With no other clear direction obvious to me, I leave Malie City and wander south. The southeast coast of Ula’ula Island is dominated by extremely rough, rocky, arid scrubland. Although the Z-Crystal that I earned in Sophocles’ trial gets me through the Island Challenge barricades on the southeast road, it doesn’t take long before the rocks become totally impassable. Fortunately, Hapu (who is almost certainly very important, though I’m still not sure why) is on hand to offer me the solution: she allows me to freely summon her Mudsdale as a riding Pokémon. Mudsdale is slow compared to the other Tauros and Stoutland, but can move effortlessly over rough terrain that would reduce them to uncoordinated stumbling. Hapu points me in the direction of Tapu Village, at the base of Mount Lanakila, for my next trial, then bids me good luck and farewell.
The southward march reveals two new Pokémon – an Alolan Geodude whose body is made of a magnetic stone that grants it electrical powers, and a small spherical mouselike creature called Togedemaru, which hangs around the outside of a local geothermal power plant. Togedemaru, to my immense displeasure, appears to be Pikachu 6.0. Even worse, I’m not even allowed to be annoyed by endless reiterations of Pikachu anymore because of that damn Pachirisu that won a world championship, so I’ll have to find more subtle ways of being a grumpy jerk about it. I also take a moment to try fishing off the south coast of Ula’ula, and discover a sort of… buck-toothed psychic parrotfish? Bruxish (for such is its name) doesn’t evolve, but does have a neat ability, Dazzling, which just outright forbids its opponent from using priority moves; that strikes me as very niche, but if nothing else it seems like a really hilarious way of messing with Talonflame. More importantly, my Dartrix reaches his final form: Decidueye, a sinister, vaguely humanoid Grass/Ghost owl Pokémon. Decidueye’s signature move, Spirit Shackle, is a Ghost-type physical attack that traps a target in play by pinning its shadow to the ground with a magical arrow. Damn that’s badass. I’ve also dragged my long-suffering Wimpod out of storage and levelled her up enough to evolve into a Golisopod like Guzma’s. Golisopod is an interesting Pokémon. Although far more powerful than Wimpod, it’s just as reluctant to actually fight, on account of its peaceful nature. Its ability is rebranded from Wimp Out to Emergency Exit, to make it seem less… useless… but in fact it still does exactly the same thing, instantly withdrawing Golisopod from battle when it becomes seriously wounded. Luckily, Golisopod also comes with a signature move that synergises with this odd ability – First Impression, an attack that has both high power and priority, but (like Fake Out) can only be used just after entering battle. The result is a unique hit-and-run fighting style. Not sure how good it is, mind you, but it’s different, and for now that’s enough to be worth booting Raticate off my team in favour of Golisopod.
The southeast road curves along the barren, rocky coast of Ula’ula Island until it finally reaches a ramshackle settlement made up of a motel and a few broken-down mobile homes huddled around an oasis. Is this… Tapu Village? It’s… kind of a dump. Hau has arrived here just ahead of me, brimming with energy as always. As we talk – or, more accurately, as Hau bubbles at me cheerfully – a voice cuts across from behind me.
“You only have one volume, don’t you?” it asks disdainfully. I turn to see Gladion, the strange pale boy working for Team Skull that we met on Akala Island.
“Gah! He’s back!” Hau cries. Gladion makes a face at him.
“Haven’t you ever heard the expression that silence is golden?”
“Believe me, dude, I’m with you on that one,” I tell him. Hau looks upset, but Gladion ignores me and continues speaking.
“Listen, Team Skull is looking for a Pokémon called Cosmog… Do you two know anything?” Hau’s eyes widen and he starts spluttering.
“What!? N-not that we’d tell you!”
“Hau, shut up and let me handle this,” I hiss, shooting him a quick cautionary glance. Gladion fixes his gaze on Hau, like he’s staring right through him.
“So you do know something.”
“What if we do?” I ask. Gladion keeps glaring at Hau, who is rapidly wilting under the pressure. “Hey.” I snap my fingers. “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” Gladion rolls his eyes and turns to me, and Hau breathes a sigh of relief. “What if we do know something?” I give him a conspiratorial smirk. “How much is it worth to you?” Hau looks shocked, but Gladion just grunts.
