“So what you’re saying is, you almost killed my Totem Lurantis because your crazy great-grandmother would have wanted it that way?” Mallow folds her arms as she waits for an answer.
“…she had a drinking problem. And a gambling problem. And… several legal problems. But she was pretty spry for 94.”
“When did she…?”
“Um… well, about eight years back, the law caught up with her, and she grabbed a shotgun, stole a motorbike, kidnapped the neighbours’ Heracross, and skipped town, laughing all the way. Honestly she’s, uh… probably still kicking. Somewhere out there.” I idly dunk a spoon in the half-finished pot of stew from Mallow’s trial and taste it. “Mmmmmmmm, that’s so f%&£ing good. Good call on the Revival Herb, by the way.” Mallow shudders.
“Okay, well… I’m pretty sure you did technically pass my trial… somehow… so… take these, I guess.” She thrusts a sack of Nest Balls at me, then hands me her Z-Crystal, the Grassium-Z, and leaves me to explore the jungle on my own. Now that I can encounter and catch wild Pokémon there, I am rewarded with three new ones: Bounsweet, Comfey, and Oranguru. I’m not exactly inspired by these so far. Bounsweet is a round, pinkish-red fruit Pokémon that brings to mind the phrase “oh, look, it’s Cherubi,” but it does evolve into something that might not be Cherrim, so we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Comfey is a Hawaiian lei Pokémon, one of those Flabébé-like Fairy-types that really looks as though it should be a Grass-type and has a bunch of stuff that supports Grass-types; it’s nice and thematically appropriate to the setting but doesn’t seem to evolve, and so far doesn’t really look like it’ll measure up to a fully-evolved Florges. The third Pokémon, Oranguru, is so far the most interesting-looking – a purple and white apelike Normal/Psychic Pokémon that fights from a cross-legged sitting position. It too shares a Pokédex page with something else, so there’s a good chance it will evolve.
When I leave the jungle, Professor Kukui turns up to congratulate me on passing all three of Akala Island’s trials, and remind me that I’m not off the hook yet: the next step is to face Kahuna Olivia in battle, to provide amusement for whatever primitive heathen deity rules this island. But first, he has a little diversion for me: he wants me to come and visit a facility known as the Dimensional Research Lab, back in Heahea City.
“If this is your way of recruiting me to some wild goose chase of a research project that’s going to get me killed in a ridiculous sci-fi laser explosion, Kukui, I swear to Arceus…”
“No, of course not!” he protests. “At the very worst you’ll be trapped in an alien nightmare dimension with no hope of ever returning home! It’ll be no worse than being hit simultaneously with Mean Look, Trick Room, Shadow Force, and Dark Void.” I stare at him in silence for a solid thirty seconds.
“Eh. Good enough.”
Lillie is already at the lab when I get there, trying to teach Nebby to use Splash, of all things. I see right through her (admittedly clever) deception, of course. When your real goal is for your Pokémon to lay waste to a region with the most powerful move of all – Explosion – what better way of avoiding suspicion than by pretending to focus on the weakest move of all? I’m wise to your schemes, terrorist girl. I give her a suspicious leer, causing her to squeak in feigned shock, and we enter the lab together. The Dimensional Research Lab is run by one Professor Burnet, who happens to be Professor Kukui’s wife (GOD DAMN IT HE’S STRAIGHT). She is also a friend of Lillie, having… randomly discovered her and Nebby lying unconscious on a beach three months ago. This was apparently not a significant red flag to anyone involved. Lillie claims that she had been looking for Burnet anyway, and had simply “gotten lost” on the beach before collapsing from exhaustion. How convenient, that circumstances should align so neatly for her to gain the sympathy and enter the confidence of the very professors she had been seeking. I squint at Lillie again, mouth the words “I’m onto you,” and start scribbling in a notebook. She returns a look of utter bewilderment and pulls down the brim of her hat to cover her face. More importantly, returning to the conversation at hand, Burnet is a physicist who has dedicated much of her career to the study of strange phenomena designated “ultra wormholes.” These are, as far as I can glean, mysterious wibbly-wobbly spacey-wacey holes in reality that occasionally appear in the sky over Alola and randomly spit out powerful demon-Pokémon to terrorise the region.
