.

    Yeah that's right. We got a sword iron tail!

    The totem lurantis gave off an unimpressed huff before one of its long sickle petals began to glow an amber aura and turn a brilliant orange. The energy coalesced, forming together into a massive solid blade as an extension of its arm. Its entire appearance looked to have jagged edges and contoured angles along its sleek surface as well as a buzzing noise that sounded like a high pitched power saw. Lurantis flicked its second petal to form a second blade.

    Oh...shinx.

    Lurantis swung first, its massive swords moving in a dazzle blur of light. Nani brought her own up to defend in the nick of time, deflecting one of its arms. No sooner after that, she shifted her tail to the right, blocking its next blow.

    The totem continued its offensive, slashing again and forcing Nani on the defensive. As good as she was at using it like a blade, she was limited in both her movement in the confined jungle and having to deal with two instead of one.

    "That'zzz zolar blade! Bzzt!" Rotom said. "It'z a very powerful grazz type move that getz very ztrong in zunny weather!"

    Elio made a quick note of that, watching as Nani swiftly ducked under one of the totem's wide swings and jabbed her own. It was a risky move since it relied on a fast diagnostic accuracy shot and she'd overextend if she missed. Thankfully, she had aimed for the legs striking its left side and causing it to stumble. The staggering was enough for the massive creature to slam its blazing swords into the ground to steady itself. She used that stunned opportunity to gather a powerful dragon pulse from within her maw and fire it.

    The glowing orb accelerated towards Lurantis and he saw the totem make an "X" shape with its arms before flinging them out just at impact. The move had unexpectedly deflected the dragon pulse attack right back at her.

    Nani had to quickly shake off her surprise before diving to the left to avoid a head-on collision. The dragon pulse slammed into the ground, throwing up a ton of muddy dirt. Elio felt a rush of air from the blast hit his entire front.

    The milotic had managed to escape the most of it; however the blast had buried part of her body underneath debris. She writhed to free herself, but remained stubbornly stuck in the ground.

    Lurantis stalked forward, its eyes flashing as it approached her with both blades drawn like an executioner.

    "Nani, use iron tail to free yourself!"

    She closed her eyes, finally managing to move just a bit as the totem led out another bloodcurdling cry and jumped into the air, solar blade thrust forward.

    Nani's tail erupted from the marshy ground, bring it to bear in a timely manner once again to meet the totem Pokémon's blade. The two weapons contacted, humming, buzzing and scraping against one another in a flurry of blows. She had gone on the offensive, forcing the lurantis back with a pair of slashes and then one over the top with a swish of her tail.

    Lurantis brought its own into the same cross as before, leaving the two combatants locked in a pushing fight for dominance. It narrowed its eyes and hissed loudly with intent to win the battle. Nani didn't say anything, but Elio could see her own determination and grit.

    The breakthrough came at the most opportune of times when Elio felt the heat from the strong sunlight starting to fade. As they did, Lurantis' glowing swords were starting to diminish in their power and he saw the castform's orange body begin to fade back to its light gray. Nani sensed it too, doubling her efforts, but breaking off from the stalemate to strike again with her iron tail that sent the massive grass totem toppling to the ground.

    Again, the totem was quick to spring back onto its feet and already in the process of gathering light energy at its petals to reignite its solar swords.

    We have to stop it before it happens again. I don't know how much longer Nani can keep this up.

    Elio had to prevent another case of strong sunlight.

    And that meant taking down the castform. The small support Pokémon had since, kept the sunny conditions running for its partner, but had to use the opportunity to rest itself.

    Nani opened her mouth, launching a water pulse that splashed over the castform, sending it crashing to the ground. With a pained cry, it struggled and eventually succeeded in jumping back into the fight.

    "Aww man, I thought we had it done for." Elio grumbled. He pointed at the castform, "Water pulse it again!"

    She obliged, but as the blast zoomed along its trajectory; two things happened.

    First the castform's own eyes went wide before it fired another orb into the sky and turning the sunlight harsh again. It rapidly changed back into its sunny form before being struck by the water. Much of it had turned right into steam and it appeared to lose a significant part of its power. Despite it being a super effective type advantage, the ally Pokémon was merely stunned briefly.

    Second, Nani had made one big mistake.

    Elio couldn't really have her multitask in this sort of situation, but in doing so she had briefly taken her eyes off the totem Lurantis, who had seized the opportunity to move just slightly out of the milotic's peripherals. With it in her blind spot, the massive mantis creature powered up its twin solar blades and leapt at her with a screech of fury from behind.

    "Nani," Elio cried, "Iron tail behind you!"

    She sharpened her end scales into the chained blade and swung the glowing point upwards.

    Lurantis had anticipated this however, knowing her desperate maneuver would make the attack go wide and careless. As Nani stuck high, it made another X shape with its own swords and went low.

    It only needed one, hitting with enough force to send the tender Pokémon crashing down into the ground where she collapsed, putting up a fight to stay in it, however the exhaustion had caught up to her. Sun was now down five out of his six, leaving his starter as his final option.

    "Crap." Elio muttered to himself as he returned her back into her ball. Only Torracat left. He's got yet to enter the battle, so we'll have to make the best of it.

    "Let's do this buddy." He said, throwing his longtime partner out. Torracat landed nimbly down on the ground and growled threateningly at the totem and its compatriot. Both the lurantis and sunny castform had given it an unamused look.

    "We'll start from range, use ember on the totem!"

    "Tor!" He heated up his bell and fired a single burst of flame.

    Huh, the ember is a lot bigger than normal.

    Lurantis slashed at it, dispelling the attack, however part of it had caught onto its petal blades, scorching briefly before waving its arms to extinguish.

    Torracat was ready, using a flame charge to help build up its speed and dodge an incoming leafage.

    As he did though, the totem used the open opportunity to its own advantage. While its solar blade swords began to fade, it raised its arms towards the sky and glowed a brilliant white. The intense radiance from it caused Elio to shield his face, even for the few seconds it lasted.

    The light faded and he saw that the totem had been rejuvenated with another burst of energy. The self-healing synthesis had erased all but a small portion of continuous damage he had done. Grimer's poison from previously continued to whittle away at its energy and Sun suspected that it had used its own recovery move since he was likely very close to finishing it off for good.

    It was now that Elio began to feel the worrying dreads of actually losing the trial grip his stomach icily.

    "Be advised! Bzzt! That waz zyntheziz! Grazz typez can uze it to heal themselvez! Bzzt!" Having done so had made the thought of losing very real. The slow chipping away at its health through the poisoning and successive attacks that were all negated away for nothing.

    We were co close! Hang on, we can still do this! I still have my Z-move and we can make up for our lost damage with the fire type!

    Elio had first thought of leading off with Torracat and practicing the Z-move of the fire type, but he had suspected that it would be familiar with such a tactic and have some measures to deter its usage. Most trial-goers on Akala conducted the Lush Jungle one last prior to facing the kahuna and thus would already be in possession of a firium Z. Lurantis would not only expect the move, but probably have some sort of defense against it.

    But now that it was hanging on for a little longer now from its synthesis recovery, he just had to outlast it and its castform partner in order to succeed.

    Do I charge it now or save it? We're running out of time.

    The ally Pokémon made the first move, just as Elio ordered a fire fang on the totem. It deftly spun in a circle, shooting another orb into the sky. This time around, it was a dark blue color and upon reaching above, the harsh beating sunlight was replaced by a welcoming cool feeling. Moments later, fat droplets of rain began to splatter on the ground and in the trees.

    Elio's cotton clothes absorbed the downpour and he felt locks of his hair begin to stick together. The rain dripped down the long tips, quickly turning the mop on his head into a wet mess.

    He didn't let that distract him, not when he was this close to winning.

    Water sizzled off Lurantis' solar blades, casting thin wisps of vapor off their hot surfaces.

    "Flame charge, let's take that totem down!"

    "Tor!" His feline starter growled, gathering fire energy around his body. It took longer than normal due to the rain and even with the practice of performing fire attacks against the totem wishiwashi made it difficult to bring it to full strength.

    As he lunged off his hind legs diving for the larger Pokémon, the castform unleashed a glowing blue ball of energy that struck and knocked Torracat down. He crashed into the mud, stuggling to get up. Elio could see that his fur was matted and stuck together with enough dark dirt that he barely could see much of his original orange color.

    Lurantis was quick to capitalize on its advantage.

    Come buddy!

    "Get up!" Elio nearly shouted, clenching his fists with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "C'mon, we're so close!"

    Torracat heard his trainer's encouragement and struggled to get up. His eyes blazed with determination and teeth were gritted from withstanding the super effective weather ball as well as the harsh element that had battered him.

    Lurantis let out another shrilling battle cry, leaping forward with its solar swords. It crossed them together and slashed outwards.

    Torracat was ready and jumped above, seeing it try to strike low.

    As he regained his balance on the ground, both Pokémon and trainer had their eyes wide as the grass totem quickly spun around, extending its right leg in a sweeping motion. The low sweep attack rapidly caught and tripped Torracat, unexpectedly flinging him off balance to the ground.

    "No!"

    Although surprised, the fire cat Pokémon was already rolling back onto its feet.

    But it didn't matter.

    Elio wanted to, but he couldn't force himself to turn away. Even as the totem jumped high into the air above to perform a devastating dive down with its solar blade extended to finish off his starter Pokémon.

    At first, he was in a bit of a stupor that he had actually lost a totem battle. The hissing had shook him out of it as he and the three trial captains watched when the massive grass type marched right over to the goopy Mallow Special.

    It scooped it up and ravenously tore into the bowl, uncaring about eating mannerisms or the viscous green substance that splashed out of the edges and onto its face. When it was satisfied with its meal, it shrieked loudly again before huffing rather unimpressed at Elio and stalking off, taking just a moment to fling the now-empty bowl somewhere into the jungle.

    Kiawe looked over to Elio, who was crouched on the ground and cradling his defeated Pokémon in his arms, heads leaned close together as he caught the faint traces of him whispering encouragement.

    Elio stroked Torracat's mane one last time before returning him back to his Poké Ball. He stood up, head bowed low as he refused to meet their gazes. All three captains looked to one another, unsure if anything they were going to say would upset him.

    "Elio?" Lana was the first one to test the waters as she cautiously stepped forward.

    He finally met their eyes and none of them were able to tell if he was crying or angered. Either way, it was evident that he was struggling to hide his tears about to be shed.

    "Yeah?" He finally answered. His tone was solemn, but otherwise devoid of emotion.

    "Are you going to be alright?"

    His head bobbed up and down in a silent nod.