“Ugh… Look… Cosmog isn’t even a strong Pokémon. But it has the potential to summon Pokémon so terrifyingly strong that you don’t even know.” Summon…? Like, through an Ultra Wormhole? Can Cosmog create Ultra Wormholes? But then- then Lillie must already have what she needs to summon the Ultra Beast that she was researching in the Malie Library! Unless… no… no, it has the potential to, Gladion said. I can still stop Lillie’s plans if I can find out what will unlock Nebby’s potential and stop her from getting it… but I can’t let her realise how much I know. “If something like that happened, it would be a disaster for Alola,” Gladion continues.
“A disaster?” Hau exclaims. “Like… a real disaster? Then what’re we supposed to do about it?”
“Protect it!” Gladion answers, exasperated. “If you do know where Cosmog is or if you do find anything out… just keep it safe!”
“Safe from what…?” I ask, fishing for more information. “You said you work for Team Skull. Why would you want us to keep Neb- uh- this ‘Cosmog’ Pokémon safe from them? What’s your real angle here?” Gladion tenses up slightly.
“Working for Team Skull doesn’t mean I always have to agree with them. You’ve met Guzma. Can you even imagine what he would be like with Cosmog under his control?” I stare at him intently.
“You’re lying,” I state matter-of-factly. The truth is, I’m actually not sure this time, and I certainly don’t want Guzma to be able to summon god-killing abominations from the Endless Void at will – but there’s no reason to let Gladion know that. “Something else is going on here. They’re looking for Cosmog for someone else… or… to keep it away from someone else?” He doesn’t take the bait.
“I know I might be working for Team Skull right now, so you may not trust me or even care, but… I’m going to tell you this just once. You have to protect Cosmog! No matter what!” He turns and leaves, ignoring Hau’s attempts to ask more questions.
Well, at least I know one thing for sure: the saintly Aether Foundation has nothing to do with this. After all, Lusamine seemed so nice! Her foundation couldn’t possibly be involved with anything as disreputable as a turf war with Team Skull, let alone Lillie’s apocalyptic plans to summon Lunala and plunge Alola into eternal night. Nope; that is one Alolan faction that I see no reason to investigate whatsoever.
Now that I’m free to explore the oasis, I quickly discover that this is not Tapu Village at all. The “village” is a blasted ruin to the west of the oasis, at the bottom of the trail that leads up Mount Lanakila, where only a Pokémon Centre and a few stone totems are still standing. The cluster of beaten-up mobile homes seems to be a makeshift settlement of Alola’s assorted hopeless and dispossessed. Honestly it seems like this is just a place where the Alolans ditch people they don’t want to think too hard about – a campervan graveyard on the edge of the unforgiving Haina Desert, where the local deity, Tapu Bulu, is said to live in isolation. So… if I’m understanding the situation correctly, the Tapu of Life lives next to a cemetery, and the Tapu of Abundance lives in the middle of a desert. I can only assume that no one has ever offered the Alolan pantheon any sort of image consulting. Among the societal debris of this alleged settlement are several members of Team Skull, who seem to own one of the campervans. I guess this is their home, making me the intruder this time, but they make no effort to make me feel unwelcome. They even talk to me for a while, satisfying some of my curiosity about who they are and where they come from. Team Skull, apparently, had once been led by an Alolan Kahuna, but fell out of favour after they “got smacked down by the wrath of the Tapu,” which, to be honest, I can sympathise with. I’m rapidly starting to feel like Team Skull may be the victims in all of this (or at least, many of their members; I have yet to develop any particular compassion for Guzma). Alolan society and tradition have left them behind, casting them out to the edges of civilisation, and now Kukui’s revolution is threatening to do it again. There’s some straight-up classism just below the surface here.
