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  1. ShinigamiMiroku

    Sorceress' Knight
    (Ralts ♂)
    Level 3
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2017
    Posts:
    2,008
    PokéPoints:
    ₽2,499.8
    Red Orb ★★★★★
    That 62,535 reference looks really familiar; I feel like it has to do with hexadecimal code or something... Also, nice connection to Team Galactic; I like that their front is a technology corporation, as it is consistent with their sci-fi design and aspirations regarding creating 'a new world'. It'll be interesting to see how exactly Wicke knows Cal...

    I had wondered if you were going to have Elio notice Lusamine's reaction to Hau mentioning Lillie; that was something I noticed when I was playing through Sun, and (outside of realizing that this area was the place where Cosmog had teleported itself and Lillie out of at the beginning and that the people chasing her were the same people working here) was my first clue that there was far more going on here than originally met the eye.

    Out of curiosity, does Hawaii have trouble with sea cucumbers, or is the whole 'Pyukumuku-chucking' bit just a Pokémon-world thing for the sake of humor?
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    Rezna likes this.
  2. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Bravo
    (Braviary)
    Level 62
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Posts:
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    PokéPoints:
    ₽2,269.9
    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Well Alola readers! Brav is here with the next chapter! Was out of town briefly last weekend and I had originally hoped to get it out before I left. Alas...it turned out to require a lot more editing and tuning at the beginning of this week when I got back home to finish it off. They were some pretty big details I skipped through so it was definitely a good thing I went back to cram them in.
    And yes, I mean cram. At a base word count of almost 14k words, this is the longest chapter yet and if I had some more time, I probably could've extended it even more.
    All that aside, it's back to the usual normalcy for me. Here to write some more chapters, including this thriller.

    Big thanks to both @Majora's Incarnate and @ShinigamiMiroku for the feedback. It will be interesting for sure when it's shown how Wicke knows Cal.
    Sea cucumbers aren't invasive and unlike pyukumuku they can't survive for very long outside water. However they do have sharp spines on their back and dried up ones can often be stepped on if one's not careful.

    Enjoy the chapter everyone. I'll see you all for the closing AN at the end.


    The thing I feared most has happened.

    Mother has opened an Ultra Wormhole.

    I thought it would've been somewhere over the Alola region, but the news spread quickly that some strange effects were over the Aether Paradise. Reporters from the News Network of Alola were already going on a helicopter to head over to cover the event.

    I hope Elio and Hau are safe.

    "WARNING! AN ANOMALY HAS BEEN DETECTED ON THE Pokémon CONSERVATION FLOOR! LOCKDOWN PROTOCOLS ARE TO BE ENGAGED AND REMAIN IN EFFECT UNTIL CONTAINMENT LEVELS HAVE BEEN RESTORED TO CONDITION GREEN!"

    A warning klaxon blared from somewhere above, startling everyone. Employees began to escort the Pokémon still in the open to shelter as Lusamine's hand went to her ear already demanding a status report from someone on the other end.

    Elio gingerly picked himself up, wobbling on shaky knees as he tried to find his sense of balance. Nausea briefly threatened to send bile up his esophagus as his mind processed the odd sensation of vertigo.

    Hau! Is Hau okay?

    He heard the kahuna's grandson groan somewhere off to his left.

    "Hau!"

    "Sun?" He looked back, seeing the other boy blink his eyes and staying on his hands and knees. "What was that?"

    He stayed low, just in case another tremor were to abruptly happen to avoid losing balance and crossed over to his friend's side.

    "Are you okay?"

    "Yeah. I think so." As Hau looked back at Elio, he could see a gash right at the edge of his lower mandible that was trickling dark crimson blood down the side of his neck.

    "Hau, you're bleeding."

    He must've felt it too as he reached a hand up, looking at it stained on his fingers. Droplets had already soaked into the collar of his shirt.

    "Well that sucks." As much as the two of them wanted to laugh it off, they knew something more serious was about to happen. Lusamine was being helped to her feet by Wicke, her fingers still up to an earpiece concealed by her straightened locks of blonde hair.

    "Yes?" Her voice was laced with concern. "What happened?"

    She remained silent as Wicke looked around beside her, whispering softly. "That tremor. Did something happen on the lower floors?"

    "No," Lusamine responded almost immediately. "All of the labs and sub-levels have been unaffected. No damage reported by our researchers."

    "Then what was it?" Sun asked, his hand going to the poke balls on his belt. He had a feeling he was going to need them. "It felt like an earthquake."

    "Uh guys? What's what?" Hau's normally jovial voice was changed to one of worry as he stared up at something glowing in the air above them. It brought them out of their own musings.

    Everyone else turned, eyes widening in fright.

    "What the-?" Sun began.

    He really didn't have many words to describe it. Appearing about ten feet off the ground in the very center of the walkway was this…rift. The distortion looked as if the air itself had been torn apart by brute force and it's radiant white glow brightened the night enough that everyone in the area had to shield their eyes from its harshness. A strange energy seemed to flow out of the rift, thinning out into the edges before a sudden explosion of more light caused everyone in the room to flinch. This portal seemed to puncture a distortion gateway between worlds, torn apart messily but the symmetrical energy and fading lines made it seem as if it had been done perfectly with surgical precision.

    "Since when doezzzz a random portal appear in the middle of the night? Bzzt!" Rotom said. It bobbed closer, but stayed nearby in case anything happened. "No data! Thizzz iz zomething beyond my procezzez! Bzzt! Perhapzz we should call Chell?"

    Chell?

    Movement from the breach caught his eye as this…this…thing emerged from the center, rising up in the air with a slickness like oil over water before settling down just above the floor right in front of them.

    The creature wasn't particularly tall, maybe a tad larger than him and Hau. Resembling a white and blue tentacool, it had long white tendrils around its back in a sort of veil while four larger ones close to the front waved erratically as if they were arms. Two of them were a little longer at the back of its "skirt" that looked like legs. There was a thin rim that was blue on the end on its upper body.

    Elio stared as it lifelessly seemed to drift with invisible air currents, with the skirtlike appendage waving lazily. The frilly rim that circumcised its bulbous cap seemed to flutter.

    He barely heard it, but the sound the creature made sent a fresh wave of chills right up his spine. It almost resembled…giggling. Like a young child's.

    Okay, that's really freaky.

    For the longest time but actually lapsing a few seconds, nobody moved or dared to speak at the otherworldly presence.

    "Did…did you come…from another world?" Elio vaguely heard Lusamine murmur from behind him. Either way, his own brain was telling him to treat this newcomer with caution. As in presumably hostile.

    His hand went right to his belt of poke balls. I hope that jamming signal Faba mentioned doesn't apply to trainer owned Pokémon.

    What the hell is she supposed to say anyway? We come in peace?

    The creature's response was a loud shriek that sounded definitely alien and was almost felt more than heard. It pierced the air, sending adrenaline all over Sun's body and his hands instantly seized upward to his ears. For some reason, it almost felt like it acted like a distorted young girl.

    "Miss Lusamine stand back!" Hau cried from behind him. "There's something not right about that thing!"

    She shook her head as if to dismiss his concern, "No…you poor creature. Suffering needlessly. I can offer amnesty…I can keep you safe."

    The thing waved to and fro before it leaned back and charged up an attack of some sort. Energy was being gathered at the empty space in between its open cavity, held by the "arms" together.

    It fired the blast of energy, a long stream of deadly looking energy. The trajectory seemed to go right for the Aether President, who was in awe or dumbfounded to comprehend what was going on.

    Elio was the first to react, pushing Lusamine out of its way and flattening himself against the ground as he felt a rush of air rip at his clothes when the blast arced overhead. He already knew that Hau and Wicke were farther away from the two of them.

    The beam of white energy struck the floor before it suddenly exploded outward in a rush of air. Blasted again by another force, Elio was knocked off his feet, catapulted right through the air and landing on the ground rather harshly.

    Pain flared through his knees and elbows after the awkward landing, Sun felt like he was tumbled through a dryer over and over, but his own panic came right after he spotted the other three at the end of the wider section and he was close to the middle.

    Right where the creature was dwelling.

    It descended lazily at a slow pace like it was taking him in lying before it.

    The long tendrils stretched out, flaying down its center just before they touched his arm. Although fear kept its icy grip on his body, his brain refused to issue the commands to let him move.

    Get away from that thing!

    Everything else suddenly warped into background noise; the wailing alarms, Hau's own cry of concern and Wicke speaking rapidly into her own earpiece to demand assistance to their location.

    Elio felt the tendril touch the top of his shoulder, smoothing past the cotton on his shirt and onto his bare skin.

    His eyes went wide as he felt the creature for the first time…or rather didn't. This strange…numbing sensation rippled throughout the limb, cutting off every other feeling like liquid ice slowly poured onto his arm.

    The tendril continued slithering gently on his skin, swaying back and forth in a strange caressing manner. Elio finally felt something; rubbery with tiny little motions that felt as if it were covered in tiny scuttling bug Pokémon crawling right down his arm.

    While he was never seriously afraid of spiders, his fear spiked and shivered to his very core. This strange creature behaved nothing like even the more enigmatic species of Pokémon found. It saw everyone and everything as a threat to its very existence.

    He'd seen his share of alien invasion movies and television shows where extraterrestrial beings invaded the world…the genre was known as xeno-invasion and using almost every idea under the sun from a global war against a technologically superior race had humanity fighting for its survival to a strikingly similar one to his own predicament in that aliens abduct humans in a virulent plague, transforming them into mindless drones and slaves to their conquest of the universe. Due to the endless possibilities, it made for some successful media…and some weird stuff.

    If Sun had to gleam anything from a piece of media involving an alien, trying to latch on and assimilate him meant one thing.

    He had something it wanted. Or he was something it wanted.

    You're not going to take it from me.

    "Aaaah!" Elio screamed, his face a mix of horrified and angered. It was the only thing his mind could think of through the blank haze this creature put upon him. "Someone help! Please!"

    And then he felt another small tap as one of its smaller tendrils felt along the base of his neck, zeroing in on the lump that was part of his spinal cord. He could feel that similar cold numb feeling spreading down from the center like a ripple, only this time moving at a faster pace. As he tried to think on more aggressive thoughts, another droplet of the icy sensation was released into his spine.

    Gradually, those thoughts began to erase themselves from his brain…but they weren't from his own will.

    It hurts to think. I can't. Just do anything. Think about anything except for this.

    So he turned his mind to the one person he always felt calm and happy about.

    The first thing that he thought about was the little beach and snorkeling trip he had spent with Lillie. She had been so shy and modest, even after the two of them drifting closer together.

    It was truly the first time he had seen her like that; excited, bubbly and just plain happy. Her smile brightened any area they were in together, right in the middle of the recent heat wave. He watched as her long blonde hair waved up while underwater as she dove down, spreading her legs and arms apart to stroke and kick towards the depths.

    Sun remembered when she did so in front of him, giving him an excellent view of a well rounded pair of cheeks. Somehow they were then together alone on a beach with nobody else around. He had sat up wearing nothing except for his swim trunks.

    Movement caught his eye and he could only stare as Lillie emerged from the surf, swaying her golden hair back and forth as she approached him brazenly.

    What?

    His own gaze drifted to her curvy hips and loins before admiring her pale shapely legs that glistened from the water clinging to her thighs. She was doing little to hide her eye-catching breasts too. The modest part of him wanted to look away, but it felt as if this alien entity was forcing him through this.

    She curled a seductive finger once she got to his side before finally getting on her knees and straddling his waist. His hands went to her backside, pulling her closer while he aimed his mouth right towards those full lips.

    "Aaaaah!" The liquid sensation returned, but this time resorted to a fiery burn as if lactic acid wrenched his muscles down to their joints.

    His vision blurred and he thought he made out Hau throwing something.

    And then without warning, the tendrils in the back of his neck severed and he lurched forward. He blinked, quickly finding that his sight was cleared again.

    "Ah!" He panicked yet again, squirming around in a futile attempt to wrest free of the creature's grasp. While it seemed to have stopped flooding his mind with whatever dopey feeling, it still hung him by his arms while rising in the air. It was difficult for him to tell how far off the ground he really was.

    A familiar screeching owl looped in the air, reappearing to strike the creature. Elio felt it flinch from the attack which dislodged the tentacle from his right arm.

    "Elio!" Hau's voice caught his attention and he turned his head down just in time to see Hau spin around and launch an object to him. It took a second before he recognized it as his backpack.

    The thing continued to wail softly while it slithered its elongated tendril right back towards his arm.

    "Oh no you don't." Elio growled and shifted his posture to hang outwards away from the thing. Since his right side was free; he extended it out as both a means to catch his backpack and to keep the creature from adhering itself to his limb again.

    Hau's aim was spot on, his outreached right ankle caught one of the straps and he quickly pulled it back to his chest.

    He knew right away what he was looking for; his knife in one of the outer pockets. With a familiar motion he had already practiced, the gunmetal colored blade sprung out and locked into position.

    With a shout of rage, he drove the weapon home straight into the creature's white veil cloak, which was the first thing he could find. It had that same rubbery texture as the tentacle appendage still holding his arm and ironically keeping him from falling a good distance to the floor.

    However to his dismay, the blade seemed to glance harmlessly off its hide and through the veil, he could see that it was slightly opaque, but able to see the other side. There were no sign of any organs, veins or anything else that looked of importance. It was almost as if he stabbed an amorphous sheet of soft malleable rubber.

    The creature was clearly agitated and maybe even perplexed, but not injured.

    "Dartrix!" Hau shouted from below. "Razor leaf!"

    His blade quill Pokémon flicked open its wings and flung a volley of needlelike projectiles. Elio realized he was in the line of fire.

    The incoming quill blades pelted the crown of the beast in a cloud of miniature explosions, sending it drifting back. Sun used the temporary moment to switch tactics, slashing with the knife down on the tentacle fused to his arm. This time was more successful and its sharpness proved enough to sever the limb entirely.

    With another shrilling screech, the cut detached himself from the creature's grasp and he plummeted down right to the floor. Elio used the split second of freefall to quickly try and land on his feet.

    He was successful, but going at such a quick velocity, his knees bent and buckled, causing him to slump to the floor again. The impact jarred almost every bone in his body from the fall and he couldn't help the pained shout that escaped his lips.

    The creature screeched again, flailing around wildly as the stump of its severed tendril was bleeding a viscous swirling dark liquid that splattered the entire floor.

    This is not a time to be writhing in pain on the ground! But why does it have to hurt so much?

    Elio saw Lusamine and Wicke with their mouths agape still at the spectacle while Hau pointed at the beast, shouting a command to Dartrix. The owl burst forward, undercutting it in an aerial ace attack before disappearing to strike it again as soon as it turned its "head" away.

    Hau kept up a good fight, using unpredictability to assault it with aerial aces and razor leaf attacks. As he continued his assault, Elio could tell that the creature was beginning to get irritated. This was true when it screeched loudly again and spat a stream of the same looking liquid from its centerpiece. It splashed over Dartrix, causing the bird to screech and stagger in its flight.

    "Elio! I could use some help here!"

    Oh right! Why am I making him do all this work?!

    "Torracat, I need your help!" Elio said, slowly getting up to his feet. As he threw the Poké Ball, the evidence of fresh bruising ached in his muscle.

    The thing stopped as it moved over to finish off the wounded Dartrix when a mass of flames crashed into it from the side, sending both toppling away onto the floor. As it got up; Dartrix spread his wings into the air, jumping right over Torracat to throw a flurry of leafage attacks.

    "Hau!" Elio shouted, "Have him do another razor leaf! I've got an idea that will give this thing a huge headache!"

    His friend looked at him questioningly, but complied anyway. "Got it! Dartrix! Another razor leaf attack!"

    As the owl threw another fan of blade quills, Elio had Torracat fire a spread version of overheat. He swung his head from side to side, meeting the razor projectiles midway through their trajectory. As they exited the stream, they were glowing white hot and trailing smoldered wisps in their wake.

    The creature was pelted by them, clearly suffering additional damage from their combo move and its screeches were drowned out from the sharp blades slashing and stabbing at its exterior. The heat produced an abundance of acrid smoke that blanketed the area and made Elio almost want to gag.

    He and Hau raised a fist, ready to celebrate their victory while behind them, Lusamine and Wicke were watching with anticipation in hopes that the threat was contained. Dartrix and Torracat stood in front of their trainers, waiting to see what remained.

    Another screech told them that the battle was far from done. With a dramatic flair, the beast used its intact appendage to clear the smoke from in front as a familiar aura began to congeal around its frame.

    Elio's own eyes went wide as he heard a sickly sticking sound and watched the creature rapidly regenerate its severed tendril entirely, resorting back to waving idly.

    That aura! It's just like the ones from the totem Pokémon! But this isn't a challenge or trial! What is going on?

    "You're suffering…poor thing." Lusamine whispered.

    Before Elio or Hau could respond, the creature unleashed a volley of glowing white orbs, shooting out of its mouth area in a rapid pace.

    Torracat used his strong legs to propel himself out of the way and Dartrix flapped his wings, circling above. It continued, pausing for just a moment to shoot another volley.

    This time, both of the teens' starter Pokémon were hit, stumbling back to barely avoid a third bunch. Both were panting heavily and visibly tired.

    That attack took a lot out of them.

    "Dartrix, get up close again with aerial ace!" Hau barked.

    "We're getting up there too! Flame charge! Boost your speed!"

    As Dartrix vanished to land his attack, Torracat cloaked himself in flames and rushed forward. He came from the opposite end, forcing the thing to pick a target.

    As far as he could tell, it turned to Torracat's direction. Once it did, Dartrix lunged forward to deliver a swift uppercut and barrel rolling in mid air to avoid another blast of small orbs.

    "Bzzt! My obzervationzzz deduced that the move wazzz power gem!"

    Power gem? The rock type move? That explains why neither Torracat or Dartrix's attacks have been doing much. Could it be that aura? And if it's rock type, then shouldn't razor leaf have done more damage?

    I guess that totem aura is giving it some sort of defensive boost. Not to mention it's probably already pissed off.

    "Hau," Elio started, glancing at the thing while their Pokémon stood ready in front, awaiting commands. "It's not going to fall for the same trick twice."

    "What are you thinking then?"

    "Diversions might work again, but this thing's been taking all of our hits like a champ. If it is rock type, I can switch to Nani to deal some real damage."

    "And I Acheron." Hau reached for his Poké Ball.

    "Wait." He stopped him before he could recall his Pokémon. "We should have an aerial fighter. That distraction might not work, but attacking with things like razor leaf and aerial ace will remind it has to constantly look around and that will be our opportunity."

    "Got it." The two trainers looked back, ordering another couple of attacks. Dartrix spun to launch another fan of blade quills while Torracat rushed forward in a flame charge. His increased speed made him hit first, even though he activated it afterwards. The creature reeled from the blow and was knocked right into the oncoming razor leaves for additional damage from Torracat's double kick.

    He dodged another swinging tendril when the creature suddenly rocketed upwards, smashing the crown of its head into Dartrix who was idly flying above. Rotom flashed that it had been a headbutt attack and it was delivered with enough power to knock the owl out. Having lost consciousness, he plummeted to the ground and lay unmoving.

    "Dartrix!" Hau cried, pulling out his Poké Ball and returning him quickly.

    Torracat growled, baring four sharp incisors and angered at the loss of his teammate. The creature seemed rather indifferent to the display, shrieking again.

    Something peculiar caught Elio's eye. As it let out its otherworldly cry, the hazy glowing aura that bathed it seemed to glow brighter and more intense.

    Is that its special power?

    With another screech, it launched another volley of power gems…only this time it looked much more powerful than the last.

    Oh crap!

    Torracat was nimble though, using all fours to deftly evade each one. As the last three appeared to home right on his position, he opened his mouth to unleash an overheat attack that countered and neutralized them in a booming explosion of light, heat and smoke.

    Okay, I've had enough playing around. So much for our plan.

    Elio's hand went to the Z-ring on his wrist and he slipped on the firium Z. He had failed to notice Lusamine's surprised expression as she earnestly watched from the side. Wicke had her hand on the president's shoulder in comfort, but she didn't seem aware.

    "Now it's time to call forth your Z-Power Torracat!" Elio shouted. He twisted the crystal, activating it with a flash of light. Instantly, he felt a familiar high sensation as the mysterious power enveloped him and his Pokémon. Lances of lighting flowed out as he crossed his arms and waved them upwards, just like Kiawe had taught him in kindling a growing flame.

    "Z-Move overheat unleash! Inferno Overdrive!"

    With a feral snarl; Torracat finally expunged the volatile Z-Power stored within him to gather it all into an enormous fireball. The harsh glow reflected right off the surrounding ward shields, almost blinding every human occupying.

    He launched it towards the beast with incredible velocity, crashing into its side and detonating with a loud boom that sounded like a bomb going off. Elio felt the heat prick his skin before a staggering blast of hot air ripped at his face. His hand went up right in time to keep his hat from being snatched off his head.

    Thick acrid smoke blanketed the floors and he immediately stuck his nose into his shirt collar to help filter it out. Next to him, Hau made a coughing sound while waving his own hands to clear it out.

    As the smoke began to slowly disperse, a faint reddish glow within made Sun's own disbelief skyrocket.

    That thing is still standing?!

    The creature shrieked again, waving its tendrils and approaching angrily.

    To the boys' and Wicke's surprise; Lusamine stepped forward to meet it.

    "You poor thing. Lost…angry."

    Elio and Hau glanced at one another questioningly.

    "Forsaken."

    Lusamine seemed rather undeterred at the creature's rather aggressive response. She stepped forward, reaching an alabaster hand towards it.

    "Come. I can save you. We can save each other."

    Save each other? Why is it that the hot ones are always strange?

    "I don't think it wants to be saved." Elio stated matter-of-factly. "Or cooperate."

    "You're more elegant than I expected." Lusamine giggled obliviously as a thin smile coming to her delicate features. "So much more and far from those disappointments."

    The creature finally tiled its head down to glance at the woman who now stood just a few tantalizing feet away.

    Lusamine had her eyes closed as if she was basking in its presence.

    It floated closer.

    That's when a blast of embers hit it squarely in the chest as the President was yanked aside out of the direct line of fire. Elio and Hau had both jumped right into action to grab her.

    Torracat fired another ember, catching the creature's attention and anger. As it prepared to attack, there was a stream of powerful bubbles that smashed into its crown forcefully popping like cluster bombs.

    A white uniformed Aether staff member had arrived to join the battle with a bipedal blue and white Pokémon with a swirl pattern on its stomach. It let loose another spray of bubbles as Torracat added his own ember to the mix.

    They were joined by a second employee who was using a ladylike Pokémon with a pink veil that looked to be made of flowers. Its thin body was green, waving elegantly behind as If it were a dress. It blinked, showing long eyelashes that looked carefully crafted.

    The femine Pokémon charged up an orb in between its two hands and launched it at the creature. All three attacks one after the other sent it staggering back right to the center of the area.

    "New Pokémon have been detected! Bzzt!" Rotom announced, already launching into his usual spouting of information, however Elio was too concentrated on the battle in front to really pay attention.

    "Poliwhirl. Tadpole Pokémon. Although it can live on land, it prefers to stay in the water where it has fewer natural enemies. Its health suffers when its skin dries out, so be sure to diligently keep it moisturized. Poliwhirl is a water type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    As the trio moved to evade a spray of the creature's poisonous liquid, Rotom moved to the second new species.

    "Florges. Garden Pokémon. It controls the flowers it grows. The petal blizzard attacks that florges triggers is overwhelming in their beauty and power. Florges is a fairy type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Torracat and the Aether Pokémon fired more attacks, which seemed to get deflected off the growing aura on the creature before the portal from before suddenly reappeared with its glow overpowering the flashy attacks. Elio could see the energy overflowing out from its edges and an uncanny pattern lining its mysterious walls within. The creature lazily drifted backwards into it fading away as if a spirit of some kind returning to its home domain. The portal anomaly lasted just a couple of seconds before it fell back into the portal, the latter of which subsequently winked out of existence, not even leaving a ripple as a reminder of what had once been there.

    As Hau sent out Acheron, Torracat tensed and stayed alert while Sun glanced around in the air around them, still expecting it to reappear somewhere else and attack again. By now, he could see other Aether members approaching and had their own Pokémon out to help fight the threat. Shadows passed overhead as several of the birds were patrolling the air around them, ready to go into action if the creature returned.

    "What just happened?" Hau asked in a hushed voice, breaking a heavy silence.

    "So it's true," Lusamine whispered, oblivious again to the others around her. "I still need that Pokémon. I need to get it back."

    "What?" He asked, "Miss Lusamine, did you say something?"

    The corners of her mouth turned upward just barely noticeable, but Sun knew exactly what he saw. Every moment he spent around the President, there was a growing sensation going on in him that he was not comfortable with. Not only did he find her to be a little strange, but there was just something about Lusamine he didn't trust. Elio couldn't place it, but the feeling that she had some ulterior motive was undeniable. Unlike Wicke, Hau and himself; she didn't seem too aghast to see the foreigner make an appearance. Nor did she seem fazed that it tried to attack her.

    Should I call her out on it? The last thing I want to do is get caught up in affairs I don't understand or concern me.

    But that's also how Brendan stopped that worldwide catastrophe. If he hadn't done anything…

    Elio shuddered at the worst of it.

    Lusamine spoke again in a hushed voice. "That creature…that one we just saw was undoubtedly an ultra beast. It's an unknown being from another dimension that suddenly appears out of the ultra wormhole."

    That was an ultra beast? Isn't that what Professor Burnet was studying?

    "It looked like it was suffering," Lusamine said longingly, holding her hands to her chest. "Like it was pained to be in this strange place. I can't bear to see that happen! I will save and protect it! And I will love it!"

    "Love it?" Sun cast a strange glance at her. "No disrespect Miss Lusamine, but that…that thing was ready to shoot you and the rest of us on sight!" As he said that, there was that same cold spike that started at his head and rippled slowly towards the rest of his body.

    "Aaah!" He grunted, clenching his teeth and mouth locked in a grimace as he tried to stem the pain.

    "Elio!" Hau rushed over, putting himself around his arm to keep him from falling over. Torracat bounded over to his trainer's feet and nudged the boy's leg with his paws.

    Sun's breathing had increased in pace and he blinked multiple times to clear his blurred vision. His skin pricked with goosebumps and he shivered…an odd thing since the temperature was only slightly cooler than the outside.

    "Wicke, fetch someone from the infirmary at once." Lusamine ordered sharply. The dark haired woman nodded and was off in a moment.

    "Elio?" Hau was kneeling beside his friend and snapped his fingers to catch the boy's attention. He was blinking rapidly and breathing heavily as if teetering on the edge of consciousness.

    "Hau."

    "It's going to be okay." He looked up at Lusamine for reassurance and got a silent nod of agreement in return. "Miss Lusamine has people coming to take you to get better."

    "Okay."

    Elio hadn't realized the amount of time that had passed, but it seemed like he wanted to be out for weeks. His eyelids drooped with fatigue and every time he tried to actively think and focus on one certain thing; that icy spike drove itself into his head, causing him to writhe in pain while on the bed of the Paradise's infirmary where they had escorted him.

    The room was the same sterile white and gold trim, but also had its share of medical equipment in the ward by his side with a full fledged collection of supplies and curtains to give the occupant privacy.

    What did that thing do to me?

    He was questioned by a handful of staff members, most of them fellow field members who were on duty in his immediate area at the time. Lusamine brought in the Paradise's resident psychologist and after a thorough interview hadn't diagnosed him with anything abnormal.

    That's good I suppose.

    It would take another hour until visitors were allowed and Hau bounded in, already clapping his friend's outstretched hand in a bro-handshake.

    "Wow! I can't believe everything that just happened!"

    "At my expense." Elio gestured to the bed around him. "You get to experience all the cool stuff while I almost get abducted by an alien."

    "At least you're still here."

    "And now I know one of those things tried to kidnap me and it got away. What happens if it goes to tell all its alien buddies? That thing's got my number for sure. I'm staying as far away from that as I possibly can thank you very much."

    "Don't be paranoid brah."

    "Easy for you to say."

    They were interrupted as both Wicke and Lusamine entered and sat in seats close to Hau.

    The President leaned forward first. "Elio, how are you feeling?"

    "Pretty crappy to be honest." He cracked a smile to ease off their worries. "But I'm still here and kicking."

    "You gave the President quite the scare." Wicke told him. "She kept asking the doctors about your prognosis."

    "And?"

    "And they've found nothing out of the ordinary except for a few bruises when you hit the floor while falling. You said that you had trouble thinking?"

    "Yeah." Elio sat up and pushed the blankets off his legs. "I…uh…it was strange. That thing was trying to almost latch itself onto my head and I felt it…almost like as if it wanted to feel less scared. I've heard of Pokémon possessing humans before though."

    "There have been cases yes." Wicke agreed with him. "I just need to know if you're alright. I do have rooms ready in the trainer residences if you wish to spend the night."

    "Nah I'm actually fine."

    Hau and the women glanced at one another before looking back at him. "You don't look fine." He told him.

    "Well I've got a headache for one." Sun rubbed his head. "So I think I'd rather just get to the next island, find the closest Pokémon center and sleep uninterrupted for half a day." Truthfully, he would likely feel even groggier if he did that, but just wanted an indirect excuse to leave the Paradise. It was a tempting offer though because the beds here were likely ten times more comfortable than any Pokémon centers.

    I just want to forget about that freaky thing.

    "Very well." Lusamine stood up as she honored his request. "These two are in the middle of their island challenge, aren't they?" When the other woman nodded, she continued. "Please deliver them to their next island."

    "Oh…at once ma'am!"

    "I will go with my staff and check that none of our poor resident Pokémon were harmed during this incident and then I will need to speak with Mister Faba about exactly what happened downstairs. And of course; I will have to start preparing the foundation for our newest and perhaps greatest duty yet! The protection of the Ultra Beasts!"

    Protection? Why would you want to protect that?

    Elio rolled onto his feet, slipping into the shoes at the foot of the bed before Wicke let him and Hau onto the elevator. His best friend had his backpack and Poké Ball belt, which the boy dutifully reattached to his waist. "I will see the two of you on the ferry to Ula'ula Island."

    "All right!" Hau practically leaped up with a fist pumped, "Onto the next island!"

    Elio wanted to jump for joy too, but he was still far too exhausted to partake. Instead, he raised a fist to show his own enthusiasm.

    "It was an absolute pleasure to meet the both of you. Hau, Sun." Lusamine cast an approving look at both boys, "Good luck on the remainder of your island challenge. You two are more than welcome to come back anytime!"

    "Thanks Miss Lusamine!" Hau waved while Sun cast a casual two-fingered salute. He stopped just short of the elevator, a sudden thought coming to his mind.

    "Can I ask you a question Miss President?"

    "Oh." The blonde certainly wasn't expecting that request, but she earnestly nodded for him to go ahead.

    "Back when we fought that thing off…you said that you wanted to help it and for it to help you." He stared at her, making eye contact and trying to see if he could get a reaction.

    Nothing.

    "Why?"

    "Why?"

    "Yes. Why do you want to protect that ultra beast? From my own observations, it was clearly distressed and treated all of us as a threat rather than something to commune with."

    Lusamine laughed again sweetly. "Child, you are quite the inquisitive one. I shall have to consider you for my science team once you've met Mister Faba's prerequisites."

    Sun was not convinced by her dodging his question.

    "We all want to live our lives how we truly wish," she started. "Human, Pokémon, ultra beast. All of them need to be protected from everything threatening. There's darkness creeping on our world and I need to save all things!"

    Elio wasn't satisfied with her answer. "But by bringing the ultra beast here, you're dragging it from its home into a world it knows nothing about."

    Sort of how I came to Alola. Everything was foreign and a big culture shock.

    "Perhaps the only way to ensure its safety is to initially bring it somewhere unfamiliar." Lusamine said. "I must say that you could play a big role in helping me protect the ultra beasts. I admire your battling prowess especially…you have the heart of a warrior and your bravery as well."

    "Thank you Miss Lusamine." Elio actually smiled at her, still a little unsure of himself. "Sorry if I seemed nosy. I guess I got hit harder than I thought."

    "You are most welcome child and it is nothing to worry about. Now hurry along…you do not want to keep your wonderful friend Hau waiting."

    "Right." He turned around as he walked onto the elevator beside Hau, finding himself staring into her green eyes.

    "I'll uh…see you later I guess."

    "Yes. We will meet again."

    Wicke activated the elevator and they dropped out of sight toward the docks.

    Elio made sure she wasn't privy to them and leaned close to Hau to whisper in his ear.

    "Hey, did you notice anything about Lusamine?"

    "Notice?" He had that dreamy look in his eye at the mention of the President. Sun swore he saw a silver of drool in the corner of his mouth.

    "I'm serious. Did she seem kind of…you know…strange?"

    "Strangely amazing? Heck yeah!"

    "Come on Hau, be serious for once. Something's just not right with her. She's way too interested in those ultra beasts."

    "You think?" Hau's expression fell just slightly as he began to consider his inquiry.

    "I mean, it's a bit over the top."

    "But Professor Burnet specializes in inter-dimensional research, she's fascinated by the ultra beasts too."

    "That's kind of her job. Lusamine is," Elio paused to find the word he was trying to say. "She is too…but instead of a job…it almost seemed more like an obsession. Over protecting and saving it from something."

    "Well it didn't look like it needed protection from anything if you ask me." Hau said. "If anything…we needed protection from it."

    "So can't you see it now?"

    "I dunno about that," he wasn't buying Elio's conspiracy. "Lusamine is a capable leader and businesswoman. I honestly think you hit your head on the floor too hard."

    There was the fatigue in Elio's body language and voice. Sleep was indeed trying to seal his eyelids and he wanted nothing more than to trudge into a bed and pass out.

    Almost any bed at this point I'll sleep. I'd crash on a bed made of stone.

    "Eh…you're probably right. But personally, I'd rather just stay away from any extraterrestrial things that are trying to kill me."

    Wicke led them right back to the docks through the elevator to a boat that was promptly departing to Ula'ula Island. By now, it seemed that the previous bustling activity had slowed significantly with only a medium sized cargo hauler two piers down. Ropes were tied to its side and nobody working on it meant the ship was likely going to remain moored overnight.

    "I never thought I'd get to see the ultra wormhole in my life."

    Elio raised an eyebrow. "Bro, you didn't even know it existed until we went to visit Burnet's lab."

    "Well we gotta tell her the next time we go to her lab."

    Yeah. We kind of do.

    Wicke stopped her pace and turned around. "I don't know what happened should be rightly described as an accident, but I think it's probably best if you do so."

    "Agreed."

    "Ah!" Another voice popped from behind as the three of them faced Faba who stepped off the elevator, again puffing his lanky chest out as he approached with a pompous gait. In his hand, he cradled the clear egg incubator Elio had given him earlier for study.

    Sun had to almost suppress a laugh on how the man was nearly to the point of panting. Then worry struck him as he realized that he was about to leave without even getting the egg back from their research and development labs.

    "I'm most certainly glad you are all safe…as is I and my team. My analysis of your egg is complete and I'm happy to report its status as green across the board. It will birth into a healthy baby, so be sure to take much good care of it. I will add that the gradual movements it makes within the shell indicates that it is nearly ready to hatch!"

    "Thank you." Elio took it from the Branch Chief and secured it inside his backpack. "Honestly, I can't believe I was about to leave without it."

    "I would not be upset if you did." He murmured under his breath before straightening his posture. "The president gave word and reminded me about your egg and I aimed to intercept you before you left for Ula'ula Island! The docks are…a bit astronomically far from my labs and it took a bit of running."

    Elio couldn't suppress a smirk to his mouth. "You weren't the star athlete of your class?"

    "Top test scores every time." Faba airily replied with a wave of his hand. "Dead last in physical activity."

    "I see. So what kind of Pokémon is inside the egg?"

    He opened his mouth to answer, but they heard the low bass of a ship's horn echo across the docks that signaled that their ferry was preparing to leave port.

    "You two best get onboard." Wicke said. "Anyway, Lord Faba and I were very glad to meet you both. Please take these to remember your visit."

    Hau's own eyes almost popped out of his head when she reached into her bag to display a paper bag with a familiar logo.

    "Some malasadas for Hau."

    "Oh boy!" He could barely contain his excitement upon receiving his favorite confection as a gift.

    Elio couldn't help smiling at that. Same old Hau. Malasadas do make stuff better.

    "Wow it's fresh too!" Hau had felt the heat from the food inside. He knew that they were best eaten fresh straight out of the fryer. They were still decently good at room temperature, but definitely not the same when piping hot.

    Microwaving only did so much; it reheated the food, but ended up making the sugar coating on the outside dissolve into a rather sticky unpleasant mess.

    "We have a Leonard's right in our own mess hall. It's popular among the staff." She explained to them.

    "That's awesome! Isn't it crazy how malasadas taste even better when you eat them together with someone else?"

    "Yes. I think I know what you mean." Wicke smiled again while Faba rolled his eyes grumbling about something. With a wave of his hand; he strode back towards the elevator, hitting a few buttons and dropping to the lower levels out of sight.

    "Meals always taste better when you share them with the ones you love."

    That makes sense. And I have to agree with that.

    "And you Elio, I have a TM containing the move psychic."

    Then it was his own turn to widen his eyes in shock. As expensive as they were; TMs containing powerful moves were highly sought after. And the move psychic was one of the most powerful ones of its namesake type.

    "Wow." Elio held the pinkish purple disc in his hands. "Uh…thanks."

    Hau gets malasadas and I get a TM? I guess if this was Christmas then it's like I'm the favorite child.

    "I wish the two of you the best of luck on your island challenge adventure!"

    "We will! Thanks Miss Wicke!"

    The dark-haired woman smiled as they crossed the gangway onto the ship. Elio and Hau waved as they took their seats by the window as it pulled out of the Paradise's indoor hangar. As it cleared the doorway, the captain turned east on a heading towards Ula'ula Island.

    Wicke's smile fell as it disappeared from sight.

    I remember when Cal was talking all the time about how much he loved his little boy. My my, how he has grown to be such a strong, handsome young man.

    I'll find a way to make things up to you after what you did for Xander. That's the least of what I owe.

    President Lusamine's smile faded as she watched a camera overlooking the docks. The screen on her datapad displayed a crisp image of a live feed with zero delay. She felt satisfied at its departure, knowing the trainers were safely headed on the boat carrying the visitors towards their next destination of Ula'ula Island.

    Instead, her focus cut through like a laser as her eyes narrowed after continuing to stare out of the open gateway to the sea.

    She briskly turned on her heels, intent to head somewhere with purpose.

    Lusamine arranged for a meeting with her higher ups on staff to take place, with after reports of the incident as well as releasing a statement to the workers. Being such a high profile company meant the media would get word and immediately want the full story.

    She intended to give them it in her own words, already knowing they would accept it coming straight from the president's mouth.

    For now, Lusamine spent the time prior to their meeting to herself, ponding on the same beast that was beaten back.

    She missed having her own personal chef around. After cooking for the family for years; he had departed back to Kalos to start his own line of restaurants and bars from which she heard had already taken off to compete with his mentor; Siebold of the Kalosian Elite Four.

    With focus and precision, the large chef's knife in her hand sliced through the half of the onion effortlessly with an astounding rate. The half slices were cut again, this time irregularly as she finely diced them into smaller portions before using the blunt side to sweep it all into a freezer bag.

    It was strange to most others, but she found a peace and steady rhythm in it. Cutting vegetables and food was one area where she could find a zen focus, erasing all the other stresses away into every stroke of the blade. It was almost compulsive in measuring the thickness of the onion with her ring finger and then carefully chopping the cut strips into perfectly squared bits. This was the kind of thing that allowed her to set aside all preexisting stresses of running her business and focus solely on the ultra beasts, most specifically the one that had been abruptly brought into the Paradise and barely fought off.

    While she was elated to finally have summoned another one, her frustration still simmered within her and the preferred way for the President to quietly vent her fury was to hack and cut things apart with precision and purpose.

    She kept it up, slicing another onion down and then dicing all into the same bag that would go into the freezer to use for later.

    Her thoughts passed from the beast and went to the two young island challengers. Hau and Elio.

    She knew of Hau. Word had spread around about the grandson of the Melemele kahuna finally undergoing his island challenge. The hype on the populace was indifferent to her and the kid had barely even noticed how many people paid attention to that kind of gossip.

    His mouth ran faster than his brain.

    Then there was Elio. Unlike Hau; his dark haired companion was much more difficult to read. He was more inquisitive of the two. Even more interestingly enough he had made the news recently as well alongside Hau. He had quite an impressive move with the knife.

    They saved that surfing girl's life. How brave of them both.

    A click of a tongue snapped her out of those inner thoughts and she looked to the doorway to the family kitchen. "Our guests have left us. There is no need to hide."

    At her words, a well-built man stepped into the kitchen and took a seat at one of the barstools, leaning his elbows onto the smooth pearly quartz. He was tall, roughly a couple inches past six feet with long ropey biceps that had sinewy veins slightly visible. His attire almost exceeded the Aether Foundation's standard uniform sizes so she had to hire a profession tailor to give him a proper fit without giving his own role away. He kept his head shaved free of hair with only the stubble as a hint of skipping a day of trimming.

    In any workplace, gossip would spread like an infection once something happened and that's precisely what had occurred when the "incident" suggested that her own broken and sorrowed self would not be reliable enough to move the company to attain its lofty goals.

    Wicke genuinely cared for her own well-being, already going as far to hire a psychiatrist in Hau'oli City to fly out to the Paradise. Sessions were long and arduous and there were many occasions where she would refuse to come out of her quarters for days.

    And her own children were just in their pre-teenage years, staring at her closed door and barely understanding anything.

    While Wicke had done the selfless thing of making sure the business was run and her children were educated; Leon Faba had done the opposite.

    After several rumors were planted that Lusamine was unable to run the Aether Foundation properly, Wicke had brought the issue to the president herself. She was initially unaware of Faba's intentions, but quickly realized that dissident and a rift in the workforce would cause the business to have financial troubles and eventually collapse.

    Faba needed to be kept in line.

    It took a while, but her most recent hire of Von Kaiser had done the trick. Personality-wise, he was among the most introverted and dead she had ever seen. Kaiser hardly spoke to anyone unless necessary and rarely ever smiled.

    If he did, it usually wasn't very warm. His presence immediately subdued any others and the word that he reported directly to Lusamine had straightened out order within Aether's ranks.

    "I thought they would never leave."

    "Tourists." She scoffed at the mention of that. "Nothing more."

    Von Kaiser's weathered face cracked a lopsided smile. "Yet I feel you've called for me for something else. Most people don't just call for someone while they chop onions half an hour until midnight."

    Lusamine appreciated how he was able to jump to the right conclusions quickly. She slipped the plastic cutting board into an automatic dishwasher underneath the counter and turned on the kitchen sink. She ran the knife under it, calmly closing her eyes as the stream of water hit the metal blade.

    "Do you have any leads of the cosmog's whereabouts?"

    Kaiser shook his head, his dark eyes continuing to focus on his employer's meticulous care of her kitchen tools. Lusamine added a drop of soap to a kitchen sponge and slowly scrubbed the edge, leaning down to examine it as she made slow gentle strokes as if to not tarnish its silvery surface.

    "No," he said finally. "The equipment you've given me is either faulty or the trail runs cold fast."

    The Aether President didn't even look up as she continued her slowly paced cleaning. Every time he was summoned to see her outside of her office, she was in the kitchen either cutting food with her knives or cleaning them compulsively. It didn't unsettle him at first since she only did such a thing rarely, but nowadays he could almost sense her anxiety and it appeared that the latter activities with the bladed objects calmed her nerves.

    "I gave you a simple job right in the area of your expertise. How do you think we're supposed to summon the beasts again without it?"

    Kaiser didn't back down. He was one of the few that were not intimidated by her when she was agitated. He knew of his importance and a man of his skillset wasn't irreplaceable, but still difficult to find. There were no qualms or questions asked, if she had a task she wouldn't be able to do herself directly, then it fell on his shoulders which would be accomplished swiftly and usually quietly.

    More than one of her dissident and rebellious staff was quelled by him. All she could answer from inquiries of the staff about their peers was that they were "disciplined as seen fit"

    "From the intelligence you have given me, it is not like I can detect it like radiation. My own Pokémon as good as they are, still have found no trace." He leaned forward. "How can you be so sure that the cosmog is still in Alola? For all we know, it could've already gone back into Ultra Space."

    "I know." Lusamine said, more so to convince herself. "I just know it."

    "Yet we've seen nothing to show that it's here. Your entire search teams have come up empty with some believing this is a witch hunt."

    Lusamine's eyes flashed. "They what?"

    "Nothing's turned up. The Null unit your son stole. Neither the cosmog or your daughter who stole it."

    Her eyes narrowed and although she said nothing, it was clear that she was not pleased at being outmaneuvered or outwitted by her own children. From his entire employment, he had seen very little of either of her kids. Lusamine often dismissed him when they were meeting with her and he headed right back to his own quarters with seldom more than a simple greeting.

    So in regards to knowing the habits or traits of her children; he came up empty.

    Lusamine held up the knife, examining the shining light off the silvery blade before spinning it deftly between her fingers like it was a toy.

    "Then we will need to increase our efforts. Have our current field teams perform sweeping patterns. Leave no stone unturned. My children's own days of hiding are numbered!" She turned to him, now setting the rinsed knife perfectly center in a dish towel and folding it over into thirds. It was uneven and she quickly straightened out the ends so it was a flawless rectangle. Her right hand moved the cloth swiftly over the metal, drying the droplets off. The knife was placed on a magnetic strip at the backsplash of her kitchen, beside many others with varying blade shapes and designs.

    Kaiser had to admit that she seemed to have an affinity for knives. He wondered if she was one of those strange collectors who secretly admired their hoard within a private sanctum.

    "And I want you back out there again. I'm reassigning you from the missing porygon, provided you have some idea of what happened."

    "Still no clue how it turned up missing. Even the databanks where it was stored are empty. Your tech and network teams are baffled."

    "We'll find it again." Lusamine assured him. Kaiser wondered why she seemed to dismissive of everything. "And I'll have you depart for Ula'ula in the morning. If my little flower doesn't turn up, then you go after that boy Hau and find out what he knows."

    Kaiser nodded. "Of course."

    Faba arrived just at the same time she was expecting him, two minutes early almost on the dot. As pompous and uptight as he was; the bald, sharp-eyed man still had a bit of politeness in him from the soft knocks at her door.

    Lusamine had disabled the lock on her door; a sophisticated mechanism that she often engaged when she didn't want to be disturbed or left for the night. After all, it contained sensitive information and even if someone were to break in, the data wouldn't just reveal itself without encryption from herself as credentials.

    The President's office was at the very back of her residence, a massive opulent mansion in white with hints of gold trim. The long planes and sleeker lines of the two story house looked as if it had been dropped straight out of a futuristic sci-fi setting. Its interior sparkled with the same sterile and glossy motif as the rest of the paradise, with the foyer already made to impress any guests with the ten thousand dollar crystal chandelier dangling from the ceiling.

    Wicke and Kaiser stood at the other end of her desk as she hit a couple of buttons on her computer to allow him inside. As they waited for the final person in this meeting, Lusamine busied herself reading over the incident reports coming in from the staff on duty who were giving statements. Most of them were perplexed at the invader with slightly differing from those that had taken direct action in sending their own Pokémon out to either battle the invader or secure the area. Overall, a lot of them were questioning on why it had chosen the Paradise to make an introduction.

    Quite a bit of them proudly praising that boy Elio's battling abilities. I know a talented trainer when I see one. His skills are too valuable to be wasted.

    She gave an oily smile while looking out to the sea, fully confident that neither individual in the room could see it.

    "Come in Faba. Let's get straight to business."

    Faba straightened himself as he walked forth through the parting doors. He cast a sneering gaze at Wicke who stared back indifferently despite wanting to retort in some manner. However he sensed another presence and quickly stepped back, realizing it was the one person besides the president herself that made him feel uneasy.

    "Mister Faba." Lusamine curtly greeted him. "Now that you're here, we can begin. What are your readings and reports?"

    "Madam President," Faba's normally obnoxious rasp of a voice squeaked with excitement. "It worked! Energy readings are off the charts and the labs are reporting that the temporary wormhole's stability had lasted longer than previous simulations. I'm hypothesizing that the shockwaves generated seismic effects which caused that abnormal series tremor to resonate. The Paradise's metallic structure conducts vibrations quite well and our next objective should be to complete the transmission without the giveaway of it feeling as if an earthquake is going off."

    "Wonderful to hear. What of the properties?"

    "I cannot say for certain. All of my hypothesis I've conjured are mere speculation. And I have no desire to venture unprepared into Ultra Space. That part of the ultra beast the boy had severed has also been transported to the labs for further study."

    Lusamine didn't really know the entirety of the details and calculations Faba had gone through in order to determine that, but that was his business.

    "I cannot pinpoint exactly where you want to go once we obtain the means to open another wormhole either. There are so many variables on our end and the liquid manifold of what we've seen from trying to prod Ultra Space. We've only started using the technique to open rifts through brute force. Trying to open a portal on one specific location would be like to throw a dart on the exact spot on an ever changing Sierpinski triangle. And who knows that's on the other end?"

    "You can leave all your scientific jargon down in your lab Faba." Lusamine chastised tersely. "I just need to know if you can do it."

    "I'm telling you the inherent risks." Her Branch Chief had to bite his tongue at her being so dismissive. "It is not as simple as create a wormhole and you jump through. The amount of variables I have to plan for is innumerable."

    "Are you insinuating that I stop in what we've so worked so hard to achieve?"

    "No! I will fully cooperate, but I must say everything you need to know before we proceed further. This is not like deciding whether or not to go on the roller coaster in Nimbasa City."

    A chime of a cell phone interrupted their conversation. Interestingly enough, it was Wicke's with a generic droning ringing rather than the catchy television show that Lusamine programmed to go off on every single caller.

    "Madam President, Jessie of the News Network of Alola has arrived to cover the incident."

    They're already here? Sooner than expected. Lusamine waved her hand, already having been informed the station had been on their way. "Very well." She looked over at Wicke again. "Please inform them I will be out to give an official statement. In the meantime, feel free to answer whatever questions they may ask unless something requires my direct attention."

    The hand wave also served as a dismissal. Wicke knew that she wasn't privy to the information about to be disclosed between the remaining occupants.

    After she closed the door behind her, Lusamine looked to the two men standing farther apart and bothered by one another's presence.

    She fixed Faba with a steely gaze first. "You almost forgot to return the egg to the trainer."

    All he responded with was an annoyed snort. "That is what happens when you hire incompetent staff that always require my attention to run my lab right."

    It was Lusamine's turn to regard him with a confused look. Faba was the one who interviewed and vetted every member that worked in his research and development laboratories.

    "You both know what needs to be done. Faba has used the last samples of cosmog's gases and we are thus unable to generate the ability to open an Ultra Wormhole."

    She had to find it…find it as quickly as possible.

    "Madam President," Faba said curiously, "what are we to do now? We have no more gases to test and as far as we know, the cosmog is still in your daughters' possession."

    "You leave finding Lillie to me and Kaiser here. Just get the repair teams to asses and fix any damage that the beast may have committed and have the experiment equipment fully functional as soon as possible. Once we reclaim it, I want to begin the process again without error."

    "I have something that will please you in that regard." Faba said cautiously. "Through the advances we've seen with the Ward technology and the usage of the move protect, I've created a case that is reflective on the majority of weaker Pokémon elemental attacks and prevents psychic types from escaping through teleport without regulating it to a Poké Ball capsule."

    He smirked at the thought behind his genius creation. "The field acts similar to a Faraday cage, inhibiting, absorbing or even reflecting the energy behind a Pokémon's attacks back at it, similar to a counter or mirror coat move. The more energy it expends in trying to fruitlessly escape, the more painful the repercussions."

    "And the harsher the punishment." Lusamine's own oily smile matched his. "I like that very much."

    "Now if only I could get to see more of that amazing power from a zenith move again." Faba rubbed his hands together. "How much more valuable I could be to the Foundation! I'll need triple…no…quadruple my salary!"

    "The ever ambitious one I see." The president dryly remarked.

    "A zenith move?" Kaiser raised an eyebrow.

    Faba wrinkled his nose and gave Kaiser a scrutinizing look. "Zenith moves…yes. They're more known as Z-moves for short. Trainers in Alola use special stones and elemental crystals that draw out the innate power that lies inside."

    The Internal Affairs agent turned back to Lusamine. "I was previously unaware of this Zenith pPower and you already mentioned Lillie being associated with Hau and Elio. If I have to go up against either of them, I need to know everything."

    "Like you'd understand." Faba huffed from beside him before raising his hands in a mocking fashion. "Oh, we have trainers who play around with powers they don't fully understand! They carry those silly looking wristbands while blokes make money off their blasted customization! That is no way how to treat such a delicious scientific discovery! You don't need a plan, just go and headbutt it!"

    "Is that so?" Kaiser's tone and body language turned even colder. Lusamine swore he could've been able to freeze helium if he wanted.

    "Why of course! You've been nothing but a hindrance to how I'm going to try and gain power for myself! I don't know why the president hired you if all you do is make the rest of us fall in line."

    "And that is exactly why I have him around." Lusamine said sharply as a strong hint to drop the escalating argument. "We are here to work together for my goals on the Foundation."

    "Your goals? Ha! You are nothing without my scientific knowledge! How long of a setback would you be if you've let me go? What's stopping me from turning in all of your little sanctioned research to the International Police? Absolutely nothing! Not even this brute!"

    Faba opened his mouth again to spout something, but was promptly cut off as Kaiser's large beefy hand abruptly lashed out, wrapping firmly around his throat. His eyes almost bulged out of his sockets while he tried to open his mouth to speak. All the came out was a rough cawing sound.

    Lusamine jumped up to intervene, but quickly held back. Kaiser had been right that Faba's cunning had put him out of line to say or do whatever he pleased without repercussions.

    I'll tighten the leash.

    Faba made a fist to strike Kaiser's muscled arm, however the larger man clicked his tongue and shook his head.

    "Don't be stupid. You hit me and I'll tighten my grip and roll my wrist." He did just that, slightly squeezing together making the scrawnier man claw in an attempt to open his airway. Lusamine watched with cold indifference despite her surprised reaction.

    "Now you may think I'm just some grunt who does the boss' bidding, but it's a very discreet type of work. It involves silencing those who openly question orders, break conduct. My previous employer was much less tolerant of failure or dissent especially if it questioned his cause. If you did not know your place; I would've already been ordered to put your dismembered limbs in a barrel of garbodor acid."

    Kaiser chuckled humorlessly at the threat and he saw Faba shiver from the thought.

    Good. It's about time I get this shot.

    "You've been ordered to do your job. Do it. Now. And let me do mine in solving problems within the staff before YOU become the problem."

    "That's enough Kaiser!" Lusamine snapped, adding that extra bit of authority in her tone and knowing he had made his point to bring Faba down a few notches. "Let him go!"

    He simply nodded, releasing his grip and allowing the Branch Chief to slump to the ground. He landed on his hands and knees, practically gasping for air while massaging the redness around his throat.

    "Madam President…you need to keep your lapdog leashed. If he does that again, I am bringing this case public!" Faba glowered at Kaiser again. "He holds no allegiance to anyone but himself."

    "And I do." Lusamine abruptly said. "This is exactly why I brought him to keep the staff in check."

    "Your agenda with the Foundation is none of my business." Kaiser gruffly declared. "Like you said, my allegiance is to whoever pays me for my line of work. However if you fail to complete your task, then it becomes my problem and I will deal with it accordingly."

    "Are we clear?"

    "Yes." Faba had to almost bite his tongue and avoid giving the bigger man a venomous glare.

    "Good. Now tell me more about this zenith power."

    Taking a moment to catch his breath again, the Branch Chief sat down. "Zenith power. Where do I begin? It is the concept of the boundless paracausal light energy that sustains all life in the world that is abundant everywhere. Every living being from the wailords in the ocean to simple cell microorganisms that live inside of our own bodies have this current of the inner light energy. You may recognize a similar concept started in Hoenn where they refer to it as Infinity Energy."

    "Zenith Power." Kaiser repeated. "Z-Power?"

    "Precisely. Z-Power is its shortened term. This zenith power is like matter; it cannot be created or destroyed. It is a philosophy of creating harmony in the balance of natural order where everything can coexist."

    "So then if zenith power exists in all things, why is it only here in Alola that we see more of it than elsewhere?"

    "Unfortunately I have little to no knowledge on why. The stones set in an island challenger's Z-ring have a unique property to them that allows the channeling of zenith energy into specific Pokémon moves much stronger than their original counterparts. What you often hear as Z-moves is short for zenith moves, fitting as they are at the height of their power when synergized with both trainer and Pokémon. It is perhaps this, along with the relative close relationship humans have with the Pokémon here that could provide the answer. It is especially abundant in this island challenge that native trainers embark on. When challenging a totem Pokémon as part of the island challenge trials; they are bathed in raw amounts of zenith energy which also could be the reason they are much larger than the average member of their species."

    Faba scrunched his nose and cast a glare of disapproval at Lusamine. "I wish I had more time to study it since it also seems prevalent in the ultra beasts at astonishingly variable levels. That egg the boy carried had traces of powerful zenith energy, a similar profile to the levels I found in the autopsy of the totem gumshoos."

    Both the others stared at him for an explanation, causing him to sigh irritably.

    "There is a strong chance that the egg in the boy's possession is the child of a totem Pokémon."

    "So these zenith moves." Kaiser said, continuing to prod his mind as well as getting back on track. "They can be used in battle?"

    "When certain conditions are met, yes. A trainer going on the island challenge has to have the corresponding elemental zenith crystal to the move being used. While they do have immense power; they expend excessive amounts of energy that can leave both the trainer and Pokémon exhausted. Essentially, it is a one-shot cannon, as it takes a good amount of time for the zenith energy within the beings to become restored back to useable levels again."

    "Quite the educational one you are." Lusamine purred, a thin smile gracing her lips as she leaned back in her black leather chair to prop a leg over the other. "An impressive science lesson, but I am ready to retire for the evening. Mister Faba, you may have the entirety of tomorrow off to recover and I expect to be kept appraised of your progress." Her eyes narrowed again, "do not disappoint me."

    "Of course. I will be on my way now." Faba stood up to show himself out, but not before he sent one more glare towards Kaiser.

    The room remained silent as Lusamine made sure with her house motion tracking cameras that the Branch Chief had left the building for good. She let out an exhausted sigh.

    "A handful, he is. But I think a little bit of persuasion from you was enough for him to be back on track. Thank you for that."

    Kaiser nodded slowly. "I've been waiting for a chance to show that prick what I can do to him. Plus he needed to be reeled in before all of your other praise got to his head and inflated his ego like a balloon."

    "You leave dealing with Faba to me."

