Four islands, seven trials, four Kahunas, all behind me. In the old days, I’m told, that would have basically been it. I mean, there’s supposed to be a rematch against all four Kahunas up on Mount Lanakila. As far as I can tell, though, that’s traditionally less about the battles themselves and more about getting absolutely plastered on the beach afterwards. The after-party for Professor Kukui’s Final Trial is said to have been the stuff of legends, and saw the genesis of three new cocktails, twenty-four herbal hangover remedies, the Alolan form of Grimer, the character of the Masked Royal, and a devastating new Rock-type move that was instantly banned by sixteen different Pokémon Leagues. Sadly, Kukui’s own plans for the Alola region demand a few sacrifices, and one of those will be taking the whole ritual of the Final Trial more seriously than the Alolans have previously been accustomed to. I gather that he means to assemble the Kahunas on the mountain as a sort of ready-made Elite Four, then invite any and all trainers who have previously completed the Island Challenge to run the gauntlet, leaving any who make it through to compete for the spoils of victory. Personally, I’d rather leave them to it, but unfortunately, that’s not an option – Tapu Koko is the Tapu of Conflict, of competition and ambition; it didn’t give me a Z-ring and send me out on a quest so I could save the world from Lusamine and her Ultra mumbo-jumbo, it gave me a Z-ring and sent me out on a quest so I could take part in pointless sporting events for its sadistic entertainment. The show must go on.
When I travel to the base of Mount Lanakila, Gladion meets me there to shoot the breeze for a bit. He has the good sense to stay out of this Trial nonsense, of course, so won’t be joining me for my trip up the mountain. He just wants to thank me for deciding to help his mother rather than leaving her to die in the Endless Void, which of course I would have been well within my rights to do.
“I know we aren’t friends. But we aren’t enemies anymore either.” I give him a wry smile.
“Honestly, dude, I don’t think I’ve met anyone in these islands that I like better yet.” He looks puzzled.
“Clingy and irrational.”
“Loud and obnoxious.”
“Oh, don’t even get me started…”
“Well… you have to admit she’s got style…” I muse. Gladion pauses.
“…Hau?” he hazards. I stare in amazement, then burst out laughing.
“BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAH! Ahhhh… no.” Gladion stares back at me. “Ah, I… guess he’s growing on me. He’s got… kind of an infectious mood, you know?”
“Believe me, I do,” Gladion answers, smiling.
“But yeah, seriously. You’re competent and pragmatic, but honourable. It’s a rare combination. Besides, I like how you hate everything. It reminds me of me.”
“I’ll… take that as a compliment,” he replies hesitantly.
“So, rivals?” I suggest. “We gonna battle or what?”
Gladion has apparently gotten his Golbat to evolve into Crobat, which speaks volumes for his psychological progress towards inner peace and balance, and he’s added a Lucario to his arsenal, another Pokémon that would be unlikely to follow a trainer with a deeply conflicted soul. More interestingly, though, he has also managed to evolve his partner, the enigmatic artificial Pokémon designated Type: Null (or at least, I think it’s evolved; the Rotomdex registers it as a new species, anyway) – it has shed the control mask that once kept its powers in check, revealing a feathery white griffon head, and now has full command of the type-changing abilities the Aether Foundation stole from Arceus, including a Judgement-like type-shifting technique called Multi Attack. Gladion has renamed it Silvally, a name of his own choosing since it is the first of its kind in existence. That was the missing element to ensure the eventual success of the original Aether Foundation experiment – they neglected to give their created Pokémon any sort of companionship or care for their psychological health, warping them to the point that they couldn’t control their abilities. You’d think the sciences would have learned from the mistakes of the Mewtwo incident… but at least Gladion has.