…this, I point out to nobody in particular, is yet another thing that the tourism brochures mysteriously failed to mention.
Professor Burnet is evasive when I try to ask her whether she’s actually seen a wormhole, or one of these “ultra beasts,” but notes that several known Pokémon possess power over dimensions, and claims that the sensitive equipment in her lab should be able to detect the wormholes. She also explains that the four guardian deities of Alola fought against the demonic invaders in ancient times to protect their region… which suddenly makes me very nervous that Tapu Koko’s plans to ruin my holiday may go way beyond just making me fight Pokémon battles for its amusement.
Of course, the instant I leave the lab, a gigantic glowing rift in space appears briefly in the sky, as if to taunt me, before closing up a few moments later. I’m… totally going to get drafted into a war between dimensions, aren’t I?
Whatever. Not my problem. I’m just going to get on with this trial nonsense and pretend I didn’t see th- oh, gods, what if Nebby is the vanguard of the demonic invasion??? No! Nope. I’m not thinking about that. Just… go find Olivia.
Kahuna Olivia lives in Konikoni City, on Akala Island’s southwest coast. To get there, I have to travel through Alola’s take on the Diglett’s Cave, a tunnel system inhabited by Zubat and Alolan Steel Diglett. Olivia herself is actually there when I arrive, but is apparently too busy for me and requests that I meet her at her shop in Konikoni. What is she busy with? Well… apparently working with some of those Aether Foundation conservationists. The Foundation rents space in an office building in Heahea City, next to Professor Burnet’s lab (and right above Game Freak’s Alola branch), though as far as I can tell they don’t actually do anything there. Their presence in the tunnels is a response to some recent unusual Diglett activity that has been making the area dangerous for travellers and miners, which they blame on Team Skull’s shenanigans. Well, their story checks out – further into the caves, I encounter two Team Skull grunts I don’t recognise, and battle them in tandem with Hau, who is gradually becoming almost respectable as a trainer. That was simple enough… almost weirdly so. Team Skull are such buffoons, and I’m not even sure what they were trying to accomplish by disturbing the Diglett. Could there be some greater design behind their nonsense…?
…nah, I’m just being paranoid. Just because their name starts with “Team” doesn’t mean they’re going to open a dozen of these wormholes and bring about the apocalypse.
Once on the other side of the tunnel, I take a brief look around Konikoni City. It’s a colourful city with heavily Japanese-influenced architecture. Like most big Alolan cities, it’s a hub for tourism, with markets that sell rare incenses, TMs and clothing. Down by the cape, there’s a lighthouse, but I can’t access it (yet?), as well as a woman who not only offers to teach my Pikachu Volt Tackle, but even gives me a special Z-Crystal. I thought these things were sacred relics! The Pikanium-Z, when its power is unleashed by the absolute stupidest dance I have yet been taught, transforms Volt Tackle into a truly devastating super-move… Catastropika. Catastropika? Really? That’s the name we’re going with here, Alola? Not, like… Pikalamity, or Pikataclysm, or just Pi-Kaboom? Seriously, the translators dropped the ball on this $#!t. Whatever. Apparently the rules for Z-moves are a little different to what the previous crystals had led me to believe – some of them are related, like Mega Stones, to just one species, or even just one move used by that species. Then there’s Olivia’s own shop. Olivia, a Rock Pokémon specialist, sells evolutionary stones and fossils. Contrary to her earlier promise, she’s not there, but has left her Probopass to run the shop (because… why not?) and given it a message, telling me to join her at the nearby Ruins of Life, the home of the guardian Tapu Lele.
Ohhhhh no. No. I’ve already got one of these ‘guardians’ lording it over me and telling me what to do, just because it… like… I don’t know, saved my life or whatever. The last thing I need is Tapu Lele arbitrarily deciding to offer me “guidance,” or punish me for trespassing, or turn me into an attractive paperweight, or-
Ugggggggh, but on the other hand, I can totally see a couple of members of Team Skull heading for the Ruins of Life through that creepy cemetery outside town. If Olivia’s gone out there to fight them, or they’ve gone out there to attack her… well, then frankly that’s her problem, right?
“Zzzzzt! I dunno, boss!” the Rotomdex interjects. “Sure seemzzzz like it’d be a dick move not to at least go check it out!”