    "Is that right? Because you don't seem to be doing an adequate job." When her gaze hardened at him, he held up a hand in defense from his initial challenge. "Relax. I'm not here to criticize how you run this company. I'm here to do the job you tell me to do. If you have a plan to keep Faba's constant scheming in check, then I trust you to. Otherwise you trust me. Right?"

    "Yes of course."

    "Now. I remember that you summoned me here to also discuss your runaway children."

    "Their elusiveness has frustrated me." Lusamine admitted, almost embarrassingly. "Although my own attention has been divided so much lately, my efforts have not worked as effectively. That's where you come in. You're among the best freelancers and manhunters for hire."

    Kaiser didn't smile, but he did feel good at the praise of his reputation.

    "I'm not here to question your previous line of work."

    "And I'd rather you not. It was for men…well…a man who had close to no regard for empathy. He did know the meaning of mercy and morals; yet chose not to follow or show any. I've done things that would make people restless and appalled in their sleep."

    "I haven't heard anything like that since Cipher fell."

    "Good guess. But no."

    "Back on topic." Lusamine spread her hand out over the clear glass panel on her desk. A holographic map appeared with varying shades of red, white and green highlighting the entire Alola region. Smaller parts were divided into sectors, showing the offices for all four islands as well as outposts such as the Aether Shelter House by the Tapu Village and the Sanctum laboratory.

    "My search teams, as inefficient as they are, have combed nearly the entirety of Melemele and Akala Island, yet finding no trace of Lillie."

    "If I may ask," Kaiser interrupted her. "Why are you so fixated on Lillie? What about her brother Gladion?"

    "Gladion is tasked as an errand boy for Team Skull with that rejected experiment." She replied in earnest. "I get regular reports on his activities."

    "Then why not grab him now? It would save you a lot of trouble."

    "Maybe. But I want to grab them in one fell swoop and bring them here to show how taking my property was wrong. And then they will pay for their mistakes!"

    Kaiser made a face. Lusamine knew it.

    "Something wrong Kaiser?"

    "Many things," he replied. "All of this seems like delusions of grandeur. You've got missing children, both with apparently vital assets while your staff seems unmotivated with morale going in the other direction. Faba is actively plotting against you to usurp leadership for his own ends." The manhunter leaned forward. "Your raft is sinking faster than you can patch the holes. I suggest you prioritize. Leave hunting Lillie down to me while you make sure Faba does his job right. None of your goals will be reached without all the tasks accomplished."

    Lusamine smiled at how he worded everything. "And I thought you were only doing this for the money."

    "I am. However I've seen this before with my previous employer too. A lot of things happen to combine to their downfall and I took the smart avenue of opting out before the International Police either apprehended or put down those involved in the ring. Didn't save me from being on the list of wanted, but finding you were in need of muscle gives me enough time to decide my next move." That knowing smirk returned back to his features. "However since you did mention pay, we'll have to discuss that if you want my services to continue."

    He's quite good. Lusamine thought to herself. Luckily for him, she was still needing her children to be found and brought back to the Paradise where they had once escaped.

    "Your price is not of my concern. I will pay you enough that you will never have to work again, if that's your plan."

    "It might be. I've always thought of settling with a good local woman in Oblivia. Hardly any traffic coming through and among the best places to lay low."

    He wasn't wrong. Oblivia was a backwater archipelago region that was one of the most isolated places in the world. One of the perfect places to disappear and a man with his expertise knew how manhunters worked, which could make him essentially a ghost.

    "Then the added money onto your contract will be set in terms." Lusamine said. "Completely untraceable with the rest of the guaranteed money accessible once you have brought both Lillie and the cosmog back to me unharmed."

    "And if she resists?"

    "A little bit of persuasion works a long way." Lusamine idly reached into her desk, showing a flicking switchblade that had purple and ivory colors on its handle. She opened and twirled the weapon between her fingers as if it were a toy. "The thing my little flower was scared of most."

    Kaiser nodded. "Good to know."

    "I will now have Team Skull assist in the search. Ula'ula is far larger than what most people believe. My aim is to have them corral her right towards you."

    "Makes my job all the easier. Now if they get in my way, I can't be responsible for what comes next."

    He promptly stood up and left the room. Lusamine watched as he closed the doors before taking out her cellphone and scrolling through a list of familiar contacts until she hit one of them. The tone dialed the number and rang for a decent amount of time.

    "Wha? Who's this?" A gruff voice answered. "Oh wait, it's the Madam President!"

    She heard fumbling in the background and loud obnoxious music that sounded like two cats fighting in a burlap sack. A door slamming quickly muffled its putrid disturbing noise.

    "Whaddya want? I got nothin' to report on ya kid."

    Lusamine shook her head, knowing it was just another diligent thing. "That's not why I called my dear Guzma.

    Although she knew that nobody was around to hear her, Lusamine cast a long glance around her office before hitting another button to black out the windows. She sat down again in her big elongated comfortable chair and called again in her earpiece, this time to a different person.

    "The test was successful, but we've used up the last of the cosmog's gases." The line remained open, but there was no reply. "Mark my words that I will honor our arrangement. The island challenge has failed you and all of your misfits. However once we discover the secret behind the ultra beasts and zenith moves, you will have all the tools you will need to show the rest of Alola how wrong they were to cast you out."

    "We're givin' it one last push." She could easily sense the excitement carried through the airwaves.

    "One final effort is all that remains."

    "What do ya need me to do?"

    "Kaiser is on his way to Ula'ula Island. We're positive Lillie is no longer on Akala Island and has moved to reduce her chances of being found. I want your people to aid in the search."

    "With Kaiser?" She heard him scoff indignantly. "All he's ever done is make stuff difficult."

    "I expect you to cooperate with him fully. The plan is to move her gradually across the island…provided she and the cosmog are there. You or your people are not to harm either. Secure her to your little lair in Po Town if you get her before Kaiser does. Make sure that little gremlin cannot escape. Lock her in a basement…chain her to the floor. I don't care! Just make sure she is brought to me!" Knowing the rather slow progress Team Skull did in anything, she was far too confident in Kaiser getting to her first.

    "Chain her to the floor?" Guzma asked. "Do ya know what some of my bros will do if they find out she's bein' held here like dat?"

    "You speak like you care."

    "I care just enough to know nobody deserves treatment like dat."

    "Hmph. Very well. Do whatever fits your boundaries. Just make sure she does not escape. My little flower and her cosmog are slippery and have evaded my staff enough to wear my patience thin."

    "Got it." His voice turned cold and compliant. Just the way I need him.

    "An interesting thing though." She added. "The two trainers your men mentioned were here during the incident that fit the description. They're now on their way to Ula'ula."

    "Really?"

    "Apparently one of them, named Hau knows Lillie."

    "Hau knows the brat? Isn't dat da kahuna's grandson? Da really wimpy one?" He chuckled darkly. "I've been meanin' to teach that smilin' kid a lesson personally. He's already blinded by the island challenge."

    "Yes," The President was delighted that the man called that girl a brat. "He's even more aloof than I expected for someone living with a kahuna. I've already alerted my staff stationed there to be on the lookout for Lillie since she'll likely need Hau to guard her and cosmog. Even if that's not the case, do as I said and spread your men across Ula'ula to double your search. We're getting close…I know it."

    "It better be worth it," Guzma said. Lusamine didn't know if that was supposed to come out as a threat or a hopeful promise. Either way, she didn't particularly care, as long as she got results. "I take it we still doin what we supposed to be doin?"

    "Of course. As long as my stations keep reporting that you and your group are causing chaos, then you're honoring your end. And when the time happens, I'll be wanting Gladion too." She clicked the line dead.

    Standing up again, she briskly exited her office, going through the hallways to stop at Lillie's room.

    Looking through her wooden bookshelf, a carefully crafted project done by her father, she noticed a handful of them were missing. Most notably the young adult novel version of the courtship of Kamalono'a and Pelei.

    That was her favorite book. How she wished that a handsome boy would dash to rescue her from a monster.

    She had left behind a less sophisticated child's version with the tale being among the most popular in Alola. Out of curiosity, she pulled it from the shelf, paying no attention to the name "Lillie" that was carefully carved in fancy cursive letters at the shelf's rear.

    The cover was done by some Alolan artist she had never heard of, but it depicted the iconic battle atop Mauna Wela. Pelei laid on her side, looking eagerly to Kamalono'a who had brandished a spear at the mo'owahine that towered over him.

    Her eyes looked to the man who wore nothing except for a patterned loincloth and greaves upon his feet. His gray eyes were filled with determination and his hair was long, going down far enough to touch the base of his shoulders. He was crouched in an aggressive posture, low to the ground to present himself as a smaller target.

    Where have I seen that before?

    A similar trainer, who valiantly fought against the monstrous ultra beast in her own Paradise.

    "Of course."

    The Aether President reached for her phone, searching for Kaiser's contact information.

    I think I may have found the trainers my little flower has gravitated towards.

    Whew, so now we are finally...finally finished with the Akala arc and onto the Ula'ula arc! I'd go as far to say that this serves as maybe the story's mid-point, although I still hypothetically don't have an exact chapter count. It certainly does have the potential to crack 100 chapters for sure. The addition of this one ties another one of my older fics for the most number of chapters. Havok Across Unova...one of my more rushed and amateurish attempts at a Pokémon novelization that I never finished and really don't have much of a drive to anymore. It's really there more as a reminder of how strange (and bad) of a writer I am.
    I'm so ready to start on Ula'ula Island. There's a few fun things and surprises in the arc although I've said many times before that this is where things start to get serious.

    As always, mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.

    Brav
     
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  3. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Bravo
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    Alola readers! Brav is here again with the first chapter of the Ula'ula arc! I had a few complications in making this chapter so I ended up recreating it all the way from scratch. So this is not the original one, but it highlights everything I wanted to cover and I know for sure it's altered...not so much to change it entirely, but...you know.

    So here's the chapter as we finally begin the next big part of the story! Enjoy everyone.


    Today, Professor Kukui took me to Ula'ula Island. It's the biggest one in the Alola region, but a lot of it is actually wildlands. The amount of Pokémon that live here is extremely diverse, but a lot of the terrain is actually rougher than the others. The council that governs this island actually requires ownership or the use of certain equipment or ride Pokémon to go across specific areas. I know Elio will come prepared since he'll arrive in Malie City. I know for a fact that they have shops and trading posts because they know this island is one for adventurers and the last thing they want is island challengers going in unprepared!

    There's so much I want to check out here! The Malie Garden, the Library, maybe even find a place where some of their famous sushi and noodles are served. I know it's called ramen, but I've actually never eaten it before.

    I guess Elio had plans already when he arrived, but Kukui had been largely asleep for the whole day until it was time to meet them at the Garden in the afternoon.

    Elio probably had the best sleep in weeks.

    Sure it wasn't his plushy comfortable bed back at his house in Waimanalo, but it was air conditioned with a blanket and a pillow which was what he needed. His eyelids continued to droop with sleep's seductive pull even as he tiredly stepped in for a shower. There was no way he was going to sleep without one this time around. Sweat dried on his limbs making him feel squeamish with the sticky and disgusting feeling of actually lying in a bed with dirt.

    His sleep was pleasant, likely that his brain was exhausted. That or he didn't remember anything other than his head hitting the pillow.

    It felt like a split second after falling asleep did he wake up, sitting up slowly in the bed and letting the blankets drape to his waist.

    A sliver of light filtered in from the closed curtains telling him it was daytime. Not wanting to be blinded by flinging them open, he gingerly swung his legs out of bed and trudged to the window.

    Yeah better I don't do that. Everyone will see me in just my boxers. Gotta be decent.

    Opening one of them just a crack to let enough light in so that his eyes could adjust, he got his first look at the cityscape.

    It wasn't as large as Hau'oli with a lot of the taller buildings clustered close by. He could see smaller single or double story homes on the slopes that climbed past the low hanging clouds. Speaking of which, they had an overcast blanket that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. It had a gray dour drab over the buildings that made everything feel droopy and discolored.

    I thought it would be sunny.

    So far, Ula'ula Island was shaping up to be a completely different one than the previous two that he visited. Rotom had even kickstarted his journey by opening a brand new Pokédex file that contained all the main species found on the island.

    "Ula'ula awaitzzz buddy boy! Bzzt! Time for an upgrade to a new Island 'Dex by yourzzz truly! I am a genuizzz hahaha! You are now able to fill in Pokémon found on Ula'ula Island! Bzzt! Data on other Pokémon will be limited until that island izzz vizited! Bzzt!"

    Well, time to explore and see what this is all about. He glanced at the clock, remembering the late night message from Professor Kukui to meet him and Hau at the Malie Garden around one in the afternoon. The good thing about it was that Rotom 'Dex had a built in feature for navigating the Alola region and as long as it had a signal, he could easily figure out where he was to where he had to go and how long it would take to get there.

    Malie Garden wasn't far off. It seemed to be a large nature preserve just east of the city centre with the closest entrance right beside the Pokémon center.

    Time to go exploring.

    Elio had already showered last night, but he still hopped back in for a quick one and wanting to feel even more refreshed. It was a new island after all.

    New beginnings, new trials and who knows? Maybe more.

    He slipped on a pair of boxers after drying himself off with a towel before rummaging around his backpack. The ratio of clean laundry to dirty laundry was starting to get lopsided in favor of the latter. Elio guessed he would have to stay at least another night after his load was finished washed and dried.

    Not really much in a hurry anyway.

    He was down to his last two sets of shorts and shirts. All his pairs of long pants and sweats were still back in the wardrobe of his room and hadn't been taken out since he moved from Kanto. Jokingly, he wondered if any still fit him. As much as he tried to stay in shape, there was no denying the tastiness…of local Alolan cuisine.

    Or the calories too. Those malasadas have to be worth plenty.

    Elio settled on a pair of blue basketball shorts and his personal favorite athletic shirt that he had gotten from Maple Apparel; a jade green with the emblazonment of the lizardlike sceptile on the front, crossing a leaf blade move of its two arms together.

    Go Swiftly.

    He was still putting on his shirt, fitting it over his head as the door to his room shut behind him and he bound straight for the cafeteria. His body was telling him it demanded food and checking the clock indicated that it breakfast would stop being served at ten thirty.

    That was an hour from now.

    Sun hadn't really taken much of a look at the Malie City's main Pokémon center when he arrived, but now being fully awake and aware, he saw that it looked far different than any of the others he had seen.

    Am I in Alola or Ecruteak City?

    Rather than the usual green and white sterile appearance of the normal Pokémon centers, this one had richly painted walls of crimson and ivory. Windows were more abundant in this one, allowing the natural light from the outside to give off a healthy illumination from the standard lighting above.

    The furniture was definitely of better quality. He had noticed as he presented all his poke balls for checkup at the reception desk. After being assured that he would be notified that they would be ready again, he made haste towards the cafeteria.

    Here was where he found even more differences than before. A standard Pokémon center had an open kitchen with a staff on duty twenty four hours where counters had trays of warm and cold food. A guest would grab a tray and then pick out the items they wanted. Menus were established and changed weekly with a wide variety of foods appealing to everyone being available at some point. Even those with different diets such as vegetarians and gluten-free could make special requests to the kitchen for something tailored to their needs.

    This one seemed much different than any of the cafeterias he had been to. There were no lines or food dispensers save for the drink machines at the far side where the napkins and silverware were available. The tables had dark granite tops with a mahogany satin stain on the wooden legs. Chairs matched perfectly to the floor with the same color and a coppery brown suede material that softened at the touch.

    Four kiosks sat flanking a door to where Elio could hear the clanking of cookware as the kitchen continued its business. He was a bit confused at what to do until another trainer had stepped up, hitting buttons on the touchscreen. The girl swiped icons and flashed her trainer passport into a reader located at the bottom of the screen and it turned green with a bit of information he couldn't really make out. Judging from the check mark, he was guessing that the order was successfully placed.

    His thought was confirmed when the door to the kitchen opened up and one of the cooks called her number up as a confirmation of delivery.

    Order what you want. Nice.

    He stood up, ready to give it a go. Stomach empty, needing food. Nothing was going to stop him.

    Except for the distracted kid who happened to step right in his path as he briskly tried to brush past. With a yelp, he had lost his balance, grabbing onto Elio's shoulder to try and steady himself. However at the same time, Elio had taken all his weight off and it caused both boys to trip, tumbling over. It was all done accompanied by a screech of surprise from the Pokémon perched on the kid's shoulder.

    The boy's backpack had split open, sending huge textbooks, journals and papers scattered across the floor. One particularly large one had its corner dig itself rather harshly into the middle of his stomach. The wind was knocked out of him and Elio was on all fours, sputtering like a dying car engine as he struggled to reinflate his lungs.

    "Oh by the tapu! 'A'ole hou!" The boy swore as he further began to gather different leaflets of paper and stuff them frantically into his backpack.

    I'm pretty sure he said not again…so this is a common thing?

    The collision caused a few heads to turn in their direction as the boy continued to pick up things and Elio rolling around on the floor, clutching his abdomen in pain.

    "Stupid me! I'm so sorry about that!" Elio waved off his offer for assistance while he got his breathing managed and under control. "I was just in a hurry and didn't see you coming."

    "It's fine." He said, holding out a hand to get the kid to stop talking. "I'll live."

    "You look like you got the wind knocked out of you."

    Thanks Doctor. I didn't notice at all.

    Elio banished the sarcastic quip out of his head and picked himself up. He was face to face with a lanky wiry boy wearing a well-ironed dark green polo shirt with khaki shorts. His hair was long, combed neatly swept to one side. His blue eyes were behind a pair of wire half rimmed glasses that looked diligently cleaned.

    Despite the rather baby face; Elio had to guess that he was close to somewhere around his age. Not wanting to feel left out, he joined in in picking up other books and papers.

    "Thanks." The boy still avoided eye contact as he stuffed them back into his pack. "I'm so sorry again for bumping into you."

    "It's all fine." Elio said, smiling a little to lighten the mood. "To be fair, I was kind of hungry and my mind is set solely on figuring out how to get food."

    That got a chuckle out of the other trainer. "Yeah I can relate." As he slung his backpack over his shoulder, he bent over to scoop up a simian Pokémon with a long thin tail. Elio watched with amazement as it used three crowns at its bulbous end to expertly hand him a textbook he had missed. It had reddish purple fur and a cream colored face and belly. Its dark eyes had a mischievous glimmer to them.

    "Thanks Arlo." He smiled, scratching its chin earning a purr of delight.

    "And here'z a new Pokémon! Bzzt!" Rotom made its way out of Elio's pack and hovered beside the boy's partner to analyze. "Aipom. Long tail Pokémon. As it did more and more with its tail, its hands became clumsy. It makes its nest high in the treetops. Aipom is a normal type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "This is Arlo." The boy introduced. "I don't know if you've seen an aipom before, but he's my first partner Pokémon."

    "I've seen them in exhibits and shelters, but never one this close." Elio admitted, reaching out. The kid gave him an approving nod and he pat the side of its head earning a quiet cry of affection. The fur was velvety soft and he noticed that every part was carefully groomed, save for the rogue tuft on top of its head. "I know they're originally from Johto primarily, but they do see troops in Sinnoh and Hoenn."

    "Right. Oh…I kind of forgot to introduce myself…my name's Brady Wainwright."

    Did he sound a little embarrassed to say his name? And I can't help but feel like I've heard that last name before.

    "It's nice to meet you Brady." He stretched out his hand which Brady took and shook gently. Elio noticed that his grip was lacking, which almost subtly told him that he was clearly the "dominant" between the two. "My name's Elio Northstar."

    "That's really cool that you have a Rotom 'Dex." There was also an underlying hint of envy. "Are you a trainer going on the island challenge?"

    "Yeah. It's really been an experience so far. You a challenger too?"

    "I wish." Brady looked down somberly. "I'm fifteen and you have to be sixteen. I still have one more year of school left."

    Elio knew the rule and was all too familiar with it.

    Pokémon training was always a hotly debated topic in governing bodies across the region. While anyone at any age could have a Pokémon partner, actually obtaining a trainer license could legally be done at the age of ten. This was where the fine print for that didn't exist, until it came to light of a pair of prodigy trainers known as Red and Blue who ended up taking Kanto by storm. Within a year, both had defeated all eight gyms on the Kanto side of the Indigo League and blazed their own path through in tournaments, culminating in defeating the Elite Four. Their rivalry reached a peak in the League years when the finals of a conference had them opposite one another. Many scoffed at the fact that the conference title was being contended between two eleven year olds, but there was no denying both of them had the skillset seen in no ordinary trainers.

    Blue was the first to hold the champion title between the two and blew the record for the youngest ever…yet he held it for maybe three days before losing in a heated battle against Red. That match was being broadcasted worldwide, garnering the largest viewership of any televised program in the history of the Pokémon League.

    The emergence of Red and Blue to the eyes of the world had raised a lot of concerns. Since the general education duration was roughly sixteen years, most trainers would not go on their journey across their home region to obtain badges until school had been completed. With the rise of Red and Blue missing nearly half their school years, becoming famous and earning millions almost overnight from sponsorships, many others in the youth were beginning to drop out of school in an attempt to pursue a career in professional Pokémon battling.

    This trend rapidly gained movement drawing concern from both parents and governmental bodies that youth that young were not physically or mentally able to tackle on the challenges of journeying and becoming independent. While the children in question did become proficient battlers, none of them managed to reach the stardom that Red and Blue had done. On the other end of the spectrum, some parents even pulled their children from schools to personally train them in the skills to become a strong trainer. Most of those kids were dubbed "career trainers" by the media and society, but were hardly ever seen nowadays.

    The majority of the regional Pokémon Leagues had issued an amendment to stricter requirements for entrants into their tournaments and rights to challenge the Elite Four and Champion for their title. Trainers could legally have their license at the age of ten minimum, however to qualify for gym battles and entry into the local League meant they had to be at least sixteen years of age provided that school had been completed. Many years later, it was changed to where one could opt out of their final year of school and graduate early if certain prerequisites were met. Following the passing of the bill in Kanto and similar ones worldwide; the school dropout rate had decreased dramatically.

    This subject was still hotly debated even today with strong valid arguments on both sides. Elio had no idea what stance Alola took on it. Statistics showed that youth who did end up leaving school earlier for a career as a trainer had fewer rates of marginal success early on which in turn prompted many to quit. A lot of them wouldn't find success until at least a year or two of experience under their belt.

    The incumbent champions of Hoenn and Sinnoh, Brendan and Lucas didn't become that successful until they started at eighteen. Neither of them had any experience of being a trainer until they finished school. Look where they are now...making a crap ton of money and being superstars across the world.

    "I see. I just opted to finish school and my plan was to go travel through Kanto, but Mom had other plans. We moved here a few months ago."

    Brady nodded. "So you chose not to leave school. That's smart. I want to go on the island challenge, but I'm afraid of what my parents."

    "Your parents?"

    "Yeah." He raised an eyebrow at Elio. "You know my parents right?"

    He shook his head. "Actually no. Am I supposed to?"

    "No it's fine."

    Sun heard and felt his stomach rumble again. "I'm pretty hungry and want to get some breakfast. Do you want to join me?"

    He saw Brady's meek eyes light up with excitement. "Yes! Of course I would. Nobody usually invites me to sit with them!"

    "Well how about I be the first?" A thumb was jerked at the kiosk panels, "Besides, I need someone to help me figure that out."

    "Anyone can figure that out!" He laughed. "It's really easy. C'mon, I'll show you."

    After watching the previous trainer do it with such ease, apparently Elio wasn't gifted with proficient knowledge on how to use some machines on his own.

    Brady looked to be pretty familiar with it, saying that this was part of a modernization effort for Alola to further customize and tailor their services to the specific needs of each trainer in a more efficient manner. This came from an additional application that was being released for the majority of the Pokédex models including the Rotom 'Dex.

    The main featuring change at the cafeteria was how he could customize his breakfast from a variety of entrees with sides. It was all used with tapping on the icons all over the touchscreen with similar food options from the previous Pokémon centers he stayed at.

    "I'll choose linguica."

    Brady grinned. "That's a really good pick. Spicy garlic sausage is the best!"

    "Now sides of fruit and hash browns. Oh…would I like to make this my default breakfast option at Alola centers? Maybe another time." He swiped the icon to the order, getting a small ticket from the dispenser at the bottom. The screen told him a moment later that it was sent to the kitchen and the food would be out shortly.

    "I'm getting the same thing you are." Brady said. "Linguica is one of my favorite for breakfast. Instead of hash browns, I get rice."

    Not a bad combo.

    Both boys had submitted their order and chose a table close to the entrance, setting their packs on the side chairs.

    "So what brings you to Ula'ula Island?" Brady started. While they got their cups, they quickly filled them with juice and sat back at their table. "I know you're doing trials and all."

    "Trials, explore new Pokémon. The usual."

    "I wish I could guide you, but I'm still getting ready for all these tests and my parents would probably freak out if they found out I'm leaving the city without telling."

    Elio leaned forward. "Why wouldn't you tell them?"

    "Because they would freak out again if they knew I was thinking about going on my journey."

    Wow, this guy's parents sound like the overbearing and overprotective type. He'd seen them before and a lot of times they estranged themselves further from their child. It was a grateful feeling that neither of his were that way.

    "After my oldest brother got this great scholarship to study college abroad in Galar, my parents looked at us with high and lofty expectations." Brady explained. "It's stupid."

    Elio felt a pang of pity stab his side. "But your parents just want you to succeed."

    "I know! It's just that they want us to all be perfect students so that they can brag about us to no end when they go to all those huge business parties and galas. I want to succeed too, study hard, but I also want to explore and have fun. Be a trainer like Benjamin." When Elio narrowed his eyes in confusion, he sighed. "My oldest brother. He's a really good trainer and started his journey in the Galar region. Now he's studying the history of legendary Pokémon and their relationship with humans. Theology I think it was called. I'm the youngest of four boys."

    "What about your other two brothers?"

    "My parents…disowned them." The sentence came out distant and hurtful. He clearly cared about his other siblings even though they likely did something awful for something that bad to happen to them.

    Wow.

    "I'm sorry."

    "It's okay." They were interrupted when both of their numbers for food were called from the counter and got up to retrieve their plates.

    Elio looked at the sausage medallions on the side as he got silverware and refilled his juice. He could see the pork thoroughly cooked and specks of red pepper spice in there. He also had a cup of fresh fruit and the other half of the plate dominated by golden brown fried potatoes.

    They were silent as they dug into their food. Elio loved the linguica sausage, it had just a small hint of spiciness with paprika and garlic flavors combining to an explosion of flavor on his tongue. The sweet sliced pinaps cut the spice if it got too hot and the hash browns added the perfect amount of firm texture.

    "You weren't kidding when you said that linguica is awesome. I might have to get this for breakfast again another time."

    "Do it. And you'll miss out on all the other amazing stuff." Brady said, getting a laugh out of both of them.

    "You here for the Draconid Festivus? Or just trials?"

    "The what?"

    "Draconid Festivus. It's a celebration they have in appreciation to their deity of Rayquaza. In fact this one is particularly supposed to be special since it saved the world from a meteor just months ago. It's in a couple of days. They have games, food, music and its most famous part is when we all launch kites and have all the dragon Pokémon burn them to show our appreciation for them. It's really awesome at night!"

    "Huh, then I guess I'll have to go. That does sound interesting. And I bet Hau would love to be a part of that with his noibat!"

    "Hau?" Brady's eyes lit up. "Wait, you're talking about Hau Kealoha right? Kahuna Hala's grandson!"

    "Yeah he's my best friend."

    "Woah that's amazing! You get all the cool stuff. I'm jealous to be honest."

    Okay maybe I shouldn't have said best friend. That's kind of rubbing things in.

    "There's no need to be jealous. I'm gonna meet up with him in Malie Garden later…if I can actually get him to reply to my texts. You're more than welcome to come and I'm sure you two will be the best of buddies too. That guy can't have too many best friends."

    Brady looked a lot more optimistic than when he first met him. Even Arlo was feeding off his positive energy as it helped itself to his bowl of fruit.

    "As much as I'd like to. I still have to study. Still a bunch of books I need to get at the library and all. I want to get all my schoolwork done so I have time to go to the Festivus. You'll be there right?"

    Elio nodded. "When is it?"

    "Day after tomorrow. If you have any dragon Pokémon, bring them."

    "Sadly I don't. I've had chances to get them, but never did. Maybe one day."

    "Me neither. It was already a hassle just to have Arlo as my Pokémon and I really don't like upsetting my parents. I can't let them find out about my others."

    So you're keeping secrets as a trainer? Nice, but I can see so many ways of that going wrong.

    Elio liked this kid. Brady seemed smart enough to know what he wanted to do with his life, but was caught in a bad situation with a mountain full of expectations upon his shoulders.

    That's something I see a lot in kids with wealthy parents. If his family has that kind of deep pockets, he certainly doesn't act spoiled or entitled. That's something I like about him already. But it's also not surprising if he has to carry that burden of failing fear. He said one of his brothers was already on the path to being successful.

    If Brady's helicopter parents believed that being successful meant making more than enough money, anything else would fall short of their expectations.

    Elio was sure he was after a different meaning of success. Being happy and satisfied with what he had done with his life.

    "Haven't you tried to compromise?"

    Brady's face turned to disgust. "They won't have any of it. Say I'm wasting my potential and should keep it aside as a part-time hobby rather than what I should focus on."

    As much as he wanted to agree; Elio understood his parents' stance. From what he was saying, Brady was already choosing to skip his final year of school to pursue his goal of being a capable trainer. While he likely satisfied all the prerequisites to do so, his parents were seeming to believe that he was throwing all the fine education gifted to him for a profession that yielded little to no reward.

    Mister and Missus Wainwright must not have been trainers.

    "I better get going to the library to start on my studies." Brady stood up and got his backpack with Arlo climbing on the shoulder. "It was nice to meet you Elio. Let's have a battle sometime."

    "You bet."

    They shook hands before Brady turned his tray back to the counter and left the center.

    Nice guy. Elio thought to himself. I'm just happy that I don't have parental issues like that.

    Sun was quick to follow on leaving to begin exploring around the new island, tossing his tray and retrieving his Pokémon after breakfast. He stepped outside the parted frosted glass doors and took a long look around.

    Malie City definitely had that eastern vibe with inspiration from the traditional Johto architecture that dated all the way back when both it and Kanto were divided into feudal states with warlords establishing petty kingdoms across the land.

    Elio liked seeing the gold and emerald towers with the tier trimming that surrounded the fewer skyscrapers in the downtown area. Gate arches were above the roads as he headed closer to its centre. The asphalt roads were sided by hand poured concrete that had perfectly arranged gray cobblestone to form a neat pattern. All of it was evenly surfaced and slightly warm to the touch.

    The other thing he noticed was the lack of cars. Sure they were still present, but it seemed that a lot more people here either walked or used ride Pokémon.

    Air here was crisp and a lot less noisy than the other busy metropolitan cities and despite the seemingly small space in between the hills that led up a mountainside and the coast; all the roads and promenades in the city were spacious enough that it didn't seem like much of an issue.

    Sun made his way towards the city centre where the renowned shopping and entertainment are lay. In the center square of everything was an elaborate fountain with stone statues of various Pokémon spouting water from their "mouths" Reading off his Rotom Map as the Wo Fat district, it was home to the Alolan fusion of multiple different cultures from the east and west, creating a contemporary scene in terms of fashion, entertainment arts and food. Already he could see several restaurants that featured Kantoan or Johtoan food, but also bistros serving a mix. There was even a Unova style pizzeria.

    However, Malie City was famous for its sushi scene where the chefs used its proximity to the ocean to create beautifully appealing dishes to the eye and palette. His eyes went wide after seeing some of the prices on the displayed menu in the windows. This was definitely a place to come on special occasions and it largely depended on where one would want to go. Sushi restaurants and bars were commonplace in Alola due to its closeness to the four regions where it was most abundant; Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh. Since many people from those regions had immigrated, a lot of their roots had influenced Alolan culture alongside its own.

    Elio passed another street with a wide platform of steps leading to a large building that was just a little ways up the first hill to the mountainside. It looked older than some of the others around it, but he felt like it held some degree of importance. Further ahead were even more buildings and homes. Off to the right was another large building that was far newer with an erected sign on its side indicating that it was a community center.

    "Malie City Library." This seemed as the likely place where Brady had gone off to study.

    I'll have to take a look in there sometime.

    Continuing his exploration trek further north, the hills began to slowly fade as he came to the outer cape as designated on Rotom's map featurette. The familiar tall grass seemed to start right where the city ended with long fields and a chorus of cries that came from the Pokémon inhabiting within.

    Elio had noticed that he had seen a handful of Team Skull members lurking in the alleys as he had explored. None of them were close to the Wo Fat district, but a lot of the back alleyways he passed could see a figure or two with the familiar bandanna scarf covering their nose and mouth. They all looked the same with their baggy shorts, high socks and tanktops. A lot of them also had tattoos and glittering oversized jewelry around their necks that swung like pendulums.

    He didn't see any of them in the public places and many other people seemed to know they were there, yet paid them little heed. Either they were just too confident they were harmless or maybe they just didn't have the audacity to openly mug or attack someone in broad daylight.

    None of them gave him any trouble as he walked along although many avoided eye contact as soon as he looked their way. Having constantly beaten them in battle likely meant that he was starting to get an infamous reputation as someone on their hit list to be taught a lesson.

    Elio imagined that his chances of being jumped by the thugs was multiplied if he was walking around by himself at night.

    I'm not standing for it. You're not picking on people or Pokémon while I'm around. Not while I can do something about it.

    He wondered if the gang had a base or hideout somewhere on the island. The fact that they were seen so openly meant the city was a popular hangout for the outcasts and misfits. His only encounters thus far showed them as loosely organized urban thugs who were often too caught up being flashy and loud that they tripped over themselves so to speak.

    He had run into one admin so far and Plumeria's demeanor told him that while she was a notable leader; someone else was pulling the strings and she was a lieutenant to someone higher up.

    The police were still actively patrolling around the city in their black and white cruisers, motorcycles and ride Pokémon. They were aware of the Skulls around the area, but didn't openly move to cause trouble. In their eyes, as long as they weren't causing said trouble and ruckus, they would stay off the radar from law enforcement authorities.

    Team Skull wasn't anywhere here where the city gave way again to the backcountry. Here, Sun saw that the only building in the immediate area was a long silver and white building that stretched down the coastline to the cape at the end. There was a long wired fence that stretched all along the side for almost a quarter mile, completely bordering off the building from the side where the water lapped at the rocky shore.

    It was strange seeing a part of Alola meet the ocean and it not being a beach.

    Looking through the fence, he could see slow moving sluglike creatures and hear them grunting as they busied themselves with some kind of work. A closer analysis showed that they were a big colony of Alolan grimer who were all devouring scraps of some kind.

    Elio was alerted by a rustling in the patches of tall grass closest to the metal fence, watching as a trio of Pokémon emerged, glancing eagerly at the open fields of the sludge Pokémon lazily sitting inside. The first thing he noticed was a particularly foul smelling odor emanating from their direction. He knew it wasn't from the grimer since the Alolan subspecies were actually odorless. He recognized the Pokémon nonetheless.

    Two of them were smaller than the third, both irregular misshapen lumpy creatures with small stubby arms and legs. Their main bodies were a dark green color and he could see their limbs a murky brown that was typical of a color associated with garbage.

    "We've got two new Pokémon detected! Bzzt!" Rotom had chimed from Sun's backpack. "Trubbish. Trash heap Pokémon. Trubbish prefers unsanitary places best, it gorges on trash dumps and belches a toxic gas when its stomach is full. This gas can be fatal to young children and Pokémon and could put an adult human in the hospital. Trubbish is a poison type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    The 'Dex flipped to the next entry showing the same type of misshapen form, except far larger and having a long bendy left arm and more prominent brown coloration along its skin. "Garbodor. Trash heap Pokémon. It is the evolved form of trubbish. It locks opponents with its left hand and then immobilizes them by dousing their bodies with poisonous liquid. Garbodor is a poison type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Trash monsters" they were dubbed, often trying to find neglected dumps and landfills to take up residence. Both garbodor and their pre-evolution were highly territorial and their strong defensive capabilities made them a nuisance to root out. Elio had heard of "trash town" in the heart of Unova's Castelia City where a massive landfill was home to what many called a "gang" of trubbish and garbodor that were notably aggressive and territorial. There had already been many failed attempts to eradicate or control their exploding numbers.

    In Alola, it was said that their numbers were on the decline thanks to the introduction of the grimer and muk subspecies.

    That smell is enough to make me want to retch. Good lord.

    The two trubbish seemed to taunt the grimer inside while the garbodor waved its long arm around.

    "Are they trying to break in again?"

    Again?

    Elio heard the voice from inside the plant, but he was now getting the understanding that neither of the poison types was welcomed here. He took out Torracat's Poké Ball and released him right in front.

    "We're just gonna scare them off okay? Use flame charge!" He had left it ambiguous since he already knew Torracat would be smart enough to know which posed as the more dangerous target.

    The feline lit himself ablaze and rushed forward, slamming into the garbodor's side and nearly knocking it over. As he did, one of the trubbish lunged forward in a take down attack that send both smaller Pokémon tumbling onto the gravel road. Torracat got up and he seemed to be reeling from the blow.

    "Bzzt! Be advizzzed! Bzzt! Trubbish and garbodor have an ability called ztench! Bzzt! It can cause their foe cringe and render immobile!"

    "Would've been nice to know before I decided to start a battle." Elio said. By now the other trubbish had joined in the battle, opening its mouth to launch a glob of sludge attacks. Luckily, he had recovered to the point to use his legs again to propel himself out of the incoming waves. However the three bigger poison types seemed to close in on him, sensing the outnumbered advantage they possessed.

    "Grimer, help out Torracat!" Elio said, throwing out his first caught Pokémon. He noticed the others of his kind grumble in awe as he commanded a brutal swing that knocked both trubbish down and left the garbodor on its own.

    The stench seemed to intensify even more as it drew closer to Grimer, taking its eyes off Torracat. At his queue, he launched himself forward in another flame charge that connected. As the garbodor stopped, retaliating with a double slap, he dodged the subsequent attack by ducking underneath and launching a double kick attack at the larger Pokémon's base. Grimer moved moments later in yet another brutal swing attack, using his outstretched arm like a booming hammer with the combined attacks finally felling the trash heap Pokémon to the ground.

    They gathered in front of their trainer, guard still up from seeing that their foe was not quite out of the fight. Garbodor slid upright and glanced around to see that its two smaller trubbish minions had already run off. It shot Elio another nasty glare before turning and disappearing back into the thicket.

    Phew. Elio took the risk after a few moments and breathed through his nostrils. He could still smell the pungent odor, although now it had dissipated enough that he could stop breathing through his mouth. He knelt down to his two Pokémon. "Good job guys. I think we scared them off for good."

    Torracat happily purred while Grimer gave him that lazy smile while still waving his squishy arms around.

    "Hey what do you think you're doing here kid? This is a restricted area!"

    Sun snapped his head around to the entrance of the building to see two men walking out to meet him. The older man was slightly behind as the younger one had a more stern look and pointed a crooked finger in the boy's direction.

    "That's enough son!" The older man yelled back. "You're a native of Malie City aren't you? We're known throughout Alola for our hospitality! Kids need to explore and see the world! How else are they going to learn?"

    Elio noticed the son had quickly backed down, glancing away from both of them rather sheepishly and embarrassed. "Yes dad. I mean sir…yes sir."

    He shook his head again. "If that's what you really want then I'll tell this random trespasser about what we do here."

    Random trespasser? You know I'm a person too? Just like you. As much as he wanted to retort, Sun bit back his tongue and let it slide.

    "This is where we take care of the entire garbage disposal produced in Alola. We're aiming to have the lowest waste output of any region in the world thanks to the people and Pokémon that work together here. Most of it is consumed by the workers muk and grimer gathered by our system that runs through the areas of Alola. Our director next to me has Junkie, a muk that can eat ten tons of garbage in a single day!"

    Wow. That's actually really impressive!

    "I'm actually just a temporary contract worker." The son admitted. "My grimer's still hard at work eating his fill." He gestured to Grimer standing beside Elio. "But I see you have one yourself."

    "Yeah! Caught him at Hau'oli City. He was my very first Pokémon I caught."

    Elio saw the father's eyes light up at the mention of catching a Pokémon, he glanced over at his backpack locating the small island challenge amulet that was attached to the back strap.

    "Isn't that an island challenge amulet you got there?"

    "Uh yeah."

    "Nice!" The son's demeanor slipped into one a bit friendlier. "I actually went on the island challenge myself…though I found it was kind of too much for me and I ended up quitting almost instantly. Now I'm just working for my boss…who's also my dad…processing trash. Great huh? Real glamorous job."

    Elio felt a bit of pity for the son, already accepting of his less than fortunate fate of how he was going to make a living. He didn't seem that much older than him…maybe in his mid-twenties roughly close to Kahuna Olivia Rios' age.

    Yet at the same time, you're needed. We're still going to be generating trash and we still need people and Pokémon to properly dispose of it rather than littering the land and sea.

    "Well," he began quietly. "You're right. It's a dirty job, definitely far from glamorous for sure…but someone has to do it. I think you can take comfort in the fact that if people look down on you for such a literal trashy profession…they're wrong."

    "I don't know about that."

    "Think about it this way." Elio saw that he even got the man's father to nod in agreement with his statement. "You're doing something that most people don't imagine themselves doing because they'd be stooping down to a lower level. The fact that you're making those goals of having Alola further reduce its trash output tells me that you're willing to do this job while other people won't. And that sounds like they're more concerned about their own personal image over that of the environment."

    He got an understanding look from the son. "Huh…I never would've thought of it that way."

    Sun cracked a grin. "And another good thing. Since trash and waste management is always going to be in demand, you'll never be short of a paycheck. I used to live in Kanto before I moved out here and the garbage collectors there actually make a decent living mostly because there are so few willing to do such a dirty job. There's opportunity and need…and this job has both."

    I honestly spouted that out on my own. Should I be a motivational speaker or something?

    "That's a fine way of putting things kid." The father said, cupping his chin. "Say, Junkie's had a bit too much to eat today and I'm sure his stomach is upset. How about you join him in battle and provide some exercise to aid his digestion?"

    First I'm trespassing and now they're inviting me to battle? Okay then.

    "Sure. I could definitely use some practice before my next trial."

    "That's what I like to hear!" The father boomed, taking out a Poké Ball. However instead of him throwing a Pokémon out onto the gravel road, he handed it to his son. The latter looked rather perplexed at the gesture.

    "What are you standing there for? You're up!"

    "What?!" This ended up catching both Elio and his son completely off guard. "What do you mean I'm up? There's no way I can use Junkie to win a battle against this kid!"

    The father shook his head. "You don't have a choice. Battle him or you're fired!"

    "No!"

    "This is where the problem lies! You see! This is just like you did with your island challenge when you were his age! The moment something of difficulty starts and you give a cry and run off! You give up without even trying to see if you can overcome it at all!"

    "Dad, I can't."

    "How am I supposed to leave this plant to you in charge one day if you never learn the value of persistence and dedication? I know you're a hard worker, but I can't ever leave things in your hands if you don't give me reason to trust you can properly handle it!"

    Elio saw the son's mouth quiver and knew that his father had struck a nerve. But he was more concerned about the family drama unfolding in front of him and how he seemed to have initiated it. He glanced over at the open road back into the city, as if it was beckoning him to run off.

    The father sensed it too. "Go ahead. Run off again. Your contract was set to end after two more days. I won't hold it against you, but running away from something like this will not solve your problems. It will only prolong them!"

    "I can uh…come back. Maybe another time."

    "No." The son quietly said to break the tension. "No. I'll do it."

    He glanced up at his stern looking father. "I'm not running away this time! I'm giving this all I have! Give me Junkie." As he was handed the Poké Ball, Elio readied his own choice; Akela.

    "Come on out buddy!"

    "Junkie, ready for battle!"

    Elio's werewolf Pokémon stretched his lanky forearms and bared his teeth in a low growl, ready for battle. On the other side, a liquid Pokémon appeared in the same shape as the muk he used to see back in Kanto.

    However this one was drastically different than the purplish blobs that infested the sewage dumps at the lakes and rivers in Kanto. Its coloration was multicolored in striation bands of green, yellow, pink and blue. Its normally toothless mouth had several sharp fangs lining its jaw and he could see a few other hard lumps in its amorphous body.

    "New Pokémon detected! Bzzt!" Rotom did his thing as usual. "Muk. Sludge Pokémon. Alola form. It is the evolved form of grimer. What look like fangs and claws are actually crystallized poison that can afflict you at a mere touch, so don't get too close. The chemical reaction between hundreds of poisons in the crystals are the source of its vitality. Alolan muk is a poison and dark type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Alright, now that we've introduced our contenders, this is a standard exhibition match. First Pokémon to knock out the other is the winner." The father waved his hands and stood in between the contestants. "Battle begin!"

    "We'll start this off right. Rock tomb!" Elio shouted, still wondering if he was supposed to go easy on the son. On one hand, he wanted to win like always, but on the other he wasn't sure if winning was going to cause something even worse. What was worse than being called out by your own father? Getting disowned? What if the son's fortunes took a turn for the worse because he lost?

    No. He said he wasn't going to run away from this and give it all he's got. I will too, even if that means I end up crushing him.

    On his command, Akela swung both his fists forward, light forming into large boulders that were thrown at Junkie. They flew across the road, impacting the sides of his body. Much to his surprise, the sludge Pokémon didn't seem to flinch or take any noticeable damage.

    The son looked a little uncertain, but he pointed again. "Use minimize!" Junkie vanished, shrinking himself down.

    "Now ice punch!"

    That thing knows ice punch?

    Similar to the trick he always did with Grimer; Junkie reverted back to his original size before slamming both his fists glowing with frigid energy into Akela's exposed midsection. With a squeal of pain, he stumbled back shivering from the coldness of the blow before shaking his head to clear it.

    We're not done with this. Elio ordered another rock tomb which was countered with yet another minimize, however this time around he quickly switched to bite and clamped down on Junkie's exposed arm as it prepared a second ice punch. The attack got more of a reaction from the older Pokémon as it flung its arm out to toss Akela off. He landed on his feet, using his forelegs to slow himself while gouging gashes on the road.

    Junkie came at them with a third ice punch in which Akela wasn't able to dodge or counter attack in time. He fell to his hands and knees while shivering again; no doubt chilled. Elio knew ice type moves often left the victim temporarily slowed down as they would struggle to bring their outer skin temperature back up. It was less effective on Pokémon with the thick fat ability as well as fire and ice types.

    He had no idea how long it would be before Akela could move unrestricted again and it was likely the son and Junkie were determined to take advantage of their upper hand.

    "Heh, I still got it! Use brick break!"

    Yup there it is.

    Junkie slithered over at a surprisingly fast pace for a Pokémon made of sludge. Rather than his hands going into icy fists, they glowed as he flattened them into a chopping form. Akela was still staggering to his feet and shaking off the chilled effect.

    Elio knew it was going to be too late to yell at him to dodge or for him to take the initiative anyway. So he took advantage of the midnight lycanroc's own strengths.

    "Counter it!"

    Akela's eyes shut as he endured the super effective hit, however at the last moment, he planted his feet on the ground and opened them back up. With a snarl, his paws lashed out onto the muk's head to deliver a blow worth double the power. Junkie slid back significantly with a large indentation in the side of his head where Akela had struck back.

    "That's really bad for us." The son said. He then proceeded to utter a command that effectively neutralized Elio's hopes of using the move again.

    The counter's disabled, but we're not out of options!

    "Rock tomb again!" He was hoping the son would take the bait again from the rather useless attack to get back in close. If Akela initiated it himself, the other trainer would immediately suspect something to be up. He was able to deliver the solid counter move up close, but with that disabled, it meant Junkie was going to have the clear advantage with a fighting type move like brick break. The only solid weakness Alolan muk had were ground type moves and his ground type user was not the one currently in battle.

    It wouldn't be fair for me to switch.

    "Use minimize to dodge! Get ready to move in close!"

    Perfect.

    Junkie vanished from sight to avoid the hurled boulders before springing back up again within hand striking distance.

    "Now grab it!"

    Elio felt his back prick with sweat, being restrained up close was an obvious risk for close combat, but it limited what Akela could do. Counter was still disabled. Junkie's hand seemed to grow twice as large before it closed down on the wolf's left arm, practically cutting off any use he had for it.

    "Reversal!"

    The lycanroc growled and gave a feral grin before gathering energy into his right fist and letting loose with a single punch. Reversal was a move that got stronger as the user got closer to being knocked out. Elio had started to develop the strategy of keeping the move as a reserve, utilizing counter to deal double damage to physical attacks and then hitting again with reversal for key knockouts.

    Junkie seemed to dissolve from the hit, his viscous liquid body splattering like paint against the dirt road.

    At first, Elio recoiled at seeing it. Grimer didn't explode when he was defeated, merely slumping over. Was this what he would eventually do when he evolved?

    "I didn't mean that!" He started, immediately feeling bad and wondering if the reversal move was overkill. Both the father and son looked far less surprised.

    "Junkie's fine." No sooner had he said that when he saw the loose congealed blobs of sludge slowly start to coagulate together again. The muk's arms drooped lazily by his side as he shook off the ill effects. Akela tensed, however his trainer raised a hand, already knowing that the battle was already concluded.

    "Junkie…return." The muk was sucked away back into its Poké Ball as the son lowered his head and handed it back to its true trainer. He refused to meet his father's gaze. "I'm sorry Dad…you're right. I am just a weakling."

    Before Elio or the son could say anything more, his father broke out into laughter. It grew boisterously until he began wiping his eyes from tears of mirth.

    "Son…you have no idea how long I've wanted to see you do something like that. You're hired!"

    "WHAT? Dad I,"

    "I'm not your dad. I'm your boss…actually no. YOU'RE the boss! From the day forward after your contract is done, I'm making you the director of the plant! And I won't hear another word of complaint out of you! Understand?"

    "Dad, I lost." The son quietly said. "I'm just like those people from Team Skull. A reject."

    "You saw that this trainer was clearly stronger having driven off those trubbish and garbodor. Yet you and Junkie went at it with everything you had. I'd even go as far to say you had a fair chance to defeat him. That's what I've always wanted to see from you; that kind of persistence and drive! I know you have it now and that's why you are going to take over for me as director."

    "I…I don't know what to say?"

    The father smirked. "How about thank you for giving me this opportunity?"

    "Yes." The son's mouth broke into a huge smile. "Thank you Dad! I mean, former…director sir! I won't let you down! But what do I do? How should I proceed with this?"

    Another smirk. "How and where the plant goes is all entirely up to you, director." He turned to address Elio, who was silent and still a bit lagging behind trying to figure out all that just happened. "I'm sorry to have to use you as a tool to teach my son a lesson here. I saw you as someone in my son's shoes not too long ago and it hit me." He dug into his pocket. "Take this for your trouble. It may be twisted, but it's definitely not a piece of garbage for sure!"

    Elio eyed the spoon that was offered out and gingerly took it, examining the perfect helix spiral at the neck.

    "That's a twistedspoon." The son explained. "It's an item that can boost the power of psychic type moves."

    "Now that I've got my successor sorted out, it's time to finally retire after all these years. I know I can trust on my boy here and his crew of workers and their Pokémon to keep the place running like a well-oiled machine!"

    "Yes sir. You can count on that sir!"

    "Grime!"

    "Grimer?" The father squatted down as a pair of the sludge Pokémon from within the plant appeared, waving their arms to try and get the humans' attention. A third one was behind them, which Elio recognized as his own.

    "Grime." They turned around, slowly moving their way over to the side of the plant that faced the end of the road. This far out from town didn't have many homes on the coastal side, likely due to the waste processing plant requiring a marginal amount of space.

    "Guess we should follow them." The father and new director agreed and they trailed the grimer around. They noticed it before the Pokémon had pointed it out to them.

    "Aw nuts." The father grumbled, throwing up his hands in exasperation. "Right after we cleaned the last one! They come and do it again!"

    Elio looked at the rather colorful graffiti that had been spray painted on one of the garage docks where the dump trucks would back in to deliver their load. A pair of skulls and crossbones dominated the tan colored metal exterior with bulging eyes that had red pupils. Their jaws were open with the occasional gold and silver tooth in a mocking laughter expression.

    Elio's heart sank when he saw the text at the bottom in crudely spray painted letters.

    "Trashy job done by trashy people! Right where U belong! LMAO! SMH!"

    The father sighed, "Gonna take weeks before we can clean that up!"

    "I guess that's gonna be our first order of business as director." The son said. "I'll put in an order for cleaning supplies, but it could take days before it arrives."

    Meanwhile, Elio was staring at how the property was trespassed so carelessly. He had already an idea of what…or rather who would do such a thing.

    "Team Skull."

    "Unfortunately." The father crossed his arms. "They're not so bad over on the other islands except in the cities, but they're everywhere here on Ula'ula Island. We've been having a huge graffiti problem in the cities. I can't even imagine what they've done to Po Town."

    "Is that the reason why cleaning paint supplies are out of stock? How did Team Skull get their hands on so much of it anyway?"

    Good question.

    "I can get them to you." Elio suggested. "Order them at a store in Malie and I'll use a ride Pokémon to carry everything. No need to send someone else to pick it up."

    "I can't ask you to do that."

    "You're not asking me. I'm saying so. Besides, I'm on my island challenge. It's not like I'm racing anyone to be the first to win it." At the same time, Elio felt his cell begin to ring and vibrate in his pocket. The ID read: Hau.

    Really Hau, you decide to call me at the worst times!

    Sun excused himself and answered the call.

    "Brah!" Hau's excited voice almost ruptured one of his eardrums. "Where in the tapu's oatmeal are you? I've been looking all over the city!"

    "Hau? I'm at the outer cape area by the garbage plant."

    "Huh…I didn't take you as someone who likes hanging around garbage places."

    "No." Elio sharply said, glancing back at the father and son who were deep in discussion. "It's kind of a long story."

    "Anyway, get your butt over to Malie Garden! It's one forty in the afternoon, we're already late since we promised to meet Professor Kukui at one! He's probably scratching his head wondering where we are!"

    "Guess I really don't have much of a choice right? I'm on my way back I suppose."

    "Okay. I'll see you."

    "Hey Hau?"

    The line was silent on the other end for just a moment. "Yeah?"

    "How are you holding up?"

    "What do you mean?"

    Elio scoffed. "You know exactly what. Don't try to avoid it. I'm trying to look out for my bro, that's all."

    "It's tough," Hau finally addressed the donphan between them. "I'm still wondering how Leilani is while sitting on a bed back home on Melemele Island. We're here enjoying something she should be too…she should be out on a board to the ele'ele beaches trying to conquer another wave."

    "Who knows, maybe she'll be at it again." He didn't know anything for certain since there had been no news at all concerning Leilani's road to recovery. All that remained was keeping the faith and optimism that she'd one day be joking and laughing.

    Maybe something more between her and Hau.

    "Anyway, I'll be headed that way. Took me about twenty minutes here, so about that time to head back to the garden. See ya." And with that, Elio hung up, pocketing his phone. He walked casually back to where the father and son were still talking in between about the illicit paint job.

    After bidding them farewell and promising to return the next day with the ordered supplies, they gave him an address to the shop where he could retrieve their order. He briskly hurried away, waving again while wasting no time to get to Malie Garden.

    I hope it's worth skipping half the day for. Not to blame anyone, it was a long night.

    Elio smiled to himself as the sun finally began to peek through a small opening in the cloud cover as he remembered everything that happened last night…both interesting and bad.

    He stopped short just as he stepped back into the Wo Fat district. His hand went down to the poke balls on his belt, all six of them there, but one without its resident Pokémon.

    Oh crap. I left Grimer at the garbage plant.

    Heh, he might not even know I left.

    Whoops. A word of advice to trainers, try to keep track of your Pokémon so they don't get lost.

    Translations:

    • 'A'ole hou! - Not again!
    • Linguiça - Also known as Linguisa. It is a smoke cured pork sausage primarily seasoned with garlic and paprika with a strong spicy flavor. Commonly eaten in Portuguese speaking countries and areas. Hawaii has a large Portuguese influence and the sausage has become a favorite in all meals, but notably as a breakfast or brunch alongside rice and eggs.

    And as always, thank you for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose and I'll see you again for the next update.

    Brav
     
    Rezna likes this.
  4. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Bravo
    (Braviary)
    Level 62
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    Apr 18, 2017
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers, Brav is here with another chapter! Really got little to say here other than hope everyone has a good Memorial Day. This chapter took a while to get finished since there were parts that kind of dragged on in terms of writer's block. In the end, with all the edits, I'm more pleased than I expected when this was finally finished.
    I hope everyone enjoys the chapter.

    Elio
    was fast to get back to the Malie Garden according to Professor Kukui. He’s kind of like that in a hurry. Then there I was in the middle of Malie City not sure of where to go and who do I bump into? Heh...take a guess.
    Sun’s such a sweet boy and I feel so happy and excited whenever he talks to me. Would you believe he’s gotten so much confident now? I almost want to say it’s rubbing off on me.
    Anyway he and Hau had a battle outside the garden before he ran into me. Hau keeps on telling me how exciting it was and he’s honestly right. Maybe Pokémon battles aren’t all bad like I originally envisioned.


    Elio knew right where he was going this time around, thanks to both Rotom 'Dex pointing out his course and faintly remembering its location relative to the Pokémon center. Unlike the twisting and winding streets of some other cities; Malie was more "gridlike" with sectors and blocks holding buildings and using crosswalks in front of intersections for pedestrians to traverse across lanes. As he made his way past the Wo Fat district, the car traffic began to pick up as the mid-afternoon began to settle in and the pedestrian light timers had activated.

    It was actually pretty astounding considering how bold some of the pedestrians were at least on his way up towards the outer cape. If there was only one or fewer cars moving on the road, people would often step out onto the street to cross over to their own car or a business on the other side. Now it appeared that everyone was strictly adhering to their particular sidewalks since both motor vehicles and ride Pokémon were actively going up and down the streets.

    He crossed another intersection with said sidewalk taking him all the way to the Pokémon center close to the harbor.

    The weather had cooled just a bit and he felt the flicks of a wet drizzle across his pale skin. Grumbling about rain, Elio figured that this wouldn't amount to require him in getting out his raingear. He had already put his clothes through the washer and dryer with no intent to do it again so early on.

    Nobody had told him, but Malie City and the eastern part of Ula'ula Island was one of the wettest spots in Alola, receiving close to a hundred fifty inches of rain a year. With ominous gray to black clouds overhead almost on a daily basis, it was commonly known as the "rain capital of the world" since its numbers of annual rainfall competed with a handful of other urban areas for mass precipitation. He was pretty sure every business, restaurant and home in the area had ready buckets to contain leaky roofs. Another solid bet was that roof repair would always have good business from such a high demand.

    Oh goodness I hope it doesn't dump buckets on me.

