Once I’ve stopped shaking uncontrollably, and the Rotomdex has reassured me that the horrifying undead Pikachu I just fought is only another Pokémon (a Ghost/Fairy-type called Mimikyu), Acerola offers me some suggestions on what to do next. Although my success in her trial was in some respects debateable – I was, she reminds me, only supposed to get a photograph of Mimikyu, not give its lair a new back door – I did basically achieve its fundamental objectives, so she presents me with her crystal, the Ghostium-Z. As Ula’ula Island has only two Captains, that means I now have the right to challenge the island’s Kahuna. Acerola declines to explain who or where the Kahuna is right away, though, and invites me back to Aether House to talk it over there. Unfortunately when we get there, with Hau just a few steps behind, someone who is definitely not the Kahuna is waiting.
“Back so soon, hmm?” Plumeria, Team Skull’s self-described ‘big sister,’ is parked in front of Aether House with a couple of grunts. “I wasn’t expecting you just yet,” she says to Acerola. “I heard you were supervising a trial, and-” she stops mid-breath as she catches sight of me. I flinch and quickly sidestep behind Acerola. “You!?” I swear under my breath.
“…hi there, uh… Plumeria, right? Good to, uh-”
“What did I tell you about messing with my little brothers and sisters, jerk?”
“I don’t… remember exactly? But I’m sure it wasn’t good. Um. D-do you think we could talk about th-” She laughs out loud.
“Give it a rest, kid; I’m messing with you. You’re on the level.”
“…oh. Um… really?”
“Yeah – now make damn sure it stays that way.” I gulp nervously, drawing a smirk from her. Acerola looks back and forth between us like she’s following a tennis match.
“…what on earth are you two talking about?”
“Nothing that concerns you, Captain,” Plumeria tells her icily. Her gaze flicks back to me. “Now. It takes these dumb grunts way too long to deal with you kids… so I guess it’s my turn!”
“Wait!” I protest. “I thought we were cool!?”
“That was personal. This is business,” Plumeria clarifies. “I told you before… next time you get in our way, I’m not holding anything back!” With a flick of her wrist, she directs her grunts to engage Acerola and Hau, then summons her own Golbat. I respond with my Toucannon, and Beak Blast it right out of the sky. When Plumeria turns to her partner Pokémon – now evolved into Salazzle – I switch to my Raichu and fry its brain with Psychic. As at our last meeting, Plumeria (in stark contrast to Guzma) barely acknowledges the loss. “Hmmph. Guess you are pretty tough. Now I understand why my grunts waste so much time battling kids.”
“Well, that’s part of the reason,” I say slyly, then suddenly remember my sense of self-preservation. “Uh. I mean. Yeah. That must be it.” Plumeria glares at me, and I swear I can feel a hole being drilled through my skull.
“If you want us to return the Pokémon, then you’ll have to come to us. Alone.”
“Wait, what? Pokémon? What do you-?” She just keeps talking over me.
“The boss is just dying to meet you, hmmph! See you at our base in Po Town!” With that, she and her grunts are gone.
Inside Aether House, the gravity of the situation soon becomes apparent. Lillie and Nebby are both miraculously untouched, since Lillie of course chose to save her own treacherous skin the moment danger reared its head. However, the Yungoos belonging to the little girl I met here just a few hours earlier has been kidnapped. If Plumeria is to be believed, it will be found in Po Town, on Ula’ula Island’s northwest cape, and Team Skull is expecting me – and only me – to come and retrieve it. Acerola explains that Po Town is Team Skull’s “private playground,” a whole settlement that they’ve taken over and run (or rather, fail to run) to serve their own random whims and instant gratification. This is clearly an obvious trap and a terrible plan, and will more than likely lead to my murder in a dark alley. There is, of course, no way for me to get out of it. Damn it, the kid is standing right there; I can’t even argue about it without seeming like a total monster. Why can’t she just grow up bitter, angry and emotionally unstable, get a new Pokémon, and hunt them all down for revenge years later? It worked for Hugh!
