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Pokemon Eclipse

Chapter Text

Prolog

 


 

When Estelle had gotten the call, it had left her in complete shock. She'd never really thought of herself as a mother, despite having had a child. The kid wasn't hers, never really had been, not since she'd given birth to a squealing baby girl and had promptly dumped her in her father's arms. She hadn't even given the girl a name.

It wasn't until the girl was in her seventh year that Estelle made a snap decision to go and see how she was doing, and by that point the girl's father had thought it best to keep the flighty woman out of their child's life.

That was before he'd developed cancer and died, leaving Estelle as the only possible caretaker to the child, who by that time was already moving past childhood and into the awkward stage of not-quite-kid but certainly-not-adult.

Yes, first time mother Estelle was being thrown into parenting with a fifteen year old girl.

Despite her anxiety, she was excited to get to know her daughter. Estelle was finally in a place in her life that she felt mentally and financially prepared for the challenges of parenthood. It was unfortunate that this preparedness was coming so late in the game, but Estelle thought that it was better than nothing. And she knew just the region that would be perfect for getting to know and develop a bond with her estranged daughter.

From the letters and pictures that the girl's father had periodically mailed to Estelle, she knew much about her daughter. What she looked liked, her likes and dislikes, base temperament. With this information, Estelle could decide on the perfect region, the perfect village, and the perfect house. She even talked to the local professor about getting the girl a Pokémon when they came to live there permanently—Estelle, personally, knew how much Meowth meant to her, and couldn't imagine that her daughter had grown up in the Kanto region without a Pokémon by her side. But then, the girl's father had always been afraid of them.

Estelle sighed, and took one last glance at the grave of her former lover.

"I hope I'm the mother she's always dreamed of," Estelle whispered in parting. She gently lay a flower at the base of his gravestone, and made her way out of the cemetery in silence.

 


 

The elevator was in sight. Clutching her bag tight in one hand, Lillie pushed herself harder to make it to the triangular elevator, before they caught up.

She was hardly able to catch her breath as the elevator took her up to the conservatory. Every little noise caused her to jump, though she tried to maintain a brave front for the Pokémon hiding inside the duffel. Glancing down, she could just make out a tiny face peering through the opening of the bag.

Professor Burnet, Lillie thought. I just have to make it to Professor Burnet.

Lillie's small break ended as the elevator reached the conservatory floor. Glancing around warily, Lillie took a few hesitant steps off the elevator. The trees around her shifted in a fabricated breeze. The air smelled thick of honey and of Bounsweet sweat. Most of the Pokémon were asleep, lending a quiet humming to the air. Lillie breathed.

It all seemed too easy, normally there were more members—

"You there!" Came the gruff voice of an employee. Lillie jumped, whirled around to see that there were two members in their white overalls coming after her. "Stop!" The man yelled again, but Lillie took off in the opposite direction. Her heart was beating in her throat—she didn't spend much time in the conservatory, was too fearful of the Pokémon who called it home, and didn't know the layout as well as the ones chasing her would. She pushed herself to move faster, randomly took a left when the path split.

She could still hear the members calling after her, yelling at her to stop. But she couldn't stop, not now. She was too close.

Rounding another bend, Lillie grabbed the strap of her duffel bag to keep it from jostling the Pokémon inside too much—and that's when he came into view. Another member, blocking off the path she'd taken.

No, no, Lillie shook her head. This couldn't be happening. She took a quick step back, glanced over her shoulder only to find that the two members who'd been chasing her in the first place were blocking off the path behind her.

The man closest to her grinned cruelly, and started advancing. They knew they had caught her.

Lillie started shaking in fear of what they would do to her—what she would do to her. Her vision swam as the foundation members made their way towards her.

Just when Lillie thought it was the end, her duffel bag was illuminated with a bright, glittering light. Looking down in shock, Lillie saw that it was the Pokémon in her bag making all that light.

Closing her eyes against the painful brightness, Lillie pulled the bag closer. Her last thought was of Professor Burnet, the mysterious professor that she was supposed to have found.

Chapter Text

Alola!

 


 

Three Months Later

 

Moon awoke to the persistent yowling of sly-eyed Meowth.

She groaned as the sunlight hit her bleary eyes, regretting that she hadn't closed the drapes the night before. She hadn't realized the Alolan sun would be so bright, despite the fact that it was the same sun as the one in Kanto. In her defense, she'd been exhausted after the eight-hour flight in to Hau'oli. She didn't realize that her bed was positioned perfectly for the sun to blind her in the morning.

Yawning, Moon stretched her arms up over her head and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She took her time rolling her shoulders, stretching out her legs, because she knew that Meowth had been sent into her room for one reason—to fetch her for her mother. So despite the annoyingly persistent gaze of Meowth, Moon took her time getting dressed for the day.

She spent a few minutes picking out the perfect loose floral shirt and tied it into a cute bow in the front so that it wouldn't hang past her shorts. Her shorts were her favorite green pair, and they took a good few minutes of digging through boxes to find. She grabbed her brush and spent a good five minutes brushing out her bushy honey-colored hair until it hung nicely at her chin, and then settled her bright red cap atop her head. When she grabbed her watermelon bag, she was finally ready to face her mother.

The moment Moon stepped out of her room, Estelle was on her.

"You were out like a light, weren't you?" Estelle asked, letting her hands fall to her hips and fixing a pleasant smile on her face. Moon rolled her eyes. Her mother was already dressed in Alola's finest, a white shirt and a long floral-printed yellow skirt. Her glasses were perched on her forehead, her bushy brown hair was pulled away from her face. Moon lamented receiving the texture of her hair from her mother—at least she didn't also inherit the color. "You ought to be full of energy by now!"

Moon shrugged. She wasn't usually much of a morning person, no matter how much she'd slept the night before.

"So, Moon, are you pumped to meet some Alolan Pokémon?" Estelle continued, seemingly determined to pull an answer out of her daughter.

Moon shrugged again, but her mother only continued to look at her with that cheery, expectant smile, until Moon finally replied verbally. "I guess…"

"That's the spirit!" Estelle cheered, apparently choosing to ignore Moon's half-hearted answer. "I'm excited too! We're living in the Alola region now, the place that everyone wants to visit! I'm sure the Pokémon living in a place like this must be friendly, right?"

The last part was said quietly, tentatively. She must be thinking of dad, Moon thought. Her father had always been scared of Pokémon, perhaps Estelle thought that Moon had inherited that.

On the contrary, despite Moon's attempts at staying casual and cool through this morning encounter with her mother, inwardly she was ecstatic. Finally, she would get to meet Pokémon, maybe even have her own journey! And all because—

And then her stomach dropped. The only reason this was happening was because…

Three months later, and she couldn't even bear to think the words.

Thankfully, the doorbell rang, saving Moon from having to think them. Eager to leave the conversation, Moon sprung forward and took it upon herself to get the door. She heard her mother saying something about a professor, but Moon was already past the kitchen. She was a couple feet away from the door when it suddenly swung open, revealing a strange man who couldn't possibly be a Pokémon professor.

The first thing Moon noticed was that this stranger was already making himself at home in her house. He strode in like he owned the place, right into the kitchen until he stood directly in front of Moon. The second thing she noticed was that he was ripped, and she could see this only because the man wasn't wearing a shirt. Instead, he wore a white lab coat, open at the chest with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows.  

"You must be Moon!" And boy was this stranger loud. "Good to meet you, cousin! The name's Kukui. You feelin' any jetlag? We sure are a long way from Kanto out here in Alola. It's still daytime out here, yeah?"

Kukui didn't wait for her to respond to any of this, which was probably for the best since Moon was still reeling over the fact that he wasn't wearing a shirt. Her mother, who'd snuck right up behind her, replied for the both of them.

"Professor Kukui!" So this was the Professor. "Yes, Moon and I just arrived yesterday."

"Hey there mom!" What? "I just let myself in. Oh, and call me Kukui, would you?"

Moon laughed a bit at that. This Professor didn't seem anything like the Professor Oak that she had briefly met back in Kanto. Professor Oak had been fairly good-natured, but he'd had nothing on Kukui. The thought of the Pokémon Professor having her call him anything but his formal title had her giggling, never mind the thought of him wearing what Kukui was currently wearing.

While Moon was shaking away images of Professor Oak wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, Kukui and Moon's mother had just finished their small talk.

"So Moon," Kukui started, getting the teen's attention. "How about we move on over to the next town, cousin? It's time for you to meet the Island Kahuna and get yourself a Pokémon, yeah?" 

Moon gave a start. Island Kahuna's? Getting a Pokémon? What was this professor on about? Her confusion must have shown, because Kukui gave her a frown.

"Didn't your mom tell you?"

"I wanted it to be a surprise," Estelle cut in. Moon looked at her mother with a myriad of emotions. "I spoke with Kukui about getting you a Pokémon once we got here, so that you wouldn't be so lonely here on the outskirts of town. Our closest neighbor is Kukui, and Hau'oli is a bit of a walk." Estelle shrugged, looking very bashful.

Moon was reluctantly impressed that her mother had thought of her loneliness, and had had the forethought to plan ahead.

Looking her mother in the eye, Moon smiled. She wanted to tell her that this was a good thing, that this made Moon happy. But…they weren't there yet.

Moon had spent the first fifteen years of her life motherless. It was always just her father and her, making their meager living back in Kanto off of Technical Machines. Despite having a healthy fear of the Pokémon he made them for, her father was one of the best Earthquake Craftsmen on their side of Route 21, and everyone spoke wonders about his Thunderbolt. They'd had a rather quiet life. Moon got her education from her father, and her only friends had been online ones. It had been lonely, and this woman—her mother, was the first person in Moon's life to try and make her life a bit less lonely. It was a pleasant feeling.

"You ready, cousin?" Kukui asked, and Moon gave a decisive nod. She was ready to meet this Kahuna, and she was ready to receive a Pokémon . "Then let's head for Iki town!"

 


 

Some sort of bird Pokémon was singing serenely in the trees. The sun was bright and beautiful and warm, shining happily down on the island of Melemele. The air was fresh and smelled of the salty sea, and combined with the heady scent of a nearby flower bush, Moon felt like she was floating away. Everything was so perfect here in Alola. More perfect than she ever could have imagined. Closing her eyes, Moon let herself bask in the moment while Kukui's voice drifted towards her.

"Welcome to paradise, cousin," Kukui said, echoing Moon's thoughts. "Iki town isn't far if we just cut right up here, maybe a twenty minute walk or so, yeah?"

Moon let her eyes flutter open, only to see Kukui walking away. Silently, she followed him, taking in everything around her. The path was bordered by a wooden fence, completely unlike the one that bordered Moon's home—her home in Kanto, that is. That one had held a different purpose, to keep Pokémon out, rather than to guide travelers on to the next town. It had been tall and solid, not short and open.

Moon followed Kukui in silence while he spoke of the wonders of Alola. She gave a couple murmurs of acknowledgement here and there, but otherwise the Professor was content to just talk at her. It wasn't until he asked her how she was liking Alola so far that she was required to give a verbal response.

"I like it, I guess," Moon told him softly, trying out her voice. "It's really pretty. I like our house."

"That's what I like to hear!" Kukui, in comparison, was loud and proud. He had a grand smile on his face as her looked down at her, all bright white teeth and cheer. "The more you love Alola, the happier I'll be!" Kukui declared, and the strangest thing was that Moon was certain he meant it.

Smiling a bit, she caught up to him so that she was walking by his side as they made their way down the path, towards Iki town.

 

Iki town wasn't a town so much as it was a small village. The thick green trees gave way to low brown houses whose roofs were made out of thick dried grass. The houses started popping up every couple hundred feet, drawing nearer and nearer to the next one until Kukui and Moon came upon a tight circle of houses, surrounding a great wooden platform.

While they walked towards the platform, Kukui explained.

"Iki town is special, see? Here is where people come to worship the Pokémon that watches over Melemele island. You got here at just the right time, cousin. Tomorrow is actually a day of celebration here on Melemele!"

"There's a Pokémon that watches over the island?" Moon questioned, thinking about the trio of Pokémon who were said to watch over Kanto.

"Oh, of course! Each island has its own guardian Pokémon. Tapu Koko is Melemele's own. Here, we have festivals to praise our guardian Pokémon, yeah. We celebrate it, showing it our fiercest battles, so that it will continue to watch over us and protect us. You see," Kukui continued with a sly smirk. "Tapu Koko loves nothing more than to see trainers battling it out to their fullest potential. Well, nothing more than playing tricks on those trainers, yeah?"

Moon nodded in understanding, and turned her attention back to the town. It was rather empty, she thought, for the day before a big celebration.

Kukui echoed these thoughts. "What's going on here? We were supposed to meet everybody right here, yeah?" Kukui frowned and looked around at the empty town, as if the townspeople were going to pop out in surprise at any moment. Moon made a show of looking around too, though it appeared that the town really was deserted.

Suddenly, Kukui snapped his fingers and turned to face Moon. "They must be back on Mahalo trail—it's the trail that leads to the ruins of our guardian deity. Moon, would ya do me a solid and go look for our Kahuna? I'll wait around here so that we don't miss each other."

"But...what does a kahuna look like?" Moon had to ask.

"Oh, why a kahuna looks like a kahuna, of course! You'll know one when you see one," Kukui replied. And, deeming this a good explanation, he turned around and walked off towards the entrance of the village, leaving Moon to make her way to Mahalo trail on her own.

Moon blanched for a moment—why would Kukui, the Pokémon professor who had his team with him, ask a civilian without any Pokémon to go on some trail in a region she was new to in order to find a person she didn't know? But Kukui was already gone, and really, wasn't this the best way to start an adventure? To just get thrown into it head first?

Either way, Moon took a deep breath and started towards the trail that lead to the ruins of the guardian deity.

 


 

It turns out, she wasn't the only one headed to the ruins. When Moon got closer, she could see a tall young woman standing at the edge of the trail. At first, Moon thought she was seeing a specter—a woman in white. The girl had long blonde hair, a wide-brimmed white hat, and was wearing a white dress. Her skin was pale, and Moon would have bet anything that her eyes were pale too. But then she saw the pokéball-themed duffel bag at the girl's side, which was shaking of its own accord, and thoughts of specters vanished.

Moon was close enough to hear what the girl was saying, though who she was talking to, Moon hadn't a clue.

"Really? You want to go up to the ruins? I don't know what you hope to find there…"

As she let her sentence trail off, the strange girl started off into the forest. Moon looked around to see that she was truly alone, and hesitantly started after the girl. Maybe she could catch up, introduce herself and see if the girl knew what a kahuna looked like, and where Moon could find one.

But the faster she went, the further the girl seemed to slip away. Through the twisting Mahalo trail, Moon would lose sight of the stranger one moment, only to see her off in the distance the next. She seemed to be playing a game of cat and mouse, tagging along after the girl towards the ruin of a deity. Giant tiki heads were scattered along the trail, giving Moon a heart attack every now and again as she turned a sharp corner and came face to face with a huge stone head. They added to the ominous air the trail possessed, and sent chills down Moon's spine.

The trail, to Moon's dismay, led up and up and up, with many worn-down stairs interspersed here and there around the steepest inclines. She could feel sweat beading around her neck when, finally, she was close enough again to the strange girl that she could see she was…talking to her bag?

"You can't come out!" The strange girl scolded. "We'll get in trouble if someone sees you!"

Moon's curiosity was piqued. At a slower, quieter pace, she followed after the girl, intent on seeing this through.

At last the trail opened up to a small clearing. A couple dozen feet up ahead was the girl in white, warily eyeing a rickety-looking bridge. The bridge was perched over a ravine, next to a roaring waterfall. The girl was racing to the bridge, getting closer and closer until she screeched to a halt within a foot of it. Her bag, however, did not halt—it swung forward and was held suspended in the air for a long second, until a glittering Pokémon burst forth and continued to zip across the bridge.

The Pokémon was borne of some smoky material, which shivered and shimmered in the morning light. It looked like a purple cloud, with two smaller, glittering pale blue clouds sticking out of its body. The Pokémon gleefully floated away from the girl, zipping forward happily towards the other side of the bridge until it stopped, curiously enough, and turned towards the sky.

Moon turned her gaze towards the sky, too, and saw that a trio of Spearow were approaching fast—and they did not look happy. While the cloud Pokémon cowered, the three Spearow took turns darting past it and pecking it harshly, repeating their attacks without pause. Moon was appalled—she knew Spearow to be a rather angry Pokémon, but they were attacking the poor cloud without provocation! Moon had to do something!

The girl must have heard her footsteps. Moon stopped a arms length away and waited as the girl turned her ear towards Moon, and then, slowly, whirled until they were face to face.

Moon had been right. The girl's eyes were a pale shade of green, paler even than Moon's. Her eyes were wide and worried, and she looked as if she'd been caught doing something terribly wrong. The girl sighed.

"What's wrong?" The question burst from Moon's mouth unbidden—she knew what was wrong, the girl's Pokémon was being attacked!

"Never mind me," the girl replied. Her voice was soft but urgent. "You have to help it! Please! Save Nebby!" Her eyebrows creased with urgency.

Moon wasted no time. Her first step on the bridge caused an exhausted groan to spring forth from the wood. Despite how spongy the wood felt underneath her shoe, Moon felt sure enough that the bridge wouldn't be collapsing underneath her. She ran forward—only to trip on a gap in the wood. She ran forward a second time, but her foot caught in another gap, and this time she fell to her knees.

Struggling to her feet, Moon felt that she was ready to turn back. But then she heard the terrified cries of the Pokémon—of Nebby, and she found herself rushing forward again. Slowly this time, she made her way across the bridge, step by step edging closer to the Pokémon. When she was close enough, she lunged forward to cover Nebby with her own body. The Spearow did not halt their attack, they only switched targets so that they were pecking at her back.

Moon groaned in pain, but kept using her body as a shield between the angered Pokémon and Nebby. That's when it happened—from beneath her, the Pokémon lit up in a bright blue light. She shut her eyes against the glare and knelt closer to the Pokémon.

Moon was only partly surprised when the bridge gave out beneath them. She was prepared enough that she had the forethought to grab Nebby and clutch the injured Pokémon close to her chest before they were in a freefall. She didn't even get a chance to scream while they dropped. Everything around her slowed down, until she could feel each breath escape her chest, each beat of her heart, the molasses-slow drip to her thoughts.

She would never get to know how close she was to the water, but she could swear that moments before she felt something hit her from the side, she could taste salt on her tongue.

The impact knocked the breath from her at the same time that it electrified her body and made all of her muscles lock up. The wind changed directions, from pushing up on her to pushing her from the front, as if she was moving back towards the girl instead of down towards the water.

The electricity finally let her go when she was deposited onto solid ground by her savior. She opened her eyes wide—and met the intense gaze of the Pokémon that had saved her.

Yellow electricity crackled along its black and orange skin. The markings around its eyes gave it a hard look, though Moon could read something more in his orange and blue gaze, something knowing and sure. Moon's mouth dropped open when the Pokémon actually nodded at her and, in a burst of electricity that made the hair on her arms stand up, rocketed into the sky.

The entire ordeal had taken only seconds, but to Moon it felt like it had been hours. Her heart was racing in her chest, going far too fast than was probably safe.

It was certainly one way to start an adventure.

 


 

"Oh…Oh thank goodness. You tried using your power again…didn't you?" It took Moon a second to realize that the strange girl was talking to the Pokémon still in Moon's arms and not Moon herself. Moon let go of the Pokémon, who floated gently down to the ground.

"Oh, Nebby. You know what happened last time you used it. You couldn't move for ages after that. I don't want to see you like that again!" But then the girl seemed to think better of her words. She toed the ground ruefully as she looked at her Pokémon with doe eyes. "No…I shouldn't say that…I'm sorry, Nebby…I know you were trying to save me that time. And I couldn't even help you in return…"

At this point Moon was feeling more than a little like she was intruding on something personal. But she couldn't think of anything more to do that stand there and wait for the girl to introduce herself and maybe explain what was going on.

"Pew, pew pew!" Nebby replied happily, and drifted over to a glittering rock on the ground. The Pokémon inspected it for a second, picked it up and brought it to its trainer.

"What is that?" The trainer asked. "A sparkling stone? It feels…warm somehow." The girl inspected it for a moment longer, then spun around to face Moon, as if she'd only just remembered that she and her Pokémon weren't alone.

"Please, forgive me!" The girl exclaimed with a respectful bow. "I was so afraid, you see. I could hardly get my legs to move, even seeing Nebby out there like that. But I am so grateful for you helping us out of that dangerous spot!"

"Are you the kahuna?" Moon asked. She didn't think so, but her mind had gone blank, and it was the first thing she could think to ask.

The girl only smiled and shook her head. Glancing down at the glittering stone in her hand, she held it out to Moon. "I think this stone must belong to you," the girl said without introducing herself.

Moon didn't question why the stranger thought the stone could only belong to her. She simply held her hand out and, without looking at it, stuffed it into her pocket.

Suddenly, all smiles disappeared from the girl. Her jade eyes looked worried once more, and she looked at Moon with a stark seriousness. "Please…don't let anyone know about this, okay? About seeing Nebby…It's a secret, okay?" And without waiting for a reply, the girl turned towards her Pokémon. "Come on. Into the bag, Nebby."

With a grateful 'pew' sent in Moon's direction, the Pokémon happily returned to its bag. Without another glance in Moon's direction, the strange girl started walking away with her head held high.

Moon was ready to just follow her when she turned around and hesitantly asked, "Um…I'm worried that on our way back we might get attacked by Pokémon…or something…" Strangely, Moon felt that the girl was more worried about the 'something' than the Pokémon. "I know it's too much for me to ask it, but…do you think you could see us back to town?"

Most people might have done something else. Maybe they would have demanded to know why Nebby had to be kept a secret, or asked again for the girl's name, or perhaps flat out refused to see the girl back to town. But Moon's own father was one of the people who had a fear of Pokémon, and seeing those wide green eyes looking right at her with such trepidation…Moon couldn't bring herself to do anything except nod her agreement and walk with Lillie back down the trail.

 


 

When they got back to Iki town, the professor was waiting at the entrance to the trail.

"Hey cousin!" He greeted with a grin on his face. "You must have missed the kahuna, but you found my assistant, oh yeah!"

"I…did," Moon agreed hesitantly. She wasn't sure she should say anything else, seeing how terrified Kukui's assistant was at the prospect of her Pokémon getting found. Instead, Moon chose to stay quiet and let the other two do the talking. Then she could figure out the boundaries of what she could and couldn't say.

"It looks like you already met, but just in case, this is my assistant!" Kukui reiterated. Moon gave a puzzled smile, then turned with a start to the girl, who had spoken up quite suddenly.

"Oh! Um…yes!" Her pale cheeks flushed, as if she'd just realized she had yet to introduce herself. "You can call me Lillie."

"And Lillie, this here is Moon! She just moved here to Alola, so take good care of her, yeah?" Kukui introduced Moon. Moon smiled politely, but Lillie only gave her a nervous bow.

"So you're another one of the professor's acquaintances?" Moon nodded. Lillie frowned, seemingly distrustful of Moon. "It's nice to meet you," she said insincerely.

Before Moon could question it, there was a commotion a distance off. Lillie and Kukui turned around, and Moon craned her neck to see around the professor.

There was a group of a dozen or so people waving happily to someone coming up out of Moon's line of sight.

"There's the Kahuna!" They were all saying, remarking over his strength and prowess in battle. Moon tried to angle herself to see the long-awaited Kahuna, but the crowd moved so that no matter where she looked, they were always blocking her view.

Finally, he came up past them, and Moon was satisfied with what a Kahuna looked like—a Kahuna looked inexorably like a Kahuna.

The man was old but spry-looking, with thick white eyebrows, a white mustache that turned up at the corners, and deep chestnut skin. He was wearing a large, bright yellow robe over a blue shirt and white shorts, along with a pair of flip-flops. He had a weathered appearance that spoke of a great deal of wisdom and experience.

"Have I missed something?" The Kahuna asked when he was close enough, and Moon noted that his voice was much like his appearance—gruff, but cheery and bright.

"Naw," Kukui denied. "But where'd you get off to? I thought we were meeting here?"

The Kahuna gave a cheerful snort. "I am Kahuna of this island, after all. When there's a problem on this island, it is my duty to resolve it. Sorry Lillie, what were you saying before? For some reason I thought I saw Tapu Koko flying about…"

The Kahuna seemed very familiar with everyone, and Moon supposed that made sense. If he was Kahuna of the island, the one Tapu Koko chose personally if the murmurings of the townspeople were to be believed, then he had to know everyone around so that he could help everyone as he saw fit.

Lillie nodded vigorously. "Oh, um. Yes, Kahuna Hala. Nebby was attacked by some Spearow on the plank bridge when this girl helped it get away…but the bridge collapsed, and I thought both of them might fall to the bottom of the ravine…and that's when the guardian deity swooped in and saved them!" She spoke in hesitant stops and starts, as if she was afraid of the very words she was saying. Her voice was so quiet that Moon had to lean in to catch some of the words.

Kukui, for his part, looked appalled but proud. "Woo! Now that's something you don't hear every day!"

Hala chuckled warmly. "Ho! Although it is said to protect us, our Tapu Koko is a rather fickle creature. Yet our guardian was moved to save you…" Hala turned towards Kukui and gave the younger man a grand smile. "Kukui, my boy, I think we have cause to celebrate! It seems that I should entrust this brave and kind young girl with a Pokémon of her own! We'll make a fine trainer out of her yet!"

With a smile, Hala turned towards Moon and edged a bit closer. He turned down the volume of his voice and said "I'm glad to meet you, child. I am Hala, the kahuna of Melemele island. Young Kukui told me of your coming. I'm glad we got the chance to meet today," he said with a grand smile. Moon smiled back, and then turned towards the platform as Kukui released three Pokémon onto it. 

Moon watched in wonder as the three released Pokémon leapt onto the stage. One by one, Hala introduced them, and one by one Moon was more captivated.

Back in Kanto, her exposure to Pokémon was as limited as possible. Her father kept her inside almost all the time, secluded from the rest of the world and from the Pokémon around them. What exposure she got was from the Pokémon she saw on the television, and those were always the acting Pokémon—the beautiful ones that had flair, or the comedic ones that had talent. Never had she seen such Pokémon as the ones before her now.

Rowlet was adorable, a round owl-type Pokémon with a green leaf-shaped bowtie on its chest. It hooted playfully at her as Hala introduced it as a grass-type Pokémon. Moon went to stroke it on the head, but as soon as she touched its feathers, the creature frantically leapt backwards and tried to stroke them back to the way they were.

Next there was Litten, the fire-type starter. It was a cool kitten Pokémon that had the most adorable red mustache Moon had ever seen, though its bright yellow eyes were haunting. The second Moon made to scratch it behind the ears, Litten's hackles rose, and it let out a puff of fire, singing Moon's ears. She yelped, readjusted her hat, and moved on to the next Pokémon with a sigh.

The last one was Popplio, the water-type. It was a pretty blue color and had a bright red ball for a nose. The ruffles around its neck stood out proudly, and it showed Moon how well it could balance on its tail for a few seconds—before falling right into her and knocking her to the ground with its excitement.

Moon laughed, though she landed pretty hard on her butt, and stroked Popplio's sleek fur happily. Standing up, she placed Popplio back on the platform and turned to Hala decisively.

"I choose Popplio!"

Hala nodded, a smile hiding under his thick mustache. "Only when you have both chosen each other can you truly call each other partners. And it is clear that Popplio has chosen you," Hala said as Popplio jumped happily into Moon's arms.

"You'll surely be friends for life!" Kukui declared, grinning down at the pair. Moon looked down at the Pokémon in her arms—her Pokémon. Popplio looked back up at her with a smile on its face.

Moon thanked Hala and Kukui, and then turned towards Lillie to introduce her to her knew partner.

"Nice to meet you Popplio!" Lillie said politely with a smile.

"Pew!" Nebby agreed.

"Oh, you!" Lillie exclaimed as she and Moon looked down at the Pokémon, who was certainly not in its bag still. "I know that kahuna Hala and the professor will keep you safe from any harm, but you should still stay in the bag and out of sight," Lillie admonished the Pokémon. But then she looked back up at Moon. "I think you chose a wonderful Pokémon. Please take very good care of it."

Moon looked down at the water type relaxing in her arms. Popplio looked back up at her, eyes wide. "I will," Moon replied without looking back at Lillie.

 


 

"Glad to see you're on the path to becoming your very own Pokémon trainer, cousin!" Kukui grinned as Moon stuck the pokedex into her bag, along with the couple of pokéballs and potions that the professor gave her to start out. "Now I think you should go and introduce your new friend to your mom!"

This, Moon had to disagree on. She wanted to keep on her adventure, head out to the first gym and challenge her first trainer! She was ready!

But Kukui was right. If she tried to leave the town without first letting her mom know, her mom would send the police after her in an instant, and no way would she be allowed to have her adventure after that. So, grudgingly, Moon started to head back down the path that would take her from Iki town to her home.

At the entrance to the village, where the grand arch stood between the town and the jungle, there stood a boy. He seemed to be about Moon's age, and was grinning at her cheerfully. He wore sandals, bright orange shorts and a black shirt, and Moon could see the straps of a bright orange backpack on his shoulders. His skin and eyes were a deep brown, and his black hair was pulled up into a choppy ponytail.

"Hey!" The strange boy exclaimed, bounding towards her to close the distance between them. "You and me! Let's have a Pokémon battle!"

Behind her, the kahuna laughed uproariously. "Where's the fire, boy? And what kind of Pokémon battle would that be where you don't even give a name first, eh?" The kahuna seemed to be kindly reprimanding the boy.

The boy grinned even brighter, practically showing his molars. He threw his arms behind his head casually, turning to look at the kahuna. "Fair enough," he conceded, turning back to Moon. "I'm Hau, and my partner is Litten. Your Popplio looks really cool too!"

Moon thanked Hau politely, and Popplio gave a happy cheer from her arms.

"So, let's battle! I couldn't wait for you to find your way to Iki town, so I've been looking all over for you!"

"Um…" came Lillie's hesitant voice from behind. Moon turned to look at the girl, who was blushing faintly. "I don't really like to see Pokémon battles where Pokémon can get hurt…but I'll watch for you."

"Oh yeah, your first battle already!" Kukui chimed in. "Just have your Pokémon dish out some moves and see who wins, woo!"

Hala, for his part, was watching the scene with eager attention. "I appreciate you being willing to take on my grandson here. I expect a no-holds-barred battle from both of you!"

Moon turned towards Hau, who was looking on with excitement. "You will battle me, right? I know you will!"

Moon set Popplio on the ground, and then knelt so she was at its level. "Do you think we can do this, Popplio? Are you ready for our first battle?"

Popplio had a determined glint in its eye. "Pop, pop, Popplio!" The Pokémon exclaimed. Moon took that as a resounding yes.

Standing up, she took a few steps back to put some distance between her and her Pokémon. She grasped her hat and pulled it down tight over her head, and shouted to Hau that she was ready.

"Woo!" Hau exclaimed. "This is gonna be great! Litten, let's go!"

"All right Popplio, are you ready?" Moon called out, feeling a bubbling excitement within her. This was really happening, she was really going to become a Pokémon trainer!

"Is everyone ready?" Hala called out. "Begin!"

Hau wasted no time. "Litten, use ember!"

The fire cat arched his spine and let out a blast of fire, not unlike the one that the other Litten had spit at Moon.

"Dodge it, Popplio!" Moon cried. Popplio was too slow though, and the attack grazed its side. The Pokémon let out a cry, but skidded to a stop and was ready to attack in a moment.

Hau was already prepared. "Litten, follow up with scratch!"

Moon couldn't think of any move to counter with. What moves did Popplio know? He was a water type—what was the first water type move that most Pokémon learned?

"Popplio, use water gun!" Moon shouted. Popplio followed the command immediately, and a jet of water came from its mouth, hitting Litten right in the face and stopping its scratch attack short. "Great job!" Moon congratulated. "Now follow up with tackle!"

Popplio only looked back at Moon in confusion, and Hau didn't waste the opportunity to get in another ember.

"Popplio can learn pound, not tackle!" Kukui called from the sidelines. Moon waved at him in thanks, then turned back to the battle.

"Okay, Popplio, use pound!" Popplio knew this command, and immediately set to using its flippers to smack Litten. Litten let out an angered noise.

"Now, Litten, use scratch!"

"Popplio, pound!"

The two attacks met in the middle in a flurry of flippers and fur, and a dust cloud formed around the pair of battling Pokémon. The scuffle only lasted a few seconds, but when the Pokémon broke apart, one of them was no longer standing.  

"Litten is unable to battle," Hala announced. "Making Moon the winner!"

Moon let out a cheer, and Popplio leaped into her arms. "Great job, Popplio! You deserve a nice rest," she said, kissing its bright blue forehead before returning it to its pokéball. Hau did the same, and they gathered back around Hala, Lillie, and Kukui.

"Hoo-ee!" Hau exclaimed with an excited hop. "That gave me chicken-skin!" He stopped bouncing for a moment to look at Moon with a grin. "Moon, right? Your Popplio was awesome!"

"Thanks," Moon replied, just as excited. "But your Litten was incredible! I wouldn't have beat you guys if Kukui hadn't told me Popplio's move!"