    The misty drizzle faded away as he finally made it to the entrance of the Malie Garden. Both tourists and locals alike were coming in and out of the arched gateway, so he stepped aside so that he was not in the way of people.

    Close to the harbor, he could see others wearing polo shirts with the logo of Malie City workers setting up portable metal barriers. Others were putting together skeletons of canopies which had yet to be erected.

    I wonder if that's the Draconid Festivus Brady was talking about back at the Pokémon center.

    Close to the side of the buildings and the open ground of the garden were tall sinewy trees with stick limbs all clustered around a barely visible central trunk. They opened their leaves far above to provide shade, although that was redundant considering Malie's commonly overcast weather. However the branches on some had started to overlap, creating a botanic tunnel of sorts. Elio asked a passerby about the trees since he had never seen any others like it before. He learned that they were banyans and as one of the main streets leading into Malie City, this was known as banyan drive as each individual tree was planted at a different time by different people. Many of them were celebrities and it was always a tradition for the newly annointed kahuna of the island to add another.

    Elio noticed a plaque engraved beside each plant, indicating the date the tree was planted and by whom. Some were actors, others lawyers, businessmen. There were a couple that were planted by commemorated champions such as Diantha Rousseau and Wallace Rain.

    The line of banyans had not quite reached the area where Malie Garden was, but he thought it would be cool one day to see the whole one way street that led into the city as a large tunnel. Some boats on the Alola's ferry services were capable of carrying cars from island to island and thus would be one of the first things they would see when they entered town.

    Each one was planted there as a representation of the Alolan god of abundance and fertility and the protecting Tapu of Ula'ula Island.

    "Well it's about time you showed up! I thought Professor Kukui told you to use your agility!"

    Elio whirled around and made a move to smack Hau upside the head, however the other boy was quick to react and spun away.

    "Easy brah. I'm just playing around! Gee...can't take a joke huh?"

    "You know what's a joke? Making me have to run back here because you couldn't wake up in time."

    "Yeah," Hau scratched the back of his head in that familiar habit again. "I'm sorry about that. The good news is that I'm fully caffeinated and full up on malasadas to tackle this awesome day! We're going right back to our kūlana!" (adventure)

    Elio stared at him. "Malasadas again?"

    "Yup! Got my fill at the local shop as always! They had a cocoa chocolate flavor!"

    "Only you."

    Hau decided to change the subject. "Wow...so this really is Ula'ula Island huh? It's like…a totally different place than Melemele or Akala huh? It's crazy to see how each island is different from the others!"

    "Uh Hau." Elio reminded him. "We're here to see Professor Kukui right?"

    "Oh yeah. And then we're having our battle!"

    "Yeah...about that."

    "What?"

    He snorted but shrugged. "I kind of left Grimer at the garbage plant in the outer cape while I was exploring. Long story."

    "What do you mean, did you release him?"

    "No. I just took off since you called me pretty urgently. He looked like he was right at home eating up the trash with the others that live there, so I'm pretty sure that he won't even notice I'm gone until I go back."

    "That means you have just five Pokémon! So do I! Let's do a five on five match!"

    After agreeing to that, both boys set foot into the Malie Garden. The hedge wall was about three times their height in a rectangular shape in a set perimeter around the area. It was a quarter mile long to the other end.

    A sign was posted right at its entrance going over what seemed like a set of rules and regulations while within the premises. It had put emphasis on ride Pokémon, prohibiting their use within the garden's borders with the exception of the Glide by charizard or other Pokémon capable of flight. Battling was allowed, however both parties could be held responsible for damages to the garden's property. They lastly warned that wild Pokémon inhabited the areas of the thicker grass and catching them was acceptable. Any non trainer or trainer wishing to avoid contact with the inhabitants was advised to steer clear of of the thicket as Pokémon seldom ventured outside.

    Below the metal sign was a slit locked box with a second one indicating that the garden's maintenance and funding came from donors of all kinds since it was envisioned as being permanently nonprofit. All of its caretakers were volunteers who took it upon themselves to make it as beautiful as possible. There was also a message from the land owner who hoped that it would be enjoyed by all, to be respectful to all others while inside.

    Every little bit helps.

    Nobody was obligated to leave any money, but Elio did. It just felt...right, even if the few dollars he slipped into the slot would be able to maybe be enough to buy a new rake or something. Hau saw what he had did and followed his lead. It actually felt pretty good when he saw that the donation box was quite full.

    Maybe people are just that nice and compassionate while here.

    The garden was a mix of many flower species, bamboo stalks and freshly cut grass that made different pathways accessible as they walked through. In one corner, he saw another one of those green and gold towers that looked similar to the famous Bell Tower in Ecruteak City.

    Malie was said to be founded by a large number of Johtoans.

    There was a lake in the center, but unlike the usual circle or ovoid shape he was used to seeing, this one snaked out almost in a serpentine pattern, meandering to one side and curving to the next. Small little blemishes on the otherwise smooth side sloped into the water that had a glassy smooth surface.

    Part of it rippled and Elio watched as four small poliwag stumbled on the incline as they walked back up. They were accompanied by a larger blue poliwhirl with the same spiral pattern on its bigger belly. Underneath, he could see schools of bright orange magikarp and goldeen. He saw a pair of basculin as well, this time of the red striped variant. There was another white and orange fish Pokémon with the same long horn as the goldeen.

    "A seaking." Elio remembered seeing them in aquariums. Although they were notorious for breaking through glass, tamed ones by trainers were favored for their vivid coloring.

    "New Pokémon detected! Updating databazzze! Bzzt!" Rotom said as he catalogued the new encounter. "Seaking. Goldfish Pokémon. It is the evolved form of goldeen. When the weather grows cold, its whole body flushes red. This serves as a poetic reminder heralding the arrival of autumn. Males dance on the lake and ocean floors using its fins to attract females, who gather around the one who dances the most gracefully. Seaking is a water type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "They're amazing." Hau whispered, leaning over the railing with him to admire the fish.

    "They really are. I used to see them all the time back in Kanto." A common gathering in Cerulean City during the beginning of the fall equinox was when the schools of seaking would migrate to the southern warmer waters via the sea for mating season. They would flow along the rivers and channels of northeast Kanto in such large numbers that the bodies turned orange. Every beginning of autumn, thousands of people would come and line the riverbanks to witness the migration spectacle.

    Directly in front of them was a long arch bridge made of wood and a metal frame. The planks clinked sturdily as they made their way across. Going up a little taller in height gave a little more perspective. They could see more bridges further in and another shorter tower in similar shape to the other one off at the garden's eleven.

    On the largest patch of land with flower lined pathways was a small stand that had tables in front, each with black umbrellas hanging above to protect patrons from an unexpected shower. Two employees with aprons were tending to a line of patrons with various drinks.

    Elio recognized them as bubble tea, a popular eastern beverage that was often sweetened with black pearl boba, a topping at the drink's bottom of chewy ball-like treats that were sipped through wide straws made of tapioca. Bubble tea shops and stands were recently a rising trend, showing up on menus in cybercafes and popular shopping centers.

    "Hey, want a bubble tea?" He asked Hau. The other boy nodded and since neither of them had spotted Professor Kukui yet, opted to get a drink while they waited. They both bought a regular sized milk tea and retreated to one of the outer tables sipping thoughtfully.

    "Well how about that! You did a lot of acrobatics to beat me here!"

    "Professor!" They exclaimed, looking up to see the familiar man in an open lab coat pull up a chair from a nearby empty table to join them. He too had a milk tea in hand.

    "Did you two use mind reader and get the same thing as me?"

    They laughed. "I swear we were here first!" Hau said.

    "It isn't every day I find two familiar boys just a few people in front of the line! You both looked like you were having too much fun so I passed on trying to get your attention!" As Kukui took another sip, they saw some of the black boba orbs pass through the straw. "Both of your eyes are shining extra bright today! Did something amazing happen?"

    "Yeah you could say that." Elio really didn't want to share the details of the ultra beast attacking him, but he didn't have much of a choice at the moment.

    "Professor, you gotta hear this!" Hau's bubbliness was just as much as the tea they were drinking. "We were at the Aether Paradise and the Ultra Wormhole opened up...like right in front of us and we got to see an ultra beast up close!"

    Too close.

    "You gotta say that to Professor Burnet!"

    Kukui's eyes went wide with excitement. "What? Woo! You got to see an ultra wormhole and an ultra beast? That is cool oh yeah!"

    "They were strong." Elio added, finally deciding to speak up a little more. "Hau and I battled it after it started to be a little hostile to everyone where. It's got power that's on a whole entire level of its own."

    "That sounds like an even better reason to train hard, yeah? Mega punch that Island Challenge outta the park! Woo!" He paused to think for a moment. "You know, maybe someday we'll all be able to go through the ultra wormhole!"

    "I think I'll pass on that one." Elio held up his hands to show his backing out. "You can say I'm wimping out and all, but I'd rather stay away from places and things that are trying to kill me. If that beast is any indication of what lies over there, it makes the Outback look safe in my eyes."

    He again had no intention of actually going to the beast's homeworld, wherever it was. "But I am here for more on the island challenge. What's up next for me to crush?"

    "That's the spirit cousin!" Kukui pumped a fist. "Your next trial is on top of Mauna Hokulani! It's a bit of a hike, but there's a bus service that you can catch to get up there!"

    "Well," Hau started. "You two can go without me Professor! I've got a hot date with the malasada bakery tonight!"

    Elio wasn't sure whether he was joking or serious. "Didn't you already have malasadas for breakfast or lunch today?"

    "Yeah so? I need another one."

    "Eating away your worries huh?" As Hau wrinkled his eyebrows in confusion, Sun added onto that. "I'm not exactly sure Leilani is going to appreciate an extra roll on you once she's able to walk again."

    He instantly regretted the words as soon as they left his lips. That wasn't the message he was trying to send.

    Hau bowed his head. "I know...eating too much is bad and I've probably gained a little bit of weight from them. Okay...I guess so. Tonight and then I'll stop after a while."

    "I'm not trying to tell you stop eating them for the rest of your life. I like them too you know, just...be mindful. One of my favorite things to always eat was this chocolate tuxedo layered cake. My dad's buddies would make it and he'd take some of the leftovers home. I kind of helped myself every night when my parents weren't looking. And then my mom caught me and has always said it goes from the lips to the hips."

    "Yeah. Just visiting all the malasada shops I can is my own personal island challenge!"

    "There's quite a lot of them!" Kukui agreed. "You'll be hard-flying-pressed to hit them all!" He stood up and finished his drink, before using just one hand to toss it towards a nearby wastebasket.

    Elio's eyes went wide as it sailed through the air, straight through the opening without a hit on the can's rim.

    "Wow...that's like a three pointer."

    "You think you're the only one who played basketball here?" Kukui's mouth twitched into a smirk as he headed for the exit. "We can head up tomorrow morning if you like."

    "That works for me Professor." Elio said. "Wait...where's Lillie?"

    "I was wondering when you were going to ask that." The smirk returned to his features. "She's around yeah. I'll definitely make sure you two can spend some time together before you leave for your trial."

    Now it's like everyone knows I have a crush on her.

    "Hey...hey Elio. Did you know?"

    "Yeah of course I did."

    "I didn't even finish talking. Are you spacing out thinking about Lillie again?"

    "Yes I am. Is that a problem-UGH!" Elio yanked his arm away from the table and clutched his head as the familiar and unpleasant sensation of liquid ice seemed to tap itself into his head again. His hand almost knocked over their drinks in the process.

    "Sun!" Hau's expression immediately went to concern as he went over to his friend's side. "Sun, are you okay?"

    "Yeah...yeah I'm okay." Elio waved off a couple other people who were responding to the commotion. "Just dizzy."

    The kahuna's grandson didn't look convinced. "That doesn't seem like dizziness to me. You were screaming like you had a migraine or something. Are you sure you're fine?"

    "No. I feel better now."

    "As long as you know your own limits brah. Anyway, there's an observatory up on Mount Hokulani! And you know what they do at an observatory right?"

    "Yeah. Look at stuff."

    "I sure as heck have no idea." Hau dusted his shirt off. "Say how about you and I get that battle out of the way?"

    "You've waited this long. Prepare to lose again." Elio grinned like a maniac. "Let's not do it in the garden. I know the Pokémon center has an arena we can use."

    Fortunately for them, it was not occupied when both boys left the garden and made their way back. Elio rechecked his room and decided to book it for one more night before he headed up the mountain. He did get a message from the new director at the garbage plant saying that the cleaning supplies had just arrived and ready for pickup.

    After this battle, I'll go and do that. Will probably need a ride Pokémon to help me since there's so much of it.

    Each Pokémon center had at least one room set to the standard battle dimensions. The walls and ceiling were enclosed in the Ward technology to shield both the structure and humans inside when it concerned powerful Pokémon attacks.

    Elio tuned the referee system and on the scoreboard overhead; their shots on their trainer passport were shown alongside five pokeballs. As they took their spots, other people were already drawn to the battle, standing outside or on the bleachers to look at the action.

    "This is a five on five battle between the trainers on the red side and the trainers on the blue side." The disembodied female voice said over the hidden speakers somewhere above their heads. "Rules are standard exhibition sanctioned matches and the battle will conclude when the entirety of a trainer's Pokémon party have all been defeated. Trainers on red side, do you accept these terms?"

    "Yes." Sun said. Even though other terms such as "yeah" "okay" were acceptable, a verbal yes was required to proceed.

    "Trainers on the blue side, do you accept these terms."

    "Yes." Hau pumped a fist. "Let's do this!"

    "Terms accepted." The referee said. "Red side has been chosen to select their first Pokémon."

    "I guess I'm up then." Elio's hand went to his right side where the six poke balls were at.

    Guess I better move Grimer's to the left already. Save me the embarrassment of throwing an empty one.

    "Rufflet, you're up first buddy!" He flicked the ball, activating it on a spin and releasing his small eaglet. He landed in front with eyes blazing for a fight.

    Hau readied his own Poké Ball. "Oh this is gonna be good! Toast, let's go!"

    The Pokémon burst out of the ball; a light brown and white rodent like creature with glassy blue eyes. Two small electric sacs were on its cheeks. A long tail curled around to form a platform which it stood on with its furry feet.

    That looks like a raichu. But not any raichu I've seen before.

    "Rotom?"

    "Oh yezzzz a new Pokémon! Bzzt!" His 'Dex popped out and floated in front of him. "Raichu. Mouse Pokémon. Alola form. It is the evolved form of Pikachu. It only evolves into this form in Alola. According to researchers, its diet is one of the causes for this change. It focuses psychic energy into its tail and rides it like it's surfing. Alolan raichu are commonly nicknamed "hodad" Alolan raichu is an electric and psychic type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "It's a psychic type too?" I've never even knew that it and electric could be paired together! He clenched his fists. I'm already at a disadvantage here and I really don't want to force my hand into an early switch.

    The screen began to blink green three times, indicating for the battle to begin.

    You named your raichu Toast?

    "Rufflet, begin with aerial ace!"

    His eaglet looped in midair moving fast enough to nearly vanish as he struck Toast in the side. The attack didn't seem to do much damage, nor did it stagger Toast, barely wobbling it as he quickly righted himself up with perfect balance atop his surfboard tail.

    "Use reflect!" As Toast waved his stubby hands to form a whitish wall of light in front, it followed up with a powerful thunderbolt. Rufflet skillfully rolled in midair to avoid it.

    Elio had him go in again; using another aerial ace to move up close. While flying types were indeed vulnerable to electric type moves; the common one of thunderbolt that Hau used required a degree of accuracy to fire to bolt towards its target. By moving fast almost blindingly invisible, he was able to temporarily avoid that retaliation.

    Gonna cause as much damage as possible. I'm relying on the element of staying afloat and keeping him on his toes.

    Rufflet struck on ascension in an uppercut manner using his powerful wings and upon Elio's insistence, used his beak in a rapid fury attack.

    However much to his dismay, Sun had forgotten about the reflect move that Hau set up, an energy shield wall on his side of the field that would half the damage received from physical attacks. It was only temporary, but often hampered with strategies if thrown up at the opportune time.

    Of course there were ways around it, but as far as he knew, he had none.

    Toast didn't even look any worse for the wear thanks to the reflect doing its job.

    "Sorry Sun, but I'm about to wrap this one up! Use psychic!"

    With a smirk on its features, Toast's eyes began to glow a bright white as a single ripple of energy emanated from them, homing straight on Rufflet's form. The eaglet squawked in surprise as the psychic power practically immobilized him.

    "Get out of there!" Elio shouted. "See if aerial ace works!"

    Toast gasped in surprise as his opponent suddenly shifted forward, vanishing for a split second again to strike up close again with his outstretched wings.

    "Do another fury attack! Don't let up!"

    Rufflet went straight to work, jabbing at the raichu's side while pausing just briefly to avoid another launched thunderbolt. Again the reflect barrier was still suppressing the full power of his physical moves. He wasn't sure about the length of its duration, but imagined that it couldn't be for much longer.

    At the same time, a sound way around the reflect would be to insert a Pokémon capable of using special attacks. However he was banking on the hypothetical question if Toast also knew light screen, the special attack counterpart of reflect.

    Rufflet had gotten a lucky hit with his fourth jab in a blow strong enough to knock down Toast. As Hau was encouraging his Pokémon to get back up, Elio saw his chance.

    Let's get Rufflet healed and swapped with someone who can do better.

    "Use roost buddy. We're gonna reset."

    He cawed and landed on the ground before becoming surrounded with a green aura that began to replenish his health.

    A thunderbolt suddenly lanced from the other side, hitting home and earning a screech of pain as Rufflet felt the full effects of the electric type move. Toast stopped and Elio's heart dropped as his first Pokémon fell over on its side, knocked out.

    "Red side. Combatant defeated." The computer referee declared. "Blue side. Combatant victorious. Blue side leads five to four."

    "Return Rufflet." Elio picked up his ball to bring him back inside. "You did great."

    Contrary to what he said, his own Pokémon didn't win. Rufflet hated to lose and he knew that even a simple one in a battle against his weaknesses would be taken personally.

    There was only so much he could do. But there was also a lot he could've done to make things more favorably.

    His big concern was how fast the thing was. It moved quicker than almost any other Pokémon he had seen and it had access to powerful electric and psychic type moves too.

    Who knows what else? If I don't take care of it quickly, he's going to jump to an early lead.

    An idea struck his mind and it would certainly catch Hau off guard. He slipped Rufflet's Poké Ball onto his left side and got his next combatant ready.

    "Okay Nani, let's do this!"

    True to what he was predicting, Hau was definitely surprised at Elio's choice. However he had not battled Nani yet...in fact, he had only faced Rufflet, Grimer and Torracat. Nobody else held experience against Hau's team.

    "So this is your milotic?" The kahuna's grandson seemed intrigued and mesmerized by the slight glittering she gave off in her reflective scales. "Knowing you; you sent her out against Toast for a reason."

    "You're not wrong." Elio grinned which in turn ignited the same fire in Hau's eyes.

    "She is nani for sure! But that isn't going to help you!"

    He wasted no time in acting as soon as the screen blinked three times.

    "Use thunderbolt! We're gonna take you out in one hit!"

    You've obviously never faced Nani before.

    "Swing iron tail in front of you to take the thunderbolt!" She cooed in response, fanning her fins together in the honed edge and bringing it up to meet the advancing blast of electricity.

    His smirk grew as she easily pierced through, dissipating it directly at the point and pushing through causing the thunderbolt to split apart like a flayed edge. As Toast looked on in surprise, she followed it up with a second swing; a swift slash through the center. Again, the reflect worked to reduce the oncoming damage that seemed to do rather little. The raichu spun on its tail, briefly out of control before achieving the perfect balance once again.

    We can't let them rest. Elio pointed and called for a scaled as Hau went for volt switch. She missed her shot as Toast blazed right past and stuck her briefly before darting rapidly back to his own side of the field and almost jumping right back into Hau's Pokéball in his outstretched hand.

    Sun was already going for another scald attack as Hau quickly exchanged Pokémon, going to use Acheron in Toast's place. The scald knocked the eeveelution back a ways, however it shook off the heated water droplets after receiving no damage at all.

    That blasted water absorb!

    "Well played Hau." Elio said the compliment with gusto. "You've actually got me thinking on my toes this time."

    "I'm about to show ya what I've got!" He pointed at Nani. "Quick attack!"

    Acheron darted forward with the same quickness as Rufflet did with his aerial ace to blindside Nani. She reflexively fired a water pulse that was harmlessly taken by his water absorb ability again.

    "Dragon pulse!"

    As Acheron took his place at his trainer's side again; Nani fired the gathered green blast. It caught the bubble jet Pokémon in its blast and subsequently exploded with a loud bang. As part of her signature spin on the move, the explosion sucked its victim back towards the epicenter to combust in a second and third explosion. As the blast subsided, Acheron was tossed onto the ground, tumbling to a stop close to the field's center.

    "Acheron no!" Hau cried out. "Can you stand?"

    I'm making this even. "Dragon pulse again!"

    "Move out with quick attack and hit it with an aurora beam!"

    Elio snarled to himself as Nani's second dragon pulse missed its mark as the vaporeon rolled back onto its feet to dart away and spin around to shoot a thick rainbow colored ray in her direction.

    "Split it with iron tail again!"

    As Nani swung her sword again, it cleaved the energy in half as if it were made of a solid material. She brought her tail up again for another glancing blow only for the smaller Pokémon to seemingly melt into a translucent mass.

    Ah! Acid armor!

    "Use double team!" Hau pumped a fist. Acheron jumped forward, before a pair of perfectly identical illusory copies of himself stood by his side. Elio knew that one of them would be the real one, but it had the potential to fire live attacks as if it was the Pokémon in the flesh itself.

    "Time for us to show off our new technique and move buddy! Stored power!"

    Stored power?

    Elio didn't have much time to think about it as he saw the Vaporeon gather a sphere of dark purple energy in its mouth and shoot it directly into Nani's side. She toppled over from the effects, struggling to get back up.

    Holy...what does stored power do? How come I've never seen it before?

    "While she's down! Stored power again!"

    "Iron tail! Reflect it back!"

    The two Pokémon readied their attacks with Nani already bringing hers in front to guard as Acheon blasted a second sphere her way. This time she was ready for it; using one of her honed edges to deflect and shifting her angle just a slight bit along with some momentum to launch the orb right back at its user.

    Neither Hau or Acheron were expecting this and yelped in surprise as it collided.

    I'm not letting it rest! "Finish this with dragon pulse, every bit you've got!"

    Nani twirled her head around her coiled serpentine body before gathering the power she needed to shoot one last huge glowing pulse at the downed Acheron. The attack threw up dust, churning it up two additional times before settling over on Hau's side. Both trainers peered through as it cleared, seeing that the vaporeon was laying on its back with head down and legs limp from exhaustion.

    "Blue side. Combatant defeated. Red side. Combatant victorious. Sides are tied with four each."

    "Acheron, come take a good rest buddy. You've earned it." Hau laughed as he returned his deateated Pokémon. He still kept that contagious grin from ear to ear. "You've definitely gotten a lot stronger than when I last battled you! No wonder you're so far ahead on the Island Challenge! I bet you're gonna finish all the trials here first!"

    Elio smiled back after his friend had stroked his ego. Despite it being a friendly bout, he wasn't about to let the praise get his guard down. After all, it wasn't just a bit of prize money that was being wagered, it was bragging rights between the rivals.

    "Now it's your turn Noibat!" Hau put an extra spin on his throw and his tiny bat creature popped out, flapping its wings rapidly as it stayed just above the dirt.

    "You still okay on being in Nani?" Elio got a slight nod from the milotic as the battle screen blinked to indicate for the match to continue. "Perfect, you'll stay in."

    "You won't have much of a chance with that!" Hau gestured to Noibat. "Air Cutter!"

    Oh wow, that has the potential to be a strong flying type move.

    Noibat fluttered in the air before he brought his wings forward to launch a pair of white crescent shaped projectiles towards Nani. Thankfully it was still rather inexperienced in using the attack so they moved slowly; still far too fast for a normal dodge, but Nani gracefully slithered out of its way long before they hit where she stood.

    "Dragon pulse!" Elio was already shooting for the gold, hoping the super effective move could take it out in a single shot.

    As she retaliated with her own attack, Elio saw Noibat stop fluttering its webbed wings for a moment before it calmly drifted out of the way. Not used to having her opponents evade so deftly; she powered up an iron tail, swinging it like a boom. But again, he had simply ascended slightly to avoid the powerful attack.

    Hau had another air cutter come their way, but this time one was launched right after the other. As Nani slithered to dodge the first, she was hit by the second and staggered back. She seemed caught off guard from the power of the blow.

    "Now time for some tricks up our sleeve! Use tailwind!"

    Noibat chirped quietly, somersaulting through the air and flapping its wings quickly to generate a slight breeze that came from behind him. Elio also noticed that the reflect screen had winked a couple of times before fading into the thin air.

    Okay, now that's down, we can resume our normal schedule of physical attacks!

    But now he noticed that Noibat didn't have to constantly flutter its wings to remain airborne. And the successive air cutter was powered by the tailwind's effect to accelerate at a much faster velocity. Nani was hit again, but she automatically sharpened her tail to swat away the delayed second blast.

    Elio had her go in for a scald attack, however as she shot the stream of boiling hot liquid at her foe, the wind remained in effect, swaying it to the sides as if it were rogue spray from a fountain. She essentially just created a mess of steam that obscured the lower parts of their battlefield.

    "Noibat return!" Hau unexpectedly called out as he brought his Pokémon back. "Now it's your turn Dartrix!"

    Should've seen this coming. Elio thought dryly to himself. Hau wasted no time on the other end calling for a razor leaf. Nani used a water pulse to intercept the majority of the sharp blade quill projectiles with the shockwave sending them flying across the side and embedding themselves into the ground.

    Taking the initiative to go on the offense, Elio had her shoot a scald again, but this time it was done in a precision manner rather such as a focused water gun rather than a hose. Her stream managed to cut straight through the tailwind, hitting Dartrix across the chest and earning a pained screech.

    "Ominous wind!"

    Through his enduring of the boiling hot water; Dartrix's eyes snapped open and he waved his feathered wings together. Void energy formed behind him and as he flicked them towards Nani, it rushed forward in damaging waves.

    She was unsuccessful in trying to dodge and battered down yet again.

    "Razor leaf!"

    Dartrix screeched loudly before he flipped in midair, spinning around and flinging his wings out in another barrage of blade quills.

    Nani was still struggling to get back up, but as she saw the oncoming attack; Elio saw her contently close her eyes. She had accepted defeat...for now.

    The leaves hit and caused dirt to erupt in the center, obscuring the field. When it finally began to settle; Nani seemed to uncoil herself and fall limply to the ground.

    "Red side. Combatant defeated. Blue side. Combatant victorious. Blue side leads, four to three."

    Elio was more surprised than anything. So far in the battle; Hau had outmaneuvered him with his ingenious setups of things like reflect and tailwind while playing to his advantages. Now granted that he had used Pokémon at a disadvantage, but he was hoping that Nani could help him spur a comeback. He should've paid more attention to her well-being and maybe used recover.

    So I know that Hau still has his raichu, noibat and now Dartrix. Acheron is out, so what's left. There's a fifth Pokémon.

    "You're getting really good Hau." Still, credit had to be given where it was due. Elio slipped her Poké Ball onto his left side. "I'll be honest in saying I'm having a hard time keeping up."

    "Thanks! We've worked really hard!"

    "I can tell. I'm winning the next one though." He had a suspicion that Hau was going to switch back to either Noibat or Toast to keep up his speed advantage.

    Maybe I can use Torracat's flame charge buildup to keep up. He's definitely going to be substituting if I bring him out since he's an automatic advantage in terms of type matchups.

    His intuition was right as Hau returned Dartrix and brought Toast back out as Elio used Torracat. The cat Pokémon was a little surprised to see a far different form compared to the smaller pikachu he had battled previously. The two trainers had their eyes locked as the screen pulsed again for them to resume the battle.

    Hau went straight for the offensive, calling for a thunderbolt. In response, Elio had Torracat rush forward using flame charge that was fast enough to dodge the loosely aimed discharges of electricity. He became an orange blur, trailing off tiny sparking embers in his wake.

    "Psychic!" He shouted just as Torracat jumped off his hind legs to lunge for the mouse Pokémon.

    Toast smirked as his pale eyes began to glow and emit a single pulsewave that suddenly caught him in midair. He growled in protest, flailing his limbs to no avail.

    "Thunderbolt!" After time of mastering both the electric and psychic type moves, this particular one was beginning to become one of Hau's favorite combinations.

    Electric sparks danced across Toast's form as he launched another jagged thunderbolt at Torracat. The fire dissipated around his lean body as he gave out a pained yell of protest. He bared his fangs in determination, not wanting to give in.

    Elio had to think of something fast. "Quick, use overheat!"

    His mouth was already opened, but he managed to gather together enough energy to launch the uber attack. It launched separate from the arcing thunderbolt and struck home, which was exactly what he was aiming for. Most psychic type Pokémon with the titular move were immensely powerful, however they were only able to focus on one thing; the Pokémon itself or a projectile of some sort. Switching priorities meant that it would have to disengage on its current.

    Which was how Torracat found himself free once again. Sun had him close the distance, building up some additional speed with a second flame charge that knocked Toast back. He gave it no time to rest, following up with a fire fang in which he clamped straight down on the surfboard tailpiece. With a fling of his head to the side, Torracat had thrown the larger Pokémon to the ground.

    Hau's own expression turned to worry as Toast got back up to move away, but now Torracat's built-up speed allowed him to quickly catch up and even overtake the normally blindingly fast electric type. He felt no more breeze; Noibat's tailwind had petered out.

    I got to get it back up. Elio's going to take away Toast's only advantage!

    "Use volt switch!" He yelled.

    Elio's eyes flashed, an indication that something was playing right into his hands. Everytime he had that look on his face it made Hau nervous in his next actions in terms of a battle.

    Oh no you don't!

    Torracat closed back on him with flame charge and Hau knew that if it hit, Toast wouldn't last another. He had already built up a charge of his own with electricity and lashed it out like a whip.

    At the last possible moment; the two attacks collided. Torracat flinching, but continuing on his normal path to smash into Toast's side. The raichu spun about, righting himself on his surfboard tailpiece, clearly worn but still standing.

    WHAT?

    Hau smirked as he returned Toast and the newly established reflect barrier shimmered from the blazing heat. "Gotcha!" He threw out his next contestant; Noibat again.

    Elio knew where this was going. He's going to try and set up another tailwind to keep the speed advantage on his side.

    "Use tailwind!"

    Crap.

    As Noibat spun around and flicked his wings to bring the prevailing winds blowing against Elio's side, Torracat kept his offensive barrage up. However even with the boosts from his flame charge, it felt like charging straight against an invisible current that made him look like moving in a slow motion capture video.

    "Keep it going Torracat, maybe we can stall him until it stops again!" He got an affirmative purr from the feline.

    "That's not going to happen! Use echoed voice!" Noibat opened his mouth, releasing a short bursted shout that shot out a single damaging soundwave. Aided by the wind, it traveled at a much faster velocity and sent Torracat tumbling back yet again. Sun knew that the echoed voice move was a helpful early-on kind which got stronger the more it was used in succession.

    "Again!"

    "Overheat through it!" Elio commanded. As the two Pokémon fired their attacks, the white hot fire easily passed through the invisible sound, giving the small winged Pokémon a glancing blow that disrupted Hau's attempt to get a third one off.

    "Ember! One last time!" They had to be almost done by now.

    He shot out a tiny ball of flames from the big orange bell on his neck that splashed over Noibat's fur and singing it. He fell out of the ar and tumbled onto the ground.

    "Noibat!"

    "Good job Torracat." Elio knelt down as his starter retreated to his side and gave it a pat on the head. "You've done awesome today."

    "Blue side. Combatant defeated. Red side. Combatant victorious. Tie match. Three to Three."

    Hau saw Noibat open its eyes slowly and blink a couple of times as if it hadn't remembered something.

    "Thanks for all your hard work Noibat." He got a squeaked chirp from him as he began looked a little better and more encouraged by his trainer. "We'll win this yet."

    Back on Elio's side, he opted to return Torracat. It would neutralize his speed boosts from the flame charge, but he had used overheat a couple of times already. While it was a powerful fire type move, the special attacking effectiveness drained every time he used it. He knew that there were other moves with similar perks and effects, dealing massive damage but often having a proverbial thorn in that the user would suffer in some way.

    It's a risk. I know that, but I'll need Torracat to take on Hau's Dartrix and he's the only thing able to stand up to Toast. I don't think anyone else can.

    "Let's put someone new in here." Elio thumbed his next contestant. "Charjabug! Go!"

    His battery Pokémon materialized on his side, twitching her small mandibles.

    "It's my turn to choose!" Hau threw his own onto the field.

    The Pokémon was buglike in appearance with a brown lower body and white fur covering its head. Five curled orange horns surrounded the top like a crown and it stared curiously at Charjabug with bright blue eyes. Even more curiously were the wisps of glowing flame that flickered for moments around the horns.

    Wow, that's a Pokémon I've never seen before. It looks like a fire type, yet it's a bug. Usually those two don't mix well.

    "Rotom?"

    "I'm here! Bzzt! Bezt to get thizzz over with before the battle beginzzz!" He flashed his screen to a standing image of the Pokémon. "Larvesta. Torch Pokémon. It protects itself with flames. Long years ago, ancient people believed that the larvesta came from nests on the sun. Larvesta is a bug and fire type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Where did you catch that one?"

    "The lush jungle." Hau said proudly. "I just found her."

    So it's a she…

    "Well cool Pokémon. I can't wait to see how she battles!"

    "Allow us to show you!" Hau raised a hand just as the screen flashed for the match to resume. "Flame charge!"

    As one, the glowing horns on Larvesta's head burned even brighter when fire grew around her body, cloaking her and she rushed forward, smashing to Charjabug's side. It went even faster than Elio expected thanks to the tailwind still up.

    Elio had her respond with a spark and she tackled the other larvae Pokémon in kind. The two bugs softly hissed at one another. Upon breaking off; Larvesta shot up into the air, shooting a volley of embers that Charjabug countered with charge beams. None of them got through and she launched a signal beam that caught her foe in mid air.

    "Spark!"

    As Larvesta fell to the ground, Charjabug rushed forward to meet her. The collided, throwing up a combination of embers and electric sparks.

    Kind of strange how I would find two caterpillar type Pokémon battling one another entertaining.

    It was far from the usual youngster trainers pitting their caterpie against one another with repeated tackles.

    "Use mud shot Charjabug!" She flung globs of it that hit and did some damage, but it also covered the field, preventing Hau's own bug from moving so quickly. However the kahuna's grandson had caught onto what Elio was trying to do.

    "Flame charge! Burn it all away!"

    He sensed that he didn't have much time left on the tailwind and wanted to build up her speed before it finally ended.

    As Larvesta gathered more fire around herself and tried to wiggle free from the mud puddles, it didn't have the effect he was hoping for. Instead of burning away the mud, her fire had turned it into baked clay-dirt that trapped her small feet inside, effectively immobilizing her.

    No! Why did I think of that?!

    On the other side, Elio couldn't believe his luck as an easy win.

    "Spark again!"

    "Use take down!" Hau had no idea if she could still go, but he at least wanted to give it a try.

    Charjabug lurched forward, eyes focused as she powered herself up with electric energy. On the other side; Larvesta was still trying to wiggle herself free, still mired in the muck.

    She got closer, even more ready to finish this battle for her trainer.

    Larvesta's small foot finally freed itself and with a grunt, heaved itself out of the dried dirt. She lowered her head and charged straight to meet the rushing Charjabug. Inevitably, the two attacks collided, throwing up bits of dirt and dust that choked out the air.

    Subconsciously, both trainers waited with their breath held before finally sighing as they heard two distinct thuds of both bug types hitting the ground. Neither of them needed the dust to clear to know what they both had fainted from the combined attacks.

    "Both sides. Combatant defeated. Match is tied. Two to two."

    Wow. I don't think I've had that happen against Hau.

    Neither of them spoke as they returned their Pokémon, but Elio did gently pat her Poké Ball as he put it on his left hand side.

    Nice job.

    They took out their next two Pokémon and sent them straight into battle. Elio with Torracat again and Hau using Toast his Alolan raichu. As soon as they entered, they felt Hau's tailwind peter out again. As opposed to the last time they were brought out respectively, both combatants were heavily breathing and fatigued from their previous battles.

    Without Noibat to bring it back, he would have to rely on other matters if it meant keeping the speed advantage.

    The screen blinked, allowing them to begin again.

    "Begin this with flame charge!" I'm not giving him a chance!

    "Thunderbolt!"

    Without the tailwind to impede his progress, Torracat was much faster in rushing forward wreathed in flames. At the same time, Toast shot his thunderbolt on a collision course with the feline.

    Elio didn't know if he was able to withstand it. At this distance, he was able to break off and change his course if need be. The only reason he wouldn't do such a thing would be because he was confident he could tough it out.

    One looking at the display would almost consider Torracat suicidal, but he didn't bother backing down even as he charged unyielding straight into the oncoming blast. The power from both attacks again threw up huge amounts of dust and dirt into the air, clouding the field and spreading over.

    Elio felt the fine particles all over his face as he automatically brought his arms to cover his eyes and used the neckline of his shirt to filter his nose and mouth.

    "Red side. Combatant defeated. Blue side. Combatant victorious. Blue side leads two to one."

    Guess it's all up to you Akela. Elio thought to himself, returning Torracat and bringing out his final Pokémon. He had to come up with a strategy against two foes with superior qualities. Toast in terms of speed and then Dartrix in typing.

    Dartrix is part flying. So not entirely advantageous in Hau's side. One advantage he had was that he hadn't used his lycanroc yet in this battle. He was working with a fresh Pokémon so to speak.

    "It's up to us buddy." He got a growl of acknowledgement from Akela as he took his normal stance of crouching low with teeth bared. "Defeat Toast and then Dartrix and we win!"

    "I won't let it come to that! Toast use psychic!" Hau commanded. Toast's eyes glowed bright again as he attacked Akela with a powerful psychic blast. The werewolf was lifted in the air much to his dismay before the wave closed in on his body and sent him flying back.

    I'm surprised he didn't go for that thunderbolt combo.

    Akela attacked with a rock tomb that hurtled boulders back at Toast. Hay shouted for them to be stopped with psychic and then sent right back. Toast moved to the most open area as he did so and aimed a thunderbolt attack straight downwards.

    Hau had given him an opening as a deception. By using psychic to hurl the rock tomb back towards its original attacker, he covered his flanks well to leave the only opening for attack straight on...the one spot where he was throwing the thunderbolt.

    Smart. Elio thought to himself and decided against using it as chance to counter anything. He still had to give credit to how tempting the bait was.

    Akela growled again when he dodged yet another hurled thunderbolt. Elio was aware of how powerful Toast's electric type moves could be, but at the same time this was shining at his big opportunity to take it out. Toast had harassed a handful of his team already and it would be the end of him if he didn't end up doing something.

    It's fast. We'll just have to hit it in a way it doesn't expect.

    "Keep up the pressure of dodging Akela." He said calmly. "Use rock tomb to conceal your advance."

    The werewolf Pokémon nodded in understanding, spreading his arms and fists apart before forming the said large boulders above and hurling them straight at Toast.

    Hau grew nervous. "Toast, use psychic to stop and throw the rock tomb back!"

    Yes, that's our chance!

    He had used the same setup, with the incredible warbling psychic power to hold the huge boulders steady that exposed a specific attack angle that he used to fire a thunderbolt.

    "Now go through the rocks Akela. Sucker punch!"

    He growled again, using his hind legs to jump atop a low hanging boulder and disappearing. Up above; Toast looked around confused at where his foe had went. Glancing up, he let out a cry of panic as the midnight lycanroc descended from above, having used one of the biggest boulders as a cover.

    His fist glowing dark purple struck the raichu across the jaw, throwing it to the ground while the psychic attack faded from the rocks, allowing them to drop harmlessly.

    "Blue side. Combatant defeated. Red side. Combatant victorious. One to one."

    "Well I'll be." Hau laughed as he returned Toast back to its ball. "You're catching up. I know a comeback when I see one."

    "We're both down to our last Pokémon. May the best trainer win."

    In reality, Elio was starting to get even more nervous himself. Hau may be his friend, but battles between the two were fought tooth and nail. It didn't matter if the two were on different skill levels; the intensity was real.

    Dartrix had the advantage in his grass typing and he was going to be faster than Akela, however he remembered again that it was part flying and he could use that to his advantage with planning out rock type attacks like rock tomb.

    "It's all up to you Dartrix!" Hau cried, tossing his final Pokémon onto his side. The blade quill Pokémon took an opportunity to preen his feathers before turning his attention to his opponent. Akela bared his teeth, ready to help his trainer.

    The two Pokémon launched straight into the fight as soon as the screen blinked again. Akela threw up a rock tomb which Dartrix nimbly dodged, weaving through to deliver a powerful aerial ace. It did little damage thanks to the typings, but Akela was able to get a bite off before it could peel away. Elio and his Pokémon took the offensive, slamming a sucker punch in while moving out wide to avoid the retaliatory ominous wind.

    "Aerial ace again!" Dartrix flipped in mid-flight, zooming forward.

    "Quick, counter!"

    Akela's paw reared back as he bent to take the brunt of the blow while both trainers saw the energy transfer towards it. He swung it back quickly, diverting all of the damage power it had received at the aerial ace at his avian foe. With a loud bang, he was thrown backwards.

    "Can you go on?" Hau asked, earning a screech in reply.

    "Don't let them get back up!" Sun shouted, "Bite!"

    Across the field, Hau was giving him a knowing smirk. "Alright, now it's time to try out the new move we've been practicing! Use synthesis!"

    Hau has a healing move?! What?

    Dartrix spread his wings out as he began to glow a brilliant gold with a slight tingling sound coming from within. His wounds were rapidly healing from the counter as his energy got restored, even erasing the deficit of damage inflicted earlier.

    Okay...Hau, you may be a goof at sometimes...but you're sly...probably one of the slyest trainers I've ever seen.

    The move was commendable and even more so that Hau kept it to himself until he chose to show it at a time to almost seal Akela's fate. Elio had no recovery moves and now his only hope lied in that he would maybe be able to bring down Dartrix equally with rock type moves. Knowing his rival; he would do his best to avoid those and use aerial ace's nimble movements to his advantage.

    "Rock tomb!" He was not going to give either of them a break or convey his surprise.

    Hau raised a fist. "Charge through and use aerial ace!" Dartrix was already peeling up, screeching loudly and quickly going through the barrage of big boulders to close the distance between the two.

    Just as he was about to hit; Akela powered up a sucker punch, swinging in a haymaker blow that disrupted the attack and pushed Dartrix to the ground with enough force to daze him.

    "Rock tomb!"

    Now instead of hurling the usual boulders, the lycanroc slammed both his fisted paws into the ground, causing smaller boulders to erupt out as if it were a giant wave. Although smaller in size, they made up for it in sheer quantity. Dartrix let out a sharp cry of pain as he was battered by the super effective attack.

    Elio couldn't believe that Akela had learned rock slide, but this wasn't a time to celebrate or comment on such a thing. Hau's Dartrix was still a strong Pokémon and he didn't want to give it any advantage.

    "Go, finish this with another rock slide!"

    Hau was shouting something intangible from the loud sound of the boulders crashing against one another, but he saw Dartrix weakly get back up on his feet before pulling his wings across his body as if forming the X arms like a Z-move.

    Elio's eyes darted to Hau's Z ring, but it remained dormant and Hau wasn't in a particular dance pose to initiate the ultimate attack.

    Dartrix waved his wings forward, unleashing a fine barrage of razor leaf quills that shot out like bullets. Each one was needle thin and about the length of his middle finger, but they were aimed with such precision at a fast pace that their path traveled straight through the gaps of the rock slide's boulders. Others behind it managed to stop some of the quills, shattering into powder but a handful got through.

    And embedded themselves into Akela's front. He howled in pain, forced to his knees.

    "Akela!"

    Dartrix flapped his wings and flew upwards, spinning around in his usual fashion for a second barrage of razor leaves at the defenseless Akela. More dust was thrown up obscuring the field as the quills hit their target.

    Through it all, Elio heard a snarling and felt a rush of hope that he had survived the attack. His heart lurched when it cleared, showing Akela's fur tattered and a few visible wounds suffered. A half dozen quills were embedded in his long white mane and shoulders.

    Akela's snarling abruptly halted as he took a step forward, crashing to the ground with a heavy thud.

    "Red side. Combatant defeated. Blue side. Combatant victorious. Red side is out of useable Pokémon therefore blue side is the winner!" Having finished its job, the screen displayed a message "Thanks for participating! Good match!" before winking out and the lighting of the battlefield returning to normal. Elio glanced around, now seeing that quite the handful of spectators had gathered to watch ranging from small children, sightseers and even some of the older folk.

    He did see a familiar bandanna and dark tanktops on a couple well-muscled figures. They didn't say nothing, but merely stared at him with a gleam in their eyes as if jeering.

    Team Skull.

    His mind went elsewhere, feigning that he didn't see them and realized that Akela was quietly whining on the field as it got back up. Hau had returned Dartrix, ecstatic that he had won and crossed the field.

    Akela refused to meet his eyes as he knelt down beside him.

    "We can't win every battle. But you still went out there with everything we had."

    He huffed.

    "Don't be like that. You just learned a new move to replace rock tomb. A little bit of practice and before you know it, we'll be able to perfect it like pros."

    Akela seemed better encouraged by that before he slowly stood up. Elio reached over and gently plucked a couple of the quills out of his arms. The canine leaned back to sniff Elio's bag, right at the spot where he was carrying the egg.

    "Yeah I know. It's gonna hatch really soon. You ready to babysit too?"

    "Wow! Oh my goodness I won! I won!" Hau was practically skipping in his walk over. "That was probably the best I've seen you battle!"

    Sun knew the high praise was to help cheer him up and truth be told, he found himself not as bitter over the loss as he expected. Sure it was disappointing to not win, but just like how he had told Akela...they wouldn't be able to win them all.

    "Great match brah!"

    "Yeah." The two trainers brought one another in for a firm handshake before doing their customary slap on the back. "Great match."

    "That wazzz amazzzzing! Bzzt!" Rotom said in a sing-song voice as he floated between the two. "But that machine doing the referee izzzz doing a horrible job! Why use that when you can have a professional? Like moi? Bzzt!"

    "Yeah I agree. These referees are like robots." Hau said. "I'd rather have us battle under the watch of a talking cellphone."

    "Excuzzze me?!" Rotom's eyes flashed red. "Did you juzt compare me to a primitive lower life form?! Bzzt!"

    The kahuna's grandson waved his hands, "Nononono! That's not what I meant."

    "Okay. Apology accepted! Bzzt!"

    I swear I'm going to rip this 'Dex in half. It's a sassy bipolar machine spouting stupid Pokémon information at the strangest of times that's driving me nuts.

    But I have to admit that I've gotten a little bit attached to him. He's helpful...that's for sure.

    "Anyways, look at you Elio! I'm so glad I'm your friend!"

    "Yeah me too."

    "I'm acutally kind of hungry." Hau rubbed his stomach. "You want to get some lunch?"

    "Actually, that would be great. But I gotta take off afterwards. The garbage plant wanted me to bring some paint removal supplies."

    "For what?"

    "Graffiti that Team Skull painted on the side of the building. Then I'm going to take on the next trial, wherever it's at."

    "Good luck man. I'm hoping to see you at the Festivus here in a couple of days though."

    "Festivus?" He remembered Brady Wainwright mentioning that as well.

    "Yeah, the Draconid Festivus that celebrates the Draconid people's heritage and praise to their deity. I've never been to the one in Alola, but it's here in Malie City. Heard it's a lot of fun."

    "Then I'll have to be back in time." Elio and Hau shook hands again. "I'll see you later?"

    "For sure. Alola!"

    "Alola!"

    Elio's team required a quick healing from the Pokémon center's machine and had no serious needs for additional treatment. He strolled out of the center and back down the streets of Malie City. The clouds overhead had begun to clear up a little, showing small patches of bright blue through the rather gloomy overcast. People were also a little bit more cheery, offering greetings and just simple smiles as they passed by on the sidewalks. It was close to mid-afternoon, so he saw a handful of restaurants at a dead pace on the dining area. He was pretty sure the kitchens would be bustling like a beedrill hive for the dinner rush in a few hours.

    It seemed that when the sun peeked out from the cover of the clouds, everyone's moods lifted a little.

    Talk was abundant with the people he passed about recent news and much of it was also towards the Draconid Festivus which would be held at Moku'ola Park which was a U-shaped road that looped into the ocean and sat across Banyan drive from Malie Garden. The big event at the Festivus was when night would fall and people would light kites of various flying dragon Pokémon and release them into the sky. After reaching a certain altitude, they would be set ablaze in a gift of appreciation and thanks to their deity; the Sky High legendary Pokémon of Hoenn, known as Rayquaza.

    I wonder if I can get a kite to fly. It would be a huge honor to participate in it.

    The paint shop was in sight, close to the Wo Fat district and he kept to the covered canopies that were lining the streets. Many were too as the clouds began to move in again, blotting out some of the blue sky patches to threaten with more rain.

    "Hey Profezzzor!" Rotom suddenly exclaimed as he whipped himself out of Sun's backpack again.

    Looking around, he saw an older man with weathered tanned skin just a few paces away from coming out of an antique store ahead of them. He heard the voice and turned in their direction.

    Sun recognized the face almost immediately and the resemblance was uncanny.

    Professor Oak?

    "Well Alola to you too Rotom!" The older man chuckled and waved his hands in the traditional greeting. "You look very well. Feeling nice and comfortable in that 'Dex of yours?"

    "Battery iz powered to one hundred perzzzent! Bzzt!"

    "I'm very happy to hear that." Professor Oak was dressed in a teal blue Alolan shirt with khaki shorts and sandals, standing. He brushed something off the fish design before addressing the young trainer. Elio was starting to get more and more curious on how the two knew each other.

    "I apologize keiki." Oak flushed just a little bit but extended his hand out, which an awed Sun shook with what vigor he had. "I'm Professor Samson Oak."

    Wait...Samson Oak? His excitement deflated like a saddened drifloon.

    He was more wanting to meet the renowned Samuel Oak, a world famous professor based in the Kanto region who made multiple groundbreaking discoveries on Pokémon behavior, battling and the overall advancement on research.

    Perhaps among the most famous alumni of Saffron University, Samuel Oak had traveled the world to conventions and conferences, giving off lectures that had spurred a huge increase in students majoring in Pokémon research. If one didn't find a niche in Pokémon battling, everyone else wanted to be the "next Samuel Oak"

    Elio's own mother Elaine had received a Pokémon as a starter from him and it had been a longtime goal of his to one day meet the famous professor.

    Samson Oak chuckled. "I see you've got that starstruck look in your eyes keiki. I will go ahead and assume you are thinking of me as Samuel Oak. I'm sorry to disappoint, but dear Samuel is my cousin back in Kanto."

    "Yes...I mean. Yes!" Elio figured that while not meeting the actual better-known Professor Oak was disappointing, it was still pretty awesome to meet a relative. "You two look so alike...and I bet you get that a lot too."

    "Quite true. You must be Elio. Young Kukui mentioned you to me."

    "Yeah that's me."

    "I recognize that hat too." Samson smiled, gesturing to the Cerulean Hurricanes black and blue apparel atop his head. "You're a 'Canes fan too?"

    "Heck yeah!"

    "I also remember you being at the Pro Day on Akala with your childhood friend Edmund right?"

    "That's right." Elio had just been so busy, he had neglected to hear about anything concerning Ed. A huge apology would be due later.

    "Well you'll be happy to know that he was drafted fourth overall by our favorite team! They traded up to get him."

    "Wait...no way. Ed's a 'Cane? YESSSSSSS!" Elio's outburst and jump for joy had earned him some attention from passerbys, but he couldn't care less.

    Ed's gonna play for our hometown team! Oh my goodness! Praise the Tapu! Arceus! Whoever!

    "We're gonna go to the playoffffffs!" Elio pumped both his fists and jumped upwards in a celebratory kick. "We're gonna go to the playoffffs! I can't believe it! It's really gonna happen!"

    Samson Oak chuckled and turned to Rotom 'Dex. "Is he really this passionate about basketball?"

    "I have a feeling that it'zzz one of hizzz three true lovezzzz! Bzzt! Another one z Pokémon battling! Bzzt!"

    "So what's the third."

    The haunted 'Dex didn't reply, but Oak knew a smirk when he saw one...even on a machine.

    Elio stopped his celebration and cleared his throat. "Sorry, I've just been really happy for Ed and the Hurricanes. They're getting once in a generation player who's gonna be the face of the franchise one day. Anyway, what are you doing here in Alola?"

    "I've lived here on Ula'ula Island for quite some time my boy." Oak smiled. "And I am a professor after all...but unlike my cousin, I'm studying regional variants and subspecies that have developed in the Alola region recently. You may have some across some of them in your travels."

    "Yeah I have an alolan grimer." That was another reasoning for Elio to return to the plant. In his haste to go back to Kukui and Hau, he had accidentally left Grimer back at the garbage processing facility where the sludge Pokémon was likely happily gobbling down the waste blocks being delivered by the collector barges and trucks.

    He probably hasn't even noticed that I left.

    "Regional variants can even take on different typings and abilities. Make sure to explore and see what you can find! And Rotom, be sure to help this fine trainer around the islands yes? I'll be trusting you as well to keep it in tip top shape. The 'Dex was made by a young fellow from Kalos named Augustine Sycamore and he put a lot of work into it!"

    "Yes sir." Elio said, a little too reverently for knowing. "I'll take good care of it sir. You have my word."

    "If you ever need to speak to me, I'm often conducting research or helping students at Melemele State in the Malie Library. Feel free to stop by and chat at any time!"

    He nodded in earnest. "I'll have to take you up on that one professor. Alola!"

    "Well he seemed quite nice." Elio said as they rode the stoutland up towards the outer cape. The supplies were fashioned securely around the sides and back of the huge dog. He opted for the slower gentler ride knowing that a tauros would likely jar some of the lashed stuff loose in their eager rushes to dash wherever.

    "Profezzor Oak izzz awezome! Bzzt! He may not be az well known az hizz couzzzin, but he izzz alzo a huge contributor to the Malie City community in helping educate the younglingzzz."

    "That's great. I bet Kukui is going to work with him on getting that League ready."

    "Who told you about the League? Bzzt!"

    "Kukui. It's all in the island challenge. A new league would crown someone as the island challenge champion. I'm gonna be the first."

    They passed a traditional johtoan building on the street and waved to several pale skinned woman in rather regal red and gold robelike dresses.

    "Thozzze are kimono girlzzz. They are lifelong professional dancerzzz that help in keeping old traditionzzz alive! Some live here in Alola and help run an orphanage with their Pokémon."

    "Interesting."

    Finally reaching the outer cape, the father and son were already busy at work, but came out immediately to help out Elio as he parked stoutland and unloaded the supplies of scrubbers and paint removal primers. He thanked his ride Pokémon, sending it off with a couple beans from his kit.

    "Grime."

    "There you are!" Elio shook his head and crouched down to his sludge Pokémon that slithered over to his side. "Did you have fun on your inadvertent leave of absence?"

    "Grime."

    "I bet you're ready to get back to work."

    The son approached him from the side. "I tried to get you to stop after you dashed off earlier, but you left in such a hurry we had nothing for him to do but help the others break down the trash load. It was a little more than we expected, but he led the group in a really efficient task."

    "Well I'm glad he could help."

    "Yeah and thanks for getting us the supplies. I've already had my hands full in one day being the director, but...really there's nothing else I'd rather be doing."

    Elio smiled at him, "You're most welcome." He looked back at Grimer. "Alright buddy ready to go?"

    "Grime…"

    "No?"

    Grimer glanced back at its peers who all waved lazily about, but they seemed to have forlorn expressions on their faces.

    Elio saw that he had bonded with the others during his brief stay. It was undeniable.

    "What if I said you could stay? I know the plant is always looking for new recruits."

    "Grime." His eyes lit up just a little, with a slight regret of having to leave his trainer.

    "I can see you do good work around here. The plant director liked it too and although you're a tough battler, I know you can fulfill your part in other things besides fighting."

    "Grime."

    Elio nodded, feeling quite sad and knowing that Grimer had begun to drift in the direction of working at the plant before he even returned.

    "If that's something you want to do, then I'm not going to stop you." He removed Grimer's Poké Ball from his belt, opening it up to remove the capture matrix. With the Pokémon out of the ball, destroying it rendered the Pokémon released and unconfined to that specific Poké Ball.

    He held out a fist, which the sludge Pokémon saw and then formed one of his own to gently tap his trainer's. The rest of Elio's team came out as well to say farewell. Rufflet perched himself on Grimer's shoulder and leaned into him. Charjabug waited until her feared bird had left before clicking her mandibles at his fingers and delivering a playful shock Torracat, Akela and Nani gave approving nods to his decision. There was no animosity for him wanting to walk away, but instead wishing luck now that he had found a path that couldn't fit all of them from here on out.

    "You're going to do great work buddy." Sun wiped a stray tear from his eye. He was saying farewell to the first Pokémon he ever caught. "I know it. And you bet I'll come and visit."

    "Grime."

    Elio opened the ball, pulling out the capture matrix and then crushed it under his shoe.

    There. It's done. You're onto the next chapter. You'll do great things. I know it.

    And that concludes this chapter. Grimer was definitely a good partner and I was very torn on letting him go. But we can't rest there! Plenty more adventures and things to do on this island! I'm particularly excited about the Festivus, Electric-type trial and the Malie Library, all of which will be coming up very soon.
    Translations:

    • Keiki - Child
    • Boba - While not a translation, boba are small chewy pearls made from tapioca (taro root) that is often boiled and sipped in sweet and herbal teas both hot and cold. They're often called "bubble teas" While originally from Taiwan, they gained popularity in mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan in small tea shops/cybercafe hybrids that have even started popping up in many western cities. "Boba" is Cantonese slang for "large breasts" referring to the tapioca pearls as well as Hong Kong model/sex symbol Amy Yip...whose nickname was Boba.
    As always, mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.
    Brav
     
    #84 May 18, 2019
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
    Rezna likes this.
  5. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Bravo
    (Braviary)
    Level 62
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    Alola readers! It's been a while again huh? A month...but Brav is here back again with a chapter I've anticipated for a little while. I get to do some lore, storytelling. For some chapters, I'm going to go ahead and take that extra time to get them done correctly and the best possible. I don't expect them all to take this long, but this was a 15k monster that I had surprisingly little time to write in total.

    Hope everyone enjoys the chapter.


    After spending a day on Ula'ula Island, there is one place I have been really wanting to go. The Malie City Library.