    "Listen, you're not the first one to have trouble at Mallow's trial. Things like this will happen to everyone." Kiawe opened his mouth to say something further, but was cut off by glares from the female captains. He took the wise decision and stopped there.

    "But it shouldn't be for me." Elio softly said. "I should've won, but I didn't."

    There were a thousand things that went wrong. The type matchups, the totem's blasted ability to supercharge its solar blade and heal itself! An ally that proved to be a bigger pain than before! I should've expected that!

    My dad.

    Of course it was easy to blame his father's abrupt apologetic call last night to his failure. His thoughts hadn't stopped about him ever since and it could be an easy culprit to how his head wasn't in the game. It had let him and his Pokémon down.

    I need some time. Some time to think. Some time to vent. And maybe we need to give what I learned from this battle a long and hard look to see what mishaps we can avoid or counter. We can beat this, it's right there!

    "I want to do it again."

    Mallow gasped before adamantly shaking her head. "Elio, you can't."

    "I didn't ask Mallow. I want to give it another go."

    "There's no way you'll win," Kiawe pointed out. "All of your Pokémon are defeated or too injured to even think about continuing."

    "I'm not talking about right now." Sun said. "I'm talking maybe later. Look, I screwed up, no changing that. I wasn't really on the same mental page as I should be and there was a lot more to this totem than just a simple battle."

    "Bit off more than you could chew."

    He nodded. "And now I know what kind of meal this is going to be. I just need some time to unwind, figure out how to beat this thing and come back with a plan. It does me no good to charge right back into battle to do the exact same thing and expect a different outcome."

    Kiawe looked impressed at that. "Well said. That's something someone of the ka mālama would say."

    "I don't see why you can't come back and rechallenge that totem." Lana said with him nodding in agreement. "I'm free to bring the other ingredients later today."

    "And I'm sure I'll get off work in time to see you give it another go! We can't have Lillie cheering on a man all down like you are right now!"

    "Alright. Now I'm going to blow off some steam and formulate a plan. Rotom, call a charizard and let's go somewhere. Anywhere but here."

    "And I juzt happen to know a place! Bzzt!"

    Elio silently closed his eyes as the ride charizard continued on a steady glide that headed northeast of the Alola region. Unwillingly, he felt the sting of tears in his eyes, but made no move to try and hide or wipe them away.

    He had failed. The totem lurantis had proved to be far too powerful for him to take down and made short work of his entire party of six. Uncertainty led to confusion, confusion to panic and panic to being an easy win.

    The trainer knew better than to blame his own father for his failure. Yet the thought persisted in his mind, knowing the emotional talk of anger may or may not have clouded his mind and judgment in the battle.

    It's impossible to ignore. What the hell am I supposed to do? Go back and battle on the trial like nothing ever happened?

    Screw you Dad.

    He felt a slight change in the charizard's flight pattern and glanced back at the pager sitting on the front of the saddle. They were more than thirty miles northeast of Akala Island and approaching a few little dots on the map situated a ways out. Beneath him, he could make out small speckles of white foam of waves crashing down on the surface. Glancing out, he could see the ocean stretched for miles in every single direction save for directly ahead where the thin outlines of land were seen at the edge of the horizon.

    Elio closed his eyes and enjoyed the tranquility of it all. And it made him realize how small and far away Alola was from the rest of the world. Hau'oli City had been listed in a news article he read some years back as the most isolated settlement in the world, being more than two and a half thousand miles away from the closest city of a million inhabitants.

    And now we're going somewhere even further away from civilization. Where is this Poke Pelago place?

    As he approached the cluster of islands, he made out additional details and his eyes went wide.

    Poke Pelago was nothing short of stunning to say the least. The best way he could describe it was a loose paradise of sorts of deserted islands.

    Every island was different from one another. The closest one had a massive bright green stalk plant in the center and he could see small Pokémon playing around in the meadows beneath. All along its sides he could see a multitude of colors, but couldn't discern what exactly they were.

    The second island was more circular in shape, separated into equal size thirds. All along each of those sides were neat rows of planted berry trees with one side just beginning to sprout, another with blossoming white flowers and a third whose branches were laden with a bright red fruit. What caught his attention was at the island's center, a gray stone well that had been built and connecting all three segments of the island together.

    The third island was perhaps the most unusual. Instead of long fields of open ground, it sloped in a long length that led somewhere to the depths underneath, the submerged section expanding outward that made its visible size much larger than its neighbors. Elio glanced down, spotting a little crabrawler joining a pair of yungoos and a rockruff as it proudly hoisted up a dark flat stone as the others cheered.

    Elio saw the fourth island in a rough elongated crescent shape devoid of any plant life whatsoever. It had rocky linings on the shores and someone seemed to have lashed rope structures on the larger ones. At its center was a large wooden structure where he could see several more Pokémon playing about and parts of it looked carved out.

    The fifth and final island was a mixture of rocks and water that had pooled into lagoons and spilled over in the ocean to create cascading waterfalls in a dazzling display. He could see thin wisps of steam curling out from the pools and deduced that it was likely heated by something underground.

    Why in the world would you want to soak in a hot tub in this hot place anyway?

    Finally at the rough center of the island chain of Poke Pelago, he spotted a small hut that was floating on a wide raft on an extension of the third island from the rocks underwater.

    So the Poke Pelago is managed by someone? I'm guessing so since that well on the second island and stuff on the fourth didn't get there naturally.

    His musings were interrupted when the charizard had slowed its flight speed and made its final descent to the sandbar of the first island.

    Elio unclipped his harness and kicked off his shoes, letting his bare feet wiggle into the soft sand. At first, he made a face at the hotter than normal temperature, but gave a relieved sigh as another incoming wave washed over the smooth surface. The charizard didn't seem to like it however. It growled at Elio before nodding and flapping its wings to take back off and swiftly fly out of sight.

    "Thanks for the ride buddy." He got a roar in reply that was fainly heard over the crashing waves.

    So this is Poke Pelago. Sun thought to himself as he glanced around the island. The Pokémon closest to him were playing a rough game of tag as others climbed up the tall plant, eating the different colored objects that were growing on its sides.

    Wait, are those poke beans?! He squint his eyes against the sunlight hitting his eyes. Holy! They are! This is where all those beans from the café come from!

    "Wow neato! Bzzt!" Rotom said as he emerged from Elio's backpack and took a long look around. "Zo thiz iz Poke Pelago? Very nize! Bzzt! Alwayz wanted to go here!"

    "Wait you knew about this place?"

    "Only a little bit. Bzzt! Profezzor Kukui had an idea of zomething like this, but he was never sure! Bzzt! I'm juzt az confuzed az you are on how charizard knew where to go."

    "I remember Kiawe saying something about being able to come to this place after getting charizard to use on the ride pager. Maybe they just all know where it is, but nobody else does. I don't know."

    "Ask the author! Bzzt!"

    "What? Author?"

    Rotom raised a hand/fin in question. "No idea. Bzzt! But I am picking up an odd frequency on a radio broadcazt! Zignal iz very ztrong and originating from nearby!"

    "Radio? Who uses that anymore?"

    "How about the Goldenrod Telecommz Tower? Bzzt!"

    "Yeah, that's an obvious one."

    "Quite. In fact, the zignal seemz to be wanting to connect with my terminuz!" Rotom's eyes slid shut and his screen went blank as Elio heard a burst of static that fizzed out before sharpening again.

    Is that someone trying to talk to us?

    "Hello? Alola?" A man's voice asked through the speakers. He had a very down-to-earth, soft tone that instantly seemed to put Elio at ease a little, even though he was a total stranger.

    "Alola?"

    "Well Alola friend!" The man boomed from the other side. "Thanks for visiting Poke Pelago! A private utopic paradise for Pokémon! The only one of its kind!"

    "Wait, you made all of this?" Elio glanced around seeing all of the islands. "That's actually quite impressive."

    "Indeed I did! It was quite a fateful day that I decided to turn these few deserted islands into a resort for Pokémon! And the relaxation and playing around isn't just for them! It's always important for their trainers to enjoy themselves too! Stay for as long as you like and help yourself to everything Poke Pelago has to offer! Just remember to pay the deed forward and clean up once you are done."

    "Of course." Elio said. He had every intention of doing that from this stranger's kind show of hospitality. "So do you live here? And what are the islands!"

    "I do live here! And I'm glad you asked that!" The man replied and Sun could almost see him grinning from ear to ear wherever he spoke. "Poke Pelago consists of five different islands from finding good nourishment in the poke bean treats, growing berries, exploring, training and relaxing! There's something wonderful to do on every island, so if you ever feel the stress of your own life as a trainer clamping down on you and your Pokémon, this is the perfect place to unwind! Isle Abeens is the island you are standing on, which provides nutritious sustenance to the Pokémon residing here. To your left is Isle Alpenny, which I have myself and Pokémon tending to the gardens and fields for berries and beautiful plants. Isle Aphun, the big one is where Pokémon can go and explore. Isle Evelup is where a lot of trainer's Pokémon go. It's the perfect place to hone battle strategies! And lastly, Isle Avue is a naturally developing hot spring where Pokémon can take a leisurely rest!"

    And to think this is all hidden away on a bunch of private islands in the middle of the ocean!

    "That's amazing."

    "It sure is! So my friend, what brings you here to Poke Pelago? Someone on the mainland tell you about it? Need help with something?"

    "Well a combination of both." Elio started. "I don't even know where to begin."

    "Ah." The voice said in understanding. "Always do remember that it's important to stop and enjoy the small things in life. You sound as if you have a long face."

    If Sun were glancing at himself in a mirror, he would have exactly that.

    I guess thinking about the loss in battle and Dad has gotten to me enough that someone completely foreign can figure me out.

    "It's a long story."

    "Well I have time. You forget that people like to relax and do things at their own pace in Alola. And many problems that plague the minds of trainers can't be solved by themselves. That's when friends, family and Pokémon can provide the best kind of support."

    Elio sighed. He might as well spill it.

    "My father. He's not a good person. He beat and yelled at my mother before she finally divorced him back in Kanto. We've moved to Alola and haven't seen him since."

    "Ah."

    "And then he calls me last night, having the nerve…to think that apologizing and slapping a bandage is going to fix it all. I told him that if we wanted to not go back into bad terms, we'd never speak to each other again."

    The speaker was silent, which willed him to go on.

    "I took on the island challenge trial in the Lush Jungle. That totem lurantis ripped us apart. It must've known that I was out of sync and defeated us easily, even when I had four Pokémon with advantages to grass typing."

    "Hmm. You remind me of my own children. I have a son and a uh…a daughter! In fact, you are likely around their age."