If Professor Kukui’s Lanakila League ever takes off, then Tapu Village might become a thriving settlement again thanks to the tourism, but for now, it barely even qualifies as a village. Aside from the Pokémon Centre, there’s just a big abandoned supermarket, sitting just back from the black iron-sand beach on the south coast. Apparently it was built on sacred land, drawing the wrath of the Tapu, and is now overrun by Ghost Pokémon. It’s also a trial site, but its Captain – presumably that Acerola chick who was conspiring with Lillie at the library – isn’t here. Out in the bay, there’s a ruined lighthouse, and there’s no word on what happened to that. Maybe Tapu Bulu just has really terrible aim? Outside the “village” to the northwest is only other location of any importance, a gleaming white building in the distinctive cuboid architectural style of the Aether Foundation: Aether House. The sign outside proclaims it to be a place “where people and Pokémon huddle together” – a refuge of sorts, not unlike the Aether Paradise, though Aether House also seems to harbour human children (orphans?). Despite the name, and the golden trident-like logo of the Aether Foundation prominently displayed above the reception desk, there don’t seem to be any actual Aether Foundation employees present. There is a receptionist manning the desk. However, this receptionist is an Oranguru. No one questions this. When Hau and I first arrive here, we manage to get into a fight with the unusually warlike children who live in Aether House with their Pokémon, but it doesn’t take long for Acerola to show up and reassure them that we aren’t their enemy. She seems to work at Aether House in some capacity, but I’m not clear on whether she’s part of the Aether Foundation – if so, it’s odd that she’s working with Lillie. Perhaps she’s a double agent working for Lillie’s terrorist cell to bring down the foundation from within… The plot thickens. Acerola formally invites me and Hau to take her trial at the abandoned Thrifty Megamart, which should be a good way to get the measure of her properly.
When I leave Aether House, Lillie is just outside – shouting at a member of Team Skull. Oh dear.
“Your bag was moving!” the grunt accuses her. “Right in front of my eyes! And I’m just supposed to ignore that?!” That bag is where she hides Nebby when they’re in public.
“Even if it’s not that rare of a Pokémon, I bet I could still get paid, yo,” the grunt continues. Lillie feigns terror, cowering with her bag held protectively behind her, but he clearly sees through her flimsy ruse and takes a step closer to her, looming threateningly.
“Damnit,” I mutter under my breath. If this idiot forces Lillie’s hand, then either I’ll be railroaded into a confrontation with her right now, or Team Skull will get her Cosmog, and I’m not sure either of those scenarios end well. I recognise him as the grunt with the Drowzee that I battled a couple of times on Melemele Island, so I decide to step in and try to defuse the situation.
“Hey there; what’s up, uh… homie?” I say cheerfully as I hastily insert myself in between Lillie and the grunt. “I’m sure we don’t need this to get violent, right? Why don’t you and I just leave the girl alone and I’ll, uh… buy you a nice Tapu Cocoa down at the Pokémon Centre or something?” He looks at me suspiciously.
“You again? I remember you – you’re that numskull what B keeps talking about.” I blink a few times.
“Yeah, I- um. Wait, he does? Really? Like… what kind of things does he even say?” Lillie cocks her head and stares at me in abject confusion. I give her some frantic hand signals behind my back in hopes of getting her to scurry into Aether House.
“I dunno, he just, like… never shuts up when we’re all hanging out at the boss’s crib. It’s mad distractin’, yo! Homie needs to check himself ‘fore he wrecks himself.”
“Well… no, I mean, yeah, I get it, just… like, for example…?” I ask, doing my best to appear casual while simultaneously progressing my hand signals for Lillie to more insistent and obscene levels. My strategy is working in one respect at least; the grunt is now getting far too mystified with my line of questioning to pay any attention to her.
“Uh… I guess last time we was all chillin’, he kept talkin’ about how you beat the boss in Malie City. It’s like that numskull don’t even know what Guzma’d do to us if he heard someone mouthing off like that!” My reputation is spreading! At this rate, Guzma will have lost control of Team Skull by next Thursday! Meanwhile, as the grunt talks, Lillie slowly creeps up the Aether House front stairs. “What’choo even care for, yo?”
“Oh, well, I don’t, I just- Well, the more of you know how strong I am, the easier it gets to keep you from causing trouble, right?” I pause to think. “Not that that’s stopped any of you from trying to fight me so far…” Lillie has made her way inside, and is now nowhere to be seen. Mission accomplished. “Do you think you could give B a message from me?” I ask, trying to keep the grunt’s thoughts disrupted as long as possible.
“…sure?” He waits for a few seconds. “So…?”
“Um. Just… tell him I said hi?” I suggest. “And, uh, maybe tell him to tone it down when Guzma’s around? You know, check himself before he wrecks himself?” The grunt looks at me like I just told him I want dancing lessons for my Walrein because it’s the wrong shade of orange.