    It's the biggest and I might as well say flagship library in Alola's public system even though it's not much to boast in having five other locations across the other main islands. But it has the biggest collection of books across the entire region.

    My kind of place right?

    I also just happened to be running straight into Elio...literally when I was trying to find my way. Why I do have to keep embarrassing myself when I'm around him? I feel so lucky he's always easygoing and brushes it off like it's nothing! I can't help it! And to make things even better...he even helps me out even when others like Team Skull are lurking around. I've seen them in a lot of alleyways and hear really bad things that happen to girls wandering alone in certain parts of this city. Yet when Elio is by my side, I feel incredibly safe...like he's a foot taller and super intimidating to anyone who tries to come for me.

    I feel like we would be something incredible if we met in another life under different circumstances.

    Elio wasn't sure much of where to go as he headed back into Malie City. The clouds were starting to part ways as the sun began to dip down to the western horizon. The temperature began to climb back up and it was decidedly more humid here than the other islands.

    For the thousandth time. I hate humidity. It's like being in a rice cooker.

    It was a cycle that went year around on the island's eastern seaboard. Being one of the heaviest rainfall areas in the entire region, the clouds would break up on occasion and the hot sun would evaporate the water into a dense muggy air that could make his clothes stick to his skin and sweat profusely even in the shade of an average temperature day.

    Going inside a dry air conditioned building made a huge difference.

    His thoughts still went back to Grimer and the unexpected release. Did he have regrets letting his first Pokémon go? Of course. But in their time together, he came to respect that Grimer was aware that his own purpose in life was much beyond battling, even though he was quite good at it. He was joining a good cause too in helping Alola have little to no waste output in a job that was going to always be in demand. And with the change in leadership he had helped to inadvertently sort out while exploring, the new director was going to need more staff than ever to continue their operations.

    What was interesting as well was that all of the other grimer and muk that lived on the grounds of the plant were all voluntary, with each one belonging to a trainer who all sought to give it a new home. Some of the older ones were retired from professional battling while others were there to play their part in helping humans and other Pokémon live their lives healthier and happier.

    According to the director; each trainer or resident that had donated a grimer or muk to their plant would get a special stamp that granted lifetime free trash removal from their residences. The Alola garbage collection was every Monday morning barring holidays, when people would roll their cans out to the side of the street and the dumpster trucks would arrive to collect them. Scribbling down his address and adding it to the database, he knew that his mother was going to be happy with one less bill to pay every month.

    Grimer's departure left him with five Pokémon; Torracat, Nani, Akela, Rufflet and Charjabug. As much as he had seen the advertisements for trainers with the famous tagline "Gotta catch 'em all!" he had no driving desire to go crazy and catch every new wild Pokémon species he came across. A lot of trainers did though. Even more so with the recent introduction of the PC's Pokémon Bank feature and Home...based on the new cloud technology and allowing trainers to swap Pokémon from within their party at any given time.

    He glanced to the spot where his egg had been nestled and strapped firmly inside his backpack. Still no hints on what Pokémon would hatch...only that it would be soon from what the Aether Foundation had told him.

    Am I doing a good job caring for this thing? All I've really done was make sure its temperature regulator is running fine.

    For another strange reason; his Z-ring was shimmering with a glowing power whenever he moved his left arm close to the egg. It was almost as if the sparkling stone within that was given to him by Tapu Koko was sensing an innate power from whatever Pokémon was being incubated within the eggshell.

    Having that empty slot on his team was also an opportunity to evaluate his options going forward on the island challenge. He may have just faced a rock-type specialist, but it would still be a big weakness when he had three of his Pokémon weak to rock moves. Two were weak to ground and both were common attacking moves that usually hit pretty hard.

    A strong defensive Pokémon that had a resistance to rock was a solid choice such as a steel or ground type. Maybe even fighting to use for both offense and defense.

    Thinking about the possibility of his team's potential versatility made him smile. For the longest time, he had conjured up papers in his room starting as a child and making combinations that were ready to take on the Indigo League with the dream team. Ironic that now as a trainer, he had no clear idea of what he wanted and instead went with the Pokémon he did best with in forming bonds as a family and as a trainer.

    He absolutely did have plenty of opportunities to leave behind some of his other Pokémon in favor of stronger ones, but he kept faith in that they would continue to get better the more they worked together.

    Malie City was going into its late afternoon phase with a lot of people finally exiting their workplaces and businesses to head home for the evening. Some were going to the supermarkets or stores to get things while others looked to be meeting up with their families at restaurants. As he continued to head south towards Banyan Drive, he passed a school with a baseball field that was having practice. A loud smack resonated from the home followed by a chorus of cheers as the batter turned a strong fastball pitch into a home run to the center.

    Several more blocks down and he began to see more of the buildings had been weathered by the constant elements, the concrete foundations cracked and streaks of dirt lined their sides, clearly having not been cleaned in a while. A lot of the buildings were closer together, between one to three stories tall. Some alleys dividing them were narrower, barely enough for two people to walk down abreast.

    Elio noticed that the streets were a little different here, a dark asphalt over the gray cobblestones in the other areas. He also noticed that he was going on a slight decline moving downhill.

    This must be a rougher part of town. And it looked to be the more battered too, with the constant rainfall, all the runoff that didn't go into the city's storm drains would flow down here and pool into huge puddles, making water stains even more prominent.

    He was at the base of where the hills to his right began to climb up and he saw many roads turn to begin a winding climb up towards some wealthy looking houses that lined its face.

    Must be some really expensive houses. Wonder who lives up there.

    A splash abruptly intervened in his thoughts that came from just up ahead. There were only a few people out now, instead being more of a car area with the vehicles parked along both sides of the street curbs.

    Elio almost thought they were just kids playing around in the puddles left behind until he heard a loud crashing sound and a multitude of bubbles emerge from the alley. It sounded like a battle was going on. Not an uncommon sight, but the streets were hardly a place to have trainers go a one another. Many cities had parks and small open areas where they could battle each other without interfering with others.

    He heard a Pokémon screech loudly and rushed over to see what was happening. A car just happened to be coming down the road he crossed. Hearing it just in time, he firmly planted his feet just as he was starting across the street. Sun ignored the screeching tires and horn honking with the driver throwing him an indignant glare and continued on. Somehow in his mind, he knew that the battle wasn't exactly a friendly bout.

    Something tumbled onto the sidewalk and Elio rushed forward, kneeling down. He immediately recognized the purplish fur and elongated tail of an aipom.

    Arlo? The specimen was instantly recognizable.

    Elio glanced down the alley from the shouting and saw a pair of large reddish Pokémon with bulbous heads and long tentacles anchored to the ground. They were battling a smaller brown bipedal Pokémon with a large white puffy cloudlike object behind it. The lone battler spun in midair to shoot a sphere of green energy that took out one of the cephalopod Pokémon, however the other once had fired a rainbow aurora beam that finally knocked its foe back. The Pokémon struggled to stand.

    "No! Draft!"

    He heard some jeering laughter from the other side. "Still not enough! You're delusional. If I were you, I'd stop wasting any more time and effort into the island challenge."

    Beside Sun, Arlo weakly squeaked and he could see that he had suffered some serious wounds on its side and back. Whatever battle he was in, he lost pretty badly. The monkey's eyes softened when he looked at Elio.

    "Hey Arlo," he said softly. "You're Brady Wainwright's Pokémon right?"

    Further down the alley, he could see the young boy standing opposite two of the familiar masked grunts of Team Skull. One of them, likely with the defeated cephalopod Pokémon sent out another combatant; a small yellow and tan lizard-like creature with a large head and baggy pants.

    "We've got zome new Pokémon to document! Bzzt!" He went to the red cephalopod first. "Octillery. Jet Pokémon. The ink it spits when escaping is special. It contains a substance that dulls the sense of smell, so Pokémon with keen noses get lost. Octillery is a water type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Glancing at the alleyway, he could see that behind the two skull grunts was something painted onto the wall. It was an art piece of some sort, depicting an anthropomorphic skull with whited eyes and grinning on small diamond objects that were cracked cleanly in half.

    Z-crystals. They're making fun of the island challenge.

    In addition, there were three letters painted white and outlined beside the skull and it seemed like the grunts were in the middle of spray painting a dialogue bubble to represent the skull saying it.

    Ufa? What does that mean?

    Rotom 'Dex was moving on right to the next entry, now the Pokémon Brady had called Draft.

    "Whimsicott. Windveiled Pokémon. Whimsicott doesn't live in a fixed location. It floats around on whirling winds, appearing all over the place to perform its mischief. Whimsicott is a grass and fairy type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    It moved onto the lizard Pokémon next. "Scraggy. Shedding Pokémon. They move in small groups, walking around lazily. Anyone who makes direct eye contact gets smacked with a powerful headbutt. Saggier skin around its body garners more respect from its peers. Scraggy is a dark and fighting type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "You know what's funny?" One of the grunts asked. "Is that normally we'll steal the trainer's Pokémon once they've lost. But yours ain't even worth stealing! They're too useless for us or the boss!"

    "Useless talk." Brady muttered, still standing his ground even though the duo of thugs were a head taller than him. "Whether you win or not, what you're doing is still wrong. This kind of stuff doesn't go on the mom and pop store." When he got silence instead of a reply, he went on. "Yeah, that's right. This is the Malie City Soda store where a mother and father earn their money by putting food on the table and their kids into school. Neither of you would know that."

    "Pfft." Elio could see there was a slight difference in the older boys, but both had the same lanky body with wildly tousled brown hair. He could not see their noses and mouths which were hidden by the usual Team Skull bandannas. Both wore baggy shorts and tanktops with glittering blind around their necks.

    "How would you know that?"

    "Because Jackson; if you and Cayden would actually talk to the people inside instead of trying to smuggle them out, you'd know that. The owners like Island Challengers and give out free soda for them and their Pokémon."

    Brady knows these two?

    Jackson looked a little taken aback at that, but his gaze hardened as he leered over at Brady. Back at the end of the alley; Elio was vastly surprised especially upon meeting the quirky kid. He seemed a little shy, meek and less assertive, but here he was seeing a far different side that was standing up to people who didn't like to be stood up against. It could've been attributed that he somehow knew the other two.

    "Are you really gonna be all this bravery on a trainer?" Cayden stepped forward beside his Pokémon. "You know Mom and Dad aren't going to like that."

    Mom and Dad. They're brothers.

    "I don't care!" Brady's voice had a defiant spark Elio recognized straight away, especially from trainer television shows. "I'll keep going!"

    "You won't get far."

    "Further than you. Unlike you both, I don't plan on quitting."

    "Do yourself a favor piwi. Give up on that stupid dream of yours already. Mom and Dad are gonna shut you down right away."

    "Like they did with you?" Brady glanced quickly over to Draft, whom was picking himself up off the ground to face two opponents. "That's been a long time coming. And neither of them turned their backs on you to start. You did it when Aiden started to get their attention from how good he was."

    "Aiden's always been the damn favorite child." Jackson spat with enough scorn to be felt more than heard. "Mom and Dad always gush about how he got that scholarship in Galar and gets to travel while they don't pay a dime for it. Any of us are considered worthless without any shot of being in the spotlight as him."

    "And frankly," Cayden added. "I don't care whatever Mom and Dad think about us. They can piss off and keep basking in Aiden's glory while not giving a thought about us. Team Skull's all like that. We're all misfits and outcasts...the garbage that nobody can recycle, but can't get rid of."

    "And we don't care. You can laugh at us all you want, but we're all proof that the island challenge is flawed and it doesn't look kindly on people who don't finish it. A lot of us have been disowned by our families and we have nowhere to go."

    "This is getting useless by the minute." Brady muttered under his breath. "Even when you're older than me, you're both still the two irrational pricks that liked to make my life miserable when Mom, Dad or Aiden weren't looking."

    "Someone's gotta suffer." Jackson chuckled darkly. "Get lost piwi."

    "You're going to clean this up." Brady seemed to sense that he was getting nowhere after calling the two of them out on their graffiti. "I'm gonna make you."

    "What are you gonna do?" Cayden taunted. "Call the police? They've already ignored us twice, what makes you think this one will start?"

    "I'll...I'll!"

    Elio could see that he was beginning to lose his composure. He wanted to step in, but wasn't sure if it was allowed.

    Since when did Team Skull follow rules?

    He touched Akela's Pokéball on his belt.

    "I'll get this useless Pokémon out of here." Jackson started. "Scraggy, use headbutt!"

    With a hissing noise, the tiny lizard Pokémon lunged forward with its thick skull in front to deliver a crushing blow.

    "Draft, set up a tailwind and use it to move out of the way!" Brady cried. As he did, the large cotton ball on Draft's back twitched and it caused a breeze to blow from behind. The whimsicott effortlessly jumped up into the stream and let it carry it out of the way from the incoming attack.

    Scraggy was on it though, landing on the ground and jumping forward in another.

    Draft wasn't prepared for this one and took the hit with a cry of pain, tumbling to the ground and once again struggling to get back on his feet.

    "Just like how the boss loves it!" Cayden raised a fist. "Octillery, aurora beam!"

    He could see that Draft was glowing harshly in a self-healing synthesis, but the rainbow colored ice type move was likely going to be the final nail.

    Akela leapt right into action, dodging another incoming Scraggy headbutt and swung both his fists in a sucker punch move that caused the aurora beam to veer wildly off course. The other three people had their eyes widen and step back in shock at the newcomer.

    Brady was the first to react from it since Akela's intervention allowed Draft to complete his synthesis. Bright verdant tendrils sprouted from the Pokémon's back onto the octillery, glowing as strobes of light were siphoned away with a portion of the water type's energy helping to restore its own. Octillery let out a wet gurgle before it fell over, as if deflating into a puddle on the ground.

    "Yo that's not cool bro." Cayden growled as he returned his defeated Pokémon. He and Jackson glowered at Sun while he stepped forward to reveal himself. "Not fair!"

    "Since when does Team Skull play by the rules?" Elio couldn't resist, striding up to Brady's side and giving the dumbstruck trainer a curt nod. "Brady. We meet again."

    "Elio?" He glanced back at the alley's entrance and went pale, knowing that the other trainer likely heard a good portion of the exchange.

    "Less talk, how about we show these two how real trainers battle." He knew that it would get the ire of the other side. Upon saying this, Akela already tensed up with motivation to win.

    "Scraggy, get 'em!" Cayden threw out an identical shedding Pokémon of his own. The two glared at both Akela and Draft.

    Both Skull brothers attacked immediately, one with a headbutt and another swinging its leg out towards Akela with a low kick. Draft was able to use the cotton on its back to pick itself up and dodge again while Elio went straight for the aggressive. He attacked with bite, but it ended up being more costly as the super effective fighting type move knocked Akela back slightly while his bite on Scraggy's tail had did little.

    "Use fairy wind!" Brady called out from beside him. The whimsicott twirled on the currents, flinging a pinkish dust in a rather harsh blow towards Jackson's Scraggy. With a double weakness to fairy types, it was all over as the lizard Pokémon was knocked out in a single blow.

    "Payback!"

    Cayden's Scraggy gathered a dark purple energy and flung globs of it towards Akela. He cried in pain after dodging one and being hit by some of the later ones. Elio knew that the attack didn't do much, but he didn't want to risk another fighting type move doing even more serious damage.

    The thug's eyes went wide with horror as Akela swung his fist down on top of the smaller Pokémon, the reversal move amplified by the additional damage received. It was that he moved with a newfound grace and agility he hadn't seen tumbled into the wall, leaving a visible ding in the side of the brick wall where he had struck the structure.

    Nice work. Elio silently congratulated his Pokémon, but he was also thrilled at how the tailwind allowed his Pokémon to move incredibly smooth and fluid. Since it was a flying type base move, he was beginning to wonder if Rufflet would eventually learn it. It would make for a speed advantage and setup for some of his slower Pokémon like Hau had done in their last battle.

    "Ah! No!" Cayden threw up his hands in defeat after the brothers had returned their Pokémon. "We're now two more victims of the Skullbane!"

    "The Skullbane?" Elio and Brady asked at the same time.

    "Yeah bro, you suck you know that! No wonder you're making all of us nervous! Even Plumes said she's never battled a trainer like you!"

    So I'm the Skullbane? A nemesis to Team Skull?

    I can live with that.

    "We're outta here!" Jackson said, sneering at Brady again. "Sorry piwi! Find someone who gives one to clean up our mess! Take a while too! It's not easy to paint all this unnoticed!"

    "Yeah and just you wait until we paint this whole town and region how it should be done!" Cayden said. "Stupid parents said our art talents are wasted, let's see what happens when Dad has to deal with a graffiti problem next committee meeting!"

    Jackson nodded alongside his brother. "And you...Skullbane. Just you wait. You may have beaten us, a bunch of other losers and even Plumes, but the boss is on like level one gazillion! You'll get wiped off in a trail of destruction in human form!"

    "That makes no sense." Cayden deadpanned from behind, facepalming into his bandanna.

    Jackson was undeterred nonetheless. "Whatever. Either way, the boss knows who you are and just to let you know. You ain't invincible. He's gonna see you real soon and show you that personally."

    Neither of them could muster a reply before the brothers bolted down the alley and disappeared around the bend.

    Elio almost moved to pursue, but stopped himself and looked at Brady, who had a wistful, defeated expression on his face upon seeing the detailed graffiti art that was on the wall. He clearly knew about this long beforehand and was probably mad at himself for not acting differently to stop it.

    "This sucks." He said quietly. "I hate it."

    "I take it those are two of your brothers?"

    He solemnly nodded. "Cayden and Jackson Wainwright. Middle twins. We used to be really close until the island challenge made everything jumbled and strange for the entire family. Aiden's the oldest of us and he went right through the island challenge like it was nothing. Then he took a scholarship to study and travel through Galar. He was always the favorite, getting the most praise and favor from our parents. After he left, they kind of started working harder and expected us to be near-perfect replicas of him. As things got more difficult in the challenge, Cayden and Jackson wanted to keep going and maybe start an art gallery instead of being trainers."

    "And?"

    "And my parents wouldn't have any of it. Claimed all that they spent on them going to the island challenge went to waste because they chose to pursue a different career path that wasn't what they wanted."

    That explained the graffiti. Elio looked at it again. Despite its clear stereotyping and derogatory statement, he had to admit that the detail put into the art was absolutely incredible. Cartoonish a little, but a lot of graffiti he saw was made for a purpose, like to send a message, spread a cause or mark territory when it came to gangs and crime syndicates.

    Cayden and Jackson seemed talented. Now they're painting illicitly on places where they shouldn't without permission.

    "What did that leave me with?" Brady sighed before he reached down to pick Arlo up again. "A boatload of expectations and slipping would lead to disappointment. I've always wanted to be a trainer and succeed in school too. But I guess I can't have both huh? The only Pokémon I was allowed to have like Arlo here were from that stupid fighting ring Team Skull has and the Aether Foundation pick up from being badly wounded."

    Elio walked beside him and laid a supportive hand on his shoulder. "Hey. You ever need any help with anything. You let me know."

    "I appreciate it."

    "Hey, don't worry. Your brothers will get theirs coming to them."

    "I don't want that." Brady said. "I want them to actually go after doing something they love which is art. It's just...they're using their talents in the wrong spot. People are going to hate it no matter how good they are."

    We'll find something for them for sure. I doubt all misfits are truly misfit.

    "Sometimes you feel out of place because you're looking in the wrong direction." Elio said a bit more to himself. "Sometimes it's better to enjoy the journey and keep going than constantly look at the destination."

    Brady chuckled a little. "You should write a book. I want a copy."

    "Are you nuts? There's no telling how evil of an author I'd be!"

    "The really bad kind? Nah, you'd be a great writer."

    Both boys laughed at that. Even Arlo and Akela smiled at the joke shared between their two trainers.

    "I'm heading to the Malie Library to do some more research. Have you been? It's actually a really neat place!"

    Elio shook his head. "I haven't. Never really been one to read books."

    "But you can write them too! There's a writer's workshop that helps aspiring authors in writing things from research papers to full on stories."

    "Huh, I'm surprised something like that exists."

    "You would be surprised at the amount of people who have no idea how to write a story."

    "Fair point." He knew that Lillie really liked to read books, seeing quite a few advanced titles in her bag that she read during her spare time. Sun wondered if Lillie wanted to stop there while they stayed here.

    "Anyway I'll catch you later!" Brady yelled after starting on the sidewalk to head north. "Hey, we should have a battle next time we meet!"

    That got Elio excited. He was already a proficient trainer while taking on his older brothers. It would definitely be an exciting bout to go up against someone close to the same level as himself other than Hau.

    "I'll take you up on that!"

    Lillie carried her duffel bag containing Nebby with a death grip, clutching the straps close to her chest as she constantly checked over her shoulder. The crowds that surrounded her showed nothing out of place; no distinctive uniforms of anyone or the dark clothes of the Team Skull thugs. Anyone glancing in her direction didn't turn away quickly; a sure sign of someone tailing.

    This was such a stupid idea. Coming out here, alone with no sense on where to go without a guide!

    It all started when the hotel's receptionist told her about the Malie City Library that was situated on Queen Lilouka Way; the street that would eventually lead straight into the city centre at the south bend. She had heard about the place as a child, but never had the opportunity.

    Now free from her mother for a time, she was able to do and go wherever she wanted.

    Unfortunately, her mind made it out to be a far less daunting task than it really was. She had no map or DexNav features that she saw trainers use in Hoenn. There were no town maps either since most cell phones nowadays had global positioning system trackers that could calculate a route through any city within seconds.

    All she had was a burner phone that Professor Kukui had bought her from Tanaka's, allowing only the basic web searching, messages and calls. He knew her story and did not want to take any chances or inherent risks in having the wrong people track her down by her phone. As Elio and Hau entered her life, she had agreed to have both their numbers added to the small group of people she knew she could trust.

    The streets were not trustworthy here either. During the daytime, she knew she'd be safe thanks to others around to act as eyewitnesses if something happened, but at night there had been stories where people had been mugged by petty thieves and Team Skull. She wondered why the police didn't seem to care much about it, even after reports of a week earlier that a female trainer was assaulted in an alleyway surfaced.

    She shuddered at that thought, trying not to stand out and maybe get to a safe area where she could call Professor Kukui.

    It was at this rather opportune time she happened to turn her head away from the direction she was walking and ended up hitting something mid-stride. Letting out a yelp of surprise she expected to stumble back and trip over something...which was usually what would happen. Instead, she felt a lean arm grab firmly ahold of her wrist and quickly arrest her backward momentum into another group of pedestrians.

    "Pew!"

    "Nebby?" Her heart raced at hearing the familiar voice and she was completely flustered to see who exactly her savior had been.

    "Elio?"

    "Lillie!" The expression on his face was amusing since it looked like he was just as surprised to see her as she did with him. "Hey!"

    "Pew!"

    "And of course Nebby!"

    Lillie didn't really care much that the shuffling around in her bag was the cloud Pokémon's latest attempt to get out. She held onto Elio's shirt and practically jumped into his waiting arms.

    The boy laughed, softening her heart. "Well someone missed me."

    With the reunion ruined like that; she playfully punched his arm. "Stop it. You know I always miss you Elio." She hadn't put much effort in hitting him, yet he barely flinched.

    "I missed you too." Their eyes met and Elio's thoughts had been abruptly interrupted again as a cold spike was driven into the back of his head with the familiar pain returning. It was less intense than before, but enough to make him grunt and rub his temples in anguish.

    Lillie's face went to immediate concern. "Elio are you okay?"

    "Y-yeah." He grunted, cursing the pain yet again for ruining yet another tender moment between the girl he lov-really liked. "Just a little bit of a headache."

    She reached into her bag, careful not to disturb Nebby. "I…um got some painkillers." A little bottle was in her hand and she shook out two small white tablets. "Maybe this will help."

    He graciously took them from her and popped them in his mouth, washing them down with a swig of water from his bottle. It would take a half hour before the effects would kick in, but hopefully it wouldn't be noticeable to him. He was beginning to recognize that the odd sensation of the liquid ice being poured into his head. It never happened prior to his encounter with that...thing.

    "I forgot to ask you." Lillie began. "How was your trip to Aether Paradise? I'm sorry I couldn't come with you."

    Okay that was a lie and I feel really bad saying that.

    "Oh that's okay." He reassured her. "I'm sure we'll be going back soon. They seem like good people."

    "Did you meet any of the leaders?"

    "Some lady named Wicke took us for most of the tour. I like her. She's really nice."

    Lillie smiled, she had already known Miss Wicke would get along well with both boys. Elio then said something right after that surprised her...she had no idea.

    "She says she knows my dad from somewhere. It's so strange, she told me I look just like him." Wicke wasn't wrong with that either. A lot of people had commented that Elio looked much like his own father although she could see a couple of features in him that were also part of his mother Elaine.

    "That's really interesting. I wonder where?"

    "Me too."

    "Anyone else?" She asked as they started walking back towards the city.

    "I met this guy named Faba. Smart guy, but he talks a lot about himself and how important and entitled he is. His ego is probably as wide as those strange glasses he wears."

    That made Lillie laugh out loud, doubling over and clutching her sides. Elio was already snickering himself and joined right in.

    "Pew! Pew!" Nebby was also joining in on the fun.

    That's the funniest thing I've heard anyone say about Mister Faba! Then again, he's not here to listen to any of it.

    "Oh and I met the President. Her name's Lusamine."

    Lillie's laughter faded away and even though her own mother or her associates weren't around, she still felt a chill creep up her spine. The mere mention of that woman was a grim reminder of why she had to remain in hiding. She couldn't afford to make any slip ups. The priority was to get Nebby home and away from the Aether Foundation as soon as possible.

    But she was confused at what she would do after that was done. Run away to another region? Make an anonymous identity? There were plenty of places in the world where people could disappear or turn into someone else.

    It seemed so daunting, but she knew how vengeful her mother could be when angered. And while she may never see her family's face again, she would constantly have to look over her shoulder for anyone seeking her out for the wrong reasons. What if she made friends elsewhere and had to break their trust when they found out her true identity?

    What if she had to say goodbye to Elio?

    I can't. I have to be strong and have faith that everything will work out and resolve itself. I'm not alone. Elio is with me. Hau is with me. Professor Kukui is with me.

    Elio was talking about Lusamine and his own experience, saying that while he did like her, there was just something he couldn't place that didn't feel right. "A few screws loose." was how he described her.

    And his intuition was spot on.

    "But yeah. We'll have to take a trip soon. I bet they have people who can help you get Nebby back home."

    "Well...um...I want to...you know. Research first. Maybe make sure we know a lot before we go to them to find answers." Lillie stopped and fidgeted with her hat, chiding herself for thinking he would believe her exvuse. "Um...Elio...do you mind if I ask you something?"

    "Yeah sure." She swore his eyes sparkled at his eagerness to be by her. "What? This has to be about Nebby right? You want to go to the ruins?"

    "Yes. I do want to see the tapu ruins in Ula'ula Island, but they're located deep in a large desert in the very center. I don't want to ask that much from you."

    "That's not much at all. I'll take you there!"

    "Thanks Elio. But another time. I was actually headed up to the Malie City Library. There's a book I want to look for that's there. Would you be willing to help me? I know you have your trials and everything though."

    Sun shook his head. "Nah, friends and family come first. Right?"

    She felt so thrilled at his answer and almost jumped up in excitement. Her own feelings were unclear on whether she was more enthusiastic about finally finding a book she had been searching for a long time or if it was the young boy tagging along with her.

    "Well I know Malie Library is somewhere within the city. Why else would it be called that? Even I should be able to find it."

    "Someone told me that it's on Queen Lilouka Way by the city centre."

    "Then I can do this!"

    Elio stepped forward, "Uh maybe I should come along with you. For the walk?" He glanced around as if searching for someone eavesdropping on their conversations. "I just don't like you going alone."

    "I appreciate you saying that Elio, but I want to try this for myself." She stammered a little at saying that, but her mind was made up from the confidence trying to surface.

    The thought of that one girl assaulted in an alleyway from talk around town was still fresh in his mind. While he was still technically considered a minor at sixteen years of age, he had a little bit less problems in moving alone. For one; he had his Pokémon to defend himself at any time and he also walked with the air of confidence.

    As a boy with those traits, many people would pass him up as a potential target.

    Lillie was another story, she had neither of those. Her only Pokémon was one that avoided battle and its only power was to teleport. That expended a lot of Nebby's energy and it got tired after using it just once. Her confidence? It was something that was to be worked on, but Elio noticed she was getting more and more sure of herself.

    Yet she was a girl, another reason he wasn't entirely okay with her traveling alone in a foreign place.

    "Please Elio." She said. "I want to believe more in myself just like how I believe in you."

    Elio stepped closer and gently reached down to take her hands into his own. His fingers were slightly calloused, contrasting with her smooth soft ones, but she closed her eyes to savor his touch.

    "Okay." He whispered. "I trust you. But you get hold of me the moment something doesn't seem right or someone's following you okay?"

    "Okay." She nodded.

    "And take Rufflet with you." Elio activated the eaglet's ball open, causing the Pokémon to flap its wings and land gently on his shoulder. People would be a little less willing to hurt her if there was an angry eaglet staying behind as her Pokémon. "He can fly close by behind and watch over you."

    "But I can't battle. I don't know how."

    "Rufflet is more than capable of fighting by himself. If he feels the need to step in if your safety is at risk, he will."

    Lillie hesitantly nodded. Even though Elio made battling look like a breeze and she unashamedly tried to pretend battle with Nebby, maybe there was an opportunity to feel like a real trainer.

    "Rufflet has moves like aerial ace, wing attack, roost right?"

    "And fury attack." He knew that her staying with Professor Kukui gave a little bit of knowledge on the different moves and how to utilize them.

    "Alright. I'll do it." She waved at the little eaglet as he flapped his wings to stay by her side. "Let's go Rufflet!" At her insistence, the two of them headed down the sidewalk towards the city center and he could hear her talking excitedly to his bird about something. Whatever it was made him excited.

    Elio watched her go with a thin smile broadening on his face. His eyes went down to admire the creamy colored thighs and her blonde hair that swished and swirled when she walked.

    Her figure.

    While those thoughts manifested in his mind, the head pain of the cold sensation returned to the front of his head and he grunted, using the side of the building to support himself. The pain grew in waves crashing on a beach and rolling across to his left and right sides.

    Within moments, the aching began to subside as he steadied his breathing and slowly stood back up. He took a moment to calm down, not knowing it had been the painkiller that had taken effect.

    Thirty minutes later, Elio easily found the directions to the library and started his way there. While the sun had now hovered just over the waterline to the west, the purple dusky sky was beginning to invade, making the overhanging clouds almost invisible and putting off an orange glow funneled within as if lighting the entrance to a cave.

    The lights were coming on from the streets to the downtown towers glittering in a multitude of white, orange and yellow. As he got closer back to where the buildings took on the Johtoan inspiration, he could see the paper lamps hanging above in multiple colors on the sides of the building canopies.

    People were still out and about, but the crowds had dwindled down to a handful of pedestrians and the occasional car or ride Pokémon. By this time, most people were already at their houses and settling in for the night.

    A small restaurant was where Sun got a takeout box of tendon and quickly ate it on his way to the library. He wasn't sure if Lillie had eaten yet either, so before leaving, he bought a second one and slipped it in his bag, careful to make sure it was sealed and didn't spill during the trip. It was one of his favorite dishes, often available fresh for purchase at Tanaka's or any other small Kantoan restaurant. Simple to make as well; simply tempura fried vegetables, fish or prawns served over a bed of rice that could be seasoned at a customer's request. He wasn't sure how Lillie would like her food, so he got complimentary packets of salt and seasoning in case she did want it more flavorful.

    The library was straight ahead from the street and even though there weren't as many cars, he stayed at the crosswalk and waited for the signal on the light before walking over.

    The building was situated on an elevated concrete platform with worn stairs and bars. Two ancient Alolan warriors with a spear and shield stood on either side, both with a plaque at the base of their feet.

    Lillie stood at the beginning of the steps with Rufflet standing on the ground beside her. He sensed his trainer's approach and cawed happily, zipping right over and landing at his feet. Elio noticed that she had another fancy boutique bag on her shoulder next to the duffel.

    "Hey Rufflet." He patted the bonnet of feathers on the top of his head. "Did you take good care of Lillie?"

    He got an enthusiastic caw in reply while closing his eyes to enjoy the scratching.

    "Oh Elio." The worry in her voice got his attention quickly.

    "Hey." He said in his usual soothing voice, he searched her features for anything abnormal but came up empty.

    What's the matter?

    Lillie sighed in defeat. "I...I wandered around lost while looking around for the library and I ducked into the apparel shop back there."

    "Are you okay?"

    She nodded. "And then I saw this outfit and they said it was the last one they had in stock, so I bought it for sixty five dollars."

    Sixty five? Wow, that's...clothes can be expensive! But it is an apparel shop though.

    "Even though I don't think I'd ever have the guts to wear an outfit like it...heh!"

    Elio stepped forward, "What do you mean? I'm sure you've got a taste for clothing and fashion, so I trust you."

    Her eyes brightened with excitement and the fact that maybe spending all that money on clothes she liked wasn't exactly a bad thing.

    "Really?"

    "Yeah really. You have your own preference, so you should wear the clothes you want."

    "Thank you! I guess it wasn't all a waste. The woman working at the store did tell us where to find the library! So I guess you could say it was all for the best. Now I see I was on the right track since the library was just down the street if I kept looking."

    Elio dug into his pack and produced the wrapped bag with the tendon bowl. "I'm glad you're here safe. I also thought you might get hungry, so I got you something to eat."

    "I'm not that hungry, but thanks Elio." She took the food and opened it. "It does smell delicious though. Why don't we share it?"

    Sun himself had just eaten, but he didn't feel quite full just yet. "Okay."

    They found a spot on the stairs away from the middle and ate underneath a light. Conversation was abuzz with Lillie asking him on his trials and the other things he had seen on going into Aether Paradise. Elio asked her if she was wanting to go to the Draconid Festivus held in the city in a couple of days.

    "What's it about?"

    "Some famous explorer who came to Alola. His birthday is on that day and they're making it really special since someone with that title of Lorekeeper helped the champion of Hoenn prevent a huge disaster just recently."

    "I remember that!" Lillie said, going back to the time she heard it on the news reports just days after Elio completed his trial at the Mauna Wela.

    "So they'll have fun with games, food, dancing and the best part is when we all light dragon Pokémon kites into the sky and set them on fire for appreciation and offering to their deity; the sky high Pokémon Rayquaza."

    "Do you think that it will appear?"

    "I don't know. It would be something to see for sure if it does."

    "Yeah. I'd love it if we get to see it together and-" Lillie's words were cut off by the sound of rapidly galloping hooves from a Pokémon fast approaching that clobbered rapidly on the hard ground.

    The Pokémon in question was a familiar equine, brown bodied with long braided hair and massive legs that had hardened dirt around the bases. It reared back on its hind legs and let out a loud neigh that bellowed into the evening.

    Lillie's eyes went wide as dinner plates as she let out a horrified girly shriek. In a moment, she had quickly jumped behind Elio next to her and threw her arms around his back. Clinging fiercely and making him blush at the sudden close contact between the two of them.

    The boy quickly felt heat rise to his face as he saw his crush shaking slightly and her hands touching the lower part of his shirt where he navel was at.

    "Help!"

    "Lillie," Sun was trying to suppress his laughter, but quickly failed, which drew a little bit of irritation on her features when she looked at him again. In a way he found her pouting face incredibly cute. "Relax."

    "That's not funny! It was scary!"

    Elio's laughter only grew alongside a girl's that was catching up at the side of the huge mudsdale that almost had run them familiar to the boy, she had never seen someone as short as her walk with such a confident gait. Her brown clothes were slightly weathered and a little bit of sweat could be seen off her brow underneath the purple bonnet.

    "Alola Elio!" The girl said happily. "Been a while hoa."

    "Likewise," he stepped forward smiling.

    Hapu Encarnación's tanned face smiled back. "It looks like your island challenge is coming along favorably. That must be pleasing to the tapu."

    "You know more than I do for sure." Elio chuckled as her mudsdale Miles stepped forward, nudging him with her nose. He gave her an affectionate pat as Rufflet landed beside, cawing eagerly.

    "So Elio," Hapu's gaze drifted to a nervous Lillie still shyly hiding behind him. "Who might your kasama be?

    "Oh this is Lillie." He made introductions by standing aside. "Lillie, this is Hapu. A friend I made while on Akala Island."

    "Hi." She timidly waved, still not trusting the new face.

    Hapu slowly approached, reaching out to take Lillie's hand in both her purple gloves. "It's so nice to meet you too hoa." A smirk grew on her face when she saw her looking at Elio for reassurance. He only just smiled back and put his arm around her shoulders.

    "I found Hapu dealing with Team Skull just outside Royal Avenue. Decided to step in and give her a hand. She probably would've been fine herself."

    Hapu merely shook her head at his redirection of praise. "My apologies if Miles spooked you. She gets really excited when she sees a familiar friend."

    "Oh it's okay."

    "It doesn't seem like you're a trial-goer like Elio here. What are you up to in Alola?"

    "Oh, well...I'm actually studying the tapu's ruins for...various reasons of my own."

    Sun knew why she was so hesitant. He already could tell that Hapu's curiosity meant no harm, but she didn't want to trust someone else so quickly about Nebby.

    Just as he predicted; the young girl smiled. "Well that's a fine initiative indeed. I'd be happy to show you the way whenever you'd like to go." She patted Miles' face again. "Miles here is as sturdy as all get-out. She can easily carry two."

    "Thank you for your offer Hapu." Lillie gave a curt bow, her expressions lighting up with a bit of newfound hope and determination.

    "Anytime. You let me know if either one of you needs anything. That's what friends are for. We help one another." With a gently pat and a neigh from Miles, the two of them turned around to walk down the road in which they had approached.

    "She seems nice." Lillie remarked as they watched her go.

    Elio nodded. "Hapu's a good person. Don't let that friendly exterior fool you, she's tough as nails, especially in a battle."

    "I believe it. So shall we get to the library since we're here?"

    He was already bounding up the steps and opening the door to the main entrance. "After you m'lady."

    Lillie followed inside, giggling softly at him titling her. "You're a stunning example of chivalry. You know that?"

    The Malie Library was the oldest in the Alola Public Library systems as well as its flagship location. Like many regions, it offered a massive catalogue of books for visitors to borrow as well as a large quiet location to study.

    Lillie didn't have many places she really enjoying being at, but the library was one of them. She had been to this one many years ago when she was very young, maybe six years old.

    Her mother had brought her inside while she was going to search for some magazines. She had turned her back for maybe a minute before realizing that Lillie was no longer by her side.

    She went into a full-on panic, searching up and down every little aisle in the building, even needing the staff on duty to help her in the search. Quietly, they monitored the exits and began combing the rows yet again in search for the missing girl.

    She was eventually found, nestled in a corner of one of the lounges with nearly a half dozen pokémon surrounding her as she laid a book out on her lap, reading away to herself and the small creatures that had gathered and snuggled all behind as they listened to the child reading and telling the story out loud.

    Her mother was worried sick and nearly rushed over, but quickly stopped herself seeing how adorable her little flower looked as she was truly immersed in the adventure book's ups and downs.

    Lillie was left alone for another half hour within sight and when her mother arrived to take her, she had fallen asleep, curled up against a small igglybuff with most of the others spread out nearby in their nap.

    She knew the exact little corner in the library where that happened.

    However in the ten years that passed, as they entered, she could see that it had some significant changes since she was last there. The architect was a Unovan who sought to pay homage off of the famous Nacrene Public Archives. Sweeping trimmed arches separated the building into three sections, each with an identical antique lamp that cast a warm orange glow. A pair of staircases both close to the entrance and the back area allowed access to the upper floor which was also in an open area where the ceiling stretched an extra twenty feet in a sweeping spindle of white colored marble like a fine mix of meringue egg whites.

    Much of the architecture was still the same, but she saw that the staircases had been redone with a copper brown trim and the aisle of books on the lower level seemed to be a little thicker with fewer in between, likely support sulumns installed from the added weight of more things added to the upper floor.

    Close to the reception desk, Lillie and Sun saw a small coffee shop where a barista was busy making refreshments for a line of people. Aside from the drinks, they could see an entire case full of various crackers, cookies and other snacks. Even sandwiches were available to purchase.

    Okay, first off, it's almost eight in the evening. Who in their right mind wants a coffee this late?

    Elio had never been in many libraries, other than the one situated inside his schools. This was one of the first experiences he had and he was still astounded at how many different books were available to rent, purchase or read.

    Close to the ends of the building were long counter tables with reading lamps and chairs. A few people sat at the desktop computers while others had their laptops or datapads.

    The most dominant feature however was the enormous stained glass window that stretched almost as high as the ceiling. A multitude of colors dominated the oddly shaped panes and Elio noticed after a moment that the four corners were abstract figures in different colors; yellow in the top left, pink in the top right, red in the bottom right and then violet in the bottom left. Each one held something different. The yellow figure was a lithe masculine shape that held a long ornate spear. The pink figure was smaller, more dainty and carried a fan similar to a kantoan geisha's fans. Upon closer inspection they seemed iridescent more closer to scales.

    The red figure was the largest of the four carrying two pairs of dark obsidian rings around his arms. Finally the violet figure was also more feminine in appearance, sporting long curved fins along her arms and back.

    All four figures were all looking towards the bright thing in the center, Elio could only described it as an elliptical shape with a mixture of a black and multicolored prism. They had just arrived at the moment when the sunlight was shining through the glass at such an angle that it glowed the colors vibrantly, making them feel even more realistic and lifelike.

    At the very back top of the piece of art was some text in fine black outlined letters.

    "Na kaʻike e hāʻawi iāʻoe i ka mana. A hoʻomālamalama i ka pō lōʻihi."

    "Wow." Was all Elio could say as he was still soaking in the entire spectacle of the library. "This is amazing. We don't have anything like this in Kanto. At least where I lived."

    "A library is one of my favorite places." Lillie replied, still a little wide-eyed at how much had changed. "I could spend all day here."

    I can't. But if it makes you happy, then it's a small price to pay.

    They received a warm reception from the woman at the front desk while a large big-eyed bird Pokémon gazed at them before fluttering up to a long perch on the side of the column nearby. It had a large V-shaped crest on its forehead with dark patterns on its brown stomach.

    "New Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Noctowl. It is the evolved form of hoothoot. With eyes that can see in pitch-darkness, it never lets its prey escape. Some even call it "the emperor of dark nights. Noctowl is a normal and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "So," Lillie started, "the book I'm looking for is a very old one. It's a book that contains old myths and legends that Professor Burnet had told me about. Those tales...seem to suggest that Alola's legendary Pokémon came from another world."

    "Another world? You mean like an ultra beast?" I'm not exactly sure I'd want to meet Alola's legendary Pokémon if that's the case.

    "Maybe. I'm hoping it's not as aggressive."

    "That makes two of us."

    Elio realized that he and Lillie were still standing close to the front desk and checkout kiosks, seeing someone rush towards them. He took her hand, earning a gasp of surprise and gently tugged her out of the way.

    "Sorry! Excuse me!" The man said as he nearly dropped a stack of thick textbooks on the countertop. "My bad about that you two. I didn't want to interrupt your little date."

    Date? Both of the teenagers glanced down, seeing that the sudden event was over and they still remained holding hands. Sheepishly, they parted and refused to meet the other's gaze.

    Elio felt as if a part of him left his body as her touch vanished.

    The young man who looked to be in his mid-twenties chuckled with a knowing smirk. "Right on. I don't judge, the library can be a great place to go out."

    "Well actually...we're here for a book. A book on old Alolan legends to be exact." Her gaze went to his enormous stack as he used the wireless scanner on his phone to register his selection for rent. "You seem to know what type of books are around here."

    "Oh, well I'm kind of the wrong guy for that." He flipped the top one so that they could see the cover. Elio recognized it immediately; the Jeppesen Instrument Commercial Pilot Syllabus Handbook.

    "That's cool. You want to be a professional pilot?"

    "Had that dream from a very early age."

    "That's wonderful." Lillie said. "Elio here has been on his island challenge only recently and he's having a lot of fun."

    "I can see that." The man smiled. "He's definitely made one amazing friend. Stick by his side kid for as long as the road takes you. You do the same bro."

    "You can count on that." Elio couldn't help smiling, but he fist-bumped the aspiring pilot. "We'll let you be on your way now."

    "I'll take you two on a flight if you've got time later on. What are your names?"

    Sun stepped forward. "I'm Elio and this is Lillie."

    "Name's Marcus. Pleasure to meet the both of you." He cast them a two fingered salute before grabbing his checkout receipt and heading out the door, waving once again before disappearing down the steps.

    "Wow." Lillie said after a while. "He seemed nice."

    "Yeah. He did." I have this familiar feeling about him...like I've known who he is...or maybe he's known about me for a long time. That can't be right. We just met.

    Lillie went over to the upper floor where Elio tagged along with the two of them scanning the shelves for any sign of the book. He wished that she had more of a description besides that of it being old and with an image of a gold sun and blue moon.

    At least a title.

    "Hey Elio." A voice cut in from behind him. "If I knew you were coming to the library too, I would've offered to show you the way."

    He turned around to see Brady Wainwright looking much more confident and assertive than when he ran into him in the alleyway some hours earlier.

    Sun flashed a grin, "Kind of an unexpected visit. I'm actually surprised you're still here. Didn't you say you had a curfew?"

    "No...well actually yes. But they said as long as I'm doing schoolwork, my parents don't mind." Brady reached up and grabbed a book from the outstretched tail of Arlo, who clumsily waved with his actual arms.

    "Hey Arlo," He scratched the tuft of hair on top of his head. "You're looking way better."

    His trainer gave a defeated sigh, "My brothers have always had a bit of an upper hand in battling. They got Pokémon before I did...and I had to fight tooth and nail to convince my parents to keep him."

    "You'll get them back. One day." Elio saw that the book Arlo had retrieved for his trainer was not one of normal general education, but rather an entire textbook analyzing how many Pokémon overcame corresponding types to that of its weakness. He flashed a knowing smirk, well aware that Brady's cover of studying for his final year in school was really to improve his own knowledge of Pokémon battling outside the normal curriculum.

    "So uh, what brings you here to the library?"

    "I'm actually here with a friend. We're trying to find a specific book about the legendary Pokémon native to the Alola region."

    "Maybe it's Ka mālamalama ke Alola?"

    "Ka llama what?" Elio scrunched his brow in confusion. He knew it was an Alolan title, but he could only make out two words; light and Alola.

    Brady recited it again, going slower but still making no more sense. "It translates to "The Blessed Light of Alola." and I know what you're talking about. It's one of the oldest books they have in the archives."

    "Elio?" Lillie called from the other side. "Are you going to help or be a disturbance?"

    Sun was more shocked at how she sounded so blunt and irritated. He rarely even heard her get angry or upset, but she was acting as if he was violating a huge rule.

    Okay I kind of am being disruptive, which is against library rules.

    "Women." He rolled his eyes, hoping she didn't have that special perception to catch his sarcastic gesture.

    Brady snickered and stopped short. "Wait, you're with a girl?"

    In response to that question; Elio felt his face begin to heat up. "Well...no we're not dating or anything."

    "Oh my bad. I don't see why you couldn't get a date...I mean...you're a good looking dude. Well to a lady that is...Not that I'm," His voice trailed off after realizing he was talking himself into a corner.

    "Elio?" Lillie finally made her way around the corner to see who he was talking to.

    "Hey." Elio turned to face her, just as happy to break away from the awkwardness. Behind him, Brady leaned to see the new person. He stopped short, a little starstruck and his cheeks turned slightly red. Neither of those things were noticed by the other boy.

    "Lillie, this is a friend of mine. Brady Wainwright."

    Her face brightened with recognition. "Wainwright? As in the committee chairperson Wainwright?"

    "Yep. That's my mother." He couldn't tell if Brady was more embarrassed or humbling about his parents. "She runs all those committees that help govern and regulate Ula'ula Island alongside the kahuna. Speaking of which, he addressed Elio. "The island kahuna really doesn't abide to those usual rules you would think if you've been by Mister Hala or Miss Olivia."

    "Okay, that means what? He's a hermit? Recluse?"

    "More like some getting used to. He lives off the grid for one and I heard he rarely comes into town."

    Elio was still a little puzzled. "How? The island committee cabinet lets him do that?"

    "Who's going to tell him no?"

    Fair enough.

    "Anyway," Brady glanced at Lillie and Elio finally noticed the slightly rosy tinged appearing on his cheeks. The pupils on his blue eyes has also dilated. "It's really nice to meet you Lillie."

    He stuck his hand out.

    "Oh," She looked a little flustered, but gingerly shook it.

    "You're the one looking for the book right? You like that kind of legends and myths about the Alola region?"

    "Y-yes. I'll read most anything though. Adventure books are my favorite."

    Brady's head perked up a little at that. "That's great! I hardly meet anyone nowadays who really likes adventure books like me. What's your favorite?"

    "Um it's hard to pick maybe um...the Sword in the Stone."

    "A Galar classic. I see you have excellent taste."

    Elio raised an eyebrow as the other two took off in a conversation that went to many other books. Some of which he had heard of and others completely foreign.

    They're getting along. Quite well.

    For some reason he was a little bothered by it. Lillie definitely enjoyed a conversation with him and long before when he barely knew her, it was hard to get more than four sentences out of her before she came out of her shell. Here this guy whom he met that morning was now talking to her as if they had been friends since childhood. His ire was growing when he said something that sounded a little bit funny, but it had her giggling to the point where she had to cover her mouth to try and remain silent.

    The fact of someone else having her attention and admiration didn't sit well with him.

    Stop. She's not my girlfriend. She's not property. Lillie is a person.

    His rational mind told him to lay it off and not think of it any more, but it ignited a rather unfamiliar feeling inside.

    Suddenly Brady's presence with her felt less welcome and more invasive. By the time he had gathered his senses, the two of them had already went to another aisle while murmuring titles to themselves as they browsed the collection.

    Me a jealous person?! Ha! Right and I can have an unlimited supply of those Master Balls.

    Elio found himself looking through various books as well, reaching into the mythology section with the capricious nature of the four primary tapu deities.

    Even though they were revered by the Alolans, the tapu remained incredibly secretive in their appearances with only the island kahunas having close knowledge of the mysterious Pokémon.

    Elio flipped through to the Melemele section, reading that Tapu Koko was the second youngest of the deities, but his fickle nature often left others bewildered at how he seemed to appear at unexpected times as well as not in others. Tapu Koko was represented by his mythical arc staff with jagged edges and could weave it with intense precision to intimidate and dazzle his foes. Naturally, the quick tempered deity was known to the Alolans as the god of war and honor.

    The Akala section showed Tapu Lele as the youngest. She was the closest to a spoiled child in throwing tantrums. Strange befitting the goddess of healing, life and emotion. Tapu Lele could scatter odd scaly glitter that healed any wound or sickness in both humans and Pokémon. While they were beneficial, too much could go the other way in doing more harm than good. Often times she would spread the scales for her own amusement regardless of their effects. It was said she had healed countless Alolan warriors during the era of kahuna warlords in their petty fights for territory and resources. The book said that recent evidence was pointing to a more disturbing outcome.

    Another case of don't anger the goddess.

    The third section of Ula'ula depicted Tapu Bulu. As the second eldest of the guardians; he was the god of fertility, vitality and growth. Many old shrines and totems on the island paid homage to Tapu Bulu, whom people had looked towards for bountiful harvests. He was often the one thanked in pre-meal prayers for the gift of nurturing food.

    Bulu was among the more laid-back and secretive and many believed that it was a lazy Pokémon in general. However it once decimated an entire settlement somewhere on the island's southern coast when the people disrespected it.

    Finally the fourth section covered Tapu Fini. The eldest of the guardian deities, it possessed a calm and rational demeanor compared to its siblings, but it had a notable dislike for humans with the exception of those it sensed with a pure heart. Too many times malicious minded individuals sought its healing water properties. Despite that, it was not above helping others, provided that they were able to see through the deceptive mists it threw up as both a method to deter intruders and a test for those seeking it out.

    Elio put the book on the tapu away before joining Lillie and Brady at a table in the middle between two sets of shelves. They were still browsing up and down another area and he could tell that Lillie was starting to get a little bit frustrated that she wasn't able to find what she was looking for.

    "It's a very old one. Very valuable so I'm not sure I'll be able to take it out of the library at all." It almost sounded as if she was getting angry at herself.

    Lillie knows her way around a library...so she knows how and where to look for what she wants. Not finding it is like a personal blow to her pride.

    "The database says there's newer and more modern books checked out right now. Nothing dating older than ten years." He looked up from the datapad he was reading. "It's still here."

    "Then we keep looking."

    Elio wanted to help, but he didn't have the faintest idea of how to even contribute to the search. She didn't give him a title or an author and he wasn't even sure how the books were sorted.

    Maybe by authors...but who does that? What kind of author curates this library?

    He was paying more attention to how Brady stuck close by Lillie's side and the small quiet talk they were having.

    Lillie was smiling a lot too, almost going as far to laugh softly at some of the things Brady was telling her. Again, the hint of jealousy struck out, especially from the fact that she had quickly come to trust and enjoy the other boy's company.

    It came to a breaking point when she stifled a giggle out loud until she quickly covered her mouth in realization of what she had done.

    Elio was about to go up and remind them about the universal silence rule.

    "Is this what you're looking for Princess?" He heard someone else say.

    The voice was an unrecognizable one and he never heard Brady call her that before. It must have been someone new.

    Walking back to the table, he now saw both his companions sitting at one of the tables with a rather worn looking book in front of them. The leather cover had seen better days and he could see the pages on the inside visibly yellowed from definite old age.

    The newcomer was visibly younger than any of them with long purplish hair that flowed down the sides of her head. Her summer dress that she wore was similarly colored and it had patches from lilac to a deeper violet as if it had been passed down from older generations.

    Her skin was fair, almost an alabaster color like Lillie's.

    "Oh...okay." The blonde sat down next to Brady. Not wanting to be left out, Elio joined them.

    "How did you know this was the book we were looking for?" Brady asked.

    "Yup! C'mon it was easy!" The purple haired girl flashed a giddy smile. "Old and tattered, super valuable, about the ancient history of Alola's legendary Pokémon. This may be the biggest library in the region, but you narrowed it down pretty good! My dad's book is impressive, don't you think?"

    "Yeah it is." Lillie said. "But you said this book was your dad's. It's very old right?"

    "Yup! I know I may not look like it but my family was pretty much royalty." she spun around playfully and smiled again. Elio already liked her.

    "What's your guy's names?"

    He stepped forward. "I'm Elio Northstar. I'm going on my island challenge and hope to be the island challenge champion one day."

    Lillie was next. "I'm Lillie...I am just here to study the tapu ruins and legendary Pokémon for various reasons of my own."

    "And I'm Brady Wainwright." Elio saw him cringe just slightly and assumed that the new girl was going to treat him the same way they did with his well known parents.

    Has to be hard when you're treated like that person who has so much pressure from renowned parents and brother as well as failures on the opposite end of the spectrum.

    Luckily for the shy boy, the new face didn't seem to care about that. She approached them quietly with barely any noise, yet skipped carefree as if a wraith moving stealthily across the library floor.

    "Yup! My name's Acerola! Last name Paleilei! I may not look like it, but my family used to be pretty much royalty!" She smiled again at the boys. "So I guess you could say I'm a bit of a princess myself!"

    Brady's eyes lit up in recognition. "Oh I know all about the Paleilei family. They were the ruling family of Alola in its entirety of the monarchy era after the ka haku era. They were then forced to step down during its modernization and political shakedown and the government resorted to the island kahunas being the chiefs of their islands with a committee council meeting to discuss the matters."

    "Ka haku?" Elio was confused and had no knowledge of the term.

    "Yup! It's Alolan for warlord." Acerola translated. "And it's a part of our history during a darker and much more gruesome time."

    That actually piqued his intrigue even more. There's still so much about Alola I don't know. Kanto had its share of dark history during the feudal states and I'm sure Alola went through the same.

    "Me too." Brady added, openly stating that this was a subject he had been taught little in school.

    "I'll be right back!" Acerola went straight to an aisle about halfway down, disappearing and reappearing moments later with two books in hand. She again moved and walked noiselessly, despite her energetic gait.

    "Yup! Okay. So here we go." The girl dropped a book on the table and opened the first few pages, showing incredibly detailed artwork of broad-shouldered muscular men, each having black ornate inkwork on their bodies with dark brown loincloths, grass blade greaves and necklaces that seemed different. Many of them brandished long spears that were serrated with an arrowhead at the end and each had a lot of carvings of symbols. Each of the weapons had to be at least one and a half times the height of the wielder. The pointed tips seemed to be some sort of calcified material and as he looked at the remarks of the author, it was believed that the warriors used the sharp edges of a cloyster.

    And it wasn't just humans in the battle; Pokémon participated too in the image; from a team of lurantis launching into battle to a huge salamence that prowled the sky and in the midst of a dive to spew amber flames from its gaping maw.

    Sun had no doubt that a direct hit on any vital organ was nothing short of painful. Further information showed that much of the garb from a traditional Alolan warrior could be seen at the Ho'oilina Cultural Center in downtown Hau'oli City.

    What stood out immediately to him was the largest man in the middle of what an artist had made in a rendition of a battle. Several of the other warriors had swords, others spears and some shields. He was clearly the leader evidenced by his more ceremonial attire and headdress that almost looked like a crown.

    On his wrist was a loose band with a glowing stone set in the center. Before him was a lycanroc, the tan furred midday one that was receiving a very familiar power boost.

    "Hold up." Elio pointed it out immediately. "That's a Z-ring. Or at least a Z-ring before they were...um...modern."

    "Yup! You're correct! But there were no trainers back then. That person you see in the middle with the lycanroc was a ka haku. A warlord. And they were gifted people."

    Acerola turned the page, showing a drawn picture of how one of the ka haku reached out to take a familiar sparkling stone from Tapu Lele. It instantly reminded him of how Tapu Koko had appeared after it saved him from that fatal fall into the rapids.

    "As you may know, the land spirit deities of our island often give people they feel worthy or chosen those sparkling stones on occasion that go on their island challenges." She glanced at Elio. "You were one of them."

    "Uh huh." So you're saying as being given that sparkling stone by Tapu Koko would turn me into that warlord status?

    "So back in those ancient times, not everyone had that nobleness about them and as more and more people came to the islands to settle from the other regions, people that were koho'ia could use the special bonds to tap into their Pokémon partner's zenith power and bond it with their own to create the ultimate moves."

    "And that's how zenith moves came to be." Brady finished.

    "Correct. Now everyone knows that an individual with power's greatest fear is losing that power. All of the people that were koho'ia were leaders in the loosest of terms. Ruling through fear, oppression, showing off their displays of power to other people forcing them to submit, pay tribute in exchange for their use of the zenith moves to protect them from outsiders. Failure to satisfy the ka haku's demands usually resulted in harsh punishments. Since all their own ways were clashing against one another; they frequently warred with their neighbors for territory, resources and then they did, the people were always the ones to lose."