    "What are their names?"

    "Unfortunately I don't remember that. I wish I did though."

    Elio chuckled, "What do I know huh? I'm just sitting here on a deserted island, talking to someone on a speaker in my talking Pokédex about my own life problems. Are you sure you're not a complaint hotline?"

    "Oh goodness no! At least I hope not! And you are about to see how very real I am!"

    What does he mean very real?

    Before Elio could question that thought any further, a loud roar pierced the tranquil sky and he glanced up. A large tan colored Pokémon with green wings and a cream colored belly landed gently in the sand a few meters away. It was reptilian in appearance, with a rounded snout, long muscular tail and clawed arms that glinted in the sun's reflection.

    The most notable thing about it was its massive size, towering over seven feet and easily large enough to carry more than one person upon its back while in flight.

    Sun's mouth fell open in recognition of the massive creature, feeling the weight of its gaze as it swept across the surf and looked squarely at him.

    That's a!

    "Thiz iz where I come in! Bzzt!" Rotom said, switching to a display. "Dragonite. Dragon Pokémon. This kindhearted Pokémon is often heard in stores where it rescues people and Pokémon from drowning. It has no trouble flying over the stormiest seas and is capable of circling the entire world in thirty-six hours without stopping. Dragonite is a dragon and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Elio was amazed. Dragon type Pokémon were said to be among the most powerful and had a reputation of being difficult to train even at their infant stages. They were also incredibly rare, so seeing one was a lucky find enough.

    On the dragonite's back were the leather straps of a saddle and its rider dismounted, reaching up to give the beast an affectionate pat on the snout.

    The rider was a man with a heavyset build with arms that looked as thick as tree trunks. His long hair was blond and despite the slightly worn appearance of his clothes; he was relatively well-groomed, sporting a five o'clock shadow of stubble on his chin and jaw.

    His eyes however were a familiar emerald green.

    I've seen those kind of eyes before! Just where?! I can't seem to figure it out.

    The first thing he did was give the new trainer an easygoing smile and raised his arms as if to present the entire chain of islands as a gift.

    "So what do you think?" His voice sounded identical to the one he had spoken to on the radio. "Pretty amazing isn't it?"

    "Pretty darn amazing. I'll say." Elio was rather more impressed that there was an actual face behind the voice he had spoken to for a while. "You the manager?"

    "Manager is a rather overrated title." The man chuckled, doubling over his wide girth. He gestured to the huge dragonite beside him. "Hakuja and I built the Poke Pelago to provide a paradise to all Pokémon who visit. All of this has been the effort of many trainers before and I hope to see it through with many after!"

    I see.

    "I'm sorry to hear that you have been having issues with your father. As one myself, it saddens me to see such strained relationships. From what I've heard from you, you are upset he wants to walk back in your life."

    Elio nodded. "Yeah. And he wants to think nothing ever happened? Sure and I can get any girl I want."

    "I believe you could. You would see much much more if you looked in another direction than just ahead. Same with the trial that gives you trouble."

    That is actually a good point.

    "There are things you can change and things you cannot. Your father being your father is something you cannot. What you can change is how you become you as a person. What's your name son?"

    "Elio sir." For some reason, he felt it proper to call him such formally.

    "Elio." The man smiled. "Wonderful name. You are the only person that can be you. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. It is important to know that and is something I find that people tend to forget."

    "Thank you sir."

    "Oh there's no need to thank me. I'm just the manager of Poke Pelago." The man said, giving off a subtle wink in the process. "It truly warms my heart to know that there's such kind trainers out there like yourself. I wish you could meet my children, wherever they might be. I'm sure you three would be excellent friends."

    "What happened to your kids?" Elio asked out of curiosity.

    "I don't know. I can't remember the last time I saw them or their mother. But I miss all dearly."

    "Well I'll try and see if I can find them for you if they're in Alola. What's your name?"

    "Oh it's-"

    "Hey! Bzzt!" Rotom conveniently interrupted their conversation with a buzzing ringtone coming from his speaker. "We've got a call from captain Mallow! Bzzt! Very well placed too I will add!"

    "Uh, put it through."

    "Elio?" Mallow glanced worriedly at him through the screen. "Is everything okay? You're not too upset?"

    "Nah. Just needed time to cool off that's all. What's up?"

    "Oh nothing. Kiawe and Lana agreed to come back tonight so we can stage another go for you. Is that okay?"

    "Yeah. I've got a plan in place, so second time's the charm!"

    "Great! I'll let them know. A hui hou koke iā ʻoe!"

    "I don't even know what that means!" That along with giggling was the last he heard from Mallow before she hung up.

    Sometimes when I think I understand this language, it throws me a curveball. For real?

    "So it seems that your hopena calls." The man said. "Are you in need of a ride back to Alola?"

    Elio shook his head and dug out his ride pager. "Nah, I'll just call for a charizard. Hopefully the wait time won't be for too long."

    "How about I cut it to zero? Hakuja can cut your trip time in less than half."

    "I wouldn't ask you to give me your dragonite sir. As awesome as that would be to own a dragon type."

    "Plenty of dragon types. Like I said, you'll see much more if you look elsewhere besides ahead. Funny that I've never heard anyone say that before, yet it sounds like it came straight from a film."

    The man didn't notice that Elio had stopped short and glanced back at what he had said, still attempting to process the wording.

    Wait…film…

    FILM!

    "Sir, mahalo for everything. I think I'll take you up on that ride to Hakuja. Is he going to be able to find his way back?"

    "Are you kidding?" He laughed again. "Hakuja would always find his way back even if I tried to get rid of him. We've been together since he was a tiny little dratini! He will have no problem navigating in the darkest of nights or the roughest of seas."

    "Good." Elio turned to Rotom with the look of a newfound confidence and spark of hope brimming in his veins. "Got the film from our totem battle?"

    "I zure do! Bzzt!"

    "Because we've got a short trip back, but a long study session and a lot to review."

    And a lot to review here! So Elio meets a mysterious yet familiar looking man on the Poke Pelago resort and zooms back to the Lush Jungle for his rematch! This time around, he knows what he's in for!

    Translations:

    • Ka mālama - The Keeper. This refers to a group of individuals who work with the island kahuna to preserve and uphold the traditions of Alola. A similar practice exists in Hawaii.
    • A hui hou koke iā ʻoe! - See you soon!
    • Hopena - Destiny

    As always, mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.

    Brav
     
  17. ShinigamiMiroku

    ...Jirachi?
    (Jirachi Egg)
    Level 22
    Joined:
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    ₽931.2
    Red Orb ★★★★★
    I kinda struggled with this trial as well (but then I don't use EXP. Share... :P), and I know dad-drama, so I'm not surprised Elio lost this round. Was really nice to see Mohn here to give Elio some much-needed encouragement; shows that you can be a father, even if for a moment, to even those outside of your bloodline/household. Didn't know he had a shiny Dragonite, though (nice touch, though, if that's original). ^_^

    I really hope you manage to wrap up that loose end that, sadly, Game Freak left unresolved (and is the one critique I would have of Sun/Moon) (my critiques of USUM are completely separate... :wry:).
     
    FireSpartan5 and BraviaryScout like this.
  18. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
    Level 40
    Joined:
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola again readers. I apologize for being a complete month late and absent from writing, but things happen.

    There's a good chance I might take yet another long hiatus just so that I can find a little bit of stability and time so that I can write ahead. While I've got to a point where it rejoins my original draft for the story...the place where it left off was Diary Entry 9 and Chapter 11, so 27 completely from scratch chapters have been squeezed in that were not part of this when first thought out. I'm pretty sure I told everyone this was supposed to be smaller snippets of the fluff between Elio and Lillie, but I realized that I was missing out on a ton of potential for character development and other different storylines.

    Yes, for example; in the original version of this story, Leilani didn't exist. Elaine was nameless and would've just been a background character and Calvera was also nameless and far different than what I have him down as. I'm definitely glad that there are many other authors who have influenced my idea to make this onto a full length novelization.

    Last time, we had Elio in a bit of a difficult spot after losing badly to Lurantis, but he's got a pep talk from a familiar, but unknown face and returned with a plan.

    Big thanks to @ShinigamiMiroku for the feedback. It's must appreciated man. And for the record, I've had it inquired on many places where I get feedback, but Mohn's Dragonite; Hakuja is not a shiny. Hakuja means "white serpent" in Japanese which is a nod to its baby form Dratini. Maybe I wasn't that descriptive when I introduced him, so sorry about the confusion.
    And do expect the Mohn situation to get resolved sooner or later.

    Getting sidetracked here, but this and the back-to-present chapter coming up right after rejoins the big gap I made in the original draft. Enjoy everyone.


    I admit that my own heart was racing in the thought of Elio having to rechallenge the totem Lurantis! It worried me that he would beat himself up over the loss, but from his letter, I could tell that he just needed some time to recuperate, think of a new plan and try at it again. You had the skills to save me and Nebby many times, so a totem like this shouldn't stand much of a chance!

    Dear Lillie,

    Yeah. It's not easy saying this…but I lost.

    Mallow thinks I bit off more than I could chew in her own words. I think I just needed to blow off some steam with all this crazy stuff going on right now.

    And of course my own father decides to make things ten thousand times worse by staying in my head during the entirety of the totem battle. I know it's childish to blame other things besides myself for losing, but my head just wasn't in the right place.

    I went to some of these islands off Alola a ways called Poke Pelago. It's actually really neat in that it is almost a haven for Pokémon to relax and get away from it all, kind of like how Alola's vacation lifestyle is to us! If you want, I'll take you sometime!

    Hoping for the best this time. I got a plan and we're going to execute it to win!

    I miss you.

    Sincerely,

    Elio

    The sun was at its zenith when Hakuja slowed and made its final descent down to the shores of Akala Island.

    Elio looked up from his mount, seeing the star as a brilliant orange orb that was bisected by the horizon of the ocean. The sky had done its beautiful display of multicolored hues, going from the orange to a pink and finally a violet purple furthest away from the sun. There were scattered clouds, allowing much of the evening distant stars to be visible.

    His thoughts drifted back to Lillie's most recent letter to him. How she and Professor Burnet were working to find Nebby's home and send it back. She had wanted to save it.

    Isn't it already safe? He thought to himself. Save it from what?

    She had been very secretive with no clear explanation on how or where the cosmog came from. The only clue they were going off of was somehow of its mysterious connection to the various ruins that were home to the tapu.