Mount Lanakila has a “Victory Road” of sorts, in the form of the rugged and often freezing route up the mountain, though it doesn’t actually bear the name and is shorter and more straightforward than other paths that have been given the traditional moniker in regions we’ve visited, or even in comparison to the Vast Poni Canyon. I suppose Kukui and the Alolans simply didn’t think that particular bit of the Pokémon League template was a super high priority. I’m sure in a few years they will have renovated it into some godawful fifty-kilometre-long deathtrap with spike pits, acid wells, rolling boulders, and so on. By the time I get to the end and check into the Pokémon Centre just below the summit, Hau is right behind me. He’s been busy – in the days since we raided Aether Paradise, he’s zipped around Alola finishing all the trials he missed, including defeating his grandfather and the other Kahunas. Dude’s crazy motivated, you have to give him that. He’s levelled up, and added a surprisingly powerful Komala to his team – certainly an appropriate choice, given their similar carefree attitudes towards… everything. He’s not confident in challenging the Elite Four yet, though, and I suppose there’s no reason he has to, now that the Final Trial isn’t really a thing anymore. After a quick battle, he wishes me luck and sends me on my way to Kukui’s shiny new Pokémon League building.
The new complex is built inside the mountain’s peak itself, which must have been a tremendously expensive operation, but I suppose the Alolans must have felt it was worth it to have the Pokémon League here, at one of the holiest places in the entire island chain. There’s a gate close to the summit, where the path stops; only an experienced climber could hope to get any higher than this. Professor Kukui is waiting for me outside, and ushers me into the chambers of the Elite Four. The inside of the peak is a huge cavern, its walls studded with brightly coloured crystals, with four smaller caves branching off from the main one. Taking a page from the books of the Unova and Kalos Leagues, the Alola League seems to allow trainers to choose the order in which they challenge the Elite Four, before returning to a dais in the main chamber that transports you to the Champion’s room at the summit.
“Mount Lanakila is where we’ve always finished up the Island Challenge. We built our Pokémon League up here, as high into the heavens as we could get, to show our respect for our legendary Pokémon and honour it,” Kukui explains.
“I’m just glad you decided to spring for central heating,” I say, still shivering a little from the cold outside. He laughs.
“I went all the way to Indigo Plateau, yeah! Right to the Pokémon League headquarters… and I went right up at them, cousin! I saw my team battling for me through it all, pouring their souls into their moves for me. And then that last guy, that Dragon user in the cape…” Kukui trails off into silence, lost in the memory.
“Yeah, he… has that effect on people.” I wrinkle my nose. “It’s the Blackthorn heritage. They have a devotion to Pokémon and battle that’s… almost religious. Intense. Kinda scary actually. That last battle… that was the moment, wasn’t it?” He looks up at me, puzzled. “The moment you decided you had to form a new Pokémon League here in Alola? You wouldn’t be the first person to completely change the direction of your life after a battle with Lance. Like I said, he… has that effect on people.” Kukui laughs again.
“That he does. Well, you know the drill!” He sweeps his hand around, gesturing to each of the chambers of the Elite Four. “I expect you to show me some intense moves and real heart-stopping battles in there! Good luck!”