“No one asked you, you cursed calculator-watch,” I mutter, but decide to go anyway. If Olivia… somehow can’t handle those idiots, it’s bound to be my fault, one way or another.
I do my best to pick my way respectfully through the cemetery on Memorial Hill, skirting carefully around each grave. As I reach the other side, I spot the two Team Skull grunts – it’s “B” again, with another of his idiot friends. But it’s not just them – there’s a Slowpoke with them, and they’re arguing with an Aether Foundation worker. Beside her is a green-haired man with huge yellow-green glasses and a white lab coat, regarding the situation with strange detachment. As I approach, I hear the Foundation worker shouting.
“Team Skull! Give back that Pokémon!” The second grunt flicks a few random gang signs in her direction as he shouts his response.
“Don’t give me trouble! I’ll reduce you to rubble!”
“Mmm, trouble/rubble; there’s an original one,” I interrupt, sidling up between the Aether Foundation worker and the man in the glasses. “You know, I bet you’re the first in all the history of the English language to rhyme those two.” I shoot the young woman a glance, and stage-whisper to her “Sarcastic enough? D’you think they’ll get it?” She only stares at me, dumbfounded, so I shrug and turn back to the Team Skull grunts. “Sorry, am I interrupting something? You weren’t about to kidnap this Pokémon, were you?” I feign a wide-eyed gasp. “Tsk, tsk, tsk… You know, I really thought we were getting somewhere, boys, I honestly did.” The second grunt just looks bewildered (I’m not totally sure whether I’ve met him before), but B looks like smoke is about to start pouring out of his ears. I give him my most practiced look of sincere disappointment. “Come on; I thought we were moving past this. Can’t you let this one go? For me?” I smile at him.
“But- wh- you- NO!” he splutters. “We’re gonna sell this Pokémon to get rich, and we won’t make no bones about it! If you want it back, y- you- you’re gonna have to take it!” I sigh and reach for a Pokéball… until the other grunt abruptly gets a look of comprehension and elbows B in the side.
“Yo, homie?” he says quietly. “This ain’t…? Is it?” B turns to him and continues spluttering.
“Wh-what you talkin’bout, dawg?”
“Look, you don’t gotta let nobody step to you when your Team Skull brothers are around, ‘specially not this fool! Take a chill pill, homie; I got your back!” B’s gaze flicks back and forth between me and the other grunt for several seconds, then they both turn their backs to me and start arguing. The Aether Foundation woman gives me a quizzical look, as though to ask for an explanation. I shrug at her, but then inspiration strikes. I hold a finger to my lips to signal for quiet, then crouch low and try to make eye contact with the Slowpoke. It looks directly at me… then yawns and looks away. I snap my fingers, glancing at the grunts to make sure they haven’t noticed, and the Slowpoke – with all the urgency of cold treacle – turns its stupid dopey face towards me. I jab a finger at it and start beckoning it towards me. A full ten seconds later, it gives a decisive nod, turns around, and begins walking directly away from me. I roll my eyes, then glance around, grab a convenient rock, take careful aim, and throw it at the Slowpoke, striking it on the back of the head. It turns around to face me again. I jab my finger at it again, then point firmly at the ground beneath my feet and start beckoning once more. This time, the blasted thing apparently gets the message and starts crawling steadily towards me. I glance up again. The Team Skull grunts are still deep in an animated argument about… something. It’s definitely turning out worse for B, who is holding one hand to his face and cringing for some reason. About a minute later, the Slowpoke reaches me. I silently make a coo-ing face at it, and pat it gently on the head, giving a thumbs-up to the Aether Foundation girl with my other hand.
“Sloooooooooooow…” the Slowpoke says, appreciatively. This, unfortunately, gets the attention of the grunts again, who spin around to face me.
“Right!” I say decisively, standing up straight and clapping my hands together. “I’m sure we all have other business to attend to today, so why don’t we all just-” but the second grunt is having none of that.
“You ready?” he yells at me, grabbing a Pokéball from his belt. “Cuz I was born ready, yo!”
“Well…” I sigh, “worth a try.” I send out my own (infinitely more responsive) Slowpoke… which turns out to be a mistake when his Pokémon is revealed as a Dark Raticate, forcing a hasty switch to my Trumbeak. From there, though, Rock Smash makes short work of it.