Hau only smiled. "Well, that settles it! I'm going all out tomorrow!"

Just then, the sparkling stone which Nebby had found in the aftermath of the bridge event fell out of Moon's pocket, landing on the ground.

"Hm?" Hala said, taking a step closer. "Moon, would you be so kind as to give me a look at that sparkling stone you have there?"

Moon nodded obligingly, and picked up the stone to hand over to Hala. He looked at it with interest, and held it up close to his eyes before remarking softly, "Could it be?!"

"Tutu, isn't that—?" Hau cut himself off as Hala nodded gravely.

Addressing Moon, Hala said, "You were rescued by Tapu Koko at the bridge—isn't that what I heard? So it even deigned to give you a stone…" Seeming to be mulling something over, Hala finally gave a firm nod. "Perhaps you are here in Alola, Moon, because this is where you are meant to be. Allow me to borrow this stone for now. Fret not! I will return it to you tomorrow evening."

Then, Hala smiled, and the stern demeanor he'd been exhibiting dissolved. "It would seem you have the makings of a fine trainer. You must do us the honor of joining in our festival tomorrow."

Just then, Kukui walked back up to them. "First I'll make sure you get back home safe today though, Moon." Turning to Lillie, he continued. "Lillie, you two should come with us too, yeah? Wouldn't want to go losing you twice in one day—you, or that precious Pokémon of yours."

Lillie nodded in agreement, and together, the three started back towards Moon's house.

Chapter Text

The Start of a Journey

 


 

"Welcome back, Moon!" Estelle called out when Moon walked in the door with Popplio at her side. "Well, come on, don't keep me waiting!" Moon's mother's excitement was palpable even to Moon as Estelle made her way from the kitchen to the foyer, Meowth at her side.

Popplio gave a happy yip, and stood up on its back flippers proudly. Moon giggled, and introduced Popplio to her mother.

"Oh, what an adorable Pokémon!" Estelle cooed. "What made you choose this one?"

Moon hesitated a moment. She was excited about having a Pokémon companion, but still nonplussed with her mother about abandoning her for a life without children.

"Popplio and I chose each other," Moon replied after a moment.

Estelle pressed her lips together, but then she smiled. "Well, that's how it goes, isn't it? So, did you make any friends in Iki town? Professor Kukui said something about another new trainer that was eager to meet you…"

Just then, the doorbell rang. Moon turned around and went to open the door, revealing Hau. He had his arms casually thrown behind his head, and was grinning as soon as she opened up the door.

"Hey Moon! I wanted to—" Moon grabbed Hau's hand—it felt rough in hers, and surprisingly nice when he held onto her hand without a moment of hesitation—and set about dragging him into her room, ignoring his confused exclamations.     

When they were alone in her room, Moon fell backwards onto her bed, Popplio in her arms, and let out a world-weary sigh. Popplio patted her cheek his cool flipper, and then licked her forehead before hopping off her bed.

"Is…everything okay, cuz?"

Moon only pat the spot on the bed next to her. Hau let out Litten, who set about curling up on Moon's ditto plush, and lay down next to her. Together, they stared at the ceiling while Popplio and Litten started play-fighting over the ditto plush.

 


 

The next morning found Moon waking up to the sun shining in her face off her own accord. Stretching, she set about her morning ritual of getting ready for the day, then picked up a sleepy Popplio, who found a comfortable place to ride on her shoulder, before leaving her room for the kitchen. Her mother was already awake, and she set down a plate of pecha-berry pancakes in front of Moon without a word.

The day progressed rather uneventfully, as compared to the previous day. Moon semi-consciously tried to avoid whatever room Estelle was in, and so she spent a lot of lonely hours playing with her Popplio. Estelle, for her part, seemed to be trying not to take it to heart, and instead spent most of her time unpacking various boxes, trying to make the house as much like a home as possible.

Moon found that she was enjoying Popplio's company more than she'd imagined she would. Popplio was such a cheerful Pokémon, always goofing around and trying to impress its trainer. It was rather good at standing on its tail flippers, but as soon as it lost its balance, it went down in a flurry of flapping flippers and squeaking noises, causing its trainer to dissolve into laughter.

The doorbell ringing interrupted the relative calm of the house, and Moon sprung up from the couch to answer it. She didn't make it to the door in time, though, because a moment later Kukui was striding in with a grin on his face.

"Hey there, Moon! It's about time we set out for the festival, yeah!" Kukui exclaimed once he saw Moon. Moon nodded, picking up Popplio and setting it on her shoulder.

"Have fun at the festival, sweetie!" Estelle called out from where she was unpacking boxes in her bedroom. Moon tried not to cringe at the use of the pet name. "Me and Meowth will be sure to unpack every last box here—you'll see!"

"I was thinking," Kukui said as the pair started walking in a different direction than the way they'd gone the day before. "Route One is filled with Pokémon, and if you're looking to get stronger, the best way to do that is to battle wild Pokémon, yeah!"

"Are you coming with me?" Moon asked.

"Nah cousin, Route One will take you straight to Iki town, yeah! It'll just be a bit longer than the shortcut we took yesterday. That won't be a problem with your Popplio though, yeah. See you soon!"

Moon stared as Kukui turned and walked away, leaving Moon once again to deal with a strange path in a foreign region. Well, at least this time she had Popplio with her.

"Ready?" Moon asked, peering into Popplio's big eyes. Popplio gave a determined nod, and Moon smiled. "Okay then, let's see what trouble we can't stir up." So, together with her partner, Moon and Popplio started out on Route One.

Moon had to admit that the scenery was beautiful, as she and Popplio walked along the seaside path. The sun was in the process of setting, and it cast an orange glow to the water below them. Moon found herself stopping several times on her way to Iki town, just so that she could enjoy the view of the bright orange sun setting on the water. It probably wasn't the best idea, since it would be getting darker quickly, but Moon couldn't help herself. Melemele really was paradise.

"Back in Kanto, I didn't really get to see the sunset like this. We were in a pretty forested area, and besides that, there was a ten-foot wall around us. Even if there had been no trees, I doubt I would have been able to see something as beautiful as this," Moon told Popplio absently.

"Lio, pop popplio!" Popplio exclaimed from Moon's shoulder. Moon raised her hand and brought Popplio down into her arms, absently stroked its fur.

"I think he would have liked it here, if he'd ever been able to overcome his fear of Pokémon and had gotten to travel before…" Moon trailed off, stopped walking and stared up at the dimming sky. It was hard, even now, to think of her father, to think of what could have been if he hadn't been so terrified of leaving his home. Pokémon were such a huge part of their world, it was difficult for anyone who had a fear of them to experience what life was like beyond their four walls. "I just wish that I could share this with him, you know?"

After a few moments of watching the golden-pink clouds floating by, Moon started walking again with a renewed vigor. That was how she could do her father's memory justice. She would become the strongest and kindest Pokémon trainer possible, so that if she ever met anyone who had the same fear of her Pokémon that Moon's father had had, she could show them the truth. The truth of how great Pokémon were as partners and friends.

Already, after only have Popplio for a little over a day, Moon felt a connection with the silky blue Pokémon. Now, she couldn't imagine that she'd lived so much of her life without a friend like Popplio, who she knew would be there with her through any challenge, any outcome.

"Popplio," Moon started, and the Pokémon squirmed around in her arms until it was facing her. "I want to be the strongest trainer in Alola, the champion! Will you help me?"

Popplio smiled up at its trainer and bobbed its head determinedly. "Popplio!" It exclaimed, and Moon took that as a resounding yes.

With a determined smile of her own, Moon set Popplio back on her shoulder and started forward with vigor. "Then let's get to Iki town!"

 


 

This time when Moon approached the grand archway announcing Iki town, it was clear that there was a festival taking place.

Though the village was small, the villagers had gone all out in decorating for the celebration of their guardian deity. Fiery torches lined the pathway towards the center of town, sparkling and lighting up the evening with a warm orange glow. People were out and about, chatting with their neighbors, playing with their Pokémon, laughing and having a good time. A few people were dancing while spectators gathered to watch, and Moon could see Hala in the distance laughing with Kukui and Lillie.

The sparks from the fires drifted everywhere, giving the place an ethereal quality. Moon walked slowly through the houses, admiring the colorful wreaths of flowers people had placed on their doors and around their porches. Interspersed throughout the village were tables which showcased beautifully crafted foods, so delightfully pretty that Moon couldn't bear to grab one and ruin the masterpiece, no matter how her stomach growled.

The people, too, seemed to have dressed up for the special occasion. Children wore bracelets of flowers and carved wooden beads around their wrists and ankles, young women wore ones that chimed softly whenever they moved. Everyone was dressed in beautiful bright colors, making Moon feel underdressed in her drab grey shirt and shorts. At least her hat was a bright red.

"Ho! Howzit Moon?" Moon turned to her left to see Hau and his Litten make their way towards her. "Man, I thought you'd never make it! Me and Litten've been waiting for ages!" He exclaimed, loud enough to be heard over the music and laughter.

Moon gave him a questioning look. "Why were you waiting for me?"

"Hoo!" Hau looked surprised. He threw his arms behind his head, taking on what Moon was starting to realize was his signature pose. "Hold on…didn't anyone explain to you about tonight?!"

Before Moon could ask what was supposed to have been explained to her, Kukui and Lillie came up to the pair.

"Oh yeah, right on time!" Kukui grinned. Lillie gave a little wave to Moon, which Moon returned. From her bag, Nebby made a few excited noises.

"For what, exactly?" Lillie asked. Moon was glad that she wasn't the only who appeared to not be in the loop.

Kukui was only too happy to explain. "A full-powered festival for Pokémon battling! We battle in the name of Tapu Koko, pitting our best moves against one another in friendly competition to please our guardian. Woo!" Clearly, just thinking about it made Kukui excited.

There was a furrow to Lillie's pale brow as she turned back towards Moon and Hau. "So you two will be taking part in the battle? I don't like seeing Pokémon battle each other, since they so often end up getting hurt…" Trailing off, Lillie seemed to puzzle over something, before coming to a decision and saying resolutely, "But it seems like this is an important event, so I'll be sure to watch you both."

At that moment, Hala came strolling up to them. "Are you ready then, Moon? Hau?"

Moon and Hau looked at each other. Hau grinned, and bounced in place cheerfully. "I'm ready whenever Moon is!"

Moon smiled, and looked down at her Pokémon in her arms. At Popplio's nod, Moon's smile brightened. "Then let's begin!"

 


 

Lillie stood beside Professor Kukui as Hau and Moon got ready to battle. Electricity seemed to hum through her as she watched the pair, both so apparently in tune with their Pokémon. It made Lillie jealous for reasons she couldn’t, or maybe didn't want to, put a name to.

"They're both going to become fantastic trainers, yeah. I can see it now," Kukui said from beside Lillie. Lillie looked up at him, then nodded her agreement. They both were something special.

Moon, lit up in the glow of the four torches that bordered the platform, already looked like a professional trainer, like she'd been battling Pokémon for years. Her hair was a wild mess of dirty-blonde around her head, haloing her heart-shaped face. She stood beside her partner, determination obvious in her stance. She was cool and collected, seemingly in spite of the fact that her second battle was in front of a huge audience during a festival that was so important to the people of Iki. Lillie wished she could have even a pinch of that poise, that inner strength.

Hau, on the opposite side of the platform, was practically vibrating with energy. He'd had Litten for years, she'd been told, but for reasons known only to him and Hala, he'd put off going on his island challenge until now. The pair were clearly in sync, Litten prowling around Hau's leg's as they waited for the battle to begin. His dark eyes were locked on Moon, and he was clearly intent on battling to his full potential this time.

Lillie, for her part, had a great deal of anticipation to see this battle.

"For all life on our islands…" Hala began, standing between the two trainers who were readying to battle. "And for those who undertake the island challenge with joy in their hearts…we pray for your protection, for them and all Melemele. May this Pokémon battle be an offering to our island's guardian deity—Tapu Koko!"

At this, Hala paused so that the crowd could cheer. Even Lillie let go of the strap to her bag to clap her hands—beside her, Kukui had cupped his hands around his mouth and was hollering his joy.

After the cheers had died down, Hala continued in a quieter voice. "Before you stands Hau—grandson to the kahuna. Before him stands Moon, one who has met with Tapu Koko. Moon! Hau! Bring forth the power of your Pokémon!" The crowd cheered again, and thus began the battle.

"Popplio, use water gun!" To Lillie's surprise, and apparently Hau's too, Moon called out the attack before Hau could get a word in. The blast of water hit Litten square in the face before either Pokémon or trainer could think to dodge. Lillie winced in sympathy as Litten staggered backwards. The attack had been a critical hit.

"Litten, are you okay?!" Hau shouted. Litten gave an affirmative meow, and Hau took an attack stance. "Okay, use Lick!"

The small fire cat crept up to Popplio and let its tongue scrape across the poor water Pokémon's face. Popplio hopped backwards and began frantically wiping its face with its flippers, apparently more disgusted with the attack than it was injured.

"Ember, now!" Hau called out.

"Popplio, dodge!"

Just in time, Popplio ducked out of the way. Forgetting the saliva on its face, Popplio nodded its thanks to its trainer for telling it to doge in time. Lillie gripped her bag firmly, looking down when Nebby let out a nervous noise.

Lillie smiled for Nebby's sake. "It's all right, I'm just a little anxious," she told it. Returning her attention back to the battle, Lillie saw that both Pokémon appeared to have taken hits.

"Litten, use ember!"

"Popplio, dodge then use water gun!"

Popplio executed a dodge perfectly, but when it tried to use water gun on Litten, it's attack hit Hau.

"Hey!" Hau exclaimed, affronted when the crowd started laughing. "All right, use ember once more!"

The attack landed this time. Moon cried out when Popplio tripped, then cheered when her Pokémon managed to get up again. "All right Popplio, water gun, one more time!"

Lillie was sure that this move would finish the battle. Litten was already weakened, and fire was weak to water type attacks. It seemed impossible that it could still be standing after another hit by a water gun. But when Popplio's attacked ended, Litten was still there, wet and exhausted, but with a determined glint in its eye.

"Ember, now!" Hau cried out, and Litten's body lit up in a bright orange glow. Both Popplio and Moon could only stand and stare as a massive ember came roaring from Litten's mouth, landing a critical hit on Popplio that knocked the poor Pokémon right back into Moon's leg's.

"Popplio is unable to battle," Hala called out the results. "Making Hau the winner!"

"What?" Hau seemed confused. "It's already over?!" He asked with a cheeky grin, scratching the back of his head. Absurdly, a blush made its way to Lillie's cheeks. "Phew, that was awesome Moon!" Hau called out, picking up his Litten and walking towards Moon. Rummaging through his pockets, he pulled out what looked like an oran berry. "Here, this will make Popplio feel better."

Moon said something too low for Lillie to hear, and fed the berry to her Pokémon. Once Popplio had eaten the berry and was looking a bit better, Moon returned the Pokémon to its ball.

"Ko-ko-ko-kooooo!" The noise rang out through the village, and everyone turned their eyes towards the sky. Lillie couldn't see Tapu Koko anywhere, but she recognized that cry from yesterday's events.

"Ho!" Hala chortled. "You heard it yourself! Tapu Koko's song of approval!"

This puzzled Lillie. How could a Pokémon, especially the guardian deity itself, approve of such an event? Where the Pokémon of two trainers sent out attacks to the degree that Popplio had nearly fainted, and Litten wasn't in the best shape either? She'd been raised—

No, her mind cried viciously. She wouldn't, she couldn't think such thoughts now. She wasn't there anymore, wasn't around that person. They couldn't spoil this event for her, which to Lillie's surprise had been quite enjoyable. Especially since it had brought such a wide grin to the Professors face, and he'd been so amazing to her so far. Shaking the thoughts from her mind, Lillie tuned back in to what Hala was saying.

"Oh, I nearly forgot! I think it's time I gave you this, Moon," he said, handing a fashionable silver bracelet to Moon. Moon thanked him, asking what it was as she locked it around her wrist.

"Your Z-ring," Hala explained. Since the crowd was dispelling, going back to their festivities, Lillie and the Professor crept closer to hear what Hala was saying. "A mysterious armband that can draw out the power that lies deep within Pokémon…it can bright forth their Z-Power! We kahunas can make them by refining stones like the sparkling stone you received from Tapu Koko. Although, until you collect Z-crystals from your island challenge, you will not be able to draw out this power from your Pokémon." Hala seemed to be puzzling over something. "It seems Tapu Koko took a liking to you…or perhaps it has a mission for you."

"In other words," the Professor chimed in from beside Lillie. "It's time for you to get out there and start your island challenge! If you visit every island, maybe you can figure out what that mission is!"

 


 

Moon was confused. Fingering the pretty silver Z-Ring she now owned, she looked to Kukui for answers. "But what's an island challenge? Is it, like, defeating all the gym leaders?" She'd been planning on doing that with or without a Z-Ring—rather, she hadn't known that Z-Rings or Z-Powers existed until it was brought up by Kahuna Hala.

Lucky for her, Kukui seemed only too happy to explain. He threw out four of his fingers, "Four islands!" He declared. "You'll travel to each of the four islands here in the Alola region. The island challenge is about aiming to be the strongest trainer—the island challenge champion! Woo!"

"Sounds great, right?" Hau laughed beside her. "I can't wait to have a real adventure!"

But Moon still had more questions. Appearing to sense this, Kukui threw out a hand to pause her. "I'll explain more about the island challenge later," he said. "I suppose it's time to be getting you kids home, yeah."

Moon nodded, confused but appeased. She'd have a good night's rest, let Popplio have a good rest too, and then she'd head over to the Professor's lab and get answers.

 


 

Back at home, Moon was surprised to find her mother waiting up for her on the couch, watching the late night Melemele news with Meowth. She seemed surprised to see Moon walking in.

"Back already? I expected you to stay in Iki town longer…especially after that amazing battle!"

Moon looked up, shocked. "You came to watch the battle?" She hadn't seen her mother in the crowd…but then, there had been a lot of people, and she'd been so focused on battling that the world around her had blurred.

Her second battle with Hau had been absolutely thrilling, in spite of the fact that she and Popplio had lost. In the heat of the battle, she had gone into this zone. All she could think about was what next move she would use, what Hau might do, how her Popplio was faring. It was thrilling, she was addicted to the sensation, the thrill and the excitement. Whatever the island challenge was, Moon couldn't wait to get started!

"Of course I did!" Estelle seemed surprised that Moon would think anything else. "Ooh, I was just captivated to see my own girl battling in such sync with her Pokémon! I'm so glad you and Popplio are hitting it off, that will make the transition to living here in Alola that much easier."

The loving words made Moon's shoulders stiffen. 'My own girl'. Who did this woman think she was? She certainly wasn't Moon's mom. Sure, she'd given birth to Moon, but she hadn't even given her daughter a name—had just dropped her off with her father at the first opportunity. What right did this woman, this stranger to Moon's life, have to call Moon her girl?

Moon tried to keep these feelings bottled. She'd been trying, and trying, and trying not to raise an argument, since she knew that her father would have wanted her—had told her, even, that he wanted her to get along with her mother. She'd held her tongue for the past three months, but just then, after the excitement of the battle, after the stress of everything that had happened over the past couple of days, Moon couldn't keep it in any longer. She snapped.

"Your girl?" Moon repeated. She didn't recognize her own voice from the anger and aggression in it, but at that moment, she couldn't bring herself to care. "I'm sorry, but that's stupid. I haven't been your girl since you decided I wasn't good enough to have a mother in my life. I haven't ever been your girl, but now you have the nerve to call me your girl?" The words weren't enough to encapsulate all that Moon was feeling, but they were all that she could get out. Taking a deep breath before she completely exploded, Moon closed her eyes and turned around.

"Moon, wait—"

"No, mother." Moon stopped her. "Just—just leave me alone," Moon asked, her voice softening with a sudden exhaustedness. And with that, she fled to her room.

 


 

"Moon!"

"Ach!"

Thud.

"Moon, are you all right?!"

Moon grumbled nonsense, pushing herself onto her knees. She rubbed at her temple, imagining that a bump was already forming. Once her eyes got used to the ambient light behind her eyelids, she opened them to see who had interrupted her sleep. Her eyes landed on a pair of white shoes first, traveled up past the white socks and the pretty white dress, and finally landed on Lillie's pale green eyes.

She had to blink a few times to make sure the girl standing in her bedroom was real, but when she finally came to that realization, Moon managed to force her mouth into some shape that might have resembled a smile.

"I'm—I'm sorry for waking you," Lillie stuttered out, clutching at her wiggling bag. Nebby burst out of it and floated towards Moon. It pressed its gaseous body against Moon's cheek in greeting, instantly raising Moon's mood.

"Popplio?" The sleepy water-type Pokémon, having roused from its slumber when Moon fell off her bed, checked to make sure Moon was okay. Moon patted it's head kindly.

"So why did you?" Moon wanted to know. She wasn't trying to be rude—she just wasn't a morning person.

Lillie's cheeks colored. "Oh. Um. Your mom let me in…The professor said 'Hey there Lillie, bring me that great new trainer! Woo!' so I'm here to show you the way to his Pokémon lab, if you'll come with me."  

Moon had to laugh at the way Lillie impersonated Kukui. "Okay," She said. "Just let me get dressed."

 


 

A few minutes later, Moon tip-toed through her house, hoping to avoid parental detection. It wasn't that she thought her mom would stop her from going anywhere, she would just rather not face her mother after what had been said the night before.

Moon didn't regret anything she had said. Her mother had no right to lay claim on Moon, and Moon felt justified in letting her know that. But if she did run into her mother, she knew that she would feel compelled to apologize.

Thankfully she made it through the house without encountering her mother, and soon she and Lillie were finding their way towards Kukui's lab.

"My mother said that the professor lives really close by," Moon offered after a few minutes of walking in silence.

Lillie nodded in affirmation. "Yes, we do."

Moon tilted her head, noticing the use of 'we' instead of 'he'. "You live with the professor?"

Lillie seemed to hesitate, though Moon couldn't guess why. "Yes. He took me in about three months ago. I stay in his loft. That's why I'm his assistant—I'm really not a very good lab assistant, but it's the least I can do after he's been so kind to me…Sometimes I wonder if I'd be a better assistant if I was an actual trainer…"

"That's really cool!" Moon enthused. Lillie nodded again, this time somewhat hesitantly.

"Hey, Moon…?" She hedged, stopping so that she could look the other girl in the eye. Moon met her eyes steadily, waiting for Lillie to continue. "A—about Nebby…uh, I mean Cosmog. Cosmog seems to be a really rare Pokémon. It came from far, far away."

"Pew!" Nebby agreed, peeking out of its bag.

"It seems to have a strange power," Lillie continued. "It used that power to save me once when I was in danger. But some…other people want Cosmog for themselves, to use that power. That's why the professor and Kahuna Hala and other people I can trust are the only ones that know about Nebby. Can you keep a secret? Can you not tell anyone else about what happened on the bridge, about Nebby? Please…"

"I won't tell anyone, Lillie. I promise." Moon could see that this was of the utmost importance to Lillie, and she was eager to make her new friend feel more assured. Lillie gave Moon a small smile in return, and they continued on their way to Kukui's house.

They walked in silence, but this was a more companionable silence. Moon didn't feel the weight of it as they made their way through the grass, she only felt comfortable, and eager to see what the professor had in store for her.

When they came around a bend in the road, Moon could see exactly where the professor lived. And despite how luxurious her own new house was, she couldn't help but feel jealous of where Lillie and Kukui lived.

The lab was situated on a small sandy beach, which stretched out only a few dozen feet in each direction. Past the glittering white sand was the ocean, blue and vast, and crashing onto the small beach with vigor. The sun was still rising, and it cast light on the water at a certain angle which caused the water to sparkle like diamonds. Moon was enchanted.

"Oh yeah, Rockruff!" She could hear once they got close enough to the building. The professor's voice was ridiculously loud, sounding out clearly even over the crashing that could be heard from inside. "Let's go! Give it everything you got! My body is ready! Woo!"

Moon and Lillie cast simultaneous glanced to each other, and then burst out in laughter.

"I swear—" Lillie was saying between giggles. "He—he only sounds like that—when—when he's really excited!"

Moon couldn't say anything through her laughter. It was several minutes before the girls were composed enough to enter the lab—whenever one stopped giggling, they only had to look each other in the eye before they both dissolved into laughter once more.

"The Pokémon lab has its own unique charm, I'm sure you'll agree," Lillie finally said once they were composed. After a particularly loud cry from Rockruff, Lillie shook her head in exasperation. "Looks like we'll have to repair the roof again." And with that, she hurried up the steps and left Moon standing on the sand to follow after.

Moon stepped inside, and she was charmed at once by the small yet cozy space. The lab had, like Lillie had said, a unique charm to it that made Moon feel instantly relaxed once she stepped inside.

To her immediate left were two hideous lime green couches framing a quaint coffee table, all facing a flat-screen TV. Near that there was a kitchenette decorated as an old spinster's kitchen might be, with lace clothes draped over everything. Past the kitchen there was a bright red ladder which led up to Lillie's loft.

Kukui stood in front of a large tank of water, inside which Moon could see a few Luvdics swimming around in. He was laughing heartily with his Rockruff, until he spotted Lillie and Moon as they walked up to him.

"Hey there, Moon!" He called, his voice loud despite the decreasing distance between himself and Moon. "Thanks for getting her to me, Lillie!"

"Of course…" Lillie murmured. "However I can help…I'm supposed to be your assistant, right?"

"A-lo-la!"

Moon turned to see Hau, his bright grin lighting up the room as he boldly strode into the lab, immediately becoming distracted by the Pokémon that were meandering around.

"The salty breeze called to me and—is that a loft?!" Hau's attention span was clearly not at its peak, Moon thought, as she watched the trainer bounce around the lab before settling on the bright red ladder that led up to Lillie's loft.

Lillie rushed over to stand in front of the ladder, a flush setting her cheeks aflame. "No, it's not! It's private!" But then she glanced over at the professor. If possible, her cheeks lit up an even brighter red. "I mean, the professor has been kind enough to let me use it…"

Kukui gave them a kind smile, walking over to join the pair of them by the ladder. "If you see a person or Pokémon who needs help, you just help them…" He waited for Moon and Hau to nod in agreement, and then continued. "That's why I'm letting Lillie stay up there in the loft."

Appearing abashed, Lillie moved away from the ladder.

"So, professor, why'd you want to see me?" Moon asked.

"Ah, yes! So, I'm assuming you're set on going through the island challenge? All right then, there are some important things that you need to know. The island challenge is your chance to become the strongest trainer around—the island challenge champion. Woo! It's a great adventure for you and your Pokémon to go on together."

"There are four main islands that make up Alola," Lillie added. "And a kahuna for each one of them. If you wish to be recognized by the kahunas as worthy, it's said you must clear seven trials."

"Wait a second," Moon had to stop them. "What about gyms?"'

Kukui nodded in understanding. "The trials are kind of like gym leaders, and the kahunas are a bit like the elite four, yeah? Only you only have to clear an island of its trials before you can battle the kahuna. Hau's decided to start on his island challenge too, so he'll help show you the ropes, cousin."

Moon was a bit frustrated. She'd grown up in Kanto, where the way to becoming a stronger trainer was to go through the gym leaders, with the goal being to gather all eight badges and challenge the elite four. Only the strongest of trainers would make it past the elite four, earning the right to challenge the champion. She'd expected to go through this rite of passage, as most Kanto children did, when she turned eleven. Because of her father's phobia, becoming a trainer at eleven hadn't been in the cards for her. Coming to Alola was supposed to be the way to change that.

But now, knowing that she wouldn't really get the chance to be the best of the best? It was disheartening.

Still. She had made a promise to Popplio that they would go around the Alola region, training to be the best, the strongest, in all of Alola. And if the island challenge was the only way to accomplish that…well, she had nothing to lose.

"All right," Moon finally agreed. "I'll do the island challenge!"

Kukui grinned, and Hau cheered.

"That's what I like to hear!" Kukui then pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to Moon—it was a colorful little amulet. Hau showed her how to attach it to the strap of her bag, while Kukui explained what it was. "Everybody on their island challenge gets one of these island challenge amulets."

"I got one from my gramps," Hau said, showing Moon the one that was attached to a loop in his shorts.

"All right kids, get a move on!" Kukui then said. At Moon's questioning look, he chuckled. "To go train, of course! If you want to become an island challenge champion, you've got to learn how to bring out the best of your Pokémon through battling! Lillie, you'll show Moon around until she gets a feel of the place, won't you? And Hau, what about you?"

"I think I'll stick with Moon and Lillie," Hau replied, throwing one arm behind his head and grinning. "How else will they know how to get to the first trial site?"

Kukui nodded, pride shining through his eyes.

"Okay then," Lillie said, a strange blush dusting across her cheeks as she glanced from Hau to Moon. "Are you guys ready?"

Moon nodded vigorously.

She was ready to start her journey.

Chapter Text

Hau'oli

 


 

They arrived in Hau'oli city an hour after they left Iki town, much to Moon's dismay. Her legs felt like noodles, she was thirsty, and she was sweaty. The kicker was that, had it not been for Lillie's determination to not call for a ride Tauros, they would have made it to the city nearly forty minutes earlier.

"I just don't see how it's fair to the Pokémon to chauffeur us around when we have legs of our own," Lillie had explained, clutching her bag worriedly as if they would have tried to make Nebby take them to Hau'oli. "Besides, you two are starting your island challenge—you should get used to walking around, since there are many places that ride Pokémon can't go!"

And, because she made a fair point, they'd decided to walk after all.

By the time the trio made it to the bustling city, the sun was high in the sky and beating down on Moon like she'd never experienced it before. She was forced to pull off her cap, leaving the hair underneath a sweaty mess. Hau kindly offered to put it in a topknot for her, and she gratefully accepted. It left the back of her neck exposed, and a cool breeze offered a bit of relief.

"So, where to now?" Moon wondered, eyes drifting to a bright blue sign that proclaimed a nearby beach. She didn't have her bathing suit with her, but that wasn't going to stop her from drifting in the waves. Nor was the fact that she had no idea how to swim.

"Malasada shop," Hau said, at the exact instant that Lillie said "Clothes store."

Moon's stomach growled.

"I guess that settles that," Lillie sighed.

"I actually should get a few things," Moon thought aloud. She'd need a hat that wasn't meant for the winter time, some sandals, and maybe a tank top. "How about we go to a clothes shop and they buy some food?"

"Sounds good to me," Hau agreed, grinning wide with all of his teeth.

They walked through the streets of Hau'oli, mostly content to just enjoy the scenery together. Moon thought there was something surprisingly easy about their friendship; from all the movies she'd watched, the lonely heroine with only her Pokémon for a friend was supposed to find making friends difficult at first. Instead, Moon had kind of just fallen right into it. Hau was easy to just be around, and despite her rather…unconventional start with Lillie, Moon felt something in her gut that said they would only become greater friends as time moved on.

And Popplio…Moon had felt an instant connection with her Pokémon. It was daunting to think that such a legendary guardian figure had seen her and thought, hey, this girl looks like she's someone important…but with Popplio by her side, Moon had no doubt she could tackle any obstacle.

"This one looks good," Lillie said, nodding to the clothing store they were about to pass.

"I'll wait out here." Hau sat down against a brick wall, let Litten out of its pokéball and started playing with the little fire kitten.

Moon and Lillie walked into the store together, deciding without a word to start in the tops section. It was nice, browsing the pretty clothes with another person, even if they weren't speaking to one another. A bit awkward, but nice.

"Tell me, Moon…Does your mom pick out all your clothes?" Lillie asked as Moon held up a tank top to her torso.

Moon scrunched her nose in disgust at the thought of what her mother would pick out for her to wear. "Arceus, no."

Lillie smiled prettily. "I love the way you dress." Her smile faded a bit then, became something small and sad. "I…I've always worn exactly what my mother wanted me to wear. I don't really know what kind of thing would suit me…" Lillie let out a little sigh.

Moon frowned, and replaced the shirt she was looking at. Dozens of questions sped through her mind just then, not the least of which was where her mother was now. But after losing a parent, you start to be a bit more…sensitive to questions that dig in such a manner. Moon wasn't going to ask if Lillie wasn't going to bring it up herself.

Lillie shook herself, shedding the sadness like water. "Sorry. I'm going to go check out the dresses, you and Hau can go to the malasada shop without me. See you soon?" And without waiting for a response, Lillie fled the section towards the upstairs area.

It didn't take much longer than that for Moon to pick out a few things; a couple pairs of sandals, shorts, a trilby hat that would block the sun without making her overheat, and a tank top that she had to wear out of the store—it was just too cute, white with navy blue trim, little fish Pokémon swimming around the hem and neckline. She switched out her sneakers for the sandals, too, perched the beige hat atop her fuzzy mess of dirty blonde waves and left the store to meet Hau.

Hau hardly waited for Moon to explain that Lillie would be a bit longer before he grabbed her hand and started dragging her in the direction of his favorite Melemele Malasada shop. It was then that Moon remembered—she hadn't just made a friend in Lillie.

For the first time in her life, Moon had more friends than parents.  

 


 

In Hau's opinion, the first stop to the start of any journey was a food vendor—you can't go off defeating your opponents on an empty stomach!