    "Wow." Elio's face went a little pale. It's a little unsettling when you don't hear how many people died to these self-centered people. On the other hand, it's probably best we don't know.

    "That's horrible." Lillie said softly. "But what about the tapu? Couldn't they put an end to all that?"

    It was Brady who shook his head. "No. They only provide the tools for trainers and kahunas to defend the islands. While they may participate if the region is threatened by something, they are capricious in nature and often leave matters meant for humans to be settled by themselves. The ability to properly harness zenith energy is a gift and back then, people misused the gift to their own selfish ends."

    "So what happened to the ka haku?" Elio asked. "Something had to since I've never heard of them until just now and they were apparently responsible for a lot of the trying times here on the island back then."

    The history of these islands just got a lot darker than I expected. I bet everything; war, death, slavery, trafficking, rape and robbery happened here.

    "Eventually yes, the ka haku were hunted down or forced to surrender." Acerola answered. "Interestingly enough, it was a group of them who eventually began to see the error of their ways. Four ka hakus swore to never inflict the same oppression on their people ever again and eventually made a pact to defend one another."

    That seemed very familiar to Elio's ears and he couldn't help blurting out his revelation.

    "The four kahunas."

    "Yup! You're good!" Acerola practically beamed with the impression he was making. "So the four ka hakus were the first...I guess you could say...proto-island kahunas. The first kahunas weren't chosen by the land spirits like they are today, but they established freedom, peace and prosperity to those under their banners. They sought to fight together as one to eliminate the other ka haku and their reign of tyranny. Some of the less oppressive ones even had a change of heart and joined the alliance, but a lot met grimmer fates such as execution or being slain in battle."

    That's actually quite interesting. So the kahunas and leadership of Alola today were derived from despots who ruled the region through force and fear.

    "And that's why trainers today are sent through the island challenge. It's to show that people are worthy of harnessing zenith energy to better themselves and their Pokémon and when it's completed; they are to be recognized formally as an adult in the rite of passage."

    "Sounds difficult, all things considered with Team Skull and who knows all the others who didn't pass."

    "The island challenge is supposed to be difficult. It's supposed to test your limits. You know the saying with great power comes great responsibility? This is why. We never want to repeat what the ka haku did to our ancestors."

    "Acerola," Lillie started. "You said you were part of the Paleilei family. I know you said that they were the ruling monarchy of Alola. What happened?"

    She looked a little sullen at the question, but answered it nonetheless. "The Paleilei family…my bloodline were among the group of ka haku that overthrew the others. We established the kahunas who would govern the islands and follow the king or queen's decree."

    Brady nodded through an oncoming yawn. "Alola thrived under their rule and they lived a simple relaxed lifestyle. In fact, the Paleilei family had more or less isolated them from the outside world until the discovery by Lochagos."

    "Lochagos?"

    "Captain Lochagos is the Draconid explorer and trader who was the first big outsider to set foot in the Alola region for centuries. The Festivus that's going to be held here soon is celebrated in Draconid populations worldwide, although here it pays tribute to him for uniting contemporary Alola with traditional Alola."

    Lillie spoke up again. "Um...it's starting to get a little late. Can we maybe look into the book we were looking for?"

    "Yup! Of course!" At the affirmation, both Elio and Brady nodded in agreement. He had to agree that he was starting to get tired like everyone else.

    The four of them gathered around the book; Acerola sitting opposite them while Elio and Brady took up on both Lillie's sides.

    "Well," she opened the first page. "It's titled Ka mālamalama ke Alola."

    "Yup! The Light of Alola."

    "I suppose I'll just read it aloud." She turned the page and glanced at the beginning script.

    "The empty sky broke asunder, a rift appearing where had been none."

    "A single beast appeared from it; called the beast that calls the moon."

    "The king of Alola bowed before it: the beast that stole all heavens' light."

    "The island guardians fought against it, but in the end they lost the fight."

    "Then did the beast that brings the dark cast its pall on the line of kings."

    "So would the beast that had won mark a path for all such finished things."

    "Beast of sun and beast of moon. Through their union, they brought new life."

    "A fragile heir in Alola born that island guardians would keep from strife."

    "The ancient kings sang their thanks for Lunala with song of flute."

    "Two tones rang out across the altar - a perfect pair, ever after mute."

    Elio sat there, trying to make sense of everything Lillie had read. He could understand the guardian deities and the king thanks to Acerola's explanation. But the rest was a blur from the beast that called the moon, flutes and altar.

    Lunala. Is that the name of the legendary Pokémon?

    "Yup! I had to have all my dad's books moved here so they didn't get ruined by the Pokémon. I'm also willing to tell a lot of other older stories about Alola."

    "That's wonderful." Lillie said, "But I really think we should get going. It's getting late and I know the library will be closing soon."

    She looked over at Elio, "I know you have a trial coming up since you're here on your island challenge."

    "Yeah."

    "I want to come with you. Travel and see how being a trainer on a journey is like."

    Elio smiled back at her, causing her fair features to turn pink as she blushed.

    "I'd like that."

    "I want to come too." Brady jumped in, almost as if he was going to miss his opportunity. It made Elio want to almost snap back, but before he could; Lillie had replied that it was okay with her.

    "He can travel with us. Right Elio?"

    Staring back into her deep green eyes made him almost lose control again and he started to get worried the odd liquid ice sensation would return.

    It didn't.

    "Yeah. I suppose so."

    "Well I can tell you where your next trial is!" Acerola spun around again. "Yup! Just head west and up the trail of Mauna Hokulani and you'll be right there! Get some rugged gear on since there are dirt roads and uneven terrain!"

    "I guess we better go and visit the store before you go." Elio gestured to Lillie's shoes that were definitely not fit for crossing rocky terrain.

    "We can stay at my house." Brady suggested. "And head out in the morning."

    "You parents okay with that?"

    "I...I don't know." He looked down, almost to regret what he said. "I hope so. I don't want either of you to go back to the Pokémon center or wander the streets this late. Not without someone or a Pokémon protecting you."

    Elio understood immediately. "We'll take the couch if we have to."

    Lillie nodded, still deep in thought as they bid Acerola farewell and made their way down the steps of the library back towards the entrance.

    So that's the name of the legendary Pokémon Alola worships. Lunala.

    How is it connected to the ruins? The deities? If they fought against Lunala, then maybe it's not the thing we need to seek. Or is it? Could Lunala have the power to bring Nebby home away from all of this?

    She felt the warm breeze blow against her skin, erasing a creeping chill while following her two boys closely behind as they headed towards the houses and homes situated on the hills overlooking Malie City.

    Sure, coming to the library had answered some things. But it also left her with even more questions than before.

    And that's a wrap! We get introduced to Acerola and a couple other characters get introduced to one another while Elio, Lillie and Brady end up exploring the Malie Library. I loved coming up with all the lore dumped in here which took inspiration from a number of other things with a Pokémon twist that fits quite well in my opinion. We're off to meet some new characters again next chapter and head up towards Mount Hokulani for the next trial! Stay tuned for the exciting stuff set to happen!

    Translations:

    • Piwi - Runt
    • Ufa - Ufa is Samoan in origin, however it is still commonly used throughout Polynesian and Micronesian islands as a slang term for "fuck you" or asshole.
    • Hoa - Friend
    • Na kaʻike e hāʻawi iāʻoe i ka mana - Knowledge shall give you power
    • A hoʻomālamalama i ka pō lōʻihi - And illuminate the long night
    • Kasama - Filipino Tagalog for companion
    • Ka mālamalama ke Alola - Light of Alola
    • Ka haku - Warlord/Commander
    • Ho'oilina - Heritage
    • Koho'ia - Chosen
    As always, a big mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose and I'll see you all for the next chapter.
    Brav
     
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  6. ShinigamiMiroku

    Sorceress' Knight
    (Ralts ♂)
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    Red Orb ★★★★★
    This is definitely one of my favorite chapters; as much as I enjoy the battles, I enjoy lore and history more (which is one of the reasons I regularly watch MatPat's videos on the FNaF series), so a chapter devoted almost completely to this subject is quite enjoyable.

    One question - Will you be doing anything to cover Solgaleo? I ask because, to be perfectly honest, the moon has no real power of light; its "light" is reflected from the sun, so in order for the-UB-who-must-not-be-named (yes, I forgot its name) to devour light and plunge a world into darkness, it would make more sense for it to target the source. And in Pokémon, Solgaleo is the patron-deity of the sun (and given Primal!Groudon's power, one has to wonder what the relationship it has with Solgaleo). To be fair, in Pokémon, Solgaleo and Lunaala have equal power, but that can be attributed to a nod to ancient religions, including those of the Pacific islands, rather than a scientific observation.

    I also like the attention, and humanization, of Team Skull. The games do a fair bit of this, though primarily through Guzma and Plumeria, but the detail you go into in this single encounter really brings it into brighter light. Yes, their current actions are not justifiable, but they are understandable. IIRC there are similar issues to this in present-day Hawaii, though I don't know where I read this (or if I'm just conflating this with another place, maybe even Japan).
     
  7. Rezna

    Rezna You'll never see it coming.

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    Thunder Stone ★★★Water Stone ★★★Dawn Stone ★★★★Cooler Gary Oak ★★★★★Legendary Triforce ★★
    ^ A very long but enjoyable chapter. As much as I'd like to ask about the poison stuff from... Nihilego, was it? is that the right ultra beast? Well, it'd be a spoiler, so I won't, except for this: Is the way the pain described based in anything real?
     
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  8. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Bravo
    (Braviary)
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers! The one and only BraviaryScout is now back with another chapter. Recently they have been taking longer than anticipated once my mind gets fried to a crisp. Seriously, it's getting harder and harder to crank out these chapters consistently especially when i sit and try writing for hours on end. I could try on my phone, but it kind of sucks.

    But progress is still progress. The good news is that I did not get a temporary reassignment to another station for work, so I am comfortably at home writing with my laptop. The bad news is I am obviously burning out. I may take a hiatus after this or the next chapter to both get ahead and recharge my mind. I need a vacation, anyone been to Japan?

    Thanks to @ShinigamiMiroku for the review. As for Solgaleo, I haven't decided yet. There's definitely room in the postgame as an opportunity especially since I'm looking at many different branches to continue the story pas the island challenge. And yes, this does mean that Nebby will become a Lunala in time :)

    Also thanks to @Majora's Incarnate for the review too. The ultra beast in question is indeed Nihilego. I imagine its toxins can influence and even control the will of its hosts like a parasite, but I believe it does this out of survival and self-preservation rather than outright harming and killing the host. There are some drugs and narcotics that amplify or inhibit the thoughts of individuals if they think about one particular thing.

    Okay then, here is the chapter. Enjoy everyone. You all want to know what's in the egg right?


    Since it got late after our visit to the library, Brady offered to let us stay at his house in Malie City. I have to admit that he's a very sweet person. He said that his parents didn't exactly get along with what he wanted to do and I could tell that it was affecting their relationship.

    I know Elio has his own problems concerning his father and me...well we all know that story. Brady's parents are definitely smart people, but I feel like they're holding him back.

    I'm not exactly sure why, but Elio hasn't said much to me since we left. I wouldn't have noticed it until he always seemed to walk away whenever I talked to Brady...Why? Is he jealous or something?

    But we also ran into Hau while on the route in the morning and something amazing finally happened that I've never seen before!

    The walk to Brady Wainwright's house was uneventful. However the lights of Malie City were incredibly pretty.

    Lillie's mouth hung open at the colorful paper lanterns which posed as streetlights underneath canopies to keep them protected from the common rain showers that pelted the city. Compared to other places, the different vibrant colors made it feel more lively and upbeat compared to the normalcy of yellow or white lamps.

    Elio didn't really know any city in Kanto that did this, even for festivities.

    Brady pointed out many of the things the people were getting ready for the Draconid Festivus. Captain Lochagos was a revered figure in recent Alolan history, responsible for modernizing Alola and bringing it back into contact with the outside after the region had been isolated for the most part. People were smiling as they put up small decorations of small folded paper dragons outside their homes and shops. It was also less known as Lochagos Day and people were already wishing them that as they passed by.

    Large canopy tents had already been erected at the waterfront where the big festivities were to take place. The entire marina area was said to be lit up at night with hundreds of paper kites of various dragons that would float into the sky and be set ablaze as thanks to their deity of Lord Rayquaza.

    With the recent news of a disastrous meteor that nearly destroyed Hoenn just a while back having been destroyed thanks to the combined efforts of its champion Brendan Maple and the legendary Rayquaza itself, this called for an even more special celebration. Elio had looked at his Festival Plaza feed and saw tons of people saying how excited they were in going. A lot of them were also posting how great it was going to be as they went with their wives, girlfriends or other partners.

    I wonder if Lillie wants me to take her? Or even if she wants to go. It looks like a fun time!

    Brady led them up some of the slopes streets where the homes began to grow larger with bigger fences and areas of property.

    Unlike the other areas that he saw with water stains on the concrete from constant rainfall, it was much cleaner up here.

    It could've been that the rain fell less on the hilly areas, but considering the properties looked to be owned by wealthier people probably played into a part of it.

    Brady's house was a large estate located on its own outlet with the front yard being almost the size of Elio's own house. There were dark metal fences with a gate that slid quietly open as he punched in a couple of numbers. They crossed the concrete sidewalk onto a cobblestone driveway that branched into three garage ports. The second part of the sidewalk went to the entrance, an entire covered area with a welcome mat in front of a set of double doors.

    Arlo dismounted from his trainer's shoulder and looked sadly at him.

    "Yeah I know. I'm really sorry."

    "Sorry about what?" Lillie asked.

    "My parents don't like the thought I want to be a trainer, so they want all the Pokémon to be inside the pokeballs while they're in the house." Brady activated the ball, returning his Pokémon. "They think I'll get too tempted to try and pretend battle, I'll cause damage."

    That sounds incredibly dumb.

    "Well," he reached into his pocket and pulled out a gold key. "You ready to see my house?"

    "Sure." Elio said. "Thanks for letting us stay."

    "I hope my parents say yes. If not, then I'll walk you back to the Pokémon center. Hopefully they still have rooms available. I don't care what my parents think of me going past a stupid curfew. You guys don't deserve to wander around an unfamiliar place at night."

    He inserted the key into the lock and turned, sliding a bolt out and then opened the door. Immediately, they felt the welcome rush of cool air that felt incredibly soothing.

    The foyer was massive with tan tile lining the floor and a granite table in the center that had a vase of flowers. A chandelier hung overhead to cast warm lighting.

    "Brady!"

    "Hey Mom!" He called out, finally seeing an older woman descend down the spiral starcase at the far right side. "I'm back."

    Upon him saying this, the warmth in her voice dropped almost immediately and her gaze sharpened.

    "Yes, how great of you to come home...forty minutes after I told you to! What have you been doing all this time?!"

    "Um...studying." He answered sort of timidly. "Where's Dad? I went to the library like I said I would." A gesture towards the other two teens beside him. "And I brought some friends too."

    "Friends?! You know you're not allowed to have friends over especially when they're-" Her eyes set on Elio and he saw the sense of recognition flash through them.

    "You." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "You're the boy who...saved that surfer."

    Elio felt like he was being judged. While the humble part of him wanted to deny it, he did save a life that day. "Yes. That's me."

    "Well my apologies for such a dramatic ensemble." Her tone softened and she visibly relaxed into an easygoing smile. That caused him to do so in turn and Lillie followed suit, having gotten a little nervous and anxious at the sudden confrontation.

    Brady's mother descended down the steps and approached them in the foyer. Her high heels clicked on the tile floor and he could see Lillie cringing every time it made that distinct sound. It seemed to greatly annoy her.

    "How delightful." She was taller than all three of them, the heels putting her height right above six feet tall. Like her son, she had bright blue eyes and a honey blonde hair with streaks of dark that glistened in the light. "That means you must be Elio Northstar."

    A hand was thrown his way. "Victoria Wainwright. I'm Brady's mother and committee member on the Ula'ula Board Council. My husband Benjamin had to take an unexpected trip down to Hau'oli City for the night in meeting with some of his clients."

    "Uh...hi. Elio Northstar. Island challenger if we're exchanging titles."

    The quip caused Victoria to laugh rather loudly. "You've got quite a character Elio. I like you."

    He was immediately reminded of Lusamine, though she was a little more exuberant. Her gaze immediately went to Lillie.

    "And who is this pretty thing?"

    "That's Lillie." Brady's cheeks flushed red a little. "She's also a friend of mine."

    "I like her too."

    "If you um...don't mind." He continued. "I was hoping they could spend the night and head out tomorrow morning. Elio's on the island challenge and his next trial is up at the top of Mount Hokulani."

    "Oh." Victoria put a hand on her chest. "Well yes of course! I can't have a local hero and his girlfriend sleep out in those streets. Not with those Team Skull thugs running amok!"

    "G-girlfriend?!" Elio and Brady squeaked, almost at the same time. Lillie's face turned even more red and she forcefully looked away.

    "Well of course! The entire Alola region is praising you as a hero especially with the pretty girl at your side, rescuing another beauty. I've even heard that some want the two of you to get married!"

    Married?! This lady is a little...much. I can't marry Lillie! The legal age is nineteen...and she'd have to say yes and all.

    Elio never really had thought about it at the time, but now it wasn't going to be hard seeing her in a wedding gown since she wore almost identical white dresses practically every time they met up.

    I bet she'd still look stunning in them. A guy can dream right? Anyone would be super lucky to get married to her.

    Still, with the topic up there. He suddenly wanted to be the one to hold her hand in front of everyone while saying vows.

    The conversation was drowned out in his head as a sharp pain hit the front of his skull and he grunted, clutching it and squeezing his temples with his thumb and index fingers.

    Victoria noticed immediately. "Elio dear, is something wrong?"

    "No." He waved her off. "I'm okay. I promise."

    "You seem to be getting constant head pains." Lillie's face went concerned and she put a hand on his back. "Are you sure you're okay?"

    "I'm fine. I just need some sleep."

    "I'll get you some painkillers. You two can sleep on the sofa bed in the living room."

    "Sounds good."

    Brady needed a little bit of help from Elio after he found the frame a bit too heavy to lift, so the two of them propped the metal legs out and quickly put on a set of bedsheets with blankets and a pillow. Lillie in the meantime, used the bathroom to freshen up and walked back in time as the final touches were being smoothed out. The bed was full sized and with two pillows, was able to fit the both of them comfortably. Victoria assured them that were was food and drink in the fridge in case they got hungry or thirsty and that she would make them breakfast in the morning.

    Elio was a little bit apprehensive since this would be the first time he and Lillie were sharing a bed together.

    A bunch of thoughts flooded his mind and some of them drifted towards the naughty range.

    Stop. You're a man and can put those away.

    He did have to admit that he would've been thrilled to be sleeping with Lillie in his embrace.

    "Elio?" She whispered, as they sat together on the bedside.

    "Yeah. You okay?"

    She nodded, lowering her voice again to not wake the sleeping Nebby. "Um...this is my first time...you know...sleeping with a boy."

    "Same." He looked back down, fidgeting with his hands and not exactly sure what to say. "Are you okay with that? I'm fine with sleeping on the floor if you're not."

    "Elio stop that, you deserve somewhere better than a floor. It's all just new to me. You know...all this liking and all."

    "What, do you like me or something?"

    "You mean like like right?"

    "Well yeah."

    "I...I kind of do." Baby steps.

    "Well. I like you too that way." Elio's words caused her to blush. "Enough that I'm going to make sure you're still safe. I am perfectly comfortable with sleeping at your side if you are."

    "Okay." She smiled at him. "I feel perfectly safe with you. I trust you."

    As they lay down and pulled the blankets around each other, Elio watched as her breathing slowed and settled into a steady rhythm as she soundly fell asleep. During the entire time, he was wondering if those strange head pains or the cold sensation would return the closer he got with her and the more of her he thought of. He hadn't taken the painkillers, but didn't have much time to dwell on it before he too went off to dreamland.

    "Hey it's you guys again!"

    Elio, Lillie and Brady looked up to see Hau bounding happily right in front of them.

    "Alola Hau!" The two did their usual handshake and bumped fists afterwards. "What brings you here again?"

    "Oh you know, I finished checking out the local malasada bakery, they make excellent pineapple flavor and coffee of all things!"

    The three of them woke up to a quick breakfast and headed out early but not before Brady received a stern reminder of his curfew and that he was not to accompany him and Lillie up the trails to Hokulani.

    I'd hate curfew too.

    Before they were to head off to the route that led up the mountain, Elio suggested that they stock up on supplies they wouldn't originally need on the first two islands.

    Ula'ula was rougher and less populated than either Melemele or Akala. Pokémon were much stronger and the elements had the potential to turn disastrous in moments especially with dwindling resources. While Malie City and the eastern part of the island were temperate with the highest percentages of rainfall in the region, much of the island was dry with rocky impassable terrain and a dry desert set in the center. Temperatures could also drop with strong winds at the summits of the tall mountains and some locals even pointed out that the highest peak in Alola was located on Ula'ula. Mauna Lanakila was reported to have snowfall even in the midst of summertime.

    Elio wasn't an expert survivalist, so with the help of store associate, began to outfit everyone appropriately for the longer journeys. Gone were the fashionable clothes in favor of something that was going to be both comfortable and preparatory for withstanding the extreme elements.

    Brady already had most of the stuff, but he, Lillie and Hau decided on smaller day backpacks, emptying out the contents and putting away some of their heavier things to be sent into the PC back to their families.

    The new backpacks were lightweight and held significantly less items, so Elio had to store a lot of the trinkets, putting priority of poke balls, medicine, TMs and fitted one slot with a portable charging unit. Charjabug could be hooked up to the wire to provide a stable amount of electricity as well as boost the reception of signal if they were deep in the remote areas.

    The associate also mentioned about water sources being quite different as many sources lacked filter from strains of harmful bacteria in both pumps and the sources themselves. He had suggested a filter straw, which did exactly as said; filtered pathogens and bacteria as the user drank.

    Sneakers were ditched in favor of sturdy waterproof boots and they outlined their feet with longer socks to prevent rocks and thorns from scratching their ankles. Some of the trails they would need to take had dense underbrush and nothing was worse than going through it all while being slashed at with sharp edges of any kind.

    Overall, the group paid a little more than what they were hoping, but Elio was confident that investing a little more money in things they would rely on often would pay dividends in the end. As they got ready to take off down the route towards the mountain, everyone was satisfied they were prepared and took off at once down Ke Alanui. Rotom had called it the Roadblock trail.

    They were journeying for no longer than a half hour on Ke Alanui when Brady noticed something odd coming from Elio's backpack. Specifically the egg incubator chamber.

    It's finally happening! Excitement was flooding Elio's veins as the egg inside the clear container was beginning to shake consistently. Small bits of the calcium carbonate that made up the eggshell were beginning to flake off and he could begin to see occasional quick movements inside. Still too early to tell what Pokémon it was.

    Hau and Brady were brimming with excitement as their own Pokémon crept up behind them to watch. Lillie held Nebby in the bag close to her chest, almost wishing she could take the cloud Pokémon out to see it happen.

    We're too much in the open. Sorry Nebby, but I can't risk it. Maybe later, you and Elio's new baby Pokémon can play together. It could be like our own kids on a playdate!

    Meanwhile Elio, still stared at the egg in the center and not realizing that the baby Pokémon would need to move around once it was "born"

    "Bzzt!" Rotom had gotten the hint. "You will need to remove the egg from the incubator! Bzzt!"

    "How do I do that?" He got that nervous look in his eyes again. "I don't want to hurt it!"

    "There's a release!"

    "What release?"

    "A releazzze that letzzz you take the top and sidezzz off! Bzzt! Hurry, you want to do it before it fully hatchez!"

    Now I kind of know why it's so much pressure on delivering a baby. Elio wasn't delivering a human child though. He did wonder briefly about the couple he had helped back on Akala Island; Adam and Meghan. Had their baby been born yet?

    Spotting a small instructions panel on the back, he pressed a button which caused a lock to pop outwards, breaking the seal around both the lid and springing the clear plexiglass open wobbling flexibly as it detached free from its confined frame.

    He didn't even give it a second thought and practically threw them aside.

    "Okay, now what?"

    "I don't know." Hau said.

    Elio scowled at him. "What do you mean you don't know? Didn't they teach this in school of how to properly hatch a Pokémon?"

    "Yeah they did. All they told us to do was to let the professionals handle it. Makes sense when someone knows what they're doing. They're also called a DOCTOR!"

    "Hau, this isn't helping!"

    "I know...let me think."

    "Hurry!"

    "Elio," Brady spoke up. "Hau's larvesta. Its ability is flame body."

    "Yeah I know it's flame body." Hau spoke up, still glaring daggers at his friend.

    "That can also be used to help warm up eggs when they're about to hatch!"

    "Rotom!"

    "Yezzzir! The nerd is correct! Bzzt! You can uzzze flame body to gently warm the offspring to a nurturing temperature that's suitable for hatching! Bzzt!"

    "Okay, then let's do it!"

    "Right." Hau looked behind him, gesturing for the small torch Pokémon to approach. She quickly inched her way over and already knew what was expected of her. Coming close to the egg, the small larvae Pokémon rubbed her whitish fur against the side of the shell.

    Almost immediately, Elio began to see the rippling waviness of heat radiating out from her body. The increase in temperature gently warmed the egg where much larger cracks began to appear and spread in random directions, spiderwebbing across its smooth surface.

    "Woah." Lillie and Brady's eyes were wide as Arlo climbed onto the latter's back. All of their Pokémon were gathering around to see.

    Hau's Noibat fluttered close and suddenly circled it from above. Almost immediately, all the other Pokémon were backing away tentatively.

    "Noibat?" Hau called out. "What's wrong?"

    The small Pokémon ignored his question and kept flying close by. As another large fragment broke off, it dipped right down, using its feet to snatch up Larvesta and carry her away.

    "What in the world is going on?" Elio crept closer, now able to see small gray scaly limbs moving sluggishly inside some of the holes. Steam began to rise out of the openings as it started to shake, growing in intensity until...

    Without warning, they felt a sudden blast of heat from the center while small bits of the eggshells blew apart with the force of a grenade.

    Elio brought his arms up to shield his face just in time as a few fragments flicked against his skin like blown sand. He staggered back and fell on his butt, staring at the smoldering center that had charred bits of the surrounding dirt and grass.

    Eggs explode?!

    What?!

    "Elio," Brady whispered, "Your Z-Ring?"

    Curiously, he glanced at it on his wrist, noticing that the sparkling stone set in the center was beginning to shine. It grew until they heard a faint humming sound before it flickered out.

    What was that about?

    Everyone was silent when they saw the small new Pokémon curled up on the ground and flailing its limbs while laying on its back. Bits of the shells rained down, some of them still with a couple embers that had singed patches of the grass blades. Not wanting to start a fire; Nani and Acheron moved close, lightly spouting streams of water to extinguish them before they could go out of control.

    "What is that?"

    The Pokémon was reptilian, small, quadruped with a gray complexion that was closer to a gunmetal on the scales that clung to its legs. Each foot had a golden tinge color in three digit claws. On its upper body were a few larger scales with a brighter color. The largest scale that it had was on the top of its head shaped in a mix between a heart and a shield.

    It sniffed the ground curiously before stretching and taking notice of the entire entourage waiting.

    "Wait," Hau started. "Is that?"

    "That's a jangmo'o." Brady said, almost in awe before getting Elio's attention. "Wow, that's incredible! Jangmo'o are incredibly rare and often the stuff of legend."

    "Jangmo'o?" Elio pulled out his talkative 'Dex. "Rotom, what do you have on that?"

    "I'm here at your zzzervice! Bzzt!" He briefly scanned the new Pokémon, who jumped up a surprisingly good amount in an attempt to catch it. "Hey, handzzz off the assetzzz okay?"

    Rotom's screen went to a standstill of the jangmo'o. "Jangmo-o. Scaly Pokémon. They live deep in the mountains where no trace of humans can be detected. Jangmo-o grow little by little as they battle one another. Jangmo-o is a dragon type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "A dragon type?" He knew from the stories that the type was resilient and often considered the better of the types due to their overall effectiveness, above many of the others. Elio wondered why his 'Dex had said that, but quickly deduced that it was likely because that while the egg was in his possession, the newborn pokémon wasn't technically his.

    Not yet at least.

    He dug into his pack for a Poké Ball.

    Wait. Not like this.

    "Elio," Lillie stepped forward beside her crush. "What's wrong?"

    "I don't know." He never took his eyes off the baby jangmo'o but instead slowly knelt down.

    "Hey there little guy." Upon hearing his voice, the small dragon perked its head in the boy's direction. Still on its back, it rolled over and slowly put its feet down. As it tried to stand, the limbs shook.

    Jangmo'o kept his gaze on Elio.

    "Hey there little guy." He repeated. Carefully, he reached out with his hand. Jangmo'o stared at it curiously.

    "Hey you have to remember it's still a baby." Brady reminded him. "He's not going to know all of this stuff."

    Elio saw his party close by.

    "Akela." At the mention of his name, the werewolf Pokémon stepped foreard, nuzzling his trainer's hand with his snout before swinging his head around to watch and see if the baby would do the same.

    Jangmo'o took a cautious step forward, examining his fingers with beady eyes. Elio found it incredibly cute with the small scale on its forehead as well as its curious nature. Slowly, it put a shaking leg in front of the other, moving forward again with its own determination spurring it on.

    Sun was already impressed that it had learned the ability to walk even after being just a few minutes old. Meanwhile, Akela stayed by his side, reaching out with a paw to steady it along and he was grateful that one of his longtime partner Pokémon was already stepping into the role of a big brother.

    Torracat saw him take the initiative and bounded along the other side. The rest observed patiently Hau, Lillie and Brady seemed to wait with held breaths.

    Jangmo'o lost his footing on the third and fourth steps when his hind legs and he buckled down.

    Akela moved to help.

    Elio waved him off.

    "He needs to learn." He explained after receiving a rather confused look. "Help him, but don't do the work."

    Jangmo'o was already working on his recovery, shaking and slowly staggering up. His legs struggled to hold his weight again, but he persisted, never wanting to give in or quit.

    Nobody else said or did anything, merely watching.

    "This is like teaching a baby how to walk." Hau remarked.

    Brady nodded in agreement. "There are a lot less people than you think who want to raise baby Pokémon aside from breeders. It's just like caring for an actual human child, lots of learning involved with small gradual steps. If you're impatient, then not only does it show you're inadequate at raising Pokémon from their infant stage, but it also reflects on who you are as a trainer."

    "It's all about growth." Lillie said, still a little entranced by Sun as he softly spoke to the little dragon, still encouraging. She was almost to the point of gushing not just how cute the Pokémon was, but also the trainer who nurtured him, gently encouraging him along as if he was a…

    A father.

    I think Elio would make an amazing father to both Pokémon and children of his own. Whoever is the mother would be one lucky girl and one really happy one too.

    Jangmo'o took another step and she resisted the urge to cheer loudly. Elio said something that made it continue and take yet another step. One foot right in front of the other, gently setting on the loamy soil before he gently leaned his head into Elio's palm. They all heard it make soft squeaking sounds as it closed its eyes and rubbed the side of its head.

    Sun felt the skin to be dry, coarse with the occasional prickly scale that would probably nick his calloused hands if at the right angle.

    "Dragon Pokémon are probably not one for inexperienced trainers." Brady stated, although he in no way implied Elio was such. "While they are among the strongest types if not THE strongest type, they are also incredibly smart. Even at an early age, they command a lot of respect and trainers can bring out their full power by giving it the respect it deserves."

    "Do you want to go in a Poké Ball?" Elio brought a normal out one, thumbed the arm button, however before he could throw it to capture the Pokémon, it lashed out with a claw, swatting the metal device in the ground. It rolled across the dirt with a couple of marks that gouged into its smooth metallic surface.

    It was basically ruined.

    "I guess not." He looked back down again to see him giving off an innocent look. Jangmo'o curled up at his knees and closed eyes.

    Looks like all that time hatching took a lot of energy.

    "You're on the right track though." Brady said, bringing Elio out of his thoughts. "Remember that dragon Pokémon are a lot smarter than we often give credit for. You want him on your team, then you'll have to earn its respect."

    "I see." He reached into his poke bean case and pulled out one of the speckled kind. It was noticeably more rare than the solid colored, but Pokémon seemed to find it more tasty. Jangmo'o was only a few minutes old and Sun had to guess that it was fairly hungry.

    Jangmo'o sniffed the air before slowly opening his eyes and staring at the morsel in front. His beaked mouth opened, clamping down and breaking off a chunk. It took a couple seconds as he tried to chew. Elio saw small bits of white inside the gums from developing teeth.

    I may have to liquefy some feed next time. Looks like he's not ready to eat solid food just yet.

    Sun remembered the basics from Pokémon care back in school that dragon Pokémon were often carnivorous, but were also able to digest plant food as well. Fish was a particular favorite of many.

    Jangmo'o was still wrestling with the bean, almost half his size when Elio picked him up again. His claws stretched out for the tasty treat, so he picked it up and give it to him while cradling in his arms.

    "If you're not wanting a Poké Ball, I'm gonna have to carry you or some other way."

    The Pokémon squeaked softly, still enticed by the bean, but his forelegs gripped Elio's backpack strap and he tried to climb upwards. Elio used a hand to help as Akela walked behind him, ready to catch the baby if it fell.

    He had to give it credit for being quite intelligent already. The dragon used its big gold scale on its head to pry the backpack's main flap open and climb inside. There was some shuffling as it tried to make itself comfortable when its head peeked out from the top and it was looking over Elio's shoulder.

    Hau and Lillie laughed at the sight. Even Brady was impressed.

    "I wish I had a dragon. They're awesome Pokémon."

    Hau looked at Noibat fluttering beside him. "How come you don't do that?"

    The remainder of the route up to the mountain was rather uneventful. The group kept the conversations up as Elio asked Hau of his latest malasada debacle. His only response was that he had discovered a new flavor that someone had come up with to taste like the strong vanilla flavor of the casteliacone, an ice cream delicacy in Unova.

    "So they made a cold treat, hot?"

    "Yeah isn't it wild? There's actually vanilla farms on Poni Island that's the source of like a fifth of the world's vanilla beans."

    "One fifth?" Elio asked. "That's a pretty specific number."

    "I have no idea if that's true. I just came up with it."

    "If I may butt in Bzzt!" Rotom floated between the two of them. "Hau izzzz right. Alola izzz a zignificant producer of vanilla! Bzzt! The majority of the farmzzz are located on Poni Island for itz fertile zoil! Bzzt! Did you know vanilla izzz the zecond mozt expenzzzzive zpice in the world?"

    "Vanilla is expensive for sure."

    "That's because of how much effort and labor goes into making the small amount, especially with the extract from its seed pods."

    "Wow. I didn't know that."

    "That's probably why you paid more for your malasada."

    "Speaking of paid," Hau reached into his own backpack. "I got something for you. Olivia gave it to me and when I said that I couldn't use it, she suggested I give it to you."

    "Oh yeah?" They stopped at a clearing and waited for Brady and Lillie to catch up behind them. "What was it?"

    "Olivia was able to find this really cool rock type Z-crystal specifically for a lycanroc. I don't have one and I'm not planning to have one on my team." He opened his palm, showing a similar copper brown Z-crystal to Elio. It was similar to the rockium Z that he received upon defeating the kahuna, but the normal rhombus shape fattened towards the tips resembling an arrowhead of sorts at both ends.

    "She called it the lycanium Z. It's supposed to allow a lycanroc to perform a special Z-move with a certain move."

    "Did she say what?"

    "No."

    Elio shrugged. "Makes sense. Half the journey is discovering things for yourself. No sense in making a walkthrough. But we battled just the other day and you didn't remember?"

    It was Hau's turn to shrug too. "I don't know...someone forgot. You know...authors...those forgetful people."

    He reached out to take it, but stopped short. "Wait, you're just going to give this to me?"

    "Yeah! Like I said, I don't use a lycanroc and don't really plan on having one on my team! There's no use for me to hang onto this and Olivia even suggested it."

    "Well in that case." Elio gingerly took the crystal in his hand and fit it into the slot on his Z-ring.

    Only it didn't fit.

    "Huh. It doesn't work."

    Hau looked at the crystal and then the ring. He nodded in agreement, "Yeah you're right."

    "I wonder why that is?"

    None of that expanding or changing shape for something different? What is this?

    "Maybe the Z-ring needs an upgrade. We could ask the kahuna here to do it!"

    Elio liked Hau's suggestion, "That's a good idea. It's just that I have no idea who the kahuna is on the island. We weren't greeted like we were on Akala and we didn't know who it was straight away. So...yeah. I guess we'll have to find him...or her. Whichever it is."

    "Kahunas have been easy to find so far." Hau commented. "No reason this one shouldn't."

    They had all reached a point where the hills climbing upward were getting closer and closer to the steep slopes of the side of the nearby mountain. Overhead there were clouds lazily drifting, some seeming to dip low enough for them to touch. The moisture in the air was more prevalent and it still felt warm despite the overcast weather.

    Lillie was quite grateful that Elio had done the extra step in stopping at one of the outdoors type of stores before she accompanied them. The terrain began to grow rougher with the dirt roads being the only stable part of the ground. Either side were rocky outcroppings as the hills sloped above them. Some of the trees grew quite tall, providing patches of welcomed shade along the path. Although unseen, they could hear many cries of Pokémon species in the environment around them.

    Elio was reminded of the Lush Jungle in a way, but the diversity of Ula'ula's terrain was evident to the more barren areas he could see at the far end which was the southern tip. To their right, the clouds had begun to conceal the summit of Mauna Hokulani. The second largest mountain in the Alola region, it was a favorite for mountaineers, backpackers and hiking enthusiasts alike. Many trails led up in various difficulties while those not wanting to go on such an arduous journey had the luxury of taking a shuttle bus that ran between the small settlement literally called Mountaintop and Malie City.

    The trail was definitely dusty, with much of it being kicked up by their boots. By now, the black soles on Elio's were already full of dirt that resembled streaks. He had opted against longer pants, but his socks were already speckled brown with grime.

    So was the rest of everyone else. Lillie was glad she had decided against wearing her dress and actually quite liked the wicking shirt that she bought at the store. She was sweating like crazy, yet the shirt seemed to absorb all the moisture she perspired. Elio and Brady also emphasized her to drink plenty of water while they traveled, as the sweat meant that water was leaving the body in order to keep it cool from the heat.

    She was down to her last quarter and by the looks of the other bottles strapped to her friends' backpack, they were running low too.

    "Rotom," she decided to ask. "Are there any water sources nearby?"

    "Bzzt! My zcannerzzz indicate that there are at leazt four zourcezzzz of water nearby. However there have been reportzzz of intenze zicknezzzz in the Malie City Hospital due to drinking from the zourcezzz without purifying the water! Bzzt!"

    "And that's why I had all of us get those filter straws. You can bottle it up like normal and then insert the straw into the opening. Boom," Elio spread his hands out. "Pure fresh water just like that."

    "It's definitely a good thing we have to filter it." Brady added.

    "What? Why's that?" Hau asked.

    "Because you'd be sitting on the toilet for days on end while you feel like you want to crap your insides out."

    "That'zzzz a nazzzty one! Bzzt!" Rotom buzzed from the side. "I can tell you the type of bacteria that cauzezzz thizzz type of sicknezzz!"

    Sun cut in right away, already wondering what other unpleasant effects from drinking unpurified water could be. "Maybe another time. I'm actually ready for something to eat soon and I'd rather not lose my appetite."

    Both Lillie and Brady voiced their agreements, so they stopped at a clearing and settled for their packed lunch from the Wainwright household. The canned lunch meat had a little bit of a fishy smell between the slices of bread, but it wasn't perishable so that they didn't need to bring ice packs or one of the refrigerated lunchboxes to keep it cool.

    The Pokémon ate dried pokefood, talking quietly amongst themselves. Jangmo'o seemed a little disappointed he wasn't able to eat the food like the others, so Elio decided to help water and moisten it into a thick paste which was able to be properly broken down. The dragon gladly buried his beaked mouth into the mess, eating rather sloppily, much to the ire of the rest of his team. When he peeked his head back up, Akela had used his paw to wipe off some of it that had smeared across his nose and mouth.

    The water from the stream tasted a little odd, but Elio was pretty sure it was because he had been used to drinking from the tap and bottled, which was enhanced with minerals so it didn't have an underlying foul taste. But the filter did its job, or so they hoped.

    "Just out of curiosity." Brady asked while they were still eating. "What if the filter doesn't work?"

    "That's why I got these." Elio dug into his pack and pulled out a clear packet of gray tablets. "These are purification tablets that we can drop into water in case something happens to our main filter."

    Lillie smiled, knowing that he was coming prepared and even Brady nodded his approval which showed even he didn't think of that.

    "Nice."

    "I'm super impressed too!" Hau said. "You know a lot about the outdoors."

    "Thanks." Elio couldn't help but beam at all the praise being thrown his way. "It really did pay to learn all about this in school."

    "You know what," Brady started. "I'd like to battle one of you. Let's make it a quick match. Three on three!"

    "Really?"

    "Yeah why not?"

    "Well I'm not very good."

    "What?" Elio exclaimed. "Hau, you're awesome at battling. Why would you say something like that?"

    "I don't know." His face fell as it took even him a moment to realize what he had exactly stated. "I guess maybe Gladion was more or less right. I can't win a battle when I'm not serious."

    Lillie turned away, but nobody noticed.

    Elio leaned forward. "Listen, you ignore every word that prick said. You're battling fine just the way you are...don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

    "Who's Gladion?" Brady asked.

    "Some guy who works for Team Skull as an enforcer. Whatever that title means."

    "Gladion's with Team Skull?" Lillie blurted out which subsequently interrupted anyone's thoughts. As the boys looked over, her eyes went wide and she quickly covered her mouth in embarrassment.

    She knows Gladion? Oh great.

    "How do you know Gladion?" Hau asked.

    "I...I...I'm sorry. My mistake. We could be talking about two different people." She reached behind her head and scratched it while trying to laugh it off.

    Elio wasn't really buying it that much. She's still hiding something. The name Gladion isn't one you encounter every day.

    Either way, he preferred to drop the subject and instead went back to battling.

    "Hau's definitely an unorthodox battler. He takes advantage of a lot of things."

    "That's amazing!" Brady exclaimed. "No wonder you guys have been blitzing through the island trials!"

    "True. But I honestly think Elio should battle you bro." Hau said. "I'm curious to see your Pokémon against his."

    "Firstly one rule...no Z-moves."

    Elio's eyes flashed competitively. "Deal. You're on."

    The clearing had been cleared out so that a standard length between Elio and Brady had been set up. Hau and Lillie sat on a rock to the side about halfway to observe.

    "I haven't seen Elio this fired up to battle since he fought me." Hau remarked quietly.

    Lillie followed his gaze, seeing Elio put on that "game face" he usually wore during some battle he couldn't afford to lose.

    "To be honest, I really love how he's like that." She softly whispered. It still caught Hau's attention and he glanced over at his friend. Her eyes shined with admiration as she looked over to the gray eyed boy. He could tell that she also admired Brady, but there was definitely something she had with Elio that was incredibly special.

    He almost felt like it was him when he finally confessed to Leilani how he felt about her.

    "Lillie, can I ask you something?"

    "Sure. What is it?"

    Hau sucked in a deep breath.

    "Are you in love with Elio?"

    "Wha?" She almost stammered out loud. "In love?"

    "Yeah." He looked at Elio and Brady and it seemed that neither were paying attention as Rotom Dex was floating between the two contestants, highlighting the rules of the battle and getting the consent that both agreed.

    "Come on Lillie." He nudged. "It's almost to the point where you don't even have to say anything. I can see it clear as day."

    "Hau...I."

    "Look. Elio is my best friend. My kaikaina. I would never ever do anything to come between the two of you. In fact, I want him to be happy...and you too."

    "I'm...I'm not really sure." Lillie hugged her knees and stared at the ground, starting to pick details in the grass blades at her feet. "I'm not even sure what love really is...or if I'm capable of it."

    "What? That's preposterous." She was abruptly surprised at his rather advanced vocabulary. "Everyone can feel love and affection for someone or something. Even if it's not, then maybe you care deeply about him."

    "I do."

    "See, there's a step in the right direction."

    "I'm guessing the wrong direction is when you try to spontaneously kiss the person in question?" Lillie shot him a rare knowing smirk.

    Hau flushed as his thoughts went to Leilani. "Well...I just did the first thing that came to mind of how I felt when she was being so stubborn. I'm honestly not really sure how Elio would react if you did the same to him."

    "I just have so much going on right now. Nebby...getting it home...I'm not even sure what I would do after that's done. Do I really have time to fall in love with anyone right now? Elio of all people."

    Hau looked down at their feet as they touched the grass. "I can't give you an answer, yet I love shipping people together. There's a simple yet deep saying that we Alolans have when it comes to romance, love and companionship. E hahai i k'ou pu'uwai."

    Lillie moved her lips as she tried to repeat the sound. "E hahai i k'ou pu'uwai?"

    "It means follow your heart." Hau nodded. "And it means exactly that. Your heart is telling you what's best and the people of Alola will always choose that...and make the right choice."

    Lillie nodded, understanding where he came from.

    "Now I'm not saying that Elio is going to go all gushy and be like "I love you too!" because saying it with the true meaning can be a lot for someone, even if that person is with whom your hopena lies. He has to sort his own feelings out too."

    "How will I know he feels the same?"

    "You will know. He will too."

    At the field, Elio and Brady were oblivious to the conversation Hau and Lillie were having. Upon accepting the terms, they had proceeded to go at it right away.

    Similar to football games, revealing the first Pokémon was a big thing in league battles as it could make switching the order lineup a necessary thing to counteract. One trainer, usually the challenger would choose a side of heads or tails with the referee and would get the choice of revealing their Pokémon first or deferring it to the opposition. In the bigger battles, this meant at the halftime point with the intermission, the revealing would be reversed.

    Brady had won the "coin toss" from Rotom's screen and he opted to defer, forcing Elio to send his Pokémon out first.

    "Alright then. I'll use Charjabug!" He tossed her ball onto the field, catching it snugly in his hand as his battery Pokémon crackled with tiny arcs of electric energy.

    "Go Draft!" Brady threw out his whimsicott, who lazily floated down and spun around happily.

    On the sidelines, Lillie was intrigued.

    "Brady's using a grass type against a bug type?"

    "It's not going to be as super effective as you think. Remember that Charjabug also can use strong electric attacks as well as bug ones. Draft's part grass typing negates that effectiveness despite its vulnerability to bug moves. And that's covered too because of Draft's part fairy typing."

    So Brady used it more to slow Elio down than to beat it outright. Smart.

    "Whimsicott's ability is prankster," Hau explained as the battle began with Brady already using Draft to whip up a tailwind. "That allows status moves to be executed quicker. Using tailwind is a setup I like to do too since it grants a huge speed advantage."

    Lillie looked back at Elio, whose face seemed undaunted despite in just a single move, he was already at a disadvantage.

    Charjabug's small mandibles began to glow and it fired off a charge beam which Draft simply jumped into the wind currents blowing around and letting himself be carried out of the beam's way. Charjabug kept firing with two of them being slightly more powerful and at the same time, Draft could only keep dodging for so long before the last charge beam got lucky. Despite being struck direct center, the electric type attack did little damage as Hau predicted.

    Elio had her return fire with a signal beam attack yet Draft dodged it again. As it moved, Charjabug powered up a spark, shooting forward to smash into its side and send both Pokémon tumbling back. As Draft was getting up, he could see tiny flickers of electricity in its cotton bunch on the back. His movements were jerky too, which was an indication of the paralysis status condition.

    "Draft! You okay?" Brady called out. He got an affirmative cry in response.

    "Then use giga drain!"

    Draft sprouted several large tendrils that closed right in on Charjabug. They latched on, immediately leeching energy off his battery bug.

    "Charge yourself up!" Elio called out. "I've got an idea."

    I have no idea what I'm doing.

    There wasn't much lost health energy for Draft to recover since both electric type attacks didn't do much damage and Elio figured he was going to be playing catch up as long as the tailwind was in effect.

    His solution? Draw it out to a point where he could fire off an attack on equal terms. By attaching the giga drain, Draft had established a physical connection to Charjabug despite the attack being special and non-contact.

    Charge was just for the extra oomph.

    She's gathered up enough energy now. We just need that little stun and then we get things going. That tailwind can't be up for much longer.

    Charjabug groaned in protest, hissing softly at the discomfort the giga drain was bringing.

    "Okay, now! Charge beam!"

    Thanks to the charge attack before, it was readied and launched in a split second to Brady's surprise with even additional power from the previous charge beam. Draft tumbled back, catching itself on the wind currents again, but it looked like it had taken a lot more damage than before even with the giga drain healing a portion of its health.

    "Use leech seed!"

    Oh that's not good.

    Draft started the attack, using its small arms to scatter a few glowing seeds, but he twitched again as the paralysis kicked in to interrupt its attack.

    The tailwind was starting to fade and Elio sensed his advantage.

    "Charge beam again!"

    Charjabug fired another, still growing in power and blasting Draft to the ground. Elio ordered a signal beam launched directly at it. The ray of multicolored lights went like a laser shot and ignited an explosion of dust and dirt that obscured the field in front.

    As it cleared, Draft was lying facedown and unmoving.

    "Draft izzz incapable of battling! Bzzt!" Rotom waved a stubby hand in Elio's direction. "Charjabug izz the winner!"

    Despite the loss; Brady returned Draft to his Poké Ball and smiled over at Sun.

    "That was really smart of you. I guess a lot of reading about battling is different than the actual thing."

    "Sure is. School teaches you the fundamentals...and then actually battling makes you think of stuff on the fly."

    "Makes sense."

    "That was still awesome Brady!" Hau called out with Lillie in agreement. "You're still a great battler! My blood's pumping already!"

    "I best not disappoint. Wow. I didn't realize battling competitively like this was so much fun." He chuckled, taking out his next Pokémon. "Go! Anansi!"

    The Poké Ball exploded open to reveal a lanky spiderlike creature with shades of aqua blue and bright neon green. Its eyes were translucent, encased in a bubble of a head with sharp fangs on its underside.

    Its appearance unsettled Elio just a little. He wasn't afraid of spiders, but seeing one this big sort of creeped him out. Over on the side, he could also see Hau and Lillie with similar expressions.

    They don't like spiders either huh.

    Elio had never seen this Pokémon before, so he asked Rotom.

    "Yup! New Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Araquanid. Water bubble Pokémon. It is the evolved form of dewpider. It usually passes its time in the water. When its belly is full, it stores subdued prey in the water bubble around its head. Araquanid is a water and bug type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "I'll admit I've never seen a Pokémon like this before."

    "You like Anansi? It sounds strange, but the Alolan people actually look at spiders with the symbol of patience and trickery." He smirked, knowing that he could use that to his advantage. "Hope you're ready for Anansi. He's just like that."

    As long as he doesn't try to eat Charjabug. Seriously. I need her. She's already afraid of birds, I don't need her scared of spiders.

    She was also boosted up, so he'd use that to his advantage.

    "Charjabug! Use signal beam!"

    She hissed, shooting a concentrated ray of electricity almost instantly. Anansi was quick, using his long legs to jump out and fire a bubblebeam right back. Charjabug dodged too, causing them to splash and pop harmlessly in the grass.

    Elio had her go in close with a spark attack, but Brady was ready for it.

    Anansi threw up a wall of light in front of him. It wasn't protect since Charjabug passed through, but the damage from her electrical attack was significantly reduced.

    Ah damn. Anansi had used reflect, the physical variant of light screen that dampened the effects of physical moves.

    I guess we'll have to go special.

    Brady unfolded his next move; double team. Anansi shimmered and suddenly a half dozen copies of it surrounded Charjabug.

    He told her to charge herself as every one of the Anansis fired bubblebeams from their forelegs into the center. The struck, throwing up dust and droplets of water as Charjabug tumbled out, laying on its side and clearly knocked out of the fight.

    "Charjabug izzz incapable of battling! Bzzt! Anansi izzz the winner!"

    Elio sighed, returning her and placing the ball on his left hand side.

    You did good girl.

    "Nice job Brady!" Lillie called out. She nodded at Elio too.

    "Thanks!" The big smile he wore from her compliment still irked him. "I did my best."

    A little squeak made Elio look back down to see Jangmo'o had crawled out from his backpack and leaning close on his ankles while observing the battle with wide eyes filled with amazement.

    "You like buddy?" He knelt down and scratched the baby on the large scale on top his head. The dragon purred and closed its eyes...where a mental note was made since it seemed to really like that.

    "Maybe one day, you can be as strong as them." He took out his next Pokémon. "Okay, I'll go with Akela!"

    The midnight form lycanroc landed on all fours, glaring at the spider who seemed indifferent at the challenge. Elio also saw Jangmo'o perk up when the werewolf was in battle.

    They really do have a big/little brother relationship.

    'Dex threw his stubby hands down, a signal to begin the battle.

    Elio wasn't about to waste any time. "Akela, use rock tomb!"

    With a nightmarish howl, he formed several boulders in his hands and tossed them quickly at Anansi. He dodged without effort, using another double team to scale them as they fell and towered over him in the center.

    "He's got Akela pinned again." Hau noted.

    Brady did the same thing he did with Charjabug, having all copies shoot him with bubblebeam attack. Instead of standing in the middle, Akela had gotten down on all fours, rushing to one side and quickly scaling the face of the nearest boulder.

    "Sucker punch!"

    Akela had a feral grin on his face as he cloaked his fist with dark energy and swung it at the Anansi copy closest.

    "What?" Brady was surprised as the others diminished into the air and the actual one crashed into one of the boulders which splintered into fragments. Out of all the ones he had went after, it just happened to be the real.

    "How could that be? He must've gotten lucky."

    "How did Akela know which one to go after?" Lillie asked.

    Hau was a bit surprised himself. "He must have keen eye as his special ability."

    "But I thought keen eye only prevents accuracy loss."

    "That's what I thought too."

    Brady huffed in annoyance, now figuring out Akela's keen eye ability essentially negated Anansi's double teams. The reflect was also going to be fading in moments.

    The werewolf spun around as Anansi was getting back up and slammed both his fists into the ground. With a rumble, the shockwave of his punch caused more boulders to erupt out, tumbling in a wave that struck and battered the spider.

    Woah! Akela has learned rock slide!

    Anansi was still moving and he rose up on his legs shakily. Just as he did, the reflect had finally fizzled it out. He knew that barrier was the only thing that was keeping it from being knocked out.

    "Okay, then use spider web!"

    Akela was ready to pounce again when Anansi spat a thread of gooey adhesive liquid that ensnared around his wrist. He snarled, tugging in vain to free himself.

    "Stop that! Stay mobile!" Elio ordered. "Don't let it hit you again."

    Anansi stayed where it was, patiently waiting.

    Brady's waiting for something.

    Akela tugged at the webbing, noticing that his strength was able to move it slightly as if it were a flexible rope. Anansi shifted and put resistance on it to keep him from having so much freedom in movement.

    Brady's eyes lit up with an idea.

    "Anansi, use the double team and bubblebeam combo! Force him to the center!"

    The spider hissed, quickly making another half dozen copies to surround Akela again and shoot off another bubblebeam from their forelegs. Some aimed high, some low and some off to the sides. Elio could only watch as Akela did his best to wave through them. He was surprisingly athletic, flipping above one and sliding underneath another while spinning. Some did eventually find him and the splashes from the super effective attack made him flinch and then reflexively dodge more that were heading his way a split second later.

    "Use rock slide! Find the real one!"

    "Oh no you don't." Brady said. "Spider web and keep it from moving so freely."

    Anansi hissed, with each individual copy shooting more webbing at Akela. He used his free hand to slam the ground and start a second rock slide just as it covered his paws almost to the point where he was immobilized. Struggling only proved the bonds could be tightened.

    "Now finish it off! Use waterfall!"

    The massive spider bent its knees and launched itself full force towards Akela, water began to condense around his front, wisping off in a mist that made it seem like a steaming meteor.

    Wait a second, waterfall's a physical attack!

    Brady formed a fist as Anansi countered, but he didn't see Akela's eyes flash open and hear him snarl in defiance. All that was left was him flying through the air and landing on his back, all six legs twitching from being struck by a rather harsh blow.

    "Anansi?" His spider didn't respond to his name.

    "Bzzt! Anansi izzz incapable of battling! Akela izzz the winner!"

    "Woo!" Elio pumped a fist, "I knew you could do it buddy!"

    Akela didn't respond.

    "Akela?"

    The werewolf took a step forward...and collapsed onto the ground.

    "Oh nozzz Akela izzz incapable of battling!"

    "How?" Brady asked, both amazed and dumbfounded. "What did you do?"

    "Counter." Elio replied. He tried not to sound smug while saying it, but he did want to explain.

    "I drew Anansi close so that Akela could get off his counter to be able to make up for those damages. Looks like he took Akela with him."

    "Huh." Brady gave him an honorable nod, knowing he had been beat there. "Well done. It's good experience still. How about we use our first partners for the final battle?"

    "Deal."

    The scrawny boy at Arlo on his shoulder. "You ready partner?"

    His aipom let out a cry of happiness and bounced to the ground, standing nimble from side to side as his strong tail flexed in anticipation.

    "Okay Torracat." Elio places Akela's Poké Ball on his left and threw out his starter. "It's all up to you!" He got a purr of affirmation, even though this battle was for fun, there was no way he wasn't going to be putting his all for it.

    "Let's begin then!"

    Don't underestimate it just because it's an aipom. They'll use it to their advantage.

    Elio's intuition was right as Brady went right on the offensive. Arlo took off at him in a full on sprint as his trainer used his agility. As if it wasn't fast enough, his tail began to glow and ball into a fist.

    Torracat tried to move out of the way, but Arlo was too quick, slamming down a powerful focus punch that sent him sprawling into the dirt. He was quick to recover though, jawing down a bite attack when Arlo came in for a second go.

    "Iron tail!"

    Elio was shocked at how powerful its limb was, effortlessly glowing and throwing Torracat off him. He ordered a double kick, but could only watch again as Arlo sidestepped him as he lunged forward. When they had distance separating the two of them, the aipom jumped into the air, flinging his arms out and unleashing a barrage of swift stars that pelted Torracat.

    His fire type's snarl brought him out of his thoughts again. Since they briefly started, they had only did a slight bit of damage while Brady had already put a plan in his head to rapidly execute. Torracat had a bit of strength and he was fast, but Arlo was...fast...on a completely different level.

    We could slowly boost us up with flame charge, but if he keeps on using agility, that'll end up useless too.

    Maybe he had to hold himself back.

    Make Brady THINK he has the speed advantage. That focus punch hits hard though and once he gets the ball rolling, there isn't much outside a strong defensive tank Pokémon that could survive.

