The Champion leaned against the cold throne, barely listening to the approaching footsteps of this year's League grand finalist. The cheers of the crowd rising pitch all around him. The strongest trainer in Alola has stopped counting since the first day the elusive title was bequeath to him. For him, it was meaningless. He might have tried so hard five years ago but now, it was a noose – strangling him and killing the essence of what makes a champion. After all, what’s the use of him being the second Alolan champion when he never got the chance of defeating the First?
For the five long years since that fateful day, he wondered why the First abandoned the hard-fought championship and left without an explanation nor a goodbye to the people she will be leaving behind.
Has she tired of being the one all of Alola depends on?
Has the burden of being the champion finally broke her?
Or was it them, being the ones to push her around?
He will never know the answer. She was gone, gone for five long years, and she brought with her the life of the region of Alola.
"Another long day?”
Hau turned to the Flying-type member of the Elite Four. Kahili walked out of her chamber just as the second Alolan champion descended down from the top. The dark green-haired young man gave her a half-hearted nod.
“I counted four.” The golfer continued. “They're getting stronger. The island challengers, I mean.”
“Or we're just getting older.” A voice boomed in the polished chamber.
The two turned to see the Rock-type member of the Elite Four and still Kahuna of Akala Island strode toward them. She brushed a stray strand of her hair as she regarded the two. “Acerola and Molayne went home just a while ago. I already told the guards to not let anyone in for today. Of course, there were protests from the challengers but what can they do? None of them going to be champion without battling us first.”
“A rest is nice.” Hau agreed as he stretched his arms. “My arms stiff from throwing Pokéballs all day. My team needs their rest too.”
“I suggest next week.” Kahili said, tapping her golden club on the glass flooring. “Open the League next week.”
Olivia hummed. “Make that three weeks. Akala's festival for the Tapu is coming in a week and we got to discuss preparation for the coming League championship. We will have our hands full by then.”
“Got it.” Hau nodded. “I will notify Molayne and Acerola tomorrow.”
“You should come too.” Olivia told him. “Having the Champion around will spice things up.”
Hau placed his arms behind his head and grinned. “You mean bait crowds in?”
“The Tapu will strike us down if you don't come.” Olivia warned, though the playful glint in her eyes has not gone unnoticed. “You know how Tapu Lele is.”
Hau has yet to see the Psychic/Fairy guardian deity in the flesh. The only guardian deity he has seen so far was Melemele's Tapu Koko and that seemed long ago during the battle against the Ultra Beasts six years ago. All he has were stories about the tapu from Akala's kahuna. “Alright. As long as there is malasada, I'm in.”
“Ah, yes. Malasada. The only weakness of our great Champion!” Olivia mused. “The next time I challenge you for your title, I will bring malasadas with me. Let's see how long you will last.”
“That will be a scene to behold.” A small smile beholding the usually stern Elite Four member. “Though I doubt Old Hala will be as amused as any of us.”
“Tutu might charge in here like a Tauros.” Hau said as he adjusted his bag over his shoulder. “Speaking of Tauros, I promised to help in herding up the Tauros today. New challengers will be taking Tutu's Grand Trial tomorrow.”
“Every batch gets more interesting.” Kahili said, eyeing the champion. “But your generation is one never to be forgotten.”
“Ah…” Hau looked away. “Yeah. You're right.”
Olivia coughed. Kahili gave her a stern look but relented. Even after five years, the wound still pains some of them. She swung her golf club over her shoulder. “I will go ahead.” She said. “I still have a convention to attend tomorrow. I will see you then.” She swiveled on her heels and strode toward her chamber. Without looking back, the doors shut behind her with a resounding SHINK!
Olivia put a hand on his shoulder. “Don't be too hard on yourself. She made her decision. You're the Alolan Champion now.”
“It's just…it does not feel the right.” Hau explained, visibly frustrated. “I mean, what’s the point of being the champion if I haven't defeated the strongest trainer in Alola? I made a promise, that someday I will defeat the person I looked up to. It will never happen now.”
“She has her reasons. The least we could do was to respect them.” Olivia said. “Though I believe she may someday return.”
“I wish. If there's anything, I want to show her how strong me and my team has gotten since our last battle. Then, I will defeat her and finally grant my promise.”
“The two Alolan champions pitting against each other…” Olivia mused. “I wouldn't miss it for the world.”
“It will be the biggest event in Alola!” Hau beamed as he spread his arms wide. “Bigger than the future Aether President going against Masked Royale!”
Olivia laughed. “I got to say. That kid, Gladion, has guts. Didn't expect that from him.”
Hau crossed his arms over his chest and placed his right palm over his face. A serious look on his face as he imitated the two-year older blonde boy. “Hmph! Aren't you getting old for this, Masked Royale? Why don't I show you how it's done?”
Olivia guffawed. “Good one!”
Hau grinned. “I'm looking forward for their next showdown. Anyway, I got to go. Tutu might already be looking for me.”
Hau waved. “See you in the festival!”
DING DONG DING!
“Calling Miss Lillie to the conservation area. Professor Burnet is looking for you.”
A blonde-haired lady of seventeen years looked up to the nearest speaker attached to the wall. The Rockruff in her arms barked happily; its tail wagging energetically.
“Miss Lillie, looks like you're being called.” The purple-haired woman beside her said. “Leave these Rockruffs to me.”
“Please look after them, Wicke-san.” Lillie handed the Rockruff to the chief branch officer of Aether Paradise.
“Don't worry, Miss.” Wicke chuckled as the Rockruff wriggled in her arms and licked her cheek. Another barked at her feet as it chased the tail of one of its brethren. “I doubt they will give me trouble. They are all good boys.”
Lillie smiled as she shed her pristine lab coat and slung it on the crook of her arm. “They are. Just make sure they don't go near the candied berries. We don't want a repeat of last month.”
Wicke winced. The memory of sugar-initiated hyperactive Rockruffs was something that a member of the Aether Paradise could not easily forget. “That didn't turn out so great.”
“I'll be back soon.” Lillie waved and crossed toward the open gateway of the first floor of Aether Paradise.
The receptionists greeted her and she smiled back as she wove her way toward the lift. With a few taps and a scan of her palm, the platform whirred to life and ascended toward the glass-domed conservation area. The Alolan sky was clear and blue and warm sunlight streamed through the glass panes, illuminating the lush, artificial forest that the conservation area houses. Lillie crossed the white walkways toward a small shed located under one of the largest trees in the area. Surrounded by a flock of Pikipek was Professor Burnet, one of her mentors.
“Professor, you called for me?” Lillie called out as she approached the white-haired professor.
Burnet beamed at her apprentice. “Lillie! Oh yes, I did. Actually, I'm going to ask you to run an errand for me. I ordered a box of specialized wax for the bird Pokémon from the Pokémon Center last week. Today's the day it will arrive to Hau'oli City. Could you get it for me?”
Lillie nodded. “I will, Professor.”
Burnet stood up and dusted her pants. From her pocket, she pulled out a slip of paper and gave it to Lillie. “Here. This is the receipt. Just give this to Nurse Joy and she will give the package to you.”
“Got it.” Lillie took the paper and slipped in inside her skirt's pocket.
“Oh, and come by my house and tell my husband I'm going home late. I need to do a checkup on the Pichus. They're due to be freed to the wild tomorrow.”
Lillie nodded. “I'll be back soon.”
The ride to Melemele island took more or less fifteen minutes. Her Ride Pokémon, Altaria, soared above the Alolan sky gracefully. It's thick, fluffy feathers melding with the clouds dotting the sky. The air was especially crisp and cool; it is one of the months where the Alolan temperature is cooler than the usual. Beneath her, waves lapped against the shores and flocks of Wingull accompanied them in their flight. From their right, she could see the island of Akala and the plumes of smoke rising steadily from the mouth of Wela volcano. Ahead of them, the lively city of Hau'oli came into view.
Tapping the side of Altaria's neck gently, she directed the Humming Pokémon toward the Pokémon Center and they landed down in front of the red-roofed building. Lillie climbed off her Ride Pokémon and thanked it before it took off back to the sky. The young apprentice crossed the automatic glass doors of the center and headed straight to the reception where Nurse Joy was just returning a trial-goer's fully-healed team. Judging from the look of the eleven-year old kid, he has yet to pass Hala's Grand Trial.
“Good morning, Nurse Joy!” Lillie greeted. “Professor Burnet sent me on an errand to get a package for her.” She took out the receipt and showed it to her. “The professor gave this to me.”
Nurse Joy took and examined it. “Ah, yes! She ordered a box of specialized wax from the Sinnoh region last week. I believed it's for maintaining the wing strength of bird Pokémon. Wait here. I'll go get it.”
Lillie nodded and Nurse Joy went out of the reception area and into the door behind. Lillie half-turned and looked around her surroundings. A few Trainers were seated by the waiting areas – resting and tending to their Pokémon. Some were lining up at the PokéMart at the right corner while a few were hanging by the café. Two Trainers whom she believed to be from another region were talking.
“Have you heard? A Pokémon went berserk and attacked a village this morning.” One gushed. “It happened here in Alola. In Poni island, I heard.”
“Man, that's scary! But why it isn't in the news?”
“Probably because it happened just earlier today. I heard the Kahuna of Poni island is on the hunt for that Pokémon.”
A Pokémon going berserk? Lillie moved to the other side of the reception to hear more.
“You think the Champion's gonna get involved?”
“Most likely, though don't expect much. I heard that the second Champion didn't get his title by beating the first. Apparently, the first Champion resigned and left Alola years ago. No one knows why though.”
“That sucks, man! Bet you that the first Champion is hella strong. The locals even call her the Savior of Alola and I bet my money it's not for show.”
“Nah, keep your money. I'm not gonna argue about someone who has defeated and tamed Legendary Pokémon from another world.”
“Heh. Too bad we can't even get a glimpse of that powerhouse.”
A soft Thump! snapped Lillie’s attention away from the foreign Trainers. Nurse Joy has returned with small box carefully sealed at the sides. “Thank you for waiting. Here is the package addressed to Professor Burnet.”
Lillie took the package gratefully. “Thank you, Nurse Joy.”
“No problem. Just make sure to not drop it. The contents are fragile.”
Lillie nodded and waved goodbye. Tucking it carefully between her arms, she headed east of Hau'oli City, past the Trainers' School, and to the Outskirts. She paused at the painfully, familiar blue house sitting just past above Professor Kukui's house by the beach. The windows were opened and calm breeze moved past the curtains. Lillie should have gone straight to the professor's house but her feet brought her to the porch of the former Champion's house. She knocked three times and the door swung opened.
The young apprentice expected to be greeted by her best friend's mother and her Kantonian Meowth but instead, a black-haired man of mid-forties welcomed him at the door. He was handsome and he donned his lab coat like it was made for him to wear. His platinum-blue eyes blinked at her through his rectangular glasses.
“Ah,” He smiled. His eyes crinkling in warmth and slow recognition. “You must be Lillie. Are you perhaps looking for Selene?”
“Er…um..” Lillie shifted nervously side-to-side. Selene, she learned was the name of her best friend's mother. It was rather an interesting wordplay that her parents named her after the meaning of her mother's name. “Yes…”
The man scratched his head sheepishly. “Ah, I'm sorry. I haven't introduced myself. My name's Elio. I'm Moon's father. I worked as a Pokémon researcher in Kanto. I just arrived here yesterday.”
Lillie bowed. A gesture she learned from Moon as a proper greeting in Kanto. “N-Nice to meet you, Elio-san.”
“No need to be so polite.” Elio smiled. “It's the first we’ve met but I heard lots about you from my wife and my daughter. Selene showed a few pictures of you with my daughter.”
Lillie's eyes lighted up. “Really?”
“Yes.” Elio chuckled. “Moon was really passionate telling me about her adventures with her friends. She told about you, your brother Gladion, and a boy named Hau.”
“Ummm…yes. We did travel together.” Lillie shied a bit. “Moon was always the one to look after us.”
Elio smiled. “That’s very like her. Always putting others before herself.” He shoved his hands inside the pockets of his lab coat. “At any case, my wife's not here at the moment. She’s out to the market to do a bit of shopping. I apologized for keeping you long.”
Lillie shook her head and smiled. “Not at all. I’m actually glad to meet you, Elio-san.”
“So do I. Thank you for taking care of my daughter and well, going with her crazy antics at times.” He chuckled. “Though, I'm the one to blame. My girl got it from me, after all.” He looked at his watch and jumped in surprise. “Ah! It's already time? I'm gonna be late!” He raised a palm apologetically to Lillie. “I'm sorry but I have to go. It was nice meeting you, Lillie.”
He held out a hand which Lillie took and shook. “Likewise, Elio-san.”
“Come back later. I'm sure Selene will be back by then.”
"Young Master, here are the documents for the annual charity as well as the forms requested by the Champion.”
“Leave them here.”
Gladion leaned against his leather chair as he flipped through the papers clipped on a manila folder. Wicke gently placed the papers on the future president's desk and arranged them neatly in a pile according to priority. She glanced at the young man's Pokémon partner snoozing under the Alolan sun and back to its Trainer.
“The League Championship is approaching fast. It's already the eighth. Are you going to participate, Young Master?”
Silvally perked up at the words League Championship and was waiting for its Trainer’s answer with expectant eyes. Gladion took a sip of coffee and placed the cup back on its saucer. He didn't even spare a glance at either Wicke or Silvally. “No.”
“Ah…” Wicke swore Silvally gave a disappointed whimper before tucking itself back to its daytime nap.
“It's not worth it.” He continued as he flipped another paper. “No offense to Hau but…” His voice trailed off. His eyes were still on the folder but his gaze seemed distant. It lasted for a brief second until he waved it the topic off. “Has Lillie returned yet?”
“The Young Miss hasn't returned yet.” Wicke answered, watching the young man carefully. “Professor Burnet has asked her to deliver a message to Professor Kukui. I believed she will return within half an hour.”
“I see…” Gladion closed the folder and nodded at the documents that Wicke brought in. “Tell moth- no, the President, that I will bring her the documents as soon as I finished reviewing them. I’ll note down any necessary recommendations, if any.”
“Understood.” Wicke nodded. “Then, I will take my leave.” She walked toward the door and gave the future president a worried glance before closing the door behind her.
Gladion dropped the folder on his desk and sighed. Silvally peered at him with one eye as the young man rose from his seat and stood by the glass wall overlooking the Aether Paradise mansion. On the courtyard, employees walked back and fro to the mansion and to the foundation as they deliver their reports to his mother. Someday, he will be the one they will be directly referring to. He will more or less be cooped up in the property just like his mother.
He half-turned and saw, Shiron, his sister's Alolan Vulpix standing by the doorway. Silvally jumped up from his nest and trotted cheerfully toward the multi-tailed Pokémon. They rubbed noses as a greeting and pranced around each other. A head poked from the doorway and called him. “Big brother? Sorry for disturbing but there's something I wished to ask you.”
Gladion gestured for her. “Come in.”
Lillie let herself in, careful not to stumble upon the playing Pokémon. Shiron was with her mother when she left for an errand. By the time she returned, Shiron was waiting by the lobby with her fur smooth and shiny from top to paws. It seemed her mother has given her a throughout grooming.
“How did your errand go?”
“Oh, it went well actually. I already gave Professor Burnet her package and passed along her message to Professor Kukui. And well…” Lillie fidgeted with the hem of her lab coat. “I met Moon's father.”
Gladion looked at her like he was hearing things. “What?”
“I met Moon's father.” She repeated. This time, however, louder. “I visited Selene-san's house earlier but she wasn't there at the moment. Instead, I was greeted by Elio-san, Moon's father. He is a researcher in Kanto and has just arrived here in Alola.”
“Hold up.” Gladion walked toward his desk and picked up the folder he was checking out minutes ago. He flipped through the pages. Eyes intent in finding a specific page. “His name is Elio, isn't that right?”
He paused at a page. “I knew it.”
Gladion passed the file to Lillie who took it gingerly. She scanned the page and let out a gasp. “It is him!”
Gladion leaned against his desk. “Professor Kukui recommended a researcher from Kanto to help with the study of the Ultra Beasts and the Ultra Space as well as the significance of the ancient Alolan lore to the history of the region. He sent the resume as well as the other files three days ago. The President and I are supposed to meet up with him today.”
“I didn't know it would be her father.” Gladion ran a frustrated hand through his blonde locks. “Hah. What a terrible twist of fate.”
Lillie placed the file down on the desk and reached out to her brother. She pursed her lips. She, other than their mother, Hau, and Wicke, were aware of the lingering feelings his brother has for the former Champion. He never had any closure or any knowledge that the girl he loves will reciprocate the same feelings. The last he has seen of her was another title defense that ended to a lose all the same. Then, in the next dawn, she was already gone. No warnings, no goodbyes.
Lillie squeezed his hand. “It will be fine. It's just another work; nothing related to Moon.” Yet, her voice hesitated at the last statement.
“Yeah. Nothing personal.” Gladion took a deep breath before composing himself. He tugged both edges of his Aether coat and called for Silvally to return to his ball. Shiron leapt to Lillie's awaiting arms.
“Let's go. I’m sure Mother’s out by now to meet our guest.”
A loud THUMP! rattled a wooden wagon. The former Team Skull leader nodded at his work and called out to the kahuna of Melemele island.
“I’m done ‘ere! Anythin’ else?”
Hala inspected his work and nodded appreciatively. He exchanged a few words with the owner of the wagon before it departed for its destination to Hau’oli City. “Well done! That’s it for today.” Hala said. “Come, the villagers prepared some food for us.”
Guzma followed him outside of his home and gratefully accepted the cool drink and malasada offered to him. He sat down on one of the wooden bench under a shade of a tall tree. The old-age stage used for the Grand Trial stood proudly at the middle, where his former grunts were training with their Pokémon. Team Reskull as they would call themselves these past years.
“Still doing work for the old kahuna?”
He looked up to see his former admin standing beside him with a hand on her hip. The woman may have opted to wear more decent clothes in the past years but there still a bit of a rebel in her clothing. Just like his former enforcer and soon-to-be Aether President. “Good to see ya, Plums. Still tryin’ to take down the League Champion?”
A smile quirked on the woman’s lips. “Yes, but not as frequent as it used to be.” She sat down beside him at his invitation. “Work’s being demanding lately. How about you? I heard rumors of opening the League for public audience after five years. Things been grim lately and it seemed the League wanted to do something to cheer people up.”
Grim since the first Alolan Champion quitted her job suddenly. “Akala’s festival not enough?”
“No.” Plumeria’s eyes softened. “The people of Alola do not easily forget, Guz.”
She knew it affected him too. Just as it did to her and the rest of the former Team Skull. The lil’ brat’s like a little sister to them, as well as a motivator and a protector. She’s the one who pleaded to the people of Alola to give them a second chance and helped in every way she can to earn their trust for them. She would often visit them and take the time to chat until it is time to go home.
Guzma’s hands tightened around the condensing glass. “I don’t know, Plums. The fire’s gone out fer long.”
There was a moment of silence. Plumeria leaned and watched the ones she considered as her little brothers and sisters mingled with each other. “Well, I’m joining.” Plumeria said.
Guzma looked to her. “Why?”
“I dunno.” She answered. “For some terrible reason, I felt the need to. Like it is the time.” She chuckled. “Maybe this will be time I get to be Champion?”
She looked at Guzma and both laughed together.
“Yeah, well, tell that to malasada boy.” Guzma grinned. “He doesn’t seem keen into givin’ up the throne.”
“He has to, eventually.” Plumeria said and stood up. “You should consider it, boss.” She said as she nodded at him. “Trust me on this one, Guz. Things will be different.”
Guzma glanced at Hala talking to one of the villagers. “I’ll…I’ll think about it, Plums.”
“You do that.” Plumeria said. “I’ll see you when I see you?”
The following week was a flurry of activities. Akala was buzzing with excitement as decorations were adorned the streets and booths were set up on the path to the Ruins of Life. Bushels of colorful and fragrant flowers garlanded the Ruins and offerings of food were piled up on the wooden platform of the inner chamber. A wooden stage was set up near the Ruins overlooking the vast sea. Dancers swayed and glided with the heart-thrumming traditional Alolan music. People, both locals and visitors, from other regions crowded the path to partake in the festivities.
“I got to say,” A man spoke up amidst the beating of drums. “Alolan festivals is more lively than Kantonian ones.”
“It seemed you have already taken a liking of our region, Professor Elio.” The kahuna of Akala said as she led them through the crowd. Olivia has met up with Gladion and Lillie at the entrance of Konikoni City. Gladion was attending in his mother’s steed and Lillie decided to tag along. At the President’s request, Moon’s father went with them so that he could experience Alola more.
“What’s not to love?” Elio said and gestured at their surroundings. “You could see an important piece of the culture and history of Alola in this festival alone. Unlike in Kanto, the historical and traditional significance of the festivals has started to dull. It is an unfortunate effect of the continuous modernization.”
Olivia laughed heartily. “Now, we know where Moon got her wits from.”
Elio paused in front of a booth selling wooden carvings with familiar symbols that he has read from the historical books. He picked an odd crescent-shaped carving with a circular extension at the inner part that seemed to be punched from one side.
Olivia looked at what caught the attention of the researcher. A smile quirked on her lips at the familiar symbol. “Read about it in a book, Professor?”
“Ah, yes!” His eyes glittering in academic excitement. “This is the symbol of the Moone and its emissary. I haven’t done an extensive research about it yet, but I will do so once I get to visit the Altar of the Moone.” He inspected the carving. “Incredible, noh? A simple image that holds a region’s worth of history. Truly fantastic.”
“It is.” Olivia agreed. “It is.” And it is even more fantastic to know that your own daughter once wielded the power of the beast of the Moone. She glanced to the Aether siblings who was checking out a food booth across them. From where she was standing, she could see a glimpse of a purple tucked in the folds of the younger Aether’s skirt.
She turned back to the professor. “Are you going to buy it, Professor?”
Elio placed the carving reverently back on the table. “No. As wonderful as it is, I am looking for something better for the two most wonderful women of my life.”
Olivia smiled. “Whatever it is, I’m sure they will love it.”
“Come. The Ruins of Life is this way.” She called out to the siblings and led them toward the Ruins.
“Big Brother? Is something the matter?”
Gladion relunctantly peeled his eyes off at the gathered crowd and to his sister’s worried green eyes. Moon’s father was standing beside them. Olivia has to separate ways to oversee the final preparations for the last event. People flocked the sides of the wooden stage as they watched the fire dancing led by the Fire Trial Captain, Kiawe. Torches were already lit at both sides of the path leading to the Ruins before the sun set earlier. The day was drawing to a close, and so does the festival.