This was clearly one of the main reason why he was able to beat Moon in their second battle. Moon, after all, had had nearly every advantage against Hau. It wasn't like how didn't think he had the makings of a great trainer—he did, and he wasn't too humbled to admit it. But Moon…ever since he laid eyes on her, he could instinctively tell that she was made of the stuff of champions. Beating her should have made him feel over the moon.

Instead, it worried him. Was she eating enough? She looked rather skinny, was she getting enough nutrients? Maybe he should have grabbed some of the multi-vitamins his aunt kept in her medicine compartment, just to be safe.

It was too late now though, as they were already well within the limits of Hau'oli city. Hau simply resolved to get her to eat as many malasada's as possible, and hope for the best. He didn't want his new best friend getting sick at the start of their Pokémon journey, after all.

After Moon bought her things and they left Lillie at the clothes store, Hau grabbed Moon by the hand and followed the most familiar smell in the world to Hau'oli's own malasada shop.

In the early mornings of Hau's childhood, Hau would wake up to the smell of love.

He wasn't meaning to sound cheesy or trite or anything like that—it was fact. Every morning for as far back as Hau could remember, right up until the day he left, Hau's father had gotten up hours before everyone else in their home to cook a feast for breakfast. It was the only meal that every single person in Hau's family shared, and it was all because his father got up before dawn to start preparing food that could feel more than a dozen.

He would make scrambled Chansey eggs with chopped peppers and potatoes, toast slathered with homemade honey-and-cheri-berry jam, thick slices of plantain fried in the richest butter and salted to perfection, and just about every type of malasada possible.

The man, who was now little more than a stranger to Hau, had put such time and effort into making sure that his family had at least one time a day where they could all be gathered around focusing on each other, brought together by the master cooking of a great trainer. Every morning it was the one thing in his young life that Hau could count on, could expect to never change. Right up until it had.

Now, when you get right down to it, the smell of love can be just about anything to anyone. But to Hau, it was the smell of fresh, fried malasadas.

His father had had a special recipe, of this Hau was certain. He'd been all over Melemele island more times than he could count on both hands, but never had he tasted a malasada that could even compare to the ones his father had made when he was a boy.

It's for this reason that, along with completing his island challenge, Hau had decided to go on another side-challenge of his own. To find the best malasada's that Alola could come up with.

"Oh my Arceus."

Moon's words drew Hau from a rare speculative moment. He looked up, and grinned when he saw the expression on her face. It was pure awe—the only true expression a person could have after taking their first bite of a malasada.

"Right?" Hau took a bite of his own, and tilted his head back when the flavors of sweet and sour malasada played with his taste buds. The crispy surface contrasted the doughy inside perfectly. It was beautiful, and there were very few malasada's on Melemele that could be called beautiful. Hau was just glad that one of them was the first his best friend got to try.

"How?" Moon seemed astounded. "How is it that every region doesn't have something like this?"

Hau leaned back, a grin playing on his lips. "It's an Alolan specialty. We keep our secrets close to hand."

Moon was too busy shoving the rest of her malasada into her mouth to respond. He watched the rapture on her features as she polished off not one, not two, but three sweet malasada's, and felt pride flare at his friend's ability to consume malasada's. Maybe feeding her more wouldn't be that much of a problem after all.

 


 

Hau and Moon had just separated ways, each resolving to find Lillie after not seeing her for an hour while they ate malasadas. Moon didn't know the city hardly at all, but by using the town map feature on her 'dex, she navigated around the area semi-well.

It wasn't until she made her way to the marina that she ran into trouble—or rather, trouble ran into her.

She was walking past one of the boathouses that lined the stone docks, thinking to herself that her sandals were really starting to chafe at her heels when a stranger with pink hair and grey eyes started waving at her.

Looking to her left and right, Moon found that she and the stranger were currently alone on the docks, so the person could only be waving to Moon. Frowning, Moon thought perhaps they've seen Lillie somewhere? And made her way towards the person.

She really had to admire their fashion. Their hair was a muted pink, not cute but not flashy. Their hair was tucked behind one ear with a golden cross ponytail holder, but the other side fell into their face. They wore a brown sweater vest atop a plain white shirt, as well as white capri pants and white shoes.

"Hello?" Moon called when she was a couple feet away.

"Moon, so pleased to meet you," the stranger enunciated, their voice polished and polite. "My apologies, I'd been meaning to introduce myself since Professor Kukui told me there would be an island challenger coming a few weeks ago. My name is Captain Ilima, I am the one and only trial captain of Melemele island."

Moon blinked. How did the professor know weeks before she did that Moon would be going on the island challenge? And, for that matter, how was Ilima so quick to recognize her?

"Yo, yo, yo, check it! Whenever, wherever we meet you, team skull don't even greet you!"

Moon whirled around, distracted from her questions by the arrival of two…bikers? Moon knew that there were different trainer classes in different regions, but she couldn't for the life of her figure out what class these two trainers could fit in.

They dressed in the same getup, baggy shorts that hung down to their knees, stripes of white along the sides with a zigzag of black in the middle. They wore black tank tops with a white 'x' near the hem, black wristbands lined with thin stripes of white, black and white handkerchief masks, and white beanies that had two black spots on the front. Both wore chain necklaces with some sort of 'S' symbol as a pendant. Moon could see that both had blue hair peeking out from underneath their hats, and they had identical expressions of seriousness.

As they drew near, the men swung their arms out, drew them towards their chests in an cross, and then curled them away from their sides threateningly…if flailing limbs could be threatening.

"So, Cap, just give up the Pokémon, yo."

Ilima turned back towards Moon, a pleasant smile on their face. "So you've made your way all the way from Iki town I see!"

Moon glanced back at the pair of strangers in time to see their shock that they'd been ignored. Striding closer, the trainers attempted to win back Ilima's attention.

Both swinging their arms wildly about, the one to the right began speaking. "What, what?! Why you trying to act hard when we're already hard as bone out here, homie?"

"Yo, let's check these fools," The second one agreed.

Ilima just shook their head and spoke with a laugh tinting their tone. "Oh my…how terrifying…" Turning towards Moon, they said "Only fools steal people's Pokémon. I won't stand for it. Moon, I'll ask you to take care of that one," Ilima finished, and engaged in battle with the thief who'd spoken first.

Moon nodded in affirmation, and turned towards her own thief. Reaching in her pocket, she drew out Popplio's pokéball, only to hesitate a moment. "Well," she said haltingly. "We can't very well start a battle when we don't know each other's names. I'm Moon."

"They call me Grunt B," Grunt B said. "We're all grunt, us members of Team Skull," he added, just to complicate things. Moon shrugged—whatever he wanted to be called, she would call him it.

"All right Popplio, come on out!"

The Team Skull Grunt sent out a Zubat. Popplio seemed wary of the other blue Pokémon, but Moon knelt down and gave her partner a reassuring pat on the head, and determination filled the Pokémon.

"Okay, Popplio, let's use water gun!"

"Zubat, take 'em out with an absorb!"

The Zubat's move hit first, and Popplio staggered backwards. But Popplio only grit its teeth and let a jet of water blast from its mouth. It would have been a critical hit, Moon was sure, but at the last moment the Zubat darted out of the way of the attack, and the jet of water only hit its wing.

"Zubat, wing attack, at don't let up!" B shouted. Zubat obeyed without pause, and started slamming into Popplio with its wings. Popplio took the attacks, letting out cries of frustration in pain. It turned to face its trainer—for a too-long moment, Moon could only watch, astonished and ashamed, as her Pokémon was attacked by the opponent's Pokémon. What kind of trainer was she, to allow her Pokémon to get pummeled in such a way?

Beneath her feet, the dock shook from the battle taking place just a few feet away. Water splashed to the surface, leaving Moon slipping in her new sandals. Popplio waited there, just taking the attacks, waiting for Moon to come up with some sort of strategy. Glancing left, right, at everything and everywhere, Moon finally realized something. Popplio's pokedex entry said something about the Pokémon being faster in the water—and just where were they now?

With a cunning grin, Moon shouted out her battle plan. "Popplio, into the water, quick!"

Glancing towards its trainer for a split second, Popplio dove into the water and out of sight of the battlers.

"Hey!" The grunt called out, a whine in his voice.

"Now, Popplio, come up and use pound!" Moon shouted. Much faster than it had been on land, Popplio came soaring out of the water, slammed its flipper against the shocked Zubat's face, and landed with a flourish in front of Moon.

B growled. "Zubat, use supersonic!"

"Dodge, Popplio, and dive back into the water!"

"Follow it, Zubat!" But the Pokémon couldn't follow Popplio under the water, so it only hovered anxiously above the light blue surf and waited for Moon's Pokémon to show itself.

"Popplio, now, pound!" Popplio came rushing out of the water directly underneath the Zubat, nailing a critical hit. With a cry, the Zubat fainted onto the docks.

"Popplio!" Popplio cried out happily, and slid over to Moon's feet.

"You did such a great job!" Moon exclaimed, hurrying to take her Pokémon into her arms. Kissing the top of its head, she began to praise it and pet it while it glowed under her attention.

"For real?" She heard the Team Skull Grunt mutter. "It's over already?"

Turning back to the grunt, Moon was glad to see that Ilima had emerged victorious as well.

"Come on, I wasn’t even playing the same game!"

"Let's get up out this port, B! Nobody has to know about this!" The other Team Skull Grunt called to his friend. Turning to Ilima, he added, "We don't need you wack Pokémon anyway, Ilima!"

B nodded in agreement, and both grunts ran from the scene without looking back.

Moon rummaged through her bag, finally finding one of the potions Professors Kukui had given her. She used it on Popplio, and the blue Pokémon looked much better after receiving the aid. Still, Moon wouldn't feel completely good about it until she got Popplio to a Pokémon Center.

"Again?" Ilima said, grabbing Moon's attention. "Oh my…how terrifying…"

Moon giggled. It was true; though Moon had faltered slightly during the battle, it had been relatively easy to defeat Grunt B, and she assumed that it had been easy for Ilima to defeat their grunt as well. More than anything, the grunts were comical, speaking in rhymes and swinging their arms about in a way Moon could only assume was meant to seem threatening.

"My thanks to you and your Pokémon," Ilima said, turning towards Moon. "Please, allow me to heal it as a show of gratitude," Ilima continued, holding out a couple of Oran berries. As Popplio started munching on the berries, Ilima started speaking again. "I must admit, I've been wondering about you ever since Kukui told me Hau had finally decided to go on his island challenge with you. Very well then, allow me to see if you're ready for my trial!"

And without further ado, Moon was engaged in another battle.

 


 

Dear Glad,

How are you doing? Has Null gotten any stronger since I last saw it? Do you still need money for the clothes-mending supplies? Wicke just sent me another check, a 'just in case' one. She worries about us both so much, sometimes it feels like she's actually our mother.

I know I shouldn't say that.

I've met this trainer. She's a new trainer, but her bond with her Pokémon is already so strong. I was there the day she chose her starter Pokémon, and I have to say, I've never seen a bond so immediate and strong between a trainer and her Pokémon. She's something special, I can already tell. I think…I think I want to be her friend, Gladion. When I watch her battle with her Pokémon, it doesn't so much seem that she's forcing her partner to fight for her than it seems like they're working, together, to overcome something greater than themselves.

Anyways. You don't have to listen to me ramble about Moon for very long.

Today I went shopping for clothes, you know. And I realized that I have no idea what my style is. I only know whatever mother thought I should wear, and how I should wear it. I wish I were more like you, Glad. I wish I were stronger. You always seem to know exactly what to do, while I just kind of flounder around and wait for someone to come and rescue me.

We should see each other sometime. Moon and Hau are going on their island challenge, and I'm thinking about tagging along with them. If they'll have me, of course. I love assisting the professor, but I can't help but feel like I'm such a burden on him. If I'm traveling, perhaps I won't be such a burden.

I love you, brother.

Lillie.

 

Gladion carefully re-read the letter, folded the paper and tucked it in his pocket. Letters from his sister were few and far between, but they'd gotten more frequent in the past few months. This most recent one was strange, in that it didn't have the heavy overtone of sadness to it that the rest of them did.

Standing, Gladion checked the time and decided to go out to train more with Type: Null. He wasn't needed for his enforcement role for another couple hours, and Null was due for some training time. They needed to be stronger. If he was strong enough, if he could get Null to be strong enough—none of this would be necessary. If he wasn't such a waste, if he could just fucking help his Pokémon like any good trainer helps their Pokémon to become stronger—

Gladion exhaled forcefully, grabbed the edge of his desk to steady his shaking hands. Repetitive thoughts like that, circular thinking like that…it didn't help Null get stronger. Training did.

Gladion grabbed his jacket, noting with great displeasure that it was ripped in more places than he'd seen. Now he'd have to go around with a great slash across the front of his jacket—great. Just another perfect opportunity for the grunts to make fun of him. He sighed again, but slipped the jacket on anyways, and left. He took care to lock the door behind him—grunts were too nosy for their own good—and made for the nearest route.

Even in this dreary weather, there was bound to be some trainers or Pokémon willing to battle.

 


 

"You—or I should say, you and your Popplio—make quite the interesting team!" Ilima seemed pleased with the results of the battle, despite the fact that Moon and Popplio had taken their Yungoos out in under five moves, and their Smeargle in under four.

Moon rubbed Popplio's nose affectionately.

Ilima continued. "I do hope you'll come to Verdant Cavern and attempt the trial—the Trial of Ilima! You can get there from Route 2—Hau will show you the way. I bid you Alola!" And, turning their back to Moon, Ilima walked away.

"Want to chill out up here?" Moon asked, placing Popplio up on her shoulder. Popplio gave a few excited yips, which Moon took to be an enthusiastic yes.

"Well then, come on. While we've been battling, we have to see if Hau has found Lillie!"

The afternoon had faded away into the early evening, and Moon finally felt some relief from the heat of the day. The sun was lower on the horizon, and it cast a pink-ish glow on the various boats that were…parked? throughout the port. There was a light breeze here at the seaside, scented with salt and Popplio's fur. Moon began to hum a small tune as she made her way back towards where she'd last seen Hau at the malasada shop.

Despite it being later in the day, Hau'oli was no less busy. A different sort of crowd had begun to flood the streets though. Instead of families with young children and elderly folk, there were many teenagers, young couples, and office workers rushing about, trying to get in some last-minute shopping before heading home for the night. Moon smiled at a pair of particularly doe-eyed lovers who were too wrapped up in each other to notice.

Moon had to admit, she really liked the vibe that Melemele had. It was a busy city, yet the environment felt so relaxed and welcoming. Palm trees decorated the streets every couple yards, casting long shadows on the paved sidewalks and roads. Storefronts had their doors open still, letting out warm lights and all the chatter held within.

She was just about to pass an alleyway when she heard a sad sort of sniffling coming from within.

Glancing around, Moon peered up at Popplio. "Did you hear that?"

Before Popplio could answer, the sound came again. Without waiting any longer, Moon rushed into the alleyway. She looked all around for the source of the noise, but it didn't seem to be coming from anywhere. It wasn't behind the dumpster, or underneath any of the boxes stacked up against the brick walls.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, Moon saw a flicker of yellow. She spun around and could swear that she heard a Pikachu, but she still couldn't locate the source of the sad little noise. She was about to give up, had turned towards the entrance to the alleyway and was determined to look for Lillie and Hau. But she saw it then.

It stood at her feet, and it certainly did look like Pikachu for a few moments—but its image flickered, faltered, and faded, leaving a tiny creature that seemed to imitate a Pikachu whimpering before her.

"You're hurt!" Moon exclaimed, noticing how limp the head of the fake Pikachu looked, and all the rips and tears and smudges that decorated its covering. Moon knelt down quickly to pick it up so that she could bring it to the nearest Pokémon Center, but the Pokémon jerked backwards before she could touch it.

"I'm—I'm not going to hurt you," Moon said, faltering at the thought of what could have been done to this Pokémon to get it to be so afraid of humans. "I promise, I only want to get you some help."

The Pokémon seemed hesitant to trust her. Imploringly, Moon continued. "Please, you must have called out to me for a reason. I can help you! You look like you've been really badly injured, but the nice Nurses at the Pokémon Center will be able to help you."

After a long moment, The lower half of the Pokémon bobbed, as if the creature were nodding. Popplio hopped down from Moon's shoulder as Moon scooped the injured Pokémon into her arms, and together they raced out of the alleyway and towards the nearest Pokémon Center.

"Just hang on for a moment," Moon murmured to the Pokémon in her arms when it let out a pained whimper.

"Pop-pop!" Popplio called up ahead. It had spotted a Pokémon Center.

Together they burst through the doors and rushed towards the counter, where Nurse Joy was already preparing a gurney to cart the Pokémon to the back room. Moon gently lay the Pokémon down on the gurney, wincing as it's fake head just wobbled around.

"What happened?" Nurse Joy demanded, equal parts anger and concern in her voice.

"I don't know," Moon explained quickly, not exactly enthused to be on the receiving side of Nurse Joy's anger. "Popplio and I found it like this in an alley a couple streets down from here. It was calling out for help."

"We'll take care of it," Nurse Joy said firmly, and began to cart the Pokémon towards the back.

Before it could be moved, a greasy-looking tendril of black…ooze, was the only word Moon could think of for it, snaked out from underneath the cloth that covered the body of the Pokémon and wrapped itself around Moon's little finger. Moon fought back a shudder—the feel was like death warmed over sliding against her skin. She mustered through it, however, and the sensation was over in a moment after Nurse Joy wheeled the injured Pokémon away.

"Moon!"

Moon jumped, startled to hear her name. She bent down to pick up Popplio, settling her Pokémon comfortably in her arms before turning to greet Hau and Lillie. They'd just spotted her after walking through the Pokémon Center's doors.

"Hey, guys," Moon replied, exhaustion edging into her tone. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready for sleep."

 


 

"Moon?" Lillie whispered, her voice soft and tentative. "Are you awake?"

"What's up?" Moon responded, her voice groggy from the almost-sleep that she'd nearly surrendered to.

"I hope that Mimikyu is okay." Mimikyu was the Pokémon that Moon had rescued. She'd found this out after a long explanation to Hau, and an eager search on her pokedex. A lonely Pokémon, it conceals its terrifying appearance beneath an old rag so it can get closer to people and other Pokémon. That made sense of why it had looked like a Pikachu ragdoll, but it didn't explain why the Pokémon was injured in an alleyway, or why it was so afraid of humans. Moon had a theory on that, though—but it wasn't a happy theory.

Moon shifted onto her side, painfully aware of the small space that she cot she was lying on afforded. She, Lillie, and Hau had settled down at the Pokecenter for the night. They were sharing a closet-like space which barely had enough room for the three cots they were lying on. Luckily, the center had had enough blankets for them each to have their own.

"Me too," Moon finally said. She was facing Lillie now, though she couldn't make out much of the other girl's features in the darkness. She could only see Lillie's bright hair, glittering in the bit of moonlight that came in through the high window.

"Trainers…hurt their Pokémon." Lillie spoke these words as if they physically hurt her to say. "I was raised to believe that trainers hurt their Pokémon, force their Pokémon into battles. And…they do."

Moon didn't speak. Lillie seemed to be mulling something over, and though Moon didn't entirely agree with what Lillie was saying, there was some truth to her statement.

After a long silence, at the end of which Moon was ready to fall asleep again, Lillie finally continued. "I enjoyed watching you battle," she said. "You lit up. Popplio lit up, too. You both seemed…connected. And even when you weren't yet a trainer, Moon, you still managed to save Nebby. You were chosen by your Pokémon so quickly…and I think I understand why now."

Moon waited, thinking that this was another lengthy pause where Lillie let herself have a chance to think over her words. But after another long silence, Moon heard a soft snore and realized that Lillie was asleep.

And soon, Moon followed suit.

 


 

Author's Note: Thanks for reading, I hope you are enjoying my story! I just wanted to mention a few things. First, I headcanon Ilima as nonbinary, and so I used they/them pronouns in my story. Second, at this point I have planned out three Pokémon (including Popplio) for Moon's Pokémon team, so if anyone has a Pokémon they really want to see on her team, I'll see if I can make it happen.

Chapter Text

It's Ya Boi

 


 

Chill, slimy tendrils caressed Moon's face. She twitched her nose, fingers of sleep grasping at her mind and keeping her in an semi-unaware state. The tendrils smoothed across her forehead, gently brushed stray hairs from her face, and tugged a lock of hair from her mouth that had found its way there overnight.

The giggles were what finally aroused her. They were muffled and shushed, but they dredged Moon from her dreams. Moon blinked a bit, her eyes blurry, and tried to make sense of the hunched figure crouching on her chest, its thin black arms now gleefully entangled in her hair.

"Kyu kyu!" The Pokémon cheered once it saw that Moon's bright green eyes were open.

Moon screamed, Hau burst into laughter, and the small room descended into chaos, too many things happening at once.

Moon tried to gather her wits enough to calm the now bawling Pokémon sitting in her lap, Popplio and Litten—having been startled from their sleep, much like Moon herself—started wrestling with each other, and a bleary-eyed Pichu looked about ready to shed some tears of its own. Hau was still laughing boisterously while Lillie tried to calm him down at the same time she tried to separate the fighting Pokémon and the upset Pichu.

"Popplio, return!" Moon cried out, happy that she could resolve a small bit of the chaos before turning her attention back down towards the wailing Pokémon in her arms.

"It's okay," she shushed gently, and brought one of her hands up to stroke its rag. Mimikyu seemed to like it most when she rubbed the scribbled on red spots that served as the fake Pikachu's cheeks, so Moon focused much of her attention there. "It's okay, I'm not going to hurt you," Moon repeated, looking down into the tiny black slits that let the Pokémon underneath see.

"Mi-mi-kyuuu," the Pokémon cried plaintively. It took a deep breath, and its little arms came slithering out from underneath the jagged edge of its costume again. Moon encouraged it, even though it meant that she was dealing with those limbs caressing her cheeks and hair again—the Pokémon seemed fascinated by Moon's hair.

"Nurse Joy said that this Mimikyu is only a baby," Lillie explained. Moon looked up to where her friend was standing in the doorway, looking like an actual angel with the sunlight coming from behind her, lighting up the stray hairs that had escaped her braids and practically making her white dress glow. "Whoever abandoned it probably caught it, realized how weak it was, and left it in that alley all alone." Anger tinged the edges of Lillie's voice in a way that Moon hadn't heard before.

She looked down at the little Mimikyu with a greater understanding of what the Pokémon had been through. The poor thing was only a baby, and it had already been cast aside by an awful trainer who'd thought an infant weak.

"It sure seems to like you, Moon!" Hau had finally managed to contain his laughter and was leaning casually against the doorframe, standing like a shadow next to Lillie's pale everything. Even their demeanors were like night and day.

Moon looked down at the Pokémon in her lap. What was she supposed to do with it? Certainly baby Pokémon can't battle, but she couldn't exactly just leave it on the side of the road to fend for itself. If she did, she would hardly be any better than it's trainer!

Pressing her lips together in thought, Moon tried to find the words for her idea. "Hey, Mimikyu?" She finally said, letting the words fall slowly from her lips. "Me and Popplio are taking our island challenge. We're going to be traveling all throughout Alola, all the different regions and towns. Maybe…do you want to come with us? Just until we find your family," she rushed to add so that it wouldn't think she was trying to become its trainer, trying to force it to battle like it's previous trainer must have done.

Mimikyu hopped off her lap and scuttled around the room, pacing. Pichu and Litten watched it warily from where they sat, not quite jumping out of their skins each time it came near them, but certainly coming close. Moon didn't blame them—the Pokémon was adorable, but it gave off an aura of bone-chilling creepiness that Moon just couldn't seem to get past.

"Shhhhcreeee!" Mimikyu finally exclaimed, it voice filled with joy as it sped back to Moon's lap and started nuzzling her chest affectionately. Moon let out a soft sigh, and after a moment, brought her arms up to hug the Pokémon. It appeared that Moon had picked up a side quest.

 


 

Litten was quick, and Hau took advantage of that with great aptitude. Moon tried to keep track as the cat Pokémon darted back and forth in front of Popplio, much faster on land than the water-type Pokémon. They had an advantage in that aspect, but Moon and Popplio had one up on them.

"All right Popplio, let's wrap this up with water gun!"

"Dodge, Litten!"

Hau wasn't quick enough—Litten was hit on the shoulder by the watery attack, and Litten fell with a cry. Hau quickly recalled his partner, thanking Litten quietly. Moon cheered Popplio on, and Popplio looked back at its trainer with a bright expression on its cheery blue and white face. 

"Pichu, we got this!" Hau threw out his next pokéball and called Pichu into battle.

Pichu came out onto the battlefield with a cheerful cry, immediately readying itself to battle by rubbing the red spots on its cheeks to generate a crackling store of electricity.

"Mishkyuu!! Mimikyu!!" Mimikyu cheered Moon on from where it was on the sidelines, perched in Lillie's arms. Lillie looked hesitant, uncomfortable and wary, but cheerful.

"Pichu's got a type advantage on us, but I think we can beat them," Moon called to Popplio, who was a little worse for wear but overall still rearing to go. Popplio gave a nod of understanding, and faced its opponent with a little smile hidden underneath its white snout.

"Let's start out with pound!" Moon ordered. Without pause, Popplio sped towards the little yellow Pokémon. Pichu hopped backwards at Hau's instruction, but Popplio only chased Pichu around until it landed its hit on Pichu's back. 

"Pichu, use nuzzle!" Pichu brought its head down near its eyes and rubbed the bright red spots of its cheeks, causing enough electricity to create little staticky sparks on its hands. While Popplio was still within range, Pichu only had to gently nuzzle the blue pinniped Pokémon for there to be an effect. Popplio jolted from the shock, and its moves became pained and stilted—it was paralyzed.

"Popplio, try and make your way towards the center of the battle field!" Popplio didn't need to move all that much if it was only using water gun—it just needed a good aim.

"Pichu, nuzzle it again!" Though the attack did very little damage, it still was an electric-type move being used on a water-type Pokémon, and the effects of the nuzzle could be seen taking their toll on Popplio quickly.

"Use water gun now!" Moon shouted when she saw that Pichu and Popplio were lined up so that Popplio's move would hit Pichu head-on. A blast of water jetted from Popplio's mouth and, sure enough, hit Pichu right in the face. Pichu fell, and didn't get up again until Hau called it back to its pokéball.

"Woo! Great battle, cuz!"

Moon grinned, returning Popplio to its pokéball. "You guys did great, too. I think we're ready to face Ilima's trial." Whatever a 'trial' was supposed to be. Lillie and Hau were reluctant to explain the whole trial process, and how it differed from gym battles. They said it was best for her to get a fresh experience. Moon thought it was ridiculous, seeing as she'd find out eventually. "Will you take us there, Lillie?"

Lillie looked to Moon, gave her a small smile, and nodded.

"Yes, of course."

"I just have one stop to make first," Moon said with her gaze locked on Mimikyu.

 


 

"It's right up here," Lillie called back to Moon and Hau, who were lagging a few feet behind her. Moon massaged the tops of her thighs, trying to work out the knots that were forming from their steep trek up the mountain of a hill. Route 2 was a long route, and it had a steady incline that wore on Moon's mostly unused muscles.

To add difficulty to their journey to Ilima's trial site, the sun was high in the sky and relentlessly beating down on Moon. Her hat could only do so much to block out the waves of heat, and the exposed portions of her face were no doubt getting ridiculously sunburned. Snoozing in her arms, Mimikyu was a tiny little furnace of heat. Moon was surprised that the little Pokémon was a fairy ghost, and not a fire-type.

The palm trees that were everywhere on Melemele gave little in the way of shade, though they were rather nice snack-wise. Every time a light breeze sang through the air, a couple of berries would drop from the palm boughs. While Lillie led and Hau bounced back and forth between the two girls, Moon picked up every berry she found and either started nibbling on them or stuffed them in her pack. At the moment, she was chewing on the soft flesh of a sweet and juicy Pecha berry.

"Here we are," Lillie said with a deep breath when Moon and Hau caught up. Moon turned and looked out at their first destination; the cemetery.

It had been Moon's idea. After all, what better place to look for Mimikyu's family than at a cemetery? Lillie and Hau had agreed, and so on their way to Ilima's trial they made a pit stop at the cemetery.

Lillie and Cosmog left after a few minutes of walking through the dreary mist-clung grass, stating the desire to find and explore Melemele meadow before watching Hau and Moon go through Ilima's trial. Hau, too, took off through the headstones in order to train with Litten and Pichu a bit more, leaving Moon alone with Mimikyu. The little Pokémon was stirring in her arms, awakened by the cool feel of fog on its little fingers, which stuck out from underneath its cloth.

"Well, what do you think Mimikyu? Do you think we'll find your family here?"

"Shhkyu," Mimikyu responded. Moon didn't know what to make of that, but for a split second she imagined she could see a bright orange-coal glow of eyes behind the slits in Mimikyu's costume. She quickly shook that thought away though—it was probably just a trick of the light.

 


 

Estelle was not worried.

After Moon had left without a word of goodbye to her mother—Estelle tried and failed at not feeling disrespected—Estelle had, admittedly, been in quite a state. But after a chat with Kukui, where the professor explained that Moon was starting her journey as a Pokémon trainer, Estelle had calmed down.

After all, Estelle herself had been like many young Kanto children, and had gotten her starter Pokémon at eleven years of age from Professor Oak. That hadn't lasted nearly as long as she'd hoped—she had never become Champion of Kanto, hadn't even made it past the second gym, in all of its watery glory. (Of course, she had met Meowth on her short-lived journey, so she considered the whole ordeal worth it).

If Moon was anything like her mother she would be back home within the month, ready to switch her focus on some other pursuit. If she wasn't…

That thought had led to Estelle's internet search on the success rate of Alola's trial goers, and after browsing the results for less than five minutes, all of Estelle's calm had gone out the window.

No, Estelle was not merely worried. She was panicked, frenetic, harried, and quite frankly terrified for her daughter's safety.

'It has been several years since a trial-goer has suffered major injury as a result of their trial,' one article read. 'And nearly a decade since a trainer has experienced death. The island kahunas and Pokémon researchers have worked in tandem to educate trainers both young and old in the ways of the Tapu, and in the dangers of the Pokémon world as a whole. Their efforts have not been in vain—since the deeper involvement of the kahuna's and professors, there has been a nearly thirty percent drop in deaths and injuries, and a fifteen percent drop in the number of trainers who have gone off to join Team Skull, a record number since Skull's formation.'

The article had continued on a note of caution, that the recommended age of trainers had been bumped up from its previous age of eleven to thirteen—though, of course, trial-goers of all ages were absolutely welcomed and encouraged.

This 'reassurance' on the part of the article was certainly not enough for Estelle. She'd just gotten her daughter, she wasn't about to lose Moon! It wasn't…it wasn't the responsible thing for her to do, for her to allow Moon to just travel around the Alola region, risking life and limb, all to pursue some silly dream of finishing the rite of passage of a region that she'd only just started to live in. She was a parent now, and she had to start looking out for more than just her own needs and wants.

No, this simply would not do.

Estelle would have to have a talk with her daughter, would have to exercise her parental authority as soon as Moon had made her way back to the outskirts of Hau'oli. It was the responsible thing to do, and the best decision for Moon's well being.   

 


 

Moon was rather comfortable despite her current predicament. In Kanto, the rain and the cold typically came hand in hand. Here in Alola, the rain was warm and interspersed with bouts of sunshine and rainbows.

The downpour had started abruptly; one moment everything was peaceful and warm and bright. Moon had been chasing Mimikyu around the tombstones, bowing respectfully to the mourners as they searched for more of Mimikyu's breed, but having a cheerful time nonetheless. Moments later the clear sky dimmed with heavy rain clouds, and a downpour began.

This rain wasn't cold though, and without a wind to chill her, it was actually pretty refreshing. The oppressive heat had been boring and uncomfortable—this beautiful rain was soft and refreshing.

Nevertheless, Mimikyu did not appreciate the rain dampening its costume. The baby Pokémon fled the cemetery, leaving Moon to chase it in its wake.

When she finally caught up to Mimikyu, the rain was cool against her skin, and it felt even better than before. But Mimikyu was hiding underneath the eave of a random house's porch, shivering for dear life. Moon rolled her eyes good-naturedly, and followed the baby Pokémon to the shelter of the porch.

"Well, I hope that whoever lives here doesn't mind us sitting here," Moon murmured, smoothing out her shorts as she sat down. Mimikyu scuttled into her lap, and Moon barely felt a chill at all when those slithering tentacles started to caress Moon's face. Mimikyu was a very touchy-feely Pokémon, that was for sure. Moon brought out a hand towel and a brush from her bag and spent some time drying and brushing dust from its costume. Mimikyu preened under the attention.

"I wonder how long this will last," Moon mused quietly, staring at the torrents of rain bouncing off palm trees. She didn't want to wait on some stranger's porch for longer than an hour, but she couldn't think of any scenario to get herself and Mimikyu out of the rain that didn't involve stuffing the little Pokémon under her shirt.

"Kyuuu?" Cooed Mimikyu, the drawn-on eyes of its Pikachu costume staring up and Moon blankly.

"It's just that—"

"Nah, A, we gotta get outta this man. My make-up is running!"

Moon jumped to her feet and searched the area for the source of the voice—she recognized it as the voice of one of the thugs that had attacked her and Ilima yesterday.