    I COULD burn it. Burning would dial down his physical attacking power and start a countdown until Arlo's out. Risky though.

    Arlo unleashed another swift and Elio had Torracat counter with overheat. So far, neither him or his partner Pokémon were on the same page. They had to get coordinated fast.

    But he had no ideas. His mind was focused on the battle as the stars collided with his ultra hot attack that pricked his skin from so much heat already.

    Then he noticed how Arlo moved. His legs were muscular enough to provide the basic form of locomotion, however if he needed to go faster or travel longer distance; he got on all fours to rapidly scuttle like an insect. This made him go over uneven surfaces easily rather than Torracat having to jump and climb over.

    Monkeys do that though. It's not Torracat's thing.

    "Arlo, focus punch again! Go for Torracat's leg!"

    Now's my chance!

    Arlo had gotten down on all fours again to close the gap as his tail fist glowed white again.

    Wait a second. Focus punch takes a brief moment before it can be launched.

    "Torracat, flame charge it!"

    The feline snarled and rushed forward, cloaking himself in sparkling embers. Judging by how quickly Arlo's eyes went wide, he had not been expecting that. As he smashed into the monkey's side, Elio could see the focus punch lose concentration in the tail and he stumbled around stunned.

    "It's not going to be long before he recovers." He wanted to finish this soon. "Move in with double kick!"

    Torracat rushed forward, now boosted slightly with the flame charge. He flexed his legs out, striking Arlo across the chest once. As he did the second time, the aipom slashed forward with his smaller arms in a fury swipes attack that was enough to send the aim of the second kick off. Torracat rolled to his right to dodge a lightning focus punch thrown on the ground and then flame charged out of the way to gain some distance.

    Elio saw a blur of motion in the corner of his eye as he ordered another double kick as Arlo had swung and missed. Glancing down just briefly in the direction, he saw that Jangmo'o was missing.

    Where did he go?

    The sudden rush of fear filled his insides as he saw the tiny gray dragon rush forward, lowering his head in a charge as Torracat unleashed the first of his two kicks. The first one struck and then Jangmo'o tackled the aipom, sending the two of them tumbling away from Torracat.

    "Hold up Torracat!" Elio was practically running mid-field despite the protesting concerns from everyone else of how he could get hurt.

    Arlo was not happy about being blindsided by an unseen battler and before Brady could muster a command, he unleashed a flurry of swift stars at Jangmo'o.

    "NO!" Elio was nearly there, ready to grab the small Pokémon and yank it away from the attack. At this young of an age against a somewhat seasoned battler, there were attacks that could seriously injure or even kill a Pokémon if they weren't careful.

    He heard Jangmo'o cry out as the sharp projectiles raked his skin followed by a reply of multiple clanging noises as if they were bits of shrapnel metal pinging off an armoured surface.

    Sun glanced up to see Jangmo'o stagger to its feet, a few scratches and bruises on his scales...but he was glowing white as some form of energy steamed off his body.

    The dragon type let out a war cry, something quite ferocious for its small stature and unleashed a crescent of energy that homed right in on Arlo with enough power to send the long tail Pokémon hurtling through the air to land in the thicket of some bushes. It was enough to startle and scare off a handful of spearow that were nesting inside.

    "Arlo!" Brady called out, rushing over to check on his friend.

    "What...was that?" Elio breathed as Torracat came to his side. The look on his face was apologetic.

    "It's not your fault buddy." He paid little attention to 'Dex officiating in the background and rubbed his fur. "I didn't realize looking after a baby Pokémon was this hard."

    He was purring again and rubbing his head against Elio's ribs. He had found out that him doing that was a sign of concern.

    "I'm okay. I promise. I'll be alright." The next thing of concern for him was the baby Jangmo'o. It was just a few steps away from him, wobbling lazily with its eyes halfway closed from the fatigue of battling straight away.

    Elio was hoping it wasn't going to squirm much when he picked it up and thoroughly inspected it. The swift attack had dented and dinged a few of the fresh scales, but whatever chitinous material they were made of, it was incredibly durable with no alarming injuries other than the few scratches that marred his new scales.

    Brady emerged from the shrubs with Hau and Lillie behind him and he carried the unconscious Arlo. His own expression went to concern, but Elio was a little more worried the other trainer would be angry at how Jangmo'o interfered with the battle.

    "Is he okay?"

    Sun nodded. "Just a few scratches and he's exhausted, but yeah. I think he's unharmed."

    He let out a relieved sigh. "Thank the tapu. Arlo's okay too, just a little upset at that cheap shot."

    It felt like a verbal blow and Elio inwardly flinched over it. He never intended Jangmo'o to intervene, telling himself that it was natural for Pokémon to stay out of battles.

    This baby Pokémon not only attacked openly, but seemed to enjoy battling.

    "I'm sorry about Arlo. I didn't mean for that to happen."

    Brady waved him off. "It's okay. There's more important things to hold grudges over and Jangmo'o's still a baby, so they don't know any better. Plus that was a really good bide, especially learning that just hours after he hatched."

    "Bide?"

    "I can tell you about bide! Bzzt!" Rotom floated over to his side and examined Jangmo'o. "Bide izzz a move that allowzzz the uzer to take continuouzzz damage and then dealzzz double the power back! Very good for using in ztrong defenzzive Pokémon! Bzzt!"

    "It's a good move." Brady said. "You can use it to really powerful effects if you're opponent is aggressively attacking."

    "Yeah that was an amazing battle Brady!" Hau said, already bouncing up and down with excitement. "This makes me sooooo pumped!"

    "You both did very well." Lillie added, smiling at both boys. "I...I'm impressed."

    "Thanks." They said at the same time, hearing the other as well and glancing over.

    Okay that was not awkward at all.

    It didn't take long for Brady to heal his team up with some revive medicine and potions before they cleaned up their picnic site to head down the dirt path. The sun shone its mid-afternoon phase, however it retreated behind more clouds that covered the peak of Mount Hokulani right beside them.

    As they continued, the highway had fewer cars and branched off to the south where it circled the outside areas of the island. The sounds of the motor vehicles began to grow softer, replaced by the more natural ones of Pokémon and nature.

    "Don't worry about that. We're not too far off the grid." Brady reassured them. "We meet back up with the road soon enough. There's a shuttle bus that connects Malie City with Mountaintop at the summit of Mount Hokulani. I hear they're going to do the same for the one on Lanakila."

    "Lanakila?" Lillie asked.

    "Yeah. The highest point in Alola. It's like the only place in the region where snow falls."

    "It's that high up?"

    "Yeah it is. Pretty awesome right? I want to try snowboarding or skiing."

    "Or have a snowball fight." Hau chimed in.

    "You're first on my hit list then." Elio said and caused the group to burst out laughing.

    Lillie smiled at the boys as they talked and joked with one another, not feeling a bit out of place. She glanced down in the opening of her bag to see Nebby sleeping soundly without any worry in the world. Months ago, she wouldn't have the confidence she had now in getting steps for finding a way to get Nebby home. Now she had visited some tapu ruins, the Malie Library with a plan to maybe find the legendary Pokémon of Alola to ask for its help.

    At the same time, she could feel shadows creeping up from behind. She had gotten a head start, but that lead was being diminished each day. Nebby's safety was growing more and more paramount and she wanted to make that one final push to get it back home before her mother...or any of her agents found it again.

    We'll be alright. One step...one baby step at a time.

    The bus stop was in sight just down the hill from them a half hour later. It was simply a roof on four legs to provide shade alongside a concrete curb that branched off to a parking lot behind and walkways descending down the slopes further towards the coastline.

    As they finally came into the clearing, the horn on the bus still there honked and it drove off, leaving the teens by themselves.

    "I swear it does this every time." Brady grumbled under his breath.

    "I'm up for a little bit of a hike." Elio glanced at Mauna Hokulani in front of them. "Anyone else?"

    "Yeah I'm gonna pass on that." Brady glanced at his phone. "Besides, when I got signal again, I missed a call from my parents."

    "Uh oh." Elio and Lillie shared a sympathetic look, knowing well that missing a call from the parents usually meant trouble when they got back. "What's the matter?"

    "And they're not happy either. They said to walk you two down to the bus stop and then come right back home."

    Sun felt bad for him. He already assumed it was Brady's earlier defiance of being a trainer. Thei confrontation when they had arrived wasn't a full on argument, but he could still tell there was a layer of tension between the two sides.

    And now he has to go back for more reprimanding?

    "I'm sorry guys." He said, looking at them. "I wish I could've stayed, but...yeah."

    "We understand." Elio said, almost too eagerly. As much as he did, he felt that Lillie was getting interested in the quirky boy. A little too interested. Maybe having him gone would lift that underlying feeling of envy he was starting to brew.

    "Hey, we'll meet up again. Maybe when you guys come back to Malie City. We can try some of their famous sushi."

    "I love sushi." Lillie said, almost salivating at the thought of it.

    Brady smiled. "You and I can get some before we go to the Festivus."

    Wait what?

    "Oh," Lillie's face fell. "Who, just you and me?"

    "Well yeah. You do want to come to the Festivus with me right?"

    Wait, he asked her out on a date?!

    "I...I don't know." The blonde looked back at Elio. "I just want to go with friends. I don't care if it's just you or Elio or anyone else. I don't want to go alone."

    And I'm not letting her go alone. Not when Team Skull likes to make a ruckus of things or some other guy tries to approach her.

    Elio spoke up again before Brady could convince her otherwise. "We'll figure it out. It's not for another couple days, so there's plenty of time to coordinate. You sure your parents will let you go."

    "It's one of the only times I don't need their permission. They already know I won't do anything stupid."

    "What about you Hau?" Elio asked. "You gonna come with us?"

    "Festivus yes. Here? Nah. I got a call too while we were out of signal." He held up his phone. "It was Makoa. He said that Leilani's gone from their home."

    "What? Why?"

    "He's not sure." Hau's tone turned to worry. "But he went to see some of her favorite hangout spots in Hau'oli City and Iki Town and nobody who knew her said they've seen her."

    "So then where did you think she went?"

    Hau's expression darkened and he stopped, almost hesitant to believe the words he was about to say. "He thinks she went to Suicide Gulch."

    "Suicide Gulch?"

    "One of the most notorious surfing areas in Alola. Razor sharp rocks during low tide and narrow passes. Wipeouts almost guarantee you'll get scraped or cut or some other form of seriously injured."

    "Leilani was almost unable to walk last we saw her." Elio said. "How and why would she do this?"

    Hau sighed and looked out to the coastline. They were guessing it was towards the direction the said gulch was located.

    "To prove everyone wrong."

    Brady felt defeated as he trudged the final few steps up towards the Wainwright estate. He had been defeated, but it was all in good fun and experience. Lillie seemed like a nice girl and he really did want to know her better, but the influence of his parents had struck again when they demanded him be back while gushing how she and Elio made a wonderful couple.

    Both of them were a year older yet it was frustrating to see him being held back while they got treated like proper adults that demanded to be adored. Even worse, they were still unmoved at how he could continue to grow as a trainer, no matter how good he battled.

    "Mom." He pushed the door open. "Dad. I'm home."

    There was no response. Something ruffled the top of Arlo's head and he made a nervous squeak.

    He looked back at the lights, which were on and meant someone had to be home.

    His eldest brother Aiden was still in Galar which omitted him from being the suspect. Same with his twin brothers Cayden and Jackson. Being members of Team Skull meant they would probably never again step foot in their house.

    "Hello? Anyone home?"

    Arlo suddenly became aware of a presence watching them and landed deftly on his feet. He crossed his arms and unleashed a volley of swift stars that curved right towards something in the shadows.

    Rather than hear the cry of a target, a flash of movement caught his eye in the corner as something swiped its claws and cut apart each star headed for it.

    "Arlo you know-" Brady was halfway in reminding him of the house rules, even forgetting himself to return his Pokémon prior to entering when the shadow moved out and lunged with lightning speed to strike the aipom in the chest. Arlo flew backwards, recovering with its dextrous tail and landing. The ninja opponent instead flung a volley of its own attack, however as Arlo rolled out of the way; Brady could see that they were small slivers of glistening ice that immediately created puddles as the big change in temperature caused them to melt.

    The foreign Pokémon came out of the shadows as Arlo's tail balled into a fist to prepare a focus punch. In another blur of movement, it quickly knocked him down and forced his tail fist open to dispel the focus energy gathered.

    "Arlo!" Brady cried, stepping forward.

    A tongue click stopped him in his tracks as he looked up to see Victoria...his mother and his father right at the entrance to the kitchen.

    He wondered if he was in for another reprimanding, but then saw the third taller figure behind them.

    "I would hate to do more harm to your parents, yourself or your Pokémon." Von Kaiser stepped forward as the Pokémon rather aggressively threw Arlo down. It was dark colored with a red crest on its head and neck with long razor sharp claws. The weavile likely sensed Arlo was trying to make a move and quickly extended one, pressing it right to his throat and glaring with all indications of a warning.

    "Mom? Dad? What's going on?"

    "Unexpected guests." Benjamin Wainwright mustered through clenched teeth. A grunt and leaning on his mother showed that he had suffered an injury of some kind.

    "Brady Wainwright." The foreign man stepped forward. "It's such a nice name...fitting for a prodigal son. But I'm here not for their hospitality...so I'll get the pleasantries out of the way."

    Another step forward and the boy felt as if he was being sized up. Kaiser's lips twisted in a knowing smile and it made him unsettled.

    Everything about this seems wrong.

    "You had some guests not too long ago who possessed something called Cosmog. You're going to tell me where it is and where they're headed."

    And that's the end. Like I said, I'll declare next update whether or not I'm taking a break or not and how long. I appreciate you all for staying faithful and stay tuned for more updates.

    Translations:

    • E hahai i k'ou pu'uwai - Follow your heart
    • Ke Alanui - Roadblock/Barricade
    • Hopena - Destiny

    As always, mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.

    Brav
     
    #88 Jul 14, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
    Rezna likes this.
  9. Rezna

    Rezna You'll never see it coming.

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    Thunder Stone ★★★Water Stone ★★★Dawn Stone ★★★★Cooler Gary Oak ★★★★★Legendary Triforce ★★
    Wow! I like the quips during the hatching, along with the plot twist during the battle! Then, the ending of this chapter. I was wondering when this would come, but you delivered it in a way I had not expected. Until I finished, I was wondering why we were still at Brady's POV. As usual, great job!
     
  10. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

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    Alright! Alola readers and the one and only BraviaryScout is here to showcase the newest chapter for the ongoing endeavor! I do have some news that I think will upset most of you.

    I'm going to step away.

    Now before you all either bawl your eyes out or go "Nice knowing ya." I'll explain that my mind is running numb from writing, even though I'm taking a much slower pace than I did when I started this. Yet I'm still astounded at how far this fic has come; more than 530k words, the most reviews, favorites, followers than anything I've pumped out on this site. (Yes, this finally overtook Advanced Commando as my #1 fic in all terms except views, we're working on that though)

    I'm burned out. I need some time to get ahead. So that's what I'm going to do. While I'll still likely write around the same pace I do now, instead of posting a day or two after I finish edits and proofreading, I'm going to hold off until I feel comfortable to where I am a bit ahead in the story so it doesn't feel so pressuring to get the chapter done and the other craziness of whatever blocks my time off.

    TLDR, I'm going to write ahead, so I won't post another chapter for a while. Not sure of a timetable of when I'll be back, but hopefully it's before the holidays here.

    Enjoy the chapter everyone.


    The summit of Mount Hokulani is so amazing! Professor Kukui met us up there and showed us around! There's a small town called Mountaintop where people actually live. It's only got a few hundred people, but most of them are extremely friendly and help travelers and trainers alike.

    I've wanted to go to the observatory and maybe see the stars or other planets in our solar system. Unlike the other mountain on the island; this one has relatively clear nights and it's far away from the cities for light pollution. I saw a clefairy too! I still hope that maybe mother's...remembers me.

    You know what? It's not so bad. Sharing a bed with Elio is very nice. He's quiet and gives me plenty of space.

    But I wonder what it would feel like if I fell asleep with his arms around me? I think if that happened, I'd be the safest thing possible and nothing bad would ever happen.

    Councilman Dean chuckled as he flipped down the cards on the green velvet table. The other contestants sitting around stared wide eyed at his hand and groaned out loud, not expecting him to have a Royal Flush that pretty much earned him the win, knocking the remainder out.

    The chips and loot were pushed his way and the game was over; another match of Unova hold'em that netted him a decent amount of winnings.

    Gambling was something Dean enjoyed doing. The risks, the ambitions, the pleasures and most importantly the rewards.

    Ignoring the other annoyed glances thrown his way by the other men who had lost thousands of dollars, Dean went immediately to cash in his winnings. He stopped at the bar first, downing a drink and lighting a cigarette before stepping outside.

    Night had fallen over Castelia City, the largest urban sprawl in the Unova region and one of the most populous cities in the world. Dean was on the board of trustees that governed the city and was well respected. Crime had been cleaned up with many gangs who tried to make a foothold gone and his push to make the transportation funding up had kept the city running smoothly like a well-oiled machine. Complaints about roads, waterways, subways and the airports were at an all time low thanks to the conditions and fat budgets he was giving them. Like any political theater, his actions were opposed, however few argued that his policies made life easier.

    However in spite of all his noble actions; Dean was not without his own personal shadows.

    The gambling table was one area people could find him off the clock where he savored the thrill of the risk taking and a place to leave all the other troubles of his political career behind.

    A big issue that plagued the Unova region had been Team Plasma, though they had been disbanded two years ago and whispers about them being reformed were reaching Castelian ears. Some had said that the new Team Plasma was still waiting in the shadows to strike and were far more radicalized than its predecessor.

    Dean was part of the committee that headed the region-wide effort to storm and weed out Plasma's known facilities and hideouts after the disappearance of their "king" With the aid of the International Police, who had FINALLY taken notice after the destruction to the Unova League headquarters, his task force had hunted down and captured the remaining leadership; a collective of educated individuals known as the Seven Sages. They were aided by the trainer who supposedly ended their reign only for her to disappear. The trainer's mother had no answer for why and suspected that she had left for a distant land in search of Team Plasma's king.

    Dean's next problem came when the head of the Seven Sages; a man named Ghetsis Harmonia had broken out of the "icebox" a top secret maximum security International Police prison. He was responsible for making sure Ghetsis "would never see the outside of a prison again"

    With him escaped from captivity and the rumors going around that Team Plasma was set to return, he couldn't believe it as a coincidence. However all known associates were taken in by police and it seemed to be just small talk and nothing serious.

    It was a quiet ride to his family apartment. Dean lived in an opulent suite at the top of one of Unova's most prestigious towers with nearly the entire floor to himself along with a breathtaking view of Castelia Harbor and the cityscape around. As part of his routine; he stopped at the same pizza parlor down the street for a takeout pre-ordered before he went up to his residence.

    His phone buzzed and he smiled to himself looking upon a text message. To cap off a successful night, there was already someone waiting for him in his bedroom.

    After paying for his food, it was another short walk to the tower. He took the elevator up, putting in the six digit code that allowed it to ascend past the normal accessible floors to his residence. The doors would part right to his home without any hallways in between to mediate.

    Dean let out a sigh as he set the pizza down and journeyed to his kitchen. Across from the fridge on a granite slab was a fine collection of wines. Today called for one with his mistress.

    "Veta?" He called out. "I'm here."

    "In...in the bedroom." She called back.

    "What are you doing in the bedroom? I thought you said you were hungry." He flashed a wolfish grin to himself as he crossed out of the kitchen, turning left towards his bedroom. "That kind of hungry huh?"

    The moment he crossed through to the bedroom, he saw a blur of motion out of the corner of his eye. Staggered by the blow, he was still contemplating what had just happened before the assailant delivered a swift shop to the side of the head. Councilman Dean crumpled to the ground as another figure reached out to catch him before he fell and made a noise.

    The effects of the alcohol hit Dean harder and earlier than expected. It didn't help that the blow to his temple made his head throb as the searing pain from that plus the hangover were beginning to kick in.

    "Ah you're awake. Good."

    A solidly built figure sat in the chair opposite him, leaning into the seatback while studying the politician with amused interest.

    His shoulders were broad and dopey biceps bulged underneath a thin dark layer of undersuit. He had a big belt around his waist full of gear from different canisters to the stubby shape of a handgun secure in its holster. A mask covered his nose and mouth and he stared at Dean with a pair of dark eyes.

    "Who are you?" He asked, with a growing feeling of uncertainty in his voice and expression. "What do you want?"

    The man said nothing else, instead standing up and walking around to the wardrobe that sat at the far end of Dean's bedroom. On the surface were framed pictures of him with family and friends dating all the way back to his days as a fraternity brother at Opelucid University.

    Many thoughts flew through Dean's head as he tried to piece together how this intruder could have gotten in. There was no way to enter externally, which meant he had gotten in through the elevator somehow.

    Vera. It had to be her. Either she was working in tandem with him or used under duress to access his residence.

    He hoped it was the latter.

    "What is it you want?" He demanded again. "Money? Whoever paid you to do this, I'll double it."

    "See?" A female's voice said from somewhere behind him. "I told you he'd say something like that."

    "Veta?" The appalled look on his face with the answer nearly sent mocking laughter splitting off the lips of his captors. "What? How?"

    "You should've really stayed faithful to your family and vows." The man crossed over and gently picked up one of the picture frames, staring at the man's wife and son. "You think it was an accident that your family had won that trip to Undella was pure luck?"

    "You," His eyes looked towards "Veta" who remained stoic and avoided his gaze. "You knew I'd send them away so we'd have time together."

    "Pretty easy to figure out." She said tersely. "Now shall we get down to business? Kaiser?"

    Von Kaiser took one of the other chairs, pulling it up across from Dean and sat down.

    "I'm about to give you the choice that could derail your political career." He spoke slowly and leaned forward. Dean saw his eyes gleam as if he was taking delight in his captive's uneasiness. "We know you're one of the biggest opponents to Team Plasma and its associates. It's no secret."

    "Well Team Plasma is finished." A snicker escaped his lips. "Done. Their king abandoned them and the leadership all but scattered in the wind. Yeah that's right. Felled by a girl no older than the average trainer out there. You've tried to force a falsified truth onto people who've followed traditions since the beginning of history."

    "Team Plasma is gone yes." Veta agreed. "But no idea is truly gone until the leader has been silenced."

    "And we'll be back very much. With a much different approach to things. Our original ways didn't work, so we're resorting to others."

    "Which means all of Unova kneeling before me!" A dark gravelly voice boomed from the shadows and stepped forward.

    Dean gasped at the man's appearance; a scarred face with hints of permanent burn damage over one of his eyes. It was replaced by a sinister red lens that blinked with tidbits of information. The remainder of his body was slim, yet muscular and the black patterned cloak he wore moved with a paradoxical elegance.

    His hair was a pale color, slightly disheveled, spiking out erratically. There was the slight bulge underneath the robe that clinked as he walked forward. Looking closely, Dean could see it was a hybrid of a cane and something else resembling a jeweled sword.

    "Lord Ghetsis." Kaiser curtly said, indirectly introducing the new face.

    "You're supposed to be imprisoned." Dean blurted without thinking.

    "In that wretched hellhole?" Ghetsis chuckled darkly. "You truly think putting me behind bars would stop me from claiming my rightful place to rule Unova? Every day, the new Team Plasma I am creating grows stronger with people resentful of the Unovan government, rogues and fugitives escaping justice within and outside the region's borders. I'll openly admit that my defeat by that bitch Hilda showed me that my initial ambitions were flawed. No more this time. Straightforward and it will be one of two choices. Submit, or suffer."

    Dean swallowed a lump in his throat. "Killing me will not stop people. They're going to resist. And you're going to have to go through all of them if you want to win."

    "I'm not here to kill you." The man flashed an oily smile at him. "I'm here to make you a deal."

    Veta stepped forward to the Councilman's laptop and plugged in a thumb drive into one of the ports. A couple of moments later, numbers began to scroll down a list, none of them below five digits.

    "Gambling with tens of thousands of dollars." Von remarked. "Bold, I must admit you're very good at the table."

    "And one hit of the button," Veta's finger hovered right over the thing in question. "And I send it to the Castelia Times. All it's missing is a bow."

    Panic filled Dean's insides like a flood. "No! Wait! This will make you look bad! You can't do this!"

    "Oh really?" Von's smirk returned as Ghetsis stepped back to let his agents carry on. "What claim are they going to believe? A well known Councilman of Unova showing off his addiction to gambling with some of the money even being embezzled? Or your flabbergasted claims that there is a Team Plasma growing from the shadows? Both of us know which story the press will be more interested in."

    Now it was Veta's turn to smirk. "And if that's not enough to convince you, I have more than enough proof about your extramarital affair. If you don't comply with us or take our deal, we have the power to break you in both your marriage and career."

    The three of them watched as Dean's expression went from defiant to more subdued to finally accepting his jam. They had all the dirt possible on him and he knew they could be ending everything he had worked to achieve in an instant.

    "What do you want?"

    "What you do best." Ghetsis tapped his cane stick to hide his apparent impatience. "Continue to claim there's another Team Plasma coming. And when we finally do, keep your outspoken criticism."

    "What?" The Councilman was puzzled. "You want me to claim there's Team Plasma out there and then you want me to keep opposing you? That makes no sense."

    "You said it yourself. The people are going to resist. And a unified opposition is much stronger than individuals working independently. It's also much harder to destroy. However I will take advantage of any opportunities I can get. Know your enemy before you deal with them." His eye narrowed. "And that's where you come in. People will flock to you as a figurehead opponent to Team Plasma. Trainers and the like. The stronger ones will stand out as leaders and those we will need to eliminate first."

    Dean's eyes widened at the brilliance of the plan as scandalous as it was. Providing a figure for foes to rally behind with the leader covertly working as a double agent was still a brilliant move, despite the trope being used many times in PokeStar Studios movies more than once. The reality began to settle in and it scared him.

    That he was going to be a turncoat...a mole for the group he had tried so hard to take down.

    "All of this is a lot to take in." To his own credit, his own worries were still being kept at bay in spite of everything. "It looks like an offer I won't be able to refuse."

    "Exactly." The sinister smirks returned to all three of their visible features. "You can't."

    "You're aware of the Pokémon called cosmog?"

    "Cosmog?" Brady asked apprehensively. Kaiser moved back and forth in front of him while the boy's mother and father, Victoria and Benjamin sat on chairs next to one another, bound with plastic ties to their arms and shins. Sweat beaded down the sides of their heads as their eyes went to bewildered state seeing the pressure their own son was going down.

    "Cosmog. It's a small Pokémon, relatively harmless, however it has the power to summon beings of unimaginable power. It is property of the Aether Foundation and they want it back."

    Brady tried not to think too much about how Kaiser referred to it as "property" The man appeared to go against everything he had been taught with Pokémon being living, thinking creatures and partners for the humans they coexisted with.

    "I...no."

    Kaiser's eyes narrowed as he crossed over and knelt down in front of the trembling boy. "Yet you associated with the girl who is in possession of it as well as the boy accomplice. Were you aware of this?"

    "No. I saw no indication that Lillie had a cosmog."

    He searched Brady's expression, finally feeling confident that he was telling the truth. Lusamine did inform him that she was rather secretive to not let word spread around about its capabilities as well as the lookouts she had posted to the people to alert them of anything suspicious. His search on Ula'ula proved nothing on her lead, however when he had gotten the tip from Lusamine herself after one of the visitors spilled it, he was hoping that his search would be narrowed down. This questioning was not going anywhere.

    "You are with the Aether Foundation?" Victoria demanded with Benjamin following with a surprised look of his own. "How dare you barge into our family home like this looking for a Pokémon!"

    "I will do what my boss asks of me." Kaiser replied nonchalantly. "I will neutralize you if you stand in my way."

    "I'm bringing this up in the next committee meeting." She snapped. "Lusamine Hyacinth has gone too far in exercising the Foundation's cooperation with Alola."

    "You do that and I'll end your career before you can blink. Or at least jeopardize it."

    "Really?" Benjamin challenged. "How so?"

    "Mom, Dad." Brady pleaded from the side. "Please stop. I don't know anything...I swear!"

    "Sorry kid." Kaiser grinned again. "But I gotta do this to show how serious this matter is and why I'm not playing around."

    He leaned down to leer at Victoria in the eye. "It's a damn shame how such a successful family like yours has gone one eighty in just three children. Look at your eldest, a renowned Pokémon trainer traveling in the Galar region with a girlfriend."

    A dark chuckle. "And then you have Brady here. Your child prodigy whom you've sheltered and hindered. You don't want him or the rest of Alola to know how you disowned your twin middle children because they followed ambitions that didn't suit yours. I'm no parent, but even I know that's a recipe for disaster."

    "You don't know me." Victoria hissed defiantly.

    "And what gives you the right to judge us as parents?" Benjamin asked.

    "Saying things like that won't stop me from finishing my task. And I've yet to fail Lusamine. I don't intend to do so now."

    "Do whatever you want with us." Victoria's defiant spark failed to diminish. "But I'll make sure you pay for what you do if you harm any of my children!"

    "For someone who would know such a scandal would take her down, I'm more than ready to show the rest of the region one of their best known politicians and committee members disowned two of her sons who went on to be members of the infamous Team Skull." Kaiser's gaze drifted to Benjamin. "And let's not forget how public relations would deteriorate with your company's reputation on the line."

    "No. You wouldn't dare."

    "Try me."

    "Wait!" Brady interrupted him before they could go any further. "Please just stop. They're my family."

    "Stay out of this son." Benjamin ordered firmly. "He only wants money."

    "For once, your son has been right. I'm not here for either of you or your money. Now if you were to offer me a payment that far exceeds the Aether Foundation's, I'm more than willing to stop my pursuit and simply disappear as I have preplanned for myself." He chuckled darkly seeing their horrified expressions. "My reason here is for the boy. Now I know what you're thinking. Kidnapping. Had I wanted to kidnap your trainer son, I could have done so easily and effortlessly. My Pokémon would make short work of his. No...I need his influence and his friendship to the girl who has the cosmog."

    "Wait, why? Why not go after it yourself?"

    "Because she already knows who I am. If she gets any fair warning, she could be back in the wind and I would have lost the lead on my quarry."

    "You want me to spy on Elio and Lillie?" Brady's eyes went wide too. "Wait...no! I didn't mean to say that."

    Kaiser's smirk grew now that he knew the name of her male accomplice. "Elio...who is that? A boyfriend?"

    "I...no. I don't know...exactly."

    "But he travels with her and he's a trainer right?"

    All he got back was silence as the quirky kid looked down, ashamed after knowing that he had betrayed his friends.

    "Won't be much of a concern either way. I'll deal with him. But you're going to get close to them and use this."

    Kaiser drew a small canister from his pocket and turned it over in his palm. It was a cylinder with clear liquid inside with a small spout that looked like it could be pressed into a spray.

    "This is the latest in modular tracking. One spray of this will allow me to monitor the target's movements for hours on end. You already know what you're going to do. You mark both this Elio and Lillie and I'll uphold my end of the bargain and leave you and your mediocre family alone."

    "We are not mediocre!" Victoria was practically screeching now. "I am one of the most respected council committee people in the Alolan government!"

    "I'll also add entitled." Kaiser deadpanned without changing his expression. "Am I clear?"

    Before Brady could respond, he decided to add on. "I know you're still going to defy me and try to warn them." He leaned forward down to the boy, allowing him to gaze into a pair of empty ice blue eyes behind the mask that covered his nose and mouth. "You best watch your back. Lusamine and I have eyes and ears everywhere on these islands. I get one hint that you tip them off to me," A phone was pulled out of his pocket and he showed a rather lengthy email that was composed and set to be sent to the main address of the Hau'oli Star Advertiser. "I'll release this email publicizing how your parents disowned your twin brothers to Team Skull and who knows what else. I don't think people look kindly on knowing they have family or friends with a criminal association. Your reputation is gone before it even begins...your family is ruined and nobody will look at you the same ever again."

    Brady swallowed, knowing that he was making a difficult choice. He wasn't about to turn on friends that he just made, but he couldn't just stand by and watch as the threat loomed right over his family.

    "Think about how everyone is going to see you if you make the wrong choice. Who would you choose? A couple of friends that can be easily replaced? Or your family who you hold dear?"

    Hold dear. For a moment, Brady almost saw an opportunity to follow in Cayden and Jackson's footsteps. After being disowned and not even acknowledged by his parents, they had made their own path for themselves in joining Team Skull. It wasn't the wisest choice in his opinion, but it freed them from the grasp of his parents and they were out doing something they enjoyed more than following their wishes. It wasn't noble and all, spraying profane graffiti over the beautiful cities of the Alola region, but his parents were never there to discipline them into doing otherwise.

    He now had that chance to do what he wanted. His parents obviously had their own plans, but this presented an unexpected twist.

    I love my family. I just want all of us to do the things we love so we can grow and cherish the memories. I don't want to be the person who tears this all apart...but I can't just turn my back on friends either.

    "Welcome aboard the Exeggutor Express! Where our safety record will absolutely slay you!"

    Elio rolled his eyes as he gripped the handrail to ascend the steps of the bus. He had done his gentlemanly act in allowing Lillie up before him so she could pick her seat quicker.

    Thankfully the shuttle service was fairly empty with only a couple other people onboard plus the driver.

    The seats were comfortable enough and each one had a placard of the basic safety instructions of what to do in emergencies. Seatbelts were buckled and with a honk of the rather obnoxious horn, they were off. From the driver's announcement, the estimated trip up to the summit of Mauna Hokulani would take between forty to fifty minutes. Similar to a captain on a commercial airplane, he enthusiastically gave a safety briefing to his passengers before telling them to sit back and relax to enjoy the ride up.

    Elio and Lillie were glued to the window, staring out as the bus climbed the sloped road. It was already a considerable distance down to ground level where they could start to see the outskirts of Malie City and the highway that looped around the majority of the island. Close to the waterfront, there were several colorful canopies and tents erected right by Banyan Drive where the main celebration of the Draconid Festivus would happen.

    "I'm actually kind of excited for it." Lillie pointed out to the tents. "They said there's games, food and I want to fly one of the kites that burn into the sky."

    Elio's thoughts immediately went to seeing the two of them where they would hold a big dragon kite together and then launch it with the entire fleet of the others. He had seen a picture on a computer one time where they would all slowly catch fire and create a dazzling display of flashing colors in the saying of thanks to the people's deity, the legendary Pokémon Rayquaza.

    "Me too." Elio looked back at her. "I'll make sure you get the kite you want so you can fly it."

    "I'm not letting myself have all the fun." She nervously fiddled with her hands. He saw that and slowly reached over, clasping one in his own. Her breath stopped and she avoided eye contact.

    "But I want you to fly the kite with me."

    Sun allowed a thin smile. "Okay. Then how about we both pick a kite that we like and then we'll fly and burn it together?"

    "Yes. I'd like that."

    Her head lifted up and they finally made eye contact. She didn't move when Elio leaned in close to the point where their noses were touching.

    My face is probably hot like the sun...oh no! Sun! I'm thinking of him like that too!

    Lillie was about to pucker her lips when he leaned further forward, gently nuzzling her forehead with his own. His hands gently touched the sides of her head as they both closed their eyes to save the close and intimate contact.

    Her skin felt incredibly soft and warm to the touch and it was also the way her body size and shape was.

    She fits perfectly in my arms. I...want to hold her like this forever. What are you doing to me?

    Elio knew that thinking about his crush like this would cause the neurotoxin to act up and give him another headsplitting pain. Despite how much it hurt, he knew that it wasn't going to stop his feelings. This girl was close to him and there was no migraine type of sensation that would convince him otherwise.

    "I won't let anything happen to you." He mumbled while they were close.

    "What?"

    They wistfully parted and stared at one another. Elio took a deep breath, still not quite sure how he was going to word what he was going to say.

    "Lillie...while we were at the Aether Foundation Paradise...we encountered one of the ultra beasts...as I told you before. It actually grabbed ahold of me and...I don't even know what the hell it did."

    "Elio? Are you okay?"

    He almost wanted to just smash his lips right on top of hers, but it just didn't feel appropriate doing something so awkward in such a public place. Her lips were incredibly...kissable.

    Just...why does she have to look so good all the time? This is torturous.

    "No, I don't think I am. While that beast got ahold of me, I freed myself, but I experience this really bad head pains...like someone's stabbing the back of my head with a knife made of ice." It made him feel terrible as her face turned to one of pain and she leaned back onto him again.

    "It hurts...it hurts a lot and it always comes at one particular moment."

    "What moment?"

    He drew a deep breath. "Whenever I think of you...and me...together...close."

    Lillie stopped. "Like alone kind of close?"

    Too embarrassed to look at her again, but he slowly nodded.

    "Oh Elio." She put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry."

    "Me too. I don't want to stop doing it either. You're too important to me."

    Despite that small confession, she never felt uncomfortable or unsafe while around him. He had done so much for her and confided that as a friend and somewhere she knew that he was a man of his word.

    "I won't let anything happen to you."

    Lillie smiled up at him, resting her head on his shoulder. "Neither will I."

    The first thing they noticed once they got to the town of Mountaintop was the difference in the air.

    Unlike the city, the air was slightly thinner at its higher altitude of nearly twelve thousand feet. Glancing out the window again, they were both surprised and fascinated at the rolling clouds that were now underneath them. Elio had never seen the tops of clouds unless he was on an airplane. Now it was something else seeing how they drifted away while watching on a slope above them.

    Roads grew more rugged and treacherous with some of the inclines quite steep and the vegetation rapidly being reduced to the occasional tree and shrub that somehow thrived this high up. Grass patches were still present, but unlike the vivid green from the lower altitudes, these were a beige color resembling dead foliage.

    Judging by the cracks in the ground at the edges of the slopes and the lack of shrubbery, Elio had to guess that rainfall up here was significantly less than Malie. The clouds hanging low around the mountain further supported this as it dumped its payload over the city and lower down areas. In a wide contrast to the overcast sky while they were on the ground, it was incredibly clear with the sun shining unobstructed at the peak and upper sections of the mountain.

    They finally saw a few smaller buildings, most of them houses or single story structures that were all fenced off from the main road. It seemed like it was the usual of how a town sprouted up, with everything erected to both sides and using the road to go through it all. A sign indicated that the town of Mountaintop only had a population of sixty two permanent inhabitants, however the visitation seriously upped the number as tourists, trainers and workers of the famous Hokulani Observatory would stay for a while. There were a lot of athletes who would come up to Mountaintop to train themselves and their Pokémon for a few hours before heading back down closer to sea level. So the actual population was constantly fluctuating up and down.

    Still, Elio could see why it was so sparse. While many did enjoy and see life on the mountains as a way of escape from a busy city and an opportunity for adventure, it also meant other hazards and danger were going to be present. The lack of water meant that it had to either be imported or have irrigation lines dug all the way up the side. The latter was likely too expensive of a project.

    The road looped at the end of a large silver futuristic dome at the top that was slit open. He saw the bus terminus right in front of the courtyard and flags right before the entrance.

    Elio felt Jangmo'o stir in his pack, figuring the baby Pokémon would be awake soon. Lillie actually laughed at the irony of how she always wanted to keep Nebby inside her own bag for its safety when Jangmo'o always wanted to go out whenever they were exploring.

    The little dragon had quickly become quite curious and inquisitive despite its young age and he was finding out that caring for a baby Pokémon was much more than he expected.

    It's good practice. Just wait until I end up having an actual baby.

    He glanced at Lillie and a particular school project had come to mind while on the topic of offspring. Their somber mood was placed aside.

    It was in biology where they were covering the genetics section. The teacher divided the class evenly, pairing one boy with one girl where they would "make a baby"

    Of course the class' less-than-developed maturity made it sound a combination of fascinating and disgusting at the same time, however the project was to hypothesize how genetics would work and how it would diversify future generations.

    Elio wouldn't have minded it much and kept it to himself, except for the fact that he was paired with the one girl. The one that he had a huge crush on and the rest of the basketball team mercilessly teasing him for it.

    I don't even remember her name.

    Jaydn! That was it!

    It had been an awkward thought for him. If Jaydn and I were to actually make a baby boy or girl...this would be what they'd look like.

    Now looking at Lillie, he was strangely fantasizing the same hypothetical question. If they were to have children, what kind of features would Elio himself pass onto his child? What about Lillie's?

    Mom would go nuts. All "Your babies would be gorgeous." kind of thing.

    In spite of all his odd thoughts; Elio knew that this wasn't a right way to think of things.

    I'm sixteen. I can't even get married legally, let alone have kids.

    Jangmo'o peeked out of his bag, squeaking softly.

    "Hey buddy." Elio stroked the non-sharp part of his scaly head. He had already pricked himself on the scales that lined the lizard's sides. Petting in the direction the spiky features pointed similar to a shark was the sure way to prevent getting cut or injured again. He had no doubt that going the other way would draw blood.

    "You hungry?" Elio grabbed the bowl where he used to feed his Pokémon and watered it down so that the kibble-like solids would break up and make it easier for his baby to eat.

    With a happy squeak, the dragon sat on Elio's lap sniffing the mush and then chowing right down. Right away, he could tell that Jangmo'o preferred the meat based feed over the grain and plant. In fact; most of his team did considering that Torracat, Akela, Rufflet were all mainly carnivorous. Nani ate meat to an extent. Charjabug was mixed; she sometimes ate the meat based, but tended to go after the grain and plant as well as feeding on electricity.

    The way she gets nourishment from that blows my mind.

    And of course it just happened that the meat based Pokémon feed was the more expensive. Elio was already putting a considerable amount of money just to keep his Pokémon fed.

    "You really know how to take care of Pokémon Elio." Lillie softly said beside him. "I can already tell your jangmo'o looks up to you."

    "Well he isn't officially mine yet." He reminded her. "I haven't caught him in a Poké Ball yet."

    "Are you going to?"

    "I don't know. He's still a baby, doesn't really listen to commands and I haven't put him in an official battle yet. At the same time, I just don't want him to go into the wild by himself." They smiled as he was finishing the last bit of food. "I'd like to keep him. He's been a great Pokémon so far."

    "Whatever you do, I know you'll make the right decision." Lillie touched his shoulder and leaned a little onto him. His breath stopped and he slowly snaked an arm to return her embrace. "You're a very special person Elio. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise."

    "And the same to you. Nobody can replace you."

    As the bus stopped and its doors parted, Elio let Jangmo'o run down the stairs right out into the street while he ran behind to catch up. Torracat and Akela were also let out so they could both explore and keep an eye on the newest family member.

    "Wow!" The summit was an enormous plateau area that slanted down slight before going much more sharply on the face. Aside from the observatory situated above the town a little bit, each small home and other building was level, each on concrete foundations that had heating, cooling and water pipes to provide the necessities. Each house was a single story tall, all connected by dirt roads. Some of them had metal sheds long and wide enough to cover space for a single car. From the end of the neighborhood was a small grocer, post office, power station that was using solar power before it hit the circular roundabout that was the shuttle terminal right in front of the observatory. The sun was shining down, yet the high altitude and gusts of wind made the hot weather much more tolerable.

    Along the slopes, he saw a small group of pinkish Pokémon that were frolicking about just underneath the homes. Some were smaller with dark ears and clung close to the larger ones which he assumed were parents. Elio knew the species already, having resided in the city in the shadow of the mountain where they were found.

    Clefairy? I'm surprised they live this close to humans.

    "I zpy zome new Pokémon! Bzzt!" Rotom jumped right into his usual info dump. "Cleffa. Starshape Pokémon. Said to have ridden on shooting stars. Cleffa often appear in places where meteorites have struck in the past. Cleffa is a fairy type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Rotom flipped his image to the larger one, which had a bigger body frame and a curled appendage on its back that almost looked like a pair of low hanging wings.

    "Clefairy. Fairy Pokémon. It is the evolved form of cleffa. Its adorable behavior and appearance make it popular among mena nd women. It's numbers are few however. Clefairy is a fairy type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Elio watched as the group of cleffa were jumping up and down while a rock seemed to float.

    A floating rock?

    The rock spun clockwise with five angular silver spokes at its edges. The cleffa happily jumped on it, but several were pulled down by their clefairy parents. He now saw that it was marked with dark spots and sporadic cracks along its jagged surface.

    "Rotom, is that a Pokémon too?"

    "Oh yezzz it izzz! Time for another entry! Bzzt! Minior. Meteor Pokémon. Born from mutated nanoparticles, the places where Minior fall are very few with Alola being a common place. This Pokémon's diet of atmospheric dust influences the color of its core which is popular in Alolan fashion and lifestyles. Minior is a rock and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Lillie, look." Elio whispered, but it was unnecessary as the Pokémon below couldn't hear him at this distance.

    She came right up to his side and looked where he pointed. "Woah. That's amazing! I love clefairy! It's such a cute Pokémon!"

    "Well maybe when you decide to become a trainer, I'll see if I can catch one or a cleffa for you."

    "Thank you Elio."

    "Yeah...of course. Anything for you."

    She blushed when he slipped his hand over hers and gave it a gentle squeeze.

    Quite a bit of things here. I'm sure there's people who live here for the simple life too.

    "This is such a cute town!" Lillie almost squealed out loud and went right to the other side railing where it was a steeper drop down. Just below them were the clouds obscuring the ground as well as a majority of the western area.

    "Elio! Take my picture!" Excitement about something else seemed to show that she had forgotten about wanting a clefairy.

    "Sure." Rotom floated over to him, activating his camera mode. Sun held it up as her face lit up one of the most beautiful smiles he had ever seen. Her eyes sparkled and she had spread her arms out as if taking it all in. As he snapped a picture, he had gotten a surprise when she curved to the side of the ground, standing on her hands as her legs went up into the air. Her hat loosened as it nearly fell off, but she completed the cartwheel and bounded right up to his side.

    "Did you get it?"

    He opened the library, having caught a couple of images of her in the middle of the act.

    "When did you learn how to do cartwheels?"

    "Since I was seven. My mother had me take gymnastics. I haven't done anything like that for a long time, but I still remember a lot."

    "That was a really good one." Elio complimented. "I'm not that athletic. At least not to do that."

    "I guess I'm better than you at that huh?" She shot him a smirk and put her hands on her hips.

    Although he was being teased, Sun truly liked this side of Lillie where she was a lot more open, outgoing and dare he say it...a little bit flirty. He had yet to see a frown on her face and judging by how she watched the battle between him and Brady as well as just spending time around each other showed that she had come a long way from being a shy meek blonde living in the loft of Professor Kukui's lab shack.

    If only she was a trainer, she could be an amazing traveling partner on a journey shared together.

    "Alright, so now we need to take a picture together."

    "Together?"

    "Yeah! Here, you carry me!" She declared.

    "I don't know about that."

    "Oh come on!" Lillie crossed her arms and gave him that familiar pouty look. Sun tried his best not to waver, even though he found that expression of her...so darn cute.

    "Carry me! Please?!"

    "Pew!"

    Elio shot the bag an incredulous look. "Nebby, you're supposed to be on my side!"

    "Pew!"

    Jangmo'o squeaked as he toddled by his trainer's leg, looking up expectantly.

    "Of course." He knelt down and placed the baby dragon on his shoulder. Purring happily, he dug his claws into the side of his shirt, careful not to hurt his human friend before settling back inside the boy's backpack.

    "Oh so you'll carry your Pokémon companion but not me?"

    Elio playfully rolled his eyes at that. "Alright, fine. But you asked for it."

    "Asked for what?" Lillie was about to say something else when Elio moved forward, his left arm going straight for her legs. She let out a squeal of surprise when his swift motion had scooped her up and he carried her in front of him bridal style.

    Lillie was extremely grateful that her wide brimmed hat was concealing her reddened face from him. She knew the practice traditionally done by newlyweds crossing the threshold of the door of their home on their first night as a married couple. The thought was always at the back of her mind as a lifelong dream since she was a little girl.

    Hurry up Rotom, she's heavier than you think!

    Rotom looked pleased with itself as it floated confidently up to their level and snapped a couple of pictures.

    "Aaaaaand done! Bzzt! Now I shall zend them to your mother azzzz a pre-wedding photo yezzzz?"

    "Wedding?" The two teens shared a confused glance before a brief moment of panic overcame them. "No! Don't do that!"

    "Not yet. Noted for future reference! Bzzt!"

    "Ah there you two alola manu are!"

    Professor Kukui strode confidently towards them, straightening his rainbow themed cap atop his head. Like the other times they had seen him, his white lab coat was open and swayed gently in the wind. Since there was nothing taller or obstructive up here, the wind blew harshly and kicked up loose dirt that wasn't on the ground.

    Elio felt Jangmo'o wiggle a little in his backpack and saw his small head peek out from the top flap. In a flash, he had already jumped out and scampered up to the older man, sniffing his shoes curiously like a little puppy.

    "Well that's a surprise!" His smile grew when he glanced back at Elio. "Did you find this little guy wandering? It's a jangmo'o! They're incredibly rare Pokémon!"

    "Actually no professor. See, I got an egg on Akala Island for safekeeping and eventually it just kept on going around with me. It just hatched and he's already a handful."

    Kukui nodded. "Yeah baby Pokémon can be like that sometimes." He knelt down and picked the little dragon up, scratching his belly as it squeaked and flailed its tiny limbs in delight. "Jangmo'o love to have their bellies rubbed. You got yourself a nice Pokémon."

    "Well he isn't my Pokémon yet." Elio admitted. "I didn't want him to feel so stressed out when he first hatched, so I let him tag along in his own way. In my bag."

    "Just like Nebby." Lillie looked at Elio and as he met her gaze, they both giggled like little children.

    "Anyway, this is Mauna Hokulani!" Kukui spread his arms wide out. "The second tallest peak in all of Alola."

    He pointed behind them, "And see that steep, jutting, majestic peak right over the horizon there?"

    Elio and Lillie turned around to see another mountain, this one much larger and taller than the one they stood on. Clouds did obscure its defining features, yet it towered over like a silent sentry. There were a few visible lights that could be seen close to the peak, some blinking others remaining solid.

    Construction equipment. They're building something up there.

    Even with it entirely not visible, both were amazed at the sheer size of it. Kukui had been right. It was indeed majestic.

    "Check it out!" The professor pointed to it in the distance. "That's Mauna Lanakila. The highest peak in Alola!"

    "That's really cool professor!" Elio's eyes shined bright as he already began to picture himself summiting the top and planting a firm declarant foot right at the tip.

    "You bet it is cousin! It's a sacred spot yeah, the closest you can get to the lani above and the legendary Pokémon of Alola said to be the moon incarnate!"

    "Like Lunala?"

    "Lunala?" Lillie piped up and coincidentally, Nebby peeked out of the open zipper of her bag with curiosity catching its own interest. "Do you think that's where we'll need to go to send Nebby home?"

    "Could be. What else are we doing on Lanakila?" Elio looked back and fixed his gaze on the lights at the peak. "Ski resort? That would be awesome. I haven't done that since we had that huge snowfall on Mount Moon."

    Kukui chuckled. "You sure you're good as me on those? Heh. Well maybe we can put it as a big ski place when we've got the success after my League project."

    "League project?" Elio and Lillie asked at the same time.

    "Of course! There's no better place to put Alola's very own Pokémon League! Woo! People are gonna get knocked dead like a sky drop! On the peak of the highest point of Alola will be where I establish the region's very first Pokémon League!"

    Elio smiled as Kukui was making a fist and saw the man almost shaking with giddy excitement.

    "I'm gonna get everyone up there who's finished their island challenges, yeah and line them up there on the peak of Mauna Lanakila where they will battle against the kahunas to become the island challenge champion! Woo!"

    Sun couldn't believe his ears; Professor Kukui was heading up a project to start up Alola's own Pokémon League! All of it on a symbolic sacred site where humans and Pokémon would bond together.

    I won't even be done with the island challenge. I won't stop at just that. I'm hungry.

    And hungry he was. Delusions of grandeur flooded his mind as he pictured himself holding up a trophy to confetti, cheering crowds with his battered team behind him as they fought tooth and nail to victory.

    That's the endgame. That's where I can achieve my dream of becoming a master Pokémon trainer. Just like those before me; Steven Stone, Diantha Rousseau, Cynthia Shirona.

    Brendan Maple.

    "So how would it work professor?" Elio was secretly hoping to get a glimpse of what he was up against when it happened. "How did the previous island challenge champions get their title?"

    "Oh wouldn't you like to know cousin!" Kukui smirked, already catching onto what the boy was up to. "Back in the older days...mine to be exact," He paused, letting the two teens snicker briefly. "Once we collected each of the Z-crystals and defeated the four island kahunas, an island challenger would have to go to the summit of Mauna Lanakila and then face all four island kahunas in a row. One after the other."

    "That sounds pretty similar to how the Indigo, Hoenn and Sinnoh Leagues work." While there weren't kahunas outside Alola, they were instead done by some of the most skilled and strong trainers in quartets giving them the name Elite Four. He remembered that now, regulations in some of the regions were now allowing challengers to pick the sequence in which Elite Four member they would face in their own custom order.

    "I've always wanted to pay homage to our old traditions and customs." Kukui lowered his head and voice to a whisper. "As much as I would love to move, modernize and create, we must never forget where we came from and what we do to identify ourselves as a region and culture."

    He opened his eyes. "But we're doing away with that. Our very own Pokémon League will be special and I want all trainers to strive to be the best they can possibly be with themselves and with their Pokémon."

    "That's amazing professor." Elio noted. "I'd love to participate in your League."

    "And you will! Keep finishing all your trials and grand trials and that will mega punch you right into qualifying for the Alola League!"

    "I cannot wait! Let's do it!"

    Much to her embarrassment; Lillie had a slight bit of altitude sickness while they walked around, so Kukui took her inside the Pokémon center to try and calm it down. They both promised to meet up with Elio after she felt better by the Hokulani Observatory, where he had confirmed where the next of his trials was going to take place.

    Altitude sickness often came from people did vigorous activity up on higher elevations caused by the notably thinner oxygen levels. Lillie had shown two mild symptoms of discomfort often associated with it; dizziness and fatigue.

    It's a good thing Professor Kukui took her inside to lie down. Elio thought to himself. Maybe it was from those cartwheels she did or something. While he hadn't experienced anything yet, he was still careful in doing the normal things to help acclimate his body to the differing environments. Slower more controlled breathing, regular hydration and whenever he felt queasy or sick, he fixated his gaze on the distant peak of Mauna Lanakila.

    Exploring the grassy patches behind Mountaintop, Elio saw that the wildlife was vastly different. Jangmo'o was allowed to explore around with Torracat watching him closely. Some trainers were also wandering the winding roads and grass, searching for Pokémon to catch or others to battle.

    Elio defeated everyone who challenged him before searching through the grass for items inconspicuously dropped by trainers.

    One of the things he had found was a yellow-golden technical machine. Rotom's scans indicated that it was a new model and the move it taught was volt switch, a strong electric type move that would return the user to its trainer and send out a replacement Pokémon for mismatches.

    "So Charjabug, you want to learn a new move?"

    She had agreed and they had perfected the process in no time at all. He did some more practice battling in an area where few people passed by other than the occasional bus that went down to the terminus close to Malie City.

    Jangmo'o was already becoming very proficient at battling, almost immediately picking a fight with a larger brown, red crested bird. As the two were tussling and exchanging blows; Rotom gave out the information on the new Pokémon species.

    "New Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Fearow. Beak Pokémon. It is the evolved form of spearow. It's tough and has excellent stamina. It has no problem flying continuously while carrying a heavy load. Fearow is a normal and flying type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Elio found that Jangmo'o was learning quickly in fighting by his commands. From his haunted 'Dex's information, he was able to already use the moves of tackle, protect and bide. The little lizard was surprisingly hardy, using his protect move to guard itself against the ongoing barrage of the fearow's fury attack and strong beak. Instead of forming a circular dome shield like others, it was a wide spread wall, closer to a reflect or light screen that extended a ways to the side.

    It's almost like it can shield allies too.

    Jangmo'o rolled on the ground, avoiding another peck from the fearow before he launched himself up in a tackle move that brought the bigger bird down and out of the fight. He squeaked in celebration and ran right over to Elio. Torracat was right behind him, clearly impressed at the face his young teammate had taken down a much more powerful foe.

    "You did great buddy." He stroked the same favorite spot where Jangmo'o loved, right on the creature's belly. "I'm very proud of you."

    "Bzzt! You two were right in sync! Bzzt!" Rotom chimed from beside him. "Why don't you go ahead and finally catch it? Bzzt!"

    "That actually sounds like a good idea." Elio looked down at Jangmo'o. "What do you think? Want to go on an adventure with me and my ohana?"

    Jangmo'o squeaked happily and jumped up and down. Clearly he was happy at that.

    "Good! Now get ready! Every good capture needs a battle!" He motioned Torracat to move forward to begin, but the fire cat seemed reluctant.

    "What's the matter?" He asked him. "We have to battle him in order to catch him."

    Torracat purred while looking longingly at Jangmo'o across from him. If Elio had to guess anything, it was that he was going to be reluctant to attack someone he cared about.

    "I know what you're thinking, but it's only one time. And a battle is a battle right?"

    They were interrupted by Jangmo'o squeaking and he dashed right back over to their side. Using his hind legs, he dug inside Elio's backpack on the ground to drag out a white Pokéball that had bits of crimson red trim along the seams and central release button. He settled down with it in front and bit on the top surface with his beaked mouth.

    Wow. He's a lot smarter than I thought.

    Elio knelt down in front of him, gently reaching out and moving his mouth away from the premier ball. They were rare to obtain and he happened to get just a couple of them as added bonuses when he bought standard poke balls from the mart.

    "Hey buddy. Do you like this Poké Ball?" Jangmo'o paid no attention to him and kept hugging it close.

    "I'll take it as a yes." Sun tugged it away from him and flipped on the arming mechanism. He took a moment to look it once over, satisfied that the capture matrix was empty and undamaged before popping the housing open. The targeting system immediately locked onto Jangmo'o's signature before sucking the creature inside with a reddish light.

    The premier ball snapped closed with a high-pitched whistling sound he had never heard before as it settled onto the ground. To his surprise, the ball shook once before the button clicked to signify a successful capture.

    "Aw yeah!" He made a fist with Torracat jumping up at his side to celebrate. "I caught a jangmo'o!"

    "Congratzzz! Bzzt!" Rotom added in his own saluations. "I'm updating and analyzing itzzzz data! Bzzt! Aaaand done! Bzzt! Jangmo'o izzz a male and hazzz the ability bulletproof! It hazzz the movezzz tackle, protect and bide! Bzzt!"

    "That was a pretty rockin' capture there!" Elio heard Professor Kukui's voice from the top of the hill and saw the man at the edge of the rail. "You got yourself a tough as dirt Pokémon right there cousin!"

    "Thanks Professor!" He shouted back. "How's Lillie?"

    "She's feeling better. It's fun how much she gets worried after I told her she'd miss your trial."