“No. It’s nothing.”
A lie. Since arriving Akala Island, he felt eyes watching him. It come and go but whenever he looked behind his shoulder, no one seemed to be seeking him. Yes, the press is present but they seemed to be more intent on covering the whole festival than him. The only time they approached him was for a short interview. Where his mother is and what he thought of the festival. His answers were short yet clear, and they didn’t ask for anything more.
Lillie seemed to buy it and looked back to the stage. The beat of the drums was already fading as the fire dancing reached to an end. Pillars of fire roared at the night sky as Kiawe and his Alolan Marowak companions ended the performance with a final stunt. The spectators cheered and clapped loudly as they bowed and left the stage.
Olivia climbed up and the crowd silenced to hear her speak. “Alola ahiahi, people of Alola, as well as those who has come to visit us from other regions. We are grateful that you have come to join us in this important celebration, and we are more thankful that the gods have granted us this very day. Tonight, we celebrate the guardian deity of Akala, Tapu Lele, and its blessings that bring healing to the region of Alola.”
“Thousands of years ago, four sibling kings ruled the four islands of Alola. The king of Akala became the herald of Tapu Lele and he wielded its powers to protect his beloved island. When the beasts from other worlds came to invade Alola, the king and Tapu Lele fought them together and saved the island. The king may be no longer but I, the kahuna of Akala, has taken his place as those before me. To show our gratitude to the guardian deity, I invite you to one last event. A Pokémon battle against our very own Champion of Alola!”
The crowd roared excitedly and chanted as Hau joined Olivia on the stage. Hau grinned as waved at the crowd. He paused as his eyes landed on Lillie and gave her a wink. Gladion rolled his eyes. He might have accepted the fact that his sister and the Alolan champion are dating for years now but he wished they would tone down the public display of affection. It was because of them that he became the subject of people’s attention as one of the ‘Top Single Men of Alola’. First place since Ilima got snagged, according to Lillie.
“Now, who would be given the honor to challenge our Champion?”
Gladion flinched as the piercing gaze that was directed to him returned. He turned around wildly. His hand gripping Silvally’s Pokéball tightly. It wriggled slightly on his hand as the chimaera sensed its Trainer’s alarm. Who? Who did that come from?
His eyes darted to and fro the crowd. The mass of moving heads and arms blocking parts of his view. The cheering of the crowd as the challenger was picked drowning in the ringing of his ears. He felt Lillie grabbed his arm and saw her lips moving at the corner of his eyes but her voice filled with concern seemed faraway. Moon’s father seemed to notice his sudden distress and asked what it was.
Gladion’s lips failed to answer as his green eyes finally met them. Two, fiery eyes the color of lava from Wela Mountain and the setting sun. He was standing at the edge of the crowd, watching them intently and never breaking his gaze. His lips moved slowly, forming three words.
They are coming.
The second after the mysterious person mouthed those words, the cheering of the crowd transformed into terrifying screams. The crowd scrambled and scattered as a shrill cry erupted from the heavens. Hau and Olivia barely managed to dive to safety out of the creature’s range as it landed down on the stage. Gladion pulled Lillie protectively in his arms as they stumbled away from the crowd and into the safety of the trees. Lilie patted her skirt frantically and breathed in relief at the familiar, round bulge in her pocket. Gladion peered from where they have slipped in. Olivia and Hau were standing not far away from them, facing what used to be the stage. Looming over them was a creature Gladion thought that he will never see again.
The towering mass of living stones shuddered. Multiple bricks flipping disjointedly as its eyes pulsated in sickly purple. Above it, the ultra wormhole that has silently disgorged the ultra beast pulsed in the same color. UB Assembly writhed as if it was on the verge of collapsing before letting out an unholy screech. Its arms extending and lashing out to Olivia who barely ducked out of the way. Hau grabbed one of his pokéballs and called for Crabominable. The pokémon slammed its claw into the ground as spires of glowing rocks blocked the incoming arms.
“Big Brother, what’s happening?” Lillie asked, clutching her older brother’s sleeve. “Why is there an Ultra Beast here?”
“I don’t know!” Gladion gritted his teeth. “Lillie, I want you to call Mother and tell her about the situation.” He reached to his belt and pulled out Silvally’s pokéball. “We will need that Beast balls. For now, we will do what we can to buy time.”
Lillie pursed her lips and nodded. She rummaged into her pocket and pulled out her phone. Her hands trembling as she typed and waited for the call to connect. Gladion wasted no time and joined into the fray. Hau could only hold out for long, having the lesser experience of hunting down Ultra Beasts between the two. Olivia’s Midnight Lycanroc following up Crabominable’s attacks as his trainer directed Professor Elio and the last of the crowd out of harm’s way.
“Silvally, use Multi-Attack!”
Stakataka screeched as it stumbled back at the impact. Gladion slid next to Hau who grinned at him and gave him a thumbs up. “Thanks for the assist!”
“Don’t celebrate yet!” Gladion reminded him. “It isn’t over.”
Olivia ran up to them. Her eyes narrowing at the Ultra Beast. “What’s an Ultra Beast doing here, Gladion? I thought all the Ultra Wormholes that Necrozma opened have been closed years ago!”
“Maybe it’s one of those that escaped back then?”
“No.” Gladion scowled. “We made sure that we captured and sent all of them back. Me and…” He trailed off and shook his head. The frown deepening in his features. “I doubt Looker and Anabel would overlook something like this. Even so, it’s been years! We should have known sooner if there’s still left.”
“Guys!” Hau called out. “It’s coming back up!”
Gladion turned his attention back to the Ultra Beast. The ultra wormhole was still open above them, swirling in purple light. Something’s feels off. The Ultra Beast’s eyes flipped in and out erratically as it shuddered. Its Beast aura flaring to life into a chilling, purple light. It stomped against the ground as psychic power began to build up around it.
Gladion pulled out the Dark Memory and threw it to Silvally’s direction. The disk inserted itself into the drive by its head and Silvally’s feather crest and tail turned into black. The Chimera pokémon launched itself to block Stakataka’s Zen Headbutt. Stakataka lashed its leg out again and slammed against Silvally, sending it skidding to the ground.
“Crabominable, Ice Hammer!”
The monstrous chunk of ice slammed against the Ultra Beast, sending it sprawling to the ground. Olivia ordered her Lycanroc to follow up with Stone Edge. Switching with Fighting Memory, Gladion commanded Silvally for one last Multi-Attack. Stakataka tried to dodge but was too weak to get out of the way. The impact sent a shockwave, making the three trainers reel back as dust and smoke exploded like a sandstorm atop Memorial Hill.
Hau coughed as his irritated eyes blinked against the falling dust. “Is it…is it over?”
Gladion narrowed his eyes at the shape of Silvally staring down at the fallen beast. “Yeah…seems like it.” The artificial pokémon looked quite smug as he trotted back to its trainer. Its fin-like tail wagging in triumphant glee at dealing the last blow.
Gladion scratched it behind its ears (something he discovered it loves so much because of a certain someone years ago) before approaching the Ultra Beast cautiously. Hau stood back as he watched with apprehensive eyes. Olivia crossed her arms with a huff yet kept a watchful eye, in case the otherworldly creature decided for one last counterattack.
“We need to capture it.” Gladion said. He looked up and narrowed his eyes at the swirling ultra wormhole. “But first, we need to close that. I’ll get Lillie to call out Lunala.”
“It’s Nebby.” Hau stated a common knowledge among them. “It got a nickname, you know.”
Gladion glared at him. “Nebby, Lunala, it does not matter. It’s still the same Legendary Pokémon.” He called back Silvally and stalked away. “I’ll get Lil-“
A loud clap of thunder stopped him in his tracks. He sharply looked up and saw the Ultra Wormhole now swirling faster. White and purple lightning crackled at the edges of the hole and the wind began to pick up speed. Dust and leaves swirled around them in an invisible twister.
“What in the-?”
The three watched as a seemingly invisible force picked up the Rampart Pokémon like a ragdoll and lifted it upward to the gaping hole in the sky. The ultra wormhole swallowed the otherworldly Pokémon and promptly shrunk and closed like a flash in the television screen. A last peal of thunder echoed throughout the sacred hill and the sky cleared as if nothing happened.
Lusamine sipped her tea as she went over the report for the fifteenth time. She has sent Wicke and Faba to Akala Island once the authorities deemed it safe to travel to the island once again. Memorial Hill is still prohibited to any civilian while the investigation is underway. The only ones allowed are the members of the Alolan League, the Aether Foundation, and those authorized to be within the premises.
She stared at the paper containing the only firsthand account of the whole ordeal. Her son’s handwriting is neat and professional – years of grooming into the role of the next Aether President finally bearing fruit – but she could not shake the memory of anger in his eyes as he dropped the paper to her desk before flying back to the sacred hill. It was not any anger; it was of disappointment, of regret, of hate.
To whom was that emotion directed to? Was it to me? Or was it…?
Her eyes drifted to one of the framed photographs propped on her desk - four young trainers squeezing in for a shot. They all looked happy and they deserve it for the one and a half year of struggles that no one of their age should have experienced. That was five years ago. One of them has decided to move on and never look back.
A knock caught her attention. “President?” Wicke’s voice called from the other side of the door. “It’s me, Wicke. May I come in?”
“Go ahead.” Lusamine straightened as the branch chief stepped inside. “How did the investigation go?”
“It’s still ongoing.” Wicke answered as she offered a labeled folder to her boss. “We have the investigation team working tirelessly on field. According to Burnet-hakase, the instruments recorded an abnormally high reading of Ultra Aura within the area. However, it seemed to be of different nature from our past records. She is still trying to map it out based from the readings.”
Lusamine flipped the folder open. “How about the police? Did they find anything?”
“No.” Wicke shook her head. “But they were searching for the young man that Master Gladion spoke about before the Ultra Wormhole opened. If it is as the police thought, he might know a thing or two about the incident.”
“Ah, and there’s another thing.”
Lusamine looked from the new report. “What is it?”
“It’s about the young miss.” Wicke said. “It seemed she has not told anyone else yet but, she told me of a strange occurrence during the battle.”
The Aether president placed the folder down. “Is it about what Gladion was telling me? His report told me of the strange appearance of the Ultra Wormhole, as well as the unusual behavior of the Ultra Beast. I believe there is also something about the Beast Aura but…”
Wicke shook her head. “Ah, no…well, it’s a bit different. Something that only Miss Lillie witnessed.” She clasped her hands as she recounted their conversation. “She said that during the fight, one of her pokéballs was moving wildly.”
Lusamine frowned. “Moving…wildly?”
“Yes.” The Branch chief nodded. “It was if that the pokémon inside was sensing something amiss.”
The President leaned forward. “Which one?”
“That’s the problem.” Wicke said. “The pokéball that was reacting strangely - the Pokémon within it is none other than the Legendary Beast of the Moone, Lunala.”
Just as news spread fast like wildfire in the regions of Alola, it also sputters out like a burning candlestick during a storm. In the next four days, Memorial Hill was opened again to the public after the investigation yielded only as much as information the authorities could get. The Aether Foundation still have a few employees within the premises, assisting the head professor on the case, and the young man that the police was searching for has yet to be found. They found no existing records of the person, concluding that he was not a local. There’s only a handful of surveillance cameras installed during the festival and only two of them caught the individual on tape. There was nothing unusual about it except of the person himself. Both of which has little use to them.
Now, Alola is preparing for the much awaited League championship. It’s been years since the event was last made public for viewing. The past years has been a private affair. Challengers come and go to the League and how the battles go were known only to the League members and the challengers themselves. The news of an open League championship sent the region of Alola to a buzz and the roster were filled just on the first day of the registration.
“Fifty-six?” Olivia raised an eyebrow at her fellow Elite Four. “Are you sure you counted right, Molayne?”
“Of course.” Molayne smiled. The spark of enthusiasm in his eyes has not gone unnoticed to the Kahuna of Akala. “It’s twice as many, yeah, but I supposed it’s because some of them are repeating challengers.”
“Hmmmm…” Olivia leaned against the railing of the audience side. Down below, hired workers were hauling in new materials that will be used to refurbish the battlefield below. The Manalo Stadium has gone unused for five years since its construction six years ago. The stadium was built after Professor Kukui suggested to hold an open championship for the second anniversary of the Alola League. It has only witnessed one grand championship and one alone before the battles were closed again from the public eye. It felt strange and nostalgic at the same time standing on the floating structure once again.
“What do you think?”
Molayne looked at her with confusion. “About what?”
“All of these.” Olivia gestured at their surroundings. “This place, its history…what do you think? Why do you think we’re doing this? Allowing this to happen in this very same place on the very same date?”
“We’re doing this for the people of Alola.”
“Do we now?” Olivia faced him. Molayne recognized the hardened shell of a true veteran – the same façade they all been wearing. “Or are we doing this to forget?”
Molayne took off his glasses and wiped the lenses. “She has quite the impact in our lives. Five years has not been enough to erase it all.” His smile has faded into a paper-thin line. “Perhaps, we’re trying to forget. Perhaps, we’re just running away from it all.”
Olivia sighed. “Those kids…I doubt they will ever move on.”
“They stuck together like a school of Wishiwashi.” Molayne nodded. “But even so, they will eventually have to drift apart. She already did. She always is the one to take the initiative.”
“And if she returned?”
“That is something I have no answer for.” Molayne answered. “What happens is in the will of the Tapus. If they will that she returns, then so shall be it.”
Olivia smirked at him. “For someone dedicated to science like you, you sure have a firm grasp of supernatural beliefs.”
“I have my own reservations, Olivia-san.” Molayne smiled. “Otherwise, the Tapus might have already struck me down a long time ago. Besides, Acerola-chan is around to keep in my toes.”
“Ah, yes.” Olivia chuckled pleasantly. “The perks of having a fellow Elite Four that commands Ghost-types.”
Molayne shook his head but his lips remained quirked in a smile. “So…who’s your bet for this year? Do you think Hau-kun will finally get dethroned?”
“Don’t jinx him!” Olivia laughed. “I doubt Hau will let go of the title that easily.” She opened her palm as her smile turned into a grin. “Not until he gets to face her again. As for who gets to battle our Champion, we got a good roster of candidates this year. I can’t wait to see my Trial Captains on the center stage again!”
Molayne placed his hand on his chin in a thinking pose. “It’s too bad that Gladion-kun will not be participating.”
“Oh, he can be persuaded, alright.” Olivia said. A wicked grin on her lips. “We never said that there’s a specific deadline for application. All we said was that until before the official competition starts.”
“I can’t believe no one questioned us about that!”
“They probably didn’t notice.” Olivia shrugged. “Even if they did, it will be too late. Even Kahili was on board with the idea.” She placed her hands on her hips. “Anyway, there are still a lot of things to be done. I’m going to check the Pokémon Center if Nurse Joy has finished with her preparations. I’ll see you later, yeah?”
Molayne nodded and watched her disappear to the exit door. He turned back to the direction of the battlefield and pulled out his phone. A small green light blinking on the top indicating a notification. When he unlocked it, a news article popped into view. The headline sprawled out in large, bold letters.
“If she returned, huh?”
“You never know when to give up, don’t you, kid?”
Gladion crossed his arms and glared at the Kahuna of Ula’ula Island. It has been four days since that attack on Memorial Hill and none of those days has proved to be productive enough. Professor Burnet has yet to come up with satisfying results regarding the strange ultra wormhole and the strange behavior of UB Assembly. There have been no leads regarding that guy in the festival and if, somehow, he is involved with this mess, they have to get their hands on him without question. The sooner, the better.
He has tried contacting Looker and Anabel regarding the matter but only the recorded message seemed to greet him every time he tried so. He has yet to receive a response from either one and it is making him anxious. Because of that, he decided to take matters with his own hands.
“You’re one of the kahunas.” Gladion said. “Shouldn’t it concern you as well?”
Nanu leaned against the counter of the police station. “No, not really.”
Well, that is great. Gladion scowled. He was hoping to get some help from the kahuna, seeing that he is also a police officer. It seemed he made a big mistake coming here. No wonder he turned down being part of the Elite Four. I guess that really confirms the reason why Team Skull took over Po Town without much resistance years ago.
Nanu tucked his hands inside his pockets. “Listen, kid. The person you’re looking for has no records here in Alola. Either he came in the region under a different name or you just imagined him.” He eyed him uninterestedly. “If I were you, I’m going to catch some sleep and move on. Do whatever stuff you Aether people do.”
Gladion narrowed his eyes. “I know what I saw.” He said firmly. “If that guy is a threat to Alola, I will catch him.”
“Eh.” Nanu strode away toward the back of the station. “Keep your obsessions to yourself, kiddo.” He waved him off. “And don’t come back.”
Gladion shoved his hands in his pockets and stormed out of the police station. The door shutting closed behind him with a loud THUD! From the window pane of the door, Gladion could see Nanu now tending to his clowder of Alolan Meowths. I can’t believe it! Is that guy really a kahuna? I’m starting to question the Tapus’ judgement.
He sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “If she sees me now…” He paused and staggered away from the door like it shocked him. He leaned against the wall, just under the shadow of the navy blue building. The Alolan sun beating down despite the much cooler month they are in now. From where he is standing, Mount Lanakila loomed like an impenetrable fortress that reaches the heavens. A fortress that is home to the best Pokémon trainers of all Alola. It was her castle back then before she decided to abandon it all.
Gladion decided he didn’t like it one bit. It was just a mere conversation (or argument for that matter). Something he is used to of having but never liked anyway. Why should he remember her now? It was a just a talk, a request, for Arceus’ sake!
He knows why. He always has known. She is everywhere. The memorabilia, the gossips, the memories…she was not known as Alola’s Sweetheart for nothing. Just as he and Lillie are called as The Aether Prince and Princess. Her presence is strong and palpable – an unexpected storm that swept across Alola and the remains left from its wake still linger on – and for those who have grown close to the young Champion, a part of them she has taken with her, leaving them hollow and lost.
And that…Gladion hated. He hated himself for speaking to her in Route 5 at the first place, for foolishly challenging her and losing over and over again yet enjoying and learning from all of it at the same time. He hated having to deal with the gossips about her sudden resignation, having to lie that she has an urgent business to attend in Kanto and has to unfortunately hand over the title, and having to worry over her mother’s safety as reporters and journalists flocked her home. He hated the pitying looks that Lillie, Hau, Wicke, and even his own mother would give him when the topic, any topic related to her, was accidentally broached. He hated enjoying every moment spent with her, yet craving for more.
Most of all…he hated himself for falling helplessly in love with the person whom he has considered as a worthy rival and a close confidant.
It was as if the Tapus have decided to punish him for sticking with Team Skull – a lifetime verdict he can never escape from. It was infuriating to say the least, and more so that it will remain bottled up because she was gone and will never be coming back again.
He shielded his eyes, glaring at the sun that suddenly decided to get even brighter just to mock him. His shadow a tad bigger and taller than he saw a while ago.
“If you really want to catch me,” A voice spoke above him. “You should first get your head out the clouds, Mr. Future Aether President.”
Instead of taking in the same number of participants in the anime, I decided to cut it down significantly. I wanted to incorporate passing the Captain Trials and Grand Trials as the most important requirements in challenging the League. Of course, not every trial goer emerges victorious from those trials and almost all that have finished have to repeatedly challenge the League because they received quite a beating. This adds a degree of difficulty in getting into the League and showcases the importance of the Alolan traditions.
Also, Trial Captains are allowed to participate in the League championship but not the Kahunas. I wanted to observe the lifetime vow the Kahunas have once they are chosen by the Tapus. However, they are eligible to become part of the Elite Four should the current Champion requested them to and their island deity allowed it so.
Gladion has never turned around faster anytime in his known lifetime.
If he was currently in one of Hau’s stupid, mini competitions, he might have won in terms of fight reflex. He has to squint a bit against the sun’s glare but he recognized the same, fiery eyes that met his own four days ago. The guy was standing atop the police station, looking down on him with eerie interest. He didn’t seem to mind the heat, if the blue and white bomber jacket was any indication. The bill of his black and red baseball cap obscuring most of the right part of his face. Strands of blond hair peeked from the rim of his hat.
“You…!” Gladion growled. “You got quite the guts to hang around a police station, especially when you’re currently on the wanted list.”
“Seems I have to thank you for that.” The red-eyed teenager regarded him. “So, what are you going to do? Call the guy inside and have me arrested?” He tipped his cap with one hand. “I’d like to see you try. I doubt the Kahuna would even bat an eye.”
Gladion glared at him as he reached for his belt. “No need.” He took out Silvally’s pokéball and held it out before him. “I’ll deal with you myself.”
“Cute.” He jutted his chin. “But I have my orders. What happened in Poni Island and Memorial Hill is just the beginning.”
Gladion’s grip tightened around the pokéball. “So, you do know something about that incident...”
“Incident?” Humorless laughter bubbled up his throat. “That was no incident. You should know better than that, Mr. Future Aether President.”
Gladion narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“I wonder…” He tucked his hands inside the pockets of his bomber jacket and leaned forward. “How about we make a deal?” A small smile forming his lips. “If you withdraw your search request for me in the police, I’ll be willing to face you in this year’s Alola League Championship.”
“What?” Gladion asked incredulously. “What makes you think I’ll agree to that?”
“Simple, really. If you win, I’ll tell you everything that I know.”
“Who are you, really?”
“My name is Sun.” He held out a palm. “Just a messenger carrying out my boss’ orders, though I believe that is none of your concern.”
It IS one of my concerns. Gladion thought, but part of him knew that the guy will not be answering even if he asked. Silvally’s pokéball wiggled in his hand. The artificial pokémon raring to go as he commands. He decided to do the next best thing. “What if I lose?
“You will have to turn over the Legendary Beast of the Moone to me.” The guy spoke so casually as if giving up a pokémon who has the potential to destroy was not a big deal, as if Gladion was going to trade his Umbreon for a Pyukumuku.
“No!” It irritated Gladion, not because he was being asked to gamble a Legendary pokémon, but because Lunala has been an invaluable friend to many of them, especially to Lillie, especially to her. “If you think I’ll let someone like you get their hands on Lunala, think again!”
The change in the guy’s expression was brief. What was it? Surprise? Admiration? Relief? It was so fast that Gladion thought it might be just a trick of the light. It melted back to apathy in a matter of milliseconds.