"But B, my brother, my boy, we gotta do somethin' to redeem ourselves."

Moon spotted them as the first voice, Grunt B, spoke up again. The pair of Team Skull grunts were making their way up Route 2, past the off road that lead to the cemetery and towards the Verdant Cave trial site.

"Ain't no one know we got smashed by Captain Pink Hair and that trial-going punk," Grunt B disagreed.

"Man, I'm hungry as a Munchlax though!"

Grunt B responded, but by then the pair were too far away for Moon to hear what was said. Moon frowned, peering up at the sky from underneath the eaves. The rain didn't look like it was going to quit anytime soon, but from the sound of the conversation the Team Skull grunts were having, Moon needed to take action. She had to stop them, if they were planning something nefarious. Only, she wasn't going to force Mimikyu to go out into the rain without any protection. She had one idea, but…

Biting her lip, Moon knelt on the porch and looked Mimikyu in the eye. Her voice was solemn and hesitant, but she urged the words out as best as she could. "Mimikyu…I have some spare Pokéballs, and if you go into one of them—"

"Mimikyuuuu!" The Pokémon trilled with enthusiasm. Moon was startled by Mimikyu's response, but she took a pokéball out of her bag and held it out to see what Mimikyu would do.

With its true gaze boring straight into Moon's, Mimikyu tapped its Pikachu head onto the ball and was sucked in at once. Moon watched in awe as the red and white ball shook once, twice, three times in her hand before coming to a rest.

As soon as the ball stopped moving, a giant grin stole on Moon's face. Throwing her hand clutching the ball into the air, Moon cried out, "I caught a Mimikyu!"

 


 

Guzma had to admit that he admired the scrappy kid hunched in the chair before him. How could he not, when the teen reminded him so much of himself when he was a teen? Not that those years were quite so far behind him—he was a couple years older than most of his grunts at twenty, but he didn't consider himself as old. Hell, Plums had two years on him!

"Those brats tattled on you again, huh?" Guzma guessed with a smirk.

Gladion clenched his fist and hunched further in on himself. He didn't say anything.

Guzma spoke as if the kid had responded. "Well, what d'you think'll happen when you botch another mission?"

"I didn't botch anything," Gladion spoke through his teeth. "D and M started fighting again so I had to step in and battle three trainers at once. I beat them, too, and the mission would have progressed smoothly if Q didn't try and steal from a fourth trainer. Even I know my limits."

Yeah, Guzma thought. And you break them on a daily basis.

For such a well-spoken kid, Gladion had the attitude of a Team Skull member. Guzma could understand that—he knew exactly what the kid's upbringing was like.

"Team? He wants to join your team? I do not care what he does—do not bring that child up to me again."

"Well, somebody's gotta answer for why we ain't got any Pokémon to sell this week, and as Team Skull's Enforcer—"

"I am the one to blame," Gladion finished. The poor kid hunched even further into himself. A fleeting look of anger passed over his features before settling into resigned distaste. "So, does this mean I am getting kicked out of the Team?"

"Naw, I ain't my old man. I ain't gonna kick you outta the squad just cuz we ain't meetin' our numbers. Nah, your punishment is to put together a new mission. I want that damn Totem Wishiwashi, y'know, that little blue girl's pokemon? Get me that one. You get two grunts." That was probably punishment enough. Guzma knew that Gladion knew it was a waste of time and energy on Gladion's part. Any waste of time infuriated Gladion, and the grunts would accept an annoyed Gladion as punishment—idiots that they were, didn't realize that it ended up as punishment for their stupid asses too.

Gladion growled, tearing out of the room in anger. Guzma rolled his eyes—dramatic, that's what Gladion was.

Guzma settled back into his chair and called out Wimpod. He fed Poke-Beans to the little armored bug, waiting for the inevitability that was Plumeria.

Sure enough, the pink-and-yellow haired girl whipped into the room like a whirlwind, bringing with her hideous things like responsibility and money.

"We ain't got shit to make ends meet, Boss," Plums bit out angrily, plopping down into the seat in front of him without much fanfare.

Guzma sighed, and pressed his face into his steepled hands. Without any Pokémon to sell to the foundation, they wouldn't have enough money this week to feed the hungry mouths of all the wayward kids and teens that made up Team Skull. There were a couple of trees that the grunts could pick from every day or so, but the berries they yielded weren't enough to make it through a day, let alone an entire week. Which meant that Guzma would have to go begging for scraps and asking for favors—something he hated doing. His entire life had been at the whim of his deadbeat father up until he'd said enough was enough at eleven. He didn't make a habit of owing anybody now that he was his own man.

But what else could he do, with so many kids to feed? He was the adult, damn it, he couldn't just leave those damn kids to fend for themselves.

So, with a sigh too old for his years, Guzma looked up at his second. "You want the old one or Miss Aether herself?"

Plums snorted—the answer was obvious. "Have fun working your wiles, Boss," Plums replied, then ducked out of the room before the pokéball could hit her face.  

Alone again, Guzma steeled himself to make a deal with the devil herself.

Chapter Text

Berry Burglars

 


 

Moon tore down the well-worn path of Route 2, looking left and right for the Team Skull grunts. She knew they couldn't be too far ahead, but the further she went, the less likely it seemed she would catch up to them. Her lungs burned and she was soaked to the bone with rain—she was just about to slow down and stop chasing them when a strange Pokémon popped out of nowhere and grabbed her arm.

"Hey!" Moon exclaimed, trying to tug her wrist away. The feathered Pokémon squawked, grasped her wrist and its little white pouch tighter, and tried tugging her in the direction she'd been going. Moon used her free hand to fish her pokedex out of her purse, and listened as it read the entry aloud.

"Delibird, the Delivery Pokémon," the generic voice read, while displaying a picture of the red and white creature. "Although it naturally prefers colder locales, Delibird in Alola seem able to withstand the heat to a certain extent. It has a generous habit of sharing its food with people and Pokémon, so it's always scrounging around for more food."

Moon's lips tugged into a small frown. This particular Delibird didn't seem in the mood to share anything. It was frantic in its endeavor to drag Moon along an offshoot of Route 2. It wanted her to follow it, that was certain. Moon just couldn't figure out what it was trying to bring her towards. But such a generous Pokémon couldn't be leading her somewhere dangerous…

Right?

As the trail started to open up, Delibird became more incensed. It tugged Moon faster and faster, until the bushes and trees gave way to a massive clearing. A couple hundred yards down from where Delibird and Moon were, there was a little cottage perched at the edge of a long and vast berry field. The berry trees were meticulously spaced, leaving just enough room for growth on every side of it. Piles of berries were gathered under several of the trees, and many more sported gleaming berries in their boughs.

Much closer, there seemed to be a commotion—Delibird released Moon's wrist and waddled as fast as its little red legs could carry it to who Moon assumed was its trainer, an older gentleman. The old trainer was wearing a loose blue shirt and white shorts, and was dripping with rainwater as much as Moon was. Standing before him were Grunts A and B.

The pair of grunts were waving their arms about in that strange manner, curling them about this way in that in an awkward dance that Moon imagined was supposed to be threatening.

"You got a lame bunch of berries…" Grunt A said, his voice bouncing with a not-quite-rhythm. "Now Team Skull's your adversaries! Takin' berries of your hands is just the start of our plans, yo!"

"Let's get Figy with it," Grunt B agreed, taking a threatening step towards the berry farmer. "Watch while I Nanab me some berries!"

The old man shook his head with a curling frown. "I'll share my berries for free with any Pokémon that is in need, but you will not be having any from me."

Grunt A took a quick hop backwards, as if offended by the words. Countering this, he advanced on the old man until he was nose to nose with the berry farmer. "So what, I'm lower than a Pokémon?! I already got self-esteem issues, man!"

Moon decided it was time to intervene. She ran towards the trio, skidding to a halt before she ran into them on the slippery mud. Her hand quickly found the side pocket of her bag containing her pokéballs. She grabbed the one that had Popplio inside and brought her hand back out, ready to battle.

A whirled around, eyes furious above the handkerchief hiding his mouth. "And what are you looking at, huh?! Huh?! Huh?!" The grunt paused, blue eyes widening. "Hold up, you're—?!"

"You got a bone to pick with us, girl?" B demanded as they both strode towards where Moon was standing. Moon took her battle stance, readying to fight. "You and Cap may have beat us at the Marina, but you won't be so lucky if we get serious, yo!"

Moon was about to bark out a response when the farmer interjected. "I appreciate your concern, child." His voice was calm and kind this time he spoke, and his brown eyes were softened. "But these Team Skull punks do nothing but talk big and act small. You carry on with your Island Challenge. Don't give them a moment's notice."

Grunt A whirled around, an offended look about him. "Yo, we're standing right here! At least act a little bit afraid or somethin', y'know?!"

Moon snorted. From the way this Farmer acted around the grunts, and the way Captain Ilima had acted around the grunts yesterday, it seemed that no one on Melemele really feared Team Skull. Perhaps they were a nuisance, rather than the actual threat that had been Team Rocket. Moon made to leave—the farmer seemed to have the two grunts in hand—but Grunt B came towards her before she could get anywhere.

"Yo, you tryin' to run away? We're gonna hafta take your Pokémon along with the berries! Check how hardheaded Team Skull grunts can be!"

And with that statement, B threw out a fat yellow Drowzee.

"Popplio, let's show these guys how hardheaded we can be!" Moon shouted, throwing out Popplio's pokéball. Popplio leapt onto its tail flippers, proudly pushing out its chest as it basked in the attention. When it came down, it splashed into the mud, leaving brown splatter all over its chest and face.

"Popplio!" Popplio cried in extreme agitation, looking back at Moon like she'd betrayed it by sending it out into the mud and the rain.

"I'll clean your fur later, let's use this to our advantage now," Moon cajoled. With her eyes and ears trained on her Pokémon, she didn't hear B call out an attack, and didn't see the opposing Drowzee start to move before the pound attack hit, sending Popplio skidding across the mud.

"That's what you get for blabbin' when you should be battlin', yo!" Grunt A jeered from the sidelines.

Moon grit her teeth and ordered Popplio to reciprocate the pound. Though the attack wasn't very powerful with Popplio still distracted by the mud, it landed right on Drowzee's trunk-like nose. The yellow Pokémon blinked lazily as it staggered backwards.

"Confusion, now!"

"Popplio, splash it with the mud!"

Popplio swiped its flipper along the ground, sending a wave of mud at Drowzee's face. The mud splattered, making it so the Pokémon couldn't see. 

"Now use water gun, and don't let up!" The attack was powerful, but it cleared the mud from Drowzee's eyes. Taking advantage of this, B called out another confusion. It resulted in a good hit, but Popplio still looked rearing to go.

"Now use—"

"Paahhhhh!" Popplio stood up on its tail flippers and started crying out at a strange frequency. To Moon's ears it sounded like a slightly off-key cry, but the attack did not sit well with Drowzee—the other Pokémon fell to its knees clutching it's ears. Huh, she thought. I should really check out the pokedex to see what move that is.

Moon wasn't one to waste an opportunity. "Popplio, use pound again!"

Halting its singing, Popplio darted forward, sped on by the rain, and knocked out the opposing Pokémon with one knock to the chest.

Grunt B called Drowzee back in an instant, looking startled that he'd lost. "Yo, I'm feelin' mad annoyed that my team just got destroyed!"

"C'mon B, let's get up and bounce! We don't need to stick around to see me get trounced!" Grunt A grabbed B's arm, and the pair of them took off back down the road.

The rain had let up sometime in the middle of the battle, and in the clearing sky Moon could see a rainbow.

"We did it, Popplio!" Moon cheered, catching Popplio as it jumped into her arms—and then cringing when she realized just how muddy Popplio had gotten.

"Ho!" The berry farmer was walking up to her with a pleasant smile wrinkling the nut brown skin of his face. "You and that Popplio there sure did quite the number on him. Please, come inside and allow me to thank you for your help there. I've got a bath you and your Pokémon can use, and a granddaughter who is around your size. And please—help yourself to any of the berries that you find lying around!"

Moon grinned, and Popplio yipped. "I would be very grateful, sir. My name's Moon. Do you happen to know how far up Route 2 Ilima's trial is?"

"Pleased to meet you, Moon," the farmer greeted with a nod. "Most people just call me the Berry Master. Now, let me show you and Popplio to that bath, then I can pack you a lunch to take on your way to Verdant Cavern—no, I won't hear any protest. You look just about as hungry and cold as a Rattata left out in the rain!"

Moon nodded her thanks, and followed the Berry Master down the road to his home.

 


 

The weather outside was starting to clear up, but Hau was staying inside. His stomach was rumbling, and the Pokémon Center had air-conditioning that didn't even compare to the mild relief from heat that the rain brought with it. He had trained enough for the day, and by his estimations, it was nearing dinner time.

If only he wasn't facing such a difficult decision.

"Sweet or sour?" Hau asked, flicking his gaze between the two Malasada's that he'd bought back in Hau'oli for the road. The choice weighed on him. You could never go wrong with a sweet malasada; the dough was always perfectly flaky, the powdered sugar was always heavy-handed and wonderful, and there was a certain genuine quality to a sweet malasada that none of the other flavors could quite compare to.

But then, sour malasada's were in a completely different class. The dough had to be kneaded just right, had to be fried at precisely the proper temperature in order for the flavors of sitrus and colbur to play off each other to even be considered palatable.

Hau grinned. He knew exactly how to solve this conundrum.

"Litten, Pichu, come on out!"

Litten came out of its ball with a content purr, arched its back in a stretch, and settled next to Hau's crossed legs. Pichu came out with a happy cry, and tucked itself into Hau's lap. Both Pokémon waited to see what their trainer had called them out for.

"Sweet," Hau held out to sweet malasada. "Or sour?" He went to hold out the second one, only to find that where a malasada had once rested in his palm, there was now only a napkin sprinkled with crumbs.

"Pichu!" Hau exclaimed, trying not to smile. Pichu's cheeks were bright red, pursed outwards in a way that could only mean one thing—there was a sour malasada inside.

Pichu swallowed, looking at Hau with its big black eyes. Eyes filled with mischief, Hau decided. "Chu-pi?" Pichu questioned, affecting an innocent tone.

"Mrorw!" Litten growled, raising its hackles—apparently, it had wanted the sour malasada. Barring its teeth, Litten began to chase a squeaking Pichu around the Pokecenter, much to the bemusement of Nurse Joy and the other Pokecenter patrons.

Hau only shrugged. "I guess that makes my decision for me," he said through a mouthful of malasada.

"Hau!" Hau looked up at the familiar voice.

"Kukui, howzit?" Hau waved at the tall professor walking towards him. "You seen Lillie or Moon? I'm afraid I lost them at the cemetery!"

When Kukui was closer, Hau saw that he was dripping wet from the rain. A stern expression transformed the professor's otherwise genial face into a darker one filled with worry.

"You three really shouldn't split up, cousin." But then Kukui grinned, and all the darkness was gone. "I'm sure they'll turn up at the PC soon, though. You ready for your trial, yeah?"

Hau shrugged, looking off to the side. He felt like he was ready, but…

Sensing his hesitation, Kukui spoke. "Why don't we see how Moon does on her trial, eh?"

Hau looked up, nodded, and smiled. His smile brightened, bit by bit, until it became a full on grin—he couldn't wait to see how Moon did on her trial. 

He almost didn't notice how Kukui's eyes turned out towards the Route, worried.

"I'm sure Moon and Lillie aren't the type to get in trouble," he muttered, mostly to himself.

Hau felt a wry smile curl on his lips. "Don't know those girls yet, do you professor?"

 


 

Moon left the Berry Master's house nearly an hour later. She left fresh-faced and clean-clothed, wearing the humble overalls, plain white shirt, and  wide-brimmed straw hat of the Berry Master's granddaughter. Her belly, and the bellies of her Pokémon, stuffed to bursting with the most delicious berry-based food.

Moon never even knew that there were so many ways to cook an oran berry, ways that brought out different hints of flavor that left Moon melting. If her dad was still alive, she would have brought him to the Berry Master in an instant—he'd been the worst cook, now that Moon had a basis for comparison. All the food he'd made had either come out of a Jynx's frozen dinners box, or was burnt to such a crisp that it couldn't possibly have any nutritional value.

Her happiness dimmed at the thought of her father, but she manage to push thoughts of him to the back of her mind. Instead, she hiked her back up on her shoulder and tried to recall the directions to the Pokémon Center nearest Verdant Cavern. The Berry Master had said take a right at the end of his road, then follow the path on the left…or was it the right? She was pretty sure that it wasn't the straight path, but in the dimming light of the sun, could she really be sure? Was her mind playing tricks on her.

Moon huffed, blowing her bangs out of her eyes as she tried to really think about what the Berry Master had said. The way through Route 2 to Verdant cavern was…

Damn. This is probably why Kukui wanted Lillie to lead me around, Moon thought. After a moment's hesitation, she called Popplio out of its pokéball.

"Okay, partner, you've lived here your whole life," Moon knelt down so that she could look Popplio right in the eye. "Can you show me how to get to Verdant Cavern? Or near it?"

Popplio smiled, gave two yips, and started speeding down the path to the right—the one that was less traveled, dense with foliage on either side of the path. With a sigh, Moon started running to catch up with Popplio. She could only see Popplio for the rustle in the bushes he caused, so thick was the undergrowth.

"Popplio, wait up!" Moon called. The movement of Popplio paused a split second, but then her Pokémon charged forward even faster, unaware of its trainer's suffering. Moon groaned, forcing her feet to move faster to keep up. Popplio being faster in water didn't mean that the water-type was incredibly fast on land too, apparently. 

Up ahead, Popplio had stopped at the base of a berry tree. It took Moon a minute to catch up, but when she did, she had to take a deep breath to keep a scream under control when she saw that her Pokémon was happily munching some sitrus berries that had fallen in a heap at the base of the tree. Moon called Popplio back to its ball with a sigh, then turned around to make her way back to the fork in the Route where she was now certain she was supposed to turn left at.

"Now," Moon mused aloud. "Was it that way Popplio led me down…? Or…that way?"

Moon spun left, right, but it was no use. Every direction looked exactly the same! How was she supposed to—

A thrum of electricity hummed through her body. She knew that sensation—it was just like when Tapu Koko had snatched her and Cosmog out of the air. Whipping around, Moon searched for the telltale orange and yellow body, the black and white of its face markings, anything.

Spotting a flash of orange in the foliage up ahead, Moon nearly tripped over herself to race towards it. She was certain that it was the Tapu, but when she reached the spot, there was nothing but greenery.

Frowning, Moon started to backpedal—but there it was again, out of the corner of her eye, a flash of yellow. She ran faster this time, and felt all the little hairs on her body stand up at some unseen electricity.

Racing through the forest, Moon followed a zig-zag path with apparently no pattern, zipping through the trees at a steady sprint. The electricity seemed to keep her going, kept her cardiovascular system from insisting that she stop to take a breather. She felt so sure that she was being guided to her destination, despite the obvious question of why a Pokemon god would lower itself to help her after she'd gotten herself lost in the forest.

And then she was at the edge of the forest, staring at the back of a Pokémon center in awe. Through the back windows, she could see Hau and Kukui sitting and playing with Litten, Pichu, and Rockruff.

Turning around, Moon searched for any hint of orange, yellow, or white. Not seeing any, she sighed, but murmured her thanks anyways—just in case anyone was listening.

With her back turned, she didn't see the electric Tapu watch her

And neither the Tapu nor Moon saw the third presence. Watching…waiting.

 


 

Lillie didn't know where she was. In her search for Melemele Meadow, she neglected to recognize the shifting of the light, the slow progression from the warm echo of light after a hard rainfall to the dark abyss that was everything around her now. The only light came from Nebby's soft blue glow, and that wasn't enough to light to see anything except the worried smiles of the bagged Pokémon.

"I don't know why I do this to myself," Lillie muttered, her voice hushed in the darkness of the forest. "The cemetery is hours from Melemele Meadow, why did I think I could find my way?" She was so stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Oh, what would Moon think of her, getting lost in the woods like this?

As if sensing her negative thoughts, Nebby came out of her duffle and hovered by her face, eyeing her as it cooed. Lillie pinched her lips together, looking away. She was always getting lost, was always so incompetent. How did Hau, and Professor Kukui ever put up with her? No wonder her mother—

"No," Lillie spat out forcefully. She couldn't let her thoughts follow that route. It would only ever lead to more anger and frustration, more sadness and feelings of inadequacy. That's the only thing her mother is good at. "No," she repeated. "Come on, Nebby. We're going to find our way out of this forest."

With those determined words, Lillie trudged off through the forest, determined to find her way out on her own. Unfortunately, sometimes determination can only get you so far—it only got Lillie deeper into the forest, darker into the night, and more terrified of the hoots and howls that surrounded her. Even with Nebby by her side—especially with Nebby by her side, she was frightened of what would happen if she got caught. By another Pokémon, by an Aether Foundation member, by what have you.

"Nebby, it's probably best if you get back in the bag," Lillie whispered, her voice wavering.

"Pew-pew," Nebby trilled, a sad expression on its face. Lillie wondered if the little creature could sense human emotion, because instead of floating about and dodging Lillie's attempts to get it in the bag, Nebby only consented and quietly nestled itself into the duffle.

With a sigh, Lillie zipped the bag up and knelt on the forest floor. She covered her face with her hands and let the self-loathing thoughts rush over her. She was a quitter, she was a horrible daughter, she was no good at anything. Everything that her mother had ever said about her, it was all true. She was worthless. She couldn't even find her way out of the stupid forest for Arceus's sake.

Lillie wondered what Moon and Hau were doing now. Hopefully getting rest before their trials in the morning. Hopefully they weren't worrying about her, and had just accepted that she wouldn't be meeting them up at the Pokémon Center in the morning, when it was lighter out and easier to see. She certainly didn't think, in a million years, that either of them would ever get worried about her and go searching through the dark forest to find her before she got hurt.

But that was exactly what happened.

Some ten minutes after Lillie had given up trekking through the vast forest, she heard a voice calling her name. It was Moon's voice, and soon enough it was joined by the voices of Hau and Professor Kukui.

Lillie looked up from her arms, though she couldn't see anyone yet. Standing, she whirled around and looked everywhere for where her friends' voices were coming from, until she finally saw a small speck of light coming from a flashlight.

Lillie practically tripped over herself as she ran towards the beam, calling out that she was here, over here, they'd found her.

When she reached them, Lillie was quick to wrap Moon in her arms. Hau and Professor Kukui in turn joined the group hug.

"I got lost," Lillie muttered against Moon's shoulder. She seemed to be wearing some strange sort of jean shirt…were those overalls?

Moon giggled. "So did I," she admitted, pulling away. With the glow of the flashlight lighting up her face, Lillie saw that Moon had streaks of tears running down her cheeks. All for her? Lillie didn't know how to feel, to know that Moon already cared so much about her.

"All right cousin, let's get this show on the road, yeah? We've got a long day tomorrow—two trials! How exciting!" Professor Kukui threw one arm over Lillie's shoulder, and together, the four of them made their way back out of the forest and to the Pokémon Center.

Indeed, the next day was definitely shaping up to be an interesting one.

 


 

Moon was ready. It went unspoken, but mutually agreed, that she would complete her trial first. With Popplio by her side, she was calm and contained. Her stomach was not a bundle of nerves, as it might have been under these same circumstances just a few days ago. Having Popplio as her partner…Moon could not deny that she had grown, that she was a better person. A stronger person.

A trainer.

She stood at the moss-covered entrance to the cave. It was just after sunrise, and the warmth of the sun skimmed her bare shoulders. The air was already starting to heat up. Her heart beat steady in her chest, her breath coming evenly, her fists unclenched. Popplio had found a comfortable spot on her shoulder, and was looking just as excited as Moon felt.

This was it. The very first trial of her strength as a trainer, her strength as a team with Popplio. Lillie was a couple paces behind her, holding Mimikyu with Hau and Kukui on either side. They weren't allowed to enter the Cave with her—it would just be her and Popplio, facing this trial together.

Moon took a deep breath, felt her veins shiver, and felt Popplio's reassuring weight on her shoulders.

"I'll make you proud," Moon said, her voice breathless as the wind. She didn't know who she was talking to; her father, her Pokémon, or herself. It didn't matter. In that moment…

She was ready.

Chapter Text

Verdant Cavern

 


 

Moon left her friends standing at the edge of the trail, and together with Popplio, she set off down the dirt path that led to Verdant Cavern.

The trail was about two feet across, and it twisted through the forest, switching back and forth as Moon and Popplio made the climb up the mountain. The cavern was about a quarter of the way up the mountain, according to the Berry Master. The trek took half of an hour, feeling in and of itself a trial, and by the time that Moon saw the tall archway colored with pink and blue and yellow, sweat had started beading on her shoulders and lower back. Her arms were sore from carrying Popplio most of the way—but she had imagined that it was better for Popplio to save its energy. After all, she didn't know how this trial would go, how much battling her Pokémon would have to do.

Moon closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. The air around the trial site was cooler than the forest, despite there being an opening in the trees, allowing the sun to illuminate the area. It felt different, too. It felt like an important place, like this part of Alola held more weight than the other parts. Moon breathed in the air, content for the moment to just experience.

Her experience was cut short, however, by the sound of approach from above—Ilima came on the back of a Charizard, who dropped them off soundly before flying away.

"Greetings! Captain Ilima here!" Ilima introduced themselves, a bit unnecessarily in Moon's opinion. She'd practically battled alongside them, after all. "And my trial begins just a few steps from here in Verdant Cavern!"

Moon nodded eagerly, taking a few steps towards the moss-ridden path. "Any words of wisdom you would like to share before I begin?" Moon asked them, eyeing the pink-haired Captain with tentative hope.

Ilima nodded thoughtfully, bringing one arm across their chest, using it to rest their opposing hand on. "Note that the Pokémon living within Verdant Cavern are quite fierce. Through attempting the trials during the Island Challenge, one can exceed their own limits…That is what the Alolan people believe." Ilima dropped their arms, affecting a solemn tone. Their grey eyes met Moon's, their mouth drew into a thin line before they spoke. "Once you have entered Verdant Cavern, you will not be able to leave until you have completed the trial. Are you ready?"

Moon took a deep breath, looking to Popplio.

"We're ready."

 


 

"We’re ready," Gladion affirmed, looking away from the Boss and standing as still as he could. It was difficult, but he managed to keep a blank face as he stood before Guzma. CC and M, the two grunts he got into the least amount of fights with, were standing at semi-attention behind him. If we take the boat and leave tonight, our mission should be completed by tomorrow, Saturday at the latest." Barring the fact that the mission is doomed to fail, Gladion thinks derisively.

Gladion is aware that this mission is punishment. He understands that, understands that he's being sent on a fool's errand to show his 'devotion' or whatever crap the Boss was spewing that the stupid grunts just ate up. Gladion knows that Guzma is wasting his time on purpose.

"Listen, buddy, budget cuts and all, we only got two boats," Guzma says, hardly keeping down a shit-eating grin. "You can't take either boat, Plums is usin' one and I've gotta take the other tomorrow."

Gladion's fist clenched. Of fucking course Guzma and Plumeria were using the boats at the same time that Gladion needed one to make this punishment as quick as possible—it was supposed to be an in and out mission, a quick failure, a waste of Gladion's day, and that was it.

"How long will you be using it?" Gladion asked through his teeth.

"You never know with Plums," Guzma shrugged, leaning back in his chair with a bored expression. "Imma need one for the next week, though."

Gladion's clenched fist started to shake. He could feel the blood rushing to his face, coloring his cheeks red, a stark contrast to his pale hair and skin, his black clothes. Biting back curses, he spun on his heel and stormed from the room. He didn't bother taking the convoluted way downstairs—Gladion simply hopped across the chandelier that blocked the stairs, nearly tripping up on some of the glass baubles, but caught himself before he face planted.

Free of the mansion, Gladion ran through Po Town, his feet pounding across the broken cobblestones. He tore past the houses, through the streets, and didn't stop running until he'd blown through the barricade and was halfway to Route 17 when he finally stopped, called out Null, and fell to his knees.

"Roooh!" Null growled as it materialized in front of Gladion, taking a moment to look down at the young trainer. Null nudged Gladion's shoulder, the light brush of his helmet scoring the thin fabric. Gladion hunched further in on himself.

Breathe, Gladion, he tried to tell himself. He was breathing, but the shallow puffs of air came quicker and quicker, and if he didn't get control of himself he'd pass out. It had happened before—stupid, stupid, stupid, can't learn shit—and Gladion was not keen on it happening again.

Null, worried for its trainer, let out another plaintive growl before carefully nipping at Gladion's ear. Despite how careful Null was, his teeth were sharp and painful, cutting open Gladion's earlobe with ease.

Gladion hissed in pain, palming his ear. But then, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Focused on the pain. Let it wash over him, calm his thoughts, slow him down. He took the pain and he used it to gain control of himself, get a hold on his emotions, his thoughts. He took a deep inhale through his nose, then exhaled slowly through his mouth. Finally, he opened his eyes and forced himself to crack a smile for Null.

"Arooo," Null howled happily, and started bounding back towards Po Town.

"Wait," Gladion called, shakily getting to his feet. He pulled his hand away from his ear, checked that it wasn't bleeding too much, and turned away from Po Town. "We've got time. Let's train."

 


 

Verdant Cavern lived up to its name. Lush green vegetation flourished in the vast chamber, spilling along the walls and carpeting the ground. Feathery ferns made their homes in miniscule cracks along the stone walls. Dark green moss blanketed every available rock, carelessly draping over the giant boulders. Vast columns of yellow light poured from gaps in the ceiling of the cavern, causing dust and plant spores to be illuminated in great glittering clouds.

Moon took a deep breath of the green air, and had to tamp down a cough at the stagnant taste to it.

Moving up behind her, Ilima patted Moon on the back. "It does have a certain taste to it, doesn't it?" They asked, guessing Moon's hesitance. Moon nodded, taking a second easier breath.

"Well, let me formally welcome you to Verdant Cavern. I am your Captain, Ilima."

Moon snorted. "Was the introduction really necessary?"

Ilima only smiled. "Let me explain the basics of my trial. You're going to need to…"

Ilima trailed off, looking to the ground as a small dark Pokémon came scampering up to them, chattering anxiously. Moon pulled out her pokedex and checked the stats of the new Pokémon.

"Rattata, the mouse Pokémon. When the sun goes down, it becomes active. It runs around town on a chase for good food for the boss of its nest—Raticate. With its incisors, it gnaws through doors and infiltrates people’s homes. Then, with a twitch of its whiskers, it steals whatever food it finds."

It's whiskers, which looked more like a thick dark mustache poised above its pointed nose, were twitching wildly as it squeaked. Ilima was listening to it with an intent look on their face, nodding every few seconds as if they understood what the little Rattata was saying. When it finished chattering, Ilima tilted their head back and looked around, surveying the cavern as if seeing it for the first time. They frowned, and turned to Moon.

"The Rattata that live here are restless. There is something around that is bothering them. Would you do me the favor of working your way deep into the cavern to try and find the source of their unrest?"

Moon nodded. "Of course. Is there anything in particular that I should be looking for?"

Ilima pursed their lips, crossing their arms as they thought. "Maybe. The Rattata of this cavern are typically peaceful, and they don't do much to bother the other Pokémon of the surrounding area. But sometimes it happens that they spark the resentment of others in the area, and another species of Pokémon might have come here seeking vengeance. It's best to be on the lookout for Pokémon other than Rattata. Are you prepared?"

Moon looked down at herself. She was wearing the same outfit she'd had on at the start of her journey, aside from the hat she was sporting. It was chilly, so she quickly fished her floral cap out of her back and switched them. She called Popplio to her side, and there—she was all prepared.

Ilima gave her a faint smile. "All right then, let me know what you find." And with that, they exited the cavern, leaving Moon and Popplio alone.

"Okay Popplio, I guess we should follow the trail," Moon said to her Pokémon, and together they started along the moss-covered path.

They tried to walk on the stone ground as much as possible, but in some places there was so much moss, it was impossible to see anything other than green. It was slippery, too, and on the downhill grade, Moon and Popplio found themselves slipping and sliding around along the ground often.

Just as the pair walked past a bend in the trail, a fat Rattata came charging towards them. It stopped a couple feet away, but was angrily chattering at them, and did not appear to want to move.

"We're trying to help!" Moon yelled as she tried to edge past the Rattata. It hissed at them and swiped, startling both Pokémon and trainer.

"All right, if it's a battle you want…" Moon switched her stance, backing a couple feet away. "Popplio, are you ready?"

"Pop pop!" Popplio cried happily, and slid into position.

"All right—let's start out with disarming voice!" Disarming voice, Moon had found, was the powerful move Popplio had abruptly used against the Team Skull grunt. Popplio stood on its back flippers with its chest thrown out, and let out a warrior's cry. The blast from the attack was a pink wave as it hit the chubby Rattata. It knocked the other Pokémon down—and to Moon's surprise, the Pokémon had fainted.

Moon and Popplio looked at each other, identical in their astonishment.

"Okay…" Moon murmured, reaching down to pick up Popplio. "Alolan Rattata must be a dark type. Well, great job Popplio!"

"Popplio!" Popplio cheered, wiggling in Moon's arms with a bright smile.