“That loss was pathetic! Your moves were so kinetic!” the grunt declares, stunned. B grumbles something under his breath, then shakes his head and shouts at me.
“We don’t need that Pokémon anyway! Take it then! Good luck and good riddance!” Both of them flee the scene. The Aether Foundation worker breathes a sigh of relief and leans down to pat the Slowpoke.
“Phew… thanks, kid. I could’ve been in real trouble there…”
“Now, now,” her companion admonishes her, speaking for the first time, “stand firm! Think of what the president would say!”
“That’s what you say, Chief! But you don’t lift a finger!”
“Why, I am the Aether Foundation’s last line of defence!” I frown at this comment, carefully scrutinising for any signs of particular competence, but he doesn’t seem to notice. “What would become of the Foundation if something were to happen to me now?” He tut-tuts her, then turns to me. “You are a trial-goer aren’t you? You’re a splendid trainer! I’m deeply impressed! I’d like to reward you by showing you something truly astounding. Once you have finished your Grand Trial, come to Hano Grand Resort and I will take you to see a wondrous place.” I accept his invitation with a shrug. Can’t be any worse than whatever the Kahunas and the Guardians will want me to do next.
I continue along the path to the Ruins of Life, past a truly spectacular cliff side and up towards the ruins’ great stone gate. Someone is standing in the path… a young woman… but as I get close, it becomes obvious that it’s not Olivia. She has waist-length pink and yellow hair, black clothes, and… an unmistakeable Team Skull necklace, as well as the Team Skull logo tattooed in pink on her bare midriff. Looks like I’m starting to attract all the wrong kinds of attention from these guys. I briefly consider trying to avoid her, but she’s clearly seen me first, and looks like she was waiting for me.
“So…” she says, confidently strolling up to me. “You’re the one Gladion was talking about? Hmph. You don’t look like anything special to me.”
“Well… looks can be deceiving, right?” I try to flash a confident grin back, but there’s something a tad unsettling about her. “…uh… is this about the Slowpoke, or…?” She looks me sternly in the eye.
“I’m Plumeria. I help keep Team Skull together. I’m like a big sister to all those numskulls.” Her expression softens a little. “Look… you have realised what idiots all these guys are, right?” she asks.
“Um. I- I guess?” I reply. Obviously I have, but I’m a little taken aback by her frankness.
“But… don’t you think some of those dummies are cute in their dumbness? You know what I mean… right?” Plumeria gives me a strange look that is somehow equal parts conspiratorial, teasing… and deadly threatening.
“Um. No. No! I have no idea what you’re talking about! What are you even implying here? Who said anyone was cute? Not me, that’s for sure.” Plumeria glares at me coldly.
“Is that so, punk? Well, I gotta tell you – you picking on my cute, dumb brothers and sisters is really annoying me!” She grabs a Pokéball and summons a Golbat. Oh, thank Arceus, a problem I know how to deal with! My Dartrix is a real champ in this fight, thanks to the affection bonuses we’re starting to accumulate; he dodges a Confuse Ray and an Air Cutter, and shakes off some nasty poison, to secure a win against the Golbat, and seriously injure the Salandit that Plumeria sends out in its place. Salandit finishes my Dartrix with Flame Burst, but its own weak physical defences leave it easy prey for my Trumbeak. Plumeria recalls her Pokémon, steps back, and looks me over for a second. Even though I just beat her, her gaze is… still kind of chilling.
“Hmph. You’re pretty strong,” she says. “I’ll give you that. But mess with anyone in Team Skull again… in any way… and I’ll show you how serious I can get.” Without waiting for a response, she spins around on her heel and stalks off.
“I’m not messing with anyone anywhere!” I call out after her. “It’s not like I have a… a… a stupid ‘thing’ for one of your dumb little brothers. Uh. Or sisters. Could be a sister; you don’t know me; you don’t know my life. I mean, it- it’s not, because it’s no one, but- but you don’t know!” Plumeria is long gone by this point, of course, but that’s no reason to let her get the last word.