    Each of the four islands had one tapu deity that lived in the ruins somewhere and it was commonplace for people to discourage venturing into the ruins for trivial reasons. While the tapu were viewed as benevolent spirits and the protectors of their islands, angering them in any way was surely a terrifying curse. Tapu Koko in particular who resided on Melemele Island was known for its volatile, hair-trigger temper.

    Elio wasn't sure what to make of visiting the ruins to get answers. If anything, they'd just have more questions.

    He remembered the night that he had defeated kahuna Hala in his very first grand trial, nearly a month ago. After the battle where everyone was dispersing to their homes, Lillie had timidly approached him and asked for his help. Of course he obliged.

    Sun didn't do it before, but now if she had done the same thing with the two of them knowing one another for quite some time, he would've like nothing better than to hold her close in his arms.

    Thoughts like these made him realize that he was missing Lillie even more than he thought.

    Well keep your head up bro. Ed used to say that all the time to him. It'll happen eventually.

    And the sooner we finish this trial battle, the sooner I can go and see Lillie and Nebby again.

    Hakuja finally descended right towards the entrance of the Lush Jungle, setting down in in a gentle jolt that was barely felt. The dragonite growled softly as Elio unclipped himself from the safety harness and stood at the massive creature's side.

    "Thanks a lot for the ride back." He reached up to stroke its long snout. "Tell…uh."

    Damn it! I forgot to get his name!

    "Tell your trainer he's got a wonderful place and a wonderful Pokémon. I'd love to come back with some friends."

    The dragonite huffed, curving its mouth into what was loosely described as a smile before spreading his great wings and lifting off into the sky. He circled around once before disappearing over the horizon, going back the way he came.

    "Alright!" Rotom said excitedly as he floated out of Elio's backpack in front of him. "Time to shoot your hoopz and take thiz trial down! Bzzt!"

    "You bet we're doing it!" Sun made a fist in agreement. "The film is what might have saved our entire thing. Thanks for recording it all!"

    "You bet! Bzzt!"

    While he was riding on Hakuja returning for a scheduled rematch, he had used Rotom's versus recorder feature which allows access to a video film of their battles that it did while conducting a match. Although it had no further feature than just to capture footage, Elio was no stranger to reviewing film.

    Coach Noshimuri was one of the biggest sticklers in his life when it came to reviewing performances. Like all other teams in the high school basketball league, he had recorded footage of other team's plays and formations while in games. He often gathered the team before practice and lectured as if a teacher while analyzing every little detail of movements, coordination and even audible cues.

    Elio and Ed had spent hours every week with the rest of their players, honing their skills and learning their opposition through the film.

    And it wasn't just the other team they observed; Coach Noshimuri had multiple angles of their own performance. His nitpicking was blunt in short, but the criticism was necessary for them to continue improvements.

    One of his sayings was something Elio took to heart.

    Progress over perfection.

    Elio figured that many professional trainers in the Leagues did something similar.

    Best I can do is apply it to my own obstacles and see where to fix and what works well.

    Through the entire flight back, he noticed all the errors in both him and his Pokémon. Some were noticeable from the start, such as Grimer's constant minimizing. At first, the tactic seemed to work, however the totem had a literal aerial ace up its sleeve. Rotom had advised him that the attack was virtually unavoidable, which rendered the evasive boost by minimizing obsolete.

    However that was one of Grimer's main strengths, being primarily a defensive fighter. By making himself harder to hit meant that the chances of an opponent's attack going through were lessening every time it was used.

    That was only one of the things he needed to work on, but Elio also looked back at his opposition. At first, he didn't think much of the castform and trumbeak ally Pokémon that had been summoned to the totem's aid, but now it became clearer that the former was setting up support in weather aid. The stronger sunlight had supercharged Lurantis' solar blades that sounded like chainsaws. As soon as he brought out Torracat, the castform ally had shut off the sun and turned it into rain that effectively diminished his ability to use fire attacks to their full strength.

    If fire attacks are weakened in rain, that must mean they get empowered in the stronger sunlight.

    Perhaps we can use its own weather tactics against it.

    Mallow Lokelani emerged from the entrance of the Lush Jungle, slipping her phone back into her pocket. Sure enough, Kiawe had informed her that he was on his way again with the proper ingredients. Lana had already arrived, although she was grumbling that her twin younger sisters wouldn't stop leaving her alone when it came to a special trainer doing the trial. There was no doubt in her mind one of the questions the little ones had asked her friend was about the trainer's gender.

    She spotted Elio in a semicircle with the entirety of his Pokémon surrounding him as they looked at something on Rotom's screen. He was busy talking to Rufflet perched on his shoulder and pointing at the screen. Mallow was unable to hear exactly what he was saying, but figured he was coming up with a much better strategy to defeat her totem.

    The silence was broken as Rockruff wandered away from the pack. Elio had been distracted talking to Rufflet to notice his absence.

    Mallow watched as the small dog Pokémon stared back out at the setting sun before raising his head up and howling loudly. While it didn't have the hair-raising quality of its evolved form, changing pitches constantly as if a crackling voice, she could tell that it was similar to an adolescent. Rockruff was trying its best to prove itself.

    "Rockruff!" Elio snapped suddenly, turning around the moment he didn't see his Pokémon. "Get back here, we're not done yet!"

    Rockruff ignored him and continued howling out towards the ocean. The sun was sinking lower over the edge of the distant water with the orange glow in the sky fading and becoming overtaken by the hues of dark blue and purple.

    "What has gotten into you lately?" He stood and walked over, reaching out to touch his Pokémon.

    Sun got one big shock when Rockruff sensed his approach and whirled around, glaring at him through intensive blue eyes and teeth bared. His growl continued, slightly dipping and spiking in pitch as his long bushy white tail stood on end; a sure sign that he was threatening to attack.

    "Buddy?" His trainer was more concerned than anything, but he had heard of Pokémon attacking their own trainers out of their wild instinct. Fear was something Elio wasn't going to show, but at the same time, Rockruff was looking at him as if he was a potential threat or prey.

    Behind him, Nani was growing concerned as well. Her long scaly tail locked together in her signature sword iron tail and she moved to join them, determined to protect her trainer.

    Rockruff still refused to back down, now wildly looking back to Nani and then Elio. His body posture remained tense and the growls grew more guttural. A silver of saliva oozed from the side of his mouth onto the ground.

    "I think you need to sit this battle out."

    Through the aggressiveness, there was a hint of a sympathetic apology in the puppy's eyes. Almost as if this was being driven out of a more wild primal instinct that was controlling the Pokémon's will.

    Elio knew that Rockruff was a playful Pokémon who was fiercely loyal to him, but this was something most unusual for his behavior.

    Should I have him checked over? Is he sick or something?

    He sighed before pulling out his Poké Ball and recalling him back inside. Shaking his head, Sun dusted himself off before looking at the rest of his team.

    "I don't know what's gotten into him. Howling at the setting sun, growling at everyone. I honestly don't know…just maybe we'll see later on. Or I'll ask Professor Kukui, he might know since he has a rockruff too."

    Nani slithered quietly over to his side, lowering her head and gazing at him through her calm reddish eyes. Her expression was one of worry, similar to his own mother fussing over if he was hurt or not.

    "I'm fine." He smiled as she pressed her face against his in an act of affection. A rub on her side elicited a coo of happiness. "I'm fine." he repeated. "Thank you Nani."

    The rest of Elio's Pokémon perked up as they made their way back to where the planning was happening. Torracat was first, jumping down to nuzzle his leg while the others crowded nearby, happy to see their trainer once again.

    "Okay. So where were we?"

    It took Elio another ten minutes to outline a more careful strategy before he approached the entrance of the Lush Jungle again. By now the sun was entirely gone from the horizon, allowing night to take its grip on the sky. The moon was in its waning gibbous phase, shining a faint glow all along the ground.

    This meant that Elio would have to take his trial at night, something he and his Pokémon haven't done since Hala's grand trial. The only Pokémon he knew that had natural abilities to adeptly see in the dark were Charjabug and Torracat.

    He wondered if the totem would have difficulty too.

    Only one way to find out.

    "So you bit off more than you could chew huh?" Mallow slipped an arm around Elio and pulled him close to her side. She was still roughly a head taller than him and her shoulder made contact with the side of his face…which was a little warm. The young trainer's embarrassment did nothing to stop her from inwardly squealing in delight. After visiting Lillie from time to time while on errands in Heahea City, she could clearly tell why she had a crush on the young trainer.

    So getting him flustered was no difficult task whatsoever. And Mallow nearly squealed out loud just thinking about how perfect he and Lillie would look together. Maybe they'd be a little awkward at first, but then it would seamlessly work out. Or so she hoped.

    "Just remember that Lurantis is a tricky opponent and it's always got something up its sleeve. There isn't one thing that makes it strong, it's all a blend and combination of the flavors. Let's see if you can outdo it this time!"

    "I'm ready as ever." Elio said. "Bring it on!"

    "Still have your forage bag?"

    "I do." His enthusiasm dropped when she had asked that question.

    "Good! So I'll need you to get those four ingredients again; a mago berry, tiny mushroom, revival herb and miracle seed! Remember how to use stoutland?"

    "Wait a second, why the hell do I have to go and get those again?"

    "Because I had to clean up! We don't want bewear loitering around where so many people travel."

    "Bewear?"

    "Yeah." Her face turned to surprise. "You've never heard of bewear before?"

    "Like beware?"

    "Yes…beware bewear!"

    Elio shook his head. "You're getting me very confused."

    "You really don't want to know about bewear." The tone of Mallow's cheerfulness dropped slightly when she said that. "It has the reputation of being the most dangerous Pokémon in the alola region. Leaving food like that out in the open attracts them and they often return to spots where they find a lot of it."

    "Is that why there was a sign back there to limit food items?"

    Mallow nodded. "Bewear have some of the sharpest noses in the Alola region. They do live in some of the deeper areas of the Lush Jungle and the last thing we need is for them to come out into the zones that are more visited. They're a lot more threatening than you believe. Only a few types of Pokémon can regularly stand against them and even their trainers have to teach it a good amount of restraint."

    "We are getting off track here. Bzzt!" Rotom said from behind Elio's backpack. "Can we move thizzz along! Get the ingredientzzz already! Bzzt!"

    "Let's just listen to the talking cell phone already." His trainer threw his arms up in frustration. "I'm ready whenever."

    "Good enough for me." Both the trainer and trial captain didn't pay attention to the enraged device. "Let's get this show on the road! Allez cuisine!"

    "Did you really have to call me a cell phone back there? Bzzt!" Rotom angrily asked as he floated next to Elio. The pair were now egressing through the dense brush on a slightly smaller stoutland. He had to thank the Alola Transit Bureau for keeping ride Pokémon readily available at all times, likely in case of emergencies.