“Your choice.” The guy leaned away. “I’ve given you enough warning as it is. Should Alola fall, it will be on your hands.” He turned his back to him. “I’ll be waiting, Mr. Future Aether President.”
With that, the shadow of a large, bird Pokémon fell upon him and he disappeared in a whirlwind of dust and black feathers. Gladion stood there alone under the clouded sunlight with Silvally’s pokéball weighing heavily on his hand.
“Go Tutu!” Hau hollered among the gathered crowd around the wooden stage in the middle of Iki Town. At the left edge of the stage were trial goers from the four islands hoping to finally get their stamps for the Island Challenge. Many of whom have one remaining Grand Trial to complete before being eligible to take on the League.
The past days have been crazy. Groups of trial goers come by the kahunas’ doorstep every day as the day of the eighth League championship approaches. Hau has counted at least fourteen that came to take on Hala and only a handful emerged victorious. He expected less but with the much awaited event being open to the public for the second time, it seemed to have motivated every Trainer waiting their chance to get their hands on the Champion title. Of course, Hau intended to retain it as long as he can.
A loud cheer erupted from the crowd as Hala’s Hariyama took down the last of the three chosen Pokémon of the challenger he was currently facing. The trainer called back his pokémon and shook hands with the kahuna, promising to come back as soon as his team gets stronger. A new trial goer stepped on the stage and Hala called in Crabominable to take the lead for the next battle.
“Kahuna Hala is so strong, isn’t he?” Lillie said, nodding at the kahuna. Hau invited her to watch the Grand Trial after he checked on with the Elite Four regarding the preparations for the League. It just so happened that Lillie has just finished with her tasks back in Aether Paradise.
“Of course!” Hau grinned as he placed his hands on the back of his head. “Otherwise, Tapu Koko wouldn’t have chosen him as the island kahuna.”
“That is true.”
“So, how’s Hapu’s Trial?” Hau asked. “Did you pass?”
Lillie smiled cheerfully. “Yes. It was tough but Shiron and I managed to get through it.”
“Kyuu!” Shiron wiggled in her arms and swiped her paw at the magenta Z-Power Ring around her Trainer’s wrist where the Groundium Z was nestled comfortably on the top.
Hau’s eyes glittered in pure excitement. “Just one more Grand Trial and you can enter the League.” He engulfed his girlfriend in a big hug. “I can’t wait!”
“H-Hau!” Lillie blushed furiously. “W-We’re watching a Grand Trial!”
“I don’t care!” Hau laughed as he nuzzled against her hair. “I’m just so proud of my girlfriend!”
“Geez…” Lillie buried her face on his chest, enjoying the warmth of the second Alolan Champion. Shiron yipped happily in her arms as another cheer erupted from the crowd. The couple promptly pulled away from each other and watched as Hala’s Machamp dealt a powerful blow against the trial goer’s last Pokémon, an Alolan Persian. The dark-type Pokémon managed to get back up but with the way it was staggering, it will not last long.
“No…I can’t!” The trial goer curled his fists. “I made it this far. I’m not going to leave without completing this Grand Trial! Dammit!” He furiously rummaged from his bag and pulled out what seemed to be a black Z- Crystal.
He placed it on his Z-Power Ring and grinned. “Let’s see what this Z-Crystal can do.” He raised his arm to the air and the Z-Crystal glowed in a purple light. “Alright, Persian. Time to power up!”
Light gathered and absorbed into the Z-Crystal before it was released and infused with Alolan Persian. Purple aura swirled around the Pokémon. The trial goer grinned. “Let’s see if you can take us out now, Kahuna! Let’s go, Persian! Use Night Slash!”
“MROWR!” The Alolan Persian ran and pounced at its opponent. Its glowing claws slashing down at Machamp. Machamp staggered back, clutching at his shoulder. Hala shouted for his Pokémon to dodge but Alolan Persian was already unto its opponent. The dark-type Pokémon slammed against Machamp and the impact threw the Fighting-type off the stage.
The crowd roared in approval. The trial goer pumped his fist into the air as he cherished his victory. He ran down the stage to meet with his Pokémon but was stopped short. Machamp has fainted with his back on the dusty ground. The claw marks glowing a violent hue of purple against its grey skin. Looming over it with its claws raised in for the kill was Alolan Persian.
“Stop! What are you doing?” The trial goer rushed into stop his Pokémon. “The battle’s over! We won.”
Alolan Persian turned to the direction of its Trainer and snarled. The purple aura surrounding it growing more prominent by the second. It ran toward the trial goer with its claws out. Cheers turned to screams and the exhilaration turned into fear and adrenaline. The crowd broke apart as people, both young and old, scrambled away from stage in terror.
The trial goer staggered away from his Pokémon. His eyes wide in panic, disbelief, and fear as he cradled his bleeding arm. Alolan Persian stalked forward as it readied for another attack. It launched itself with eyes narrowed down on the human. Just in time, a pair of strong hands grabbed the trainer out of harm’s way as a blur of green and beige slammed against the berserk Pokémon.
Alolan Persian hit a tree and fell sprawled on the ground. It recovered slowly, snarling and hissing with its fur bristling. Across it, Hala managed to drag the trial goer farther from the berserk Pokémon. Hau ran to his grandfather’s side; Lillie following right at his heels. Hau surveyed the battlefield as Lillie knelt down to the trial goer’s side and inspected his wounds. Her trusty first-aid kit right by her side.
“Tutu! What’s happening?”
Hala shook his head as he turned to the direction of the Alolan Persian. “I do not know.” Beside him, the trial goer winced in pain as Lillie gently dabbed an alcohol-filled cotton ball on his wounded arm. Unlike Machamp, his wounds didn’t glow an eerie purple. Lillie mumbled a quiet apology and resumed treating his wounds. “But we must stop it before it hurts others.”
Alolan Persian snarled and pounced at Hau’s Decidueye but the Arrow Quill Pokémon was a more experienced fighter than it is. He heeded his Trainer’s command and launched upward. His wings glowing in vibrant green as he rushed to his opponent and slashed at its stomach. The force was powerful that it sent Alolan Persian barreling to the wooden wall of a nearby house. It tried to stand up again but Hau beat it to it.
“Decidueye! Use Smack Down!”
An orb of golden light appeared in front of Decidueye before launching it. It hit its target and fragments of rocks followed and pummeled the Classy Cat Pokémon. Alolan Persian mewled in pain as it was pounded to the ground and finally went down to the count. It dropped to the ground battered and unconscious.
The tense silence that followed was broken by Lillie. “Is it…over?” She whispered.
Hau finally let out a sigh of relief. “Yeah…I guess so.” Decidueye flew to his eyes and let out a croon. Hau reached out and petted its head. “Thanks, buddy.”
Hala helped the trial goer to his feet. “I’m going to bring him to the hospital. As for you two-” He looked at the Champion and the professor’s assistant and handed Machamp’s pokéball. Hau recognized the expression on his grandfather’s face – one that belongs to a Kahuna.
Hau nodded in firm understanding. “We know. Leave it us.”
I'm going for Hau picking Rowlet as his starter instead of Litten. It makes more sense for Kukui having an Incineroar than a Decidueye. Of course, Primarina goes to Moon because why not? The relationship between the moon and water (if you prefer, the tides) and the fact I chose Popplio as my starter just scream to me to do it.
The same rhythm filled the infirmary of the Aether Paradise – a beeping sound that seemed to bounce off the somber wall of white and gold. Five figures surround a lone bed occupied by a four-armed Pokémon. Wires and monitors beeped above its head as the professor-in-charge spoke quietly to a pink-clad nurse at the far-end of the room. The door slammed open and the twenty-year old heir to the Aether Foundation bursted into the room.
“I got Faba’s call!” Gladion announced. He was tired and sweaty from his rush to return to the artificial island but he strode in the room with purpose and focus. “What happened?”
Lusamine regarded her son. “A lot happened.” She motioned for him to approach, stepping aside to give him a better view. “Another Pokémon went berserk during Melemele’s Grand Trial. We already had the Pokémon in one of the isolation chambers but…”
Gladion stepped forward and followed his mother’s gaze. Lying on the bed was Hala’s Machamp. Three, deep slash wounds ran diagonally from his left shoulder to his right hip. The wounds were unusual themselves; all three glowing in a deep purple. Machamp has his eyes closed but the pain in his face was more than evident. “What in the-?”
“We’re still investigating the incident.” Lusamine said. “But according to Hau and Lillie, a trial goer used some kind of black Z-Crystal before his pokémon ran amok. It severely injured the kahuna’s Machamp and attacked its own trainer. Hau and Decidueye managed to knock it out before calling the foundation.” Lusamine crossed her arms and sighed wearily. “We tried recalling it back to its pokéball but for some strange reason, it wouldn’t work. We have to transport it here using one of the helicopters.”
“Where’s the kahuna?”
“Tutu brought the trial goer to the hospital and entrusted us Machamp.” He nodded to the ailing Pokémon. A grim look on his face. “Once the trainer got an all-clear, the authorities will be holding him for a throughout investigation.”
Gladion turned to his mother. “You said something about a black Z-Crystal? Where is it?”
“It was missing.” Lusamine shook her head. “When the police came in for an initial search in the hospital, the Z-Crystal was not with the trial goer. We also had Iki Town checked but came out empty-handed. They’re still searching for it as of the moment.”
Lillie casted a worried look. “Do you think…it is connected to the one in Poni Island?”
“We cannot disregard the possibility.” Elio has just finished speaking with Nurse Joy. He approached them as Nurse Joy walked to the edge of the bed with bandages on one hand and began carefully wrapping around Machamp’s wounds. “If it will be case, there will be more to come.”
The professor passed Lusamine a clipboard. “The wounds are not something we have seen before. Nurse Joy already ran some tests ahead of time and results were negative of any infection or poison. Unless we uncover what it is, making a cure would be difficult.”
“How about the Alolan Persian that went berserk?” Hau exclaimed. “There something we could do, right? Pokémon do not attack without reason!”
Gladion could understand Hau’s concern. He was right, after all. Pokémon do not attack unprovoked. However, this might not be the case right now. There was the issue with the missing black Z-Crystal that the trial goer used. What is it really? Where did it come from? If it is really the cause for the pokémon to lose control, it might as well be the key to reversing the effect.
Professor Elio placed a hand on the Champion’s shoulder and smile kindly. “Do not fret. We will find a way to help these Pokémon and we will do it with all we have.” He squeezed his shoulder firmly. “You should do the same. This region is counting on its Champion. It needs you more than ever.”
Hau straightened and nodded. Determination lighting up in his eyes. “I will. I promise.”
“We’re really grateful for your help, Elio-san.” Lillie said.
Elio scratched the back of his head. A sheepish smile on his face. “I’m just doing my job, that’s all. Otherwise, Moon will call me out and I will never hear the end of it.”
He was answered with a suffocating silence. Hau opened his mouth as if to ask something but closed it. Lillie looked down and fidgeted from where she was standing. Gladion was looking away; his bangs covering half his face.
Ah… Elio dropped his arm to his side. It seemed I said something I shouldn’t have…
“I believe it’s time for us to leave.” It was Lusamine who broke down the silence. She placed her hands on the shoulders of each of the two young men who flinched in surprise. “We shouldn’t keep the professor too long and Machamp needs his rest, as well. Come along.”
She nudged the Gladion and Hau and steered them to the door; both letting themselves out without much resistance. Lillie reluctantly looked back and forth between the professor and her mother before bowing down and excusing herself. Elio bade them goodbye; his smile fading as the door closed behind them.
Moon…I hope you know what you’re doing.
“You’re not okay.”
Hau stated matter-of-factly. The current Champion was lounging on the sofa in the older Aether sibling’s office. Lillie came in with a tray of drinks and passed two of them to her older brother and her boyfriend. Hau accepted his gratefully and scooted over to give Lillie more space to sit beside him. He turned to Gladion who was sitting behind his desk with an irritated look in his face.
“Don’t be stupid.” Gladion replied. The tip of his pen scritching as he writes. He didn’t spare Hau a look lest the dark green-haired Champion decides to point out whatever contradictions he could see on his face. “It’s been five years and Professor Elio is her father. It only makes sense for him to mention his daughter once in a while.”
Hau threw his arms up in frustration. “That’s the point, Glads! It’s been five years and none of us have gotten over it. I can’t get over it. Lillie can’t get over it. You can’t get over it! A little mention of her and we get all stiff and sad.”
“You’re overreacting.” Gladion remarked though the scratching of his pen has gotten louder and faster, as if he was in a hurry. “And why do you make it sound like we got a thing for her?”
Hau sunk further down the sofa, cradling the condensing glass with his hands. “I admit I did have a little crush on Moon back then.” That earned him a surprised look from Lillie that seems to say, Really? “I mean, can you blame me? She’s both cute and cool and she’s a natural! She literally beat me and Rowlet in her first Pokémon battle and I’ve been training since I was a kid. Moon is the most powerful Trainer in Alola who defeated the first World League Champion and I haven’t even managed to defeat her once.”
He jabbed a finger to Gladion. “Neither did you.” He crossed his arms and pouted. “And in my defense, I’m not the only one who had a crush with her. Kiawe did too, and you too, Glads, but you got the shortest end of the deal.”
The pen paused abruptly. Gladion scowled at his handwriting and furiously crumpled the paper into a ball. He tossed it but it bounced off the rim of the trash bin. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Hau sipped his drink with a teasing smile. “Classic Gladion.”
Lillie sighed and stood up to pick up the crumpled paper. She deposited it inside the trash bin and turned to Hau. “Hau, don’t tease him.”
The aforementioned Trainer whined but relented, sinking impossibly further down the sofa as he drank his drink in big gulps. Lillie walked to her brother’s side and gently patted his shoulder. Gladion ran his hands on his face with a sound of annoyance but didn’t push Lillie away.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
“How about yours?” Gladion deflected.
Lillie shook her head. “I think we already know what’s in mine and Hau’s.”
Gladion leaned his back against his chair. “I’m not mad at Professor Elio.” He told her. “It can’t be helped but now’s not the time to think about the past. I’m more concerned about what’s happening in Alola.”
“Professor Elio said that they will do their best.” Lillie assured him. “I think we can trust his word.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about.” He clarified. “What was happening…the Pokémon going berserk and UB Assembly attacking…I don’t think they’re just mere coincidences. I have a bad feeling about all of it.”
Lillie blinked at him in confusion. “What do you mean, Big Brother?”
“Do you remembered the guy I saw during Akala’s festival?”
“You mean the one that the police are looking for?”
“That’s the one.” Gladion nodded grimly. “I saw him again near Po Town earlier today.”
“What?” Hau sprang up from the sofa, nearly spilling the rest of his drink. “If he’s near Po Town, shouldn’t Kahuna Nanu got him arrested already?”
Gladion massaged his temples. “It’s complicated.” As complicated as a leaving an important task to a lazy Kahuna. “Long story short, he was following orders from his boss and he seemed to know things. He offered me a deal. If I told the police to lay off him, he will be willing to face me in the League championship. If I win, he’s going to spill everything he knows.”
“And if you lose?”
Gladion locked his eyes on his sister’s. Chilling dread creeping up her spine. “I will have to give Lunala to him.”
Lillie stepped back in shock. Her eyes wide in horror. “N-No! You can’t…you can’t just give Nebby up like that!” Tears began to form at the corners of her eyes. “Nebby is…Nebby is the only reminder I have of Moon. They trained and fought many battles together. I…I can’t…”
Hau walked toward her and pulled her into a tight hug. He rubbed her back and murmured reassurances to her ear. He turned to the former Team Skull enforcer who was staring absentmindedly to the pen on his hands. Guilt evident on his face. “You don’t want to do this, right?”
“No.” Gladion admitted quietly. “I don’t.”
I don’t want to lose anything that was left of her. He seemed to say and Hau understood. He has something that Moon left – her own Z-Power Ring. She left it on the Champion’s throne with her letter of resignation and addressed that it should be turned over to his hands. Her own collection of Z-Crystals, however, was left at home; the case and the Z-Crystals cleaned and polished by her mother. Hau made sure to do the same with Moon’s Z-Power Ring and often carries it around with him inside the same cloak his grandfather wears.
He looked between the Aether siblings. What should he do? What would Moon do? He has always admired the girl’s tenacity and decisiveness in these situations. She never panics, always keeps her focus and calm when everyone else cannot. She’s an epitome of what a Champion should be – deserving to be the first and the role model of the Alolan Champions that will come after her. Should they refuse the offer or should they risk it? They could learn a lot should Gladion win but if he loses…no! Gladion will win no matter what!
He squeezed Lillie’s shoulders and offered a gentle smile. A smile that Lillie understood well - Hau is the current Champion and he must put Alola first before himself. His word carries power and authority and she and his brother share the same duty to listen to him. She knows what he will say and that he knew it will hurt her, but he can’t be selfish. Hau let her go and Lillie reached for the familiar pokéball inside her pocket. It wriggled slightly under her touch.
Gladion snapped to his direction. “What? Are you nuts?” He stood up and faced against the Champion. Anger slowly simmering in the surface. “Are you telling me to gamble a Legendary Pokémon for unverified information?”
“Yes.” Hau affirmed as he stood his ground. “If that ‘bad feeling’ of yours is on point, we will need that information. Whatever that is. That is, assuming that guy is not a fraud.”
“And if he is?”
“He loses either way.” Hau answered. “If we don’t accept the deal, he gains nothing and the police will continue to hound him. If we accept and he loses, we get the information and Nebby remains safe.” He narrowed his eyes at him. “Unless you are not up to the challenge, Gladion?”
It was not a suggestion. It was a challenge. That Gladion knows well. The person who is standing before him is not just Hau, the grandson of the kahuna of Melemele Island, but the current Champion, the most powerful Trainer in all of Alola. The Hau he knows is laid-back and carefree but this Hau…this is Hau the second Alolan Champion. A serious figure of power and authority whose word can sway the masses with just a snap of his fingers.
Refuse or win. That’s the only options he has. Losing is never an option.
Gladion looked at his younger sister. Lillie looked torn but her eyes were lit with a small flame of determination. He hated to admit it but Hau is right. It is an opportunity…an opportunity they should not miss. With a heavy heart, he reached out for his phone and dialed a number. The call rang twice before it connected. The other line filling with the familiar drawl of the kahuna of Ula’ula Island.
“Alola. This is Gladion. About that search request…”
There is no official character birthdays so I just did some headcannon estimation on my own. Among the four, Gladion is the oldest with a two-year gap from the rest of the squad. He just recently celebrated his twentieth birthday by this time in the story. Next is Hau who is eighteen and then, Moon, who is most likely approaching eighteen in the timeline (in which the first open League championship was held to honor the First Alolan Champion as well). Lillie would be youngest among the four at seventeen years old and would not be celebrating yet until a few months or so.
The past three weeks have been one of the busiest that Professor Burnet has ever been. She could barely remember what it was like to be drowning in different types of research materials and cups of coffee. Her office in the Dimensional Research Lab has turned into a fire hazard - a rare phenomenon that was last witnessed in the height of the invasion of the Ultra Beasts six years ago.
Her receiver beeped and she struggled to find it among a pile of data maps and scribbled notes. A voice crackled at the other end after the professor pressed a button. “Professor Burnet? The Kahuna of Poni Island has come to see you.”
Hapu? She was dimly aware that the Kahuna has called her in the morning for a brief meeting. She glanced at the wall clock above the row of bookshelves and let out a surprised gasp. Has it been that late? She abruptly stood up and scrambled for the receiver, knocking over an empty mug at the process. “Tell her to come in.”
A minute ticked by and the door opened. The Kahuna of Poni Island invited herself in, taking note of the mess inside the office. The professor herself was stacking in some journals, mumbling something about the time. The Ground-type Trainer coughed politely, letting her presence known.
“Oh! Hapu! I didn’t see you there.” Burnet put away the journals in her arms and stepped away from her desk. She smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry I forgot about our meeting today. I’ve been busy as of the late.”
Hapu nodded. “Don’t worry, Burnet-hakase. I understand.” She crossed the room, carefully maneuvering past some kind of equipment. “Things has been hectic on our end as well.”
“Ah, yes. The League Championship.” Burnet said. When her husband told her about the League’s plan on making the eighth Championship public, she was genuinely surprised. It was not like the first open competition was a mess, no, it was actually a success. So much so that the people of Alola were looking forward for the next one. That is…until the Champion of that time left her position.
She gingerly touched her wedding ring. She remembered the day when Acerola came running to Aether Paradise. At that time, she was helping Wicke and Faba with the weekly health examination of the Corsola in the conservatory. Acerola had asked them if they have seen Moon or even spoke with her that day. She was clutching what seemed to be a crumpled envelope in her hands. They told her that they have yet to see the cheery Champion that day. Just then, Gladion and Lillie arrived to the conservatory, having heard from an Aether employee that the Elite Four member has come to the floating island. When Lillie asked what happened, Acerola broke down in tears. Her words stumbling over one another as she sobbed and thrusted the envelope to Lillie’s hands.
She could still remember it vividly - the apprehension in the younger Aether sibling’s expression morphing into despair as she read the paper enclosed in the envelope, the shock and disbelief in Gladion’s face before anger and hurt flashed in his viridian eyes, and the stunned silence she, Wicke, and Faba could only offer as Gladion stormed out of the conservatory.
Her heart broke into million pieces when the news finally reached Kukui. The young girl was like a daughter to both of them. An optimistic, young Trainer that brave many challenges that they could never overcome without that kind heart of hers. A heart that touched and changed so many. They searched, looked into her travel record, and even asked her mother who shockingly has no knowledge of her own daughter’s sudden departure from the region. They learned that she took a flight to Hoenn and upon landing, chartered a private flight from an unknown contact. After that, she disappeared consequently as if she didn’t exist at all. As if she didn’t want to exist at all. The only assurance they have that she is still alive was a short phone call to her own mother…and that was four years ago. Moon didn’t call after that.
Burnet was startled back to where she is and who she is with. She must have zone out for a few minutes that she didn’t notice Hapu was already standing in front of her. The Kahuna didn’t call her out about it because she knew why. Her eyes conveyed that she understood but showed the need to approach a different subject at the time.
Burnet cleared her throat. “Sorry.” She returned behind her desk and busied herself in folding the data maps scattered on her desk. “So, what brought you here, Hapu? You didn’t tell me over the phone.”
Hapu decided to take a seat on one of the chairs in front of the professor’s desk. “It’s about that Pokémon. The one we managed to capture on the island. Is there any news about it?”