"Well, let's get on with it," Moon said. She walked past the Rattata, dropping a sitrus berry by its unconscious face—it wasn't it's fault that it was agitated, Ilima was right. There was something bothering the Pokémon in this cavern.

Careful to keep quiet, lest they disturb any more nearby Rattata, Popplio and Moon crept along moss-covered path. Moon could only marvel at the magnificence that was the rest of the cavern. She had thought that the entrance was grand—the deeper she went, the more beautiful the cavern appeared to be.

Moon and Popplio made their way through the cavern slowly but surely, stopping every couple of minutes to take a drink of water. It was starting to heat up in the cavern, and Moon was starting to work up a sweat. The path they followed rolled over hills and dips, and there were entire sections where Moon had to cling to the walls in order to keep from slipping on the moss. They ran into a couple more Rattata, but it was easy enough to knock them out with Popplio's disarming voice attack.

She imagined that they were pretty deep into the cave, but so far she couldn't find any reason for the Pokémon's unrest. The only Pokémon she'd encountered was Rattata; there couldn't be a shortage of water with how much the greenery was thriving, and with all the green Moon was certain that the Rattata couldn't be going hungry. To be truthful, Moon was ready to turn around and give up, head back and tell Ilima that she couldn't find the source of the Rattata's discomfort, and could she please start her trial now?

"What do you think Popplio, should we head back?" Moon looked down at her Pokémon, just in time to receive a face full of water. "Hey!" Moon cried, now soaking wet to her shoulders. "Ugh, fine, fine. Hey—what's that noise?"

Moon frowned, turned her ear towards the noise to hear better. Suddenly, a rush of dozens of Rattata came from behind, nearly knocking Moon off of her feet, and carrying Popplio away with the sheer number of them. Moon ran after Popplio, trying to keep her Pokémon in her line of sight while also avoiding stepping on the ankle-height mouse Pokémon—she failed, and got a good number of ankle-bites for her failure.

Moon hardly noticed as she ran past a pair of Team Skull members.

 


 

The grunts in question, A and B, side-eyed each other as the horde of Rattata ran past carrying a random Popplio in their ranks, followed by a cursing trainer that thankfully paid them no mind.

"Yo, B, I'm think' that maybe this isn't the place to be, ya feel?"

"Yeah man, it's time we scram, man, come up with another plan, man."

In unison, they stopped harassing the random den they'd been trying to coax a Rattata out of, and ran back the way they'd come in.

 


 

"Do you think it's okay to let Cosmog out, Professor?" Lillie hated keeping Nebby in her bag all the time. It wasn't fair to the little Pokémon—but what more could she do? If anyone saw Nebby and knew what it was…Lillie shuddered to think of the consequences.

"It's pretty empty out here, yeah? Let's go for it!" Professor Kukui responded.

While Moon was off on her trial, Hau had gone back to the Pokémon Center to get some last-minute battling in. Professor Kukui had decided to study the moves that wild Pokémon used against each other, so of course Lillie had gone with him. She was his assistant after all, she was obligated to help him. More than that, she wanted to help him.

"All right, Nebby." Lillie pursed her lips and puffed her cheeks out. She cut Nebby with a serious look, hands on her hips as she looked at it. "You can come out, but stay in this area, okay? There's no one here except us, so you should be fine…" She trailed off, nerves giving her a nauseous feeling. It was empty now, but what about a couple minutes from now? What if someone…

"Hoo boy, come look at this Lillie!" The Professor called, his voice exuding excitement.

Lillie cast Nebby one last warning glance before the little cloud-like Pokémon smiled, and together they made their way over to where Professor Kukui was, crouching behind a bush with his face pressed against the leaves. Lillie knelt carefully, conscious of Nebby hovering by her ear, and pressed her face into the bush like Kukui had. Through the leaves, she could see two Pokémon squabbling over an oran berry.

 


 

The green, red-bumped Caterpie had a hold of it, but the tiny buzzing Cutiefly was giving it a run for its' berry. Physically, the Caterpie had a good advantage over the Cutiefly. It was larger and stronger, and would have an easier time holding onto the round blue berry. Cutiefly, on the other hand, had the advantage of having arms that could wrap nearly all the way around the fat berry.

Both Pokemon squabbled over the berry, making angry growls and gurgles as they fought to maintain control. Cutiefly seemed to be having a difficult time staying out of Caterpie's line of fire, and eventually met face-to-face with the other Pokémon.

The Caterpie wasted no time throwing a string shot at the Cutiefly, but the little yellow bug-type dodged it while maintaining its hold on the berry. In retaliation, the Cutiefly let go of the berry briefly to send a sparkling fairy wind, which caused the Caterpie to drop the oran berry. With neither holding on to the berry, both were frantic in their attempts to get the berry back first. Unfortunately for the pair, a third party ended up the winner—a mean-eyed Yungoos growled at the approaching Caterpie and Cutiefly, snatched up the oran berry and took off with it.

Screeching with fervor, the Cutiefly zipped after the Yungoos. Caterpie moved forward a bit as if to pursue, but then it stopped, turned around, and skittered into the underbrush and out of sight.

Kukui was ecstatic! What an opportunity! The moves they'd used, the way they had tried to distract and incapacitate their opponents, how genuine!

Kukui turned, eager to discuss this battle with Lillie—only to find that his blonde assistant and her Pokémon had disappeared.

 


 

  "Popplio!" Moon cried, grabbing her Pokémon from the ground and holding it in a tight hug. The horde of Rattata had finally stopped running, an Moon found herself to be in an open area, bare to the blue sky above. There were trees lining the high rock walls, but otherwise the place appeared to be a clearing in the cavern.

Moon set Popplio down and turned her attention towards the commotion—this must have been where all the noise was coming from, for it appeared that a battle had taken place. Closest to Moon, the Rattata had formed a circle around a giant Raticate, and were worriedly hovering around and chattering at it. Across the clearing there was a huge Gumshoos, surrounded by other Yungoos Pokémon. Moon frowned—these Pokémon, they must be the reason for the Rattata disturbance. But Moon didn't have time to go back and report this to Ilima—the Gumshoos was moving in, ready to finish its battle with the Raticate.

"Stop!" Moon shouted, running in between the massive Gumshoos and the fallen Raticate. The Gumshoos was easily a foot taller than her, maybe even more than that. "You need to leave this place, this is a sanctuary for the Rattata and Raticate that live here! You can't just bully them!"

"Shoos!" The Gumshoos growled, taking a menacing step forward.

"You want to battle someone? Fine, battle me! Popplio, are you ready?" Moon looked down to see that Popplio was just as incensed as she was, and ready for action.

The Rattata and Yungoos cleared a place for battle.

Before Moon could blink twice, the Gumshoos was advancing on Popplio, hitting it with a scratch that knocked it back several feet.

"Let's do this Popplio, use disarming voice!" The attack hit, but it didn't have much effect. Gumshoos let out a resounding roar, and as if by magic a Yungoos appeared by its side, joining in the attacks against Popplio.

"What?" Moon breathed, shocked at this turn of events. "Not fair…but we can take them, Popplio! All right, disarming voice again, then follow up with a water gun on the little one!"

The attacks hit, Popplio managing to hit the Yungoos with a water gun as it dodged the Yungoos's tackle. But as soon as the defeated Yungoos ran off the battle field, Gumshoos only had to roar again an another one took its place. It was maddening! Whenever Moon and Popplio tried to attack the Gumshoos, a Yungoos would move into the way and take the attack. But whenever Moon focused the attacks on Yungoos, another was quick to take its place. They couldn't get to Gumshoos without getting rid of Yungoos first, but there seemed to be an unlimited amount of Yungoos. They needed to do something that forced the Gumshoos away from the Yungoos and into battle.

"Popplio, new plan!" Moon glanced around the battlefield, looking for anything that would help. She spotted something among the trees that lined the rock walls—perfect.

"Popplio, use pound on that tree!" Popplio glanced back at Moon, looked towards the tree she was pointing at, and quickly followed the order.

What happened in result was a terrifying flurry of buzzing chaos as a dozen Beedrill dropped from the tree and started attacking the startled Yungoos who'd been unfortunate enough to be waiting below.

While the Yungoos were distracted, Moon made her move. "Okay, Popplio, let's finish this! Water—"

Suddenly, Popplio was enveloped in a shimmering blue light. Moon had to look away, and when she looked back, a new Pokémon sat in Popplio's place. Moon wanted to take her Pokedex out, but it was more important in that moment to defeat the Gumshoos while the Yungoos were still occupied. Popplio—well, not-Popplio—took Moon's half-spoken command, and hit Gumshoos with a massive blast of water.

"Gumshoooos!" The Gumshoos roared. It fell to all fours and started charging at not-Popplio, wildly using scratch and tackle attacks. Not-Popplio was faster though, and only took every other hit, simultaneously delivering pound attacks at every opportunity.

"Now, use disarming voice!"

This time, the attack hit its target straight on, and the massive Gumshoos collapsed with a grunt.

Moments from collapsing itself, Moon congratulated her not-Popplio, and returned it to its pokéball.

With a roar, the defeated Gumshoos stood, turned on its heel, and disappeared into the cavern with its hissing Yungoos following after it.

"What a wonderful trainer you are!"

Moon jumped, not expecting to hear Ilima so close behind her—not expecting Ilima anywhere near her at all.

"For you to be able to defeat the Totem Pokémon that I had trained up to such a powerful state…I don't know what I can say," Ilima continued, an impressed smile lighting their lips.

Moon gaped. "Well, an apology would be nice—I thought—I thought that—"

Ilima interrupted her with another smile, waving their arms around grandly. "Working in harmony with your Pokémon, you have cleared the trial of Ilima!"

That was their trial…of course that was their trial. Moon groaned, practically swaying on her feet—all the walking, all the hills, all for her trial? Were adventures supposed to include this much walking? Was Moon doing something wrong?

"And behold, Popplio even evolved into Brionne! What a wonderful occurrence, during my trial!"

Brionne, Moon committed that name to memory. Brionne was a few inches larger than Popplio had been, with dark eyelashes framing its eyes, tri-segmented ears, and three skirt-like ruffles trailing in light blue and white from under its flippers down to its tail. Brionne was beautiful.

"Congratulations, Moon. I would like to present you with your first Z-crystal, Normalium Z." Moon took the crystal from Ilima, slipping it into her bag. "Come, let me explain how it works while we walk back."

Moon nodded, and together, they started walking back along through the cavern while Ilima chatted away about the intricacies and formalities of using the normal-type z-move.

Chapter Text

Melemele Mishap

 


 

Moon was just thanking Ilima for the z-crystal outside of the cavern when Kukui came running up, huffing and puffing and out of breath. Moon looked down at the professor in confusion, but waited patiently while he composed himself enough to tell her what was so important.

Finally regaining his upright posture, Kukui opened his mouth to say something—but then his eyes flickered between Ilima and Moon, clearly noting the situation, and a bright grin burst forth.

"Ooh, looking at the expression on Ilima's face, I'd say you cleared your first trial, yeah?" Kukui said, a proud tone apparent in his voice.

Ilima smiled, nodding in confirmation. "Yes, she passed marvelously." Turning to Moon, Ilima continued what he'd been saying before Kukui came in. "I am the only captain here on Melemele, meaning my trial is the only one here. Now that you have cleared the trial, please inform our island kahuna—Hala!"

Moon didn't blink twice at the order, now used to the strangely formal and instructional way that Ilima spoke.

"Let's see it, yeah?"

Pulling out the Normalium-Z, Moon struck the pose for the Normal Z-type move. Ilima made a few adjustments to her stance while Kukui watched, nodding.

"Z-moves heap all of a trainer's emotion onto a Pokémon, yeah," Kukui explained. "Which totally wears you out! Using Z-power once per battle is all a trainer can handle, yeah."

Moon supposed that it made sense. From what she was gathering, Z-moves were like a manifestation of the bond between Pokémon and trainer. Trainers could only use them when they made it to a certain point in their training with their Pokémon, went through the necessary trials to show that they had the bond required to use the special move. And if it was like Kukui said, taking all of a trainer's emotion and putting it on the Pokémon, Moon could only imagine how exhausted both the trainer and her team would be after using such a move. 

"Is that why you're looking so ragged, Professor?" Ilima questioned.

Kukui's eyes widened, and he took a startled step back. "No! It was like I was hit with Amnesia! I forgot that I lost Lillie somewhere on Route 3!"

"Oh, dear," Ilima muttered.

"Will you help me look for her? We'll have to split up, yeah, but it's still bright out so we should be fine."

"Of course!" Moon agreed, though she didn't understand why it splitting up mattered. They both had their Pokémon with them, the only one in any real danger was Lillie—and she had Cosmog. Nebby, of course, wouldn't be of much use, but at least it could keep her company.

"Great," Kukui enthused, anxiety still clear in his agitated movements. "I'll go up and look for her past Melemele Meadow. Moon, will you look for her along Route 3 and in the meadow?"

"No problem," Moon nodded.

"And I, of course, will search the Cavern to make sure she didn't find her way in by happenstance," Ilima offered.

"When Hau comes along, will you have him meet us by the meadow after his trial?" Kukui asked, already paging a Ride Charizard to take him to the other side of Melemele Meadow.

"Absolutely," Ilima agreed.

 


 

After making a quick stop at the Pokémon Center, Moon called Popplio—Brionne, she would have to get used to calling it that—out of its Pokéball, then frowned. She had forgotten—she'd left Mimikyu with her friends while she took her trial.

"Well, Brionne, I guess it's just you and me," Moon said, shouldering her bag after she set the blue Pokémon on the ground.

"Brionne!" Brionne exclaimed. It's voice was a lower pitch than it had been as Popplio, but all the same it sounded more melodious, more fluid.

"You were fantastic," Moon enthused, thinking back to their recent battle. "We were fantastic. I just felt so connected to you, so in tune. Did you feel the same?"

Brionne spun around in happy circles, making Moon laugh. Together they walked, and Moon replayed their battle in her head. Brionne had definitely given the battle it's all, and Moon wished she could say the same. She had felt like they'd connected, like she had done everything she could to guide Brionne through the best moves, the most logical maneuvers. But, in the end, Brionne had been so exhausted, had barely held up. If Popplio hadn't evolved…

No. Moon didn't want to think about it. Brionne had evolved, and Moon had completed her trial. That's what happened in the end, and in the end, what happened was what mattered. There was no use psyching herself out over what could have been.

Instead, she would focus on what could be—she would focus on expanding her team, and improving her technique with the Pokémon she did have. Who knows, maybe she could even convince Mimikyu to try and battle with her—but only if the baby Pokémon wanted to. Arceus knows that the poor Mimikyu had been through enough at the hands of another trainer, and Moon would completely understand if it didn't want anything to do with battling.

As Moon and Brionne were walking, the encountered a problem—empty bellies. Hau was the one who carried the food, and Moon had no clue where he even was! Thankfully they hadn't yet made it to the next route, which Moon had been told was a very rocky and barren one. She was still in a forested area, albeit one with only a couple of trees. One of the trees had a pile of berries at the base—perfect.

"Are you hungry, Brionne?" Moon asked, angling towards the berry tree.

"Bri, bri-Brionee!" Brionne stood on its flippers and hopped into the air. Moon giggled at its antics, and started towards the tree at a faster pace.

"Great, me too!"

Moon didn't notice that the berry pile was moving until it was too late. She stuck her hand out and grabbed the nearest berry, a bright blue oran berry that looked like it would taste delicious. Unfortunately for Moon, the oran berry grabbed back.

"Hey!" Moon shouted, throwing herself away from the berry pile and dragging a Pokémon along with her. "Ow ow ow! Let go! Brionne, use water gun!"

"Brionne!" Brionne exclaimed, using the move on the Pokémon that was attacked Moon. The blast of water succeeded in getting the Pokémon to let go of Moon's wrist, but it also drenched Moon.

"Brawler! Crab, crab brawler brawler!" The Pokémon chattered angrily, waving its large blue claws at Moon angrily. When Moon only stared at it, the Pokémon grew even more incensed. It heaved its large purple body around, scuttled over to its mound of berries and surveyed the selection it had before it. Choosing a thick-skinned pinap berry, the Pokémon thrust the berry towards Moon. When Moon didn't immediately move to exchange her oran berry for the pinap berry, the Pokémon let out a frustrated cry and threw the berry—hard­—at Moon's head.

"Hey!" Moon shouted, standing up in indignation. "If that's how you want it—Brionne, use disarming voice!"

The attack wasn't very powerful, Brionne appearing to hesitate over attacking the Pokémon that was only trying to defend its food. But the Pokémon took the hit, and started stumbling around dazedly.

Moon took the moment to take out her pokedex.

"Crabrawler," the 'dex read out cheerfully. "The Boxing Pokémon. While guarding its weak points with its pincers, it looks for an opening and unleashes punches. It punches so much, its pincers often come off from overuse, but they grow back quickly. What little meat they contain is rich and delicious. When it loses, it foams at the mouth and faints."

"Crabrawler," Moon tested. Her lips thinned—she would capture this Pokémon, she decided. But first, she would apologize.

Moon knelt down, holding out the oran berry in supplication. The Crabrawler eyed Moon's offering, took a few steps forward and snatched the berry from her hand. After a moment, it scuttled over to its pile of berries, sorted through them for a moment, and then returned with a pecha berry. Moon took it gratefully, tore it in half and gave half to Brionne. Sitting back, she crossed her legs and watched the Crabrawler as it shuffled around, rearranging its berries to its liking.

After she finished, Moon wiped her sticky hands on her shorts. Brionne was rolling around, playfully snatching berries to topple the pile that Crabrawler was making only to hide the berry behind its back. Crabrawler seemed to catch on to what the water-type was doing, and kept one eye on it. The other eye was focused on carefully rebuilding the pile.

"Hey, Crabrawler," Moon hedged. "Would you like to join my team?"

Crabrawler turned both of its eyes on her, eyeing her with curiosity. It shuffled closer, looked between Brionne and Moon. Nodding sharply, it moved a couple of steps away, turned back and moved into a battle position.

Moon grinned.

"All right Brionne, let's give it all we got! Use pound!"

Brionne got in close and moved to use pound on Crabrawler, but the other Pokémon was quicker and used its pincers to attack in a quick succession of punches. Brionne cried out and fell backwards, but was quick to get up again.

"Water gun, Brionne!" Brionne moved to use water gun, but Crabrawler was faster yet. It dodge the move, rushing in close to deliver a quick attack, then moved back before Brionne could retaliate.

"Okay Brionne, let's try disarming voice!"

The attack finally hit, and Crabrawler was left dazed and stumbling. Moon grabbed a pokéball, but she didn't throw it yet. Instead she called out another water gun while Crabrawler was too slow to react. The attack knocked Crabrawler back a few steps, and Moon took the chance—she threw her pokéball, watched as it arced through the air and landed on Crabrawler's head. In a flash, the Pokémon was sucked into the pokéball.

It shook once.

Twice.

A third time.

Moon bit her nails, waiting for it to burst open—but then, after the fourth shake, the ball gave a bright click and stopped moving.

Letting out a happy shout, Moon rushed over to snatch up the ball. "Yes!" She cried, triumphantly holding up the ball. "We caught a Crabrawler!"

 


 

Guzma frowned.

He'd rummaged through every single nook and cranny of the mansion's kitchen three times, but couldn't find his powdered Tapu Cocoa.

If it was one of the grunts, there would have to be punishment.

If it was Plumeria—well, Plumeria didn't like Tapu Cocoa.

Guzma wouldn't put it past Gladion to throw the powdered gold away in a fit of anger and spite. But when he found a mug with the telltale line of wet cocoa powder around the rim, he knew it couldn't have been Guzma.

"Q!" Guzma shouted. "Emmy! A-through-L! Get your asses in the kitchen!" Those three were the only grunts Guzma knew were at the mansion. Shortly, Guzma found himself facing the little hoodlums.

Guzma held up the used mug, staring down each grunt individually, looking for any hint of remorse or guilt.

Q, with her massive blue eyes, stared up at him without a single guilt emotion. She clearly had no idea what was going on.

Emmy was the same, her pink eyes wide, hands clasped behind her back as she waited for the Boss's verdict. She clearly knew something, but Guzma didn't think she was the culprit. Emmy was severely allergic to soy—one of the reasons Guzma kept the cocoa on the top shelf, so that it wouldn't accidently come into contact with whatever Emmy was eating—and therefore couldn't touch the soy-based chocolate product.

But A-through-L…

"You lil' shit," Guzma breathed, shaking his head. "My grunts. One of my own grunts."

"You don't understand!" The grunt pleaded, nervously adjusting her hat. "It—it was necessary."

Guzma wasn't listening. "Didn't even have the decency to replace the package. My own grunt."

"Boss, cut 'er some slack," Emmy piped up, taking a step forward and then quickly taking a step back when Guzma's attention turned towards her. She squeaked, but held her ground and tried to explain on behalf of her friend. "Ya see, Plums usually has her stash of chocolate for, uh, well, the monthly needs of—"

"Nevermind!" Guzma interrupted, uninterested in hearing the rest of the explanation. He'd heard enough—and it made sense. Plumeria wasn't around, and Guzma had lived around these girls for long enough to know that when they needed chocolate, they needed chocolate. "Whatever! Forget it! But if I catch you near my Tapu Cocoa again…" Guzma trailed off, letting the grunt mentally finish the sentence. Whatever she came up with made her skin drain of color. Nodding vigorously, A-through-L took her friends' hands and ran out of the kitchen.

"Worthless…" Guzma muttered to himself. Well, there was no way around it. Only one place carried the right kind of Tapu Cocoa mix for at-home consumption, which meant that Guzma had one more stop to make before he went to see Aether's queen.

"Melemele, ya boi's headed home."

 


 

Plumeria fucking hated this.

She hated asking for help. She didn't need any help—she was perfectly fine on her own.

But damn it, those rotten little kids needed help. And she was their Big Sis Plumeria, and she'd be damned if she let them go hungry, or went cheap on the toilet paper, or let X continue wearing his ill-fitting Binders.

Even though she didn't need any help, her stupid little siblings did. And if Plumeria couldn't grovel for them, then who the hell was going to them?

No one. That's why they joined Team Skull—they had nowhere else to go, had no one else to take care of them, no one who deserved to call them family.

So Plumeria put on her big girl panties, strode up to Nanu's door, and let herself in.

 


 

When Moon finally made her way past Route 3, she and her Pokémon were exhausted. It had taken her the better part of four hours for her to search every nook and cranny for Lillie. The journey had been made longer by the sheer number of bird Pokémon that would drop down on her and wouldn't let her pass unless she battled them. It had been good bonding and practice for her and Crabrawler, but it made the whole endeavor more exhausting.

Not only that, but the route was very steep and very dusty. Moon was certain that she was caked in dirt. The sun and the steep incline caused her to sweat, and her footsteps kicked up so much dust that it was impossible to not get covered in the stuff. She felt itchy all over, dirty, and gross.

Itchy, dirty, gross, and lonely. She'd drawn Brionne and Crabrawler back into their pokéballs—Brionne was a water-type and would have quickly gotten dehydrated under the heat and exhaustion, and Crabrawler didn't have the traction necessary to keep up on the steep trek. So, Moon was left to make the journey entertaining herself.

Finally though, she arrived at the entrance to Melemele Meadow. She could see Professor Kukui at the far end of the trail, hands on his hips, looking left and right for Lillie. Moon waved at him, then turned to enter the meadow.

Strangely enough, the entrance to the meadow was through a tunnel. Moon tread lightly, wary of the darkness of the tunnel. It was a quick walk, and Moon came out the other side soon enough. The meadow was surprisingly light, despite the twilight, and it appeared massive. Everything was covered in puffy yellow flowers. From the outcroppings of rocks to the high stone walls, the meadow was blanketed in yellow. Here and there Moon could see bright yellow Pokémon with pompoms for hands dancing in the dimming light.

And there, a couple feet ahead, was Lillie.

"Nebby!" She yelled. "Nebby, come back!"

Moon hurried towards the nervous Lillie. Lillie turned around when she heard the footsteps, and a look of relief passed over her features when she saw it was Moon.

"Ah, Moon!" Lillie exclaimed. Her jade eyes were wide with worry. "Nebby ran off into the meadow here…" She trailed off, turning around again to point to where Nebby was—about a hundred feet away and fifty feet up. "And right after it got into so much trouble at the bridge too…" Lillie definitely sounded disappointed in Cosmog. But her forehead was pinched, and she kept anxiously glancing between Moon and Nebby.

"What if a wild Pokémon attacks it? It doesn't have any moves it can use in battle!"

"Don't worry, Lillie," Moon assured. "I'll go get Nebby and make sure it gets back to you safe."

"Thank you, Moon," Lillie replied, a quiver in her tone.

Moon strode a few feet forward, eyeing the meadow and the path she would need to take to make it to Nebby. Of course it had to be near the very top…

It was another steep climb, but it wasn't long before Moon was cradling Nebby in her arms and carrying it back down to Lillie.

"Nebby, into the bag please." Lillie spoke with a sigh.

"Pew?" Nebby questioned as it floated back into the bag, not understanding why it was in trouble.

"Professor Kukui is a little ways away from the enterance," Moon informed Lillie. "I'll meet you guys back at Iki town, okay? I want to stay here a while."

Lillie frowned. "Are you sure that's safe, Moon? I'd feel better if we were all walking together…plus you don't know how to get back to Iki town alone, do you?"

"I'll figure it out. I've got a Crabrawler now, and Popplio evolved into Brionne! I'll be safe for a couple more hours."

Lillie was still hesitant. "I really think that we should find Professor Kukui together. It's what he would want, and it really is the safest option." She glanced around, wary. "You never know what could be out there…lurking. If you need some alone time, I can just wait over there."

"If it makes you feel better," Moon finally agreed. "I just…need a moment."

Lillie smiled warmly. "No problem. Just come get me when you're ready, okay?"

 


 

Stray yellow petals danced in the light breeze, whirling alongside the pale yellow dancing Oricorio. Moon drew in a deep breath and took a seat on a nearby rock. Now that she had found Lillie and Nebby, she should probably call Professor Kukui to let him know that they were together. But she found herself sliding off the rock and into the flowers, found her eyes drifting closed of their own volition. Moon breathed in the heavy floral scent, her body sighing into a comfortable position against the rock.

Popplio-turned-Brionne and now Crabrawler. Mimikyu too, though Moon didn't really count the baby Pokémon since it wasn't up to battling yet, and anyways, it was just sticking with Moon until she could return it to its family. Slowly but surely, Moon was building up her team.

When Moon was younger and living with her father, she would sometimes wake up early in the morning, before even her dad got up to start his work, and she would watch the news. While the anchors remarked over the small resurgence of Team Rocket in some secluded areas of Kanto, or discussed the drop in honey prices after a group of Weedle was saved from smugglers, there was a special, tiny blue line of text that moved across the bottom of the screen. It was for Pokémon trainers and their families; when a trainer logged their pokedex into a Pokémon center, it would record their stats to be broadcasted across the region.

Moon pictured how hers would look.

ID: 03090; Pokémon: Brionne, Crabrawler, Mimikyu; Trials Completed: Verdant Cavern; Last logged in: Route 2 Pokecenter.

She imagined her father. Brunet with a receding hairline. Warm hazel eyes, paunchy stomach but strong arms—she imagined him folding his arms the way he always would when he was worried. She imagined those worried hazel eyes scanning the bottom of the screen, searching for the trainer ID that he had memorized. She could picture the relief on his face as he spotted her ID and his shoulders relaxed. Saw her last check-in date, smiled proudly when he saw that she'd earned two more badges since she'd last checked in. She could almost hear his sigh as he thought about how far she had yet to go.

Moon still had far to go.

So far to go.

So she better get going.

Standing, Moon popped up from behind the rock and started to check her surroundings for Lillie—but was startled by the terrified shriek that came from a couple of feet behind her.

Moon spun around and barely had time to register an imposing, hunched figure with a shock of fluffy white hair before the ridiculously tall man gathered his composure and started reprimanding her.

"What th' hell? What d'ya think yer doin' just poppin' up in th' middle of nowhere hidin' behind a Tapu-damned small-ass fuckin' rock outta the blue, huh? D'you think yer cool, goin' and scarin' the livin daylights outta—" The man cut himself off, perhaps registering Moon's look of sheer terror. Running a hand through his fluffy hair, the stranger took a hesitant step back, holding his hand out in apology. "Shit, yer just a kid. Look—ah—oh shit, damn, no don't cry, Fuck!"

It was too late. Big Totodile tears had formed at the corners of Moon's eyes, the result of being yelled at by a scary stranger after already being in a fragile emotional state thanks to her thoughts of her father. The tears started running down her cheeks as the stranger began cursing six ways to Sunday. He crossed the distance that separated them in two strides. Putting his hands on her shoulders, he quickly pulled Moon to his chest. His hands drifted down to her back, here he started patting her soothingly, as if she was a child to be soothed.

"Look, look," the man said gently, calmly. Moon sniffed. "I'm sorry for scarin' ya, I jus' wasn' expectin' to see anyone out her, 'specially not some tiny kid who fuckin'—sorry, freakin' disappears behind a small ass— a small rock. I mean shi—damn—er, dang…I thought I was alone."

The stranger was still patting Moon's back like she was a baby. When she finally stopped sniveling, the man took a step back, peered down at her, and gave a wry grin.

"There ya go. Hey, what's your name kid?"

"It's Moon, and I'm not a kid." Moon rubbed the tears out of her eyes, indignant.

"Well, the name's Guzma, Moon-and-I'm-not-a-kid."

Moon pursed her lips in annoyance, causing Guzma to chuckle. After a moment, his eyebrows drew together. "Hey, though, are ya gonna be okay?"

Moon nodded. "Yeah. I didn't meant to cry. I was just—I was just thinking about my dad."

Guzma's whole countenance changed. He straightened a bit, his eyes growing softer though his body thrummed with an undercurrent of anger. His mouth tightened into a thin line, and he reached out to put a hand on Moon's shoulder. "He mean to you?" Guzma demanded, his voice soft but firm. "He hurt you?"

"He's dead," Moon replied bluntly.

Guzma's shoulders drew even higher. "You alone then? You need a place to sleep, need a family? See my team, we take in kids who need families. Families that won't hurt 'em. Me and Plums, we take in kids who need help. And we're always takin' new members."

Moon could imagine it. She could picture joining Guzma's team—whatever that meant, 'team' instead of group or home or what have you. She could picture having a big family that was made up of choice and not blood. A family that wouldn't reluctantly come in out of the blue to rejoin her life, a family that wouldn't leave her in the first place. She considered it—if only for a second, she considered it.

"That sounds really nice," Moon agreed. Her voice barely above a whisper. "But I'm taking my island challenge. I'm going to defeat all the Kahuna's, and I'm going to make his memory proud."

"Well," Guzma replied, his voice sounding more understanding than disappointed. "You ever need a family, you can count on mine. And hey, if the island challenge don't work out, you come find me, got it?"

Moon nodded, and Guzma ruffled her hair.

"Good kid," he chuckled. "Hey, as an apology for makin' ya cry, you can take this." Guzma fished around in his pocket, drawing out a light green pokéball with four red teardrops and a golden circle forming a half-arc around the release. He dropped it into Moon's outstretched palm, saying "I caught this one rummaging around our trash. Figured it needed a home—it's not really my type, though, so I was gonna give it to one of the kids. But…well, I think you'll like it. See ya around, champion."

Moon looked at the pokéball in her hand, smiling a bit. Looking around, she thumbed the release, sending out the new Pokémon in a burst of green light.

 

Chapter Text

Moon’s New Pokémon


 

"Vulpix, the fox Pokémon," Moon's pokedex reads as Moon, Lillie, and Professor Kukui crowd around the fluffy white Pokémon. "It exhales air colder than -58 degrees Fahrenheit. In hot weather, this Pokémon makes ice shards with its six tails and sprays them around to cool itself off. Elderly people in Alola call this Pokémon by an older name—Keokeo."

"Keokeo, meaning spotless, white, yeah," Professor Kukui informed. "Who did you say gave this Pokémon to you?"

"Just someone who happened to sneak up on me back in Melemele Meadow," Moon responded, stretching her hand out to let the tiny white Vulpix sniff. Vulpix nuzzled Moon's hand a bit, then delicately turned its nose away, ignoring Moon. It looked a lot skinnier than the picture the Pokedex had shown of an Alolan Vulpix, which made sense considering where Guzma had found it—rummaging around in trash. Moon wondered if this was another Pokémon that had been abandoned by its trainer, or if it was just a poor Pokémon that had lost its way.

"Well you're a lucky girl, cousin. Alolan Vulpix are pretty rare, and don't typically like hanging around trainers. It might take a bit of time before this one gets used to you, yeah," the Professor said, hands on his hips as he eyed Vulpix. Vulpix was having none of this show-and-tell time—it huffed a breath of icy air and nudged the pokéball in Moon's hand, poking at the release until it went back into its pokéball.

"Four Pokémon before your first trial," Lillie murmured, tugging the edges of her hat.

"Hala won't know what's coming to him, yeah!" Professor Kukui exclaimed with an excited air. "I can't wait to see what kinds of moves you and your Pokémon choose! Now, why don't you two head back home and get some rest before your grand trial? I'll go back to Verdant Cavern, catch up with Hau and let Ilima know we found you, Lillie."