    Elio felt his face heat up at that, still a little disbelieving that she wanted to see him battle after being so vocally against them for some time.

    But she is starting to find them fun. I've noticed that much.

    "But I talked to the captain, they're ready and waiting for you if you are."

    "Yeah I'm ready." Elio smiled examining his newest Pokémon inside the ball. "Let's do it!"

    It was a short walk back to the Pokémon center where he had healed up his party in a quick manner and stocked back up on medicine and other essential items. One of the other clerks had access to more technical machines and he thought it would be good to invest some money into a couple that they sold there, despite the outrageous prices.

    Well you know what those Unovan trainers always said when buying these infinite use TMs, you buy once and cry once.

    He picked two of them; one teaching the move bulldoze, which Kukui had recommended for the upcoming trial and the other one with the move steel wing. Rufflet would be the best benefactor from that one, given how a steel type move could deal super effective damage to rock and ice types, which were two of his main weaknesses. Browsing the compatibility for bulldoze; he did see that Jangmo'o was able to learn it and immediately set the machine to teach it the new move.

    Kukui and Lillie waited for him outside and he felt relieved that a little bit more color had returned to her pale features after rest and some refreshments. He did have to admit that the hike going up hills to the station at the base of the mountain was taxing and someone not conditioned to that kind of physical activity would probably take more time to recover from such a strenuous activity.

    "Hey." He greeted her, almost completely ignoring the professor. Had he been paying attention, Sun would've noticed the growing smirk on his face.

    "Hey. I'm okay." She gave him a soft smile. "I guess I just got exhausted and a little sick from being so high on a mountain. But I feel much better now, so you bet I'm going to see your trial!"

    "That's great. I'd love it if you watched. But I understand if you're not comfortable...since you don't like Pokémon getting hurt and all."

    Lillie nodded, thankful for how considerate he was being. "Thank you. But I think that battles are looking a little bit fun with the Pokémon having just as much as their trainers. I'm trying to not have such a closed mind on the matter. So I'll cheer you on no matter how I feel!"

    Her words made Elio feel all soft again and he could help but stare at her as she clutched her arms close to her chest while the mountain wind blew gently at her hair.

    I could stare at her all day.

    "Um, we should get going."

    "That's a good idea cousin!" Kukui said, making him realize he was still standing beside them. "I can't have you two with a foresight on each other forever! You're only sixteen for the tapu's sake!"

    As they approached the Observatory and crossed the front courtyard, Elio saw a wide space in front which was flanked by sidewalks that led to the two sets of doors at the center of the building. The big dome was on the right hand side while the left looked to house a few other facilities that he guessed were things related to space exploration and studying the unknown.

    The fact that they had just discovered a Pokémon from space weeks earlier was astounding. Hoenn's champion Brendan Maple had saved the world from a cataclysmic meteor which turned out to be a vessel carrying a being known as Deoxys. With the aid of the legendary Rayquaza, he had battled and successfully captured it, using it on occasion in battle while allowing the Mossdeep Space Center to study it from time to time. Some of the properties they said in an article about it were oddly similar, including how a Poké Ball had effortlessly captured it while in space. No such thing had ever been done before. Brendan was the unlikely first.

    A man stood out in the front, giving a friendly wave to the group. He had sandy blonde hair and wore a pair of khakis with a blue shirt over a lanky frame. There was a pair of thin rimmed silver glasses over his nose and eyes. Elio noticed it was more of a "nerdy" look, but he couldn't help thinking he had seen him before somewhere.

    "Hey there Mo!" Despite the different body types and appearances, Kukui strode up to him and they gave one another a big hearty hug with an audible clap as their hands slapped another right on their backs. It made Elio flinch slightly.

    "Still fired up as ever...eh Royal?" Mo grinned through the embrace. "It's good to see you again Emilio."

    So these two are on a first name basis.

    Elio's thoughts stopped in his tracks the moment his mind crossed off that Mo had called the professor; Royal.

    Wait a minute! Did that just confirm Professor Kukui's Masked Royal alter ego?

    The professor himself hadn't caught on like Elio did, but let out a laugh as they separated. "Ha, good one man!"

    "Hey Lillie!" Mo waved at her. "How's the little one?"

    "Oh, Nebby's great!" Her smile broadened and their attention was all on her bag as it shook and the little cloud ball Pokémon jumped out, practically racing for Mo.

    "I'm glad to see you too Nebby!" He chuckled as it circled around his shoulders and he gave it a pat on the head. "Why don't you head back into the bag? We don't want anyone else here to see you that isn't supposed to."

    At Lillie's urging, the cosmog reluctantly dove back inside, but he could see a pair of playful yellow eyes peering out from the darkness within the opening.

    "Lemme introduce you cousin." Kukui said. "Elio, this is Molayne. I call him Mo for short."

    "Last name's Pitt. Ah so you're Kukui's prodigal trainer." He reached out for a handshake, which Elio accepted. Unlike Kukui's grip, Molayne's was a bit less firm, but he kept a harder eye contact. "I'm the director of the Hokulani Observatory as you probably might've guessed. I also manage the PC servers in the various fixtures around Alola."

    "That's pretty cool." Elio said. "You the captain?"

    Molayne laughed. "Oh that's good. Heh, but actually no. I used to be a trial captain, but I left that position years ago. Kukui here always gave me merry hell about the stuff we'd do off duty."

    "Exactly! Molayne and I go a long way back cousin! We were fellow trainers just like you and Hau on your island challenge back some twelve years ago."

    "Thirteen." A smirk flashed across Molayne's features. "We were sixteen when we started remember? You're getting old, like I've said."

    "Hold up." Elio held up his hand. "Professor, I remember you had a picture of you when you and kahuna Hala were younger. Is that Molayne also in there too?"

    "Yeah that's exactly right! You've got a mind reader of a memory! Soon enough, it's going to be you and Hau who will have a picture like that in your house to commemorate your journey! Woo!"

    "I'm actually looking forward to it. There was someone else in there too, but I don't remember what he looked like. Do you all reminisce about old times together over food and drinks like a reunion?"

    "Well," Kukui's voice trailed off and Molayne stared at the ground with a pebble apparently catching his interest. "Molayne's busy especially with the new discovery of Deoxys and other cosmic things happening in the deep unknown."

    "I'm more busy than his wife actually. Today I seem to be having a bigger break than normal. I'm honestly starting to get a little suspicious."

    "Right. It's quiet…too quiet."

    "Exactly my train of thought Elio." Molayne pointed at him with both fingers. "Thanks anyway for coming all this way up to Hokulani. You didn't get mountain sickness did you?"

    "I did." Lillie sheepishly admitted. "I didn't know that all this hiking was going to be exhausting. I guess I should've better prepared."

    "You did. Don't worry. We're all here to make sure you're okay." Elio assured her, placing a hand on her shoulder. He looked away, but Lillie shuddered at his touch, feeling slight calluses at the base of his hand and fingertips.

    "Of course. I always keep anti-nauseating pills close by, so if you start to feel sick, let me know. It takes travelers by surprise all the time."

    "Thank you. I don't really want to be in the way of Elio's trials if that happens."

    Lillie you're not being a bother at all. In fact, I'd rather have you here by my side as I try and complete it!

    "Our captain Sophocles is a busy man all the time. Always calculating comets' paths or working on that Festival Plaza of his."

    "Wait, this captain created Festival Plaza?" Elio asked again, still incredulous over the next info dump he kept on getting. The social media website had seemed to spring up overnight, allowing users to post statements, pictures and videos among a few of the things to share with tagged friends and followers. Although it was mainly tailored towards Pokémon trainers, it branched out to hundreds or maybe thousands of other topics from tips of home care to a compilation of online fails posted for a daily laugh. A lot of famous trainers like Cynthia Shirona had their own accounts with millions of followers. Elio's first big trainer he had begun to follow was Brendan Maple, who already had more than four million subscribed to his feed.

    "He sure did. Right in his house."

    Isn't that how stuff like the Poketch and C-Gear companies start? By some nerd or geek living in their parents' basement?

    "So while we wait for him to finish up, how about I test to see if you're qualified to take it on. Plus, I want to see how Kukui's prodigy battles for myself."

    Elio felt his blood pump with excitement. "You're challenging me to a battle?"

    "Of course. Why not have a friendly bout while we wait?"

    "I don't mind at all."

    "Excellent. We have a courtyard in front that we can use."

    Molayne led them down the sidewalks all while explaining all the different nebulas, comets and planets the Observatory has studied. It's incredible power was merely an amplifier though with its main basic mechanism similar to a telescope bought at the store.

    "This is an ideal location because the light pollution is incredibly low. Close to a more lit up city like Hau'oli or Celadon City, it blocks out some of the dimmer stars and even the more luminous ones can be difficult to observe. We're also above most water vapor, if you saw the clouds underneath us, which removes another obscurity commonly associated with observing."

    "Can you take us there another time?"

    "Of course." Molayne arrived at the side of the field and took his spot. "For now, let's get this battle done and your trial complete. I'm eager to see what you'll do and show you the skills of a trainer who toughened up adventuring alongside Kukui back in the day!"

    "Hey Lillie." Kukui whispered. "Do you want to referee?"

    "Me? Referee?" She stammered, already thinking about all the ways she could mess things up.

    No way! What if I referee and declare Elio the loser?

    "I think Elio would be surprised and delighted to see you step up. Don't you think so?"

    "Well...yeah. I'll do it."

    "You'll do great." Kukui encouraged her as she stepped up.

    "Okay...here I go." She caught Elio smiling at her, which gave her a little bit more courage and confidence. "I can do this. Um...this is a...uh three on three battle?" Glancing back at Kukui, he gave her a thumbs up. "A three on three battle! The winner will be declared when all Pokémon on one party's side is unable to battle further! Trainers, do you...uh accept these terms?"

    "Yes."

    Molayne nodded. "Yes."

    "Then let the battle start! Trainers, send out your Pokémon!"

    This is where I leave it off. We've got a battle next and the electric type trial! And some other things too. Only time is going to tell what happens next! I'll be seeing everyone.

    Translations:

    • Alola manu - Lovebirds
    • Lani - Heavens

    As always, mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose. I'll see you again where I'll hopefully be refreshed and energized to continue plugging away at this. Again, if you need to ask me anything, just want to chat or a progress update, shoot me a PM. I don't bite. Unless provoked. :)

    Brav
     
  11. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Bravo
    (Braviary)
    Level 62
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola readers! I'm terribly sorry this one took so long to put out, but hopefully from here on it won't be many months before I post another update. This holiday season has already been a busy one with both work and family. I'll aim to get the next one out by Christmas time.

    In the time I was gone, I've moved halfway across the States for my job, the second time this has happened in the past couple years. It's just been a hectic thing of moving, settling and getting a bunch of other things squared away. It's like trying to step on a treadmill already going at sprinting speed.

    Bear with me here. I'll make things worth the wait.


    Mister Molayne battled Elio and it was really intense! But at the end, I'm pretty sure he is more than qualified for the trial! Molayne specialized in steel type Pokémon, one that I read has a lot of strong defensive qualities. I even got to referee my very first battle! It's harder than I thought!

    Speaking of which; I also met the captain. His name is Sophocles...or at least that's how he goes. He's kind of shy and it's not really the person I expected to create Festival Plaza. I was imagining the founder to be a well-kept man in a business suit.. Sophocles was wearing a gamer shirt! How is that possible?

    "Time to see how your skills are young trial goer!" Molayne confidently said from his side of the field. "Take the field Chains!"

    The Pokéball released a strange creature in a flash of light. It was small in stature, maybe about the size of Elio's two fists together. A facelike feature was at the center of a teardrop body with a silver ring of...keys?

    Is that Pokémon holding keys?

    "This is a klefki." Molayne introduced them. "Chains has been with me for a long time. You able to keep up with her?"

    "She's holding your keys?"

    "That'zzz right Bzzt! Here is where I zpout off a new Pokémon detected thingy before anyone elzzze can zay zo! Bzzt! Klefki. Key ring Pokémon. Although it's unclear why it collects keys, giving it a key makes Klefki very happy. However, it apparently only likes master keys. Klefki is a steel and fairy type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Steel type huh?" Elio pulled his choice into his hand and thumbed the arming button. "Then I choose Torracat!"

    The fire feline deftly leapt onto all fours and stretched, staring at his opponent with intensity while the flaming bell ignited, throwing off golden sparks.

    "You most definitely know your type matchups." Molayne complimented. "Now don't get all cocky just because of that. Chains and I have beaten fire types before."

    "You haven't faced anyone like Torracat." Elio spun his finger to begin. "Use flame charge!"

    Torracat purred loudly before engulfing himself in flames. He sprinted forward, continuing to build up speed. Klefki floated around in the air, simply moving to the side at the last moment to avoid him.

    Elio's own Pokémon stopped, turning right on a dime with expert footwork and charged forward with a second one. With a shorter distance to cover, the smaller Pokémon didn't have much time to dodge again. Torracat only managed a glancing blow that spun Chains around as it let out a hiss of pain that sounded like china clinking together.

    "Hit it again!" He cried.

    "Iron defense." Molayne calmly ordered. Torracat once again powered himself up and moved even faster, thanks to Elio's successive flame charges building up speed. He collided just as Chains' main body seemed to glint in the light. Compared to the previous attack, this one had did less damage and merely staggered the steel type backwards instead of flinging it to the side.

    "Now use torment!"

    At Molayne's command, Chains jumped forward, jiggling his keys aggressively with the padlock looking center almost taking an angry expression. Elio felt a little uneasy seeing that.

    Don't want to find that in the middle of the night.

    "Be advizzzed!" Rotom chimed in afterwards. "Torment izzz a move where you can't uzzze the same move twice in a row! Bzzt!"

    "Interesting to know." Elio changed tactics, knowing that continuing to go physical attacks would prompt Molayne to keep using iron defense to cover his tracks.

    Torracat leapt in for a double kick, using his hind legs as always. Chains weaved through the first one, but was hit by the second, causing it to stagger back again. Elio tried another flame charge right after that, however Molayne already had an iron defense ready to use that reduced the fire type damage even more.

    Special attacks will do the trick, but I just want to get it into a position where he can't escape!

    Funny how he hasn't really gone on the offensive yet.

    Torracat landed in front of his trainer, swishing his tail from side to side and purring softly. He was calm, yet he could feel his first Pokémon's competitiveness bristling like wind on his fur.

    "Get up close to it again and use fire fang!"

    Elio failed to see Molayne smirk slightly.

    His Pokémon dashed forward as Chains spun around to see him lunging with fangs bared and swirling with orange flame.

    "Use draining kiss."

    Chains' center body glowed pink before it emitted a small pulse that centered and closed in around Torracat. He made a goofy face as soon as it hit, followed by a silent cry of pain. The wave returned right back to Chains where some of the visible scorch damage seemed to fade slightly.

    Draining kiss? Does that heal?

    Molayne chuckled. "That one got Kukui real good first time I tried it. He still beat me...so let's see if you can too."

    Rather than shake a fist in anger, Elio used that as motivation. If he had to look on any bright side; draining kiss was a fairy move and not effective against fire types. So it didn't do that much damage, but he was more concerned about Chains' repairs to its own energy and health.

    That iron defense is ruining my day. Elio thought to himself as Torracat shook it off. He growled at his trainer to let him know he was fine and ready again. I don't want to use a special attack. Hold that card until he's got no chance to escape!

    "Fire fang! Get up close!"

    Molayne raised an eyebrow as Torracat rushed forward, springing off his hind legs for a burst of propulsion. "He's definitely up to something." He muttered under his breath. Chains waited, almost a little unnerved at the next incoming super effective attack.

    The keychain Pokémon's core glowed that same magenta color again in another draining kiss.

    "We got your guard down! Now overheat!"

    Without breaking his stride; Torracat's maw opened wide, letting loose a jet of that same white hot fire. At this closer range, there was much less of an opportunity to escape. The klefki was engulfed inside and fell out when the stream dissipated, clearly knocked out of the fight

    "Chains is incapable of battling further!" Lillie waved her hand towards Elio's side and couldn't help spreading a smile spread across her delicate features. "Torracat is the winner!"

    Woo! All right! One down, two to go!

    "Great job buddy." Elio praised as his starter bristled his fur and proudly puffed his chest out. The flaming bell on his neck blazed even more intensely. "Let's keep the momentum going and this match is ours!"

    On the other side; Molayne returned his Pokémon and slipped it back on his belt, whispering a couple quiet words of encouragement.

    "Your Torracat's a good Pokémon. I can tell you two have battled together often."

    "He is my starter Pokémon. First partner, first battler. We're in this together, no matter where it takes us."

    "Interesting that Elio is keeping Torracat in play." Kukui noted from the sides as the battle took a brief pause as the contestants conversed.

    "What do you mean?" Lillie glanced up at him, curious to see what he had meant.

    "That move he has...overheat yeah. It's one of the most powerful fire type moves and he's got the clear type advantage over Molayne, who specializes in steel."

    "And steel is weak to fire," she finished, "So it makes sense that he would keep Torracat in then."

    "But that move overheat has its own type of revenge." At his next move pun, the blonde resisted the urge to roll her eyes, but kept on listening. "Although it's a powerful move, overheat is only its most powerful during the first time it's used. Each subsequent time he uses that attack will be weaker than the previous."

    Does Elio know that? I'm sure he would…

    They were interrupted by Molayne throwing out his second Pokémon; a cobalt blue creature that resembled a rocket with a large ocular eye at one end. Close to the cylindrical limb were three silver claws and it hovered horizontally in the air.

    "That's an interesting Pokémon." Lillie said, curious at its rather odd shape.

    "New Pokémon detected! Bzzt!" Rotom floated beside his trainer and began to spout off information again. "Beldum. Iron ball Pokémon. Its entire cell composition are magnets and it uses magnetism to communicate with its peers. Beldum is a steel and psychic type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    This one doesn't look as formidable as I thought. No matter, Torracat and I got this.

    He started the fight out with another fire fang, stopping in surprise as the beldum took off at an astonishing speed to slam its front into Torracat's midsection. Elio guessed from a steel type that it weighed plenty to carry that much kinetic energy in the take down attack to send the larger Pokémon back significantly.

    Torracat tumbled a couple of times before using the claws in his front to stabilize and slow his speed. He let out a low growl and bared his teeth in defiance.

    Holy...that thing hits like a truck. Better stay clear.

    "Use overheat!"

    "Beldum, take down at a low angle." Molayne calmly ordered. Again, the iron ball Pokémon shot forward, dipping down so that it raced just above the dusty surface kicking up specks in its wake. Torracat's white hot fire attack accelerated downrange as Beldum effortlessly passed its lethal beam. Elio was also noting that it was a little less in intensity.

    Overheat weakens special attack every time it's used. I could pull him out, reset the status and try it again.

    Torracat used his strong legs again to dodge the predictable attack. He powered up a flame charge, slamming into Beldum's side as it attempted to retreat, however it seemed to do hardly enough of a hurt even with the type advantage working in his favor. Again it spun around, taking off with that same speed and hitting Torracat again just as he was putting his own weight down onto the ground. This sent him careening into the ground with dust and chunks of rock erupting upwards and leaving a large gashing skid mark behind in the dirt.

    "Beldum, return!" Molayne suddenly changed the battle's tempo by grabbing his Pokéball and returning his battler. He flipped another one into his hand, "I think it's time I take control of this battle with Polina!"

    Now the creature opposite Torracat had a mole-like appearance, small stubby heads sticking out of the dirt. They looked like dugtrio, a common digging species that was found in a place called Diglett's Cave back in Kanto.

    But this dugtrio was different; instead having waves of long blonde hair in vastly different styles on top of its head. Each one sparkled the same golden shade and he noticed that Lillie's own had a similar color.

    "Is that a dugtrio?" Elio asked out loud. "I've never seen one like that before."

    "Polina is my longtime partner and first Pokémon, just like Torracat there. Yes, diglett indigenous to Alola have taken a much different form that most others see."

    "I'm actually curious. Rotom?"

    "I'm here and ready to provide all the helpful information you need! Bzzt! Dugtrio. Alolan subspecies. Mole Pokémon. These pokémon are cherished in the Alola region, where they are thought to be feminine deities of the land incarnate. It's reputed that keeping the metallic whiskers that resemble blond hair bad luck to anyone. Alolan dugtrio is a ground and steel type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Elio started at it again, already going through his mind of a new plan. With the sudden switchout, the ground typing left him at a disadvantage as well. Fire type moves were mildly effective against ground, however it would be devastating vice versa and he was still able to exploit the secondary steel typing.

    "What are you going to do now?" Molayne's face gave off a playful smirk. "You won't believe how much Kukui got stumped by these."

    "You're not stumping me with that." Elio gestured. "We're gonna win all the same. Torracat, use fire fang!"

    "Sucker punch."

    Oh no. Torracat closed the distance again and Sun knew that dugtrio had impressive speed, but wasn't sure if the Alolan subspecies had that same attribute. However Torracat had no time to dodge as Polina threw a shadowy fist that collided with his jaw that staggered him. He growled in protest, finally shrugging off the blow to bite his flaming teeth down on top of the largest head.

    As he did, the blonde hair on top of that head stretched out as if it had a mind of its own and wrapped parts of it around Torracat's front legs. He yowled, moving them around, but Polina's hair was tenacious in keeping him bound.

    "Torracat get yourself out of there! Bite or fire fang it!"

    He bared his fangs, trying to pivot his head in an attempt to bite his captor, but it was as if the mole Pokémon could control the movements of its blonde hair at will. Every time he twisted and turned, Polina made certain it was distant enough to keep him from biting or using his fire attacks.

    In spite of all the futili, his persistence won over. He had kept growling and struggling, finally getting a break in biting right down on the smaller head with fire fang. This was enough for Polina to let go and as he made his escape, Elio saw that he was moving much slower than before.

    What? How?

    "What happened to Torracat?" Lillie whispered.

    "Alolan dugtrio have an ability called tangling hair." Kukui explained, watching Elio and Torracat charge up an overheat and narrowly dodge a flung mud bomb from Polina. "Every time an attack makes physical contact with him, those hairs will reduce the attacker's overall speed."

    "So the more Elio tries to use fire fang and bite," her voice trailed off.

    "The slower Torracat gets. And he could also go for overheat, but remember what I said earlier." He turned his gaze back to the battle. "Molayne may have Pokémon with lots of weaknesses, but he covers his tracks well and often plays around with opponents who get too cocky with type advantages."

    "Elio's cocky?"

    "We all get like that in battles to some extent." Kukui answered. "Elio's definitely not the arrogant type, but I do think that he gets overconfident whenever he has an advantageous matchup yeah."

    Don't let your guard down Elio. Lillie thought to herself, wondering if he would pay attention to such warning. She had to remind herself to carefully observe the battle than the handsome trainer conducting.

    "Overheat once more!"

    "Tor!" As he fired off another beam of white hot flames, Polina halted its own attack and the three heads burrowed underground with small bits of dirt puffing in the air as the only indication of where it was located. Elio saw that instead of moving together, they had split into individuals.

    Elio racked his brain for a solution. With the three splitting up, he was unable to get a shot off without at least one surviving.

    Alolan diglett are said to sense movement above ground using the hairs on their head. They'll be able to predict his movements. We have to either get above ground or strike quickly when he does.

    Torracat growled, pawing the soil with definite impatience. His beady eyes tracked the small bits of movement as Polina continued digging tunnels in its underground refuge. Sooner or later it would pop up again.

    The three plumes of traveling dirt suddenly accelerated, centering just in front of the feline and lunged forward, burst through the ground in an explosion as all three individuals of Polina slammed into Torracat's legs full force with the species' signature move of dig, knocking him into the air.

    Elio's jaw dropped in surprise, clearly not expecting Polina to regroup that fast. He was still trying to come up with a plan.

    Torracat's body flashed while he hung in midair before he cloaked himself in fire and rushed forward, landing on the ground to deliver a flame charge. Polina simply flung a mud-slap attack just as he was about to collide, which ended up knocking him off his feet again to the side.

    "Finish it with bulldoze!"

    One by one, each mole of the alolan dugtrio vanished into the ground, striking the surface underneath to deliver a spreading shockwave that closed right in on Torracat just as he was getting back up. Elio's heart sank as he watched his starter Pokémon's recovery was too slow for the incoming ground type attack. He took a step before collapsing onto the ground.

    Lillie thrust a hand towards Molayne's side, almost missing her cue as the acting referee for the battle. "Torracat is incapable of battling! Polina is the winner!"

    Again, Torracat is paying for my mistakes. Elio shook his head in total disbelief. I keep thinking his limits are far more than what they really are.

    "I'm sorry buddy." He whispered, pulling out Torracat's Poké Ball and returning him back. "Take it easy. We'll get more work done later."

    "You had the right thinking there Elio." Mo called out from the other end as Polina resurfaced. "One thing I'd suggest is to take the environment into consideration. Polina's hairs are extremely sensitive to movement on the ground. Plus we've worked well enough together to know what most other people try."

    "Compliment accepted and I try my best sir." Despite losing his starter Pokémon, he hadn't lost any confidence whatsoever. One piece of the team was gone, but he had many more to work with.

    Using Akela would be bad. Polina has steel and ground typing, so the only thing that might work with him is counter, which he'll see coming a mile away. No go on Charjabug or Rufflet either, their own attacks won't do much to steel typings. Maybe going an actual type advantage is the way.

    "Okay Nani, let's get this done!"

    Elio tossed the Pokéball, releasing his main water type. The milotic deftly landed on the ground and slowly uncoiled herself to face her opponent.

    Molayne definitely looked impressed at the sight of the tender Pokémon. "A milotic? Wow, that's actually a great Pokémon you've got there Elio! I haven't seen one in person since...Minerva?"

    "Minerva? Wallace Rain's milotic?" Sun was familiar with the name of the Pokémon as well as her trainer. The signature Pokémon of the former Hoenn champion was originally known for its captivating elegance in Wallace's multiple championships of the Hoenn and Sinnoh Grand Festivals and when he turned trainer, Minerva was at the forefront, showcasing that even a beautiful Pokémon like herself was quite skilled in league battles.

    Elio was ready to help her get back into training some more; even going as far to have Rotom pull up clips of Minerva in battle to think of new tactics and skills neither him or Nani might not know yet.

    "Nani's been a strong member of my team. How about we show you what we got?"

    "A fitting name. We'll see. Polina, use bulldoze!"

    "Nani, iron tail on the ground to disrupt the shock wave!"

    As the alolan dugtrio disappeared to strike the ground, Nani's four long fins immediately locked and sharpened into her glowing blade. Luckily the incoming bulldoze was predictably visible and she raised her tail up before driving it down to spear the wave just before it reached her. The amount of power between the two attacks made a loud abrupt crack as large chunks of dirt erupted right out of the ground in front.

    Elio waved his hand forward. "Scald it!"

    "Polina, return!" Molayne surprised him yet again, quickly pulling out his Pokémon. "You're back up Beldum!"

    Okay I wasn't expecting that to happen. But it does and doesn't make sense. Polina's weak to ground, but why switch it to Beldum?

    "Keep your guard up Nani." Elio warned her. "He did that for a reason."

    "Use take down!"

    "Look out!" He cried, already knowing that the heavy Pokémon had a surprising amount of speed to it. "It hits faster than it looks and-"

    Nani tail whiplashed as the iron leg Pokémon hit her midsection and she nearly toppled over, quickly springing back up but not before she shot Elio a rather nasty look.

    "Sorry," he mouthed "Same page. Right."

    Beldum took off again and Nani moved to intercept it with an iron tail that glanced off its metallic body with a loud clang as if a literal sword had struck a thick armor alloy. There was a visible denture in its side as it peeled away, spinning around on a dime and diving right back at Nani for the only attack it could use.

    She was ready again, slithering low to the ground and out of its way, whipping her tail about to gain momentum. Her next attack, a strong dragon pulse kept Beldum from attacking on its own again. Instead, Molayne kept his Pokémon on the defensive, evading dragon pulses and a scald, all while cupping his chin in thought.

    What's he planning?

    Elio wasn't about to idle around while thinking about that.

    "Recover Nani. Be on your guard."

    She straightened her posture before enveloping herself in the green regenerating aura. Although it took two seconds; that moment was all Molayne needed to give Beldum the go-ahead for another take down attack. By the time she landed on the ground, it had already come back around for a second successive strike. Elio didn't have the exact number of health like on a registered battling screen, but he knew that those two attacks back to back had erased the amount of energy she had regained plus more. She was breathing heavily and letting her tail swing back and forth; an indication that she was both wary and tiring from the battle.

    On the other end, Beldum's entire body pulsed white before it abruptly vanished in a brilliant glow that immediately caught the attention of everyone around. There were already a couple of other spectators, but with the possible evolution happening, it was already attracting other observers.

    "It's evolving." Elio said, even though there was pretty much no point in stating anything so obvious. Beldum's shape stayed stagnant for just a few seconds before its body molded, expanding to nearly four times as large. As the glow faded, he could see that it retained its gunmetal blue body with two red eyes and several silver spikes protruding from the upper disk on its head. The claws on Beldum's rear were gone, replaced with two larger robotic arms that were easily the size of its predecessor.

    "New Pokémon detected! Bzzt!" Rotom flew in front to briefly interrupt the battle with his usual rundown. "Metang. Iron claw Pokémon. When two beldum link together, their psychic power is doubled, their intelligence however remains unchanged. It adores magnetic minerals and can pursue nosepass at speeds over sixty miles an hour. Metang is a psychic and steel type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "So it's time you evolved." Molayne flipped open a small thin device Elio recognized to be an older model Pokédex. "And you've learned some new moves too. How about we show them what we've got?"

    Metang didn't move and made a metallic roaring sound as it narrowed its eyes at Nani.

    "Use metal claw and go for the tail!"

    Just as its Pokédex data had implied; Metang locked its twin arms behind its back and shot out at an even faster speed than it did as a beldum. As it neared, the arms were waved in front as the silver tips began to gleam brightly as it aimed for her tail.

    Elio's own mouth was open to issue a command, but he stopped himself. Something was off.

    First off; Beldum was no longer a single leg with a rocket thruster, now a flying disk with a pair of movable dexteric arms. With the new array of moves he didn't know, the first effective instinct he had was to parry it off with iron tail.

    No. Molayne would probably expect me to do that. And he has more to work with in Metang that he did Beldum.

    "Fire a dragon pulse in front of you and then dive into it!" As Nani formed the green sphere of destructive power, Molayne pointed towards it, ordering Metang to dive and do the same.

    As the dragon pulse exploded on the ground in an impressive display of power, Nani sidewinded low across the rugged surface, raising her head to go up into the edges of the blast radius. By now, it did its successive lingering explosion, dazzling everything in a verdant blaze.

    Only this time, Metang was up close to meet her. Instinctively she shot a scald attack, but as she did, Metang's eyes glowed in a confusion that halted the stream of water before arching it backwards and returning it right to its user.

    Nani hissed loudly, shaking her head around and ignoring Elio's encouragement to fight through it. Even a water Pokémon like herself resistant to her own attacks found being struck by boiling hot water an extremely unpleasant situation.

    Metang charged forward, raking her scaly skin with combo metal claw attacks. She had taken three before finally pulling herself together and striking back with an iron tail. The first blow fazed her foe briefly before she swung again to its much more prepared stance. The metal claw attack caught the other steel type attack in mid-strike before savagely yanking her down, burying the bladed tip into the soil.

    Nani hissed in annoyance as she pulled in an attempt to free herself, however it was rooted deep despite the fragility of the crumbly soil.

    Ah crap. Now what? Elio thought to himself, as he saw how limited her mobility was. Her own sword tail, arguably her greatest weapon was now the greatest liability in tethering her to the ground and severely limiting how she was able to move.

    The soil's too hard, we can't soften it.

    Or can we?

    "Nani." An idea was beginning to formulate in his head. "We don't have much time, so let's get to work on freeing yourself. Can you recover enough to buy us some time and endure anything he throws at you?"

    Her eyes were that unnaturally calm and trusting her species was known for and she gave him a slight nod, drawing in her energies and rejuvenating herself in a recover.

    "Use take down twice and don't let up!"

    Here we go. It would only take Nani just a couple of seconds to complete the recovery process, but Metang would be there in just that amount of time to barely give any for a reaction. As she began to regain her energy, she kept her crimson eyes on Metang's advancing form as it locked its two arms behind itself to become more aerodynamic.

    It's coming in too fast, we're going to have to stop early and take what we have here.

    "Nani, stop and fire a dragon pulse right in front of you."

    With almost no time to dodge given its speed and approach vector, Metang had no choice but to run head on into another one of her green orbs of destruction. It detonated, sucking its victim towards the middle of the blast from an entropic pull before exploding again, tossing it around.

    That was the perfect distraction Elio needed; "Now, scald the ground around your tail and free yourself!"

    She had to work quickly and did so, coiling around and spraying the steaming water in the base area. The dry ground greedily sucked it up, turning dark and making a sound akin to a thickened substance. He could see her tail beginning to slightly shift, but he knew it was going to take more time given the area of her body that was at the surface level being the same diameter as her main serpentine frame.

    "Clever trick." Molayne smirked. "Metal claw!"

    Metang shook itself from the aftermath and charged forward, brandishing its twin arms to prepare for another strike.

    Just a little more.

    Nani's tail slid further from where it was pinned and he knew she was keeping it down to not telegraph that she was actually free.

    "Use the mud!"

    This was known as an improvised attack, which could be done several ways as milotic generally were incapable of learning a mud slap type of move like he was doing. Nani's tail flicked forward like a whip, sending flecks of it down towards the speeding Metang.

    "Magnet rise!" However Molayne had one more trick up his sleeve. As Metang lunged forward, Elio saw it float up in the air past the makeshift mud-slap and deliver two raking strikes. It was about to hit again when Nani had begun to form a dragon pulse in her mouth and quickly backed off.

    I need to keep it on its toes before I lose momentum again.

    And she did. Blasting scalds and dragon pulses constantly kept Metang from charging forward and attacking. It worked.

    Until it didn't.

    Metang suddenly changed direction a moment after Nani blasted an area with scald by using metal claw to dig into the ground, right itself and plot a second vector. She was just a tad too slow and took a nasty take down blow to the midsection. However the glint in her eyes showed that she wasn't going down without a fight. Her tail locked into the sword again and she bought it up to spear the metallic Pokémon right in the underbelly, flinging it up and onto the ground in a crashing spiral.

    Lillie spread a hand to both sides as the dust began to clear and both Pokémon were defeated. "Both Pokémon are incapable of battling!"

    "Then it's up to you Polina." Mo threw out his dugtrio again as Elio grabbed his own choice.

    This ought to surprise him. "Let's go Jangmo'o!"

    "Wow, that's a rare one." Both Mo and Kukui were surprised at the new addition to Elio's team. "You usually don't get them that young."

    "He was the egg that I got from Kahananui Ranch." He proudly declared. "The missing piece that I need to create the best team ever!"

    "Then let's see how he does in battle! Polina, use metal claw!"

    The dugtrio charged forward, burrowing while wielding two metallic blades. Jangmo'o braced itself, surrounding his front with a protect that deflected the incoming attack. He didn't relent there, attacking with a sucker punch when Elio decided to tackle and ended up canceling the attack out.

    "We'll make this count. Use bide!"

    Jangmo'o promptly obeyed, planting his feet firmly on the ground and glaring at Polina.

    Molayne didn't seem to understand why he had been still and kept up his offense. Elio felt a little nervous at Jangmo'o when he flinched and squeaked whenever he got hit, but the little guy was hanging in there while his scaly armor plating was being raked with metal claws and other attacks.

    Jangmo'o's entire body flickered white, a signal that the bide energy was ready to be unleashed.

    "Now!"

    Bide was a move that required the user to take punishment for a period of time before they could unleash it in a single strike, dealing double the damage taken. While risky as it telegraphed what the Pokémon was doing, many trainers could take advantage of it for careless opponents. Provided of course that the Pokémon survived the barrage of moves and attacks that struck them while they waited.

    Jangmo'o moved faster than Polina expected, smashing his entire body into the mole Pokémon's side and sending him staggering.

    "Don't let up! Tackle!"

    "Use dig to escape!"

    Jangmo'o was unable to get there in time as all three of Polina's heads vanished underground, leaving nothing but a wide hole as a reminder.

    Elio cursed under his breath.

    Wait.

    "Bulldoze!"

    "What the?" Molayne was in the middle of cursing himself when Jangmo'o stomped the ground angrily, sending seismic waves across the field that spread quickly. Just off to their left, the ground opened up, revealing a stunned Polina who was definitely not expecting to be hit in its own subterranean realm.

    "One more time! Take it down!"

    Jangmo'o's own squeak turned into a high pitched battle cry, akin to an angry child screaming as it stamped its clawed feet again to deliver the knockout blow. Polina stumbled before slinking down in its spot at Molayne's side of the field.

    "Polina is incapable of battling!" Kukui thrust a hand to Elio's side. "Trainer Elio Northstar is the winner!"

    "Woo!" Elio practically jumped up a few feet in the air in celebration of his victory dance. "Aww yeah that felt good! We crushed it!" He stopped when he saw the two adults glancing at his antics and quickly humbled himself. It was yet again that he won and celebrated rather excessively and obnoxiously.

    Enjoy the win, boast a little maybe...but don't rub it into people too much.

    To his surprise, Molayne recalled his Pokémon and held out a hand.

    "That was some fine battling kid. I'd expect nothing less from a protege under Kukui's steel wing."

    The professor himself grinned widely at his friend's use of a move pun. "You've got that character to ya cousin! You're more than an ember hot yeah...you're more like an overheat hot! Woo!"

    "Thanks professor. And thanks Mo." Elio smiled as Jangmo'o toddled up to his trainer, pulling on the leg of his shorts to beg for praise. "I had a lot of fun." He obliged his Pokémon afterwards, giving it a scratch under the chin and a bean from his case.

    "I think you're more than ready to take on the Mount Hokulani trial."

    "You know," Kukui said, "Elio may be stronger than we were at this point in our island challenge."

    "Really?" Lillie asked, even more curious and also trying to contain her excitement. "Elio's on a level above?"

    "Back when we were kids maybe." Molayne answered for her. "But remember how much more difficult the island challenge has gotten?"

    Kukui nodded and Elio's own mind went back to the many lackeys of Team Skull he had ran into on his journey. Remembering how many of them failed and gave up on the island challenge correlated with what he and Mo were saying in that it had gotten harder as the years went by.

    They could've taken it when it was really easy compared to nowadays. So maybe it's not all their fault.

    "I'm just ready to see how Elio here is going to do."

    "Hold on a second Mo!" Kukui's abrupt voice interrupted them both. "My name's Emilio Kukui for cryin' fake tears out loud! Who is this Masked Royal you're talking about?!"

    "I never heard Royal." Elio said, not really wanting to butt in, but couldn't help it. "That's the first time I've heard anything refer to the Masked Royal in days." He turned to the professor, trying to hide a glint in his eye. "You know something we don't?"

    Lillie followed his gaze and Molayne did as well, a smirk starting to grow on his face by the second.

    "Um...no. I know nothing of the Masked Royal! That is final gambit!" Kukui's watch buzzed and he glanced down at the screen. "I guess I'm back off to Malie Garden cousin! I figure Hau should be done eating malasadas yeah?"

    You just got saved by the bell. Don't think I'll leave this one under the rug.

    The professor hadn't waited for a reply and was already dashing off, jumping up onto a very convenient ride charizard that just happened to swoop down to pick him up. He flew northeast, disappearing over the horizon in a matter of seconds.

    "My old buddy's as interesting as ever." Molayne noted.

    "Well...he wanted to really get out of here." Lillie said, giving a defeated sigh and clutching her duffel close to herself. "I thought he was going to take me back...but whatever. More adventures to enjoy with Elio right?"

    "Of course. I'd love to have you alone for the rest of it."

    "You and me? Alone?"

    Oh hell no. Did I just say that? I probably sound like some sort of creep!

    "Elio?" She bent down, trying to meet his stonewalled stare that had found a spot on the ground to fixate at.

    Yes...that piece of ground looks very fascinating.

    "Uh what?"

    C'mon...think of something. It's like my own brain got fried and I'm in some infinite looped reboot. Reset! Reset!

    "Just...just how about we go inside to do the trial?"

    Really anything to get out of this awkward mess.

    Molayne voiced his agreement, chuckling to himself at seeing the unspoken attraction between the two teens and led them inside the observatory.

    Lillie couldn't help the heat that rose in her cheeks and the blooming feeling in her chest as they walked inside.

    Elio wants to finish the rest of his journey with me? Alone? Should I be flattered? Excited? Scared?

    Unlike the outside where the Hokulani Observatory was a similar stone color to the other buildings of Mountaintop, its interior displayed a combination of blue and black colorings with dark hard floors and cold lighting that almost gave the place an alien look. Large posters of images taken by the facility's powerful telescope were on display from an Oort cloud that had mixed colors of pale orange and vivid purple to arguably the most detailed image of the moon Elio had ever seen. Each pockmarked crater and blip was incredibly sharp, accented by the rising inky shadows that sprouted from its dark side. Further down were many posters of various constellations in the sky, linked together by imaginary lines. Another one had similar drawings, but instead Alolan names. She recognized one; Huinakolu, the Navigator's Triangle. Apparently it was still used as a basis for navigation in both flight and sailing.

    Lillie managed to find the star that her crush's namesake was from. At the very end of the constellation Teddiursa Minor.

    "Look it's your star."

    Elio's eyes brightened. "Yeah it is."

    "There's some days I wish I could be named after a star."

    He gave her a dreamy look. "Maybe you do and just don't know it yet. Or maybe you'll find one before you know it."

    She had the sudden urge to grab his hand. Is Elio flirting with me?

    Besides that, the observatory was still abuzz with activity. There weren't as many people here as the Dimensional Research Lab, but those that were didn't seem all hectic and in a rush. In fact, most of the people there were properly groomed in well pressed slacks and adequate work uniforms instead of a ragtag group of researchers that spent days on end in the laboratories.

    There was one thing that had been neglected; big piles of cardboard boxes that had yet to be opened lining the walls near one area. Elio had snuck a glance at the shipping date at one label, seeing that it was delivered to the place almost four years ago.

    Whoever is running logistics here has to be throwing a fit about this. Someone shopping and buying things online wayyyy too much.

    Molayne led them down one of the hallways deeper into the building, stopping right at the entrance. Interestingly enough, the teens saw a pair of metal poles down one corridor that were painted in the same fashion as the trial gates from before.

    The trial's inside the observatory?

    "Well here we are." Molayne gestured to Elio. "This is where you start. I'll give you a heads up though that the captain's kind of a little shy...so go easy on my buddy okay?"

    "Uh...sure."

    "You go Elio! I know you can do this!" Lillie made a fist of encouragement and held it out.

    He was surprised at her gesture, but made his own and lightly tapped them together. "I'm gonna win. Just you watch!"

    I've never seen Lillie do something like that before. I kind of like it. He hit the button to the doors and stepped inside when it opened.

    The room was a bit different than he imagined. Instead of the arena he was expecting, he appeared to stumble in a rather messy bedroom. There were clothes tossed in a haphazard pile in an overflowing laundry basket and a coffee table full of empty wrappers and half drank energy drinks.

    A short heavyset boy sat in an oversized swiveling chair, eyes glued to a large flatscreen television and mashing buttons on a controller.

    Elio recognized the game he was playing, an incredibly popular first person shooter type that much of the gaming world was really into. While he enjoyed playing things from time to time, this particular game was more fast paced and competitive. There were even websites where people could tune in and watch live streams of players in matches.

    I forget the title of the game, but it's that one Sinnoh champ Lucas and Top Coordinator Dawn tag team on all the time.

    As soon as it was found out that newly crowned Sinnoh League Champion Lucas Drake and his girlfriend Top Coordinator Dawn Avery were avid players of this particular game, they didn't hesitate to give them both endorsements and put them in advertisements for their annual title they released every fall. Apparently in the gaming community; Lucas and Dawn both on a team were all but unbeatable.

    The boy was really into the game and Elio watched as he racked up kills after kills while trying to take a vantage point. After clearing it out of enemies, he switched his main weapon to something long range and pegged even more enemy players repeatedly that were foolish enough to run in the open.

    Should I interrupt and say I'm here for my trial? Sun almost considered doing it, but thought twice. It was common knowledge and sense that online games couldn't be paused, yet some people had yet to understand. Most people engrossed in their games would have a rather snappy response to an interruption like that.

    I'll wait. I suppose. This guy is doing good and I'd hate to break his momentum.

    The match ran for another two minutes before he saw the final score which ended up being a lopsided rout of one hundred to seventy one.

    He cleared his throat as the game reset back into the waiting lobby.

    The boy turned around and gasped at the newcomer.

    "Hi."

    "What are you doing here?" He asked, almost a bit bluntly. Elio could see that he had short reddish brown hair and he was wearing a gaming shirt that seemed to be a bib of some sort from dried marinara sauce on the chest area.

    Okay buddy I'm not here to take your game away. Calm down.

    "I'm uh...Elio. A trial goer."

    "So I imagine you're here to attempt the trial huh?"

    He nodded.

    The boy sighed and exited the game lobby. Elio caught his gamer name in the corner before the television was winked out; PhiloSophocles.

    "So uh...do you like Festival Plaza?"

    This guy's either a little awkward or I caught him with his pants down.

    Maybe both.

    "Take a deep breath." Elio held out his hand, suddenly a little bit self-conscious of his athletic jocklike appearance. "Maybe some of that energy drink. I'm not here to steal your lunch money."

    "Oh thank the tapu you're not one of those challengers." The boy sighed with relief. "I'm sorry about that. I just...haven't been a captain for long and all that."

    "It's all good. So many trials have you conducted?"

    "You're the first."

    Oh.

    Elio smiled to help lighten the mood. "But hey...no pressure right?"

    To his surprise, the boy smiled back at him. "None at all and all that."

    "I...uh made Festival Plaza just because I felt like it?"

    "Hold on...YOU made Festival Plaza?" Elio asked incredulously. "That's like the second most popular social media site in the world!"

    "Yeah." He sheepishly put a hand behind his head. "I never imagined it would go this far and all that. I'm Sophocles by the way. My last name's...um...Kaleo."

    "I'm Elio Northstar."

    "Okay...now that we've got introductions done. Let's get started here and now."

    Elio glanced around. We're doing the trial in his room? Sounds to me like it'll end up making this place an even bigger mess.

    "Yes. Right here and right now." Sophocles looked down and suddenly saw the stain on his shirt. "Aww man. Give me a second so I can change clothes and I'll explain the trial to you and all that."

    Elio nodded and he dashed off into another room, coming back out just a few seconds later while sliding on a black shirt with a text in bold red letters that read "I'm with stupid" with an arrow pointing to the left and right.

    "You summon the totem Pokémon and prove your strength to it!" Sophocles said excitedly. As he did, they heard a squeak and a small rodent Pokémon scurried from underneath the coffee table onto the captain's side. It was white with yellow and dark patches on the back with a jagged tail and pale electric sacs that he had seen on pikachu.

    "This is togedemaru! She's a real handy advisor when I play."

    "Nice to meet you." Elio greeted, receiving a squeak in return.

    "And it's nice to meet you too! Bzzt!" Rotom buzzed from inside his backpack. "I don't feel like coming out now zzzzo I'm gonna tell you thizzz once! Bzzt! Togedemaru. Roly-poly Pokémon. The long hairs on its back act as lightning rods. The bolts of lighting it attracts are stored in its energy sac. This Pokémon attacks by standing its sharp fur on end and stabbing it into its foes. Togedemaru is an electric and steel type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "So what about this trial do I need to do?"

    "Well normally I'd use our machine! The awesome Ping Totem Pokémon two point oh! But since it's had some technical difficulties and the totem's already in the observatory, I thought I'd rather you do a raid instead!"

    "A raid?"

    "Yeah!" Sophocles smiled. "Raids are really fun in games! You team up by yourself or with others to all battle one big boss or do these puzzles to finish the objective and all that."

    "So it's a game mode that requires teamwork!"

    "Exactly! No one person can carry a team! Except maybe me, but the main thing is that teamwork will beat skill. Just like those max raid battles they have in Galar."

    "Huh okay." Elio had briefly read about the Dynamax phenomenon in the distant region where a trainer's Pokémon were able to briefly grow many times their own size and use amped up moves. It was the centerpiece of the region's highly competitive Pokémon league. Raid battles often had to occur when wild Pokémon end up triggering an unexpected dynamax area and have to be defeated before they can damage the local environment. Multiple trainers and their Pokémon would participate and it emphasized teamwork to take the larger target down.

    "Well why don't we have our own raid here with the totem Pokémon instead of a dynamax! And all that...geez...I need to stop saying that and all that." Sophocles growled in annoyance and rubbed his forehead in frustration.

    "Sounds good to me. And relax. I'm not here to judge you." A playful smirk went across his mouth. "And all that."

    The captain laughed it off. "Perfect! I'm not really a fan of the blessing and all that touchy stuff. So...um good luck. Tapu guide you and all that jazz. Let the test trial for our raid begin!"

    Oh boy. This ought to be good.

    Sophocles and Molayne led Elio and Lillie into an observation deck overlooking an even larger chamber. Unlike the other rooms of the observatory having no texture, the entire floor of the area seemed to be covered in identical squares, each one with a dark X crossed through evenly. It stretched up to the ceiling that was big enough to fit Elio's own house inside with the top part having a nexus of wires and cables.

    "Wow." Elio said quietly. "This is where the trial is conducted?"

    Sophocles nodded. "Yep. And...um...it's still kind of new. You're basically a test subject." He flushed in embarrassment and scratched his neck. "You don't um...mind being like that?"

    "As long as it doesn't kill me." Lillie wanted to laugh at that, but she was pretty sure Elio was serious about that.

    "It won't. I'm ninety nine percent sure of it."

    "That meanzzz itzzz fatal one time out of a hundred! Bzzt!" Rotom said, waving his arms around. "How many timezzz have you run this?"

    "Ninety nine."

    Is that supposed to be a joke?

    "So then what is this supposed to be?" Elio asked.

    "This is a VR simulator." Molayne's expression looked a lot more relieved to move onto something else. "Virtual Reality if you may. Part of this is to help space exploration and get astronauts ready for one of many things when there are manned missions sent outside our atmosphere."

    He gestured to a central desk that overlooked the glass and space below, "It is an open canvas of what we can do with it however. From training EVA walking to International Police raid drills. We've been able to slightly emulate the power of some psychic type Pokémon with help from the Devon Corporation in Hoenn to alter physics properties in the room such as reduced gravity. Back in the day; astronauts used to practice walking in low to no gravity situations by having psychic Pokémon use confusion to reduce or nullify its effects."

    "But you won't be doing any of that fancy footwork." Sophocles grunted as he helped himself up on the comfortable swiveling chair by the main console. His fingers danced across the glass panel, pressing buttons and turning a virtual dial until the words "Electric Type Trial Simulation codename: Wrath of the Machine STATUS READY" flashed on the screen.

    "For your trial, you will have to defeat the totem Pokémon that lurks in this chamber! First you must discover the way to release it from the cage above! There are two things you will be given before you start," As he said that, Molayne returned holding a set of keys. He moved to a small chamber off to the side and turned it. The entire wall flipped around to reveal something Elio would see out of a sci-fi flick.

    It was best described as a wearable suit of power armor, but given how many others were large, bulky and with a colored drab; this one was sleek, contouring to the user's body and shimmered in the right in a midnight black color. The headpiece was slightly larger, but it rounded out a thin visor that stretched across the user's eyes. Lights flashed from within that acted as the suit's heads up display.

    "This is the prototype Mirror Coat armor suit that militaries have been researching to help better protect their personnel. In theory, those shimmering bits that you see there are photoreactive flexible panels. Instead of deflecting attacks, it absorbs the incoming energy and stores allow the user to use it to empower themselves or redirect it at a foe of their choosing. It's very well reactive to electricity."

    "Makes sense, given this is an electric trial."

    Molayne gestured to the bottom where Elio took off his shoes and slipped his feet into the bottom. The suit felt silky smooth to the touch and cool in temperature. While he noticed that his own feet didn't quite fit the shape of the molds, he was surprised to feel it loosen and then reshape itself to fit his own body frame.

    "What the?"

    Lillie couldn't believe her eyes watching it change shapes, almost as it looked like the dark suit had a mind thinking for itself and shrunk down to fit Elio's exact specifications as a person. It didn't look oversized or too small for him despite its previous user being much taller and muscled. The sleek fabric clung to his body, accenting his broad shoulders down to his strong thighs and legs.

    "And that's another cool feature we've managed to add." Molayne said. "While it's mainly been driven for combat suits, the Mirror Coat is also being marketed with special ones for space exploration, hence why we have some here. Devon's about to secure some big contracts with the space center in Mossdeep City to equip their astronauts with some of the highest tech available on the cutting edge. Since we've helped in its development, it's a great way to also familiarize trainers who may one day be undertaking missions in the vastness of space or the deep of our own oceans."

    He then hefted a long silver metal object. It looked like an untextured rifle, but he clicked a button on the side and it expanded to a comfortable stock and the barrel of the weapon split apart, revealing small bits of energy running along some sort of accelerator coil. A small grip slid open down on the bottom and along the underbarrel.

    I'm going to be using a gun?

    "What is that?" Lillie asked.

    "This is a prototype weapon made by Galarian R&D for the next generation of soldier. Still experimental, but it uses magnetic fields to concentrate powerful plasma energy into a bolt. A railgun so to speak." He pointed to it as he held it out to Elio. "This one has been toned to fit the trial. No live ammunition, however it syncs up to your heads-up-display for targeting assist. You'll definitely need it."

    "Okay." Elio took the weapon, feeling it in his hands. He had only gone rifle shooting once while on a wilderness outing with his father on Mount Moon, but this was definitely a step up.

    "Virtual reality shooting stuff while doing a trial. So this is going to be like a video game!"

    "And we'll be gathering data for that!" Sophocles raised a fist. "We're trying to make the best game ever! With the raids being the highlight! You're really gonna help...um with that. Plus...you know...get your trial and Z-crystal done and all that."

    "Still nervous about it." Molayne chuckled. "You're starting to look just as bad as our trial goer here. How about you explain more on how our trial is going to work."

    "Oh right." The shorter trial captain looked a little sheepish for neglecting his duty as he turned to Elio in his seat. "Before you can battle the totem Pokémon, you will need to clear all interference you see up there on the ceiling." The growing smirk on his face was almost a dead giveaway. "Each conduit that powers the cage is highlighted in a certain color. You need to destroy the link with the matching color."

    "Okay...how do I do that?" Elio's voice sounded slightly muffled behind the mask of his dark suit.

    "That railgun you have there is powered by different batteries. You will be able to find them on the ground as well as some other sources I can't spoil for you."

    "Woah woah hold up. I'm not killing this thing am I?"

    "Oh goodness no!" Molayne objected, holding up a hand to stifle any other conclusions. "We've made all of this nonlethal so that neither you, your Pokémon or the totem Pokémon will be harmed at all."

    "Well that's good." A relief to hear.

    "So let's begin. You know the usual drill. Any forfeit will result in the trial being incomplete, can't catch any Pokémon, all that paraphernalia. Um...I kind of forgot how to say the old blessing in the trial, plus you know how I feel kind of strange with the saying...so...good luck and all that I suppose."

    Molayne decided to continue off for him. "E mālama ka tapu mai ka lani mai. A alakaʻi iāʻoe i loko o ka hoʻokolokoloʻaneʻane e kokokeʻoe e piʻi. Now if you please follow me."

    "What can I do? Can I watch?"

    Sophocles nodded and hit a button on his desk. Almost immediately, two extra chairs just like his had risen from floor panels split to reveal the space beneath.

    Elio followed Molayne down the steps into a large hexagonal chamber where the older man checked over his suit, pulling on straps and taking his backpack.

    "Unfortunately this trial does not allow you to use items to aid you."

    Sophocles' voice spoke up over a speaker Elio likely had in his HUD. "Testing. This is a two way comm unit, it's going to allow us both to speak and listen to one another and all that."

    "I read you five by five." Elio said back. "Molayne just checked me over and I'm good to go."

    "So I see. I'll be able to shield and get you out if anything goes wrong."

    "That's very reassuring."

    He thought he could hear Lillie giggling in the background, but wasn't sure if it was serious or not.

    "It's just a precaution. As soon as you step out, the stage will be set and you can begin!"

    "Okay." Here we go.

    Stepping onto the trial floor was nothing like Elio had expected.

    Gone was the previously empty floor that he had originally seen. Instead, it was replaced by an otherworldly appearance. The entire walls were colored a combination of black and blue with the metal surface having a riddled hexagonal pattern like a massive honeycomb like a combee hive. Green lights were here and here, adding onto that he was in some sort of alien facility.

    The entire arena was bowl shaped, higher at the tops and slanting downwards to the center where the massive electric cage was located. He could see the three long conduits snaking across the ceiling towards it. They were the only other colors besides the rest of the chamber; likely done so that they could be easily identified. One blue-white, another orange and the third dark purple. All across the different levels of the bowl, he could see walls and columns that were usable cover pieces and trenches to help go in between levels and sections.

    So where's the part where I send out my Pokémon?

    Before he could ponder it further, he was interrupted by a pair of flying things. The resembled twin engined drones that were small in stature with the same green lighted eyes as the rest of the surroundings.

    "Those are buggers!" Sophocles exclaimed over the speakers. "Every time one of their bolts hits you, it slows your movements and can impede your sight and all that. Take them out with your railgun!"

    Elio reached into his belt, finding a small cylindrical object attached. Pressing a button on the side of his railgun, the top slid open like a breech allowing him to see a circular socket that was perfectly fit for the battery. Once he slid it in and closed the breech, his HUD lit up in a blue-white color with the number five in the bottom right corner.

    As he lifted the railgun, a holographic display appeared over the top sight, creating its own reticule for Elio to use. Once he set the sights on the closest bugger, the entire pattern on the weapon turned bright red, confirming he was aiming straight at a target.

    He pulled the trigger with his right pointer finger.

    Nothing happened.

    Wait a second, it needs to charge.

    He did it again, this time holding down. Panels flashed on the top repeatedly before solidifying and he released it. The gun bucked slightly in his hands as a bolt flew out to impact the bugger, causing it to shimmer away into nothingness.

    Woah that's so freaking epic! Let's do it again!

    He charged another shot, taking the second bugger out with ease. One of them dropped an identical battery, however this time it was orange in color. Further down in the arena, he could see more buggers appear from the top heading his way. While it would be fun to take them out and practice his marksmanship, he figured these ones would actually shoot back and slow him down.

    Let's do it.

    Meanwhile up in the observation area, Lillie was a little puzzled at Elio's excitement and how much he was raving about how amazing it was.

    In her eyes, she only saw some of the metal plates rise and fall accordingly, but everything had remained unchanged. She did see the bugger the same and once Elio had shot it, the energy it was surrounded in dissipated into the ceiling above.