Finally, I reach the entrance to the Ruins of Life, with Lillie suddenly right behind me, escorted by Professor Burnet. Lillie is apparently here at Nebby’s behest, and doesn’t know much more than that. Before I can interrogate either of them, though, Kahuna Olivia emerges from the ruins. She apologises for her earlier absence by explaining that Tapu Lele had summoned her to help “clean up” the ruins (wait… so the Kahunas have to do household chores for the guardian deities? Okay, maybe I’m not really getting the short end of the stick after all). With minimal preliminaries, Olivia accepts my challenge… and promptly wrecks my $#!t.
I never intended my current team to be in any sense permanent – Raticate’s going to go at some point, probably Trumbeak too once I’ve finished exploring its evolution, and I’m not 100% on Pikachu or Slowpoke either – but even so, I have to admit it was a slight oversight to have three Pokémon with Rock weaknesses and none with a Rock resistance.
My Dartrix takes out Olivia’s first Pokémon, a Nosepass, without immense difficulty (though, again, a few affection bonuses help to seal the deal). Then… in comes her partner Pokémon, Lycanroc, a creepy-looking red-and-white werewolf Pokémon that I can only assume is the evolved form of Rockruff. Its powerful Rock Throw attack immediately knocks out my Dartrix and my Salandit, then as soon as I try to bring its defences down with Trumbeak’s Rock Smash, Olivia unleashes its Z-move: Continental Crush, which as far as I can tell is a move that works by dropping Australia on you. My poor Slowpoke flinches under Lycanroc’s Bite and doesn’t even get a chance to hit back with Scald. Finally, my Raticate manages to bring it down with Crunch. Enduring what would have been a finishing blow from Olivia’s final Pokémon, a Boldore, Raticate manages to do just enough damage before fainting to bring it within striking distance for my last Pokémon, Pikachu, to finish it off.
Phew. Okay. Lesson learned. No more underestimating Rock-types. Especially weird, gangly werewolf Rock-types.
…what, you didn’t think I was actually going to lose that one, did you? Listen, “wrecks my $#!t” is very much a relative term here. Sure, it looked bad for a little while but I’m a former Champion (in multiple regions, if you count my… past lives, or… whatever… look, I try not to think about it too hard), and Olivia is, like, the head shaman of some backwards middle-of-nowhere hick island who does chores for a bird. Of course I beat her; I’m amazing. Give me some credit here.
Olivia rewards me with her Z-crystal – the Rockium-Z (did the Alolans listen to these names at all while they were picking them…?) – and sends me packing just as Hau arrives for his own Grand Trial. Hau has apparently received the same invitation from the Aether Foundation as I did, and is eager to get his trial out of the way so we can go and have a look. Lillie is decidedly less enthusiastic, presumably since she knows the Aether Foundation is hot on her trail, and makes a stammering excuse. Well, whatever. Sooner or later, Lillie… you can’t run forever.
Ridiculous quote log:
“Yo! I’m a herb seller! I’m self-taught, but I sell good quality herbs!”
Why does everyone in this region try to get me to do f#$%ing drugs!?
“There’s a faint smell of spices, sauces, and other fragrant things…”
…okay maybe this is the time to admit that I… kiiiiiiinda have a thing for smelling other people’s beds? Uh, I- I mean, it’s totally not a sex thing, not even a little bit; just, uh… if I come across someone’s bed, I like to… give it a good long sniff before I move past it. Lots of people do it, probably. It helps me feel closer to- wait, damn it, no, that still sounds weird. That is, uh… I mean, if they wanted to sniff my bed I would totally let them, and- okay that sounds even worse. Can we… just forget I said anything?
Tane the Dartrix
Male, Timid nature, Overgrow ability
Tackle, Razor Leaf, Astonish, Pluck
Rhea the Trumbeak
Female, Lax nature, Keen Eye ability
Pluck, Roost, Fury Attack, Rock Smash
Ashley the Pikachu
Female, Timid nature, Static ability
Volt Tackle, Hidden Power (Ice), Nasty Plot, Thunder Wave
Hypatia the Slowpoke
Female, Hardy nature, Own Tempo ability
Confusion, Yawn, Headbutt, Scald
Soot the Raticate
Female, Hardy nature, Hustle ability
Crunch, Tail Whip, Hyper Fang, Focus Energy
Joanna the Salandit
Female, Timid nature, Corrosion ability
Flame Burst, Sweet Scent, Dragon Rage, Smog