As I leave, Acerola points me to “this guy on route 15 who’s wearing a kimono” for help crossing the nearby bay to reach Po Town. At first I am sceptical of her attribution of useful transport expertise to random strangers on the basis of overly formal dress sense, but it turns out she has a point: “this guy” is none other than Grimsley of the Unovan Elite Four. After a brief exchange of small talk, Grimsley presents me with a bet.
“Tell me. Uncle Grimsley is going to flip a coin. Will it be heads or tails?” I think for a minute. Grimsley is obsessed with luck, but part of his philosophy is that luck can sometimes really be a matter of decisions made behind the scenes: how you play your hand is much more important than the cards you draw. And I’ve heard him talk about coins before… something he said on Black and White? “A flipped coin doesn’t always land heads or tails. Sometimes it may never land at all…”
“Neither,” I tell him with a sly grin. He looks at me curiously, then flicks his coin up into the air and catches it.
“…astonishing,” he says, shaking his head. “I had indeed been planning to have Skarmory snatch it out of the air as it spun in the sky.” I laugh. I guess sometimes “making your own luck” means cheating so outrageously that your opponent is forced to respect your ingenuity. In any case, my prescience has earned Grimsley’s respect, and apparently the right to call one of his Pokémon with my Ride Pager: Sharpedo, who can carry a rider across the water like Lana’s Lapras, but can also shatter boulders like Hala’s Tauros, getting me safely across the rock-strewn bay on the west coast of the island.
On the north side of the bay is a small white prefab building that I recognise as one of the Aether Foundation’s field labs – run, strangely enough, by Left and Right. Are they just… doing odd jobs for the Aether Foundation while they’re on holiday? Or are they manipulating the foundation into serving their own dark and mysterious ends? It seems like the answer may be the latter, as the lab houses a large multi-coloured crystal that, according to the Kalosians, can induce Zygarde’s scattered cells to reform. I’ve collected quite a few cells since meeting them in Heahea City, enough to embody one of Zygarde’s dog-like lesser manifestations, as well as two cores. Each core apparently contains the knowledge of one move that can be included in Zygarde’s moveset – the cores I currently possess know Thousand Arrows and Dragon Dance. Left and Right are pleased by my progress towards resurrecting their god. Their cult’s recruitment numbers are on the rise, and even a lesser manifestation of Zygarde’s power will go a long way towards winning the hearts and minds of the Alolan heathens. Another dozen cells, and I will have reassembled enough of Zygarde to summon its giant cobra form, and any who still doubt Zygarde’s power will be brought to heel by the might of the World Shaker!
“…and your enlightened theocratic rule will bring an end to strife and disunity in Alola, right?” I ask.
“C’est cela, oui,” Left says, turning to Right and starting a rapid back-and-forth in Kalosian about something that neither of them cares to explain. I guess they’re done talking to me.
North of the lab, the road leads through Ula’ula Meadow, another Oricorio habitat. The ones in this area feed on nectar from deep crimson flowers that gives them Fire-type abilities. There are no other new Pokémon here, but there is a trail off the east of the main road that leads to a truly spectacular ruin – a vast circular dais, surrounded by stone fortifications, on an island in the middle of the Lake of the Sunne. The complex seems completely abandoned, but almost certainly serves some kind of ritual function, and if I were a betting man I’d say that the dais was built for summoning a legendary Pokémon. Maybe this is where Lillie will perform whatever dastardly blood ritual is necessary to call Lunala and begin her destruction of the Alola region…
Once I clear the meadow, I’m on the outskirts of Po Town. As promised, there are plenty of Team Skull members here, but just like those in the desert settlement, they don’t seem to have aggression on their minds. One straight-up admits that he’s rubbish at battling and relies on his Team Skull brothers and sisters for protection; others challenge me, but are perfectly cordial. The only hint of anything more sinister is the police station on the side of the road – abandoned and overrun with Meowth. Po Town itself is completely encircled by a stark, forbidding concrete wall, its only gate guarded by a pair of grunts. I try for negotiation at first, but the conversation quickly takes a sour turn when they notice my Z-Ring and Island Challenge amulet. This is for one very simple reason: Team Skull is apparently made up entirely of people who failed the Island Challenge. Funny how no one mentioned that before. It might have been useful to know, Kukui. My attempts at talking my way inside only deteriorate from there, and end with the grunts retreating inside. Well. I suppose I could try and get my Toucannon to blast a hole in the wall…
“You there. Boy,” says a voice from behind me. The speaker is a haggard-looking older man wearing bits and pieces of an Alolan police uniform. “Seems to me you’re trying to get into Po Town. You sure you’ve thought this through?” I shrug.