“Whatever, homie,” he says with a shrug. “I gotta split. Laters!” He wanders off, still looking baffled.
…what? It worked, didn’t it?
Acerola meets me outside the defunct Thrifty Megamart, as promised, and explains the rules of her trial. All I have to do is find her Ghost-type Totem Pokémon within the ruins of the store and take its picture with the Rotomdex’s camera. Easy, right? She even offers me a hint: the Totem Pokémon will probably be hidden, but should come out to “join the fun” if it sees the other Ghost Pokémon enjoying a photo op and gets jealous. Well, this should be refreshingly straightforward. Acerola bids me good luck and, with the Rotomdex hovering at my side, I enter the abandoned store.
…wow, this place is a dump. Empty storage boxes and overturned shopping trolleys blocking half the aisles, piles of canned food that no-one ever bothered to claim, bare shelves coated with dust, windows gone dark from years of neglected grime… No Ghost Pokémon yet, but that’s not surprising; most Ghost-type species prefer to observe humans on their own terms before engaging. I walk softly past a collapsed shelf of decaying magazines, scanning the store for movement. Somewhere to my left, I hear a loud “clunk,” and one of the checkout conveyor belts starts moving on its own. That’s… not normal. I go to examine the checkout.
“Zzzzt! What are you waiting for?” the Rotomdex buzzes, floating around in front of me. “Take a photo!” It waves its ‘arm’ at the empty air in front of us.
“…dude, you’re glitching again. There’s nothing there.”
“You were zzzzzzzaying?”
“…it’s the wind. Probably.”
“You really can’t zzzzzzzee that?” I shrug helplessly. “Juzzzzzt look through my camera!” The Rotomdex boots up its camera function and hovers right in front of my nose. I blink, uncross my eyes, and peer at the screen. The Gastly floating overhead laughs and pokes out its tongue. The Rotomdex clicks loudly and snaps a photo of the Gastly, which immediately turns itself visible and attacks. Startled, I yelp, tumble backwards over another checkout counter, and fumble for my Golisopod’s Pokéball. A quick Payback attack is enough to see the Gastly off, leaving Golisopod to wonder what her trainer is doing upside down on the floor of a derelict supermarket.
“So you can see Ghost Pokémon even while they’re out-of-phase?” I ask the Rotomdex as I creep further into the building, my Golisopod in tow.
“Zzzzt! I’m a Ghost Pokémon too, remember, bosszz?”
“And you can project what you see onto your display?” A discarded trolley starts rattling, and we move to investigate.
“Close enough. My cameras can pick up all the same thingzzzz my eyes can.”
“Oh, that makes sense.” We detect and dispatch a Haunter in the same way as the Gastly before it. “…wait, you have multispectral cameras?”
“Zzzzt! Sure do, bosszz!”
“Um… why?” I ask.
“What do you mean, why? I’m a top-notch rezzzearch tool! I’m zzzztate of the art!” the Rotomdex responds indignantly.
“Jeez, it was just a question; no need to get your circuits knotted.” It buzzes at me with irritation. “Although… you’re not really, are you?”
“What’zzz that supposed to mean!?”
“Well… the body that the Professors gave you – the Pokédex – that’s where all your useful functionality comes from. You’re just… kind of an annoying tour guide.”
“ZZZZZZT! Without me, thizzz thing is just a glorified Kindle with the battery life of a suicidal Voltorb! I’m the one that allows new information and data analysis to come out of your random stumbling around Alola!”
“Random stumbling!? That- well, okay, that’s fair, but… hang on. Analysis?” Over in the back corner of the store, I see a Pikachu doll and a Marill doll levitate off their shelf.
“Who do you think writezz all those Pokédex entries!? Zzzzt!”
“Wait – you write… yourself? Every one of your entries is your original work?” The Rotomdex is silent for a moment, then gives an embarrassed buzz.
“Not exzzzactly. I’m the… ethereal spark that lets the Pokédex’s AI function. But I don’t really know how it works. If I want to know something from my database, I can juzzzzt… think of it, and it’s like I knew it all along, but I don’t know how I know it or where I learned it.”
“Zzzt! You’re damn right it is, boss! But I wouldn’t pass it up for anything! While I’m living inside this box, I’m the zzzmartest thing in the universe!”