    "It worked right?"

    "I zuppoze zo."

    It did not take as long now that Elio had familiarized himself with the ingredients and their ideal locations. Unlike in the daytime where he had heard the backdrop cries of tropical birds and other creatures, the night had a different crowd of hissing bugs.

    Elio's backpack flashlight provided just enough illumination for the night vision feature on his ride gear to see properly. It was similar to a military style goggles with primarily black and green, but he was still able to distinctively tell different hues from one another.

    There was little Pokémon resistance on this trial go-around with only a single fomantis challenging him for the mago berry. He had sent out Torracat, who made short work of it from a couple of fire fangs. Due to Rockruff's erratic behavior, he had informed Mallow that the canine would not be participating in the trial, so he would attempt to do it with only five Pokémon.

    He hoped that Rockruff would forgive him for his decision, since he needed all of his assets on the top of their game and couldn't afford as many errors as he had committed when battling Lurantis the first time around.

    I already feel bad for keeping him out of this fight. But there's his attitude, which I should seek Professor Kukui's aid and a rock type isn't going to do good against grass.

    That left Nani as the only Pokémon he had that would have a disadvantage on paper against Lurantis. All four others were of the typing that checked and countered the type's many weaknesses.

    Thank goodness grass has a lot of those critical weaknesses. But all those status conditions and ability to gain support can actually make them a real threat!

    His thoughts were brought out when stoutland huffed and sniffed eagerly at the ground.

    "We're cloze to the tiny mushroom! Bzzt!"

    "Perfect." Elio patted the ride Pokémon's side and dismounted. A flick of his finger on the latch slid the helmet's visor back inside with a tiny hiss. Glancing down on the ground, he located one of the tiny mushrooms and yanked it free, stuffing it into his bag.

    Sun was just about to turn around and climb back on his ride when he heard an angry cry. He watched as one of the larger mushrooms was wiggling out of the ground.

    Another paras? His hand went right to Torracat's Poké Ball.

    The Pokémon finally freed itself from underneath the soil, waving the mushroom spore caps on its side slightly and emitting a bright flash.

    Elio found the sensation being akin to staring right into a flashing camera. That combined with the darkness of the night made it all the more brighter and he staggered back, slightly disoriented from the overload.

    When he blinked away the tears in his eyes, he saw that the Pokémon was quite different than paras.

    It was thin and stalklike, with three stubby roots that it appeared to walk on like legs. The mushroom that had stuck out from the ground were perched atop its bulbous head. It stared angrily at Elio through two black beady eyes.

    "Rotom?"

    "Of course! New Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Morelull. Illuminating Pokémon. As it drowses the day away, it nourishes itself by sucking nutrients from tree roots. When it awakens at the fall of night, it wanders off for a new place to sleep. Morelull is a grass and fairy type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "You're still going down all the same!" Elio tossed out Torracat again, readying his starter for battle. "Fire fang!"

    "Tor!" He lunged forward, mouth open and teeth bared with flames already infused inside.

    The morelull's mushroom caps began to glow again and it fired a flash of bright light. The move stunned Torracat just enough for it to shoot extensions of its roots onto his leg. Torracat cried out in pain as the absorb attack siphoned part of his energy. Thankfully the combined factors of absorb's power and the typings made it seem that the overall damage done was extremely low.

    Elio commanded an ember, but as his starter began to execute, he saw the morelull's caps begin to glow once again.

    "Close your eyes quick!" he shouted, hoping his Pokémon heard him. He placed an arm over his own eyes to shield them.

    Torracat did just that and not a split second later, morelull had used another flash attack. As soon as it subsided, he fired the readied ember that hit the small Pokémon in the center, slumping over on the ground with a good confirmation that it had been knocked out.

    "Good job buddy." He knelt down and ruffled Torracat's fur, earning him a purr of appreciation. "Let's get going. Only two more things to go."

    Interestingly enough, he had found the miracle seed without any hitches, even minus rockruff's digging and sniffing around. But it was the revival herb that gave him a lot of trouble.

    First off, he had completely forgotten the type of stalks they had grown out of and he didn't want to uproot any more things than he had to because it seemed as if every time he did, there was some Pokémon angry at him for disturbing their rest or whatever.

    It's like standing in the middle and you step on a mine regardless of where you go. Can't do nothing right.

    This was no problem in the daytime, what's so different other than the lack of visibility.

    "You zeem to be having difficulty finding a revival herb! Bzzt! Perhapz it iz a lack of visibility?"

    "Can you shut up for a moment? I'm trying to think."

    "Hard to think above all that buzzing though."

    Good point.

    Elio crouched low to the ground, careful not to scrape his head on the overhanging branches. He had learned that lesson last time thanks to a little laceration on the top left area just in front of his ear.

    Okay, so the revival herb has those leafy spindly stalks and they are rooted in the ground pretty good. I guess I can identify it by that.

    As he approached the herbs and some large mushrooms, one of them began to slowly move as it sensed the human nearby. Elio was too engrossed in locating his final item to notice.

    What he did notice was a squat little green and red bird sitting on the tree branch and staring back down at him. It peered at him through curious eyes and followed him as he moved along the jungle's floor.

    "New Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Natu. Little bird Pokémon. The look in its eyes give the impression that it's carefully observing you, If you approach it in the wild, Natu will hop away. Natu is a psychic and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Curious little guy aren't ya?" Elio smiled at it. The Natu's expression didn't change. "I'll try and catch it."

    "That zoundz like an awesome idea! Bzzt! But zince you are on a trial, you are unable to catch any Pokémon until it iz over! Bzzt!"

    Elio's face fell at realizing one of the trial's biggest rules. "What about if I catch it and Mallow holds onto it until I'm done?"

    "Then what? Bzzt! You already have zix Pokémon in your party! It would have to be sent to the PC or your mother'z houzze!"

    That's right I do have six Pokémon! How can I forget these things?

    "Bezidez, you already have a good flying type in Rufflet! What'z wrong with that? Bzzt!"

    "Good point." Elio looked back up to see that the natu had already vanished. "Guess I missed my opportunity either way."

    "Watch out! Bzzt!"

    The boy glanced over to see an even larger mushroom Pokémon than the morelull he had encountered earlier. It was smiliar in appearance, but the cap atop its head was almost as wide in diameter as a vileplume's petals. The body was thin as well and the long vine arms ended in three digit tendrils that seemed to act as arms.

    "Shiino!"

    "Oh crap, this one looks angry."

    "I'll zay! But first! New Pokémon detected! Shiinotic. Illuminating Pokémon. It is the evolved form of morelull. It emits flickering spores that can cause intensive drowsiness. When it fights against parasect for territory, the entire area gets completely coated with spores! Shiinotic is a grass and fairy type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Yeah I don't plan on napping in the forest no thank you." Elio said. He held up his hands. "I'm just gonna uh…take one of these herbs. Have to do my trial…do you know how that is?"

    "Shiino!" The shiinotic cried and flicked its arms aggressively.

    "Well fine, if you don't want to talk." He threw out Torracat's Poké Ball and the feline immediately sprinted forward with a flame charge, slamming into the bigger mushroom and knocking it over. The creature growled and hissed in response, extending its arms and sprouting green tendrils that twisted their way to Torracat's legs again. The fire type was ready, clamping down onto them with a fire fang that was enough to halt the mega drain attack.

    "Be careful! Bzzt! Shinnotic'z ability iz effect zpore, which can cause Torracat to be paralyzed, poizoned or put to zleep if he uzez another phyzzical attack!"

    "So we have to keep our distance?"

    "I think it would be bezt if you did."

    "Very well. Ember!"

    Torracat shot the tiny ball of fire from his bell that took a big chunk of the shiinotic's energy, however it was still standing. It raised its arms towards the moon and began to glow again.

    "It can heal itzelf! Be careful!"

    "Working on it." Elio ordered another ember as it was healing that splashed tiny glowing bits of fire across its body. Parts of the smoldering areas continued to linger, indicating that he had scored a burn.

    One more time.

    Torracat fired another one, blasting the shiinotic against the trunk of the tree and stood proudly victorious in front of the fainted Pokémon's limp form.

    "That's all said and done." Elio knelt down, examining the various plants in front of him. "Revival herb?"

    Oh come on! Not ONE of these is a revival herb!

    "And that's the story of why Christian won't speak to me again." Mallow was practically sobbing her eyes out. The sniffles turned into pained wails as Kiawe slowly stood up, walking over and gently putting his arms around the grass captain's slim form. Mallow's sobs continued as she leaned right into him, resting her head on his bare chest.

    The fire captain gave Lana a pleading look as she clung to his side firmly like a remoraid aide.

    She only directed at him a knowing smirk right back. "Oh no. I'm enjoying this far too much."

    "E hoʻokuʻu iāʻoe."

    "Elio's been gone for what, an hour?" Lana said, as she placed a hand on Mallow's shoulder. The captain continued to cry, although it seemed that the worst of it had subsided. "What's gotten into you lately? You're not this dramatic until we bust out the cocktails."

    "Virgin cocktails." Kiawe corrected. "Don't let kahuna Olivia hear you saying that. And how can you possibly be this dramatic over non-alcoholic drinks?"

    "She's not here right now."

    "But if she was…"

    "It's okay." Mallow eased herself out of Kiawe's arms before their embrace became anymore awkward. "I guess I'm still not over Christian."

    "Girl," Lana laughed lightly. "All that guy wanted to do was get into your pants. Plain and simple."

    "I'm eighteen! I can date, marry and all that whenever I want. Just one more year until I can drink too! You know, first comes love, then marriage and then the baby carriage."

    "That is true." Kiawe pointed out. "But with Christian, it probably would have been the other way around."

    "He was sooo handsome though. Those eyes…I could get lost in them and never find my way out." A happy sigh. "Guess I'm not over him just yet."

    "Why don't you just take our advice on finding a boyfriend? There's plenty of match dating sites that are user friendly and legit."

    Mallow made to reply, but all three captains stood up at attention as Elio emerged from the line of trees, madly brushing clear white spores from his body. The ride stoutland huffed and sneezed, poofing an enormous cloud that scattered them in the air.

    "What the hell?" Kiawe asked in disbelief.

    "You guys have any shiinotic and morelull come after you if you try and go after the revival herbs in their turf?" The boy took off his helmet, shaking even more out.

    Ugh, thank goodness this isn't dandruff. That's just disgusting even thinking about it.

    When he felt that he got the majority of the excess spores out of his gear and stoutland's fur after finely brushing it from his refresh kit, he thanked his ride with a few beans and sent it on its way.