"Sounds great, professor. Lillie?"

Lillie nodded.

 Moon slid the pokéball into her back, where it sat between Brionne and Mimikyu's pokéballs. Four Pokémon. It was a lot to take in. Crabrawler was the only one she had really caught for herself. Brionne was her first, raised from a Popplio. Mimikyu was just a baby, and was only sticking with Moon until they could find it's family. And now Vulpix, gifted to Moon by a stranger. Moon wondered what her father would think.

She didn't have to wonder what her mother would think—she would find out soon enough.

 


 

Lillie hummed in thought, pinching her mouth to the side as she studied Nebby. The little Cosmog was staring back at her with its sincere golden eyes, mouth pinched into a small, questioning circle.

"Pew?" Nebby questioned, bringing its indigo clouds up near Lillie's face. Lillie sighed, laying back against the floor of the loft.

"I wonder…if mother is different. I wonder if she has changed. Maybe…maybe my leaving snapped her out of…out of whatever has taken over her?"

Nebby floated in close, resting its body on Lillie's chest as it peered at her curiously.

Lillie frowned, tears beading at the corners if her eyes.

"I doubt it," she whispered, anger coloring her tone. "She…she probably hasn’t even noticed that I'm gone. She is probably glad that I'm no longer around, that she doesn't have to divest any of her precious attention…"

"Pew…" Nebby snuggled in even closer, lending what little warmth that its small nebulous body possessed.

“Anyways, we both know that Wicke would tell me if Mother seemed to have gotten any better…” Lillie sighed, rolling over as she contemplated her next steps.

She would follow Hau and Moon on their island challenge, as long as they would have her. There was something about them; her friends behaved towards Pokémon in a way that Lillie had never seen. She’d grown up around Pokémon, yet she’d never seen such love and devotion reflected in both Pokémon and trainer before. She had been taught that Pokémon should be respected as the powerful creatures that they are, or used at the powerful tools that they were. Never had she seen such a clear and obvious bond between a trainer and their Pokémon, not like how Hau handled them. Never how Moon handled them.

Lillie wanted to see more of that. She wanted to see how her friends grow, and how their Pokémon grow along with them.

Lillie could smile, thinking of her friends. And thinking of her friends made her think of another—Gladion. She had no idea how he was, since he’d never bothered to write back to her. She knew where to send letters, but that was it—she wasn’t even allowed to tell Wicke where to send letters. Despite her hurt at her brother leaving her to face Mother alone, she still wished he would see her, hoped he was doing okay.

 She would write to him again, she decided. She had just written him, but now she had an idea. After Melemele’s trials, Hau and Moon would go to the next closest island—that was Akala. Maybe Gladion would agree to meet her if it was on neutral ground, and Lillie knew just the place they could meet.

 


 

Hau grabbed the pokéball that contained Litten, felt for the familiar warm release—but hesitated. Litten and Hau had been together for a while, knew each other better than Hau ever imagined that they would. He loved Litten—they were partners. But…but now Hau also had Pichu, and Pichu deserved a shot at having that close battle-bonded relationship with Hau that Litten had.

So, moving his hand over to the electric-type's pokéball, Hau called out Pichu.

"Let's go!" He whooped, drawing the attention of the massive Raticate that was hunched over a pile of food, inspecting it for quality. "Totem Raticate, I challenge you!"

Thud. Thud. Thud.

As the massive Pokémon turned around, nearly shaking the ground with its weight, Hau steeled himself and grinned. He was ready for this. Pichu was ready for this—they were a team, and they could overcome this trial.

"Ra-ti-cate!" The fat-cheeked Pokémon chittered angrily and growled at Hau.

"Let's give this our all! All right Pichu, use nuzzle!"

"Chu-pi!" Pichu exclaimed, and began rubbing its cheeks, generating a crackling electric current in its paws. Then it ran, taking that electricity and smacking Raticate with it. The attack hardly did any damage, but it achieved what Hau had wanted it to—Raticate was paralyzed, and a paralyzed Pokémon had trouble calling on its allies in battle.

Totem Raticate chittered angrily, swinging its massive body around with much greater speed than Hau expected from a paralyzed Pokémon. As a result of this turn, Raticate's thick beige tail swung around and hit Pichu, throwing the little Pokémon completely across the clearing to where a group of Rattata huddled, watching the battle with eager eyes.

"Rat-tat-taticate!" Totem Raticate cried, and right on cue a small Raticate broke from the hoard, advancing on Pichu to use scratch.

"We've got this Pichu—just focus on taking down that Raticate for now. Use tail whip then follow up with thunder shock!"

Pichu nodded, scampered closer to Raticate and turned around. It looked over its shoulder at the confused Raticate with big eyes as it thumped its tail cutely—then using the moment of confusion, Pichu gathered up its electricity in its paws and jumped at Raticate, jolting it with the stored electric power.

Raticate shook angrily, but couldn't move to attack because of its paralysis. Rattata had no problem moving in to attack Pichu.

"Pichu, behind you!" Hau shouted. Pichu whirled around, narrowly avoiding the bite that Rattata was about to surprise it with. "Nuzzle it while it's close!"

"Chu! Chu-pi!" Pichu nuzzled the Rattata, paralyzing it.

While Pichu was focused on Rattata, Raticate was on the move. Spinning around with more speed than a paralyzed Pokémon should possess, Raticate swung its tail around and hit Pichu, sending the small yellow Pokémon flying across the battlefield to Hau's feet.

"Pichu!" Hau exclaimed, kneeling and picking up Pichu. "Are you all right?"

"Chu..pi," Pichu looked up at Hau with half-closed eyes, dazed but okay.

"You did fantastic," Hau assured it. "Now it's Litten's turn. All right Litten, come on out!" Setting Pichu on his shoulder to rest, Hau threw out Litten's pokéball and readied himself to continue battling—all they needed to do to pull on through was to knock out two paralyzed Pokémon. 

"This is what we've been waiting for, Litten. Are you ready?"

Litten twined itself around Hau's calves, purring. Hau smiled, shifting his stance as Litten moved to the battlefield.

"Let’s start this with ember!"

The fully energized Litten leapt readily into attack mode, raising its bright red hackles and arching its back as it puffed out an ember the size of Hau's head. The ember hurtled towards Raticate, who could only watch with its beady brown eyes as the attack hit it square in the face.

"Don't let up, Litten! Hit it again with scratch, then follow up with an ember towards the Rattata!"

Litten followed the instructions to perfection; it zig-zagged over the moss so that neither opponents could land a hit on it, getting right up in Raticate's face and scratching it across one of its puffed-out cheeks. Without missing a beat, Litten spun and hit Rattata with ember, knocking it out when it was only inches away, having moved to attack Litten while Litten was scratching Raticate.

"Rat-ti-ti-cate!" The Raticate screeched in anger, face lifted towards the sky. But instead of attacking again, it turned tail and ran away.

Hau furrowed his brow. Why was it running away? He and Litten were just getting started!

From behind there came the sound of someone clapping with enthusiasm. Turning around, he saw that it was Ilima clapping, a wide, proud smile on their face.

Oh.

He beat the Raticate.

He beat the totem Pokémon.

He…he was one step closer to completing his island challenge!

 


 

"No. Nope. Sorry, Moon, not going to happen.”

Moon stared at her mother with wide eyes, surprised at the reaction she’d gotten. Her mother didn’t care whether or not Moon was around. She didn’t care about her daughter, who her daughter was growing to be. So where the hell was she getting the inclination to tell Moon that she wasn’t going to travel the Alolan islands to complete the island challenge?

“What do you mean, no?” Moon asked. She didn’t mean to sound like a spoiled teenager, though she knew that was probably what she came across as. But she was sincerely confused; what did this woman, this near stranger mean when she said no?

Her mother didn’t see this; she only saw the snooty teenager, and her eyes narrowed accordingly. “I mean, missy, that you’re not traipsing around these islands with Pokémon you’ve only just started to get to know, in region we just moved to! Not when I just—” but she cut herself off, half-turned away from Moon and took a deep breath. “You’re not going. Tell Professor Kukui thank you very much, but you’re going to give that amulet back, you’re going to pick one Pokémon to keep, and you’re staying here.”

Moon stared at her, mouth ajar. Where was all this coming from? Where had all this…maternal inclination been when Moon had wanted a mother? Now she was just getting in the way of proving that Pokémon weren’t scary, weren’t something to hide from. Now, when Moon has just gotten the chance to do something that she felt would make her father proud. When she has just gotten the chance to honor him.

“Battle me.” Moon said, barely loud enough to be heard.

Estelle faced Moon again, eyebrow raised in disbelief.

“Battle me,” Moon ordered, her voice strong and sure. Yes, she thought, we’ll settle this as trainers. “If I win, I go on my island challenge.” You don’t get to tell me what to do.

“We’re not doing this,” Estelle replied with a sigh. “I am your mother, Moon, and you need to listen to me when I tell you something. I allowed you to take part in the challenge on this island because I knew that these silly ideals would go away—so many trainers, Moon, never make it past their first gym battle. Very few make it to the championships, perhaps a dozen in a year. Less. I let you go on this adventure because your father never let you, but Moon, darling, chances are you’re not going to make it. I just want to save you from that hurt.”

It was a thoroughly impassioned speech, from one who had experienced the same disappointment.

Moon wasn’t listening.

“If you win, I’ll do whatever you want!” Moon implored. “Stay here, give up my Pokémon, whatever. I’ll do it without a single complaint.” But I’m not going to lose.

Estelle shook her head, knowing full well that Moon hadn’t heard a single word she’d said. “You wouldn’t win. I’ve had my Meowth with me since I was ten, Moon. We’re not going to lose against a new trainer who hasn’t even bonded to her Pokémon.”

Moon frowned at the jab, but straightened her spine and drew out Brionne’s pokéball. “One on one, mom, and let’s see who’s bonded with their Pokémon.”

“When you lose,” Estelle warned, “you give this up? You pick one, you stay here with me?”

Moon countered, “When I win, you let me go without a fight.”

Estelle nodded, her brown eyes serious and sad, body poised for a fight. “Deal.”

 


 

In the backyard, Moon knelt in front of Brionne, her visage encouraging.

“We need this, Brionne. If we want to keep our friends, if we want to get stronger, we need to beat her. We’re strong, she might be stronger.” Moon took a breath, closing her eyes for a moment. She tried not to think of failure. Opening her eyes, she met Brionne’s pink eyes and smiled. “We have to be better. We’re going to be better, Bri. I believe in us.”

Brionne nodded resolutely. It believes in us too.

“All right,” Estelle called from across the lawn. Meowth was ready a couple paces in front of her, sharpening its claws lazily. “One on one battle, no substitutions. Once your Pokémon is unable to battle, the match is over.”

Moon nodded.

“Then go ahead, I’ll let you move first.”

Moon didn’t waste a single second thinking about the condescension in the offer. If she wanted to win, she couldn’t take a second to think.

“Brionne, use water gun!” Moon cried out. The long-distance move was a perfect one to get the battle going.

Brionne zipped forward on its flippers and shot out a quick blast of water, quick enough to douse Meowth before it leapt away.

“Tail whip, Meowth!” Estelle ordered.

Meowth turned around, then looked over its shoulder at Brionne, whipping its tail around in a helpless manner. Brionne paused, confused at the docile display.

“Now scratch!”

The scratch hit Brionne hard, and both Pokémon and trainer cried out.

They were quick to rebound though, with Moon calling out for disarming voice. The pink soundwaves hit Meowth, causing the beige cat Pokémon to try and cover its ears with its paws, inadvertently deafening itself to the sound of its trainer calling out for it to use payday.

“Keep it up Brionne!” Moon shouted as Meowth fell to all fours.

“It’s okay Meowth!” Estelle shouted, showing the first sign of compassion that Moon had ever seen from her. “Use payday!”

Meowth growled, swiping the golden coin on its forehead, then throwing the coins that formed at Brionne. Three stacks of coins hit Brionne before Moon called out for her Pokémon to start dodging the fast-thrown piles.

“Disarming voice again, then get in close to use pound!”

“Meowth, dodge that and keep using Payday!”

The two Pokémon darted around the backyard, each trying to hit the other while simultaneously dodging the attacks thrown their way. It wasn’t conducive to actually battling, that was certain, they were too equally matched in speed. Moon frowned, looking around the backyard for something she could use to her advantage.

She felt like an idiot when she saw the glaringly obvious option—the tree right in the middle of the backyard.

“Brionne, to the tree!” Moon called out. Brionne darted away from Meowth and ducked around the tree.

“Rookie mistake,” Estelle said with a smile. “Meowth, use scratch on the tree branches above Brionne!”

“Brionne, use disarming voice!”

While Meowth was in the air, halfway to breaking the branches of the tree over Brionne, Brionne flipped onto its back and used Disarming Voice up at Meowth—Meowth yowled, pushing its ears down against its head instead of using scratch on the branches like Estelle had wanted it to. It fell fast to the ground, where Brionne was ready with a pound attack.

“Rookie mistake,” Moon said, smiling with malice. “Now Brionne, let’s finish this with—”

“Brionne!” Brionne looked towards Moon—the same look it’d given her when it was about to try out Disarming Voice.

Moon bit her lip—but she trusted her partner. She nodded her assent.

Brionne barked happily, spinning in a circle. It kept spinning, until a swirling watery vortex surrounded it. Still surrounded by the water, Brionne sped forward, faster now that it was surrounded by its element. It sped right towards Meowth, then tackled the opposing Pokémon in a crash of water and flippers.

Sliding away on the remaining tide of water, Brionne left a fainted Meowth in its wake.

“Brionne!” Moon shouted, running onto the battlefield to embrace Brionne. Brionne met her halfway and leapt into her arms. Though it was much heavier than it was as a Popplio, Moon caught Brionne with ease, and only grunted a little with the effort. “We did it, Brionne!”

“Bri, Brionne!”

Moon let out a whoop, settling Brionne in her arms. Turning back to her mother, she saw that she was kneeling next to Meowth, a defeated expression on her face.

“I guess we’re a little out of practice,” Estelle admitted, stroking Meowth’s face. “You did well, Meowth. Let’s get you back to your bed.” Scooping up the small Pokémon, Estelle didn’t even glance at Moon as she took Meowth back inside.

Despite the sad display, Moon’s victory only tasted sweet.

 


 

Moon. Psst. Moon!

Moon jolted to the alert, sitting up on her bed and pushing off the three Pokémon clinging to her. Brionne slept on her legs, Mimikyu underneath the covers between her stomach and outstretched arm, and Crabrawler curled up on the warmth of her stomach. With their combined heat, and the ambient heat of Alola, Moon hadn’t even needed a blanket.

It might have been more comfortable if Vulpix had wanted anything to do with the team bonding. But every time Moon had tried to engage the frosty ice-type, it had turned its nose up and tried to return to the pokéball. The only thing Moon could do to get it to stay out of its pokéball for more than a few minutes was feed it.

Bleary-eyed, Moon picked up the sniffling Mimikyu, cuddled it to her chest and stared at the dark face hovering in her window for what felt like several minutes, before her brained registered Hau.

“What? Hau?” Moon glanced at her illuminated clock. “It’s not even four in the morning, what are you doing up so early?”

Hau grinned. “Come out, cuz. You keep sleeping in, you’ll never see one of Alola’s famous sunrises!”

“It’s a bit of a hike,” Lillie said, startling Moon as she popped up from right behind Hau. “You should put on some sturdy shoes.”

And so, Moon found herself hiking up one of Melemele’s peaks with Hau’s assurances that it was the best view on the island. It was a difficult hike as Lillie had promised—not just far, but steep too. Moon felt like she was climbing, rather than hiking. They were pushing through the jungle, following what Hau promised was a trail he knew like the back of his hand, and though the sun had yet to rise Moon was already sweating.

They climbed silently, none wanting to break the heavy stillness of the morning air. Hau led, with Moon pulling up the rear, and like this they made their way up the trail, past Iki town, near Melemele Meadow but not quite. It took them almost an hour and a half to reach the spot, and when they finally did, the first orange rays of sun were spilling across the sea.

It took Moon’s breath away.

She could still see stars in the sky, yet spread before her was an endless sea, nothing in sight except for the calm blue waters, which were slowly being stained with orange.

She felt like she was home, watching the sunrise with her friends on either side of her.

They watched the sunrise in quiet, watched as the orange turned into red, then golden pink, and finally started to fade into blue. When the sun had fully risen, they finally spoke.

“I’m excited to discover new peaks with you guys at my side,” Hau whispered sincerely, wrapping his arm around Moon’s shoulders.

“I can’t wait to see a hundred different sunrises from all across Alola,” Lillie whispered, wrapping her arm around Moon’s waist.

Moon didn’t take her eyes of the gorgeous sunrise. Wrapping one arm around Hau’s waist and one around Lillie’s, she whispered “I’m so happy I came here to discover this region, and to meet you guys, and my Pokémon.”

 


 

Instead of heading back home only to walk back to Iki town a few hours later, Moon and Lillie went with Hau to his house, so that they were ready and fresh-faced for Hala’s grand trial.

Lillie found a place in Hau’s sleeping bag on the ground, while Hau and Moon crowded in Hau’s bed. While Lillie passed out as soon as her head touched her pillow, Hau and Moon were lying awake, each staring at the ceiling, thoughts swirling.

“I’m nervous, Moon,” Hau whispered, conscious of Lillie sleeping soundly. “Tutu is strong, we won’t easily beat him.”

“How did your trial with Ilima go?” Moon realized that she’d not yet asked.

“Me, Pichu, and Litten did fantastic! Raticate didn’t stand a chance!”

“Wait, Raticate? You mean you didn’t battle Gumshoos?”

“Gumshoos?” Hau said loudly—Lillie snorted, causing both Hau and Moon to still. In a quieter voice, Hau repeated. “Gumshoos? What would a Gumshoos be doing around all those Rattata?”

“Well, it was bothering them was what it was doing!” Moon responded, thinking back on her trial. She had thought it was a crafted scenario, once she really got to think about it. What better way to incite a trainer to battle, and to see if the trainer cared enough to help out than to make up such a scenario? “Ilima told me there was a disturbance and asked me to investigate it. Then I found the Gumshoos and a hoard of Yungoos attacking the Raticate and a bunch of Rattata. They didn’t do that with you?”

Moon felt more than saw Hau shaking his head. “Naw, Ilima just asked me if I was ready, then said my challenge would find me.”

Moon frowned. The situation was curious; why would Ilima have Moon do one thing and Hau do another?

“I know Ilima a bit more, what with Tutu being the island Kahuna and all. They’d do something like that, send a trail goer to help the Pokémon of Verdant Cavern get along, if they thought you were up for it, and if there was a need.”

“Hm.” Moon hummed, thinking it over. “Well, anyways, it sounds like you did really well on your trial!”

Moon could hear the smile in Hau’s voice as he replied. “Yeah, me and my Pokémon were really in sync.”

“Well, you’re going to be just as in sync tomorrow. I know it, Hau. You can do this.”

For a while, Hau didn’t respond. Moon waited for him to say something—she knew he wasn’t asleep—but he remained silent.

Moon was about to reiterate her encouraging words, when Hau spoke.

“But he’s…Tutu. He’s the best. And he isn’t gonna go easy just ‘cause I’m his grandkid.”

“Of course he’s not,” Moon agreed. “But you won’t need him to go easy on you.”

Underneath the blanket that covered them both, Hau’s hand found Moon’s. She squeezed it, and like that, they fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Hala's Grand Trial

 


 

Moon, Lillie, and Hau met Professor Kukui on the steps leading into Iki town. Moon was petting the sleeping Mimikyu she held in her arms, Hau was bouncing on his feet, and Lillie nervously tugged at the brim of her hat. In contrast, the professor looked as cool as a cucumber as he surveyed the three teens that stood before him.

“I’m lookin’ forward to seeing what moves you and your Pokémon will pour your soul into, now that you kids have gone and cleared your first trial!”

Lillie moved to stand beside the professor, looking between Hau and Moon with a faint redness to her cheeks. “It’s true,” she said. “I’m not a trainer, so I’m sure I don’t really understand how hard it must have been…but even I think it’s a great achievement.”

“Pew!” Nebby agreed, wiggling the duffel bag Lillie kept it in. Lillie patted the bag reassuringly.

“The Melemele kahuna is strong, cousin,” Kukui said to Moon, turning towards her so she got the full effect of his words. “He’s a trainer who can use fighting-type Pokémon to the fullest, yeah. Might not be a bad idea to work on those flying- and psychic-type moves.”

“We’re ready,” Moon replied, pulling Mimikyu in closer. She turned to Hau, who’d increased in the frequency of his bounces. “Are you sure you don’t want to face him first?”

Hau smiled, shaking his head. “Nah, you’ve got this one Moon!”

“Okay,” Moon said, taking a long inhale. She passed the dozing Mimikyu off to Hau, who accepted it readily. Mimikyu hardly stirred at the shift. Turning away, she moved past Lillie and the professor. With shaking limbs, she climbed the steps into Iki town, immediately spotting the Hala’s bright yellow robe.

“We can do this,” Moon muttered to herself. Clenching her fists, she strode forward, stopping only a few feet short of Hala.

“Congratulations on completing your Verdant Cavern trial,” Hala said as he turned around. There was a proud tilt to his eyes, though his smile was hidden underneath his thick grey mustache. “I suppose you are here to battle the kahuna? You think you and Brionne are ready for me, Moon?”

Moon grinned, fierce and ready, clutching her shorts to steady her shaking hands. “Definitely.”

Letting out a bark of laughter, Hala clapped his hands and smiled at Moon with pure joy. “I have been waiting for this!” He exclaimed.

Turning, he led the way back to the raised platform at the center of the town, the same place where Moon had received Brionne back when it had been a little Popplio. The procession was silent and electric, anticipation jolting through the air on waves of nervousness and hope. Moon’s gut turned in her stomach, but she could not let herself dwell on it. If she dwelled on the anxiety instead of the hope, there was no way she would win against Hala. If she let herself be anything except ready, she had no chance.

They faced each other on the platform and waited as Lillie, Hau(who held Mimikyu in his arms), the professor, and dozens of other interested townspeople gathered around to watch the grand trial go down. Moon rubbed Brionne’s pokéball, ready to call it out and begin the battle.

With his hands on his thighs, Hala lifted his back leg and stomped it down on the wooden platform, moved his arms and took a fighting stance, grin barely visible beneath his mustache.

“Allow me to properly greet the young adventurers embarking on their island challenge. I am Hala, the kahuna of Melemele Island! Shall we begin? Old Hala here will be going all out! Let the grand trial begin!”

Taking this as her cue, Moon called out Brionne with a warrior’s cry. Hala, too, selected a pokéball from his pocket and called out Mankey.

“Mankey!” Moon exclaimed, recognizing the Pokémon from the early morning trainer’s feed. Pulling out her pokedex, she eagerly listened to the Alolan description of the Pokémon.

“Mankey, the pig monkey Pokémon. It can become spontaneously enraged. Its raging tires it out, but the anger resonating in its dreams causes it to wake up—which infuriates it all over again. Everyone near it clears out as it rampages, and the resulting loneliness makes it angrier still.”

Moon looked from her ‘dex to the little Pokémon bouncing before her on its two front toes, lively and eager to battle, and tried to reconcile what she saw with what she heard.

“That can’t be true,” Moon said. “Mankey looks so happy to be here, with you?”

Hala nodded sagely. “A Mankey’s happiness greatly depends on how well its trainer treats it. Mankey here is one of the lucky ones—a bit spoiled, I’d say. Not all Mankey, especially the wild ones, lead such an enjoyable existence.”

Hala’s Mankey snorted, bouncing back and forth on its feet. Moon had to admit, it looked a lot happier than the pokedex indicated it should be. How could my father ever thing people and Pokémon weren’t made for each other? How could he be so frightened of such an amazing, beautiful bond? Moon wondered. It was so clear to her; Mankey would have been doomed to such an awful, enraged life if it hadn’t been for Hala catching it and giving it a good home, a god trainer.

“Are you ready?” Hala called across the platform.

Moon brought her head back to the present and looked down at Brionne. “We’re ready!”

“Mankey, use leer!”

“Brionne, use disarming voice!”

Disarming voice reached Mankey before Brionne registered its’ leer. The attack knocked Mankey right off its’ toes, and it skidded back to Hala’s feet—knocked out in one hit.

Hala looked down at the passed out Mankey, eyes wide. The platform was still, silent, and everyone gathered around looked on it absolute shock.

The spell was only broken when Brionne barked out cheerfully, turning around and sliding on an aqua jet right into Moon, nearly knocking her over.

“Great job, Brionne!” Moon exclaimed. “That was incredible!”

“Incredible,” Hala echoed. “Mankey, return!” With closed eyes, Hala pressed Mankey’s pokéball to his forehead, murmured a few words, and replaced it with a second pokéball.

“You won’t find my second Pokémon so easy to defeat,” Hala said. “Makuhita, come out!”

In a burst of light, Makuhita was released from its pokéball. The bulky Pokémon feinted at the air, readying itself for battle.

“Aqua jet, Brionne!” Moon called out, and Brionne used the wave of water it was still riding to sail by Makuhita, prepared to strike.

“Makuhita, fake out!” Hala shouted. Makuhita was quick to act, using the first that was already in motion to stop Brionne in its tracks. It’s black fist flew out so quickly, it seemed to come out of nowhere, striking Brionne right on its ruffled chest.

Brionne tucked its head in as it was knocked back a couple of feet, but once it skidded to a stop, it was ready to go.

“Try that again, Brionne!”

“Makuhita, arm thrust!”

Makuhita set itself into a sturdy stance as Brionne rode a wave towards it, and the two attacks clashed; Makuhita thrust its first up to Brionne’s jaw, and Brionne smacked right into Makuhita. The move hardly caused Makuhita to budge—instead, the fighting-type Pokémon shifted its weight forward and used its other arm to smack Brionne again. Before Brionne could move, Makuhita had hit it twice more.

Looking worse for wear, Brionne sped back towards Moon.

“You got this?” Moon questioned. Brionne turned towards Moon, blinked its pink eyes and smiled. “All right, use disarming voice!”

“Dodge it, Makuhita!” With more speed than such a bulky Pokémon should possess, Makuhita jumped to the right and dodged the move at the last minute. “Now use sand attack!”

Makuhita kicked up a cloud of sand into Brionne’s eyes, and Brionne cried out in alarm.

“Brionne!” Moon cried, taking a half step forward.

“Bri, Brionne!” Brionne whined, stumbling in confusion as it tried to blink away the sand.

“Come back, Brionne!” Moon called Brionne back to its pokéball. “Vulpix, come on out!”

 


 

“Null, use pursuit!” Type: Null zig-zagged across the tall grass, then swiped at the Zubat that was about to attack. Gladion threw a pokéball at the Zubat, then waited with bated breath as the ball shook once, twice, and then clicked—he’d caught the Zubat.

“Great job, Null,” Gladion said, walking over to scratch Null between the shoulder blades, nearly nicking himself on the blade of Null’s helmet.

Gladion called Null back into its pokéball and walked over to pick up his newly caught Pokémon.

“Hey Gladbag, our trip to steal the Totem Pokémon is going to have to wait a while longer.”

Gladion turned around to see CC sauntering close.

“Why?” Gladion demanded.

“M got sick, and there’s not a grunt to spare who’s willing to deal with you for an entire mission, edgelord.”

Gladion frowned, and turned away so that CC couldn’t see his frustration. “Find someone else, CC. There’s bound to be someone who wants to impress the boss.”

CC snorted. “Not worth it. Besides, M’s gonna be fine. It’ll just be a few days.” CC laughed. “You’ll need the extra time if you want that stupid Zubat to be up for battle—Totem Wishiwashi won’t be going down without a fight.”

And with that final word, CC walked away, leaving Gladion alone to stew in his thoughts.

Another delay—would he ever make it to Akala? The entire mission felt like a setup to keep him from getting stronger, and what’s even more worrisome? It seemed like the Tapu were conspiring against him, to make sure that the time he was on the island lined up perfectly with the time Lillie had outlined in her letter.

 


 

“Makuhita, use arm thrust!”

As soon as Vulpix materialized onto the battlefield, Makuhita was there—but in a flash of white frost, Vulpix darted out of the way.

It had been a snap decision, choosing Vulpix over Crabrawler. She hadn’t used it in battle yet, or even really connected with it, but she was willing to give it a chance. Maybe in the heat of battle was when they would connect? To make things easier, Moon whipped out her pokedex and set it to the battle feature—she’d need it to call out moves, since she didn’t know anything about what an Alolan Vulpix night learn. She was at least certain that it wouldn’t know ember.

“All right Vulpix, we’ve got this!” Moon called out in encouragement.

Vulpix wasn’t even listening—as soon as it had dodged the attack, the fluffy white Pokémon had curled up with its feet underneath it and started to take a nap.

Moon stared on in astonishment—how could a Pokémon fall asleep in the heat of a battle?

“Vul—Vulpix, use—uh, use ember!”

While Hala laughed heartily, Vulpix opened one blue eye to look at Moon imperiously—imperiously! From the ground! Curled up in the middle of a battle!

“The wise trainer does not call out an untested Pokémon,” Hala said sagely after he’d overcome his laughter. “Especially when they do not know the moves it can use.”

Moon growled. “Vulpix use—use powder snow!” She shouted the first move her eyes landed on, but it had no effect. Vulpix closed its eye and kept sleeping, letting out a cute snore that Moon thought was meant entirely to mock her.

“Makuhita, use arm thrust!” Hala ordered confidently.

Makuhita moved close, but a split second before the attack could hit, Vulpix leapt from its position on the ground and used a move that was not powdered snow.

Vulpix feinted right, then swung its tail left and swiped at Makuhita in a feint attack. Makuhita bounced back at the last second, so the attack only glanced it. Despite the move being at a type disadvantage and only having scraped Makuhita, it was clear that it had knocked Makuhita back a bit. Vulpix was clearly a very powerful Pokémon—if only it would listen to Moon’s instructions!

“Interesting,” Hala said, stroking his mustache. “Though powerful, Vulpix will undoubtedly fail in battle if it does not have a strong enough trainer to guide it.”

Moon frowned. “I am strong. Vulpix just won’t listen!” Stomping her foot in frustration, Moon shouted out, “Vulpix, use powdered snow!”

And Vulpix did. For the first time, the small frosty Pokémon listened. It turned around right away and unleashed a breath of chilled air, and a flurry of snow whipped towards Moon.

“Makuhita, use arm thrust!” Hala ordered, taking the opportunity of Vulpix’s back being to it, and Moon incapacitated in a frigid flurry of snowflakes.

“Vul!” Vulpix cried, startled at the sudden onslaught of attacks from the incensed Makuhita. The attacks did minimal damage, and only served to enrage the Vulpix. “Vul…pix!” Vulpix unleashed an ice beam, knocking Makuhita back to Hala’s feet—and knocking it right out of battle.

“Makuhita, you did well. Return,” Hala

“V-v-vulp-pix, re-t-t-t-urn,” Moon said through her chattering teeth. She was blue in the face, upset, and embarrassed—this was to be a test of skill, her skill as a trainer. Instead, not only did Vulpix knock Makuhita out without Moon having to do anything, Vulpix had also nearly knocked Moon out!

“Crabrawler, go!” Both trainers shouted at once, and in a flash of white, two Crabrawler were facing each other on the battlefield.

Moon imagined it might be confusing, if she couldn’t quite clearly tell the difference between her Crabrawler and Hala’s. Moon’s was smaller, and its yellow belly was a much brighter, sunshine yellow, compared to the almost tan belly of Hala’s Crabrawler.

Before Moon could even think of calling out an attack, Hala was on the move. He pressed the Z-Crystal down on his ring, and an amber glow filled the area. It was glorious, awe-inspiring. Threads of burgundy and amber wrapped around Hala, around Crabrawler, igniting like a fuse. As the glowing started to dissipate, Hala started to move. Adjusting his stance, he slid one foot back and slowly started punching at the air, warming up until his fists looked blurred. Making out final punch, Hala gave a warrior’s cry, and all the amber light surrounded and enfolded his Crabrawler.

Hala’s Crabrawler moved at lightning speed towards Moon’s, moving its thick pinchers back and forth like bullet punches. It attacked Moon’s Crabrawler with a single-minded drive, punching Crabrawler straight into the ground like it was nothing. Landing one final punch, the arena exploded in a cloud of dust.

“Crabrawler!” Moon called out, coughing in the dust. “Are you all right? Crabrawler!”

“Brawler…”

As the dust started clearing, Moon started to see the outline of her Pokémon. It was wobbling on its feet, but still standing and ready to go. Moon jumped, fist in the air, and cheered.

“We’ve got this Crabrawler! Use power-up punch!”

Crabrawler shook itself, and though it looked a bit faint, it threw itself into the punching attack.

Smaller and quicker, Moon’s Crabrawler managed to land hit after hit, striking the slower Crabrawler in a different spot each time. With three successive hits, Moon’s Crabrawler’s pinchers began to glow a light blue—it’s attack power was amped up. Moon knew that if she could get one more hit in, the battle would be over.

Hala knew this too.

From across the battlefield. Hala’s eyes met Moon’s. Hers sparked and his narrowed—one last move.