Burnet looked up from her work with a frown. “No, I’m afraid not. But the Aether Foundation is currently looking into it together with the same case in Melemele.” She tapped her chin. “From what I heard from Nanu, it does not have any Trainer. A wild Pokémon, per se.”
“Indeed.” Hapu confirmed. “But even so, it attacked Seafolk Village and from what I gathered, it did so without any provocations. Pokémon, wild or not, do not attack without something or someone pushing it to.”
There was a beat of silence. Hapu eyed the professor critically. “I heard that it attacked an Aether employee.”
Burnet paused. She was not anywhere near the artificial island when it happened. Wicke just happened to tell her about it. “Yes, because of that, they have to transfer it to an isolation chamber.” She placed the finished pile at the side. “I haven’t had the chance to take a look but Lusamine has asked Professor Elio for help. These cases might have something to do with what happened in Orre region years ago. I heard that he and a certain professor in that region were close colleagues. If anything else, he might know a thing or two about the situation.”
“I see…” Hapu nodded but there was a trace of dissatisfaction in her expression. She stood up from her seat. “Thank you for your time, Burnet-hakase, despite all of these-” She gestured to the scattered research materials in the office.
Burnet waved it off with a soft chuckle. “I don’t mind. A bit of a distraction wouldn’t hurt my work.” She rounded her desk and escorted the Kahuna to the door. “If there’s anything else you need, don’t hesitate to call me.”
“I will.” Hapu nodded. She stepped out of the room but was stopped in her tracks as a researcher ran toward their direction. He skidded to a stop, panting heavily as he tried to compose himself.
“Professor Burnet!” The researcher exclaimed. His eyes wild and frantic. “We got a problem!”
The smile on the professor’s face faded instantly. “What is it?”
“T-The…The Aether President just called in! Ula’ula Island is under attack!”
“They never rest, don’t they?”
A lone figure leaned against what seemed to be a stone figure, watching the sky rippled and crackled with purple lightning above Route 14. The wind was picking up, sweeping dust and stirring the waters in its wake. Swimmers swam back to the safety of the blackened shores as onlookers gawked at the changing sky. Seconds ticked by and the sky began to rip apart. The rip widened and slowly rotated into what seemed to be a hole in the sky. An Ultra Wormhole. Purple lightning crackled and the ultra wormhole flashed. Three figures fell from the hole and disappeared into the waters with a loud splash.
Slowly, three glowing heads emerged from the surf. Their bundled wire bodies crackling with electricity as they towered over the onlookers. They writhed, bodies flaring up in purple aura, and screeched from their nonexistent mouths. The people on the shores scrambled away in panic as the Ultra Beasts lashed their arms at them, dragging those unfortunate enough toward them. One latched on a small child and began pulling her back to the surf. A blur of yellow slashed at its arm and carried the child to safety. The Ultra Beast lurched back in pain and stumbled against its brethren.
The lone figure looked up from his watch. “Five minutes.” He declared as his partner landed down to his side. “Should we wait for them or…?” He was answered by an annoyed growl. He shook his head and drew back the sleeve of his bomber jacket. “Fine then. Let’s make their job easier for them.”
He tipped his cap and glared at the Ultra Beasts who have already recovered and were moving to their direction. “Zeraora, use Close Combat.”
The Thunderclap Pokémon disappeared from where it was perched and appeared before the Ultra Beast. It launched a rapid-fire assault of punches and kicks, knocking down its opponent back to the surf. It kicked off the spiky head of the Ultra Beast and jumped to the second. It dodged one of its sparking arm and slammed its fisted claw on its head, sending it tumbling against the first. The third Ultra Beast used Thunderbolt but the attack was simply absorbed by the Mythical Pokémon. Zeraora softly landed down the shore; its fur sparking with renewed strength.
“Let’s finish this. Plasma Fists!”
Zeraora placed its claws together and began charging up. Light blue electricity sparked on its claws and the yellow Pokémon slammed it down on the sand. Lightning exploded into a stream as it rushed toward the three Ultra Beasts. It surrounded them and they writhed in agony despite the same typing; the sea beneath them amplifying the power of the move. The water exploded around them in a tall burst of water and steam and the Ultra Beasts fell down to a heap of writhing bodies.
Zeraora and its human partner watched as the Ultra Wormhole pulsed and reclaimed back the Ultra Beasts it expelled before imploding. The Alolan sky slowly clearing back as the sun peered from the dissipating dark clouds and purple lightning. Zeraora leapt next to its partner as the human narrowed his eyes to the waves.
“It seems that their plan is still incomplete…those Ultra Beasts…” He shook his head and surveyed the immediate area. An annoyed huff escaping his lips. “What a shame.” He said. “Tomorrow’s the League yet they are not yet prepared. I guess five minutes is too much of an expectation for them.”
He tipped his cap. “It can’t be helped, then. It seems we’ll be doing some babysitting duties for now.” He turned on his heel, ignoring the sound of an incoming helicopter. “I hope they will give us enough challenge for this year’s League. Otherwise, I will be disappointed. No...she will really be disappointed.”
Hau was tingling with energy. The last time he felt like this was exactly five years ago during the second Alolan League Championship. He could still vividly remember the evening of the conference: the torches lighting up the center battlefield of the stadium, the numerous long tables filled with different Alolan cuisines from all four islands, and the League participants gathered together in a night of celebration. The Elite Four stood on the stage and on the middle was none other the Champion.
Now, standing on the same stage overlooking the celebration, the memories came rushing back to him like a dream. The Elite Four was standing evenly behind him – all proud and powerful. At his left, Molayne smiled at Sophocles who was waving from the crowd while Olivia nodded pleasantly at her trial captains waiting by their table. Opposite to the two, Acerola was rocking on her heels with an excited grin on her face while Kahili kept a stern face as she surveyed each Trainer before them.
Hau could see Lillie and Gladion with Silvally which is already munching happily on one of its favorite foods on the table. Plumeria and Guzma were also there, catching up with the future Aether president. Ilima was chatting with the former Fairy-type trial captain and the kahuna of Poni Island. Professor Kukui was standing by the side of the stage, talking to Hala and Nanu who both will preside over the battles of the week-long championship together with Hapu and Olivia.
A stage member approached Olivia and handed her a microphone. The crowd turned their attention to the Rock-type Elite Four member as she walked forward on the stage. “Alola ahiahi, future champions! It’s the eve of the eighth Alolan League Championship and we pay tribute to the bounty of the region and the strength of its warriors. Eat up, have fun, and tomorrow we shall take the stage and show the world the power of Alola!”
The crowd cheered wildly. Olivia nodded to the Champion and the rest of the Elite Four and they dispersed to the crowd. Hau jumped on the chance to join Gladion, Lillie, Plumeria, and Guzma on their table. He grabbed a plate of assorted malasadas with one hand while bringing out his pokéballs with another to call out his Pokémon and let them have some fun.
“Lillie!” Hau waved as he approached them, almost bumping against an Espeon that brushed past him. He gave his girlfriend a one-arm hug. “Congrats for making in the League. I’m so proud of you!”
Lillie smiled giddily. “Thank you, Hau! We will do our best, isn’t that right, Shiron?”
Gladion regarded Hau with an appraising look. “Seems the conference started right.”
“Yeah!” He happily stuffed his mouth with a malasada. “’Ish too good to be true!”
A smile quirked at the edge of Plumeria’s lips. “It seems our Champion is in high spirits tonight. I wonder if that’s a bad omen for us challengers.”
“Heh. If it is, big bad Guzma doesn’t mind a challenge.”
Hau swallowed his food and turned to the former Team Skull leader. “I’m surprised you’re here, Mr. Guzma. It’s been a while since you stepped on the League.”
Guzma scratched the back of his head bashfully. “A lil’ proddin’ here and there is what I need. Plums here helped a lot.”
Plumeria shook her head. A mischievous smile on her lips. “You mean how I got the grunts to help me get through that thick skull of yours?” She turned to the two younger men as she jabbed a thumb at Guzma. “My little bros and sis won’t stop getting in his hair until he agrees to join the League. You should have seen his face when they flocked over him like Pikipek in a feeding spree when I told them about the open League.”
“They’re a bunch of rowdy kids.” Guzma huffed as he tucked his hands inside his pockets. “They’re in fer a good ol’ scoldin’ if they make a mess during the League.”
“They might.” Hau said. “But I think they’re going to cheer for you, Mr. Guzma.”
Guzma grinned at him. “Don’t go cryin’ now, kid. Big bad Guzma is goin’ all out to steal that title off yer hands.”
Hau returned his grin with his own. “I can’t wait!”
The evening went smoothly and soon the food was diminished to dirty plates and crumbs and the participants immersed themselves into mingling with each other. Many crowded around the Champion and the Elite Four, hoping to get bits of wisdom to get through the League, while some fawned over their persons of interest. Gladion has lost count on how many women would appear in front of him, asking things like what his favorites are, what do he like in a woman, and the likes. Ilima, despite being months away from getting married, still have some women swarming over him like moths to a flame. Hau has some admirers vying for his time but he politely turned down their dinner invitations and stuck close next to Lillie the whole time. Many men tried to approach the Ghost-type Elite Four member but with Nanu hovering close by, they wisely kept their distance.
As the evening comes to a close, Kukui took the stage as the founder of the Alolan Pokémon League. “The night is ending and when dawn breaks tomorrow, all of Alola will wake to witness the eighth opening of the grandest battle of all. Now then everyone, let’s all welcome our special guest, the Masked Royal, to explain the rules of the preliminary round!”
The crowd cheered as the torches went out and the screen flashed to the arena of the Battle Royal Dome. Upbeat music boomed from the speakers and the Masked Royal appeared onscreen. “Sorry for making you wait, everyone! It’s been a long time but we’re making a comeback.” He jumped off one of the posts of the ring. “The League’s preliminary round will be a free-for-all between every single contestant. From the fifty-eight contestants, only the last sixteen standing will advance to the final tournament. A Battle Royal!” He pointed to the screen. “Everyone! Show us a battle that burns as hot as a Fire Blast! Woooo!”
The music died down and the screen flashed back to the logo of the tournament. The Champion and the Elite Four joined the professor on the stage. Kukui nodded to Kahili and handed the microphone. The Flying-type Elite Four stepped forward. “Now then, for other reminders before we end tonight’s festivities…”
Professor Elio is used to hear people knocking at his door during the odd hours of the night. Most of them were his associates in Kanto or sometimes, some young Trainer that has come to seek advice on something. His acquaintances from other regions usually call or send him an e-mail regarding the projects he was collaborating with. When a knock came in the middle of the night, he was not at least a bit surprised. Work follows him everywhere, no matter what region he is in.
Climbing off their bed and throwing on his bedroom robe, he slipped out of the room and quietly closed the bedroom door behind him, careful not to wake up his wife and her Kantonian Meowth. He drowsily trudged past the dining table; the moonlight imprinted on the floor like glowing rectangles. Alolan nights are calm and quiet like the trickling water of a tranquil river – a contrast to the bustling and sleepless nights in Saffron City. His wife and daughter used to stay in their two-floor house in Pallet Town while he usually spends the nights in a cramped apartment in the city where he once worked as a part-time researcher in Silph Company for more than a decade. It was Selene’s idea to move out - to find a better place for their daughter to grow and formally start her journey as a Trainer should she chose to. The last time he saw their house was on the day he followed his family to Alola and entrusted the place to a family friend who lives by herself in town.
He wondered who would be waiting out in the porch. Professor Oak told him of a cousin here in Alola that is also the principal of the Pokémon School, but he has yet to meet him. He already met Professor Kukui on one occasion when he brought lunch for Professor Burnet a week ago and he doubted the latter would come by this late at night when they often meet in Aether Paradise. He vaguely remembered promising Professor Sonia to help with her research in Galarian history, but that plan is yet on the table. If anything, she will most likely call, seeing how far Alola is from Galar. He did call Professor Krane regarding his research on Shadow Pokémon a while ago and sent what data he could gather from the two curious cases they have here in Alola but he doubted his former colleague would be that fast to produce results. He isn’t an expert like him on the matter - seeing that he only worked with him halfway through before flying to Hoenn on an emergency call - but he isn’t a slacker either. He knows his stuff but even so, that isn’t enough. He might be a jack-of-all-trades, but his expertise lies more on history than anything else.
The knocks became louder and the professor quickened his pace. His hand itched to reach for the rectangular peep hole – a habit he does before opening any door – but he refrained. The knocks became more urgent by the second and he was concerned that if they get any louder, his wife will wake up despite being a heavy sleeper – a trait Moon inherited from her. He turned the doorknob and opened the door wide enough for him to see who came by. He was surprised to see a pair of familiar, lime green sunglasses that reminded him of a Flygon’s staring back at him.
“Faba?” Elio opened the door wider for the Aether employee. “What are you doing here this late at night? Did something happen?”
“I…” Faba cleared his throat though Elio could sense well the nervous energy around him. His eyes kept darting to the sides as if someone was out to get him. “I apologize for disrupting your rest at such ill-favored time. It’s just…the President is asking for you.”
“Asking for me?” Elio’s face scrunched to a frown. “She could just give me a call and I’ll be there.”
He leaned in closer. His voice merely a whisper. “It’s a matter of confidentiality, Professor.” He was sweating bullets now. “It would be unwise to use such unconventional way. ‘There are ears everywhere’, so to speak.”
If there’s anything that the professor learned in his years of experience, is that to listen to your instincts. Right now, his instincts told him to hear out the antsy Flygon-themed employee. “Alright.” He nodded. “Give me a minute and we’ll go.” The professor swore Faba let out a breath of relief and muttered Thank the deities before he invited him in the living room to wait while he gets changed.
Whatever the professor expected the emergency to be, it wasn’t this.
He expected another Pokémon going berserk or maybe one of those ‘Ultra Beasts’ that attacked Ula’ula Island that afternoon. He expected a mysterious relic from the ancient history of the region or maybe a development – the good kind – from his Pokémon patients. Definitely not this. Not a couple of weirdly dressed individuals of unusual skin coloring that is absolutely not from this dimension, of odd mannerisms that is too stiff, of more advanced technology than he has laid eyes on.
He has studied the legends of the Sinnoh region – the Legendary Pokémon that controls space, time, and antimatter – and has begun studying Alolan history and its otherworldly visitors but he can’t believe that he will be facing the individuals from his own daughter’s tales. It must have been visible in his expression that the Aether President decided to break the ice.
“Professor, I would like you to meet the Ultra Recon Squad.” She gestured at the two. “Phyco, Soliera, this is Professor Elio, a renowned researcher in regional histories.”
The two raised their arms and imitated what seemed to be a stiff version of the Alolan greeting. The man was the first to take the initiative. “Alola. I am Phyco. The captain of the Ultra Recon Squad. It is an honor to meet an individual of high distinction.”
“Oh…” Elio cleared his throat and nodded, clearly not sure how to make of the situation. They are currently in the conservation area; Lusamine sent Faba to assist Burnet whom the latter called prior to coming to his home. All the employees on night shift cleared out of the place to give way for the private meeting. Only the night lights and the Alolan moon illuminated the spacious floor. “It is nice to meet you as well. I heard about you from my daughter.”
“Daughter?” Phyco questioned.
Lusamine graciously answered on his stead. “Do you remember Moon? The first Alolan Champion?”
“Ah, yes!” Phyco nodded. “I do remember. The impressive youth with the Z-Power Ring that vanquished the darkness that surrounded Alola years past. So, you are her sire? I can see some resemblance from you.”
Elio scratched the back of his neck as he smiled sheepishly. “Uh…thanks?”
“She is an outstanding Trainer. We owe her greatly. Ultra Megapolis might still be shrouded in darkness to this day but at least, the Blinding One’s rage has been quelled for now.” Phyco said. “Alas, that is not the cause of our return in this place.”
“Alola’s in another grave danger.” Soliera said. “As well as many other dimensions that run parallel to this world. A menace beyond what we have known has come to threaten both people and Pokémon.”
The smile on the professor’s face dropped. “What do you mean?”
“Ultra Beasts.” Lusamine answered the professor’s question. A grim expression on her face. “Ultra Megapolis was invaded by Ultra Beasts a month ago in our world’s time, similar to how UB Assembly and UB Lighting was reported to appear here in Alola in the past weeks.”
“Indeed.” Soliera confirmed. “Rarely does an Ultra Beast stumble upon our world but when one does, we assist it in returning to its homeworld. However, these Ultra Beasts we spoke of arrived suddenly and attacked our people without any reservation. Our defenses have victoriously fended them off, but their masters made off with our Lunala and Solgaleo. It is only by Professor Burnet’s device that we managed to enter this world.”
Elio placed a hand under his chin as he slowly processed it all. “You said something about these ‘masters’,” He said thoughtfully. “Do you happen to have intel about them? What their purpose is for sending Ultra Beasts to your world?”
“We do not have a clear conclusion on their ambition however,” Phyco raised his arm and pressed on his wrist guard. A holographic projection flashed in front of them in a crystal-clear resolution. It showed what seemed to be an Ultra Wormhole with tiny dots indicating coordinates in a cryptic language that the professor has never seen. “Our technology has pinpointed their dimensional coordinates. The Ultra Recon Squad has sent a team to infiltrate their world. They have yet to return and report. It may take longer than we calculated without our Lunala and Solgaleo.”
“Fret not, humans of Alola.” Soliera assured them. “We, the Ultra Recon Squad, will assist you in any we can. We will repay our debt in behalf of the people of Ultra Megapolis.”
“That is reassuring to hear.” Lusamine nodded. “You can stay here if you wish. I will ask Wicke to prepare rooms for you.” The Aether president turned to the professor. “Are you going home, Professor?”
Elio shook his head. “I’ll stay.” He answered. “I don’t think I can sleep anytime soon. I will just send a message to Selene later. There are things I need to check up on.”
“Of course. I will leave it to you then. If there is anything you need, do not hesitate to call.”
“Thank you, President.” Elio nodded. He bowed a goodbye to his two new acquaintances and watched them trail behind Lusamine as they boarded the lift. As they ascended, a weary sigh escaped the professor’s lips and he pulled out his phone. His finger skimming over his messages and tapped on his topmost conversation. His sent messages popping on the screen; all have gone unanswered.
Moon, where are you?
Sun leaned against the balcony railing of his assigned room in one of the two challengers’ hotels. The evening banquet has ended almost an hour ago and most of the participants have already retired back to their respective hotels. The League management made sure to assign rooms in two of the hotels on the artificial island for the challengers to stay in in the duration of the tournament. The fifty-eight participants are divided between the two hotels where all their needs will be accommodated in the duration of the tournament.
From where he is, he could make out the last of the lit torches on the center of the stadium where the Champion, the Elite Four, and the Kahunas are having their meeting before the official start of the tournament. The full moon has reached its peak on the sky, bathing all of Alola with its soft light. He lifted a black accessory with one hand, gazing at its circular form blocking a portion of the moon.
“How careless. Losing an important item like this.”
A lilac four-legged Pokémon walked up next to him and rubbed against his legs. He reached down and scratched the pokémon from behind the ears. It purred under his touch. Its split tail curling around his leg.
“What do you think?” He tilted his head at his companion. “How long do you think it will take the Champion to notice that he lost one precious Z-Power Ring?”
“You’re right. It’s not like he knows who got it.” He lowered his arm and slipped the Z-Power Ring around his left wrist. “We’ll borrow it for a while together with the rest of the goods. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind it much as long as we’re returning it.”
He peeled himself off the railing and placed a hand on his left ear. Voices crackled from the other side of the black earpiece. “Ultra Megapolis was invaded by Ultra Beasts a month ago in our world’s time, similar to how UB Assembly and UB Lighting was reported to appear here in Alola in the past weeks.”
“Indeed. Rarely does an Ultra Beast stumble upon our world but when one does, we assist it in returning to its homeworld…”
Sun watched impassively as the two Aether siblings appeared down the street. The Champion has his arms around their shoulders with an unmistakable, eager bounce in his steps. The Kahunas and the Elite Four were chatting in lively tones just a few meters behind them.
Just then, Gladion stopped abruptly on his tracks and whipped to his direction. His eyes widening when they landed down on him. Sun let the small smirk curl on his lips, knowing full well that the viridian-eyed Trainer couldn’t see it under the tilted cap. Well, that’s interesting…
His companions noticed him tensed and turned to the general direction that Gladion was glaring at. Sun couldn’t hear them but the ripple of alarm within their ranks was enough to give him an idea of what the Aether heir has told them. He tucked his hands inside his pockets just as a familiar but welcome chill ran up his spine. Behind him, his companion began to grow and morph; its appearance changing drastically from what it looked previously. The Illusion Fox Pokémon staring down his Trainer’s soon-to-be opponents with sharp blue eyes.
Hau stomped forward and pointed at him. “Hey, you!” The others turned to the Champion with surprise. Sun simply raised an eyebrow at him. “I don’t care what your deal is but Glads is no way going to lose to someone like you!” Hau inhaled deeply, cupped his hands, and shouted at the top of his lungs. “GLADION’S GONNA WIN AND THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ‘BOUT IT!”
Sun stared at him with brief surprise. He watched as the flustered blond Trainer hissed at him to shut up and tried to grab him when he whined a protest. A few lights from the surrounding buildings turned on as the guests were roused from sleep and peered blearily at the commotion outside their windows. Hau, however, seemed unconcerned about it as he slipped out of Gladion’s grasp and hid behind Lillie.
Heh. Admiration and amusement dancing in his eyes as he regarded them. Behind him, Zoroark gave a quiet huff. “Fine by us!” He announced, stopping the two young men in their tracks to turn their attention back to him. “We will not hold back either!”
Gladion smiled despite himself. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Lillie brushed her fingers against the steel wall of one of the participants’ entrances. From where she is, she could hear the rising excitement from the audience gathered above them. Heart-thrumming, traditional Alolan music blared from the speakers, harmonizing with the cheers of the spectators. At times, she could hear the familiar chant calling out Guzma’s name from the former Team Skull members. For a first-time participant like her, the scene was beyond overwhelming.
She felt a hand on her shoulder, and she turned to see her older brother gave her a reassuring smile. Behind him, the other participants were vibrating with energy as they chatted and bid good luck to each other and their partners. Her brother has shed his usual Aether uniform and opted for a darker palette for his clothes. His long, blond hair tied to a thin ponytail reaching just below shoulder level. It reminded Lillie when they were younger; her brother donned similar clothes as his way of rebelling against their mother, though Hau and Moon often poke fun of him being an emo. Not that he was one for most parts. He just struggles with wearing his emotions at his sleeve if it was not for a certain azure-eyed Trainer.