    "All right." Elio tossed the bag at the mat by Mallow's feet. "Let's get cooking. I'd rather not do that again."

    "Uh…okay."

    "Wait a second." The boy looked up at her again. "Are you crying? I wasn't gone THAT long?"

    "You kind of were. More than an hour."

    "Whatever. We starting or what?"

    "Whenever you are ready! Allez cuisine!"

    Elio quickly sliced up the tiny mushroom into the rocky helmet again, pouring in some of the fresh water. With the light on his backpack shining on his work, he grabbed the thick club while adding the peeled mago berry. The end of the makeshift pestle easily smashed the ingredients inside, making a wet noise as the drier ingredients absorbed the little amount of water inside. He used the same technique as last time, cradling the helmet in his left arm and using his right to crush everything.

    "There you go!" Mallow encouraged, waving her arms for emphasis. "Keep on pounding!"

    I'd snicker because I'm just that immature.

    He aimed for the larger chunks, splitting the mago berry apart as the mixture began to thicken.

    "Grind it and turn it into goo!" Mallow added bits of the crushed revival herb and the oil from the miracle seed and the same pungent smell began to emit from the bowl.

    Elio continued mixing frantically, shaking his head to try and clear the aroma's overwhelming sensation.

    A rustling of plants stopped him suddenly and he turned around, half expecting to see the totem lurantis staring right back. All he saw was the dark abyss of the jungle growth from behind.

    Then where is it?

    At the same time, all three captains were looking around nervously as well. It was unexplainable, but all four humans could sense the presence of the totem nearby. If it was watching them, Elio must've gotten used to it.

    Or it was just incredibly sneaky.

    "ALERT! BZZT! Totem Pokémon approaching!" For some reason that same horrifying theme Rotom played whenever encountering a totem sounded ten times more dreadful. Elio guess that it was either from the fact that it was dark and he couldn't see anything, or he knew what he was up against as the nervousness bubbled up within his gut.

    A tiny wisp of dirt fell onto the trainer's shoulder.

    With a yelp of fright, he was forced to jump out of the way as the massive totem slammed into the ground with a ferocious screech that sent everyone's skin on edge. Automatically, the three captains moved aside as the totem strode to the bowl with a purpose, grabbing and devouring its contents greedily. No heed was paid towards the big mess it was making all over its mouth and Elio saw tiny droplets of the Mallow Special flicking out onto the ground.

    "Now that I've got your attention," He stepped forward, readying his first Pokémon. "I'm not afraid of you like last time. And I'm not losing either."

    Lurantis stopped at his words, throwing the bowl away carelessly and hissing in response. As it readied itself for battle, Elio saw a harsh orange aura began to coalesce around its body. The totem let out a challenging cry upon receiving the healthy energy boost.

    "Alert! The totem Pokémon'z aura hazzz fluctuated! Bzzt! Zcanz zhow that it'z zpeed ztat hazz received a zignificant boozt! Bzzt!"

    "It's not mattering at this point." Elio had Grimer up first. Although Rufflet was his leadoff Pokémon in a go-to situation like this, he was willing to mix things up a little. If the totem was surprised at the changed ord "Let's begin! Grimer!"

    As the sludge Pokémon materialized out of the Poké Ball, he spread his arms out to prepare himself for battle.

    "Start this off with brutal swing!"

    Lurantis was faster thanks to its increased speed. It readied a leafage attack that pelted Grimer's firm body, however he shrugged off the attack using his arms to stretch many times longer than their normal size to slam into the totem. The attack didn't do much damage altogether, merely staggering it back as it slammed its petal blades into the ground to steady itself.

    The totem wasn't finished. With a flick of its left arm, the same solar blade flashed to life. It cast a harsh orange glow in contrast to the night, illuminating its narrowed red eyes as it charged forward.

    Grimer responded with a commanded minimize, easily avoiding the swung sword. As Elio had expected, the lurantis shifted its own priorities into using an aerial ace. It would make his minimize effect completely ignored.

    "Grab it!"

    Grimer was quick about it as well, wrapping his big arms around Lurantis own arm firmly. It growled, trying to shake itself free from his tenacious grip. He bore his flat teeth and delivered a nasty poison fang that made the creature screech in pain. One leafage attack later managed to dislodge him.

    Keep up the pressure buddy. We got this.

    A quick disable had shut down Lurantis' solar blade and Grimer minimized yet again to avoid another barrage of leafage attacks. As the totem exploded forward for an aerial ace, he repeated the same action, lashing out with his arm and allowing the natural adhesiveness of his body clamp down.

    However, the totem was ready for this. While lunging forward in an aerial ace, it had been charging up its free arm with a second solar blade, finally bringing it into view at the same time.

    Grimer made a move with his own free hand, but the totem anticipated this, swinging the large dull amber glowing sword into his chest with enough force to knock him back. It followed that attack up by doing its flashy spin move with an outstretched leg that smacked him in the center and knocked him out of the fight.

    Elio knew that this wasn't exactly part of his plan, however he needed to think of his feet. There were occasions that many plans they had forged while in both battle and basketball games were thrown out of the proverbial window thanks to some wild variables. He was hoping that Grimer's increased evasiveness would help and allow him opportunities to poison it again.

    We'll have to think of something else.

    After returning Grimer to his ball and placing it on his left side, he decided to use Nani next. She uncoiled herself upon being released and stared back at the totem with hostility in her eyes.

    The lurantis spread its sickle petals wide and gave out its shrilly cry. It was only a few moments when the familiar white teardrop shaped castform took its place at its ally's side. The weather Pokémon wasted no time in firing an orange orb into the sky. Sunny Day's effect came into play immediately with a large glowing orb that simulated the intensive sunlight hanging just above the trees. Castform's own body glowed orange before it changed its appearance slightly with a similar colored body and clear appendages around the head. Elio knew from the past battle that its typing was fire as long as the sun was active.

    Upon receiving the boost to its power, the totem ignited its solar blades once again. Both of them blazed even more intensively now that they were being fueled by the sun energy and they made the buzzing, crackling sound while throwing off sparks.

    "You know what to do Nani." Elio said with confidence. The milotic nodded, locking her four fins together in her sword iron tail. She held it close while simultaneously coiled up and ready to strike.

    Lurantis made the first move, dashing forward, bringing them up high. Nani reacted just in time, striking her blade laterally to block it. Like fencers, the two broke the clash and struck again with Nani going on the defensive. Lurantis' strikes were fast and it used its own two swords to its advantage.

    Elio knew that while she would be able to hold her own for a time, Nani would eventually exhaust herself in trying to remain in the fight. He had to go on offense soon.

    She got a bit of a breakthrough when the totem swung high again from their left side using both its solar blades. While parrying both, Nani struggled again trying to hold it back while moving her head down slightly. A green orb formulated in front and she fired the dragon pulse at point blank range. The creature shrieked in surprise as the raw orb of energy collided and exploded three times, tossing it into the ground a good ways back. Elio saw it moving to get back up, so he had to capitalize on it quickly.

    That left the castform undefended and its eyes widened a little bit upon realizing its predicament.

    Water attacks are still no good under this sunlight. He's just going to keep the sun going if we ignore him.

    So we won't ignore him. Now's a good opportunity to take it down.

    "We're going to focus on the castform." Elio said. Nani gave him a quizzical look, but he shrugged it off. "Yeah it's not part of the plan! We're going with a new one! Dragon pulse it quick! Before the totem gets back!"

    Nani did just that, firing another green orb directly at the ally Pokémon.

    In an amazing display of strength and determination, the totem Lurantis jumped up, covering the distance between itself and its ally in mere moments. Solar blades activated, it plunged one firmly into the ground while standing in front of the castform. The second sword lashed out, striking the incoming attack and deflecting it upwards right into part of a large tree with a loud explosion. It was enough to startle something as Elio saw multiple flocks of pikipek and trumbeak seem to fly out of nowhere from within the branches to escape the rather violent commotion.

    They didn't even awake when we were battling earlier? Must be used to having these kinds of things in the jungle.

    I don't even know how you can sleep in here with all this damn noise anyway.

    "Go back on the defensive." Elio commanded. "We're going to get ourselves another shot. Give it a good iron tail if it decides to fall back!"

    I'm not letting you use synthesis to heal yourself this time around.

    Nani saw Lurantis hesitate and sprang into action. She swung her blade wide going for an uppercut which it deflected. The totem slashed in retaliation sliding its own weapon past. One of its solar blades managed to force her tail to the side and it used its second one to try and get a shot at her.

    "Quick, water pulse!"

    The attack had to be hastily fired and Elio knew that its power was going to be less than normal thanks to the harsh sun, but she shot it almost at a point blank range that burst right in the creature's face, stunning it. The totem stumbled around, shaking its head vigorously and swinging its petal blades dangerously close to both Nani and its castform ally.

    "Quick! It iz confuzzed! Bzzt!" Rotom said from beside Elio. "Take advantage of thiz opportunity! Bzzt!"

    Elio didn't have that opening just yet as Lurantis snapped briefly out of its confusion to swing again at Nani. As usual, she parried and locked blades with her adversary, but was struck by a white beam of light from the castform. She closed her eyes, enduring the pain from the super effective attack while still barely holding the angry totem back.

    Oh crap that's solarbeam! Elio thought to himself. Fine, want to play dirty, so can we!

    Castform made to shoot another one, but the overhanging sunlight began to rapidly fade away and put the entire battling area back to the dim bathing moonlight. The lack of the solar energy had canceled out its move, earning a growl of frustration while it reverted back to its standard gray form.

    It took a moment for Sun's eyes to readjust to the darkness again. Lurantis was still confused and shaking its head madly to clear its head, but he need to take the castform down before it snapped back out again.

    To keep its ally running at full strength, the castform refreshed the sunlight again.

    What it didn't see was the smile growing in Elio's face.

    "Just like we planned Nani."

    Lurantis was still confused and it ended up sweeping with its leg at one of the trees in a comical fashion. Elio almost laughed as the large trunk easily absorbed the powerful blow and knocked it back down.

    Nani knew the plan, with the totem Lurantis getting beaten by a tree, it left the castform defenseless again. She quickly gathered all the energy needed in her mouth and spat another perfectly aimed dragon pulse. The attack closed in as the castform realized it was once again in danger. There was no time to escape as the small Pokémon was seemingly engulfed inside before the sphere of volatile energy exploded, imploded and then exploding again two times.

    The castform tumbled onto the ground, clearly knocked out of the battle.

    Elio made a fist with his free hand in a silent victory pose. Now he could shift his entire focus on the totem itself.