“As far as I’m likely to. What’s it to you?”
“Hmph. Kids.” He walks toward the gate. “You’d better be ready if you’re thinking of coming in here. Ready to live as Team Skull… or ready to take on Team Skull.” He turns back to me and looks me right in the eyes. “You really think you’re ready for that?” I narrow my eyes and stare back.
“No, really, what’s it to you? You’re the only person I’ve seen out here who’s not with Team Skull. What’s your deal?”
“My deal is keeping people safe, kid – whether they care or not. Now I’m gonna ask you one more time: you ready for this?” I roll my eyes.
“Ready for Team Skull? Sure. They’re not as dangerous as people think. There’s good in them.” I pause for thought. “Some of them, anyway.” The man looks surprised.
“I guess everyone has their own reasons. Maybe yours and mine aren’t so different. I’ll have them let you in.” He raps on the hard metal door, than turns to me and says, almost as an afterthought, “If you don’t make it, I’ll be sure your remains at least get back home.”
Po Town is… well, it’s definitely something. The high, enclosed walls have created a local microclimate dominated by heavy rain. The town itself looks like it was once a very nice, upper-crust sort of area, with pretty little houses and neat gardens, the sort of place where sitcom families live their nauseatingly ideal lives. Team Skull’s influence, though, is palpable. Every available surface has been tagged with spray paint, most of the buildings have at least one broken window, and even the Pokémon Centre is barely operable. The Team Skull members running the place are happy to heal my Pokémon, but explain regretfully that they have to charge a small fee to keep the lights on. The Alolans really have just left them here to rot. I make a mental note to give Kukui a good chewing out when this is all over. Battling or evading grunts as I go, I navigate around the barricades on the main road and head for the back of the town, which is dominated by an opulent mansion that has seen better days. This, I can only surmise, is “the boss’s crib.” Guzma isn’t exactly subtle; he’s bound to be in the most extravagant accommodations available. The front door seems to be unguarded, so I creep up in the shadow of a hedgerow and quietly slip inside.
The inside of the mansion is as much a bomb site as the rest of the town. The walls and floor are covered in crudely painted designs, overturned furniture is scattered around the lobby, and a massive gilded chandelier is blocking one arm of the grand staircase. I don’t make it any further than around the first corner before someone grabs me by the arm and drags me into an alcove.
“What are you doin’ here, homie!?” a voice whispers. I blink. It’s B, his face a mix of anger, surprise and… concern? “Don’t you even know what the boss’d do if he caught you!?” I blink again and yank my arm away.
“I’m here to see Guzma,” I hiss at him. “He stole a Pokémon from a friend of mine and I am here to get it back.” B’s eyes widen.
“You don’t gotta do that, yo! That ain’t your fight! The boss is gonna flip!”
“Someone has to, and I don’t see anyone else around here who’s going to stand up to him!” I step out of the alcove and into the middle of the hallway. “Now are you going to help me, or get in my way?” B clenches his fists and yells in frustration, wrenching a Pokéball from his belt.
“Argh! If I gotta put up a defence to make you see some sense, then let’s drop this pretence, yo!” B has expanded his roster since we last fought, adding a Gastly and a Salandit to his Golbat, but all three are Poison-types and none are a match for my newly-evolved Slowbro’s psychic powers. Our battle is over quickly, and he slumps into a battered old chair, looking despondent.
