Poni Island, which corresponds to the real Hawaiian island of Kauai, turns out to be basically uninhabited. Gladion’s ship drops us off next to a group of brightly painted houseboats with Pokémon-inspired facades, clustered around a long pier. This is the Seafolk Village – a community of seafaring nomads and traders who visit Poni Island seasonally to gather berries. There are no permanent towns or cities – only Pokémon, and the ruins we’ve come here to see. The Seafolk have a perfectly serviceable Pokémon Centre, though, and Lillie and I are even greeted on our arrival by their chief, who knows a little about the island. Lillie explains that we need to see the Kahuna, and the Seafolk chief suggests that we visit Hapu, who lives a little way along the coast to the southeast, in the only permanent dwelling left on the island.
“Oh, we know Hapu,” I tell him. “She’s the Kahuna of Poni Island? She never mentioned that.”
“…I’m sure she can help you,” the chief replies, apparently hesitant to confirm or deny. Well, that’s not even slightly suspicious.
“I’ll do my best to keep up,” Lillie promises me as we step onto dry land. “I’ll be fine! I’ve got Max Repels with me,” she says confidently.
“Uh… you know those only repel Pokémon of a lower level than your own, right?”
“…oh. Well… I have you too, right?”
“And Nebby,” I point out.
“Nebby is still unconscious!”
“Yeah, but he’s… like… heavy, right? You could throw him at people.” She gives me a shocked look. “Just spitballing!” We start walking. “What level is Nebby, anyway?”
“I have no idea…” Lillie answers, a little despondently. “He’s not actually my Pokémon; he’s just been travelling with me.”
“So you’re really not a trainer at all? Seriously?” She shakes her head. “With a mother who runs a huge Pokémon conservation organisation? And a brother who… well, I mean, he’s a dick but he’s clearly got talent!”
“I always wanted to be a scientist, like my mother… I never wanted to travel. But what happened to Nebby, the way she…” Lillie breaks off, and is silent for a few seconds. “Pokémon trainers really do amaze me. It seems like a hard path to walk, and even so, you don’t let yourself be held back by the fear of seeing your Pokémon friends get hurt. You just keep striving forward together…”
“Eh… sometimes you do have to cut and run. Like, being a trainer means being powerful, and being powerful means you have to do what’s right… well, when it’s convenient, obviously… but it also means you’re responsible for your Pokémon, and when it’s someone else’s skin you’re risking, sometimes the bravest thing you can do is show a bit of basic natural cowardice. Take hiding from the Aether Foundation, for instance. The brave thing to do, the noble thing, would have been to go back to Aether Paradise, confront your mother, and demand she take you back and treat Nebby better. But that would have been stupid, because she would’ve literally fed you to a demon. Hiding wasn’t the bravest or noblest way you could’ve played that, but it was the way that didn’t get you or Nebby killed. Cowardice got us both we are today; don’t knock it.” Lillie listens, nods a couple of times, and falls silent.
We soon arrive at Hapu’s home – an ancient adobe house on Poni Island’s southeast coast – and are greeted first by her Mudsdale, and then by Hapu herself. After exchanging pleasantries, Lillie gets down to business and asks for directions to the Kahuna… which is when Hapu drops the bombshell that the Seafolk chief was unwilling to. Apparently there is no Poni Island Kahuna. There hasn’t been one for years. You’d think someone (I’m looking at you, Hala) might have mentioned, before sending me off on a quest to defeat four Kahunas, that there were only three of them. The Island Challenge – an important rite of passage for Alolan Pokémon trainers – has been impossible to complete since the death of Hapu’s grandfather, who was the previous Kahuna. The island deity Tapu Fini, the Tapu of Hope, just… never appointed a replacement. I guess it never seemed important? This is why you should never make legendary Pokémon responsible for human institutions; they have different priorities, operate on radically different timescales, and will occasionally just screw you over without really meaning to. Human leaders will demand gold, castles and expensive cheese, but at least they’re reliable. In any case, Hapu apparently does have some kind of plan to get us the help we need, and asks us to meet her at the nearby Ruins of Hope. Before we can leave, though, an old woman who introduces herself as Hapu’s grandmother offers us one extra little bit of help: another riding Pokémon.
“Oh! Thanks, but… well, Hapu already lets me summon her Mudsdale, so-”
“I’m not talking about Mudsdale,” the old woman says, chuckling. “I’m talking about this.” A burly Machamp steps up behind her. I raise my eyebrows.