I expected the four Kahunas to make up the Alolan Elite Four, since they’re traditionally the opponents you face in your Final Trial, but it turns out only two actually answered Kukui’s call. Hala and Olivia occupy the chambers on the cavern’s western side. Hala has brought a range of powerful Fighting Pokémon, including one I haven’t previously encountered, the mighty Crabominable, an Ice-type evolution of Crabrawler with massive bruiser arms. Though strong, they are no match for my Toucannon and Psychu. Olivia manages to mess me up a bit more when I try to use Zygarde’s Dragon Dance to steamroll her, but get stopped in my tracks by her Carbink’s colossal defences and Fairy attacks. Decidueye manages to bring things back under control and secure a win, though. Nanu evidently couldn’t be bothered to answer Kukui’s summons, because he is clearly far more sensible than me. When Tapu Bulu decided to appoint him the Ula’Ula Kahuna (for reasons known only to itself), refusing would have invited the wrath of the divine, but refusing to join the Elite Four incurs only the wrath of Professor Kukui, which Nanu is perfectly comfortable with. In his place, the young Ghost specialist Captain Acerola accepted a position at Mount Lanakila. She has some interesting Pokémon too, including a giant sandcastle called Palossand that can only be the evolved form of Sandygast, and another Pokémon entirely new to me by the name of Dhelmise – a seaweed-draped living anchor that looks like it should be a Water- or Steel-type but is actually Grass/Ghost, confusing me long enough to beat the brains out of my poor Decidueye and forcing me to deal with all her other Pokémon without any decisive advantage against Ghost-types specifically. Still, Golisopod, Salazzle and Zygarde are able to salvage the situation. Hapu isn’t on the Elite Four either, presumably because of her still recent promotion to Kahuna and lack of experience compared to Olivia and Hala. Her place is filled by… a champion golfer? Because… sure??? Kukui has filled the final slot with an invitation to Kahili, a Flying Pokémon master who was an accomplished trainer in Alola years ago and has been travelling the world as a pro golfer ever since. Despite my initial scepticism, she’s as strong as any Kahuna. Thanks to her Mandibuzz’ toughness and Dark attacks, she defies my efforts to sweep her Flying-type team with Psychu, and her Skarmory was able to lay down some Spikes before being defeated to mess things up for me. My own Toucannon winds up being instrumental in this fight. With all four enemies defeated, I return to the central dais. Professor Kukui is no longer in the main hall. Nor, for that matter, are there any other challengers; I haven’t seen any since I got here. Hesitantly, I step onto the dais and am teleported away.
I am standing under a vast crystal dome, the open sky visible above. This is the highest place in all Alola, above the clouds and bathed in the light of the sun. With the wind kept out by the dome, everything is eerily still. A staircase in front of me leads up to the arena of the final battle – circular, its floor glowing a gentle blue. At the opposite end is a simple stone throne emblazoned with a Pokéball symbol. No one is sitting in it. I can’t hear any voices; no one else is here. There is no Champion to battle, no Totem Pokémon to face, no other successful challengers to compete with. I walk to the centre of the arena.
“Hello?” I call out. “Hello?” My words echo back to me off the dome, but there is no answer. A minute later, I hear the teleporter pad behind me activate again, and Professor Kukui walks up the stairs.
“Well, you made it, cousin. Congratulations!” he tells me. I look around again and turn to him.
“I made it,” I reply. “But no one else is here. Aren’t there a lot of trainers who were waiting to challenge the new Elite Four? Wasn’t there going to be a… like, a tournament or something? What happens now?” Kukui grins at me.
“Now,” he says, “you take your seat.” He gestures to the throne at the end of the arena. I look at the throne, then at him, then back at the throne, then back to him.
“You’re the first to defeat Alola’s Elite Four. The first in history!” He pumps his fist in the air. “If anyone else gets this far, they’ll have one more person to battle: you. Now you’re the Pokémon League Champion, oh yeah!” My eyes widen.
“Oh, I knew it; I f#$%ing knew it. This is what that ridiculous bargain-basement Zapdos was planning all along – make me the Champion so none of you have to deal with it. Well, I- I- I don’t want it! And what’s more, you don’t need it!”
“Having a Champion is what puts Alola on the map!” he replies emphatically. “We gotta have someone we can hold up and say ‘this is our strongest’ to compete with the rest of the world! Someone who can stand for Alola’s ideals!”
“And I’m the best you can find? For goodness’ sake; I’m not even Alolan!”
“So much the better. This region needs some new blood to help us change things up a bit! An outsider to be the Metronome that lends us a bit of unpredictability so we can Transform!”