“What’s the use?” he says. “I’m never gonna be strong like you. I’m an incomplete grunt; this is the only place for me in the whole world.” He hangs his head and lapses into silence. I sigh and sit down on the floor, my back against the wall.
“There’s more to being strong than winning battles, B.” He says nothing, but cocks his head at me. “Guys like Guzma think being strong means beating other people down, making them do what you want, crushing their potential. It’s not. Being strong is about building other people up. That’s why we train Pokémon, right?”
“Easy for you to say,” B mutters. “Your Pokémon are strong.” I chuckle.
“Weren’t always. It takes training, patience… you have to see the potential in them, everything that they could be. Guzma… he’s a Bug-type specialist; he ought to know that better than anyone. If he treats his Pokémon like he treats all of you, I don’t know how he ever got his Golisopod to evolve.”
“He’s been havin’ us hustle all the Buginium-Z crystals in Alola,” B muses thoughtfully, “so’s no one else can be a stronger Bug Pokémon trainer.”
“See! That’s exactly what I mean! He thinks being strong is about keeping your rivals weak.” I shake my head. “Izzat really what you want Team Skull to be about? The way Plumeria talks, she makes you guys sound like a family.” He’s silent for a few beats.
“We are. We take in trainers who’re… incomplete. Give ‘em somewhere what they can call home, when everyone else’s given up on ‘em. Just like me and Zubat.”
“After you failed your island challenge?” B looks up at me sharply. “I heard that’s how a lot of Team Skull got started.” He frowns.
“I bet it is. And I bet the Captains and Kahunas didn’t have time for ‘complicated,’ right?” He doesn’t answer. “You don’t have to tell me the whole story now. Just… look, just help me get to Guzma. You don’t need to help me fight him. But one day, you’re gonna. And you’re gonna win.” B stares at his feet for a moment.
“Sometimes I want to smash the world, but I’m always afraid of it.” He breathes out slowly, then clenches his fists. “All right. Follow me.”
B leads me upstairs, past more trashed rooms and hallways, and out to a balcony where a Team Skull guard asks him for a series of passwords: Guzma’s favourite move (Beat Up), Pokémon (Golisopod) and drink (Tapu Cocoa). When asked if he’s sure about his answers, B yells “no!” and we’re let through – apparently Guzma likes his minions to have a contrarian streak. Climbing out over the roof, B shows me through a broken window and into the building’s east wing, the part blocked off by the chandelier on the stairs. Finally, we reach a closed door. B raises his hand to knock, and then stops.
“It’s okay,” I tell him. “You got me this far. I’ll handle the rest.”
“…you sure, homie?”
“I’m sure. Just remember what we talked about, okay?” He bites his lip, then nods.
“Be careful, yo.” I grin.
“I always am, aren’t I?” He rolls his eyes, but dashes off. I turn and knock on Guzma’s door.
Guzma’s room is just as messy as the rest, and a fancy landscape painting on the back wall has been thoroughly defaced with a Team Skull logo in purple spray paint. A huge chest full of yellow-green Z-crystals sits in the corner, where a grunt stands guarding the kidnapped Yungoos. Guzma himself is lounging on a big armchair set up on a low stage like a throne. He stands as I come in, and looks down at me curiously.
“I don’t really get you, kid, but at least this is a change of pace,” he tells me thoughtfully – or at least, what passes for thoughtfully with Guzma. “It’s not every day someone comes straight to me for a beating!” I sigh.
“Look, dude… I honestly wouldn’t even be up for this most days, but I do kinda have something to prove here, so listen up. I’m here for the Pokémon you stole. Beatings are 100% optional, but are absolutely on offer.” Guzma laughs.
“What, Yungoos? How sweet of you to help out a sad little girl. Can’t you just watch out for your own Pokémon and stay out of other people’s business?!” I sigh again, more theatrically this time.
“Seriously, I hear you, I do, but again: something to prove today. There’s someone on your team who needs to see that you’re not worth being scared of, so we can do that the easy way, or the way where you spend the next six weeks tracking down bits of your spinal cord all over Alola.” He stares.
“You’re one messed up kid!”