“Whatever; don’t get a swelled CPU.” We snap a picture of a Gengar, walking on air and controlling the floating dolls. The Gengar attacks, and my Golisopod smacks it through a wall with Payback. We’re at the back of the store now, and nothing else seems to be moving. The whole place is eerily quiet. Suddenly, there’s a voice behind me.
“Piiii-pikachu!” I spin around and see a little Pikachu in a gloomy corner. It runs off alongside the back wall of the store and ducks through a door that… I’m almost certain wasn’t there a second ago.
“Oookay…” I say out loud. What would a Pikachu be doing in a place like this? I walk slowly towards the door. It’s ajar, and swings open with only a slight creak. The room beyond is… tiny, barely large enough for me and Golisopod. The stark concrete walls are decorated with a dozen or more child’s drawings of a Pikachu with a little girl. “What… is all this doing here?” I ask. We’re in the back room of a supermarket, why…?
“Pi-ka!” I turn around. The Pikachu is standing behind us.
“Hello there…” I say cautiously. The Pikachu cocks its head. “Could you help me? I’m looking for a Totem Pokémon, and-” The Pikachu suddenly starts laughing, a scratchy, high-pitched sound that seems totally out of place.
“Uh… boss?” the Rotomdex asks. “Who are you talking to?”
“The-?” I blink. “You can’t see-?” I look to the Rotomdex, then back at the Pikachu. It flickers for a moment and then vanishes. The tiny room’s door slams shut and the lights cut out. “Ohhhhhh god…” The Rotomdex turns up its display brightness, and I catch sight of the Pikachu again – only it suddenly looks very wrong. Its skin is freakishly pale, its head lolls to one side, its ears are bent and crumpled, and its face looks scribbled on with a marker. It laughs again, and I snap. “OH SWEET JUMPING CR@P!” I shout, and roundhouse kick the not-Pikachu in the head. It just keeps laughing as its neck goes limp and its head dangles uselessly over its back. “KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT!” I scream at my Golisopod, who clumsily tries to attack around me, leaving several dents in the concrete walls in the process. With another deranged, maniacal laugh, the not-Pikachu leaps onto Golisopod and beats her senseless. I hastily call on my Toucannon for a Beak Blast that burns the not-Pikachu and starts to seriously crack the walls, but it just pops a Lum Berry in its mouth, grabs my Toucannon and slams her to the ground. “ARCEUS I’VE ALWAYS BELIEVED IN YOU! I’M SORRY FOR BEING TERRIBLE!” I shout as I send out my Salazzle. Panicking now, I perform a flailing improvisation of Kiawe’s fire dance and command an Inferno Overdrive. That does the trick, blasting the not-Pikachu right through the wall, leaving a gaping hole in the back of the supermarket. Unfortunately, it also fills the tiny cubicle with thick smoke and concrete dust. Coughing and hacking, I stumble outside into the light and collapse on the ground, exhausted. A minute later, I become aware of a curious face peering at me from above.
“This one’s going straight on my instagram,” Acerola says cheerfully. “Hashtag spooked!”
Ridiculous quote log:
“I want to do business with Pokémon. For example, I could use the pincers of Crabrawler, which grow back constantly.”
Wait, use them for what? Are you going to torture Pokémon to produce an endless supply of crab meat?
“Lana put her soul into the fishing rod she made. Er, don’t you think that the rod is Lana herself?”
Um. Well, I didn’t until now, but you’re saying that with such conviction that I’m not sure anymore… and I’m going to start watching what I say around my fishing rod…
Tane the Decidueye
Male, Timid nature, Overgrow ability
Steel Wing, Razor Leaf, Synthesis, Spirit Shackle
Rhea the Toucannon
Female, Lax nature, Keen Eye ability
Screech, Roost, Beak Blast, Brick Break
Ashley the Psychu
Female, Timid nature, Surge Surfer ability
Discharge, Hidden Power (Ice), Nasty Plot, Psychic
Hypatia the Slowpoke
Female, Hardy nature, Own Tempo ability
Psychic, Yawn, Façade, Scald
Joanna the Salazzle
Female, Timid nature, Corrosion ability
Flame Burst, Nasty Plot, Dragon Rage, Toxic
Sigourney the Golisopod
Female, Careful nature, Emergency Exit ability
Brick Break, Payback, First Impression, Leech Life