“Uh… how exactly do you ride a…?”
“Like this.” She gives the Machamp a little gesture, and it steps up to me and, before I can react or say anything, sweeps me off my feet and gently cradles me in its lower arms.
“Whoa! Um. Wow.” I twist my head around to look at the ground, then up at the Machamp’s face. It gives a jolly, booming laugh. “This, uh… you know, I kinda have a dream that starts like this, except in the dream it’s always been a human guy…”
Machamp provides Sun and Moon’s equivalent to the Strength HM, allowing us to move large stone blocks in our path – conveniently, since the entrance to the Ruins of Hope is barred by a series of exactly such blocks. According to Lillie, Tapu Fini is said to have the power to “wash away all impurities,” and might be able to restore Nebby. I’m sceptical – the Tapu have no love for Ultra Beasts – but if Lillie wants to give it a shot, whatever. The ruins are somehow smaller than I was expecting. There’s no expansive tunnel system filled with wild Pokémon, no obstacles or puzzles beyond the initial sliding block barrier, just an inner chamber with a raised dais. When Lillie and I enter the room, Hapu is kneeling on the dais, speaking in a quiet, measured voice to a stone statue that I take to be a stylised representation of the Tapu.
“I’ve read about them, you know…” Lillie whispers to me. “Alola’s sacred ruins, and the guardian deities worshipped within. The books say that they are… well, capricious. Encounters with them do not always end as you hope.”
“Hmph,” I grunt in response. “Sounds about typical for deities. Irresponsible bunch of manipulative little twerps.” Lillie looks at me nervously. “You heard me. If Tapu Fini doesn’t like it, it can come out and tell me to my face…” I pause and look around. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
Meanwhile, up on the dais, Hapu has raised her voice slightly. I can tell now that she’s speaking in a very ancient dialect of Alolan, but I can’t understand a word of it. As her incantation ends, she is enveloped in a halo of golden light. She reaches out with both hands and takes a small object hanging in the air in front of her, and the light fades. Hapu clutches the object to her breast and bows her head.
“I give my thanks for your great blessing. I will do my best, for the people and the Pokémon of Alola.” And just like that, Hapu stands, chosen by her god, the new Kahuna of Poni Island.
“Oh!” she says as she turns and sees us. “There you are.”
“Congratulations on the promotion,” I tell her. “About time too, by the sound of it.” Hapu smiles and shakes her head.
“These things happen in their own time. The Kahunas are chosen by the Pokémon we worship from among the people living on each of the islands they watch over. My grandfather died very suddenly, and, well…”
“…you weren’t ready. But there were no other young trainers on Poni Island with the skill to replace him,” I finish. She nods.
“In the old days, when Poni Island was more populated, there would have been other candidates… I tried to follow in his footsteps, but I was not chosen back then. So I set out on my own sort of Island Challenge, travelling Alola and trying to grow stronger.” She looks at me with a hint of envy. “You must really be something, Chris. To be given a Sparkling Stone by the Tapu, even as a stranger to our shores.” I glance down at the Z-Ring Hala made for me on my wrist.
“Oh- oh, I’m not looking to take anyone’s position, if that’s what you’re getting at. One run-in with Tapu Koko is quite enough for me. Besides, I got the impression Kahuna was a lifetime position?” She chuckles.
“It is – usually. But retirement is possible. You should consider keeping your options open, if you find you feel like staying in Alola.” I hesitate.
“…I’m fine, thanks.” Hapu shrugs and turns to Lillie.
“Lillie. The Kahuna you wished to meet is right here.” Lillie blinks and looks confused for a moment.
“Oh! Oh, yes, of course! Um.” She clears her throat. “Please, then, Kahuna Hapu – tell me about the legendary Pokémon!”
As it turns out, Hapu doesn’t know much more about Lunala or the summoning ritual than we do – but she is able to point us to the twin of Lillie’s Sun Flute, which is kept on a shrine on Exeggutor Island, an uninhabited little nothing of a place near the Seafolk Village. Exactly why the flute is kept there apparently escapes her, but it’s definitely tradition, and if there’s one thing I’m learning about Alolan traditions, it’s that it’s best not to question them in polite company. She also knows where we can conduct the ritual – the Altar of the Moone, on the island’s northeast coast. Once we have the Moon Flute, we’re to meet Hapu at the entrance to the Vast Poni Canyon, and travel together to the Altar.