Lillie could tell how much Moon affected him, whether they noticed it or not, though most of the time, she wondered if the previous Champion was messing with her brother on purpose. Lillie swore she usually has that mischievous glint in her eyes whenever she has something up in her sleeves for Gladion. More often than not, she and Hau would get dragged in and well…chaos ensues afterwards.
The music faded to background as Professor Kukui climbed the stage. Just above him, the Kahunas and the Elite Four were seated in two rows. Hau was positioned closest to the battlefield, just between the Elite Four. Behind them were the rest of the Kahunas. Hau seemed fidgety – a contrast to his usual energetic character. He kept patting his cloak and sometimes, glancing at the nearest exit as if he wanted to be out of there as soon as possible. Behind him, Hala placed a firm hand on his grandson and whispered something, perhaps to placate the anxious Champion. Hau pursed his lips before nodding and trying to get as comfortable as he can on his seat.
“Alola!” Professor greeted. “Today marks the eighth anniversary of the Alolan League Championship. It has been five years since the League was held in this very same stadium. I won’t be making you all wait long. Let’s all welcome our fifty-eight contestants!”
A staff member jogged toward the participants’ entrance where Lillie and Gladion were holed up with the other contestants. He herded them to the battlefield as the crowd’s cheers rose to a pitch and they met up with other half of the contestants; the chant of Team Reskull and the screams of Ilima’s fangirls rising over the rest. Lillie tilted her head and gazed at the luxury box where their mother, Faba, Wicke, Professor Burnet, and Professor Elio were staying at. She could see them waving banners and fans with their names and faces printed on them. Faba was even sporting a bandana and light sticks as if he were in one of Masked Royale’s matches. It was touching – having people support you – but it was embarrassing as well. Lillie could feel her cheeks heating up and she resisted the urge to hide behind her brother’s back. Gladion maintained his calm but there was tinge of red at the tips of his ears as he kept on averting his gaze away from the luxury box.
“Alola!” Kukui greeted the contestants congregated before him. They greeted him back with more enthusiasm. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to see so many competitors gathered here at the Manalo Stadium. It’s been long since Alola witnessed its great Trainers battle out in a grand competition and now you are all here to bring in the Overheat. At this very moment, I hereby declare the eighth Alolan Pokémon League open! It’s time to Shift Gear! GIVE US A FULLY POWERED EXPLOSION!”
“YEAH!” The contestants roared as they pumped their fists in the air. Professor Kukui left the stage and exchanged places with the Kahunas who will now officiate the first leg of the League. As the announcer began his introduction, the contestants began moving toward their starting positions. The wide screens around the perimeter of the stadium blinking as the rules of the Battle Royale are explained. Lillie and Gladion sidled next to Guzma and Plumeria who grinned at them.
Guzma regarded his former enforcer. “Nervous, kiddo?”
Gladion gave him a sideways smile. “Not a bit.”
“Heh.” Guzma grinned. “Looks like it will be the best man standin’, eh? ‘Afraid it’s gonna be yer boy, Guzma.”
“Goodluck with that.” Gladion smirked. “Hau’s not going to let go of his title that easy.”
“We’ll see ‘bout that.”
“…The Battle Royale will continue until only sixteen contestants remained.” The announcer said. “These sixteen will then be eligible to participate to the next round of the tournament.”
“Big brother.” Lillie tugged Gladion’s sleeve and pointed at the opposite line. “It’s him.”
Gladion followed his younger sister’s line of sight and saw him standing at the end of the line. Sun was surveying the gathered contestants with a blank look, as if this kind of scene were nothing new to him, before noticing the older Aether sibling staring. The red-eyed Trainer acknowledged him with a tip of his hat. Even from a distance, Gladion could see the cold, calculating look dancing in the mysterious Trainer’s eyes.
Gladion clenched his fists. “I’ll win this.” He told Lillie. “I promise.”
Lillie looked at him with worrying eyes but nodded resolutely. The Kahunas marched to the middle of the battlefield and faced the contestants. The screen blinked into the number of the present participants and the Kahunas raised their arms.
“Pokémon, stand by!”
As the timer began to tick, the Trainers threw their pokéballs into the air and summoned their partners. The battlefield lighting up in colored flares of light as Pokémon of different types and shapes made their presence known beside their human partners. Gladion readied the memory discs as Silvally stomped its feet and roared, eager to finally being able to battle again in the League. Shiron nuzzled against Lillie’s ankles to assure her Trainer before jumping to position beside Silvally. The crowd chanted along as the countdown dwindled to the last digits.
The crowd roared and colored clouds of smokes bursted above as flare guns were shot. As if a switch that was flicked on, the contestants surged forward to meet their opponents as the crowd went wild around them. The battlefield exploded in a storm of lights and dust as attacks came in from all sides. The digital counter dwindling to fifty-six in a matter of seconds.
Silvally’s front claws glowed a bright green and ran to meet an approaching Alakazam. It slashed against the Psi Pokémon, sending it staggering back at the super effective move. It moved again for the same attack at Gladion’s order and finally sent its opponent down. The two did not have time to hear Nanu announced the paired opponents’ elimination as Gladion threw the Dark Memory to Silvally just as a Psyshock was aimed at them. Silvally blocked the attack and struck out Multi-Attack that took down the Elgyem in one shot.
Gladion spared a glance behind him just in time to see Lillie and Shiron took down a Lileep with Powder Snow. Not far from her, Guzma and Plumeria are holding out quite well on their own. A Lurantis and an Alolan Marowak tried to take down the two but against the combination of Golisopod’s Waterfall and Salazzle’s Sludge Bomb, they did not stand any chance. Cheers rose in fever pitch around them as the crowd voiced out their support to their favored participants. Barely hidden behind the curtain of dust and smoke, the counter ticked down to forty-two.
Silvally plowed down to three more before skidding to an abrupt stop. Its head turning to the direction of the sky in alarm. Gladion jogged to its side and was about to ask when he smelled something pungent akin to burning tires. He looked up just in time to see a ball of orange light streaked to the sky before separating into multiple lights. He barely managed to throw the Fairy Memory to Silvally, and the Pokémon pounced at Gladion just in time to protect its Trainer before the Draco Meteor rained down on the unsuspecting contestants. By the time the powerful attack cleared, the counter plummeted to twenty.
“Ah…” A voice spoke behind them. “I was hoping to end the preliminary round with one attack. Guess that’s just wishful thinking on my part.”
Gladion turned his head and sprung to his feet as he saw Sun standing a few feet away from him. Silvally moved in front of its Trainer and growled at the red-eyed Trainer. To Gladion’s surprise, Sun seemed unfazed by the aggressive display nor find Silvally strange as he looked at the pair with scrutinizing eyes. His partner, a dark navy, lizard-like Pokémon, floated behind him. A perpetual, evil smile on its mouth as its slitted, yellow eyes stared down on Silvally.
“Mr. Future Aether President.” Sun said. He did not even tried to hide his boredom in his voice. “I am impressed you managed to evade Dragapult’s Draco Meteor. Not really surprising coming from one of the Champion’s friends.”
Behind Gladion, the counter ticked down to eighteen. “Well, I am surprised you would approach me as if we were in friendly terms.” His hand reached into his jacket and pulled out the Ice Memory. “I hope you haven’t forgotten we have a deal.”
“Not at all.” Sun shoved his hands inside the pockets of his jacket. “But if you want me to face me, you better survive first.” He tipped his head to the side. “Dragapult, Fire Blast.”
“Silvally!” Gladion threw the memory disc as Silvally leaped to Sun’s direction. “Multi-Attack!”
Pale blue aura flared around Silvally as it ran past the approaching Stealth Pokémon. Fire and ice danced and struck the approaching attackers behind the two Trainers. Two separate blasts of heat and cold melded into each other and the explosion of vapor swept away the storm of dust enveloping the battlefield. At the background, the speakers blared as the counter flashed the number sixteen in bright red. The Alolan sky lit up with fireworks as the crowd roared in shouts and cheers. The quota of the preliminary round finally fulfilled.
Sun nodded approvingly at the black-clad Trainer. “Not bad.” He recalled his partner back to its Pokéball and walked toward the viridian-eyed Trainer’s side. Their shoulders barely touching as he spoke in a low voice. “I will be waiting for you in the finals, Mr. Future Aether President. Don’t lose before then.”
He did not wait for him to respond as he walked past Gladion and Silvally and back to one of the participants’ entrances. Gladion half-turned and glared at the back of the blue-clad Trainer. Silvally nuzzling reassuringly against its Trainer and made a soft sound – a promise it will do its best to help to protect its Legendary friend.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Gladion said. His eyes flitting to Lillie who was embracing Shiron in her arms as she showered her partner with thanks and praises. “Even if it's the last thing I will do."
Gladion was hoping – almost pleading – that he could get a break from facing with Sun earlier that day, but here he was, currently dealing with the last person he or anyone else in that matter should be stressing themselves about. Not that he was surprised. Hau is one of those people that he could not get his eyes off for a few seconds without getting into some sort of trouble.
“You lost Moon’s Z-Power Ring?” Gladion repeated. His glare at the Champion intensifying at each word. “That one Z-Power Ring that was blessed by the Tapus?”
Hau shrunk beneath his gaze. “…Yes.” He squeaked behind Lillie.
Gladion resisted the urge to strangle Hau right then and now. Instead, he raised his hands to massage his throbbing temples as he muttered a series of curses to himself. After the preliminary round and a quick lunch, the three of them congregated inside the luxury box in the stadium. Lusamine, Faba, and Wicke returned to Aether Paradise prior their arrival to assist the Ultra Recon Squad in the current Ultra Beast dilemma. Professor Burnet had a call from the Pokémon Center in Hau’oli City and has to leave midway of the preliminary round. Professor Elio left relatively later than the others to pick up the results sent by his colleague from Orre regarding the berserk Pokémon. He hoped it might give them an insight regarding the mysterious incidents and preferably, be able to create a cure.
Gladion sunk into the couch, surprising Shiron who was curled up comfortably after a harrowing battle. “When? When did you lose it?”
Hau did not budge from his hiding place behind his girlfriend. “Last night…I think?” He continued before Gladion make up his mind in killing him from where he stands. “I must have dropped it during last night’s celebration. Maybe someone found it…?”
Gladion glowered. “I swear to Arceus, Hau, if you aren’t Lillie’s boyfriend and the current Champion, I would have ordered Silvally to bite your head off.”
The said Pokémon perked from its nest of couch pillows and towels that it dragged to one corner moments ago. It tilted its head as it eyed Hau with curiosity, probably intrigued in the prospect of having a taste of the Champion. It assumed he might taste like the malasadas he loves so much.
“Big brother, don’t give Silvally any ideas.” Lillie gently chided, noticing the look Silvally was giving to the dark green-haired Trainer. She coaxed Hau away from her back and sat beside Gladion. “I’m sure whoever found it will return it. Everyone knows how important Z-Power Rings are.”
“Yeah, Lillie’s right.” Hau slid his arms down the backrest of the couch. “No one’s that dumb enough to try stealing a Z-Power Ring.”
“Well, someone’s dumb enough to lose one.” Gladion shot back as the Champion deflated from his perch. “Don’t think you’re off the hook yet.”
“Sowww cwuel, Glawds.” Hau mumbled against the leather skin of the couch. Shiron leapt on the back of the Champion and curled into a cozy ball of white. “I thouwht we’we fwiends.”
“You’re friends, alright.” Lillie said soothingly as she picked up Shiron from her precarious position atop Hau’s back and placed the Alolan Vulpix on her lap. “Big Brother’s just stressed out lately. The Ultra Beasts popping back without Nebby’s interference has started taking its a toll to the Aether Foundation.”
Gladion made an annoyed noise between his teeth. “I had to deal with five media invitations this past week. People are starting to get restless and I have not gotten an answer from the Interpol. If this keeps up-“
“It won’t.” Hau interjected, raising his head to look at the blond. His eyes brooking no argument. “You will win, Glads, and we’ll get the information we need.”
“That is easy for you to say.” Gladion said. “You have seen it, haven’t you? Sun is no weak trainer. He and his partner eliminated almost half of the contestants in the preliminary round with just one attack.”
“That’s because he ordered his partner to use a wide-range attack!” Hau pointed out. “Of course, that will take down many.”
“Draco Meteor isn’t a move you can just teach your Pokémon, Hau.” Gladion insisted. “It requires an unbreakable bond between a Trainer and his partner Dragon-type Pokémon. Even if your Pokémon gets to learn Draco Meteor, mastering that move is no easy feat.”
Hau raised his arms in annoyance. “Well, tell that to Moon then! She loves spamming Draco Meteor to my face whenever I come around to challenge her.”
Gladion looked a bit offended. “Hau, you have no idea how many times I have to dance around just to escape those meteors raining down on my head!” He glowered. “I swear to the Tapus, Moon was out to kill me every time I climbed up the League.”
“Well…” Hau tilted his head, giving Gladion a knowing, pointed look. “Considering how you acted like a jerk many times before, I can understand where Moon was coming from.”
Gladion scowled at him. “Very funny.”
They are getting along well. Lillie smiled fondly as she watched the two exchanged a friendly banter. She could still remember how indifferent her brother to the current Champion was. He would often complain of Hau’s carefree and spirited character – from being too amiable to friends and strangers alike to being reckless in the face of danger – and how he gets to his nerves whenever they have a Pokémon battle and Hau loses. She could still remember how he almost strangled Hau two years ago when he learned that they have started dating. It took her brother months before he finally accepted their relationship and learned to restrain his overprotective-big-brother-side whenever she and Hau get a tad close for his liking. Now, he and Hau still bicker at times, but they have gotten close like brothers.
Lillie turned to Shiron who nudged at her arm and looked at the coffee table. There was a subtle vibration on the glass table coming from Hau’s phone. She picked it up and opened it. The name of the Steel-type Elite Four member popping on the screen. “Hau,” She called out to her boyfriend. “Molayne-san is calling you.”
“Yeah?” Hau accepted the proffered phone and placed it against his ear. “Alola, Molayne-san! Is there something I could help you with?” Hau paused, listening to the other end. “It’s about that? Okay! I will put you on speakerphone.”
Hau pushed himself off the backrest of the sofa and rounded toward the table. He placed his phone on the glass surface and switched the call. Gladion gave Hau a questioning look which the Champion answered by gesturing to the phone. Lillie scooted to the side to give Hau enough space to sit beside her.
Molayne’s voice spoke from the phone. “Can you all hear me?”
“Loud and clear.” Gladion answered.
“Good.” The Elite Four member seemed pleased. “I’m not going to beat around the bush. I am calling under the Champion’s order. Hau-kun requested me to do a background check on Sun days ago. Gladion-kun, I’m sure Nanu-san already told you that the Alolan police found no records of Sun’s travel history to the region, yeah?”
“Yes.” Gladion affirmed. “He told me that Sun most likely arrived in the region under a different name.” Or I just imagined him. Gladion omitted that. Molayne was with them when they happened to see Sun watching their small procession last night.
“That is a possibility, yeah. But I found something odd when I checked in with the airport administration. I requested to see all public and private flight records for the past six months, but the report turned out to be incomplete. There was a particular flight that caught my attention – one from the Galar region three months ago. It was not a chartered flight, but the list of passengers was redacted.”
“Redacted?” Lillie asked, edging closer to the table. “What do you mean?”
“One of the passengers was missing. Or to be more accurate, the name of the passenger has been withdrawn from all existing records.” Molayne answered. “I managed to contact the airline company of the flight and they confirmed there was an additional passenger in the flight, but the original list of passengers was turned over to the Galarian police.”
“The Galarian police?” Hau frowned. “What would the police even want from that list?”
“That is something I have yet to find.” Molayne admitted. “I asked for a copy of the list, but the company said that the authorities ordered them to turn over any copy of the list. The company seemed to be still under tight surveillance and the call I had was cut short unexpectedly. I contacted the Galarian police, but they told me that the original list and its copies were taken by the Galarian League. I tried to request communication with their League, but I was denied.”
“That’s…” Gladion ran a hand through his hair. Shock and frustration dancing in his viridian eyes. “I’m not facing an ordinary enemy, aren’t I?”
“We cannot be sure.” The Steel-type Trainer answered. Sympathy leaking through his voice. “But we cannot eliminate the fact that Sun might be an invaluable ally. He has powerful connections from another region and has a considerable influence in Alola. I recommend going along with your agreement until we can find more information about his identity.”
“How about the registration he submitted for the League championship?” Hau piped in. “Did you find something?”
“I’m afraid not.” Molayne replied. There was a hint of disappointment in his voice. “I didn’t manage to get my hands on it. It was Kahili-san who handled the participants’ documents this year. Nanu-san came over to the League and requested the information for the police investigation just a week ago.”
“Oh, come on!” Hau complained.
“But I spoke with Soffy yesterday. Apparently, he has never met Sun in his Trial.”
“What?” Gladion slammed his palms on the table, surprising Silvally from its nap. “What do you mean he never met Sun in his Trial?”
“It is at it is. Soffy never had Sun as a trial goer.”
“But that’s against the rules!” Lillie pointed out. On her lap, Shiron bobbed her head in agreement. “You can’t participate in the League championship if you didn’t finish all Trials and Grand Trials.”
“Correct.” Molayne confirmed. “That’s why I’m going to meet Nanu-san tonight and forward this new information to the investigation. Should it be proven to be true, then Sun will be immediately disqualified from the championship. It may also serve as a ground for filing a case for fraud.”
The younger Aether sibling glanced to her brother worriedly. “But if Sun gets disqualified, what will happen to the information he promised if Big Brother wins? Won’t that break their agreement?”
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.” Gladion answered in the Elite Four member’s stead. His eyes affixed in a glare to the phone. “Molayne-san, if anything new comes up, please tell us at the moment’s notice.”
“Don’t worry, Gladion-kun. Just keep our new friend entertained and we will take care of the rest, yeah? Alola got your back.”
“A young man with red eyes and blond hair, you say?” Hala placed a hand on his chin as he thinks. “I don’t remember having a trial goer like that.”
The second day of the League tournament has started more than two hours ago. From where Gladion stood, he could hear the loud cheers as the ongoing match stirred the crowd in a wild frenzy. If he estimated right, the current match is already the fifth. He already heard news of Guzma, Kiawe, and Lana winning and Professor Samson losing his match. He peered at his phone where the e-mail sent by the League last night was left on display.
Alola! Congratulations in qualifying for the second day of the eighth Alolan League championship! Here is the lineup for the eight official matches for tomorrow:
First Match: Ilima vs. Guzma
Second Match: Kiawe vs. Oluolu
Third Match: Lana vs. Mallow
Fourth Match: Sophocles vs. Samson
Fifth Match: Mina vs. Pikala
Sixth Match: Gladion vs. Ryuki
Seventh Match: Lillie vs. Tristan
Eighth Match: Sun vs. Plumeria
Each contestant is required to call out three Pokémon only in this round. Make sure to stay within the stadium’s premises before your match. Should you absent within the first fifteen minutes of your official match, your opponent will win by default. Thank you and do your best!
- Alolan League Confederation
Gladion shoved his phone in his pocket and focused back on the Kahuna of Melemele Island. His match with a guy named Ryuki is next but gathering information regarding what Molayne told them yesterday takes priority. That and it might be his only opportunity in gathering most of the Kahunas and Trial Captains in one place within the duration of the tournament. He could wait after the championship, but Sun seemed to be the kind of person that does not stay in one place and let any trace of his presence linger longer than necessary.
“Molayne-san told us that Sophocles never had Sun as a trial goer.” Gladion explained. “I’m sorry for asking this but are all you sure none of you fought him before?”
“Not that I know of.” Hapu answered. “If I did, I would have remembered.”
“I’d been busy as of the late.” Olivia admitted. “However, should that boy be a danger to Alola, we would know. The Tapus will never let a threat go unchecked.”
Gladion frowned, running his hand through his hair. “If he didn’t do the island challenge, then there’s no way he would be able to participate in the League.”
“But he did.” Hau pointed out. “According to Kahili-san, the documents he submitted were complete. He has the island challenge amulet, Z-Power Ring, Z-Crystals…everything! How did he even got them if he didn’t do the island challenge?”
They looked at each other thoughtfully until Olivia spoke up. “…Unless he has someone to lend them to him.” They all whipped their heads to the Rock-type Elite Four member. “Think about this. He has them but none of us remembered him taking any of the Trials. There have no reports of a trial goer losing theirs either. The only conclusion we can draw is that someone willingly lend theirs to Sun.”
“But that is still a breach to the rules!” Hapu crossed her arms. A look of infuriation in her eyes. “Not only that, it goes against the Alolan traditions. It’s a sign of disrespect!”
“Without a doubt.” Hala agreed and turned to Olivia. “The League must investigate this matter. If that boy is indeed guilty and so do any accomplices of his, we must take necessary actions. We cannot let such actions stain the integrity of the region and the traditions passed to us by the Tapus.”
Olivia nodded. “We’ll get in touch with the police, see if Nanu has found anything in their investigation. For the rest of you,” She swept her eyes on the gathered Trial Captains and fellow Kahunas. “be vigilant. We already have another Ultra Beasts dilemma in our hands. We cannot let any illegal activity to go under our noses. If you have any information, tell us immediately. Understood?”
They all nodded. Olivia gestured for her Trial Captains and ushered them to speak somewhere private while the others returned to their respective seats in the stadium. Acerola waved a good-bye to Gladion which the young man returned with a nod. The Ghost-type Elite Four skipping in her steps as she hurried after Ilima. Gladion felt a firm hand settled on his shoulder and he looked behind him to see the Kahuna of Melemele Island.
“It will be fine.” Hala told him. “The Tapus chose us to become stewards to Alola and we intend to do so. Not just for its people and Pokémon, but to protect what she has fought for to save.”
Gladion knew who the Kahuna was referring to, but he wondered how the old man could still hold her in such high regard. Especially after she left without a word. Hala seemed to read his thoughts and he gave him a gentle squeeze. “The Tapus has chosen her for a reason. The Legendary Beast of the Moone has accompanied and lent its power to her for a reason. Nothing happens and no one is chosen without a reason. Just like how you were chosen by Silvally as its most trusted partner.”
Then, what is her reason for abandoning everything? He wanted to ask, but he doubt that even the Kahuna has an answer. The rest of League did not expect Moon to resign out of the blue and have no idea why, so what difference it would make if he asked Hala?