    Lurantis seemed to be pretty angry that its weather changing ally had been taken down. It hissed while standing up and snapping out of its confusion before igniting its solar blades again and charging back into the fray.

    Nani kept her cool, forming her sword iron tail and blocking the first strike. The totem spun around, bringing its leg out in the sweeping motion again.

    Elio saw it happening in the blink of an eye and was in the middle of yelling at her to look out for the deceptively critical trick. She had still been felled by the surprise and had nearly no time to react before getting slashed by two successive solar blades. It was more than enough damage to defeat her in her already exhausted state.

    Elio sighed, pulling out her ball. Despite losing a second time, he was immensely proud of his Pokémon. She did her job and they had to switch plans on the fly, performing admirably well through those hitches.

    "Thank you Nani. Mahalo."

    Returning her and setting the Poké Ball on his left side, he looked back at the totem; not losing the smile plastered on his face. Unlike before, this one brimmed with confidence and a hint of eagerness to see how things would go.

    Three of my Pokémon remaining have effectiveness against grass types. It's over.

    "Go Torracat!" Elio tossed out his starter onto the field. As he faced the totem, the bell at his neck blazed with increased intensity. He wasn't sure whether it was knowing he faced a familiar opponent that defeated him or the harsh sun.

    Either way, his trainer was very grateful to see his first Pokémon very motivated to battle.

    Lurantis huffed before shrieking again and spreading its petal blades. Sun saw rustling movement from the dense brush as a reptilian Pokémon jumped out and took its place by Lurantis' side. It had gold colored trim along parts of its body and a jagged crimson stripe across its chest. Its movements were spasmodic from its hunkered posture to the curled tail on its posterior. Two black beady eyes stared at Torracat.

    "Woah, a kecleon!" Rotom exclaimed, hovering right in front of Elio. "New Pokémon detected! Kecleon. Color swap Pokémon. Its color changes for concealment and also when its mood or health changes. The darker the color, the healthier it is. Kecleon is a normal type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "I've heard of this Pokémon before." Elio said. "They're native to the warmer humid parts of Hoenn. Have some sort of ability that's unique to them." He straightened his cap. "That's not mattering though! Flame charge on the totem!"

    Boosted by the power of the sun overhead, Torracat's flame cloak charged even faster than normal and looked even stronger. Lurantis was in the middle of lunging when the fire cat dashed off at an insane pace. He ducked underneath a swinging blade, pushing with full force that sent the creature staggering back, eyes wide with the shocking display of immense power.

    The kecleon wasn't about to let him escape unpunished. Its arm powered up a shadow claw and he raked Torracat's face, allowing the totem enough time to recover.

    "Kecleon's a normal type!" Elio shouted at his starter. "We need to keep it up! Double kick and watch out for the totem again!"

    "Tor!" Lurantis spun around as if dancing before leaping up with both solar blades extended. Torracat was in mid lunge with its twin forelegs before one of the totem's attacks collided with his side and sent him crashing into the tree.

    "Be advizzed! Bzzt!" Rotom buzzed. "Kecleon'z special ability izzz color change! Bzzt! Every time it getzz ztruck with an attack, it changezzz to the correzzponding type! Bzzt!"

    Changes to the corresponding type it gets struck with? Maybe we can use that to our advantage. But this totem has to go. We can't have that much more to go.

    "Time to kick it up a notch. Flame charge again on the totem!"

    "Tor!" He built up his cloak of fire and charged straightforward. Kecleon jumped to its partner's defense with a fury swipes attack. Elio's starter was ready, planting just one foot down and using the brief pause to change its momentum and juking right past. Lurantis was next and it swung its swords in a futile effort to discourage its assailant. Torracat pushed hard as he slammed into the totem's legs, stunning it back even further. This time around, it had to use its blades to steady itself by planting them firmly into the ground to slow its knockback.

    Even though it showed clear signs of fatigue, Lurantis kept its lightning quick reflexes up, rushing forward and swinging from up high. Torracat was more than ready, dodging with equal speed and even surprising his trainer.

    Holy freaking crap he's fast!

    However Sun almost failed to see the familiarity in that move. It was the reason he had lost the last time.

    He was in the middle of shouting about the low sweep coming his way after the original solar blades were a feint. But it seemed that his Pokémon was anticipating that. Torracat landed on the ground jumping up again right after to avoid the wrenching attack before slamming two firm successive strikes with his forelegs in a perfect double kick. The action had propelled him away from the totem as it swung again and it launched a leafage attack the moment he was out of reach.

    "Alright let's finish this buddy!" Elio made a fist with his right and pointed with his left. Adrenaline signing wildly in his veins, he smelled blood and went right for the kill. "One more flame charge! Full power!"

    Landing on the side of another tree trunk, Torracat powered up in an instant and shot towards the recovering totem like a rocket. With an angry cry he had covered the distance in mere seconds.

    Elio formed a fist with a triumphant grin on his face.

    "Boom."

    A moment later, Torracat crashed into it with a loud explosion and a brilliant display of light. The concussive wave from the attack was immense and rippled at the boy's clothes while he had to cover his eyes and ears from the overloading of senses yet again. The giant Pokémon almost took a delay in reeling from the blow; however it wobbled on its legs with a woozy look in its red eyes. Slowly but surely, it stumbled once more before starting a long collapsing journey to the jungle ground and landed with a heavy thud that kicked up a good amount of dust in the vicinity.

    It wasn't getting up.

    Yes!

    Torracat made to celebrate, however a long pink tongue flashed out of the darkness and snared his paw. He growled angrily as the ally kecleon pulled him back.

    Oh crap, we still have to deal with its buddy.

    The two struggled with Torracat putting up a firm resistance, however he was unable to wrestle himself free. The kecleon had quite a bit of strength in its tongue, using it to actually move the fire cat off the ground and slam it down again.

    An idea popped right into Elio's head.

    "Bite the tongue!"

    Torracat did just that, baring his teeth and chomping right down on the closest part he could find. The lizard did not like this at all, screeching painfully and finally releasing him.

    "Now he's dark type. While it's down, double kick!"

    The kecleon wasn't about to go down without a fight and readied a shadow claw. It was a lost cause, as Torracat's increased speed was just too much for it. He slammed both forelegs one right after the other into its chest and sent the lizard flying back to crash into the body of its defeated totem ally.

    Elio had realized that he was holding his breath the moment after issuing that final command to defeat the kecleon and exhaled loudly before falling back onto the ground. His arms and legs had a slick layer of sweat building up and his stomach was doing gymnastics inside.

    But there was a rushing feeling of excitement. He had won! This trial was the most difficult one as of yet and he persisted right through it.

    Rotom was sharing the excitement, floating happily above his trainer and playing that familiar victory theme. Torracat saw Elio almost frozen and pushed him lightly.

    "Wha-Oh hey buddy! We won it!"

    "Tor!"

    "We did it! Hell to the yes!" He pumped both his fists before whooping loudly and shouting incoherently with the intent of nothing other than to just create noise with his victory.

    "That'z the zpirit! It'z a hard fought win trainer! Bzzt!"

    "Gimme some buddy!" Elio reached for Torracat's paw and the two exchanged high fives before going at it again and again. "Aww yiss brah!"

    Back at where the three trial captains were witnessing the battle, they couldn't help but laugh at his victory reaction. Kiawe in particular wasn't one to enjoy particularly flashy displays, but after seeing the persistence and the difficulty Elio had been experiencing, even he had to think it was well deserved.

    So the boy cracked a huge smile when he received a round of applause from all three trial captains. Lana put a pair of fingers to her mouth and whistled while Mallow fed both defeated participants a revival herb and quietly thanked them as they slipped back into the dense jungle growth.

    "That was amazing Elio!" Mallow was giddy and squealing with delight as she bounded back. "You were really able to draw out the flavor of your Pokémon in that battle! That totem bowed right down to you!"

    "Second time's the charm!" Elio was just as excited to see what kind of rewards he would be getting for completing this trial.

    "Yes." Kiawe added. "Even back at the Mauna Wela Volcano Park, my vaunted salazzle didn't stand much of a chance. Should've seen this coming though."

    "Nor did the wishiwashi that I had trained so diligently and carefully." Lana added. "And this one was a bit tough for you the first time!"

    "Just like any good chef, they must change their preparation and ingredients if a dish is to be improved! And improve you did! I saw you being a lot more resourceful that battle," Mallow said. "And the finishing garnishes were impeccable to say the least! Now you've cleared all three of Akala's trials! You even managed to get through my trial and I'd say it's a real doozy! The Grassium Z is yours to wield now!"

    She reached into her bag and pulled out a similarly shaped crystal. Unlike the other Z-crystals he had in his own bag, this one was a dark emerald shade that seemed to take on a brighter hue when it was looked at through the moonlight above. There was a pattern of a leaf in its very center.

    "Grassium Z! Acquired!" The boy crouched low to the ground, kneeling down and holding the gem close to himself, spinning around in a circle and thrusting it up in the air, striking his signature celebration pose; right hand in a victory fist and left hand with the crystal. "Yes! Trial is complete!"

    The captains chuckled again before Mallow cleared her throat. "Now let me show you how to use the grass type Z-move? You go like GRASSSSSS! K?"

    "Wait what?"

    She didn't bother to answer his question but instead formed the "X" pose with her arms before stretching them out and crouching low to the ground. Mallow sprang up holding her hands in front before raising them up into the sky.

    Elio saw the familiarity in the pose as well. Almost like a seed sprouting out of the ground or a flower blooming.

    "Since you've cleared my trial Elio, I want you to help me train some Pokémon from the Lush Jungle. You now have permission to catch as many as you like from here! In fact, I have some nest balls, they're quite adept at catching weaker and developing Pokémon!"

    "Sweet." Elio pocketed the offering and accepted the green petal. Four down, the white, blue, red and now green. Three to go.

    His mind was already a couple of steps ahead since now this meant he could challenge the kahuna of Akala Island, Olivia to a battle and finish his grand trial.

    Mallow's eyes widened as she glanced down at the bowl. There was quite a bit of the Mallow Special sitting at the bottom and to his amazement, had yet to dry out from being in the open air for so long. "Oh, it looks like Lurantis didn't finish all the food. Ooh, I really want you all to try some. Have a bite Kiawe, Lana you too."

    "Uh," Both the fire and water captains shared an apprehensive glance. Kiawe was the first, shrugging indifferently. "If you insist."

    Lana said nothing as both of them stuck two fingers at the edge of the bowl, scooping out a mouthful that dribbled down their palms.

    Both Mallow and Elio watched eagerly as they licked the green paste.