“No, no, listen, listen. There’s a lot to be said for having a Pokémon League, for having a central authority that manages Pokémon training, punishes abuse, sponsors educational programs and local tournaments, codifies rules and move lists, raises funding for research, all that good stuff. It’s more than you can do with just four Kahunas and a bunch of teenage Captains, ‘specially with a secret cabal of four lazy, absentminded, egotistical legendary Pokémon running everything. But it’s not like you need a Champion to lead it. Honestly that whole idea’s pretty archaic.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? Kanto has a Champion, and so do Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh…”
“Yeah, but sometimes the Champion is a huge dickbag!” I interrupt. “I mean… the strongest trainer makes all the rules? It’s very… ‘the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must,’ don’t you think? Imagine what would happen if a real bastard became Champion and tried to use the Pokémon League to seize political power!”
“No Pokémon trainer strong enough to become Champion could be that bad,” Kukui counters. “Defeating the four Kahunas takes the teamwork of Helping Hand, the empathy of Heal Pulse, the protectiveness of Wide Guard, and the selflessness of Lunar Dance!”
“…this is me we’re talking about here,” I remind him. “And Pokémon battling is literally the only sport that works like this. Can you imagine if FIFA were run by whichever team won the last World Cup?” Kukui thinks about it.
“Yeah; I reckon it would be a huge improvement.”
“…okay, that was a bad example. But you see what I mean.” He nods.
“Well, it sounds to me as though you have a lot of very interesting and worthwhile ideas about how to run a Pokémon League.”
“Exactly!” I agree – then notice him smirking. “Er- I mean- no! No, absolutely not! It’s bollocks, all of it! I’ve not a sensible thought in my head! And more to the point, I’m on holiday!”
“Maybe… but you’re still a trainer, aren’t you, cousin?” That smirk is back.
“Yes…” I reply warily.
“And there’s one thing no trainer can ever refuse.” He reaches into his lab coat, pulls out a Pokéball, and summons a solar Lycanroc. “Bring it!” I don’t have to battle him. I can turn around, leave, and never look back. I should turn around, leave, and never look back.
“…oh, Arceus $#!tting DAMN IT!”
Kukui is well-travelled and highly experienced, with a team of powerful Pokémon worthy of any Champion. Besides Lycanroc, he deploys a Braviary, Magnezone, Snorlax, a strange new Alolan Ninetales with Ice powers, and a Pokémon instantly recognisable as Litten’s final form, Incineroar. It looks like yet another Fire/Fighting starter, with a wrestler’s powerful build and bulging chest muscles, but unfortunately for my poor Psychu, it turns out to actually be a Dark-type, and promptly slams my Pokémon into the ground with its signature move, Darkest Lariat. It even manages to put some serious hurt on my Zygarde with Outrage, but ultimately doesn’t have the endurance to outlast the World Shaker. Kukui is very nearly my equal… but not quite. As Incineroar falls, he laughs deep and loud.
“Amazing! It’s like I always say, the strongest moves are the ones a trainer and Pokémon choose together in the heat of the moment, and you just proved me right! The Pokémon and the trainers in Alola really are the best… and I want everyone in the world to know that, too! That’s always been my dream!”
“You chose an odd way to show it, then,” I tell him. “Making a foreigner your first Champion.”
“It’s funny how life works out sometimes,” he shrugs. “But maybe that’s just what we need? Someone to give Alola something to aspire to… and something to challenge and defeat!”
“Hmph. Fine, fine, whatever. But the moment someone makes it here and beats me, I am out of here, no ifs, no buts.”
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
Thunderbolt, Focus Blast, Nasty Plot, Psychic
Joanna the Salazzle
Female, Timid nature, Corrosion ability
Flamethrower, Nasty Plot, Sludge Bomb, Dragon Pulse
Sigourney the Golisopod
Female, Careful nature, Emergency Exit ability
Brick Break, Liquidation, First Impression, Leech Life
Genderless, Sassy nature, Aura Break ability
Outrage, Stone Edge, Dragon Dance, Thousand Arrows