“Don’t lose faith, child.” The Fighting-type Kahuna said. His kind voice a reminiscent of a father. “She will return. Maybe not today, but someday. But for now,” He patted him on the back as the fifth match concluded and the stadium was filled with the approving roar of the crowd. “Keep fighting.”
Plumeria had many enemies back when Team Skull was roaming Alola and has taken over Po Town. She has learned to deal with it or even better, not care about it all. Society has no need for trash like her – people who have failed the island challenge or have given up on life in general. The only one who gave them a home…and a family was Guzma. For years, she worked hard to prove herself and placed her loyalty on Guzma. She became his right-hand woman and the big sister that the grunts come running to when they get a massive beatdown.
When Gladion came around, he annoyed her, but she tried to understand. She easily became used to the distant and aloof boy who rarely gets himself involved with the other members nor stays in Po Town more than necessary. When she found out a new kid from a foreign region was taking down her brothers and sisters left and right, she made sure to go out her way to threaten her. Of course, the kid was stubborn as hell and kept it to herself to make Team Skull a part of her business to the point she became the reason they were driven out of Po Town and Team Skull was officially disbanded. The kid, Moon, despite being the worst pain in the ass, became a trusted ally, friend, and little sister at the end.
Plumeria thought that Moon was the worst problem she will ever face but now, looking at the boy standing across her on the battlefield, she resisted the strong urge to lunge at him and slam him against the wall. The damn kid was looking around with a bored expression on his face, as if he were not in a championship tournament right now. His hands were tucked in his pockets and his cap barely hiding the upper part of his face.
Now, she understands Gladion’s frustration about this guy. Something about him rubs her the wrong way. She could not point out what exactly but she sure as hell that taking down the boy will be more than just simply satisfying.
“Hey, you!” The boy’s red eyes flickered to her, but there was no change in his expression. “I don’t know what your deal is, but I don’t like how you’re strutting around like you own people.”
The boy has the audacity to raise an eyebrow and feign ignorance. “I don’t know why that is any of your business.”
“It is my business.” Plumeria shot back. “I don’t like how you’re treating my friends and I don’t like how you’re acting like you own this place. Learn your place, kiddo. This is not your turf to mess with. No one owns Alola.”
There was a flash in the boy’s eyes that came so quickly that Plumeria almost missed. She barely heard his quiet response. “We’ll see.”
“Contestants!” Olivia called out. It has not gone unnoticed to Plumeria how the eyes of the Rock-type Elite Four member lingered longer on Sun. “Bring out your first Pokémon!”
Plumeria pulled out a Pokéball and called out her first Pokémon. “Come out, Crobat!”
Sun tipped his hat and threw his Pokéball with little fervor. “Come, Corviknight.” A large, armored, black bird Pokémon came out and screeched. Its large wings blowing a gust of dust across the battlefield as it landed before its Trainer.
“It seemed Plumeria has chosen Crobat as her first Pokémon while Sun has chosen Corviknight!” The tournament announcer said. “For spectators and participants alike, Corviknight is a Pokémon not found in the Alolan region rather, it is native in the region of Galar. Corviknight is a Steel and Flying-type Pokémon and given its dual-typing, Crobat is at a disadvantage!”
There was a loud Oooh! from the crowd and it was expected. Plumeria has not seen any Pokémon like it and has never had an opportunity to fight it before. However, no matter impressive it may be, she still plans to take down this arrogant boy once and for all. She did not go through hell and back just to be beaten up by the likes of him.
Olivia raised the side of her hand as she called out. “Contestants!” She brought her hand down in a swift, chopping gesture. “Let the match begin!”
Plumeria seized the chance for the first move. “Crobat, Fly!” Crobat immediately launched to the sky and headed straight toward Corviknight. Her body flaring in light blue as she surged toward the Raven Pokémon.
“Corviknight, Iron Defense.” Corviknight screeched as its body glowed and glinted like steel. Crobat’s assault was deflected, sending the Bat Pokémon flying back. But before Crobat could fully recover, Sun called out an order. “Grab it.”
Corviknight launched itself and snatched the poor Crobat mid-air with its sharp talons. Crobat shrieked and tried to struggle free but her cries were swiftly drowned when Corviknight threw the Bat Pokémon to the ground. Its black wings dispersing the dust as it hovered above its opponent.
“Crobat!” Plumeria was about to give an order but Sun beat her to it.
“Body Press.” Corviknight immediately responded to its Trainer’s order and flew higher. Its black body began to swirl in orange light as it nosedived straight to the staggering Crobat. The impact shook the battlefield as a new storm of dust swept over the stadium.
Plumeria covered her eyes as dust blew past her. She coughed out Crobat’s name as the dust slowly settled down. “C-Crobat!” Her eyes searched wildly for one of her partners and she was greeted with a fainted Crobat lying still on the middle of the battlefield.
“Crobat is unable to battle! Corviknight wins!” Olivia announced.
The crowd roared as Plumeria recalled Crobat to her Pokéball. “Thank you. You did your best.” Her lungs still burned from the dust as her eyes flitted to Corviknight which landed before its Trainer and Sun looking more bored than he was before the beginning of the match.
Plumeria clicked her tongue. Tsk! She pulled out her second Pokéball and threw it to the air. “It’s your turn, Muk!” The Sludge Pokémon appeared before her. Psychedelic colors pulsating on its oozy form.
“Plumeria called out Muk as her second Pokémon!” The announcer said. “Let’s see if they can break through Corviknight’s solid defenses!”
“We’ll take it down alright! Muk, Rock Slide!” The white shards on Alolan Muk’s body began to glow and an orb of light formed before her. The light streaked to sky and rocks rained down the battlefield. Sun glanced at Corviknight and without a word from its Trainer, the Raven Pokémon launched to the sky and weaved through the falling rocks.
“U-turn.” Corviknight’s wings glowed in white and it slashed against Alolan Muk. Its opponent’s health bar slid down to half on the screen and Corviknight returned to its Pokéball in a flash of red. Another light flared in blue and Dragapult took Corviknight’s position on the battlefield.
“Look at that! Sun switched out Corviknight using U-Turn and revealed Dragapult as his second Pokémon!” The announcer explained as the list of Sun’s pokémon in the match updated on the screen. “If anyone remembered yesterday’s preliminary round, Sun chose Dragapult as his partner pokémon. Just like Corviknight, it is native in the Galar region and has a dual-typing of Dragon and Ghost!”
Smart tactic, kiddo. Plumeria thought. But it will change nothing. “Toxic!”
Poisonous fumes shrouded Alolan Muk and one of her sludgy arms lurched toward its opponent. Sun, however, seemed to be unconcerned and called out an order. Dragapult moved little from its spot as a ball of swirling flames formed from its maw. The fireball launched straight to Alolan Muk and dispersed into a five-point flaming star as it hits its target. Alolan Muk staggered back as the attack took down its remaining health.
“Muk is unable to battle!” Olivia declared. “Dragapult wins!”
Plumeria gritted her teeth. This kid-! She looked up to glare at the boy but when Sun met her eyes, a chill went up her spine. Something about those red eyes felt familiar…like she has seen that look before and never wanted to see it again. At that moment, she knew this kid is not someone to mess with and the gap between their strength is beyond tremendous. With trembling hands, she recalled Alolan Muk to her Pokéball.
“Your next Pokémon…” Sun started after a moment. His unnerving eyes never leaving hers. “It would be Salazzle, isn’t?”
Plumeria would be lying if she said she did not flinch the slightest. The boy became infuriating to terrifying within minutes and it reminded her of Moon. Yes, that is right. Moon. The First Alolan Champion is usually bubbly, reckless, and nosy - always poking her nose in other people’s business when she was supposed not to – but rarely angered. She could still remember that one time, that only one time, she witnessed an angry Moon. The kid was angry at Guzma, for being an idiot for joining Lusamine in Ultra Space and several other reasons even Plumeria was mad about. Moon challenged Guzma to a battle and horribly floored him with just one Pokémon of her own. She remembered the way her usually sparkling eyes darkened, and her voice became so quiet it might be a whisper. At that moment, Plumeria felt that she was being suffocated and there was no way out.
“Don’t do that again.”
That is all Moon told him. Those four words were all that left her lips before storming off and leaving an unsaid promise of not forgiving him the second time should he tried to pull off a stupid stunt like that again. Facing against Sun, it was the same feeling, but something about Sun that makes him more dangerous…like he knows exactly what she was thinking and hiding, like he knows her longer than Plumeria knows him.
Plumeria swallowed the lump in her throat. No. Do not let him get through you. She glanced behind her where her little brothers and sisters were shouting encouragements to her. Their voices seemed muted amidst the blood roaring in her ears. Then, her eyes met Guzma.
That is right. Plumeria told herself. I was the one who told him to join again. She knew that whether she win or lose, they will not judge her. Guzma will not judge her. No one will judge her and tell her off. They will remain her family. Hell, even the Kahunas and Trial Captains have become part of their dysfunctional family. She has a place where she belongs.
Plumeria let out a breath and smiled. Guzma nodded at her encouragingly as their former grunts kept on with their rambunctious cheers. “GO, BIG SIS! SHOW THAT KID WHO’S THE BEST!”
Plumeria chuckled lightly and reminded herself to take them out for dinner after this. She turned back to her opponent who seemed amused – at least, that’s what it looked like to her. The damn cap made it difficult to read the kid’s expression.
“Let’s finish this, kiddo! No more holding back!” She threw her last Pokéball into the air. “I choose you, Salazzle!” The Toxic Lizard Pokémon stood proud and tall as she studied her opponent with purple, slitted eyes. Dragapult flicked its tail as it returned Salazzle’s gaze.
“Salazzle, Dragon Pulse!” Salazzle crouched on all fours and opened its mouth. A multi-colored ball of light swirled from its mouth and fired off as a dragon-shaped beam toward Dragapult.
Sun tipped his hat. “Counter it.” Dragapult unleashed another Fire Blast which collided with Salazzle’s Dragon Pulse. Plumeria did not wait for the resulting smoke from the collision to dissipate and took advantage of the momentary pause to call out an attack. Salazzle rushed toward its opponent and leaped to the air. She opened her mouth and unleashed a barrage of brown blobs. Dragapult barely have time to react and avoid the Sludge Bomb. One hit successfully, leaving the Stealth Pokémon poisoned.
Salazzle flicked her tail triumphantly as its magenta markings flared. “Well done, Salazzle!” Plumeria smirked as Dragapult wobbled at its side of the battlefield. “Follow up with Dragon Pulse!”
Salazzle opened its maw but before its attack could reach Dragapult, Sun’s voice cut through. “U-turn.”
Dragapult let out a shrill cry and despite its status ailment, weaved nimbly away from the Dragon move and headbutted its wing-shaped head against Salazzle. The Toxic Lizard skidded back at the impact and Dragapult switched out in a flash of red. Corviknight returned to its place in the battlefield and it did not waste time in waiting for its Trainer’s order. The Raven Pokémon swooped toward its opponent and grabbed her by its talons.
Corviknight dropped Salazzle mid-air and nosedived toward the flailing Pokémon. The battlefield shook upon impact and Plumeria stood stunned as the dust around them settled down. It happened so fast that she did not have time to give out an order to Salazzle. The kid’s Pokémon acted without more than one order from its Trainer, as if it knew what Sun was thinking beforehand. How…?
Olivia walked gingerly toward Salazzle and slowly raised her hand. “Salazzle is unable to battle and Plumeria has no Pokémon remaining!” She gestured reluctantly at the kid. “Sun wins this match!”
I love Team Skull. Don't question it.
Professor Kukui is usually a man of free time – studying Pokémon moves requires little paperwork and more on-the-field observations. Being locked in the lab is more of his wife’s area rather than his. He might be one that looks after the house most of the day but when it comes to being a Trainer, he is the one to take the lead between the two of them.
Ultra Wormholes appearing out of the blue is not a confidential information in Alola. In fact, everyone is reminded regularly to be vigilant and be on the lookout for these interdimensional portals. Since the massive Ultra Beast outbreak six years ago, a proper response procedure has been crafted to deal with the occasional Ultra Wormholes. The Aether Foundation volunteered to become the central communication center and with the help of his wife, they created a powerful system that can detect the burst of Ultra Aura that these interdimensional rifts emit. A team composed of trained Aether employees and any available Trial Captains and Kahunas will be sent out to capture the Ultra Beasts, if there is any, and send them back through the same rift they came from. The team will be led by Gladion, who has the most experience in dealing with Ultra Beasts from his short time with the Interpol years ago. Once the place is secured, Lillie will call out Nebby to close the Ultra Wormhole immediately. It may be simple but the battle that occurs is not. Fortunately, encounters with Ultra Beasts have been rare for the past five years and people have been cooperative with the task force.
Now, with the new Ultra Beast crisis and the ongoing Alolan championship, Professor Kukui has little time to spare and that little time is being spent with collaborating with Professor Elio. Since the start of the tournament, the number of reported cases of Pokémon going berserk has climbed from two to twenty-four in a matter of days. More and more Pokémon that were attacked have been admitted to Pokémon centers, transferred to the Aether Paradise - all of which sporting wounds dripping in a violent shade of purple - and have been bedridden since their arrival.
But that is not the worst part. Their first victim they had has gotten worse. Kahuna Hala’s Machamp has fallen into a deep coma and black crystals has crawled over his skin from the wounds where the berserk Alolan Persian has slashed him. His transgressor has showed no signs of improvement either, and has been lashing out every time an employee came by its isolation cage. The police detained and interrogated the trial goer, but all they could get from him was that someone gave him the black Z-Crystal that he used before his Pokémon went berserk. The Z-Crystal has yet to be found and the details regarding the one who handed the Z-Crystal have been vague. The trial goer admitted he did not see the face but told that it was a woman.
“Kukui-kun.” The professor shook out from his thoughts and turned to the approaching Kahuna. Hala has been going to the Aether Paradise every day to visit his Machamp. Kukui could not remember a day that the old Kahuna missed visiting his ill Pokémon. “Any news?”
Kukui shook his head apologetically. “’Afraid not.” He placed a hand on the glass window overlooking Machamp’s room. “He’s…getting worse. I’m sorry.”
“Do not be, my boy.” Hala placed a firm hand on Kukui’s shoulder. “None of us wished for this to happen. I worry for Machamp, but there are things I must attend to. I know that he would agree with me.”
Kukui respects the old Kahuna and right now, he admired how Hala has remained calm and rational despite the dire situation one of his partner Pokémon is in. “Professor Elio has given us the results from his colleague in Orre. Unfortunately, it did not match the aura signature found from these ‘Shadow Pokémon’. We are back from square one.”
“We can wish for all the answers to land on our hands,” Hala told him. “but the time for them to be at our reach will not be in our will. “
Kukui placed his hands inside the pockets of his lab coat. “Time sure has flown fast. Hau has been the Champion for five years now and my former assistant is on her way to become a Pokémon professor. All the Trial Captains have grown in their own ways and some, if the Tapus chose to, will become the next generation of Kahunas someday.”
“And you’re a father of three years.” Hala smiled knowingly. “Times have changed, and we changed along with it.”
Kukui smiled fondly. “I’m thankful for Selene-san looking after our boy while Burnet and I have been busy for the past month. We don’t want to be away from him but with things going awry right now, it would be for the best.”
“That is true. No parent would wish to put their child in harm’s way.” Hala’s gaze drifted toward his bedridden Pokémon. “Selene misses her daughter, doesn’t she?”
Kukui’s smile faded and he nodded grimly. “Five years is a long time. Moon often went home when she was still in Alola but now…I don’t think I could understand what Selene-san was feeling, waiting for my child who has chosen to disappear.”
“Perhaps, but there is no way we could know why Moon has chosen to disappear.” Hala said. “Things happen for a reason. We chose to do things for a reason. All we could do is to believe it is for the right reason.”
“And if it isn’t?”
“Then, it is up for the Tapus to judge.”
Lillie has seen things that many people never had the chance to witness. From watching the mysterious Pokémon she has protected for months evolve into a Legendary Pokémon to entering a dimension that her father believed and dedicated his whole life to study, she has seen more truths than an ordinary person has ever learned. She grew up hiding in the shadows - watching behind people’s backs as they fight her battles. Since then, she chose to protect, to follow the path her first ever friend has walked before her. She trained to become stronger, taken the Island Challenge to understand what makes a Pokémon Trainer, and became an assistant to Professor Burnet. She is a Trainer yes, but she also chose to become a Pokémon professor in the future.
She was elated after winning her match in the second day of the eighth Alolan League championship, but when she witnessed the match between Sun and Plumeria, she felt small. She forgot that the tournament is the battle of the strongest Trainers in Alola and only the strongest among the strong can survive and rise to the top. There are Trainers far stronger than her…and Hau, no matter how strong he is now, will someday has to let go off his title as Champion.
Lillie felt scared. What if she faced against Sun next? The match was more than enough evidence of Sun’s strength and ruthlessness as a Trainer. It was no wonder how he could casually roam Alola and challenge Gladion, who is revered as one of the strongest Trainers in Alola, without batting an eye. Her older brother promised to defeat Sun and the League is taking measures against Sun.
Everything will be fine, right?
She stood up from her bed and draped a small portion of the blanket over Shiron. The Alolan Vulpix has fought hard during today’s match and deserved to rest well. Her other Pokémon are settled comfortably in their Pokéballs and Lillie decided to take it as a chance to get some time alone. She peered at her phone and skimmed through the messages. Her mother has sent some – congratulating her and her team’s victory and reminding her to eat and sleep well. A few were from the employees in the Aether Foundation, her friends, and fellow contestants as well. She got one from her older brother who was given a room two floors above hers. Hau sent her a lot and she was sure that the bouquet and the bag of malasadas she received earlier were from him too.
Lillie sent out a short message to her brother, saying that she will be going out in a bit in case he descends to find her. She quietly closed the door behind her, boarded the elevator down to the ground floor, and walked out the lobby. Cool night breeze greeted her as she stepped past the revolving, glass doors. Contestants and spectators alike strolled and hung out around the courtyard fountain. Their lively chatter filling the gentle silence of the Alolan night. There are booths of different kinds at one side – most of which displaying local wares and dishes of the region. At any other day, she would have let a bit of curiosity get the best of her and check the booths but tonight, she prefers some solitude for herself.
Lillie distanced herself from the crowd, veering away from the main roads. The tiled paths were lit – lampposts with colorful banners reading The Eighth Alolan League Championship: Second Manalo Conference glittered in gold with the stamps of the four islands and the Alolan League. There were less people near the docks compared to the courtyard of the hotel – many of which were on their way back to their respective hotels. Wild Pokémon roamed the docks and mingled with some Trainers and their partner Pokémon. She chose a spot by the edge and sat down on the cold cement. Removing her shoes, she let the cool water touched the soles of her feet. A soft sigh escaping her lips as she looked up to the night sky.
She sat there for ten minutes or more, amusing herself with tracing the constellations in her mind, when she heard a soft THUMP! not far away. A figure silhouetted in the dark leaped off the deck of a small ship and landed gracefully on the cemented ground. It walked away casually from the ship and stepped to the lit path above the docks. Lillie’s eyes widened and a gasp escaped her lips.
The blonde Trainer paused on his steps and looked around, as if he were searching for something. Lillie scrambled to stand - her wet feet imprinting her footsteps on the cement - and tucked herself in a dark corner of the docks to hide. What is Sun doing here? She patted her pockets for her phone, only to realize that she left it in her hotel room. She pursed her lips and peered at the Trainer who has one hand pressed on his ear.
Lillie could barely make out the movement of his lips before he disappeared from her sight above. Making sure that she is nowhere the red-eyed Trainer’s line of sight, she emerged from her hiding place and pondered on what to do. She could run back to the hotel and tell her brother. Then, what? By the time she gets to his brother, Sun will be nowhere to be found. If she followed him however, she could learn a thing or two about his plans. Maybe, she will find out what he is after - what he wants from Nebby. It is a risky plan – she has no means of communication nor any of her Pokémon with her - but it is her only shot.
Steeling herself, Lillie hurriedly slipped her shoes back on and scrambled up the stone stairs. She followed the direction where she saw Sun headed and kept an eye out for any sign of the Trainer. It was easy to look for him, considering that he was going to the direction where there were even less people around. That, and for someone aloof and under suspicion, he stood out well in a crowd. Maybe because of the clothes or his height, Lillie could not tell. There just something about the guy that draws people in like a magnet even if he did not mean to.
She watched him trudged toward the side of the stadium, completely ignoring the police patrolling the area as if they do not exist at all. The police barely threw him a glance which Lillie found odd and moved out of his way as if to avoid him (or create an excuse, which she found to be a crazy idea). She thought she must be that tired to be seeing things, but she froze on the spot when Sun paused on his steps. He looked up at the stadium and shook his head, muttering something to himself. Lillie hastily ducked behind an empty guard station as Sun retraced his steps and walked away from the stadium.
Lillie peered from her hiding place and let out a breath of relief. Too close. She stepped out and anxiously looked at the stadium and then, to Sun’s retreating figure. What was that? What happened? Before she could ponder more, Sun suddenly took off. Lillie was taken aback by the sudden change of behavior from the mysterious Trainer and has no choice but to sprint after him. She followed him back near the docks before he disappeared to the direction of the other participants’ hotel. There were a few closed shops around which Lillie recognized from the first Manalo conference. Apparently, many of the old shops from that time were left abandoned since Moon left Alola. Only some were rented and put back into use by the time the second conference started. Many businesses were reluctant to buy or rent one because the uncertainty of future League championships being held again in the Manalo stadium.
Lillie slowed down, unsure on what to do next, when she heard hushed voices coming from somewhere beside a closed shop. She took a deep breath and tiptoed her way toward a dim alley. She followed the brick walls until she came across piles of sealed crates near the corner. Orange light lit a small portion of a wall and five shadows, human shadows, moved against it. The voices grew louder as she crept close behind a crate.
“…plan is perfect.” A woman’s voice hummed sweetly. “Those naive fools do not know what is coming to them…”
That voice….Lillie knows that voice but that is impossible. It just can’t be. She can’t…she won’t…Before her resolution crumbles, she decided to risk a peek. There was a blur of white, black, and pale yellow in her sight as something grabbed her arm and dragged her inside the shop. She felt the cold marble on her palms as she hit the floor and heard a CLICK! as a door carefully closed behind her. She should have done something…said something, but whoever pulled her beat her to it.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Panic immediately seized her as she stared at the eyes of her captor. Familiar viridian eyes met hers and the resolution she had minutes ago quickly evaporated. Her body went rigid as she remained sitting on the floor. Whatever words she was about to say died in her throat when her older brother hissed at her.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Lillie’s throat felt dry as the Haina Desert and Gladion was still gripping her upper arm tightly. His hold did not hurt but the entirety of her was scared. She could not move, could not even pull back her arm back. At the back of her mind, she thought she was done for. She felt small and helpless under his glare and she wished she was anywhere but here. It was stupid of her to think she could pull something dangerous like this, unlike her older brother, Moon or even Hau.