“Crabrawler, use power up punch!” The trainers called in tandem, and both Crabrawler raced towards one another, both needing to get their punch in first.

It was a close call, which one hit first. Close enough that, when their pinchers collided, Moon honestly wasn’t sure who would be walking away from the battle victorious.

Both Crabrawler stared at each other, stunned and still. The spectators were silent, watching with bated breath to see which Crabrawler would fall—

And a cheer went up into the air, loud and clear.

Moon’s Crabrawler was the only one left standing.

Moon had won.

In the aftermath of the battle, Moon was pushed and shoved around by so many people, all congratulating her on a terrific win. Moon didn’t hear any of it.

I won. I won my first Grand Trial.

She was in awe, in shock, and she couldn’t meet the eyes of any that congratulated her. She held her victorious Crabrawler in her arms as she was passed from person to person, not hearing anything, until finally, once more, she stood before the old Hala.

“Congratulations, Moon, on your victory,” Hala said, voice sage and strong from underneath his furry white mustache. “The results come as no surprise to me. What a fine trainer…and what fine Pokémon too! I am sure that you will make fine use of this,” Hala said, handing Moon the small amber Z-Crystal.”

“Ko-ko-kooo!” Came from above, and out of the corner of Moon’s eye a blur of orange, yellow, and black sped away.

“Ho! And our mighty Tapu Koko agrees!” Hala slapped Moon on the back once. “Now then, Moon. With this victory... you have cleared all of the trials of Melemele Island, the first of Alola's islands!” He hummed thoughtfully. "The moon in the daytime... The sun at night...Now to see if you can pour your heart into something that cannot be seen but is very much real. As you continue on your island challenge, consider what makes up the people and Pokémon that you meet: both what you can see and what you cannot. You will surely meet Tapu Koko again someday."

“Thank you, Hala,” Moon said finally.

“Now. Let’s all move to the town hall to enjoy a fine lunch—then, I believe, I have another challenger to attend to.”

Moon nodded, looking to Hau. Her friend had a slight smile on his face, unlike his usual grin. Moon walked over to him as the crowd began to clear, everyone moving to their own homes to find something to eat before the next trial began.

“You’re going to do great, Hau,” Moon reassured.

Hau smiled a bit brighter. “Yeah, I think I will!”

 


 

“So ya see, the grunts, they ain’t got what it takes to really hurt the little Pokémon, y’know?” Guzma was rambling. He hardly ever rambled, usually only around her. The Aether Queen. “And most of ‘em are fledgling trainers, see, they ain’t know shit ‘bout capturing Pokémon the old-fashioned way. Ain’t got no one to teach ‘em, ‘cept me an Plumeria, and we’re shit as teachers.” Guzma got too frustrated too easily, and Plumeria was above teaching basic capturing techniques.

“So you are here to grovel for my sympathy? For the foundations scraps?” She wasn’t looking at him, so all Guzma saw was a curtain of platinum blonde hair. All too familiar in color and texture, and in that peculiar way it held its shape away from her body. She dipped her hands into the stream before her, and a Corsola with its coral all missing crawled up to her. “And here I thought begging was beneath you.”

“I ain’t grovelin’,” Guzma snarled. Frowning, he shrugged off the anger. There was no use to it, intimidation wouldn’t work on this woman. “I was wonderin’ if there’s some other way to earn a little extra. Just somethin’ that’ll help us make it to next month, help us ‘til these damn grunts get a bit smarter.”

“And what did you have in mind?” She asked, not turning around.

The Corsola in her arms was slowly falling asleep as she stroked the nubs of its coral—which seemed to be growing in nicely, Guzma thought. He’d been the one to bring that one in, after a Mareanie had gotten to it, and the damage had been gruesome. All jagged ends flush with purple poison, oozing painfully and making the poor Pokémon shudder and vomit. Nasty things, Mareanies can be, when they’re hungry and can catch up to the quicker Corsola. They don’t kill them, usually don’t even hurt them. But a hungry Mareanie is a careless Mareanie.

Now, the stumps of the injured Corsola were round and clean, and would grow in even better than before.

Guzma fought the urge to shuffle his feet—she made him feel like a damn kid. “Well, I could uh, could help out around the foundation?”

She scoffed. Corsola twitched in her arms, but did not wake. Finally, she turned around, and Guzma came face to face with her cunning green eyes.

“No, dear Guzma, I think the talent of a powerful trainer such as yourself would be wasted doing grunt work. You and I both know that you are better than that, and I will not ask you to lower yourself.” Her eyes gleamed as she looked at him, glittered as she took in everything from his ratty shoes to the tips of his bleached hair. “I do, however, have something else in mind. A small project that needs tidying up…if you think you are up to it?”

Guzma’s shoulders straightened, but his slouch stayed. “I’m listening.”

The Aether Queen grinned like a cat that’d caught the canary. “Excellent…Faba? Show him to our labs.”

 


 

Author’s Note: This took super long to put together because Moon’s trial battle was taking up too much space, but I couldn’t figure out a way to find a natural break. Then I thought—well, why not have Moon test out Vulpix’s skill in such an important battle? I feel like it works, but let me know what you think! Next up, Hau’s trial (which will probably be much shorter, since I doubt reading essentially the exact same battle will be interesting), and our heroic trio travels to Akala!

Chapter Text

Hau’s Chance

 


 

Moon and her Pokémon inhaled their food, all exhausted after the intense battle. Sour malasadas and pink poképuffs balanced in pyramids, gooey Miltank cheese pizzas steamed on plates, savory Hoenn-style Ramen was served from a large metal pot, and a ridiculous quantity of chopped berries and roots were offered along the long banquet table. Chocolate Miltank milk, berry smoothies, and Pinap juice sat in chilled jugs.

Moon was gorging herself on the pizza, which reminded her of late reheated dinners with her father. Brionne attacked the Pomeg berries, Crabrawler was carefully weighing Hondew and Leppa berries in each pincher, and Mimikyu was stealing the Oran berry bits that floated through Moon’s smoothie—Vulpix had returned to its pokéball as soon as Moon called it out.

She didn’t expect anyone to be ready for another battle so soon, but before she had even finished her third plate, Hau stood up and walked towards Hala. Everyone fell silent, waiting for one of them to speak.

Looking at the pair of them, Moon could really see the familiar resemblance. It was clear that Hau had inherited a lot from his grandfather—would battle intensity be one of those inheritances? Moon had lost against Hau, but had beaten Hala. Did that mean Hau would also win against Hala?

“Tutu—” Hau shook his head, a cheeky grin on his face. “No. Kahuna Hala! I challenge you to a Pokémon battle!”

 


 

The energy of the crowd was electric. Everyone was chatting in excitement as Kahuna Hala and Hau faced each other on the platform, each sizing the other up as if it were the first time they were greeting each other. Hala had an eerie calmness about him that hadn’t been present when battling Moon—with Moon, it had been all energy and force and excitement. Now, he simply looked at his grandson with no small amount of pride, and an overall cool collectedness.

Opposite Hala, Hau was bouncing from one foot to the other, cheer and determination warring in his expression. His brown eyes were ready, but he kept fighting back a toothy grin.

“Challenger Hau,” Kahuna Hala called out. The chatter in the crowd stopped immediately. Moon turned away from Lillie towards the platform, rubbing a spot at the crease of Mimikyu’s disguise. “Congratulations on your completion of the Verdant Cavern Trial. You have now come to challenge the Kahuna—do you believe that you and your Litten are ready for this challenge?”

“Hoo yeah! We’re ready!” Hau replied.

Instead of laughing at Hau’s enthusiasm, Hala closed his eyes for a moment, calm smile still lighting his face. He took a deep breath in through his nose, then exhaled from his mouth, fanning the white hairs of his mustache.

“Then allow me to properly greet the young adventurer, embarking on his island challenge. I am Hala, the kahuna of Melemele Island! Shall we begin?”

Hala took his fighting stance, palming the first pokéball at his belt. “Makuhita, come on out!”

“Litten, I choose you!”

The Pokémon appeared on the battlefield in a shower of sparks, Litten arching its back with a languorous yowl, Makuhita with an eager shout.

“Fake-out, Makuhita,” Hala called.

“Litten, dodge and use lick!” Hau called out the instruction just a moment too late—Makuhita had already advanced on Litten, and smacked the black and red Pokémon in the face before jumping out of reach again. Litten flinched, startled by the abrupt attack.

“Sand attack now!” Hala said.

“Litten, use ember!”

The sand attacked collided with the ember, putting out the small flame. More sand was kicked into the air and into Litten’s eyes.

Litten yowled, upset.

“We’ve got this, Litten! Use lick—now!”

Litten shook itself, blinking dust from its yellow eyes, and charged for the attack. It bounced on its paws, advancing on the Makuhita. With a quick move, Litten licked Hala’s Pokémon.

“Maku, Makuhita!” Makuhita exclaimed in disgust, shaking itself.

“Oh-ho,” Hala chuckled as Makuhita made a few jerky motions—it was paralyzed.

“Clever move,” he said with a nod. “Makuhita, come back! Crabrawler, come out!”

“Use lick, Litten!” Hau cried as soon as the blue and purple boxing Pokémon appeared. Litten hissed, and quick as a flash it invaded the Crabrawler’s space to deliver the attack.

 


 

Moon was on her toes, eyes darting across the battlefield as she tried to take in every move at once. Hau was a quick thinker, ready to take advantage of every opening Hala gave him. But Hala was steadfast, immovable, and terribly calm. Moon didn’t have a clue how the battle would turn out—but she had faith in Hau and his Pokémon. They would make it through this, they would come out victorious.

“Mimi…?” Crouched by Moon’s feet, Mimikyu’s disguise perked up, and the little Pokémon shuffled about, turning its attention away from the battle, towards a patch of grass a dozen yards away. It was a quiet area, with everyone clustered around the platform, no one was nearby.

“What is it Mimikyu?” Moon asked, wincing as Hau called the fallen Litten out of battle.

Mimikyu made a curious giggling sound and started shuffling away from Moon.

Moon glanced at Lillie, who was pulling at the edges of her hat, then ducked away from the crowd to follow Mimikyu.

Mimikyu shuffled quickly to the grass it was intrigued with. Imagining it to be a berry, or something sparkly, Moon wasn’t too worried. Mimikyu would find what it wanted, and they could make it back to the trial before they missed out on anything.

But Mimikyu just stopped, idling over a patch of grass with a quiet air about it. Moon felt a chill go up her spine. Under the warmth of the Alola sun, it shouldn’t have been so cold—but Moon felt as if she’d been doused in a bucket of ice water. Shivers ran across her arms, and the hairs at the back of her neck stood up.

Again, Mimikyu gave a curious half-giggle, hopping slightly in place. Moon was almost there—the closer she got to Mimikyu, the worse the chill was. But she couldn’t stop now…

“What do you have there?” Moon wondered, hesitating the last few steps before reaching the small Pokémon. She didn’t want to take another step. She could feel it in her gut…whatever Mimikyu was so intent on, Moon did not want to know.

But Moon didn’t have a choice in the matter. On her next step, it felt as if the ground was moving beneath her—like an earthquake, but smaller, concentrated to the area directly beneath her feet. Moon swayed, pitching forward as a wave of dizziness as tall as a charging Gyarados crashed over her. It felt as if she was under an intense pressure, caught in—in something…

Moments before she blacked out, Moon could see—darkness. Darkness, and a prism of light.

 


 

This was curious.

As welcoming and friendly this little reality seemed to be, they have never come across an Alolan simply sleeping out in the open, unprotected by anyone or anything, save for a small creature cowering beneath the girls’ knees.

He turned away, regarding the area with a calculated gaze. There was a lingering chill in the air, the sense of something foreign. Something familiar.

“It was here,” his companion confirmed, punching the buttons of a handheld device. “Minutes ago. We only just missed it.

He nodded slowly, eyes scanning the area once more, then coming to rest on the girl again. She seemed to stir, shuddering as the creature hiding underneath her stroked her face with long black tendrils that snuck out from under its cover.

It was warm enough—too warm, unfamiliar, and so bright. But warm enough that he didn’t feel the need to worry about the girl freezing to death. She would wake up before the sun set—even after, he had discovered, it was plenty warm to keep any living creature alive. Such a strange, glorious thing, this sun was.

“No use dawdling while it moves on,” his companion bit out. “Let’s go back to the hotel, start tracking it again at night.” She stared up at the sky curiously. “It’s strange, that it was out during the day like this.”

“Strange,” he agreed. “Strange indeed.”

 


 

The battle was not over.

Crabrawler and Pichu were exhausted, both panting as they jumped around the battlefield. Hau was panting too, exhausted beyond what he imagined ever feeling in a Pokémon battle. He was so close, he could taste victory like honey on his tongue, sweet and rewarding.

He just had to take down Crabrawler.

“Pichu, use thunder shock!” Hau shouted. Crabrawler was already paralyzed, barely able to move a foot in any direction. But whenever Pichu got too close it would snap, attacking quick as lightning—they were at a stalemate, with Pichu unable to dart any closer and Crabrawler unable to chase Pichu.

Pichu darted forward but had to jump back again to avoid being swiped at by the Crabrawler. It turned, looking back at Hau with exhausted eyes, ready for the next command, ready to figure out a plan.

Hau could practically taste victory—but there was no way Pichu could keep going like this. It wouldn’t be the right thing to do, to make it keep battling.

Swallowing a bitter taste, Hau met Pichu’s eyes, tried to convey how proud he was that it had made it this far, had helped him nearly defeat his Tutu.

But there was a point where it became too much. Where pushing any further was cruel. And Hau thought he had reached that point.

With a small disappointed smile, Hau went to grab Pichu’s ball—but Pichu had turned away. With a determined cry, Pichu started charging energy around it as it fell to all fours and began running at Crabrawler. The electricity crackled around it, more than Hau had ever seen gathered around it. Hau took a deep breath—was this a new move?

Suddenly, the electricity gathered into a crackling orb around a brown-tipped tail—the tail of a Pikachu.

Pikachu cried, voice deeper than it had been as a Pichu, as it whirled around and launched the electric ball at the Crabrawler.

Crabrawler didn’t stand a chance—it’s eyes widened comically as the attack crackled towards it, and hit an explosion of electricity.

“Pika!” Pikachu cried in triumph as the electricity cleared, leaving a knocked out Crabrawler in it’s wake.

The battle was over. Crabrawler had fallen, and Pikachu was left standing.

Hau…

Hau couldn’t contain himself.

He ran onto the battlefield, emotions bouncing all over the place as the crowd cheered and Hala announced Hau the winter. He was feeling so many things. But first and foremost, he felt the utmost love for his Pokémon.

Picking Pikachu up, Hau whirled the weary Pokémon around in his arms.

“We did it!” He crowed. “We did it, Pikachu! We cleared our first trial!”

 


 

Author’s Note: Shorter chapter because I just had to get something out. Sorry for leaving you guys with nothing for so long, this battle scene just wasn’t coming. But I’m finally happy with the result, so hopefully the next chapter will come out longer and with more haste.

Thank you for reading!

 

Chapter Text

A New Island


 

Moon drifted back into consciousness when she heard the cheering of the Iki townspeople. Blinking blearily, she sat up and tossed her head about. Confusion muddled her thoughts, but she stood upon shaking legs and went in search of Mimikyu.

She found the small Pokémon quickly enough, nearly tripped over it when it’s tendrils wrapped around Moon’s ankles. She was able to right herself quickly, however, and bent forward to scoop the Pokémon into her arms. Mimikyu came with a happy chirrup, and together they started walking back towards the battle.

For the life of her, Moon could not remember what had drawn her away from Hau’s kahuna battle. She remembered walking away, following Mimikyu, a cold sense of curiosity and unease as she drew near…and that was where she drew a blank. What had she seen? Why had she passed out? What had piqued Mimikyu’s interest?

Moon didn’t know, but whatever it was had sent a cold shiver up her spine.

“There you are!” Lillie admonished as Moon pushed her way through the crowd towards the blonde. “You missed Pichu’s evolution!”

Moon perked up—standing on the tips of her toes, she craned her neck to watch as Hala demonstrated the proper stance for using the Fighting Z-crystal to Hau. And sure enough, at Hau’s feet was a bouncing Pikachu.

“Incredible,” Moon said. Pride spilled through her as warmth, chasing away the cold and the uneasiness. How could she have missed this, this wonderful evolution? It must have been magnificent—and Pikachu! Moon hadn’t seen a Pikachu in so long, ever since she was back in Kanto with her dad…

Mimi…” The hiss that slid from Mimikyu sent chills up Moon’s spine; more than the normal amount caused by Mimikyu’s noises and tendrils. Moon glanced down and saw that it was staring at the Pikachu, eyes glowing a haunting orange.

“Mimikyu?” Moon said nervously, bending over to rub the Pokémon’s back reassuringly. “It’s just Hau’s Pichu. We should be happy it evolved!”

“…Kyu…”

“Besides,” Moon continued, scooping the Pokémon up into her arms in spite of the fact that it intensified the chill still lingering deep in her bones. “If we can train you up a bit while we look for your family, maybe you’ll get the chance to battle against Pikachu!”

That seemed to perk Mimikyu up. Moon smiled, reaching for Mimikyu’s pokéball. “Come on now, why don’t you get some rest?”

Mimikyu chirped happily and bumped its Pikachu head against the ball’s release.

“Moon, Lillie!”

The girls turned and were almost knocked over when Hau came crashing into them, Hala following not far behind.

“Did you see that battle! Hoo-ee, we barely made it through! But look at my little buddy now!” Hau shouted with a bright grin, indicating the Pikachu that was wearily lounging on Hau’s shoulder.

“I—”

“We saw the whole thing, yep!” Lillie interrupted Moon cheerfully, tugging at the edges of her hat. She cast Moon a quick look that conveyed everything—Hau would be so disappointed to learn that Moon had been off doing Arceus knows what during the dramatic climax of the battle. “It was incredible!”

Moon shook herself. She didn’t feel right, lying to Hau, even if it was only lying by omission. But Hau would probably be more devastated to hear that Moon hadn’t been there, had been investigating…something, with Mimikyu. “You were amazing, Hau. I always knew you could do it!”

“Two very impressive battles, from two very impressive trainers,” Hala cut in, moving to place one hand on Hau’s shoulder and one on Moon’s. “I’m afraid this is the limit of the excitement my old heart can take for one day, ho ho!”

“No worries, yeah?” Professor Kukui said as he came to stand beside Lillie. “The weather’s fine and the sea is calling. What do you say, Lillie? Want to help me clean up my boat a bit, to give these two some time to prepare for the next island!”

Lillie straightened. “Of course, Professor!”

“Hau, Moon,” Kukui said seriously. He couldn’t hold the stern expression for very long, however, and burst out into a grin as he looked at the pair. “This is gonna be fantastic, yeah! You two get ready and meet me at the Hau’oli docks in two hours! Akala, here we come!”

 


 

Estelle would not look at Moon. Moon didn’t know whether to be offended or grateful; she settled on a mix of both. It was easier this way, anyways. If Estelle could just continue to ignore her daughter while Moon finished packing her things, everything would be golden.

What should one bring on a journey to a different island? Painkillers, for sure. Extra money just in case. Moon wasn’t exactly sure how many centers there were on Akala island, so she packed a couple of potions and a sleeping bag, to be on the safe side.

She shoved her ‘dex in one of the pockets of her bag—which, really, should have been packed to bursting, but was still surprisingly manageable—and crammed a journal along with pencils in the spaces between everything else. A change of clothes, small toiletries, extra pokéballs, and Moon was set. All she needed to do now was meet Hau along Route 1, and together they would make the trip to the Hau’oli docks, where they would meet Lillie and the professor.

“Moon.”

Of course, she couldn’t just have gone on ignoring me, Moon thought, feeling the same mix of offense and gratitude for a different reason now.

“Yes, mother?” Moon responded, biting her lip to keep from tacking on any rude comments.

“Here. Take these,” Estelle said, shuffling closer so that she could shove a bundle into Moon’s arms. It was—a pair of shoes? They appeared to have been worn a bit but were in otherwise okay condition. Moon looked up at her mother, curious. Estelle let out a small sigh, not meeting her daughter’s eyes. “In my family—our…family—it’s traditional to give your child a pair of running shoes when they set out on their journey. These were mine, when I was eleven.”

Moon snorted. “Don’t you think—”

“They’ll fit fine,” Estelle cut her off. “I was an early bloomer, and I checked them against your sandals. They’re the ones that my mother gave to me, just a few months before she passed away.”

Moon said nothing. Estelle didn’t seem to expect her to, because she was already continuing.

“The islands only get bigger, wilder. You’ll have to do a fair bit of walking to reach your trials. Those shoes should last you through the journey, but if they don’t, please call me so I can buy you new ones. Even if I don’t agree with you going…please let me do this for you. It’s what your grandparents would have wanted. It’s what your father would have expected, if he’d ever gotten over his fear of Pokémon and let you out to take on your journey. It’s the least I can do.”

Yeah, it really is, Moon thought. But the words wouldn’t come out. Perhaps she was feeling generous, with the information her mother had given her, the kind gesture. Or perhaps a Meowth had just caught her tongue.

She put the shoes on, wordlessly, then left with her bag slung high on her shoulder. She didn’t look back.

 


 

Guzma stared hard at the picture. The kid looked just like her mother, just like her brother. Easy enough to recognize, what with that hair. But where could he find her?

“What’s up, boss?” Said Plumeria, coming up to drape herself across Guzma’s shoulders. She reared back quickly, eyes widening.

“That’s Gladbag’s sis?”

“Mm,” Guzma grunted, shoving the picture into one of his pockets. “If we can find her, Her Highness will deign to pay us a bit extra. Just a li’l somthin’ to cover the difference, ‘f we can find her.”

“Just find?” Plumeria responded warily, crossing her arms over her abs. Guzma’s lips thinned—sometimes he felt jealous over how effortlessly buff Plumeria was, even if he could cream her in a battle. He’d never let that slip, though.

“Yeah. She ain’t payin’ us to bring the girl back to the foundation. Just to observe, report back. Without Gladion or the girl knowing, course.”

“Of course,” Plumeria responded easily. There seemed to be a relieved slump to her shoulders—again, not something Guzma would ever point out.

“And what about the cat Kahuna?”

In response, Plumeria grabbed a crumpled envelope from her pocket—Guzma hadn’t a clue how it had fit, given how stuffed full of bills it was. He let out a low whistle.

“You sure know how to work your magic, Plumes,” Guzma said.

“And don’t you forget it,” Plumeria responded with a sneer.

 


 

The sunlight was warm against Moon’s face. It was quiet, background noise of the woods framing either side of the path a gentle hum. Moon’s footsteps were soft in her new sneakers, and beside her Hau was singing softly. The sweet smell of grass was drifting in the air, alongside the telltale taste of salt that meant they were getting closer to the water. Their Pokémon were all resting, so it was just Moon and Hau walking the dirt path in peace.

“I know you weren’t there for Pichu’s evolution.”

Moon stiffened, her shoulders nearly touching her ears. Hau said it conversationally, in a tone she hadn’t heard him use before. It set her teeth on edge, but when she glanced over at him, he was smiling as usual. Same old smile, same old Hau…but that couldn’t be right. Had she heard him correctly, she wondered—but when his eyes slid to hers, Moon recognized the carefully guarded disappointment in them.

Moon’s shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, hopping over a fallen log. “I don’t even really remember what happened. One minute I was watching you, the next I was following Mimikyu towards the trees, and then…”

“Then?” Hau prompted. He didn’t sound upset, but that only made Moon feel worse.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated. “I’m such a bad friend. You were there for me, and I should have been there for you.”

Hau was quiet for a while, and they walked in a silence that was more oppressive than before. Moon hardly felt that she could stand the silence, but she waited patiently for Hau to speak.

It felt like, for a moment, that Hau was going to say something, was going to say something acknowledging his disappointment or sadness. But, in typical Hau fashion, his countenance brightened before he could get the words out.

“Hey,” he said, bouncing ahead of Moon so that he could walk backwards while grinning down at her. “Let’s stop by the Malasada shop before we meet Lillie and the Prof at the docks! Celebratory malasadas sound dee-elicious!”

Moon smiled. “Celebratory malasadas it is, then.” She responded, skipping forward to bump her shoulder against his. After a moment, Hau bumped her back.

The oppressive silence had been lifted—together, they walked with a new vigor in their steps as Hau began to describe the criteria of a good malasada, Moon listening with rapt attention.

 


 

The boat was…old, Moon supposed was the right descriptor. Old, clunky, dilapidated—falling apart in some places, it would seem. Lillie, Hau, and Moon stood shoulder to shoulder, each regarding the boat with varying shades of trepidation. Kukui was on the opposite end of the spectrum—he was a blur on the boat as he ducked across the deck, adjusting various ropes and instruments every here and there. He was talking, too, but too quickly for Moon to make out most of what he was saying.

What she did get was that the journey from Melemele to Akala was the shortest between all the islands—but it was still more than half a day’s trip.

“—which is why we can’t just call a ride Lapras to take us there,” Moon heard Kukui explain, voice muffled from the rope he was currently biting.

“Do you think we’re safe?” Moon muttered from the corner of her mouth.

“He takes this boat to Akala every weekend to see his wife,” Lillie reassured Moon and Hau. Lillie did not look reassured herself, however. “He knows how to sail it safely to shore, at least.”

“Well come on, kids! Let’s set sail! We can still make it by nightfall if we set sail now, yeah!”

Moon swallowed. She was nervous, but her steps were sure as she threw her leg onto the boat, then drew herself over the edge. Holding a hand out, she helped Lillie aboard, then pulled a shaking Hau on as well.

“Anchors away!” Kukui shouted jubilantly. And so, they were off.

“Brionne, come on out!” Moon shouted, calling out the cheery pinniped Pokémon.

“Bri!” Brionne cried happily, and immediately dove into the water.

“Brionne!” Moon gasped, running to the side while Professor Kukui laughed heartily from the stern.

“Brionne is a swimmer, yeah. It’ll keep right on up with us,” he reassured. And sure enough, Brionne was easily keeping pace with them, even as the waves crested the side and splashed up on Hau and Moon, who were both standing right up against the rails.

Brionne definitely looked happy and entertained, eager to show off its swimming prowess. Brionne was the only one Moon felt comfortable letting out of its ball, no matter how much she wanted the rest of her team to experience the exhilaration of sailing on the sea.

Flying had been nothing like this. Late at night, lying awake while her father snored in the next room, Moon had always tried to picture what her future Pokémon team would consist of. And even though she had dreamed of Kanto Pokémon, her hearts desire had definitely included quite the array of water-types. Hoenn had always been her dream vacation spot, as well, just from their abundance of water type Pokémon.

Now it could be a reality—and damn it if Moon didn’t gasp aloud at that thought. If she became an island challenge champion, wouldn’t the next step be for her to start challenging the leagues in other regions? What was holding her back from going to Hoenn, next?

“Brionne!” Brionne cheered again, as if sensing its trainer’s thoughts.

 Moving forward. Moon would just keep moving forward, and all her dreams would fall into the palm of her hand.

 


 

Forward. Gladion had to keep moving forward.

He couldn’t stop moving, not for a moment, not for a second. Much like a Sharpedo, he could never stop.

“More, more!” He growled into the wind. Type: Null howled beside him, its claws tearing up the ground. They pushed themselves faster, harder, further. They had to be the best. They had to stay together and conquer and overcome, they had to earn their place in this world. More than anyone, they had to earn it.

The beast killer howled again, a mournful sound, and whipped to the side. Gladion pinwheeled his arms in a wild attempt to stop in time—but it was no use. Pitching forward her vaulted against Null, whose claws pricked painfully through Gladion’s clothes.

“Augh!” He shouted, more angry at the world than upset with Null. Not realizing this, Null took it personally and tore off in the opposite direction.

“Wait!” Gladion called, panting. “Damn it,” he cursed. Out of breath, he started running after Type: Null.

He’d only wanted to do some speed training, had taken Null out along the route to see how fast they could go. They had started too close to the mansion, however, and a group of grunts had started shouting names at them. Sensing its trainers darkening mood, Null had tried to cheer him up by leading them down the path that would lead to the meadow—but Gladion’s mood was already affected, and he’d tried to push them farther to intensify the training.

Obviously, that had backfired, as Gladion was now trampling through the trees to try and catch up to Null, who was a lot faster than it pretended to be when training alongside Gladion. Gladion wasn’t sure whether to be impressed that his Pokémon was so fast, or offended that Null thought he couldn’t keep up—which, apparently, was true, but that wasn’t the point.

“Null!” Gladion shouted, then tripped and face-planted against a tree. “Ugh,” he groaned in pain, falling to his knees as he clutched at his bleeding nose.

“Aroo?” In an instant, Null was by Gladion’s side, worriedly nudging Gladion’s cheek with hits helmet. Gladion suppressed a flinch, and allowed Null to nudge his arm until it was slung over the beast’s back.

“’M fine,” Gladion muttered. “I didn’t mean to shout,” he said, voice soft and muffled through the blood. “Let’s get back to base.”

At base, the grunts were all moving around. It was either close to dinner, or Plumeria was back. That meant—

“Hey, Wannabe Grunt!” CC said, sauntering up to Gladion. “You do somethin’ to your face? I like this look on ya.”

Gladion growled—or maybe Null growled. It was hard to tell.

“Yeah, yeah. Get your shit ready, it’s time to steal the totem. Ya get ten minutes.”

Gladion swallowed.

If they left today…

That would put Gladion at the Tide Song Hotel exactly when Lillie had wanted to meet with him.

 


 

“What is it?”

“I don’t—don’t touch it!”

“Eugh. Slimy. Definitely seaweed.”

“Throw it overboard—”

“Brionne, no! Don’t eat it!”

The trio groaned in unison as Brionne slurped up the slimy green clump it had dragged on deck to show Moon. Barking in excitement, Brionne twirled in place, then took a dive overboard—presumably to find more seaweed.

A couple hours on the boat had left Moon feeling much more comfortable on her sea legs. She could get used to this, she thought. Sailing between the islands whenever her whims favored a trip. She certainly could understand why Kukui kept his boat and chose to use it instead of the much faster ride Charizard. There was something peaceful, idyllic almost, about sailing on an apparently empty ocean nothing in sight except for the occasional water-types that would play alongside the boat every once in a while.

The sun was warm against her face and contrasted wonderfully to the biting wind that blew every strand of her hair to and fro. When the wind was favoring the same direction they were headed in, it was easy to carry out a conversation. But there was also something nice about the wind battling them, so that they all had to shout to be heard, had to keep their mouths closed mostly or else they would soon wind up with a mouthful of saltwater.

Moon didn’t mind catching salt water every once in a while. It kept her on her toes.

What she did mind was the strange plates of something Kukui started passing out the next time the wind died down.

“All right, future island challenge champions—dig in!” Kukui announced with flourish, passing out three dubious looking plates topped with various…foods…

“I’m suddenly not hungry after seeing Brionne with the seaweed,” Moon muttered, poking at a squishy pile of what looked like some sort of fruit puree with her spoon. She was alone in her sentiments, however. Lillie, looking hesitant, was taking small bites from the array, while Hau was practically inhaling his food. Neither looked very pleased at the taste, but both were eating.

Not wanting to seem rude, Moon started scooping some bits into her mouth—then worked on surreptitiously disposing of the food overboard, where Brionne would happily eat it. She wasn’t feeling that hungry, anyways.

“We’ve got about an hour left of sailing, yeah. Should be able to see Akala any minute now!” Kukui shouted cheerfully between bites as he worked the stern, urging the boat to pick up speed. Stars were now visible in the sky, only a few here and there—the sun had just set below the vast horizon, and the world was starting to dim. Moon would call Brionne back into its pokéball soon, for safety sake.

The professor had helpfully explained that, once they docked, he’d guide them to the Pokémon Center where they could settle down for the night, and the Kahuna of the island would meet them there to greet them in the morning. From Heahea City, they would want to first head to Brooklet Hill, which was the closest of Akala’s three trials. After the Brooklet Hill trial, it was up to them which way they wanted to go next.

“I won’t be around as much,” Kukui had explained. “But Akala’s Kahuna will pick up my slack. She seems hard as a rock on the outside, yeah, but really she’s a softie at heart!”

“I am interested in looking into the Ruins on Akala island,” Lillie had intoned with a worried expression, as if nervous that her desire would be met with displeasure.

“Sounds like a great idea to me!” Hau cheerily agreed, pumping one fist lazily into the air. He’d turned away from Lillie then, so he didn’t get to see the look on her face. But Moon saw it—Lillie’s eyes had been wide as a child’s, helplessly hopeful, and such a shimmering green. Moon had had to look away, not wanting to intrude on Lillie’s moment.

They had spoken a bit more on basic safety strategies—which Moon thought was a bit redundant, seeing as they had already cleared their first island anyway. The Professor wanted to assure them that he was just a call away, and that Moon and Hau’s dexes were capable of routing straight to any of the Kahuna’s personal lines, as well as Kukui’s own—and he had added in his wife’s number as well, just in case. Moon imagined it was all a bit overkill, but mostly shrugged it off—she and Hau were the only trial-goers from the whole of Melemele island this year, so the Professor was bound to be a bit worried that they wouldn’t find much company in the more off-the-beaten-path routes.