A short ride later, in one of the Seafolk’s damp, rickety Magikarp-styled runabouts, Lillie and I are unceremoniously dumped on Exeggutor Island’s only serviceable jetty. The island is long and narrow, low and close to the water at the south end, with sheer cliffs rising straight up out of the sea at the north end, and a winding, gently sloping trail connecting the two. We quickly learn how it got its name: it’s inhabited mainly by Exeggcute and Exeggutor, belonging to a curious Alolan subspecies. The Exeggcute seem identical to their Kanto cousins, but the Exeggutor have almost comically long necks that sway precipitously in even the slightest breeze… and apparently have Dragon-type abilities. Because Dragon-types obviously made way too much sense when all we had to deal with was Altaria, Mega Ampharos, Noivern and Goodra.
“You. Cortana McSiri. Explain,” I tell the Rotomdex.
“Zzzzt! Azz it grew taller and taller, it outgrew its reliance on pzzzychic powers, while within it awakened the power of the zzzleeping dragon!”
“You just made that up; that doesn’t make any sense at all.” The Rotomdex buzzes indignantly, flies into my backpack, and turns itself off. “Impudent little electronic charlatan,” I mutter. The Rotomdex bleeps back on, delivers a mild shock to my lower back, then switches off again. “Hey! If you keep pulling that kind of $#!t I swear-”
“Chris! Hurry up!” calls Lillie, who has already set off up the path towards the island’s summit. I shrug and follow her.
As we climb the hill, Lillie and I are caught in a sudden rainstorm, and take shelter beneath a rocky overhang. After a few minutes of awkwardly staring out into the sheets of water, Lillie attempts to make conversation.
“Rain in Alola, huh…”
“…that’s your icebreaker?” I ask. “Literally talking about the weather?” Lillie glares at me, and for a moment I see Gladion’s piercing eyes in hers. “…whoa, okay. You have a talent for that. You should ask your brother for some pointers some time; I’m convinced he could kill a Donphan by looking at it the wrong way.” She looks stunned for a moment, then laughs.
“My brother… we’ve grown so far apart, but if we can’t save my mother, he’s all I’ll have left…” She stares out at the rain again. “This… reminds me of one time, when I was little. I’d seen it in a movie… this man singing and dancing in the rain. I had to try it myself. My mother spotted me out in the rain, and she was so shocked that she ran right out after me without even bothering to get an umbrella. And then… she smiled… and she danced with me in the rain…” I frown.
“It sounded like she doesn’t have quite the same fond memories of your relationship… what happened?”
“I… don’t know. She just… changed. All she could think about was the Ultra Beasts… and Null and Nebby both ended up suffering so much. And I couldn’t do anything.” I frown again.
“There’s a lot of things that can change a person. Despair, hunger for power, conviction in a cause you thought was more important than anything… to be honest, legendary Pokémon can f&%# with your brain pretty hard too; I’ve seen all of the above. All at once, in some cases…”
“Do… do you think we can save her?”
“Honestly? I have absolutely no idea. The last guy I can think of who went through something similar to your mother… well, I don’t really know where he went, but he’s definitely not coming back.” Lillie’s face falls, and she is silent for a while.
“What are you going to do once you finish your island challenge?” she asks eventually.
“What I came to Alola to do in the first place. Hit the beach! I’m gonna need a
holiday to recover from this holiday…”
“Is that all?” she prods.
“…well,” I say slowly. “There’s… this guy.” Lillie looks puzzled for a second, then understands.
“Oh! Ohhhh, you mean… there’s this guy.”
“Alola’s a nice place for it,” Lillie points out. “People always say this region is one of the most romantic settings in the world…” I roll my eyes.
“Yeah, I read the brochures too. But… well, the last time I saw him, I… kinda treated him badly, and…”
“I see…” A sudden look of comprehension crosses Lillie’s face. “Wait, we aren’t talking about Hau, are we?” I blink and nearly fall over backwards in shock.
“Wh- what? No! No, god no! Just… wow. No.” I shudder involuntarily. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s really sweet and all, but… god no.” Lillie raises her eyebrows. “No, seriously, Hau is… look, he’s a great guy, in his own random and incoherent way, but he’s… more like a little brother to me. A really, really annoying little brother.” I shake my head. “No.”