    "Oh man you can definitely taste that rare bone." Lana nodded and smiled, slipping her eyes shut.

    "Wow this actually tastes good for once." Kiawe added, ignoring Mallow's pouting face while he said that. "Maybe it was wrong for me to mistrust you. This is so good you might just melt."

    At the same time, both the captains' expressions turned from a blissful one to something a little more horrifying.

    "No wait. Is that my tongue that's melting?"

    "Uhhh!" Lana was the first to cry out as she kneeled on the ground. Elio felt a little nervous when he saw that her face was glistening with perspiration that seemed to come right out of nowhere.

    "Mallow, it's….so…"

    "SPICY! Ahh! Oh my gosh!" They screamed and sprinted from the spot back to the entrance of the jungle, disappearing around the bend. Both Elio and Mallow could still hear their agonized cries as they desperately searched for something to relieve their burning mouths.

    Was Kiawe crying?

    "What? What in the world is wrong with you guys? Don't you have any taste? What about you Elio? Try some. It's delicious."

    The boy was a little frozen in his tracks as Torracat seemed to snap him out by nudging his leg.

    "Uh I'm fine. I just ate."

    It was at that moment, his lie had been exposed in the form of a growling belly. He hadn't eaten since breakfast in the morning and that alone was just very little after still trying to get over the fact that his asshole of a father calling last night.

    Screw you stomach.

    "Oh come on! A battle like that always works up an appetite!" Mallow held the bowl out as he shook his head adamantly.

    I'd rather keep my taste buds. As well as not have my ass on fire next time I go bathroom.

    "Woo!" Elio heard a familiar voice and saw the white lab coat of Professor Kukui walking up to them from the site's entrance. "What's that sweet smell I smell, drifting like a whirlwind my way?! Could that be a tasty Mallow Special? I saw Lana and Kiawe running out with their agility! Maybe it was just so good they couldn't contain their excitement to go and selfdestruct! Everything okay?"

    "Oh Professor Kukui!" Mallow held up the bowl. "Elio here just finished my trial and I was wondering if he'd like a late night snack."

    "Well count me in! I hope there's enough."

    "Plenty to go around!" Mallow stuck her finger in the bowl and licked it off, closing her eyes to savor the taste. "Yummy! It's just missing something though."

    "Hmm." Kukui laughed as she lightly burped before helping himself. "Haban chili powder maybe?"

    "That's it!"

    It's already spicy enough! Why in the world would you want to make it even worse?!

    "I've seen Kiawe conquer the Blast Burn at Ke Komo's Curry House. How was this different?"

    "I'm uh, gonna get going." Elio said. "You have fun losing all your taste buds with that."

    "Before you do dash off with your quick attack!" Kukui stopped him. "I have a gift for you! I have a TM that contains smart strike! It will never miss! Guess I should also give you a big ho'omaikaian'a on clearing all three trials on Akala Island! And it looks like it's time for you to take on kahuna Olivia's grand trial! Olivia's an expert rock-type user, so it may be smart to catch some grass types here in Lush Jungle! Woo! Now there's a facility yeah, that I want you to check out if you have time later today while on your island challenge and before you head off. The Dimensional Research Lab! Let's get on over there with extremespeed!"

    "Isn't it kind of late Professor? Not that it's uninteresting or whatnot, but I'm kind of tired and there's a lot of crazy stuff going on in my life right now."

    "Oh gotcha." Kukui looked over at Mallow as the corners of his mouth curled up in a smirk. "Then I'll just have to tell a certain blonde you're too tired to go over there."

    Neither of them heard a response, so they both glanced up.

    Elio already had his ride gear halfway on while simultaneously tapping buttons on the pager to reserve a ride charizard.

    The trial is done! It actually took my two attempts at Lurantis to finally bring it down. While it was one of my less favorite battles, I did enjoy it for its challenge, even though I know many others would rather see it beheaded.

    Next chapter finds us back to the present.

    Translations:

    • E hoʻokuʻu iāʻoe - Screw you
    • Ho'omaikaian'a - Congratulations

    As always everyone, mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.

    Brav
     
  19. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Dauntless
    (Rufflet)
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    All right! Alola readers again! We're back for the second present-day intermittent chapter. Like the previous one, it's going to be significantly shorter than the regular diary entries, in which we will get back to next time!

    Lots of setups here and hints at what's to come! As always, enjoy everyone.


    Lillie found herself at peace.

    The room she laid in was dark with a faint rhythmic sound of water lapping against a structure in the background. The air was pleasantly cool, just the way she liked it. She was in a bed that had simple, but cozy décor from a flat screen television to a lamp that sat on the top of a nightstand on either side.

    Blankets draped over her body and she sensed another presence.

    Normally she would've been alarmed if it was anyone other than her family. When she was a little girl, Lillie had her moments of nightmares and frights, begging her parents or brother to lie down with her or within sight.

    Gladion wasn't too keen on having his little sister jump into his bed, so she instead went to her parents'. They were more than happy to have her climb and sleep in between them throughout the night.

    Those were the nights where she felt as safe as she could possibly be.

    None of her family were here with her now…so why did she feel that same safe and secure sensation?

    Lillie now discovered that the other person had their arms wrapped around her stomach, comfortably spooning her as he continued to slumber. She still found herself flustered at the sight of Elio without a shirt on, but couldn't help admiring his lean, lithe frame.

    His eyes and mouth remained shut with his own breathing at a steady pace, synched perfectly to the rising and falling of his bare chest.

    Lillie stared at him, amazed at how well he could sleep with everything that had happened in the past couple of days. He snoozed on as if there was no other worry.

    "E-Elio." She whispered.

    He didn't move. Almost as if he couldn't hear her at all.

    "Y-you didn't have to do this. You didn't have to come with me to help my mother. I know you didn't want to."

    Tears began to pool in her eyes. Amongst the entirety of the chaos, the fighting and the fear of not only her and Nebby's safety, but his as well. Gladion and Hau were right with him in the thick of it, but she had seen firsthand of the pain he had gone through in trusting her.

    She had abused his trust and he made sure she knew it.

    "But thank you. Thank you so much for coming to stand by me. Thank you for being the only one I can count on, even when it seems like everyone else has turned their back to us."

    She took a deep breath. "I know there is still a lot for us to do in bringing back Mother. I can't do it alone…I don't want to do it alone. I need you. I know we can do anything if we face it together. We've always done it. I need you."

    In truth, she didn't need him. Elio always reminded her that she did have the skill and capability to do everything he did. She just needed to see it in herself.

    But for some reason, she didn't want to do it alone. She needed him.

    "I want to need you."

    Lillie looked at Elio's sleeping form again before putting a hand on the back of his head. She brought herself closer and closer.

    All until their foreheads and noses made gentle contact with one another. She felt the cool air from his exhales breeze across her skin, lightly tickling it.

    Another inch forward and she'd be kissing him. And she wanted to so badly.

    "When this is over Elio…I promise I'll tell my mother how I feel…and you too."

    Stupid.

    Stupid. Stupid. Gah!

    Lillie rubbed her temples, clenching her teeth as she sat up in the bed. It felt strangely empty now that he was no longer beside her, unknowingly wrapping his arms around the girl's waist.

    How can I be so stupid?!

    She had been on the ship for five days now with them set to dock in Vermillion City in Kanto by tomorrow evening. Their accommodations were luxurious enough to make their journey comfortable, however she was more than ready to be back on solid ground. It was a good thing she didn't get seasick easily.

    Her thoughts continued to drift back to Elio and what he said to her. At first, her thought was to give him a place in Kanto to return and stay with her. Under any other circumstances, he would've agreed.

    And then he became the champion with an obligation to stay in the region, throwing that entire plan out the window.

    Translating his small phrase through the database she couldn't believe it.

    He was in love with her. And she never upheld that promise.

    I never got to say I loved him back. And I'll probably never see him again.

    She still wondered how he was doing or if he would call and profess his love. With everything going on at once, it was so confusing on how such a powerful emotion had to have the biggest effects. Elio had provided a sense of direction in her life from single-handedly rescuing her mother from her ultra beast obsession to finally giving her the confidence and openness to finally become a trainer of her own. He had told her numerous times that she had the ability to do everything he did. She just had to see it in herself…for herself.

    I just want him here! I want to tell Elio how I feel!

    A fresh wave of tears made their way down her face, falling off her cheeks onto the floor. It completely crushed her to know how he felt and her reaction. Would he hate her for leaving so abruptly?

    "I'm so sorry Elio." Lillie whispered to herself, putting her face in her hands while seated at the desk in her cabin. "I love you too."

    Lillie had fallen into a routine while staying on the ship. The passenger liner wasn't exactly like some of those mega-ships she had seen in movies and documentaries where they were the equivalent height of a tall city building. Those monstrous machines dwarfed some of the already large freighter ships that occasionally visited the Paradise. She remembered her and Gladion running to the top floor of their mansion whenever one of the huge vessels visited. It would pass by leaving both kids starting in awe at its gargantuan size.

    Then she had seen the even bigger ships, but sadly Alola was not a place where many of the big cruise liners were coming. She'd have to settle for something else.

    There were many other people here. Some needed to get from Alola to Kanto because they didn't want to fly. Others were here for business, using up the many office spaces for meetings. Even a charter group was using some of the rooms, participating in the many activities that were posted on the billboards in various areas.

    Dining options were decent, where she could go and grab a bite to eat at simple cafes or at elaborate restaurants with multiple courses in a meal. Even with her mother's deep pockets and free to spend it on whichever she chose, Lillie opted to just go for whatever she had the strength or heart to eat. Most of it was casual takeout.

    I miss all the home cooking that Burnet and Kukui used to do. Same with Elio's mother.

    She woke up in the morning, spending a half hour to jog two laps around the ship's entire upper deck, following along a makeshift track was paved along its perimeter. Jogging in the morning was the perfect time to clear her head and just think about what was going to happen on the road that lay before her. From what she had seen with Elio and Hau, going on a journey through Kanto was going to involve a lot of feet. While she knew that it wouldn't condition her to the feat overnight, it would be less of a drag when the real thing came along.

    I guess Elio's morning run has gotten to me. She smiled to herself. I wouldn't be surprised if I find myself in the basketball court trying to shoot.

    After her morning run was over, she'd grab a quick breakfast and head back to her stateroom where her mother was lying in bed. Lusamine had drifted in and out of consciousness, barely staying awake to eat and use the bathroom before struggling back to the bed in order to rest some more. Lillie could tell that it frustrated her to no end in that she couldn't do anything to help herself. She was simply too fatigued and tired to do anything els