Gladion must have sensed her fear and he promptly let go off her arm. He knelt down in front of Lillie and wrapped her trembling frame in an embrace. “It’s okay, Lillie. I’m here. You’re safe.”
Lillie buried her head on his shoulder. Her eyes burned but she tightly closed her eyes to ward off the tears that are threatening to spill. It felt like when they were younger – Gladion has not run away from their suffocating home yet and all they can do was to watch their mother descend to mad obsession. Behind the polished white and glittering gold of the Aether mansion, all they have was each other and nothing more.
Gladion rubbed circles on her back and continued whispering reassurances until she finally calmed down. Lillie pulled away and wiped the tears on the corner of her eyes. She was not as shaken as before but her hands still trembled. “We’ll talk about this later.” Gladion said as he held out a hand. “But first, let’s get out of here.”
Lillie nodded and took his hand. Gladion helped her up on her feet and led her out of the shop. She wanted to ask how he managed to procure a key of the abandoned shop, but she felt light-headed to speak a few words. She could no longer hear the hushed voices from the corner – the light was gone and whoever that were talking back there must have left already. Gladion did not let her hand go until they reached the hotel and Lillie has to hasten her pace to keep up with her brother’s quick strides. He seemed to be in a hurry to get out of that place and from his expression, he seemed bothered by something.
Instead of going to her room, the elevator led them two floors up and Gladion steered her to his assigned room. He ushered her inside and closed the door shut behind him. Lillie wanted to ask but Gladion headed straight to the balcony with his phone at hand. Is he going to tell Mother? He seemed really angry. Lillie stood uncomfortably by the door as she watched him paced back and forth in the balcony. She couldn’t hear what he was saying with the glass doors shut but he could see how infuriated he is.
Her older brother stayed outside for a mere three minutes before he stepped back inside. The last fragments of his conversation over the phone trailing behind him. “…soon.” He said. “I will see you tomorrow.”
Lillie reluctantly approached him. “Big Brother…I’m sorry. I should have called you first but I-“
Gladion paused and raised his palm to stop her. “Lillie, sit down first.” He gestured to the coffee set and it was the first time that Lillie noticed the mess on the table. There was a thin stack of papers and a few folders on one side. A couple of them has the Aether Foundation logo while the rest has the symbol of the Alolan League. A few of the papers have notes written in red – no doubt that it was Gladion’s handwriting.
Gladion disappeared into the bathroom just as Lillie settled down uncomfortably on the sofa and returned with a medical kit. He sat down next to her and dropped his find on the table. He gestured for Lillie to show her left hand. There was a small scrape that Lillie did not noticed earlier. “You probably got it when you fell on the floor after I pulled you. Sorry about that.”
“It…it didn’t hurt that much.” Lillie admitted, watching her brother rolled up his sleeves and began gently cleaning the scrape with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball. She winced when the alcohol made contact.
“Still, I should have been more careful.” Gladion said. “When I received that message, I panicked. All I was thinking back then was to get to you as soon as I can.”
Gladion did not answer right away and put aside the used cotton ball. He unfurled a roll of bandage and wrapped her cleaned palm. Satisfied with his work, he picked up his phone, opened it, and handed it over to her. Lillie gingerly took the gadget and looked at a message displayed on the screen. It was from an unknown number but Lillie felt her throat closed up as she read.
Your little sister is being too nosy for her own good. If you want her out of trouble, get to this address as soon as you can. I am sure you would not let me down, Mr. Future Aether President.
Below it was an address and a virtual map where she supposed to have gone before her brother found her. Gladion gently pried the phone off her hand and placed it on the table. “I do not have to go to the police to know who sent it.” He said. His eyes darkening as he continued. “When I first read it, I thought it was a sick joke, so I went down to your room. When I discovered you haven't returned yet, I immediately ran to the place.”
Lillie decided to ask the question that has been bothering her. “How did you get in?”
“How did you get in that shop? Wasn’t it supposed to be abandoned?”
“That’s…” Gladion frowned, trying to remember. “When I get there, it was open. The doors weren’t locked. I thought someone might have rented it…” Realization flashed in his viridian eyes. Don't tell me-!
“Big Brother?” Lillie watched him rummaged through the folders and files on the table. The Aether files were moved aside as Gladion picked through a couple of folders containing reports prior the start of the championship. All of them were copies from the original reports from the League.
"That guy-!" Gladion gritted his teeth. "He knows. Sun was expecting for something like this to happen!” He pulled out a paper with much force that it almost ripped to half. It was an account of businesses that rented or bought a place within the stadium. There was a small two-dimensional map of the whole Manalo stadium with many of the buildings colored in green. A list of business names was enumerated on the side. Lillie recognized the shop she went to and gasped when she saw it uncolored.
“Tch! How did he-? No one rented that place and the key was entrusted to the Aether Foundation!” Gladion gripped the paper. “Don’t tell me he sneaked into the mansion and stole it?” He turned to his sister who looked shocked as he is infuriated. “Lillie! What happened there? What did you see?”
“I…I’m not sure.” She admitted as she clasped her hands on her lap. “There were crates, lots of them, and a light. I saw shadows…I think there were people talking at the back of the shop. When I tried to get a look, I thought I saw…I saw…her…”
“Who?” Gladion prodded. “Who did you see, Lillie?”
“I…” Lillie bit her lower lip and lowered her eyes. “I saw-“
Lillie almost jumped from the sofa when her brother’s phone buzzed. Gladion made a sound of irritation and picked up his phone. Lillie watched his face morphed from a look of irritation, shock, and then, anger. His anger was palpable that she was afraid that he might hurl his phone across the room. She risked a peek and felt her heart dropped from her chest.
Alola! Congratulations in qualifying for the quarterfinals of the eighth Alolan League championship! Here is the lineup for the four official matches for tomorrow:
First Match: Sophocles vs. Mina
Second Match: Lillie vs. Sun
Third Match: Guzma vs. Lana
Fourth Match: Gladion vs. Kiawe
Each contestant is required to call out three Pokémon only in this round. Make sure to stay within the stadium’s premises before your match. Should you absent within the first fifteen minutes of your official match, your opponent will win by default. Thank you and do your best!
- Alolan League Confederation
Sun gazed at the framed paintings hanging on the walls of his hotel room. The bright, still landscapes of the Alolan islands washed in soft strokes of lively colors have become a familiar sight in the few days he has taken temporary residence. Though he could simply step out in the balcony and revel on the real-life versions of the paintings, he prefers the static imagery of the artworks. It was melancholic – a reminder of why he was in this region in the first place.
Leaning against the backrest of the woven chair, he tapped an impatient finger on the back of the phone that has been ringing for a minute and a half now. He understood the need for a secure communication, but should it take them that long to answer, especially if they are the ones who provided him the device? After another minute and a few security checks, the call finally picked up. A woman’s voice answered from the other line, barely audible amidst the noise at the background.
“This is Sun.” He started, not giving the receiver a chance to speak first. He knew that if he gave the chance, he would have to deal with unnecessary dramatics. “I know that I am not supposed to call, but there have been recent developments.”
His eyes swept at the clutter on the coffee table in front of him. A few folders were stacked on one side with the topmost bearing the scrawled title Eighth Alolan League Championship: List of contestants. A few papers were detached from it and spread on the glass surface. Attached on each were familiar faces he recognized from the past two days. “The second day went off without a hitch as expected, and so does the first phase of the plan. I just hit a small snag tonight but it has been taken care of. The ship will depart and reach destination before sunrise tomorrow as scheduled.”
“How about them?” The woman’s voice asked. “Have they suspected our interference with Alola’s affairs?”
“No…not that I heard of. They are still scrambling their heads. They have no idea that the Foundation is already sinking its fangs deep into the region. They would, probably, but only if they are aware of them.” Sun reached to the pocket inside his jacket and pulled out a black Z-Crystal. He raised the crystal against the fluorescent light, noting how it absorbed the light and leaving only a black void. “The Z-Crystals can only be used once, effectively destroying any evidence into dust. Literally. And with the professor’s data disproving its connection to the Shadow Pokémon in Orre, they are simply charging in blind.”
“You sound confident. I hope you are aware that one of Alola’s Elite Four almost managed to track down your movements three months ago.”
Sun waved off the not-so-noticeable alarm in the woman’s voice. “Why am I not surprised?” His eyes trailed to a file of a certain Steel-type Elite Four member. “Don’t worry about it. I already got in touch with the twin Champions. They told me that the Galarian League have gotten hold of the documents and have already sent it your way a month ago.”
“We received them, yes, but that is not the problem-“
“My cover’s still intact, if that’s what you want to know.” Sun interrupted as he slipped the crystal back inside his pocket. “Those theatre lessons in Unova really paid off. If my cover’s blown,” He smirked to himself. “It’s up to you to get me out. They will not be very happy once they find me out.”
There was a subtle huff from the other end. Probably from her companion. “Very well.” The woman’s voice relented. “Proceed with the plan and exercise caution. I will keep outside interferences from hindering our movement. No one must know what we are after in that region. Do you understand?”
“I know you will not fail us, Sun.” With that, the line fell dead.
Lillie clasped her hands together, watching them tremble on her lap. Her heart thrummed painfully against her chest and she could no longer count how many times she has been told to take deep breaths. How she managed to get a few hours of sleep last night was beyond her. She appreciates her friends’ effort to soothe her, but with every minute that ticked by, it felt like she was trudging back in the Ultra Deep Sea, approaching the hybrid monstrosity that was her mother. As its name suggests, it is supposed to be a sea, but the lack of water contradicts what knowledge she has on Earth’s seas. There is no water, but she felt like she was drowning….
“Hey there, girlfriend.” Lillie was jarred out of the memory and she looked up to see Hau smiling at her. The Champion sneaked out of the spectators’ area and into the participants’ lobby where Lillie was waiting for Sophocles and Mina’s match to end. She was grateful that her opponent was not in the same room as her, but it did not calm her nerves as she hoped. She insisted the others to go watch the first match, not wanting to make Sophocles and Mina feel bad, even though they were pretty much against it. In the end, they relented at her request and promised to cheer their best for her later.
Hau sat down beside her on the bench and took her hand. Lillie watched him placed the treat he loved so much on her open palm. “Here,” He said. “You should not go to battle hungry.”
Lillie blinked at the malasada and slowly, a small smile broke out of her face. She cradled the food with both hands. “Thanks, Hau.” She took a bite and let the sweet flavor of the malasada spread on her taste buds at the first bite. Slowly, the tension on her shoulders eased away and Hau joined her as he brought out the rest from the paper bag.
“You know?” Hau swallowed his food and wore the familiar grin that Lillie knows and loves of him. “I once brought Glads a bag of malasada. Did you know what he said?” He stood up and covered a part of his face with one hand in an effort to imitate the older Aether sibling. “’I don’t like malasadas’. That’s what he said! Can you believe it? He said that to me when I saw Moon bringing him some one time and he did not even share!”
“I’m pretty sure Big Brother has his reasons.”
“Reasons, yeah!” He placed his hands on his hips. “I’m sure he just acting out of favoritism. Like, you know, he likes somebody. Really, really likes somebody! I bet he never said no to Moon…well, maybe he did but that was before he realized his own feelings. Point is, he’s in denial! Like, really bad!”
Lillie giggled. “He is, isn’t?” There was the sparkle in Lillie’s eyes that Hau loves. “He often turns down desserts but if it was Moon’s work, he would share to no one.”
Hau nodded vigorously in agreement. “He should work out on being subtle about it.” They shared a knowing look and broke out into laughter. Positive that he has accomplished his mission, he engulfed her in a bear hug. “There’s my girl! See? Told you should not go to battle hungry. Or in fixing your brother’s terrible love life!”
Lillie laughed and returned his hug, albeit weaker. She rested her head on his shoulder and whispered. “Thank you, Hau.”
“Anything for my awesome girlfriend.”
They stayed like that for a few moments, relishing the warmth of each other, before the double doors creaked open and a familiar voice spoke up. “I just left you for ten minutes and this is what I see when I get back.”
The couple turned to see Gladion walking toward them with a scowl on his face. He was carrying three cans of Pinap juice he must have bought from a vending machine down the hallway. Hau greeted him with a cheerful, Hey, Glads!, which the older boy returned with a huff. Gladion handed one Pinap juice to Lillie who thanked him and tossed another to Hau. The Champion caught it with a loud WHOOP!.
“The first match is almost finished.” Gladion stated as he eyed Lillie with concern. “Are you sure you’re up to this? You can back out if you want. No one will-“
“I will fight.” Lillie’s hands clenched around the can and looked up to meet her brother’s gaze. “I will do it! Shiron and I…we will fight.”
She rose from her seat and stood straight in front of her brother. “I know I’m scared, but I don’t want you to do this alone, Big Brother. I want to protect Alola too! I want to protect our home and I want to protect it with everybody else. So, I will fight. I will do my best, even if I lose!”
Gladion studied her. The fire in her eyes burned the same intensity when she found the resolve to walk the path of a Pokémon Trainer years ago. She isn’t getting any younger…and neither I am. He reached out and placed his hand on the top of her head. A rare, fond smile gracing his features. “Lose or win, I will always be proud of you, Lillie.”
Lillie smiled and nodded enthusiastically. “I will do my best!”
“Heh.” Gladion could have let the moment linger a bit longer where it not for Hau grinning so wide that his face might split to half. He scowled at dark green-haired Champion. “Not a word, Hau. Not a word.”
Hau has the audacity to play innocent. “What? I’m just enjoying the moment. It’s not always you smile, Glads. Well, almost never.” He said matter-of-factly. “You should do it often.”
“Oh, shut up.”
Hau could have teased the blonde more if it were not for the doors opening and Lusamine and Wicke stepping in the lobby. Wicke carefully set Shiron down and the Alolan Vulpix jumped eagerly into Lillie’s awaiting arms. “The match just ended, Young Miss,” Wicke reported. “And Sophocles emerged victorious. We were told that your match against Sun will start in ten minutes.”
“Thank you, Wicke-san.”
“Lillie.” Said teenager turned at Lusamine. The façade of the Aether President falling from her face, revealing motherly concern. “Lillie, will you be alright?” Lusamine asked. “Your enemy will be Sun, and he seemed to be someone who will not hold back.”
“I’ll be fine, Mother.” Lillie assured her. “I’m not going to fight alone. I have Shiron. I have my Pokémon. We’ll do our best! Isn’t that right, Shiron?”
For a moment, Lusamine saw a young Lillie – a little girl with a kind heart, but fragile to pain. Their little girl who lived a happy, sheltered life before losing their father and watching her descend into uncontrollable obsession. Even after all she did, her children still forgave her, let her in their lives for the second time. She regrets all the pain she caused, wondered how stronger, how more beautiful they grew compared to her. Since then, she vowed to become the mother they deserve, even if she is not one and has never been. Mohn, if you could see them now….
Lusamine smiled softly. “You’ve really grown.” She said as she placed a hand on her shoulder. “If your father could see you now, he will be very proud of you.” She looked at Gladion who returned her smile. “Both of you.”
“Mother...” Lusamine almost stumbled backwards when Lillie leapt in her arms. “Thank you!”
Lusamine returned the embrace and pulled away just as a staff member rushed inside to tell Lillie that her match is about to start. Lusamine gave both her children a kiss on the forehead before she and Wicke climbed back the luxury box. Hau squeezed Lillie’s hand and kissed her on the cheek as a good luck charm, before running back to the spectators’ area. The Aether siblings shared one last look before Lillie let herself be escorted toward the battlefield.
Sun was waiting for her.
The moment she stepped out into the battlefield, Lillie locked eyes with the red-eyed Trainer. From that look alone, she could tell that he was aware of what she was doing last night. He knew that she was following him and purposely let her do what she wants before letting Gladion know. She has a lot of unanswered questions for him – why he wants Nebby and why did he tell Gladion that she was in danger. Did he…did he care for her? She is a complete stranger. Why bother to help someone who is family to a person who wanted him arrested? In fact, what is she in danger for? He is such a mysterious Trainer with unknown motives, yet he seemed to know a lot more than anyone of them. Gladion paints him as an enemy, but his actions seemed to both prove and contradict that assumption. Lillie wanted to know, wanted to make the decision by herself, but she cannot do it at this moment.
“Miss Lillie.” She flinched when he called her name that she almost broke eye contact. How did he know her name? As if reading her mind, he tilted his head to the screen where their names are displayed. “Or would you rather be called Miss Aether Princess? It seemed your head is in the clouds. Do you think you can battle in that state?”
Is he…is he asking her if she’s alright? Lillie struggled to maintain her gaze but for some reason, the conversation she is now having with the other trainer was confusing her thoughts. “I-I’m alright!” She squeaked, wincing at her voice coming out a note higher than usual. “I can fight!”
Sun studied her for a moment. A part of her wanted to hide from those scrutinizing eyes. Surprisingly, it was Sun who broke eye contact. He tipped his cap in a slight bow. “Take a deep breath, then. I want to battle you at your best.”
Lillie was surprised of that and wanted to ask when Hala stepped into the battlefield. The old Kahuna smiled reassuringly at Lillie before turning to the crowd. “The second match for the quarterfinals will begin now! Contestants, bring out your first Pokémon!”
Lillie pulled out a Pokéball from her pocket and called out her first Pokémon, Ribombee. Sun, in turn, chose Corviknight. Corviknight’s a Steel and Flying-type Pokémon. She thought as she remembered yesterday’s match. He knows what he’s doing. He’s not going to send out a Pokémon weak against Fairy-types like Dragapult.
“Contestants!” Hala raised his palm in the air and brought it down. “Let the match begin!”
Lillie looked at Sun, hoping to get hints on what he will do, but he seemed to have read her mind. Before she could blink, Corviknight’s wings glowed in white and it slashed against the Bee Fly Pokémon before returning back to its Trainer. Ribombee wobbled in air, his health bar down to a half.
“Don’t wait for your opponent to make the first move.” Sun called out as he brandished another Pokéball. “Otherwise, you will get overwhelmed before you know it. Come out, Dragapult.”
The Stealth Pokémon took the battlefield in a flash of blue. Lillie felt confused, whether it was because Sun was giving her battle pointers or the Trainer sent out what she thought he would not send out against a Fairy-type, she did not know. Sun seemed satisfied with her expression and gestured at his Pokémon. “Dragapult, Fire Blast.”
“Ribombee, Light Screen!” A light-green force field went up in front of Ribombee and blocked the Fire Blast. Shiron cried in alarm as she hid behind Lillie to avoid the heat wave that came with the attack. Taking a page out of Sun’s strategy, Lillie called out. “U-Turn!”
The Bee Fly Pokémon rushed toward Dragapult and slammed his head against it. He returned to Lillie in a flash of red before she called out her second Pokémon. “Go, Comfey!”
For a moment, Lillie saw a flash of appreciation in Sun’s eyes before he sent out an order to his Pokémon. “Fire Blast, once again.” Lillie shouted just in time for Comfey to avoid the incoming Fire-type attack and do a counterattack. Rainbow light flared around the Posy Picker Pokémon’s body and shot toward the Stealth Pokémon. Dragapult tried to weave away from the lights but was struck down by the super effective move in quick succession. The rest of its health bar emptied out as it skidded to the ground.
“Dragapult is unable to battle! Comfey wins!”
Lillie breathed out a sigh of relief. At the corner of her eye, she saw Gladion watching by one of the doorways in the spectators’ area. There was a small smile on his lips as he nodded his head in approval. That amped her confidence as she focused back to the battlefield just as Sun recalled his Pokémon. He did not seem bothered by it at all. He called out Corviknight once again; this time, however, not pulling any punches. Once the ‘go’ signal was given, Sun directed Corviknight to use Brave Bird and it flew upward in a burst of orange aura flaring in a shape of a bird. It dived down and struck Comfey, taking its full health in one attack.
Lillie was astounded; it happened so fast that she did not even managed to tell Comfey to dodge. Don’t wait for your opponent to make the first move, he told her, Otherwise, you will get overwhelmed before you know it. She now understands. Sun was not just giving her a tip – it was a warning. He knew he would let her guard down, even for a brief moment, and took complete advantage of it.
Lillie tucked Comfey back to his Pokéball and whispered a Thank you. She took a deep breath and called Ribombee back to the battlefield. She looked at Sun who strangely enough, seemed to be waiting for her. “Make the first move.” Lillie whispered to herself and called out to Ribombee. “Ribombee, Pollen Puff!”
A ball of pollen gathered in front of the Bee Fly Pokémon and shot toward Corviknight. The Raven Pokémon dodged and swooped toward its opponent. It grabbed him by its talons and slammed the poor Fairy and Bug-type Pokémon against the dusty ground. “Body Press.”
Corviknight pulled back to the air as its body flared in orange light and nosedived to its downed opponent. Lillie shielded her face with her arms as the impact sending a wave of dust over the battlefield. When the field cleared, Hala announced Corviknight’s victory and the crowd roared.
Lillie recalled Ribombee back to his Pokéball and pursed her trembling lips. She did not mean to look up but when she did, she met Sun’s eyes and a chill went up her spine. It finally dawned on Lillie why Plumeria was agitated and terrified at the same time after yesterday’s match, why the former Team Skull admin went out her way to speak with her earlier. That kid, Sun, is no ordinary Trainer, she warned her, He isn’t like your brother or the Champion. Don’t make an enemy out of him, kiddo. Just don’t.
Shiron noticed her reluctance and nudged her leg to assure her. Lillie turned to the Alolan Vulpix who cooed. Her light-blue eyes brimming with determination and for a moment, Lillie remembered when she received an egg from Moon a few months after the black-haired Trainer became the First Champion. She expressed the desire to start a journey of her own – to become a Pokémon Trainer – and when her twelfth birthday rolled around, Moon gifted her an egg she got from Paniola Ranch. The then Champion told her it would be a good warmup for her to raise the egg until it hatched and when it did, that was the day she met her first Pokémon as a Trainer. She remembered calling out her personal Ride Pokémon toward Moon’s house at six in the morning with the Alolan Vulpix in her arms. Moon was happy for her and Lillie spent breakfast in the Champion’s home, coming up with what to name the Alolan Vulpix. In the end, they agreed to the name Shiron.