“…I think the sun is coming out.”
“Oh, thank Arceus.”
It turns out we were already quite close to the hilltop. At the highest point on the island, a simple stone shrine prominently displays the thing we came for: a flute, intricately carved, coated with pristine blue lacquer, and bearing a crescent moon symbol.
“Now we have both flutes!” Lillie exclaims.
“Don’t get too excited,” I tell her. “That was the easy part.”
“I don’t know if it will really summon the legendary Pokémon, but we can at least try! If nothing else, we’ll have sounded the flutes in offering, just like people used to do.” I shrug.
“I guess it is a once in a lifetime sightseeing opportunity…”
Back on Poni Island, we return to Hapu’s home and turn north, towards the entrance of the canyon. The terrain is harsh and dry – I can see why so few humans choose to live here, and how the only ones who do might become skilled and tenacious Pokémon trainers. Equally unsurprising is how few of the tourist brochures choose to put Poni Island front and centre… Suddenly, Lillie grabs my arm, interrupting my musing, and points ahead at the trail leading into the canyon. The path is blocked by half a dozen Team Skull grunts… including B. Lillie and I exchange cautious glances and approach them. Lillie decides to open the conversation.
“You’re from Team Skull. What is it that you want from us?” B looks right at me for a few seconds, then back at Lillie and speaks to her.
“We heard about what you numskulls got up to at Aether. Do you really know a way to save our boy Guzma!?”
“Um… well, we- that is, we’re trying to-” Lillie stammers.
“We might. Why do you care?” I ask.
“Tell us! Now!” one of the other grunts yells. I look at her and raise one eyebrow.
“Or what?” B gives her a warning glare, but she’s already rushing forward, hurling a Pokéball.
“We can make you talk, even if we have to cut you to the bone!” Her Pokémon, a Fomantis, materialises between us. I sigh theatrically and flick at one of my own Pokéballs with a finger. A few seconds later, my Decidueye is standing over the unconscious Fomantis. He hoots smugly, takes a bow, and returns to his Pokéball.
“Where were we?” The grunt stares in shock for a few seconds, then recalls her Fomantis and runs off. B ignores her and addresses me.
“If anyone’s goin’ after Guzma, it’s gotta be us. You tell us the way; it’s only just!” The other grunts nod and murmur their approval.
“Lillie and I have in our possession a pair of flutes that may – and I stress may – allow us to conduct a summoning ritual for a legendary Pokémon capable of pursuing your boss and the President of the Aether Foundation to… wherever it is they’ve gone. Now-”
“So hand over the flutes, li’l homeslice!” he interrupts.
“Even if you had the necessary archaeological knowledge to perform the ritual correctly… which frankly I doubt… you know I can’t possibly entrust a power like Lunala’s to a group like yours. Um. No offence.”
“Yo, that ain’t fair!” B protests. “We ain’t what you think!” I look at him quizzically.
“Why do you even want Guzma back? From what I’ve seen, he treats all of you like garbage.” Several of the grunts shift their weight awkwardly.
“You wouldn’t understand,” B says, looking at his feet.
“Try me.” He shakes his head.
“…Guzma’s… he ain’t always been a great boss and all, and sure he could be a bit more chill, but…”
“…he’s like family,” Lillie suggests. B looks at her quietly for a few seconds.
“Yeah. Team Skull’s the only family what most of us’ve got. You’re the Prez’s daughter, right? You gotta see why we have to do this.” I search his eyes, and see no hint of deception.
“You feel responsible for him.”
“If I’da helped you out the other day… if we’da held Guzma back…”
“He wouldn’t have gone with Lusamine; I see your point…” I finish. “Listen, we’re mostly looking for the President. But if it’s that important to you, we’ll see if we can find Guzma on the way. Now, if you don’t mind-”
“That ain’t good enough!” B shouts, stamping his foot. “I’m comin’ with y’all!”
“What? B, we-”
“Sure!” Lillie proclaims brightly. I spin around to look at her.
“It can’t hurt!”
“It can hurt! I- I can’t guarantee his safety; it’s bad enough I have to look out for your stately backside, and –”
“Wait,” Lillie interrupts. “Wait a minute.” She looks back over at B, and points at him. “Is this…?”
“Yes,” the other grunts chorus, rolling their eyes in unison. B turns bright pink.
“Why shouldn’t he come with us, Chris?”