    "You look a bit puzzled." Molayne chuckled, reaching to the side and pulling out a pair of goggles identical to the ones. It looks pretty boring on the outside. Try looking at the inside."

    Lillie took them from him and put the goggles on. Her mouth parted in amazement as the field below transformed into something new and exciting that she had never seen before. Those metal elevations turned into actual structures like they were in some alien building...or starship. All up to the person's imagination. Elio signature was lit up in a green highlight while the bugger flying drones were outlined in red. The vast variety of colors dazzled her along with the powerful effects. Elio was in cover, changing the battery on his railgun before popping back out and strafing to the far end of the chamber. There were four buggers on his trail and he had been hit by a couple of their bolts, causing him to stagger and make his movements sluggish. He managed to slide in cover as a break, dodge a couple more shots and take the two out that had been on his tail.

    C'mon Elio. You can do this. She had her arms around her bag the entire time squeezing it until Nebby gave a light "pew" of discomfort.

    "Sorry Nebby." She whispered quietly. "I'm just getting anxious and hoping Elio can do this!"

    Down on the floor; Elio had moved into a position where he finally had a shot at the blue conduit. There were only 2 shots in his current battery and it was the same matching color. Perfect opportunity to let loose on one of the targets he needed.

    The next amount of buggers hadn't shown up yet and he could aim without the worry of having to evade the many shots that would come his way. Holding down the trigger, he waited until it was at full charge before letting it loose.

    His shot pierced through the air, impacting the conduit dead center, however it seemed to have held.

    That can't be right. Elio checked the railgun over, making sure he was using the right battery type. That should've worked.

    Maybe he ought to try it again. However as he took aim, a slew of bolts flew past him, forcing him to dodge to the side and scramble back into cover. The buggers had chosen the most opportune time to attack again.

    The only blue battery he had contained only one more shot and he had another one that was orange.

    There was nothing that said I couldn't use my Pokémon to help.

    "Hey Rufflet." He threw out his small eagle Pokémon, "Give me a hand in distracting those?"

    He peered over the side and gave his trainer a quizzical look.

    "Those things are called buggers. I need to finish the trial, but they're stopping me from doing so."

    Rufflet still didn't appear to understand.

    Wait, I have the VR...he can't see them.

    "Just fly upwards and humor me."

    With a caw, he spread his wings and soared up into the air. As he had predicted, the buggers immediately turned their aggro towards the Pokémon, allowing him to pop back out of cover and take out multiple at a time with shots from the orange battery. Instead of sizzling like electricity, the aftermath had them disintegrating into a bright orange ash which spread out like embers from a fire.

    Before more buggers could show and interrupt him again, he loaded back in the blue battery and shot the conduit a second time. A successive shot was more successful and it appeared to open up a part of the energy prism on the ceiling.

    Okay, we're one third done.

    A cry of a Pokémon stopped his current train of thought as a small green and yellow quadruped creature had sprinted up towards Rufflet, running at a rapid pace with a loud crackling sound every time its small paws hit the ground.

    "Rufflet look out!"

    His eaglet quickly took back to the skies to avoid it slamming into its side and quickly shifted stances.

    "Rotom?"

    "I'm here and on your obligatory analyzizz! Bzzt! Electrike. Lightning Pokémon. Static electricity builds up all over its body as strands of its long fur rub together. This Pokémon boasts incredible speed. Electrike is an electric type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "So Rufflet's at a disadvantage." Elio said to himself, half aware he was being listened to. "But he's still able to fly and be a great distraction." He leaned upwards, seeing more of the buggers in the area around the second conduit.

    "Rufflet, you're going to have to battle it on your own!" He called out. "I'm going for the conduit!"

    Despite saying that, he took an occasional glance at the two Pokémon going at it. The electrike shot a thundershock attack which Rufflet evaded by barrel rolling to the side and then diving down for a fury attack. It shrieked, snapping at him with its jaws just a tad too late as the bird retreated just out of reach and attacked again.

    Elio was about to get ready and aim before one of the buggers shot a longer bolt from the cannon mounted on its front. Unlike the previous ones that were small and traveled a bit slow, this one was quicker and it caught him in the shoulder.

    A warning alarm sounded off in his head and he felt the limb stiffen as the suit restricted his movement, the moment he had full mobility again, he sprinted forward and slid on his back into the closest piece of cover. The moment that long ranged bugger fired again, he had already charged the railgun, targeting it first and blowing it out of the match. The others attempted to react, but he fired two more shots to dispel the last of them.

    Now came the conduit...orange in color, but Elio realized that he had used up the entire battery and couldn't damage it. He had one battery remaining, a blue one which now only was useful against any more buggers. There weren't any at the time, so he prioritized finding an orange battery. Thankfully he had spotted two of them from the remnants of the destroyed buggers, so he dashed over, scooping them up and destroying the second conduit with three well placed shots.

    "Alright two down. All that remains is the purple one."

    "Excellent. You're almost finished."

    Elio glanced over at where the third conduit was located; a narrower section of the entire area which was now being reinforced with almost twice as many buggers he had yet faced.

    A caw caught his attention and he saw Rufflet deliver a final wing attack that put his electrike opponent out of commission. He swooped onto a ledge and puffed his chest out proudly.

    "Yeah buddy I saw that!" His trainer gave him a thumbs up. Just after the encouragement however, he saw another door slide open to allow another electrike to enter the battlefield. Accompanying it however was a small orange rodent Pokémon that darted across the metal floor weaving a wire thin tail behind it.

    "You got company!" Bolt fire streaked across Elio's field of vision and he had to take his attention off his Pokémon. The last thing he saw was him powering up an aerial ace to meet his electric type foes. "I leave them to you! Don't get hurt!"

    Easier said than done. I should pull him out since he's at such a disadvantage.

    "Bzzt! You returned to your tazzzzk too zoon! Bzzt!" Rotom buzzed in his speakers. "I'm ztill gonna give you the information on your newest Pokémon entry! Bzzt! Dedenne. Antenna Pokémon. Its upper whiskers are sensors that survey its surroundings. Its lower whiskers are organs that shoot electricity. Dedenne is an electric and fairy type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    Rufflet against two electric types meant he wouldn't last long if one of them got off a lucky hit. Either way, it was too late as the other buggers began to attack his area and the two electric types began shooting thundershock attacks at the bird. Rufflet did a remarkable job staying away from them and attacking on occasion.

    Elio charged forward, keeping his railgun hot and blasting away at the bugger targets. At such a range, their returned fire was easy enough for him to dodge and avoid. Even one of those sniper ones had appeared along with the other normal ones to try and get the drop on him, but he quickly saw it and put it down with a well placed slug before it got him back in the chest.

    When the stun wore off, he reached the conduit as more buggers appeared. More batteries were collected, but he needed a purple one and he only had blues and oranges.

    Where can I find a purple one?

    Back at where the Pokémon were fighting; Rufflet flapped his wings to avoid a bite attack from the electrike and summoned a tailwind attack before diving down to jab the dedenne with a fury attack. The small hamster Pokémon didn't take many hits before he knocked it out of the fight. However the electrike used the opportunity to release a weak jolt of electricity that shimmered around Rufflet's wings, effectively paralyzing him.

    "Ah crap." Elio kept destroying buggers at a quick rate, knowing that he could pull Rufflet out the earlier he dealt with the annoying drones. Despite having the status condition; his little eaglet still persisted through, shrugging off a bite attack and retaliating with an aerial ace that knocked it out.

    "Finally!"

    And then he spotted it.

    Beside the defeated electrike...was a dark purple battery.

    "Rufflet!"

    His Pokémon saw it and jumped right for the object, wrapping his talons around and taking back into the sky. However Elio saw more movement in the corner of his eye and watched an even larger four legged Pokémon emerge from an entryway and make a beeline for Rufflet.

    It had bright blue fur with long thin yellow manes and ran just like electrike did, albeit faster and more power in its lithe frame.

    "New Pokémon detected again! Bzzt! Manectric. Discharge Pokémon. It is the evolved form of electrike. Manectric can be found beneath unnatural thunderclouds. People say it can run at the same speed as lightning striking. Manectric is an electric type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "C'mon buddy." Elio murmured, removing Rufflet's ball and ready to return him as soon as he threw the battery his way.

    Manectric cloaked itself in a spark attack and ran forward with explosive speed, ramming the small bird just as the battery left his talon in a trajectory straight for his trainer. The ball's retraction feature sought Rufflet's signature, enveloping him back inside and he extended his other hand to catch the flying object.

    Only it was out of his reach. It hit the ground, rolling in a straight line before falling into one of the open trenches about fifteen feet away. The manectric locked its own gaze on the battery and made a mad dash for it, knowing that it was to keep him from completing the preliminary phase of the trial.

    "Jangmo'o, I need your help!" Elio called out his newest team member, as he possessed the only natural resistance on his team to electric moves. The lizard landed on the floor and squeaked up to Elio.

    "I know you're still fairly new to this battling, but I need you to keep that manectric busy or take it out entirely. Can you do that?"

    Jangmo'o cocked its head in puzzlement.

    "Agh." Elio was still trying to get him to think for himself, but the Pokémon was still rather young and inexperienced. He was going to have to take command for the battle and hope that there weren't more buggers that would try to stop him while he got that purple battery.

    Manectric lunged forward, its body crackling with electricity.

    "Protect!"

    Jangmo'o threw up its green shield and the larger Pokémon bounced off. He didn't stop there, instead jumping forward himself to slam the barrier into his foe and knocking him over.

    "Did you just?" Elio blinked again. "Use the protect as a weapon?"

    He quickly realized it as an opportunity to grab the battery and hauled himself over the edge. As soon as he did that, there were a pair of the sniper buggers that had appeared and opened fire on him. The twin long bolts hit him in the midsection and he felt it briefly go numb and lose control. Still in the process of hauling himself down, he had slipped into the trench, tumbling on the side towards the bottom. Elio was unaware of the gasp that Lillie made up in observation, putting her hands to her mouth at seeing the unfortunate gaff.

    Pain flared up in his backside and he heard Jangmo'o squeal loudly; a cry for help followed by the manectric's growls.

    "Um...use tackle!" He hoped that his words would help encourage his newer Pokémon. A moment later, he heard a metallic thud and a cry of pain that certainly wasn't the trial Pokémon's.

    Whoops. Sorry buddy. I'm trying to make bladder control my strong suit right now.

    Groaning, he finally managed to roll over as the numbness and stiffness began to subside. He rolled his arm in the shoulder joint, giving himself a once-over to make sure he again had the full range of mobility.

    By the tapu, that hurts. He aimed the railgun again, blasting the twin long ranged buggers into oblivion. The railgun sputtered and he opened the cap to eject the final spent battery, leaving him with one last purple. At the same time, Jangmo'o had jumped onto the floor, creating a shockwave of a bulldoze attack that finally took the opposing manectric out of commission.

    "This the spirit buddy!" Elio called out in encouragement.

    Now to find that purple battery. As he scanned the floor and moved into cover as two more snipers appeared with a handful of regulars. Their shots whizzed past him again when he scrambled and slid into a barricade.

    Let's do this before Jangmo'o gets distracted by another trial Pokémon.

    He fired three shots quickly, destroying a trio of the careless buggers that had wandered too close. The fourth shot went at the sniper, destroying one, but the second moved away out of his line of sight.

    I've almost got a shot at the conduit.

    Elio rose up, sighting in the target with his reticule. His finger tightened on the trigger and he fired.

    Just as that sniper bugger had darted right out of cover and shot him in the arm.

    He let out a surprised yelp, feeling the suit stiffen from the impact and could only use his legs to control where he fell over. Jangmo'o squeaked at seeing his trainer fall and rushed to his side, nuzzling his body with his beaked mouth in worry.

    Elio groaned, feeling that same uncomfortable tingly sensation of where he was shot. "I'm gonna be happy when this is all over."

    The buggers seemed to want to continue this for as long as possible and laid down a blanket of suppression fire all over the barricade. Elio wasn't going to be able to land a shot without getting hit himself.

    "Jangmo'o! I've got an idea."

    The little dragon looked at him and squeaked curiously.

    "Use protect and create a shield around me. Stay behind me as I go."

    He nodded, closing his eyes and generating a large wall of blue white power. Elio glanced over, satisfied that it was blocking all the energy bolts.

    He hopped over, completely taken by surprise that there was a bugger waiting for him on the other side of the barricade. Without even thinking, his foot lashed out in a kick that knocked it down and out. Three more buggers were taken out with precise shots that happened so fast; Lillie wasn't even sure which one he targeted first. As the last of the regular ones fell, the sniper came back into view. Elio was more than ready for it.

    He had already charged a shot and fired, but it went wide causing it to retreat again. Unfortunately, it was also his last battery and there was a purple one visible right in the open where the sniper could strike him over and over again.

    Jangmo'o saw it too and rushed off towards it.

    "Wait!" Elio called after him. "Stop, we'll go after it together!"

    The little lizard ignored him, igniting a glimmer of determination in its eyes. As it came close and closer, he could already imagine how his trainer was going to be so incredibly happy when he saved the day and improvised. His claws gripped the floor, digging in with precisive grip and zigzagging as the sniper bugger saw the new target and fired wildly. Doing so meant it was sacrificing accuracy and Jangmo'o expertly dodged each one, unaware that the inaccuracy was on the shooter's account.

    Jangmo'o reached the purple battery and looked back at Elio, half expecting his trainer to be beaming with pride.

    Only to feel itself go numb as the sniper bugger finally got a lucky shot off the moment the Pokémon had taken its eyes off its foe.

    Elio's heart dropped as he slid beside his fallen Pokémon, using his larger body to shield him from further harm. Like Jangmo'o; he too was exposed right in the open and the sniper bugger had him locked on. The battery was already in his hand, but he fumbled with it from both nervousness and adrenaline.

    With no options left, Elio tried one last trick he thought might work. Well...in theory. It worked in movies...on occasion.

    He held the railgun between himself and the incoming shot.

    It struck the weapon in his hands, knocking him back with an audible ping. However it was more than enough to buy him time. He slammed the battery home into the weapon and sighted the bugger, firing again to destroy the pesky marksman in a shower of sparks. Without worry this time, Elio fired the purple round into the conduit, finally disabling the protective prism at the ceiling of the entire chamber.

    And at that, he let the gun fall to his side as he knelt down on his hands and knees, completely unaware that he had yet to catch his breath from all that running and shooting. Not to mention trying to keep his Pokémon in order.

    "Jangmo'o." He crawled over to his fallen Pokémon that was shaking while trying to stand. "Buddy."

    Jangmo'o glanced up before averting his gaze. Even though Elio hadn't kept him for very long, he knew the face of embarrassment or disappointment in his Pokémon's eyes.

    "You're gonna be okay buddy. C'mon, get up."

    Jangmo'o stiffened and he let out a saddened squeak. He shuddered slightly before pulling one of his forelegs out from underneath his body. Elio lent a hand, guiding him up until he finally was able to keep balance.

    "You're a risky one aren't ya?"

    Jangmo'o squeaked happily and ran to his trainer's side, nuzzling his hand and making him laugh. His gloved finger scratched underneath his chin, making the lizard purr in delight.

    "Next time, try not to get hurt okay?"

    Sophocles' voice came over the speakers. "Well done Elio! I have more than enough data to make the best kinds of impossible game raids I can! You're an excellent test subject! Now you're ready to start the real encounter with the totem Pokémon! Shoot the center prism that you just unlocked to begin and all that!"

    Elio turned to Jangmo'o. "Well, how about we inform the totem Pokémon that it has guests?"

    He turned to the prism, charging a shot and firing.

    The next moment, all the lights went out.

    Aww yeah! Imma laugh with excitement about this totem battle. If I fine tune it right, it's gonna be an enjoyable one for me to write out and tell all of you! This trial sounded really good on paper and in my sandbox after I tried to think of ways to spice it up instead of having a machine repeatedly break down in trying to call the Totem Pokémon over.

    Translations:

    • Huinakolu - Navigator's Triangle. History has said that the ancient Polynesians and Hawaiians used the stars of Altair (Humu), Deneb (Hawaiki) and Vega (Keoe) as a basis for navigation at night.
    • Polina - Blond
    • 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, mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose. I'll see you guys next update and hope everyone had a good holiday.
    Brav
     
  12. BraviaryScout

    BraviaryScout Way of the Wind

    Bravo
    (Braviary)
    Level 62
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    Crown of ValorPoké Ball ★
    Alola everyone! I'm back with another chapter, the first of the new year! Hope everyone had an awesome holiday and I'm hoping myself that I'll get a good amount of this story finished by the end of this year...fingers crossed and all. It's hard when you've lost the thumb drive that held the entire blueprint of the story and have to recreate much of it from scratch.

    Regardless, I hope everyone enjoys this chapter. Who's ready for a totem battle?

    I'm surprised at how the Totem introduced itself. Much different than the salazzle he faced back on Mauna Wela! Elio's ready for this though! He's going to win! I don't expect anything less from him!

    What other things are in store for us when we head back to Malie? I'm assuming that's where we're going since I did say I would go to the Draconid Festivus with him. Maybe it's a date? Should I treat it as one?


    In the observation deck, Lillie almost screamed out loud when the lights cut out, dousing everything in pitch blackness.

    "It's okay." Molayne had a seemingly unnatural calmness, so she assumed he had experienced this before. "All for the experience of the trial goer."

    Lillie wasn't afraid of the dark...at least excessively, however she was unnerved that either of the boys didn't find it much of a bother either.

    "Ooh it'zzz zpooky in here!" Rotom buzzed, its screen a blur of light as it floated around the air. "I think it'zzz time for zome muzzzic! Bzzzt! Cue the Aksis theme! Bzzt!"

    Lillie began to feel a bit nervous as the haunted Pokédex began to play an ominous tune from the inbuilt speakers. She had been a little familiar with musical instruments, having learned to play a couple as a young girl. Heard in the melody, she could pick out violins, cellos and synths all working together.

    It was unlike any piece of music she was used to hearing. Most of it had been soft, classical music that soothed her nerves in a quaint atmosphere.

    This was intense right from the start and gave her the feeling like Elio was going against something big, bad and sinister, yet it felt like it moved with a hopeful sensation that he was going to be strong enough to take the totem Pokémon down.

    Now if I could only see the totem Pokémon! It's still too dark!

    Elio had already sent out his first Pokémon to face the unseen opponent; Akela. Lillie had to admit that it was a smart choice, given the midnight form's natural ability to see much better in near-darkness. But it seemed that even the wolf Pokémon was having trouble picking it out.

    At first, nothing happened.

    Then a pair of glowing yellow eyes pierced the black. Another yellow glow appeared in the circular form of an orb. Elio saw the sparks flying off the sides and barked the only order he could in time.

    "Look out!"

    Akela saw it coming too and deftly leapt to the side as the unknown hostile shot the orb at a dangerously fast speed. It cruised past them, impacting a part of the floor in another shower of sparks.

    "Ah we gotta get the damn lights on."

    Akela nodded, but stood ready, his eyes darted along the ceiling in preparation to avoid or strike back when the target fired again.

    Elio was in the middle of thinking maybe the purple charge in his railgun could help light the place up when he saw the familiar energy flare to life surrounding something at the top of the prism he had just broken open.

    There's that totem aura again.

    The energy burned brightly around the totem Pokémon, enough to apparently cast the lights back on and bathe the entire area in a stark reddish glow this time around. Compared to the normal blue lighting on the previous part of the trial, it was a reminder that much more was at stake. This was the hard part.

    He now finally had a good look at the totem Pokémon. It was a large beetlelike creature with a chitinous navy blue shell that had somewhat of an iridescent sheen in the red light. The two glowing yellow eyes were narrowed at its prey. Six small legs with silver gripping claws dangled loosely from its thorax and abdomen. Parts of the shell were raised up, allowing a huge pair of wings to rapidly beat to keep it inflight. Rather than make an annoying buzzing sound like other insects, the sheer size and even a light wind that rippled from it made it seem more like he was facing a helicopter.

    A very angry helicopter.

    However the most striking feature on the totem Pokémon were the long jagged mandibles that proceeded the mouth. The edges were spiked with the insides symmetrically placed and crackling with white electric waves.

    "Rotom, do you have any intel on this new Pokémon?"

    "Actually yezzz I do! Do you like the muzzzzic I zet for you?"

    "Rotom!"

    "Oh right. New Pokémon detected! Bzzt! Vikavolt. Stag beetle Pokémon. It is the evolved form of charjabug. Vikavolt flusters its foes with acrobatic flying maneuvers. This creates an opening for it to deliver blindingly fast electrical attacks from its linear accelerated jaws. Vikavolt is a bug and electric type. Additional information is available upon catching this Pokémon."

    "Akela you ready?" He got a growl of affirmation in return. "Alright. Let's take him down! Rock tomb!"

    The werewolf Pokémon growled, forming rocks in his hands and hurling them straight at the totem. It made no effort to dodge, but the rocks splintered and shattered into powdered bits before they could even touch it.

    "Wait, attacks do nothing?"

    Akela growled as the totem charged up an attack of energy in its long jaws and casually shot it out. Again, he leapt out of the way, letting it harmlessly pass by.

    "Hey, if you're open to any ideas or secrets. I'm all ears."

    Seriously Sophocles. Molayne. Lillie. Any advice?

    Back up in the observation deck; the blonde had already tuned out Rotom's blaring of the music, even though it was starting to make her heart race.

    "Why didn't it do any damage?"

    "Because the totem Pokémon is protected by a prism shield. Elio needs to find a way to break it in order to let his Pokémon do damage. We call this DPS."

    "DPS?"

    "Ignore him," Molayne chuckled. "It's a gaming term. But what he means to say is that there's only one way to break that totem's shield. Once it's down, Elio will only have a short window of time to deal damage before the shield goes back up and he'll have to repeat the entire process."

    "Can I tell him that?"

    "Unfortunately no. He'll have to figure just about all of it out on his own."

    Sophocles stifled a laugh and it didn't go unnoticed.

    "Soffy?"

    "Well...I...um maybe went a little overkill here."

    "What do you mean?"

    "I mean...he has only a limited number of chances he can take down the totem Pokémon."

    "What?!" Lillie and Molayne gasped. "Why do you say that?"

    Okay think...we clearly did that stuff with sniping those buggers for a reason. A lot of these two phase kind of things happen because it's a grasping part of a mechanic that comes into play during the second.

    Elio glanced around. The arena had changed from a bowl shape to a three-pronged fork, with open angled sightlines between three raised platforms connecting to the center large chamber where the totem lurked. In various spots close to where he was located; he saw three plates that began to glow different colors. One orange, one blue and one purple; the same of the battery types he had for the railgun. Akela nimbly dodged another quick orb that was launched his way and glanced back at Elio for instructions.

    I've seen that attack before. Zap Cannon, one of the most powerful electric moves. If he gets hit, he's automatically paralyzed if it doesn't take him out.

    The totem vikavolt raised itself up and let out a loud hissing sound. Moments later, he saw that there were three smaller ally Pokémon that appeared; three electrike. At once, they began to sprint, changing directions but making a beeline straight for the glowing plates. When Elio looked closer, he could see that each one was carrying a different colored battery just like the ones he used in the railgun on their back.

    So this is how I'll get batteries, but for what exactly?

    Something also told him that he needed to slow or take the electrike down before they reached their designated plates.

    He opted to range attack the farthest one away before moving to deal with the other two. "Akela, rock tomb on the orange one!"

    His werewolf Pokémon formed more rocks in his paws and hurled them downrange to the springing electrike. Luck had decided to step in when the totem vikavolt intervened and fired a zap cannon that shattered the rocks into powder. He kept persisting though, already throwing more large boulders that trapped and knocked out the electrike in the middle of the lane.

    Elio and Akela took off to their left as soon as he confirmed it was knocked out. The purple electrike was nearly there, but got stopped by another rock tomb since he had to lunge and take the last one down with a well placed bite attack. The blue battery electrike managed to survive and got off a quick attack on him before dashing again for the blue plate. Akela kept on his heels, lunging forward in a sucker punch attack that knocked it out.

    Now we need to grab those batteries. Elio moved quickly, bending down to scoop as he half walked, half sprinted in between the sightlines, careful to make sure the totem vikavolt didn't notice him. It was too distracted with Akela who barked and growled to keep the aggro drawn away from his trainer.

    One by one, Sun picked up the batteries and the moment he did; all three of the plates behind him began to glow and emit a thin beam of their respective colored light in the direction of where the three lanes began out of the center chamber.

    "You're empowered! Bzzt!" Rotom's voice crackled through his speaker. "Now'z the time for DPS phazze!"

    So then maybe the light pointing to where the totem is corresponds with what battery I need to use? Is that it?

    Guess there's only one way to find out.

    "Akela, stay out of sight." His wolf Pokémon nodded at him and got down on all fours, prowling low to the ground as he repositioned himself closer to the totem.

    The vikavolt zipped right towards the left hand side, where the orange beam was pointing. Elio loaded the appropriate battery into the railgun after unslinging it. He brought it up to his sight, lined it up with the top of the prism shield before charging and letting loose with the shot.

    Unlike the previous shots, the battery seemed to be drained of all its power into a single bolt. It blasted out of the railgun's muzzle quickly, the recoil almost tossing it straight out of Elio's hands. However he looked up in time to see it shimmer on the prism shield before winking out, causing the massive beetle to stagger and fall to the ground.

    "While it's stunned!" Elio growled to Akela. "Let's go! Bite and rock tomb!"

    His Pokémon jumped into action, closing the distance, fangs bared and paws outstretched to form more boulders to throw.

    Just as he was about ready to land the myriad of attacks on the exposed Pokémon, the totem abruptly shot a volley of jagged thunderbolts into the ceiling. At first, both Elio and Akela thought nothing of it and started their combo of attacks. The werewolf lunged in with bites and hurled a rock tomb before quickly jumping out of the way from a quickly fired green sphere from the totem. Elio was half paying attention to Rotom Dex identifying it as energy ball, a grass move that would've proved disastrous if it hit his Pokémon.

    And then the thunderbolts started raining down, lancing to the floor in a wild pattern and moving as if they were wayward celestial beings. They crackled while spreading around in erratic motions and definitely looked deadly enough to knock out his Pokémon if they made contact.

    Akela kept up his damages, throwing two more rock tombs that had significantly slowed the totem's overall speed. He did have to admire its resilience though, as the dark colored shells seemed to function like armor plating to deflect off most of his attacks.

    The totem flashed with electrical energy and then flew rapidly over to a second spot in the next chamber over. The prism flared back up, this time where the purple beam was directed. Elio loaded the corresponding battery into the railgun, shooting it once again to dissipiate the shields.

    As Akela jumped into action, the huge vikavolt fired more thunderbolts into the air, crashing them down moments later and spreading around.

    "Look out!" Elio cried.

    His Pokémon let out a yelp of surprise, again moving to deal more damage, however several of the thunderbolts struck the floor extremely close, forcing him to dodge and backpedal to the point where he couldn't use any moves that made direct contact.

    The vikavolt cloaked itself in sparks again, launching itself forward off its hovering spot and hitting Akela across the chest, sending him tumbling backwards. He had used that momentum to get himself on his feet when he turned upright.

    "Counter!"

    Akela's eyes glowed and he lashed out with his paw, containing double the power from the spark attack he just received. As he lunged, the totem zipped over to the third area, outlined by the purple beam.

    "Empowerment'zzz shifting! Bzzt!"

    Damn, he lost the energy off that counter. Maybe we trick him again?

    "Get ready!" Elio called out. Akela formed more boulders in his paws as he dashed over to the totem, dodging a hastily fired energy ball in the process. "Now!"

    He squeezed the trigger, draining all the battery into one single shot that pierced the prism. Just after it went down; Akela had tossed the rock tomb, following up with a sucker punch that sent the massive beetle reeling backwards with an annoyed hiss.

    "Look out! More thunderbolts!"

    Unfortunately, it was near-impossible to get sustained damage in without having to either avoid the crashing lightning or the totem's attacks. Akela would always have to be on his toes to avoid something and every precious second wasted avoiding everything meant less time to deal damage before that impregnable prism went back up.

    I can't have my Pokémon just take those attacks either. I've only got six.

    Elio wasn't sure how much had been done in this shield break, but he hoped it was enough if he had to use other members of his team. Either way, he watched the prism flare back up into place, but now the totem had spread its jaw mandibles wide apart and seemed to be taking in electricity from the ceiling and floor from the thunderbolts that it rained down during his damage phases.

    What's it doing?

    "Rotom, what's going on?"

    "I don't know! Bzzzt! Oh no! SIVA density critical! Hurry you need to get to zhelter! Bzzt!"

    SIVA? What is that? "What are you talking about?"

    "Juzzzt get to zafety! There are zhelterzzzz behind you! Bzzt!"

    Elio glanced back, now spotting three shielded doors at the back of the arena. Neither him or Akela thought twice, just bolted straight for the one on the farthest left, sliding through the transparent door as the totem unleashed an incredibly powerful electric pulse. It raced towards them in the blink of an eye with enough brightness to make the both of them turn away. The energy raced up the wall before disappearing into the top.

    That looks completely fatal. I hope this suit guards against that.

    Just as it was gone, the wall lowered and allowed both the Pokémon and his trainer back out. What was most noteworthy was that the wall did not boot back up. That left two more standing now that he had used one.

    Oh...so if it has that uber destructive move...that means I have three more of those damage phases that I need to take this thing out.

    Akela growled at Elio, pointing to the totem who was now back in its normal position at the chamber's center.

    However once he took his eyes off his foe; the vikavolt gathered another ball of electrical energy in its mandible mouth and shot it straight at Akela, striking him dead center. The lycanroc flew backwards, landing in a heap.

    "No!" Elio raced over to his side, dropping down on a knee. He had no items, no berries to use. All he could do was hope that Akela was in shape to battle.

    There were a few small jolts of electricity that were running along his rocky fur.

    He's paralyzed. That was zap cannon.

    Akela stirred and began to sluggishly get back up.

    "Are you okay?" He got a small nod in reply.

    "I'm pulling you out."

    The werewolf's eyes narrowed and he almost looked sad that he wouldn't be able to finish the fight.

    Elio was touched by how committed his Pokémon was to continue battling. "You're hurt. I need you to rest and I'm probably going to call on you again."

    Akela seemed satisfied and made no further protest as Elio returned him to his Pokéball.

    Alright, who do I pick next?

    Back in the observation window, Lillie smiled as she watched Elio coach his Pokémon into coming back for a substitute. Even better was the resolve Akela had in wanting to fight despite the grievous injuries and paralysis he had sustained.

    "I wonder what Pokémon Elio izzz gonna pick next? Bzzt!"

    Both of them were surprised when he switched him out for Rufflet.

    "Rufflet?" Lillie asked out loud. "But why? Aren't flying types weak to electric types?"

    "Why yezzz, they are. Bzzt!"

    What are you thinking Elio?

    "Alright here we go!" Sun called out to his Rufflet, who flew out towards the three electrikes that appeared once again. They each had one battery attached to them of a differing color which in turn swapped with the plates.

    He knew that Rufflet was weak to electric moves and was playing a dangerous game that could probably get him knocked out if he wasn't careful.

    But the advantages were that Rufflet wasn't stuck to the ground and using the air made him move much faster. Elio's own thinking were getting quick strikes in and out before the totem had a chance to retaliate.

    The little bird was familiar with electrike and already went to work once his trainer explained the base behind how they were going to win. He had already jabbed at one enough with a fury attack to knock it out and let Elio scoop up the orange battery. The second one was ready for him, shooting off a thundershock attack as soon as he came into sight. Rufflet rolled out of the way before diving in with an aerial ace to take it out as well.

    "Get the third one quick!"

    Rufflet looped in midair to rapidly change direction, going after the third electrike. Unlike Akela, he had much more room to avoid the totem's zap cannon attacks and effortlessly rolled around them without much of a worry of getting hit.

    The final one was ready for him though, launching itself into the air and springing off its hind legs, lunging up for an attack. Again, he was ready and looped in midair to both evade and strike back with an aerial ace. He swooped back down, snagging the battery and tossing it to his trainer.

    All three batteries acquired.

    As if on queue, the three colored beams phased in and the totem was hovering where the blue beam was pointing.

    "Get ready!"

    Rufflet soared forward as the totem turned to recognize its foe. It fired more electrical beams and incoming attacks which the eaglet dodged nimbly. His wings glowed in preparation of a wing attack.

    Just a little further.

    Now.


    Elio charged up the railgun and fired the bolt straight into the totem's prism, causing it to shimmer out at the same moment Rufflet struck its side with his broad wings. The vikavolt wasted no time in launching more wickedly jagged thunderbolts into the ceiling and having them race along the ground in a pillar of crackling light.

    In all of his thinking, he would've never logically sent a flying type to face an electric type like this head on. However Rufflet's faster speed and smaller stature allowed him to fly circles around his bigger foe, capitalizing on the multiple rapid hits over someone slower.

    Try not to look worried here.

    Without warning, the vikavolt zipped straight over to the purple line.

    Empowerment shifts.

    He loaded the purple battery, firing again. Rufflet was already on his way to intercept its rally point.

    However the large beetle was ready and opened its large linear jaws to unleash a charge beam in an attempt to slow the bird.

    Uh oh.

    "Rufflet, just like we practiced!" Elio called out. "Steel wing!"

    Lillie's mouth opened in surprise when she could see the broadened wings shine and glisten as they became coated in a hard metal. Unlike avoiding it before, Rufflet flew directly into the beam of electrical energy.

    Elio was holding his breath, still a little unsure if his Pokémon was able to pull it off, but was pleasantly surprised when he could see the beam deviating from its path as if it had a sentience of its own. The electricity crackled as it laced through the metallic surface, leaving out from the end of the wingspan and discharging into the ground.

    Rufflet's face contorted into a grimace from the pain, but he kept his course.

    C'mon, buddy, just a little further.

    A thunderbolt crashed right in front of him, causing him to veer off course to the side. The totem's jaws glowed with an orb at the back; another zap cannon was about to be fired.

    I have no idea if this is going to work.

    "Try a tailwind!"

    Rufflet gave him a questioning look, but did as asked when he flapped his wings to bring a breeze that blew from behind.

    That might give us an extra speed boost we need to get more attacks in there.

    As the vikavolt fired the zap cannon, it flew through the air before slowing almost immediately as if struggling. The gusty tailwind had caught and overtook its initial momentum, holding it to a standstill before curving backwards.

    Right into the face of the totem Pokémon.

    The zap cannon orb crashed into its front with a booming explosion and threw off yellowish sparks of electrical energy that intertwined with a couple thunderbolts that had jumped down. It hissed in protest, shaking itself in an attempt to get its bearings.

    And it was exactly the moment Rufflet needed to slam into its side with an aerial ace, followed by a wing attack that seemed to do a good portion of damage. He had aimed for the weaker underside behind where the wings fluttered and the armored chitinous carapace had to expose itself in order to achieve flight.

    Should I pull him out? I don't want to overplay my speed and flight advantage with him. Torracat can take over maybe?

    The massive totem shifted, flying quickly to the third spot. Elio readied the railgun with the orange battery. Empowerment shifts.

    He fired as Rufflet used the currents to boost his own speed.

    It began to form another zap cannon in its jaws.

    "Rufflet, stay in the center!" Elio called out as he took aim. "The zap cannon is going to curve around hit him!"

    His eaglet cawed and centered along the corridor, fiercely staring down the bigger bug as it held the charge. Elio found it strange when it held its fire.

    Is he aiming? Is he waiting for an opportunity?

    Either way, he held the orange battery in the gun but wanted to fire right at the moment Rufflet began his attack. An uneasy sensation crept up his body.

    It was the perfect scenario...for the totem. If it fired the zap cannon, it would render itself almost defenseless not counting its thunderbolts that went...places.

    So then why is he holding it back? Maybe he knows about the tailwind and won't shoot if he knows he'll get hit.

    Looking back at the beast, he could see its eyes narrow in anticipation.

    Rufflet was about two seconds away, so Elio charged the orange battery and fired, breaking the totem's prism.

    It fired the zap cannon.

    "Look out!" His bird didn't need a verbal warning to smartly roll out of the way and recenter himself. The thunderbolts began to rain down from above, cast by a divine being in an almost angrily manner. None were close, but they provided another obstacle that he had to bank around in order to get another angle. The zap cannon orb was fired at an angle into the wind, curving wide and exploding on the wall, canceling out a thunderbolt that wandered too close.

    Totem vikavolt reared back as Rufflet struck it on the underside by an aerial ace, retaliating by forming a series of white orbs that were launched in a helical formation.

    Hidden power!

    Rufflet was incredibly acrobatic, flying through the twist while spinning himself. The penultimate orb clipped him on the underside, causing him to screech in pain and swat away the final one with a steel wing. He kept his advance, even as he stared directly at another zap cannon that was quickly formed and fired.

    He dodged that one.

    Rufflet was ready again as it shot another spiral of hidden power orbs, flying again through the attack. Not wanting a repeat of last time, he sped up when he breezed through, aided by the tailwind and spread his wings as soon as he was free.

    However it was both a mistake that Pokémon and trainer overlooked.

    Elio paid scant attention to the zap cannon, even though it was fired as he expected...directly into the wind. Rufflet's own booster worked against it yet again, slowing its velocity and then reversing it in the other direction. As Rufflet spun in a corkscrew through the hidden power attacks, it was funneled right into the path of the incoming attack that put him right in between it and the totem.

    Rufflet glanced back, squawking in horror when the orb collided against his body. He vanished in an explosion of smoke, charred feathers and sparks.

    Elio's heart lurched in his chest when he reappeared at the bottom, falling lifelessly towards the ground at an alarming speed.

    He's gonna get hurt!

    His hands fumbled on his belt for the great ball, finally getting it in his hands and hitting the recall feature. The beam raced towards his fallen Pokémon, capturing its signature and returning it before it could suffer any further damage.

    I'm sorry…I'm sorry Rufflet. I overplayed our advantage.

    The totem reset, flying to the center, calmly awaiting his next opponent.

    Elio was at a bit of a crossroads of what to send out. Nani was both weak to electric types and ground based. Torracat had an advantage over the bug typing, but he didn't want to play his ace card yet. Charjabug was a last resort.

    Jangmo'o?

    He pulled out his Poké Ball. "Why not?"

    Jangmo'o curled out as he landed and sniffed the ground curiously. His eyes went wide at seeing the monstrous vikavolt before him, but the fear quickly gave way to that usual fierce determination that he had known him for.

    "You're up buddy! It's your time to shine!" He briefed his little Pokémon, still a bit unsure if he really understood what was going on at his young age. "That totem can't be hurt, but if you and I work together, we can take it down! I've got a job just for you!"

    Jangmo'o nodded his head, flexing it up proudly.

    Before he was struck with a zap cannon right in his face.

    "No!"

    Don't tell me I made another mistake!

    "Buddy?"

    The electricity arcs began to clear as he now saw Jangmo'o standing firmly where he was before and shook off the effects. Looking closer, Elio saw no signs of singing damage or traces of paralysis.

    It did nothing?!

    "Rotom, what happened?"

    "Jangmo'o'zzz ability izzzzz bulletproof! Thiz makezzz it imperviouzzzz to zzzertain ball, bomb and cannon movezzzz. Bzzt!"

    This actually works out! We can do this!

    "Alright buddy, here's the plan."

    "Wow. He's adapting." Molayne observed, surprised that Elio and Jangmo'o had now unleashed a huge bulldoze attack that wiped out two electrike and a manectric in a single blow. Trainer went left, Pokémon went right to gather the batteries. The totem fired another zap cannon, however Jangmo'o stopped in his tracks, taking the blow but no damage.

    "Bulletproof protects his Pokémon from some ball and bomb type of moves and it's been confirmed by Kukui that zap cannon is one of them. With that bulldoze, he could get the batteries quickly."

    Lillie glanced back at the totem itself. "But how is he going to take on it with just that little Pokémon? Don't vikavolt have their ability as levitate? He won't be able to use ground attacks."

    "I guess we'll have to see. Elio's resourceful. I know that just by looking at him."

    Elio kept Jangmo'o out until he had all three batteries and then executed his plan.

    He was returned back to his Poké Ball and instead Torracat was sent out. He advanced with a flame charge, dodging incoming zap cannons and hidden powers with his deft agility and lunging in for the kill at the same moment he broke the prism shield with the railgun.

    Unlike Akela who had battled both the ally Pokémon and the totem, Torracat was full of energy and only had to concentrate on one target. Plus he had ranged attacks like ember and overheat, so there was less of a risk of getting caught up close.

    However, as he unleashed an ember attack; Elio now saw that it had another advantage over him.

    Vikavolt zipped around on its highly maneuverable wings, weaving back and forth as Torracat shot more ember attacks to try and scorch it. It had unleashed a volley of more thunderbolt traps, which caused the feline to have to constantly move and spend time avoiding them. Any shot he was getting off was being dodged expertly. It was the same the other way in a stalemate. Neither one could hit the other without risking itself to be struck.

    By the time Torracat finished avoiding the thunderbolts crashing against the ground, the totem's own empowerment had already shifted to the next location.

    "Again! Overheat!"

    Torracat growled, opening his mouth and launching a huge beam of white hot fire. Elio loaded the railgun, firing and dropping its prism shield again. Unlike last time, he timed it so that the shield was broken as soon as the beginning of Torracat's overheat met its mark. The vikavolt let out a panicked hiss, previously unable to move as it did. When the smoke cleared, he was still surprised to see it flying. Its glossy yellow eyes darted around, finding Torracat looking at him from underneath.

    Elio called out for him to attack again, but before he could, the totem left as empowerment shifted.

    We keep this up and he'll be down and out! He knew that overheat was going to be marginally weaker in power than last time, but as long as he kept that ranged attack, his Pokémon would have some time to avoid any retaliation.

    He knelt down, loading the final battery of the damage phase and depleting the totem's shield. At the same time, Torracat readied and fired another beam of overheat towards the target. It was smaller and didn't carry the same intensity as the first one, but still burned bright enough for everyone watching to shield their eyes away.

    Nobody saw the totem form an energy ball in between its serrated jaws and launch it to counter. The two attacks collided, throwing up a concussive wave and explosion of barely contained power that felt as if it was strong enough to rock the entire observatory.

    Torracat stood idle, waiting for another signal to resume his attack when a zap cannon orb seemed to appear out of nowhere without any warning at all. He shrieked as the electricity molded out of its spherical shape and attacked his body, coursing over his fur like fine oil.

    "No! Shit!" Elio cursed out loud, before covering the bottom part of his helmet. It wasn't like him at all to swear like that.

    "Torracat! Are you good?" He got a mewl in response, agitated and angry that he had let his guard down.

    "You're paralyzed! Get yourself back up to speed and attack with flame charge!"

    His starter moved, catching a few swirling embers around his body, however the newly acquired paralysis condition caused him to seize up and stumble. The totem once again took advantage of the situation to shoot another zap cannon that sent him tumbling into the side of the wall with a sickening crash.

    "No!" Elio took off, sliding right by his fallen Pokémon. He wasted no time to return him back and ready his next combatant. There would be time to offer words of encouragement later.

    Jangmo'o was back out, but by the time he got ready to begin attacking; the totem was already reaching a critical energy state.

    Elio had to act fast and he knew that Jangmo'o's smaller legs wouldn't be able to consistently keep up as he ran to the safe zone. So he did the first thing he could think of at the time.

    Jangmo'o looked up at his savior with wide beady eyes as the two of them slid into the final safe zone. He caught his small Pokémon looking up at him for guidance and gently rubbed the bottom of his chin.

    "We'll figure something out right? We're in this together."

    "Elio's got one final damage phase left before the totem vanishes again." Sophocles said nervously. "Is this my fault? Did I make it too hard?"

    "Hey easy there Soffy." Molayne soothed next to him. "It's only the first time you've done it."

    "I know, but if Professor Kukui finds out, I might lose my status as trial captain."

    Lillie didn't know the exact rules of the island challenge, but from what Elio had told her; Captain Sophocles' was different with so many other variables integrated in. The timegated damage phases, the teamwork of both trainer and Pokémon having to work together. It all seemed like a well thought out idea, but it seemed raw and lacking in things to fine tune it. She knew that Kukui was a stickler for making the island challenge difficult, but also safe and simple enough that anyone who put their minds to it could succeed.

    If Elio failed…

    No...he won't.

    "I'll make sure."

    Sophocles and Molayne blinked at her.

    "Um...I'll make sure Professor Kukui doesn't punish you and revoke your status as captain."

    "What makes you think that?" The smaller boy's expression brightened with a little glimmer of hope, but Lillie didn't want to make any promises just yet.

    "You said Elio is your first trial goer?

    "Well yes."

    "He's gonna win. I know he will. And you won't worry about because Professor Kukui believes that he can. I believe he can."

    "If he doesn't it's impossible."

    "This is Elio we're talking about," Lillie ignored the redness growing in her cheeks as she spoke so highly of her crush. "He eats the impossible for breakfast."

    "Okay, remember the plan and stick to it!" Elio knocked Jangmo'o on the top of his scaly head. "We're gonna win this yet!"

    The totem had completed its wipe oblivion attack as it lowered the energy door protecting them.

    Elio and Jangmo'o sprang into action; his Pokémon using protect to shield himself from a hidden power attack before smashing his front legs into the ground in a bulldoze.

    The ally Pokémon this time around were all manectric. They stumbled and took serious damage with two falling, but the third had stayed on its feet, still going despite being hit hard.

    Jangmo'o bulldozed him again, sending it out of the fight for good measure.

    Alright, the batteries!

    Elio stuck by his Pokémon's side as he knelt down to grab them as he passed. The totem sensed another damage phase about to commence and launched more attacks from hidden power to charge beams. Jangmo'o proudly stood in front, deflecting the charge beams and used a protect again to stop a well aimed hidden power from hitting him. As an orb exploded nearby, Elio saw bits of frosty ice splash over the metal.

    Oh wow, the hidden power is ice type! Bad news for Jangmo'o if he gets hit.

    Within a few seconds, he had secured all three batteries, just waiting for the colored beams to activate and tell him which ones to use.

    Orange first.

    The totem fired another zap cannon as Elio took out Jangmo'o's Poké Ball to return him. He stopped, allowing his little dragon to proudly take the hit and brush it off with no effects at all.

    What he didn't see was the follow up attack like it had done to knock out Torracat.

    Jangmo'o made the mistake of looking back at Elio, expectant of praise when a spiral of hidden power orbs helixed towards him, slamming into his side with enough force to knock him down on all fours. He sprawled out on the ground, unmoving.

    No. No time to stop. Not when I'm this close!

    Now it was the final part of his plan. All he had to do was avoid more ranged attacks.

    "Akela! This is it!"

    The hard part of it was that he could only do one thing at a time, use his railgun or Z-ring which was the crucial part.

    "Wait for it!" Akela bared his teeth, still able to move and dodge incoming attacks while paralyzed. His movement was slower, so it was only a matter of time before the totem got lucky...or smart enough.

    "Wait for it."

    He saw the vikavolt charge up a zap cannon inside its jaws.

    "Now."

    Elio dropped to one knee, using his right hand to insert the rockium-Z into the slot on his ring while he aimed with his left. His finger squeezed the trigger.

    The railgun charged up and shot out the bolt towards the totem's orange prism.

    All looked absolutely perfect, except for one thing.

    The bolt was blue.

    Oh crap.

    It splattered uselessly against the glassy surface, draining away with no visible effect that it even did a thing.

    The totem appeared to know it had another opportunity and fired back a salvo of retaliatory attacks. Energy balls and hidden powers arced gracefully above before sinking down towards their position.

    The lycanroc growled as the paralysis slowed him down, but at the last moment, he finally regained control of his limbs and was able to leap out of the way. More explosions thundered around the floor, sprouting up where he once stood.

    Elio felt the power of his Z-ring hum and tingle through his entire arm, realizing that he had been so focused on powering it up that he neglected to match the battery type with the totem's prism shield.

    "Okay, now for the right one." He grabbed the orange battery, loading it in.

    The window of his line of fire was short, as Akela had to dodge another volley of hidden power shots and the rapid movements and lights made it difficult to aim.

    He squeezed the trigger, confident that he was going to correct his previous mistake. It must've worked because he heard the crashing sound of thunderbolts it made when it was in that vulnerable damage state.

    "Bring forth the potential of your Z-Power Akela! Channel the strength of the tapu! Z-move unleash! Rock tomb into...Continental CRUSH!" Elio felt his throat burn raw as the glow from his ring intensified. He moved into Olivia's pose that she showed him, squatting down, flexing his biceps before spreading his legs apart and falling to a knee.

    Made sure that hip movement did the trick!

    Zenith energy erupted from the ring surrounding Akela in front. His eyes began to glow a bright red as he jumped up and became surrounded by thick sandy rocks that built themselves around his form like a cocoon.

    The totem fired more thunderbolts that struck out like jagged fingers in a vain attempt to shatter or pierce the mass of rock. All it did was chip off small stones that clattered to the floor in loud metallic clangs.

    Akela launched the massive boulder as hard as he could, falling down to the ground as the paralysis wreaked havoc on his limbs. He stood on all fours, watching and not willing to give in until he was satisfied that his foe was going to fall as well.

    Continental Crush was a massive boulder that seemed to span the entire room, which Elio had no idea how it was able to fit. It cast an ominous shadow over even the big totem Pokémon before gravity seemed to grab it and throw it down on the unfortunate victim. The rock slammed into the metal with a screeching noise that set Elio's teeth on edge before it rumbled again and shattered into millions of fragments and choking powder that permeated the air.

    None of his time as a trainer could've prepared him for the oncoming wave of sandy rocks that rushed towards him with intense speed.

    "Oh shi-"

    The wall had spread out and hit him with enough force to knock him off his feet and send him into an uncontrollable tumble. Luckily, the suit he wore had protected his body from the coarse particles as they pelted his hard visor sounding as if it was being sprayed by a pressurized hose. The best thing he could do was pin himself against the wall and hope it settled down while covering his mask with his hands and pulling his knees up to his chest.

    It seemed as if the onslaught of rushing sand would never end...until it did. The gusts petered out and he finally managed to wipe a dirty glove to clear the buildup around his visor.

    Akela stood up slowly, still under the effects of the paralysis, but he growled lowly; his expression softening with relief at seeing his trainer okay.

    Elio groaned, stumbling around for a moment before he finally fixated his eyes on something that fluttered where the totem once stood.

    "No way,"

    How? How did it survive?!

    Akela bared his teeth, crouching down on all fours when he saw it too. Regardless of the pain and paralysis that he suffered, the will to fight was still within him.

    The vikavolt seemed unperturbed by their defiance, standing completely still aside from its wings creating waves that broke up clumps of the thick dust that hung in the air. Up above, the lights cut solid beams down onto the ground, swirling with tiny particles.

    His wolf Pokémon stood proudly and curled his paw into a fist before hitting his own chest.

    Elio's heart leapt when he saw the vikavolt stiffen.

    And then it began to fall.

    The totem spiraled out of the air like a crashing helicopter, slamming into the sandy floor with a massive thud on its back. The noise of its wings beating whined down as if it were a machine powering down after landing. Its limbs stiffened and body relaxed.

    "Is it?"

    "And the defeat izzz confirmed! Bzzt!" Rotom buzzed with a hint of static in Elio's audiopiece. "The totem Pokémon izzzz out for the count! Elio hazzz defeated the trial!"

    Up in the observation deck; all three were speechless.

    Sophocles' jaw hung open in disbelief while Molayne smiled to himself while shaking his head.

    "I can't believe he did it."

    Neither of them initially noticed Lillie, who was initially frightened at the sandstorm, but that quickly disappeared into something more joyous as she let out a loud cheering yell that neither of the men expected.

    "Yes! Yes! YESSSSSSSS!" She was grinning happily while practically bouncing around off the walls. "He actually did it! Elio beat the trial! I knew he would do it!"

    "Wow." Sophocles was amazed at the display from the normally quiet girl. "She never lost faith."

    "No...she didn't."

    It took ten minutes for Elio to finally decompress and pull the parts of the suit off his body. As he activated the release, bits of sand that had gotten into tight open spaces dripped out as if he stepped from a sand shower. His face was covered in beads of sweat and even more grains ended up being brushed out of his hair as he ran his hand through.

    I hate sand like this.

    "Well lookie here! Bzzt!" Rotom was the first to greet him. "Our prodigal trainer returnzzz! Victoriouzzzz I might add!"

    "That was...amazing." Sophocles breathed. "I can't believe it worked and all that!"

    "Wasn't easy," Elio knelt down to scratch Akela's mane. "Yeah I know, we'll get you healed up as quick as we can okay?" The wolf Pokémon nodded and allowed himself to be returned back to his Poké Ball.

    "Excellent work Soffy." Molayne used the captain's affectionate name. "You helped Elio here through the trial and your experiment was a success! It seemed that you may need to tweak the trial mechanics a little bit, if we can get some assistance from all the electrike and manectric, we should be able to make some improvements."

    "Thanks Big Mo. I...just wish that I got it right the first time and all that."

    "Hey," Elio put up his hands. "That's what it's all about. We look at what we can improve and then go out to do it. I'll take steady progress over perfection any day."

    "We'll figure it out for sure." Sophocles said before he reached into his pocket. "Here. This is for you as proof you've cleared the electric type trial!"

    "Aww yes!" Elio let the golden yellow crystal fall into his hands while spinning around and holding it skyward. "Trial is complete!"

    No sooner had he struck his little pose when he heard a loud squeal and subsequently almost knocked over by a flying Lillie. She excitedly threw her arms around him and squeezed tightly enough for him to practically gasp for a breath.

    "You did it! I can't believe you did it!"

    "I know right?!" He joined in on her enthusiasm. "It was amazing!"

    Lillie beamed at him. "You're amazing!"

    "Pew!" They heard Nebby coo from her duffel. The zipper opened and it peered out, waving its little blue could appendages in excitement.

    "Oh wow." Molayne crossed over and knelt beside it. "That's quite the interesting creature."

    Sophocles was showing Elio the pose meanwhile; throwing his arms into an "X" then weaving them around as if channeling electric currents before striking it opposite ends of one another.

    "Yeah. Nebby's a strange Pokémon. It came from Ultra Space and I've tried not to draw so much attention, but it's all to get it back home."

    "Our lips are sealed." He said with Sophocles nodding in agreement. "You said it came from Ultra Space? How?"

    "I...I found it." She lied, "Nebby was lying on the beach and I covered it in this bag, so nobody would take it away."

    "If it was on the beach,"

    "Then that could mean it dropped out of an anomaly Ultra Wormhole Professor Burnet was talking about!" He turned back to Sophocles. "I've got some new theories and ideas we need to put to the test!"

    The trial captain smiled. "I'll get everything ready! Elio, congratulations on clearing the trial. I'll tweak it around so it's not so confusing the next time someone has to take it! How about we have a battle sometime?"

    "I'll hold you to that." Sun said, shaking hands.

    "Before you go," Molayne gave Elio a rather familiar object. A multicolored mask was pressed into his hands.

    Isn't this for the Masked Royal?

    "Yeah...I've got a favor to ask of you. Professor Kukui forgot this."

    Why did Kukui forget the Masked Royal's mask? Is he like in charge of the guy's wardrobe?

    "He said he wanted to meet you back at Malie Garden. So could you take it to him?"

    "Um...yes." Elio nodded obediently. "Yes I can."

    I have so many questions.

    The two of them bid farewell to the others as they rushed to get something else done thanks to the little tidbit of information Lillie had given them.

    "They seemed like an interesting pair." She said as they were exiting the observatory. Instead of going to the bus stop, they headed towards the Pokémon center with the intention of giving Elio's party healed up.

    "I know. But they're both dedicated. I like that."

    "Me too. So you have any plans for the rest of the day?"

    "Eh...I don't care. Maybe enjoy the view up here a little bit," Elio gave her a blush-inducing wink. "Then maybe head back down to Malie City. The Festivus is tomorrow and we did promise to go. Maybe we'll meet Brady again."

    "Nice."

    "Actually, what do YOU want to do?"

    "I don't know." She shrugged. "I've always really been told where to go and what to do all the time. I don't even know where I'm going half the time."

    "At least you're better than Leon from Galar." Elio joked, referring to the faraway region's unbeatable champion who was famously awful at following navigational directions. It caused Lillie to laugh out loud.

    "No I'm not THAT bad."

    "No you're not."

    Her face sunk. "But I've never really had the freedom for all of this and now that I do...I don't know what or where to do anything. It's like I've been thrust right into all of this without a say."

    "What do you mean?"

    "It's like I've been told to go and be an adult without instructions."

    Elio stopped and put a hand on her shoulder. "Lillie...being an adult is something you can't delay. It's going to happen...in a couple of years for us too. Eighteen is going to come faster than we think. We won't be able to postpone the inevitable, no matter what we try to convince ourselves otherwise."

    "I know."

    "Mom's already told me some of the joys of being eighteen. Stuff like having to file taxes, scheduling your own doctors and dentists appointments. Sometimes people have a hard time transitioning from seventeen to eighteen when they're thrust into it. Hell, one more year after us being eighteen and we'll be able to legally marry." He didn't seem to notice Lillie's blush when he mentioned marriage. "The best thing we can do is start practicing being an adult now. We don't have to go straight into it, but making and following through with decisions is excellent practice and gives maturity points."

    He took his hand off her as they entered the Pokémon center. She remained quiet as he handed over his party to the receptionist and was told that it would be a quick fix and only take a few minutes.

    "So...what would you like to do?" He asked her as they sat down in the waiting area.

    "Well...I'd like to go back to Malie City for the Festivus. And maybe we can check out a restaurant at the Wo Fat district! I hear they have amazing sushi and Johtoan food there!"

    "They do!" Elio smiled. "How about we find a place? I did just get a text from Kukui too. He wants us to meet him at the Garden when we get back."

    "Then I suppose we can't do much adult decision making with plans already being made for us."

    "Nope. But don't worry. Once we are of age, there will be plenty of time for that."

    And that's a wrap! I'm truly excited for what we have coming next!

    As always, mahalo for reading and reviewing. You give my writing purpose.

    Brav
     
  13. ShinigamiMiroku

    Sorceress' Knight
    (Ralts ♂)
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    Red Orb ★★★★★
    Glad to see a new chapter! I've been away for awhile myself, due to college work and whatnot (though I do pop in every now and again to check for updates), so I definitely get it.

    Honestly, critique-wise, I really don't have anything to say about it improvement-wise. It's nice to see some of the build-up for Lillie pay off, and having not known what Jangmo'o really is, him having Bulletproof was a shock (no pun intended) that definitely helped out here. You certainly got Sophocles' love for invention and inexperience in running trials across, and I really enjoyed the whole thing. I do have to agree, though, that if anyone but Elio had attempted it, they likely would have lost.

    Hope things are going well for you. Take care of yourself!
     

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