Looking back to that memory and the years Lillie spent with Shiron by her side, she knew she could not have done it all by herself. Her brother protected her, Moon inspired her, and Hau supported her. She could see a part of Moon in Shiron – the stubborn, determined side of the previous Champion – and at the same time, saw her own reflection in those eyes. She was no longer the same Lillie that hid behind her friends; she can stand on her own feet and being on the League Championship proves it.
Holding on that resolution, Lillie nodded to Shiron. “That’s right. I will protect everyone. Just like Moon did. So, please. Lend me your strength, Shiron!”
Shiron nodded and leapt to her position on the battlefield. The crowd cheered and Lillie could hear her friends the loudest among them. “Contestant Lillie chose Shiron the Vulpix as her final Pokémon!” The announcer declared. “This will now be the deciding part of this match. Will they be able to turn the tides in their favor or will Sun claim victory and advance to the semifinals?”
“We’re not going to give up! Let’s go, Shiron!”
“Hail!” Shiron let out a gust from her body, sending a blast of frigid air into the battlefield. Dark, heavy clouds formed above and large clumps of ice began falling down. Corviknight let out a screech as the hail buffeted the Raven Pokémon, slowly dragging down its health bar that was reduced from the recoil damage earlier. Sun ordered it to fly but Lillie called out to Shiron.
“We’re not going to let you! Shiron, Powder Snow!” Shiron unleashed a powerful blast of cold air, freezing a part of Corviknight’s wings. Its opponent stumbled to the ground, unable to flap its wings properly.
Shiron used Powder Snow again but Corviknight raised up Iron Defense to block most of the attack. Lillie tried again but this time, Sun switched out Corviknight before Shiron could land an attack. The red-eyed Trainer called out a different Pokémon – a blue, pink, and white Pokémon with a humanoid figure. Its gradient, layered hair wrapped around its body like a cloak and a pointed hat that resembled a witch’s hat sat atop on its head.
“Look at that! Sun called out another Pokémon to the field!” The announcer said. “From what I found out, that Pokémon is known as Hatterene. Its dual typing is Psychic and Fairy and is native to the Galar region. Is it just me or am I seeing a pattern in Sun’s team?”
Sun regarded Lillie with a look of respect. “I admire your tenacity, Miss Lillie, but this is where the battle ends.” He snapped his fingers. “Trick Room.”
Hatterene’s eyes glowed and the battlefield began to distort. The stadium and the spectators disappeared and were replaced with walls pulsing like a kaleidoscope, leaving only the four of them in a small, empty room. What to do? Should we use a Z-move? Before Lillie could react, Hatterene teleported before Shiron and flung the Alolan Vulpix using its hand-like extension. Shiron hit the wall of the Trick Room and fell sprawled on the ground. Lillie shouted for Shiron to use Aurora Veil but Hatterene moved faster than the Alolan Vulpix. Hatterene’s eyes glowed blue and Shiron was lifted off the ground. Lillie tried calling out to Shiron but the Alolan Vulpix was rendered immobile.
“Mystical Fire.” At the command of its Trainer, the Silent Pokémon hurled its opponent and waved its hand-like extension in hypnotic circles. Rings of fire swirled toward Shiron and hit her point-blank mid-air. There was a shriek as fire and smoke exploded and the Trick Room disappeared. When everything cleared out, Shiron was lying unconscious on the ground.
Hala walked up to the battlefield and raised a palm. “Shiron is unable to battle and Lillie has no Pokémon left for battle!” He gestured to Sun. “Sun wins this match!”
The crowd’s roar was deafening but running to Shiron was all Lillie could think of. Blood pounded in her ears as she knelt on the dusty ground and cradled the Alolan Vulpix. Shiron shifted – pain clear in her eyes – and gave a weak Kyu. Lillie blinked the tears on the corners of her eyes and smiled. “You did great, Shiron. Thank you.”
Shiron nuzzled against her and closed her eyes to rest. Lillie pulled her in an embrace, unable to hide the tremble in her shoulders. She knew that she will lose and has accepted that fact, but even so, it still hurts. She lost before, so many times, but it never pained her. Why now? Maybe because there is something at stake right now. Maybe because she wanted to win for her. She could ask what went wrong but the answer terrify her.
“That was a good match.” Lillie looked up to see Sun standing beside her. She did not hear him approach nor expected him to stay longer on the field. He didn’t after his match with Plumeria yesterday which ticked Olivia who refereed the match. She wondered if he does now just to mock her, but his expression remained passive. He held out a hand and felt the air get sucked out of her lungs. She stared at his gloved hand as he waited patiently.
In the end, she accepted reluctantly and he helped her up on her feet. She kept her head down to avoid his gaze. “You fought well. You and your partners.” He said. “You make a great Trainer.”
“Oh…” Lillie looked up and felt herself blush. Then, she realized that he was still holding her hand. She promptly let go and almost missed the amused glint in his red eyes.
“I hope we’ll get to battle again soon.” He stepped back and bowed down before turning away. Lillie wanted to call out to him but she faltered at the last second. She watched his back retreat, leaving more questions than answers in his wake like the night before.
For those who are wondering, I don't have a beta reader for any of my stories. That's why it takes some time for me to publish a chapter.
Hau is not the jealous type, yet her girlfriend’s match against Sun left quite an impression to him. He was focused on cheering for Lillie but not too focused to miss how that Sun guy acted around her. He asked her if she can fight prior the battle, gave her a bit of battle tips, and even showed sportsmanship after the match that he did not do during his match with Plumeria. Soft. That’s right. That’s how Hau would describe Sun around Lillie. Though he did not hold back in the battle, he was definitely considerate of her like a brother would to his little sister. Is that how it is or…?
The memory of Lillie blushing when Sun held her hand came rushing back to him. The guy must have seen his face when he was staring at them. Hau swore he saw Sun smirked when he turned away from Lillie. Oh, Tapu Koko no! Don’t tell me he’s flirting with her?
Hau’s reaction was instantaneous. He hit his knee against underside of the coffee table and almost spilled his cup of Tapu Cocoa from the Pokémon Center Café. The pile of investigative reports from Molayne might have escaped the hot chocolate, but it did not dodge his flailing arm. It got knocked off, scattering individual documents across the table and the floor. Hau held back the scream at the back of his throat and simply slammed his head against the tabletop.
The door opened and Gladion stepped inside his office, only to pause at the seemingly lifeless body of the Champion. He stared for a moment before deciding not to get involved with the ‘murder’. He brushed past him, picked a few of the scattered papers, and settled down on his desk. The quarterfinals ended hours ago, but he could not take a break yet. He has still work to do – reviewing the daily accounts from the Aether employees, scheduling meetings with their advocacy partners, and most importantly, investigating Sun.
He had asked Molayne last night to give him all he has found so far about Sun. Most of them were records of his movement across the region – at least, what were witnessed by credible sources. There is also the unusual flight months ago that the Steel-type Elite Four member told them about and some information submitted officially by the police. He has yet to ask Lillie about what she saw last night, but does not want to distress her any further. She needs a bit more time but Gladion wonders if they have that luxury….
Hau shifted – his head turning toward the direction of the blonde – and called out in a whining voice. “Gladioooonnn…”
“Oh, wow.” Gladion’s voice drawled sarcastically over his cup of Komala Coffee that Wicke brought him earlier. “Who stole your malasada? And here you said I am the grump of the group.”
“Uggghhh!” Hau threw himself across the sofa. His arms draping across the arm of the sofa nearest to Gladion’s desk. “This is serious!”
Gladion gave himself a second to prepare for the incoming migraine. “What did you do this time, Hau?”
“I didn’t!” Hau looked offended. “It was Sun! Sun did something!’”
That seemed to get a reaction from the older Aether sibling as the Champion expected. Gladion promptly placed down the papers on the desk and frowned. “What?”
“Didn’t you see? When their match ended, Sun helped Lillie.” There was an accusatory tone in Hau’s voice. “I think he’s flirting with her!”
Gladion almost spewed out his coffee. He placed the cup down and looked at Hau like he has grown two more heads. “Did you hit your head? What in the Tapus’ name made you think that?”
“Hey!” Hau rose from his sprawled position. “My head’s fine, but I’m sure of what I saw. Sun was holding Lillie’s hand!”
“He was helping her. You said it yourself!”
“But he didn’t do the same with Plumeria!” Hau reasoned out. “I’m sure he saw me looking at them and smirked. Like a really annoying smirk. He’s into Lillie!”
“Hau, that does not make any sen-“
“You said that Sun texted you last night to find Lillie.” Hau interjected. “How did he know where to find her? Wait…is he a stalker?”
Gladion ran his hands across his face and made a sound of both disappointment and frustration. He was tempted to call Silvally, run off to somewhere remote, and never come back. He wondered how in the world did Hau manage to keep the Champion title for five years now with him being like…this. He took a deep breath and turned to look at Hau in the eye. “Hau…I told you. It was Lillie who was following Sun, not the other way around. You are just being jealous of some idea that wasn’t there.”
“Yeah? Then, why are you defending him now?”
“What?” Gladion swore that one of these days, he is really going to borrow Lunala from Lillie and throw Hau into Ultra Space. Consequences be damned. He is already regretting meeting Hau years ago. Scratch that, he has always regretted meeting him. “I am not defending him, Hau! I’m just stating the facts. Lillie never met him personally until today and I don’t think Sun is interested in Lillie the way you think he does. There is just no way that’s what’s happening.” Otherwise, he will punch that guy in the face.
Gladion raised his palm to cut him off. “No. I’m not hearing it from you, Hau.” He swiveled his chair away from the Champion and leaned against the backrest. He heard, rather than saw Hau slumped dejectedly back to the sofa and huffed in annoyance. It was a ridiculous idea, really. Sun liking Lillie? He is already getting punished with his sister dating Hau, but Sun? No thank you! He would rather try tolerating Hau than that guy.
The tense peace lasted for only a few minutes when his phone rang. Gladion picked it up and a hushed voice spoke from the other side. “Ummm…Gladion-kun? Hau-kun’s with you, right?”
“Acerola?” It is rare for him to get a call from the Ghost-type Trial Captain and Elite Four member. Most of the time, it would be Olivia asking about the rehabilitation progress of Pokémon admitted from Akala. Hearing the usually sunny Acerola speaking in a nervous voice (which is saying a lot from a Trainer that specializes in Ghost-types), he felt a sense of foreboding…and not the good type. “What’s the matter? Did something happen?”
“Er…it’s not really an emergency.” There was a pause and Gladion waited for her to continue. “I just…kinda, you know, saw Lillie with that guy Sun.”
Hau almost jumped three feet in the air when Gladion abruptly stood up from his seat. “What?”
The Champion threw the older Aether sibling a questioning look but Gladion ignored him. Acerola seemed hesitant to continue. “I…I saw them eating in a restaurant here in Malie City. You know…just the two of them. They seemed cozy.” That struck a nerve in Gladion. “Could you please send Hau-kun-
“Forget Hau!” Gladion snatched his Pokéballs and stomped toward the door. “I’m going to punch that guy! Where is the place?”
The door swung open before Gladion could reach for the doorknob. Wicke rushed inside with eyes wide in panic. “Young Master! We got a problem!”
At this point, Lillie does not know which is worse - losing a tournament battle to Sun or dining with the said Trainer in one of the best restaurants in Alola. She did not expect to run into him that soon. She was just supposed to run an errand in the Aether House for Professor Burnet before going back to Manalo to eat dinner with her friends. However, fate seemed to have other ideas when she bumped into Sun on her way out of the Aether House. She has yet to process why Sun was there of all places when he smiled (at least, that was what Lillie thought it was) and invited her out for dinner. She did not have the chance to properly answer when he took her hand and led her to the Sushi High Roller in Malie City on the back of his Corviknight.
Now, she was seated across him on a two-person table located at the best spot in the restaurant. Lillie just finished apologizing to her friends via a group message that there has been a change of plans and that she cannot come. She could not tell them exactly what is it but it is sudden, which is true. Sun just finished placing their order by the counter and settled down on his seat. He did not tell her what he ordered but promised that it would be special.
Sun studied her with the same impassive expression, though something seemed off about it. But even so, Lillie could not help but fidget under his gaze. The people around do not seem to notice; all engrossed in their own conversations. “Ummm…thank you for inviting me.”
“I should be the one thanking you, Miss Lillie.” Sun said as he leaned casually on the table with his elbows. “You already had a prior engagement, yet you put it aside to entertain my little request. I apologize if it was sudden.”
“Well…I…” Lillie twined her fingers together. “It’s fine…as long as you will answer my questions.”
“Hm…” There was a twinkle in those red eyes that Lillie did not miss. “Alright. I will try my best, as long as it is not related to the deal between me and your brother.”
“T-That’s fine by me.” It’s better than nothing. Lillie thought. For some reason, Sun is being accommodating, unlike what she expected of him. She wondered if he was being considerate because she lost to him, or because he found her amusing. Either way, she hoped she will get a few answers.
Lillie looked down on her clasped hands, debating what to ask first. She could feel Sun’s eyes on her, waiting for her to do her worst. “Ummm…what…what are doing here? Shouldn’t you be in Manalo?”
Sun raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you prefer small talk first, Miss Lillie.” Lillie opened her mouth to say sorry but he simply waved it off. “No need to apologize. I am just used to people being straightforward to what they want from me.” He leaned against the backrest of the chair. “To answer your question, I am here for an errand. It’s nothing much, really. I am just here to speak to a friend.”
A friend? Lillie thought. Didn’t Nanu-san say that Sun didn’t have any records here in Alola? How did he know someone here? Did that person help him get in Alola undetected? She remembered her brother telling them that Sun is working for someone. What if that person is his boss? She wondered if she could ask that. Maybe she could not be direct about it… “Is that person…the one who sent you here in Alola?”
“No.” When Lillie deflated at his answer, Sun continued. “My friend and my boss are two different persons. Though, referring to that person as my superior is wrong. How should I say it?” He tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Ah, yes. You could say that that person is my benefactor. They are simply looking out for me, that’s all.”
Before Lillie stop herself, she blurted out. “Why?”
Sun made a clicking noise with his tongue. “Too close, Miss Lillie, too close. That would be a question for Mr. Future Aether President to find out. That is…if he wins against me.”
Sun simply brushed it off as the waiter approached their table with their food. Plates and bowls of different dishes were laid out in front of them. The largest of them is the one in the middle – a rectangular, wooden plate filled with various types of sushi. Surprisingly, many of them are not familiar to Lillie, considering that she has dined in this restaurant for many times already. The ceramic bowls were different as well – different in a sense that it is not the restaurant’s usual signature design. The number of dips were three more than the usual, even for the Z-Kaiseki: Ronin Set.
“Seems they went all out.” Sun remarked and thanked the waiter who bowed before leaving them to their meal. He picked up his chopsticks and gestured to the food. “Ladies first.”
Lillie gingerly picked up her chopsticks and surveyed the spread. There were many to choose from, that she did not know what to pick. She decided to try out one shaped like a rectangular box with a topping cut diagonally. A soft Oh! escaping her lips as the savory flavor of the cut fish and the sourness of the vinegared rice mingled with her taste buds.
Sun seemed pleased with her reaction. “That one is an oshizushi, also known as hakozushi. It’s from the Johto region. And this,” He picked up a pale rectangular sushi with fish and a few herbs on the top. “Is a sakezushi and a specialty in Hoenn. It has a rather strong and mixed flavor but you should try it.”
“I didn’t know they serve sushi from regions other than Kanto.”
“They don’t.” Sun said, dipping his next pick in a spicy sauce. “Unless if you have an ‘in’ with the manager. He called it Z-Kaiseki: Shogun Set to honor the First Alolan Champion. ” He smiled winningly that it made the butterflies in Lillie's stomach flutter. “You are one of the lucky few to be served with this set.”
“O-Oh…thank you.” She looked down on her plate, mulling over her thoughts. “Can I…can I ask a question?”
“You already are.”
Lillie felt flustered but decided it’s now or never. “Why did you save me?”
Sun tilted his head in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“Y-You know, last night! You knew that I was following you, but you just let it be.” Lillie explained. “When I lost you that night, my big brother found me. He told me that you sent him a message that I was in trouble, that you expected him to come to my rescue. Why? I mean…my brother considers you as his enemy. Even my friends do. We didn’t meet until today. Why did you do that?”
“Why? I wonder why.” Sun placed his chopsticks down. “Let me first clarify one thing, Miss Lillie. My motives may not agree with you, but it doesn’t mean I am a cruel person. I don’t care if you try to stop me, because in the end, it is my duty to carry out what I came for in this region. As long as you don’t get in my way, no one has to get hurt.”
“As for saving you, I have my own reasons. If I didn’t message Mr. Future Aether President, you will be dead by now, or even worse….” He didn’t continue that sentence, letting Lillie figure it out herself. “Now then, it’s my turn to ask, Miss Lillie.” He leaned on his elbows and Lillie felt a chill ran down her spine as she looked at those red eyes. “Tell me what you saw last night.”
Lillie dropped her chopsticks with a loud clatter that was drown by the lively chatter around them. She wanted to run, but her body was frozen in place. The accommodating atmosphere that Sun initially set was replaced with something suffocating. “W-What I saw last night…” A part of her knew that if she didn’t answer truthfully to his question, he wouldn’t hesitate to get it in ways worse than this. “When I…I tried finding you, I heard voices. I followed them to an empty shop. There…there were people talking, I think.”
Sun narrowed his eyes. “You think?”
“I-I didn’t see them at first!” Lillie answered hastily. “I just saw their shadows. There are five of them.”
“Hm…go on. I am listening.”
“I hid and tried to listen. A woman’s voice was talking about some kind of plan. I didn’t know what it was about, but I don’t think it’s anything good.” Lillie bunched the fabric of her skirt with her hands. “The voice was familiar and I tried looking to check who it was. Then, I saw her…I saw M-!“
Lillie’s eyes widened in bewilderment when Sun suddenly lunged at her and covered her mouth. His face was just inches away from her. “Do not finish that word! Do not say her name!” He hissed. “Not here. Not to these people. Do you understand?”
Lillie trembled before him with eyes wild with panic and fear, but managed to nod as much as she can. Sun withdrew away from her and settled back on his seat. The next minutes were tense and quiet. Between the two of them, Lillie could no longer find the heart to enjoy the food anymore. She was still reeling from the sudden confrontation. She could feel Sun’s fiery red eyes boring down on her as he ate in heavy silence. She tried to pick up her dropped chopsticks but her hands were limp on her lap.
“Let’s make a deal, Miss Lillie.” She visibly jolted when Sun spoke, but the young man ignored it. “You will keep everything and everyone you saw last night under lock-and-key and cooperate with me from now on. In exchange, I will give you information.”
Lillie didn’t know how she managed to utter any word at all. “I-Information?” Sun lifted his left arm and pulled the sleeve of his jacket. Shock danced on Lillie’s face when she recognized the Z-Power Ring wrapped around his wrist. “You…you have it…” Her shock slowly morphed to rage she didn’t know she has. She rose up from her seat, almost knocking the chair backwards. “You stole it! How could you?”
“What of it?” Lillie looked at him like she was punched in the gut and he stared at her with an apathetic expression. “Your dearest Champion left years ago. What good is a Z-Power Ring if it isn’t used?”
“Your Moon is not here.” Lillie felt her throat closed up. There was a deafening ringing in her ears. “Stop depending on someone that is not here for you. Is it that difficult to face that reality?”
She opened her mouth to say something, anything, but no words came out. A part of her felt betrayed, hurt that he was right. Moon isn’t here. Moon has left Alola for five years now. The previous Champion never once called nor sent a message to any of them. She never looked back…as if they were just memories of the past that she never wants to remember. Sun was right, but she could not accept the truth that he just slapped on her face.
“Listen well, Miss Lillie. You will not tell anyone of what and who you saw last night. Not even to your friends, your family, or anyone on this region. You saw nothing, heard nothing, remembered nothing. If you know what’s good for you and everyone else, you will do as you’re told. Am I understood?”
Lillie didn’t answer. Sun shook his head in mild disappointment. From the inside of his jacket, he produced a brown, expanding envelope and held it in front of him. “One year after Miss Moon left Alola, where she went, who the people she interacted with. I got every information about what the First Alolan Champion did in the past five years.” That got a reaction out of her as he expected. He offered the envelope to her. “Accept this deal and I will provide all the missing puzzle pieces. Perhaps, I might even indulge you where her current whereabout is.”
Lillie stared at the envelope, still in disbelief and shock at what he said. It was an enticing offer; if she accepts, she will not just know what Moon was up to in the past five years, she might also find the reason why she left. If Sun would also tell her where Moon is at now, she can see her and try to talk her into returning back to Alola, no matter the reason of her leaving the region on the first place. It was really a tempting offer…but what would her brother think of it? What would Hau think of it? Will they agree with her if she accepts?
As if reading her mind, Sun spoke up. “This is between you and me, Miss Lillie. Whether you accept or not, it will have nothing to do with Mr. Future Aether President. It will not hurt him.”
Right. Lillie pursed her lips. This is my decision. Steeling herself for whatever comes next, she took the envelope with trembling fingers. For a moment, she has mistaken the look in his eyes as regret, but it was just a mistake, right? The hostility in those red eyes was replaced with pity, that’s right, it was pity. It was gone in a second when Sun turned away and flagged the waiter. She sat back down and cradled the envelope against her chest like a lifeline. The waiter cleared their table and went off to have their leftovers wrapped for take out.
"Why...?" Lillie murmured. Her voice a whisper loud enough for only Sun to hear. "Why do you want to hide her? She wouldn't...do anything bad, won't she? I trust her. Me, my brother, and everyone else..."
“I will give you an advice, Miss Lillie.” He told her after the waiter returned with their food packaged in take-home bento boxes. “Trust nobody. At this point of time, people live with their mirror images. You will never know which is the person that belongs in this world before it was too late.”
He pushed half of the bento boxes to her direction and smiled coolly. The accommodating atmosphere returning in a blink of an eye. “I enjoyed tonight’s dinner.” He stood up. “I hope you will accept my invitation next time. Good night…or at least, that’s what I wanted to say.”
Lillie threw him a confused look when she felt the hairs on the back of her neck rose. There was a rumbling sound and the ground shook. Terrified screams broke outside and before she realized it, her body was up and running right behind Sun. They rushed outside and Lillie almost collapsed on her feet as she followed Sun’s gaze upward. Churning above the skies of Route 11 and Malie City was a purple Ultra wormhole.