“I- but- I- I told you why-”
“I’ll battle you!” B blurts. “To prove I ain’t gonna slow you down! To prove I’m hard enough!”
“Oh, don’t you start that $#!t again-”
“Well, I think you should do it,” Lillie says. “You did say you had something to make up for…”
“What? I didn’t-”
“Zzzt! I’m with her on thizzz one, boss!” the Rotomdex buzzes from inside my backpack.
“Nobody asked you, you malfunctioning audiobook!” I shout over my shoulder.
“Yo, we doin’ this!?” B demands, his hand by his Pokéballs.
“I liked you better when I thought you were evil,” I tell Lillie with a glare, and step forward to fight B.
To B’s credit, he’s been practicing. Not only has his roster swelled to five Pokémon with the addition of a Raticate and a Mareanie, they’re strong enough to give mine pause for thought. Still, with mostly Poison-types on his team, he has trouble fighting back against my Psychu meaningfully after my Toucannon blows up his Raticate. A few minutes later, we stand victorious once again.
“I’m not giving up, even though you beat me!” he shouts defiantly. “I’m part of Team Skull! We’re thick as anything!” I open my mouth to retort, but stop myself.
“…not going to take the easy comeback; it’s beneath me.”
“That’s enough,” says a familiar voice from behind me and Lillie. I turn around – and see Plumeria.
“…oh, hi, Plumeria!” I start, as brightly as I can manage. “Please don’t kill me.” She stares daggers into my skull for a few seconds. I gulp audibly.
“Hmph.” She turns to Lillie. “You, girlie… Lillie, right? You really ready to do this finally?” Lillie says nothing, but nods. “To be honest, I’ve treated you really badly. I guess it’s probably to late to apologise now, though.” She pauses for a second. Lillie says nothing. Plumeria shakes her head and continues. “But look… Guzma… he really likes the President, you know? She’s the only one who ever seemed to understand how strong he was.” Lillie looks back at her sadly.
“The President… my mother is- she’s selfish. She lavishes her love only on those she deems worthy. But I will save her. We will save her.” She glances at me. “I still have something I need to tell her. And…” her gaze flicks to B for a moment, “I think I can save Guzma as well.” Plumeria follows Lillie’s eyes to B, then grunts and looks back to Lillie again.
“You know… deep down, you’re kind of like the President.” Lillie’s eyes widen and she opens her mouth to protest, but Plumeria cuts her off. “In a good way. You’ve gone in a different direction, but I can tell you have the same strength in your convictions. Bring Guzma back if you can. No one can make up for what they’ve done if they’re gone.” Lillie nods.
“I’ll do what I can.” Plumeria turns to B.
“So. Looks like you were special after all, kid. Standing up to be a leader in Team Skull. You’re the real deal. The realest Pokémon trainer we’ve had in a while.” He blinks a couple of times.
“Um. Thanks, sis.”
“Take good care of our little princess here, okay? And…” she stops for a moment, as if to think, then nods to herself. “Take this.” She tosses B a small purple crystal. “It’s Poisonium-Z. I know you don’t have much use for it now, but… someday.” She turns to me, and says nothing for fifteen solid seconds, just glaring a burning hole in my forehead. Finally, she speaks, in the friendliest, most casual tone I’ve ever heard her use.
“If B doesn’t come back in one piece, then Pokémon or no Pokémon, I will flay every square inch of your body and feed what’s left of you to the Sharpedo.” A single high-pitched squeak escapes my throat as Plumeria signals to the other grunts, then spins on her heel and stalks off.
Tane the Decidueye
Male, Timid nature, Overgrow ability
Steel Wing, Leaf Blade, Synthesis, Spirit Shackle
Rhea the Toucannon
Female, Lax nature, Keen Eye ability
Bullet Seed, Roost, Beak Blast, Brick Break
Ashley the Psychu
Female, Timid nature, Surge Surfer ability
Discharge, Hidden Power (Ice), Nasty Plot, Psychic
Joanna the Salazzle
Female, Timid nature, Corrosion ability
Flamethrower, Nasty Plot, Sludge Bomb, Toxic
Sigourney the Golisopod
Female, Careful nature, Emergency Exit ability
Brick Break, Payback, First Impression, Leech Life
Genderless, Sassy nature, Aura Break ability
Safeguard, Stone Edge, Dragon Dance, Thousand Arrows