For her part, Moon was excited to know if there were trial-goers from the other islands who would be seeking to tackle the island challenges at the same time as Hau and Moon. She wanted to meet them, compare dex entries and discoveries, talk about the challenges of being on your own. Moon had heard wonderful things about the friends trainers made on their journeys, and she desperately wanted to be a part of that.

Hau seemed most interested in discovering new sights and tastes with his partners, though Moon sensed a longing to prove himself. It made her wonder who he was trying to prove himself to, though, considering he’d already defeated Hala in the grand trial.

Lillie…Moon had trouble getting a grasp on what motivated Lillie, beyond finding out more about Cosmog, and finding a way to get Cosmog home. She wanted to know more…hopefully more time spent together on their journey would bring them closer, would let Lille open up to Moon and Hau in a way that Moon didn’t think Lillie had been allowed to open up much before.

Finally, the shores started coming into focus. It was too dark, and Moon was too tired, to make out any defining characteristics of the island. Wearily, Moon called Brionne back into its Pokéball and started gathering her things. Hau and Lillie were chatting quietly, and Kukui was humming the theme song to a TV show Moon vaguely remembered watching when she was younger. Combined with the soft lapping of the waves against the boat, it was surprisingly peaceful.

“Land ho!” The Professor shouted, jolting Moon out of her quiet contentment—and causing Lillie and Hau to burst into laughter at the startled expression gracing Moon’s face.

When Moon’s feet finally touched the ground, she took in a deep breath of the salty air and sighed. Starting on a new island, having finished the challenges of the last one…and yet, why did it feel to Moon as if her journey was only just getting started?

Chapter Text

Akala’s Kahuna


 

Olivia stood, brushing the sand off her legs with a sigh. The sun had yet to come up over the horizon, but Akala Island’s Kahuna was already wide awake. She’d been awake for a couple hours now—her day always began on the beach with a workout. There was no better way to get ready for the day than spending an hour working out on an empty beach with your Pokémon, that was Olivia’s opinion.

 Lycanroc and one of her Nosepass hatchlings had come with her that morning, which meant that morning’s workout had consisted of chasing Lycanroc around and lifting the overlarge rocks Nosepass created. Or dodging the rocks, whenever Nosepass felt like goofing around.

Olivia turned from the lolling grey waves, taking a deep breath. Her shoulders felt nicely sore, but she wished it was raining again. The rain had just passed when she made it to the beach, and now the jungle behind her smelled fresh and wet. It was calm, and quiet, and the day was just beginning.

To the Pokémon Center, Olivia thought grimly. Onwards to meet a new batch of trial-goers—one of them was Kahuna Hala’s grandson, she’d been told. Hala would be expecting wellness checks, then. That wasn’t to say Olivia didn’t normally check up on trial-goers. This time around, though, someone would expect her to report back to them.

It was for the best. There had been so few new trial-goers in the past few years. The islands weren’t getting any safer, and parents were getting progressively stricter regarding their children’s island challenges.

Olivia didn’t blame the parents one bit.

It was the way of things. Alola was unique in its retention of the old ways. Other regions had long ago given up being so in tune with the world around them—they had gyms, and small forests with safe Pokémon, and safari zones for the more dangerous Pokémon. Alola was different. Different, and more dangerous, which was why there were so few trial goers as compared to the hundreds of young trainers that started their journey each year in the other regions.

In Alola, there was only Hau, and Moon, and—

No, just Hau and Moon.

“Lycanroc, Nosepass, let’s go,” Olivia said, jerking her head in the direction of a well-worn path that cut its way through the jungle, leading right to Olivia’s backyard. “If we want to wake the kiddos before the sun gets too high, we’ll want to leave now.”

Lycanroc barked in response, nudging Nosepass to run alongside it.

Olivia turned, one hand reaching out to slide through Lycanroc’s fur as the Pokémon ran past.

It was time to start the new day.

 


 

Moon woke to the earthy smell of dirt in her nose. Grass was pressed to her cheek, her eyes felt crusty, and everything was too bright. She pushed herself up slowly, arms stiff and pained, and rubbed at her eyes uselessly. She sniffled once, twice, blinking against the golden-orange sunrise. She felt itchy—there was dirt and gritty sand covering her entire body, under her fingernails, flaking out of her hair.

What the heck had happened last night?

With a groan, Moon stood on shaky legs, wobbled a bit, and ran her hands over her hips in search of a pokéball. But her hips were bare, save for the nightshirt she’d slept in.

The last thing she could remember was laying down in her sleeping bag, Lillie too far on one side, Hau too close on the other. She’d closed her eyes, tossed around a bit, but had eventually fallen into a restless sleep. Mimikyu had elected to snuggle in with Hau—possibly because Pikachu had curled up on Hau’s chest, and Mimikyu was jealous—so Moon had fallen asleep without any of her Pokémon near her.

Had she slept walked? She must have. Her dad used to complain about all the times he’d had to chase her while she was sleeping, she always tried to leave their small enclosure. She was no longer in the PC, that was for sure. It looked as if she wasn’t anywhere near Heahea city at all, since what she’d managed to catch of it last night had included more stores and paved roads, less wide expanses of beach trimming a tangled jungle.

It was still early in the morning, the sun having just crested the horizon. Moon stretched, wincing as her back popped.

“Well, no use dawdling,” Moon said to herself. Squinting, she took stock of each direction. Along the beach was a safe bet, since she would eventually reach Heahea city no matter the direction she chose—but that would mean she had half a chance of needing to completely circumnavigate Akala before ending up back where she started.

The jungle was the more logical choice, though a more dangerous one. She was covered in dirt and bits of green, so she must have passed through it at some point. But she didn’t have any Pokémon with her, nor did she have the cover of night and the courage of sleepwalking, plus there was no guarantee that she wouldn’t wander endlessly in circles.

She wasn’t even wearing shoes, Moon noticed with a pained start. Her feet were throbbing with numerous cuts and blisters.

“Next time I’ll have Hau tie me into my sleeping bag,” Moon muttered bitterly. “Or put a bell around my neck, wake everyone up with me.”

Moon sighed, spun around twice in the sand, then started forward in the direction she’d stopped in—only to abruptly and inelegantly find herself awakening to the indignant shouts of Hau.

 


 

“Gah!”

Lillie rolled over in her sleeping bag, just in time to see Moon sit upright in her own sleeping bag, wide-eyed and mouth gaping.

“Pikachu!” Pikachu made an indignant cry.

“Mimikyu!” Pikachu responded. The second Pikachu’s image flickered, flashed—then Mimikyu stood in its place.

“Two Pikachus!” Hau was shouting. “In my dream! And then I woke up and two Pikachus!”

“I thought it was real,” Moon whispered, eyes wide and haunted. Her hands were rolling over each other, as if she was searching for something against her skin.

“I mean, I know there are more than two Pikachus, but there were two of them!” Hau continued, though he seemed to have quieted down a bit. “I couldn’t even—I mean. Two.”

“A-lo-la!”

The three teens all shouted, turning towards the door. The woman standing in the doorway was staring down at them, lips curved into a knowing smile.

“Kukui told me you three might not be the earliest of risers—I figured I would give you all a head start on your challenge and be your wake up call,” the stranger, who Lillie imagined must be the Kahuna Professor Kukui had been talking about, said in a voice that was sturdy as a steel-type. She shook her head, and her warm brown hair tickled her cheeks. “Still hasn’t managed to find a shirt that matches his lab coat, has he?”

“No, I keep having to mend them,” Lillie responded automatically—then felt her face redden as the Kahuna’s attention turned her way.

“You must be Lillie then,” the Kahuna nodded. “Which means you two will be my island challengers?”

“We are, ma’am,” Hau responded politely. The politeness was offset by the cheeky grin, and the way he threw his arm behind his head. “Me an’ Moon are ready to take on anyone!”

“Okay then,” the Kahuna agreed readily. “You’ll want to start towards Paniola Town then—meet me at the Café whenever you’re ready to head out.” With that, the tall woman turned on her heel and strut away.

Lillie felt Cosmog brush its clouds against her face. Looking down at the nebula Pokémon with a shaky smile, Lillie tried to calm her breathing. Hau and Moon hadn’t been the only ones to wake abruptly from a bad dream.

Today was the day Lillie was supposed to meet her brother at the Tide Song Hotel. She hadn’t seen him since...since he’d left. And that had been years ago. She wondered what he would think of her now. What he would thing of her following in his footsteps, for a not altogether different purpose.

She hoped he was proud.

“You guys go meet the Kahuna,” Lillie said, interrupting Hau and Moon’s conversation. They both turned to her with confusion plain on their faces. “I’m meeting someone at the Tide Song Hotel…it should be pretty close to the Pokémon Center, I’m sure even I can’t get lost…”

“You sure, Lillie?” Hau asked, and Lillie felt a rush of warmth at how concerned he sounded.  

“I’m sure, Hau,” Lillie responded, her smile a bit more confident.

“We’ll meet you there when we finish talking with the Kahuna,” Moon assured, and Lillie felt another rush of warmth. She was truly lucky that Moon and Hau had befriended her.

Before meeting the Professor, before leaving with Nebby to return it to its home, Lillie never would have imagined she would make such amazing friends. She didn’t deserve them, really, they were far too good for her.

Nebby zipped around Lillie’s head in excitement, making a curious noise—like air being let out of a balloon. Lillie giggled, standing up so that she could ready herself for the meeting.

“Take your time,” Lillie said as she made her way to the door, Nebby tucked into her duffel. It was best if her friends didn’t walk in on Lillie talking with her brother—she didn’t know how well it would go over for them to see her talking with a member of Team Skull, never mind that he wasn’t really a member. Lillie would rather not try that test just yet.

Moon and Hau—both unabashedly changing from their nightclothes—waved goodbye, wishing her luck on her trip.

Lillie closed the door behind her, heart in her throat.

This would go well. It had to.

 


 

The lobby of the Tide Song hotel was glamorously decorated. Red and gold, with Pokémon motifs on the walls and decorating the frescoes. A warm breeze cut through the cool indoor air whenever the doors were pulled open by the attentive bellhops. Music filtered gently through the open area, a light tune reminiscent of early morning Pikipek songs, ocean waves lapping against sandy shores.

Gladion paced the tiled floor anxiously, a black-clothed blight in the otherwise cheery lobby. He glanced again at the clock, noting the time. Lillie wasn’t due to show for another half-hour, but waiting in an air-conditioned hotel was much better than melting beside CC and M on the boat.

They’d needed to stop and refuel before coasting along the shoreline to Brooklet Hill, but the grunts had gotten distracted by free promotional malasadas. Gladion imagined he had at least as long, if not longer, before they came looking for him to continue their sail towards Brooklet Hill.

He sighed, hand on the pokéball containing Type: Null. There were Pokémon all around the hotel; Fomantis bouncing along behind their trainers, Comfey twirling next to the dancers. A Starmie was flashing its gem at a Corsola across the room, and there were plenty of other larger Pokémon trailing lazily next to their trainers. But Gladion imagined that letting Null out would have a more adverse reaction.

Null was a lot like Gladion. There was no real place where either ‘fit’ properly, except with the other.

And for a moment, he was thrown back. Back to the instant when he first saw Null, struggling against its handlers, rage and worry and pain and fear written all over its body language. Gladion had seen Type: Null, had seen the beast killer as it was groomed to be…and he couldn’t have stopped himself if he had wanted to.

The emotions ran through him again and again, the anger, the fear. He was never good enough, especially not after…everything. Nothing would ever be good enough again. But he’d tried. He’d tried, with every fiber of his being, he’d tried to be better. At least for Lillie’s sake—

“No, Nebby, back in the bag!”

Startled by Lillie’s voice, Gladion ducked behind the nearest pillar, ears listening for any sign that Lillie was coming closer, or that she’d seen him before he’d moved out of sight.

“You can’t be out here, it would be dangerous if someone from Team Skull spotted you!” Lillie urged in a hushed voice. Gladion’s stomach dropped at the thought of Lillie encountering the rest of Team Skull.

His stomach dropped further as he thought—what was he doing here? Putting Lillie in more danger than she already was, just so he could see her? He was supposed to be protecting her…not making things more complicated.

So long as he knew that Wicke was watching out for Lillie, he needed to stay away. Especially if she had Cosmog with her…Everything would be ruined if anyone from Team Skull saw that Lillie had such a rare Pokémon. And clearly Lillie was by herself—there was no one around to defend her if someone tried to force her to give up Cosmog.

More anxious than before, Gladion turned and ran out the back entrance, hoping that Lillie would at least be able to forgive him.   

 


 

“I sure hope Lillie will be okay without us,” Hau commented as he and Moon made their way down to the PC’s Café. Mimikyu was making dissatisfied noises in Moon’s arms, despite it being the only one of their Pokémon currently out of its ball—the rest of their Pokémon took after their trainers and wanted to sleep some more while they had the chance.

“I’m sure she’ll do fine.” Moon couldn’t help but worry too, despite her assurances. Lillie was the one who had gotten herself lost on a mostly linear route, somehow ending up in a meadow totally off the path she and the professor had been conducting research on.

The warm air inside the Pokémon center already promised of a scorching day outside. Through the window, Moon could see that the sun had broken the horizon in a bright wash of pink. When the sliding doors opened, a wave of heat carried the warm smell of rain on asphalt with it.

The Kahuna was sitting at the café bar, idly stirring the straw stuck in her hollowed-out berry cup. When she spotted the pair, her eyes narrowed, and she smiled. Her golden bracelets chimed together as she waved them over to sit by her.

“I suppose you’re both ready for your day, then?” The Kahuna asked with a gleam in her eye. Turning to the stout old man polishing curved glasses behind the bar, the Kahuna indicated Hau and Moon. “Would you whip something up for these two before they continue their trial? They’re going to need all their energy if they want to get through Route 4 before sunset. My treat.”

“Thank you!” Hau and Moon said together.

“I passed your friend on her way to Tide Song Hotel,” the Kahuna said in response. “I pointed her in the right direction. That’s an interesting Pokémon she has with her.”

Moon and Hau glanced at one another, tight-lipped.

The Kahuna closed her eyes, smiling slyly. “You needn’t worry. Lillie and Nebby have nothing to fear from me.”

 


 

Chapter Text

Heahea Market

 


 

Heahea City was warm and delightful. Smaller than Hau’Oli, but much busier, much brighter. The sun was bright and warm by the time Hau and Moon left the Pokémon center, and there was a light sea breeze blowing the palm trees and cooling everything down a few degrees. There seemed to be a market going on that morning, as the streets were filled with tented stalls and crowds of people and Pokémon milling about. The air smelled like fresh fried malasadas, and the stall closest to Moon had three giant tubs of brightly colored lemonade, flavored with different berries.

“How long should we give Lillie?” Moon asked Hau. Her eyes were wide as she surveyed the street, the hundreds of people smiling and laughing and chatting.

Moon had only seen something like this once, when she was very young, and her father had been wary about leaving her home alone. He’d taken her with him to a local summer market, and she’d gotten to walk between the stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables, hand-crafted jewelry, homemade pokéballs, and all sorts of Pokémon care items.

“Let’s check out a couple of these tents, yeah?” Hau responded.

Pikachu was perched on Hau’s shoulder, looking around at everything with bright eyes. Mimikyu, who had previously been chilling in Moon’s arms, scrambled up the side of Moon’s body to perch on her shoulder in a similar fashion—Moon had to refrain from rolling her eyes. But Mimikyu, crooned softly in Moon’s ear when it was sitting comfortably, and Moon had to smile.

There were dozens of tents to choose from, several catering specifically to Pokémon trainers.

One had at least twenty different kinds of brushes, each designed with a specific type of Pokémon in mind. Thick, soft brushes to polish shells, thin wire bristles for Pokémon with thick fur, rubber-handled brushes with various types of bristles for electric type Pokémon. 

At the far end of the street, Moon could even see a Johto-themed tent that probably sold their famous handmade pokéballs, or similarly made ones.

“Moon! Come look over here!” Hau called.

Moon turned, following his voice until she arrived at a high-tech looking tent, all white and sleek—they had even laid down a white carpet beneath their tables.

A man wearing big glasses and a long white lab coat was holding an odd-shaped pokédex, explaining its features to a small crowd of trainers. “It’s the latest in trainer technology, fits perfectly in your grip, capable of wirelessly connecting to trainers all around the world, keeping you up-to-date with the latest Pokémon news!”

“Our ‘dexes do that too,” Moon whispered. Hau just shook his head, eyes glued to the demonstration.

“What is so special about our new Pokédex, you might wonder? Rotom, would you lend me a hand?”

A jittery Rotom zipped out of the man’s front pocket, flickering like a light as it bounced around the man’s head.

“This Pokédex has its unique design to sit comfortably in your hand, but also so that our friend Rotom here will be cradled in absolute comfort. Rotom, if you please.”

The Rotom darted around for a couple more seconds, then grinned as it zapped itself into the pokédex.

“We call it, the Rotom dex!”

Abruptly, the Rotom dex bounced up, floating out of the man’s hand. Its screen was no longer dark—instead, Rotom’s cheery face was peering out at the astonished trainers. Moon herself felt wowed, and had to close her mouth when it fell open.

“Hello folkszzz!” Rotom said, and Moon wasn’t the only one gasping.

“With this new technology, Rotom is able to interface directly with the dex’s built in speakers and voice programming, giving a new generation of trainers more possibilities than ever before! Imagine what you and Rotom will be capable of, from more advanced wild Pokémon recordings to keeping stats of your own performance as a trainer! And with each Rotom having a personality of its own, you’ll never be alone on your Pokémon journey!”

“That’szz right! I’m willing and ready to join a trainer on an adventure of a lifetime!” Rotom added, its voice an eerie combination of robotic and enthusiastic. Rotom was clearly excited by the possibilities, its face lighting up even brighter than before.

“Rotom is an amazing Pokémon with incredible insight—and paired with the computing capabilities of the pokédex, you and your Rotom dex will forge new paths, see new sights, and have a journey that is all your own!”

“Woo!” The crowd cheered, applauding the presentation.

“The Rotom dex is still in development,” the scientist said when the crowd started calming down. “But very soon we will be rolling out the first prototypes. Keep an eye on Clemontic Gear Industries for more information on development, and to stay updated on the Rotom Dex’s release!”

The crowd cheered again, and Moon found herself and Hau being pushed back from the stall.

 


 

After wandering around the market for a while, Hau and Moon finally decided it was time to set off in the direction of the Tidesong hotel. They walked in companionable silence, each absorbed in their own thoughts, when a loud voice startled them out of their heads.

“Stop right there!”

Moon jolted, looking around—but the road was mostly empty, and no one else had stopped. She fixed her eyes on the pair of people now walking towards her and Hau. The girl who had spoken was wearing a bright grin. She had dark hair, a purple so deep it almost looked blue. She was wearing large pink sunglasses, a white tank top, and jean shorts. When she realized she’d gotten Moon and Hau’s attention, she walked towards them more quickly.

Her companion, too, started walking faster. “Ah ha ha!” The boy laughed. He had short blonde hair, and was wearing a bright yellow shirt, along with a pair of blue sunglasses. “We didn’t mean to surprise you. You must be doing your island challenge,” he explained with a grin.

“I’m Dexio,” he introduced himself.

“My name’s Sina!” Sina said with a flourish. “A beautiful name for a beautiful lady!”

“I’m Hau, and this is Moon!” Hau greeted amicably. “You’re right, we are on our island challenge. Are you guys on your island challenge too?” He asked, though Moon didn’t see any island challenge amulets.

“We’re here seeing the sights in Alola,” Dexio said. “It’s a unique tradition of island challenge…It’s pretty fascinating, I’ve got to say.”

“Oh I’ve got an idea! Why don’t you test your skills with Dexio and me? It will feel like we’re getting a real taste of the island challenge, then.” Sina offered with a sly grin.

“We’ve actually got to meet up with our friend. She’s waiting for us at the Tidesong Hotel.” Hau declined just as Moon was about to agree wholeheartedly. She didn’t know what region they were from, but they didn’t seem like they were from Kanto, and Moon was always eager to see unfamiliar Pokémon, and unique battle styles.

“Next time we meet, then” Dexio conceded. Moon thought it was odd that they planned on meeting again. But if they were seeing the sights in Alola, it made sense that their paths might cross again.

“Sure, sounds like a plan!”

With a wave, Sina grabbed Dexio’s hand and tugged him along behind her, and the pair walked off into the still crowded Heahea market.

That was odd, Moon thought. Two random trainers stopping them, another pair of seemingly random trainers, to ask for a battle in the middle of a street. But maybe it was normal in whatever region they were from.

Shrugging the encounter away, Moon and Hau started walking again, up the road to the Tidesong hotel.

They had nearly reached the doors when Lillie came out, tugging on her two braids anxiously, looking worriedly down at her feet.

“Lillie!” Hau greeted, cheerful and exuberant, as if he hadn’t seen her in months rather than in a couple hours. Leaving Moon’s side, he closed the distance between himself and Lillie at a run, throwing his arms around her to hug her. Behind Hau’s back, Lillie gave a small grin.

“Did you meet with your friend?” Moon asked as she caught up with them.

“No…I guess he couldn’t make it,” Lillie said, her grin falling. She shook herself. “What about you two? Did you get all you needed from the Kahuna?”

As Hau recounted what they’d talked about with Olivia, and what they’d seen at the Heahea market, Moon let her gaze wander. Heahea was so beautiful, so beachy and warm. The Tidesong Hotel was built right next to an expansive beach, where there were crowds of dozens of people playing in the sand and the waves. Moon could see a group of small children playing around a Mantine, who was darting through the water playfully, chasing the children.

“Route four,” Lillie muttered. “You know, I think I saw a signpost for route four on my way over here!”

 


 

The route was gentle winding one, full of sloping hills and great round trees. According to their maps, they would be able to make it to Paniola Town just as the sun was setting if they headed off at a brisk pace. Otherwise, they would need to break out their tents for the first time on their journey and settle in. There was no use trying to navigate the dark paths after sunset; though the trail was well kept, there were plenty of offshoots that would take the trio in circles if they lost their way.

As they traveled along the route, Hau and Moon recounted to Lily what they’d seen around the market. Lily was nodding enthusiastically; the anxious, worried mood she’d displayed after meeting up with the pair outside the Tidesong Hotel had slowly dissipated the more Hau talked. Lily agreed that it would be cool to have a Rotom Dex tagging along, but worried that Rotom might get bored stuck in a pokédex all the time.

“I’m sure they would only pick Rotom that want that sort of life,” Hau reasoned. “Can’t get a Rotom to do something it doesn’t want to, yeah?”

“What do you mean?” Lily asked.

“Rotom are tricksters, y’know? It takes a tricky trainer to work with one in battle, and any scientist is gonna have their work cut out for them trying to get a Rotom to do something helpful without messing around with any electronics it can get itself into. Most ghost-type Pokémon are wild things in general, Rotom just have the wily ability to possess any electronic.”

At the mention of ghost type Pokémon, Mimikyu—weaving back and forth between Moon’s legs instead of lounging in her arms, for once—peered up at Moon, a bit of yellow glinting from behind the eye cutouts of the bottom of its costume.

“Still, I would hope that any trainer lucky enough to get a Rotom Dex would let the Rotom out every once in a while.” Lily said, wringing the strap to her bag fretfully. Inside, Nebby peeked up at Lily through a small gap.   

“Do Rotom have to eat?” Moon wondered.

“I think I read something about it feeding on electricity,” Hau said with a shrug.

They lapsed into a comfortable silence, and Moon’s attention drifted back to the scenery. There were Pikipek flitting through the trees, larger Trumbeak perching on the thicker branches, and every so often Moon would see a little brown face she thought might belong to some Lillipups poking out through the bushes. The route didn’t have many flowers, but the ones Moon could pick out were small and pink, sprouting up here and there.

The sky was bright and blue, with a few rolling white clouds, but otherwise it was a perfectly nice, clear day. The shade of the tall trees was enough to combat the light sweat they were working up from their quick pace.  

It was easy, walking along the route with Hau and Lily like this.

Soon, Moon started to feel her stomach grumbling—and she wasn’t the only one. Hau was grabbing at his stomach, and Mimikyu had anxiously hopped into Moon’s arms, appearing strained.

“Here, this is a good spot to stop and eat lunch.” Moon pointed out a patch of short grass a couple feet from the trail, and they all sat down to have their lunch. Moon spooned some food into a bowl for Mimikyu, Nebby, and Pikachu to share, then set about unwrapping her own lunch.

She was just about to take the first bite, when her heart nearly leapt to her throat—staring back at her through the thick shrubbery were a pair of shiny grey eyes.

Chapter Text

When Trainers’ Eyes Meet

 


 

“We have to battle!” The boy cried, forcing himself through the shrubbery he’d been hiding in. His glasses gleamed in the sunlight, momentarily obscuring the grey eyes that had startled Moon just moments ago.

“Excuse me…?” Moon asked doubtfully, glancing down at her food.

“When two trainers lock eyes,” the boy said fervently. “They have to battle! It’s the rules! Lillipup, let’s go!”

The boy called out his Lillipup, throwing a pokéball so that it hit Moon smack in the forehead.

“Ow!” Moon shouted, more indignant than in pain, as a tiny Lillipup landed in her lap. It barked at her pitifully, the noise more like a squeak than anything remotely intimidating. Moon massaged her forehead irritably.

“Who are you?” Lillie asked, at the same time Moon said, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m a trainer, and I’m challenging you to a battle!” The boy shouted. He seemed to be full to bursting with energy, and his Lillipup mirrored him in enthusiasm. After hopping out of Moon’s lap, it circled its trainers’ legs, yipping excitedly.

“I was just about to eat,” Moon commented blandly, though she’d already begun to wrap her food back up. “But if you want to battle, I’m up for it.”

“You have to be!” Said the boy. “It’s the rules!” He adjusted his glasses, pulled at his bright green shirt, and stepped backwards onto the route. “Now send out your Pokémon!”

Moon stepped out onto the route too, hesitantly touching Vulpix’s ball—before ultimately moving past it to Crabrawler’s pokéball. She glanced back at Lillie and Hau—both of whom looked thoroughly entertained. Lillie was idly patting Mimikyu’s head, and Pikachu was nibbling on a bit of food in Hau’s lap. Lunch and entertainment for them, Moon thought, only a touch bitter. She was hungry.

“Okay Crabrawler, come on out!”

In a flash of light, Crabrawler was readying its pinchers, rearing to go. It turned its beady black eyes on Moon and nodded in determination.

“Ooh, a Crabrawler!” The boy said—but he wasn’t excited this time. No, he looked livid. “That’s the type of Pokémon that always chases me away from our berry trees when I’m trying to pick them!” He adjusted his glasses again, adopting a determined stance.

“Lillipup, use tackle!”

“Crabrawler, use Rock Smash!”

Just as the Lillipup was tucking in its head to tackle Crabrawler, Crabrawler rounded its pincher back and smacked the Lillipup as if it were cracking a rock in two. Moon shifted, ready to call out another attack, but—

“Lillipup, no!” The boy said, kneeling beside his fainted Pokémon.

“Um,” Moon said, at a loss. “Good job, Crabrawler.” She finally settled on just returning her Pokémon to its ball.

Well. Moon felt a bit bad that the battle had only lasted for one turn. But at least she could get back to her lunch.

“You’re mean!” The little boy said, cradling the Lillipup in his arms, glaring at Moon.

“You’re the one who was just waiting in the bushes for some unsuspecting trainer to look at you!” Moon retorted, sitting down.

The boy grumbled, toeing the dirt. Lillipup was starting to stir in his arms—blinking its eyes wearily, it hopped out of the boy’s arms and started yapping at Moon. Moon picked off a chunk of berry from her lunch and let the Lillipup snatch it out of her palm. After chewing the berry, the Pokémon seemed to decide that Moon was all right after all, because it started licking her ankle—right up until Mimikyu started hissing and hopped from Lillie’s lap into Moon’s.

“What’s your name?” The boy asked, sounding a touch suspicious. Suspicious of what, Moon couldn’t fathom.

“Moon,” she replied through a mouthful of food.

“Well you better come back when I’ve beaten the island challenge, Moon!” The boy practically shouted at her. “Me an’ Lillipup are gonna become the best of the best! We’re gonna defeat everyone, and then we’re gonna beat you!”

“You’re on your island challenge?” Lillie asked, sounding skeptical. “But you don’t look like you’re ten…”

The boy kicked at the dirt again, not meeting anyone’s eyes. “No, only…Olivia said that when me an’ Lillipup are strong enough to beat someone who’s bigger than us, then we can try the island challenge…”

“Maybe start on someone who’s a bit closer to your own size first,” Moon suggested. “I bet that’s what Olivia had in mind when she gave you that suggestion. Not for you to pounce on everyone who sees you through a bush.”

“What do you know?” The boy asked with a pout.

“Hau and I are on our island challenge right now,” Moon said. “He was the first person I battled against and look—we’re about the same size.”

The boy was eyeing the both of them with suspicion, as if it was only an illusion that made them look like they were of similar size. His lips pinched together as he was trying not to say something—but then he stopped, shoulders drooping.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Guess Lillipup ‘n I will hafta find someone else…”

“I’m sure there are other kids your age with Pokémon around!” Lillie said encouragingly. “I don’t like seeing Pokémon get hurt, but if you try to start with someone who has Pokémon around the same level, maybe your Lillipup will not get hurt as bad!”

“We should get moving,” Hau said, standing up and stretching. “We want to make it to the Paniola PC before dark.”

“Billy!”

The boy’s head whipped around. A woman wearing a yellow dress, brown hair curly and shoulder-length, was running towards them. Her eyes were watery and grey, and she swept the boy—Billy, Moon supposed—and his Lillipup into a giant hug.

“Oh Billy!” The woman wailed. “We have been looking everywhere for you, you can’t just run off like that! Do you know what kind of Pokémon live on this route? And with only Lillipup, oh dear!”

Moon, Lillie, and Hau stood around awkwardly as the woman started peppering Billy’s face with kisses in between her scolding. Lillie’s eyes were big and bright, Moon couldn’t help but notice.

Once the woman finally set Billy and the Lillipup down on their feet, Moon cleared her throat.

“Oh!” The woman exclaimed. “I’m so sorry. I’m Billy’s mother. And who might you all be?”

“They’re on their island challenge ma!” Billy exclaimed in excitement. “Me ‘n Moon battled! Lillipup ‘n I lost…but then Moon said we should battle people our own size! Mama, please, can you take us to the trainer school?”

Billy’s mom looked ecstatic. “Of course!” She agreed happily. She looked at Moon with appreciation. “I have been trying to get Billy to go to the trainer’s school for months! What did you say?”

Moon shrugged awkwardly. “I just mentioned that Hau and I are also on our island trial, and Hau was the first person I battled against, so…”

“Well whatever you said, thank you! Did I hear you mention you are headed to Paniola town?”

“It’s our next stop, ma’am,” Lillie said.

Billy’s mom was looking at the sky anxiously and tutting. “Oh no, you kids won’t make it on foot! How about this; as a thank you for looking after Billy, I’ll drive you the rest of the way.”

“Wow, thanks!” Hau agreed happily.

“We would be very grateful if you could do that!” Lillie agreed, bowing.

Moon nodded. “Yeah, that would be awesome!”

“Well come on then,” the woman said, gesturing to the path she had come down. “I parked just down this way.”

 


 

“Kay, here’s the deal,” CC was saying, hunched next to M. “There’s lots of Wishiwashi in a school, right? So the question is, which is the right one?”

“Which is the right one?” M asked, voice full of wonder. He was looking at CC with rapt attention, clearly hanging on to her every word. Gladion snorted.

“You got something to say, gladbag?” CC asked, standing and putting her hands on her hips.

“You’re both idiots.” He said.

M joined in, throwing his arms about in a way that Gladion guessed was supposed to appear menacing. “Yo, this dude’s just feelin’ ill cause he ain’t got no skill.”

CC smirked. “Word.”

“Enlighten us, then, numbskull. Which Wishiwashi is the right Wishiwashi?” Gladion hated encouraging them, but this mission would get nowhere if they didn’t start somewhere.

“This loser thinks I know?” CC asked the air.

“Loser,” M snickered.

Gladion pinched the bridge of his nose.

“We can’t just pick any Wishiwashi,” CC said, crossing her arms. “It has to be the Totem. And to know which one the Totem is, we have to see it in action.”

“Disrupting someone’s island challenge?” M asked, awe clear on his face.

“It could take days for someone to attempt the water trial,” Gladion said in a dry voice. “And I can’t see you two numbskulls beating both a Totem Pokémon and a trainer on their island challenge.” He was not going to wait that long. This mission was pointless anyways.

“Them Wishiwashi have to be trained, don’t they?” CC was grinning like an idiot. “We just gotta wait till their trainer comes by, then Bam! We bring the boss back a bad ass Pokémon.”

Gladion could see several steps missing from her plan but chose not to comment. The longer they sat around talking about this, the longer Gladion was here, not training.

“That trial captain won’t know what’s coming! Team Skulls gonna come by and send her running!”

“She thinks she can keep that fish? We’re gonna serve it to her as a side dish!”

“No one can mess with us! We’ll steal your Hippopotas!”

“…We’ll work on it.”

Gladion needed to battle before he threw himself overboard.