“Well, I mean, I prefer to think of myself as creative, and I guess I do have an overactive imagination, but-”
“You wanna know what I do when some machine messes up?” he talks over me, raising his voice. “The first thing I do is give it a nice hard smack!”
“I guess this is happening now,” I say with another sigh, then hastily sidestep the Golisopod that is suddenly barrelling towards me, and send out my Decidueye. Golisopod leads with its devastating First Impression strike, and takes little damage from Spirit Shackle. Looking for breathing room, I tell Decidueye to heal off the damage with Synthesis – and then the bloody thing uses Swords Dance. This… could seriously go south quickly. I pull out Decidueye’s unique Z-move, Sinister Arrow Raid, a devastating barrage of spiritual arrows that doesn’t quite knock out Golisopod, but does weaken it enough to trigger its Emergency Exit (which apparently bypasses the magical anchor created by Spirit Shackle), causing Guzma’s Ariados to pop out. Ariados opens with a nasty Sucker Punch that takes Decidueye completely off guard, then finishes him with Shadow Sneak when we try to heal again. Still, both of Guzma’s Pokémon are weakened now, leaving him open for a clean sweep from my Salazzle, who torches them both with Flame Burst. Guzma, to his credit, takes the loss gracefully and congratulates me on an honourable victory.
…nah, I’m just messing with you; he totally flips his lid and storms out of the room while shouting obscenities at literally everything and everyone in his path.
The Yungoos immediately flees the house. I assume it can find its own way home; after all, Yungoos are supposed to be smart… ish. Right? I take a moment to look around Guzma’s room and swipe a Buginium-Z from his chest, and am then compelled to try sitting in his chair. It’s… soft, relaxing, luxuriant… as I sit back and enjoy it, the door opens and a grunt rushes in.
“’Scuze me, Bo-” He stops and stares at me.
“What?” I ask irritably.
“B-b-but you’re not the boss?!” he cries.
“B!tch I might be,” I retort.
“What’s the deal, homie?! You’re not the boss of me?!” the grunt protests.
“Izzat not how this works?” I asked. “I whooped his ass; doesn’t that make me the boss now?” He just stares at me like his whole world is collapsing around him. I wave a hand dismissively. “Whatever, just… just go, I don’t care.” The grunt huffs indignantly and leaves. Well… can you blame me for trying?
Back outside, the man who let me into Po Town is waiting for me, along with the kidnapped Yungoos and Acerola (oh, sure, now she turns up to help). The run-down old man, Nanu, is apparently Acerola’s uncle, and the only police officer crazy enough to live anywhere near Po Town – because, he says, “the rent’s cheap,” though Acerola insists that he has a heart of gold and is doing it to help Pokémon. I… kinda love this character; he’s the bitter, cynical, misanthropic bastard I’ve always longed to be. We’re basically done here, so Acerola heads back to Aether House with Yungoos, Nanu goes back to moping in the rain, and I summon Kiawe’s Charizard for a ride back south. Guzma is beaten once again, and all is right with the world.
When I return to Aether House, Lillie is gone, Hau is panicking, and Gladion is there, in the process of completely losing his $#!t.
Ridiculous quote log:
“I might really go to paradise now that I’ve lost!”
…I’m not going to kill you; jeez.
“OH EM GEE! Please don’t tell me that’s my Skull Tank you’re wearing?”
“Ohhh, no wonder it stinks! It’s the same design though.”
“It does not stink! That’s a lovely aroma! Anyway, we should write our names on them so we don’t mix them up.”
“Uhmm, hello! Our names are all Grunt. What’s the point?”
Well, I suppose this explains Team Skull’s lack of administrative nous…
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 Slowbro
Female, Hardy nature, Own Tempo ability
Psychic, Yawn, Slack Off, Scald
Joanna the Salazzle
Female, Timid nature, Corrosion ability
Flame Burst, Nasty Plot, Sludge Bomb, Toxic
Sigourney the Golisopod
Female, Careful nature, Emergency Exit ability
Brick Break, Payback, First Impression, Leech Life