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Alola! A Shrine Maiden's Adventure

Chapter Text

It was the beginning of summer.

The cherry blossoms had long since bloomed. The hot, muggy and overall oppressive climate of summer in Gensokyo was in full swing, as villagers down in the human village sought ways of cooling themselves down, from wearing as little clothing as socially acceptable in public, to resting their feet in the river, to leaving the windows open – and stuffing them to the gills with anti-youkai and fairy wards to compensate for them being open. All over, the heat and mugginess was being felt. The long days did the mistress of the Scarlet Devil Mansion no favors, the Buddhists were trying to resist the urge to go for a high-altitude cruise on the Palanquin Ship to seek relief from the heat, and on the Youkai Mountain, the horseflies... oh God the horseflies. In fact, the doctor of the Bamboo Forest was busy formulating and selling insect repellent, since just because you're a youkai or a celestial or a goddess, that doesn't protect you from biting ticks and mosquitoes. It wasn't even July, and already she'd gotten many cases of Lyme disease and West Nile from careless bamboo cutters and the like. It was so hot, even the fairies didn't feel like playing, and instead lounged on the shores of the Misty Lake, where Cirno made them crushed ice baths to stick their feet in. If there was one area where she wasn't an idiot, it was making sure her fellow fairies didn't succumb to heat stroke.

When it wasn't hot, it was storming cats and dogs. Torrential rain, lighting, and strong winds were a common feature of the monsoon season in Gensokyo, and it wasn't unusual for a building in the human village or two to collapse during these storms and the streets left as impassable mud the day after. For the mistress of the mansion, it was even more depressing, since when the sun didn't keep her inside, the rain did, and so morale dropped significantly there as a result. It was also hard on Yuuka's flowers, which often died from literally drowning in the soil they were planted in during these storms.

One such storm had wreaked across the valley the night before. This morning, however, the clouds had dissipated, and as the sun rose over the mountains to the east, the haze left over from the night burned off and revealed the tile-blue sky above. One feature missing from the sky that many had grown accustomed to was the portal to the Netherworld; instead, it had been moved to a remote corner of one mountain, so that Yomou could still come and go from the village as needed. This made for an unblemished ceiling of cerulean as far as the eye could see.

As the sunlight rose above the mountains, slowly but surely it trickled down the mountainsides and tickled the outside walls of the Hakurei Shrine, where the shrine maiden was still asleep in her futon. The light creeped into her room, and soon licked her face. This was enough to stir the groggy girl from her slumber and prompt her to turn and face away from the light. It was too early, she thought, given how early the sun came up in the summer, she wanted to sleep in more. Soon, though, it proved for naught, and she had no choice but to wrench herself off the floor and face the day ahead.

As she got up, Reimu rubbed the sand from her eyes and looked around. No freeloader youkai to be seen, it seemed. For her, that counted as a success, given how often her youkai-extermination shrine somehow managed to attract rather than repel them. So, she could just focus on getting through with her chores: cleaning the floors and counters, checking the donation box, sweeping the walkway, and, of course, her daily offerings and prayer to the god whose name she didn't even know, much less what they looked like. It was a routine she'd followed ever since she was a child, the only significant breaks occurring during incidents, like the recent Lunar incident, the scars of which were still visible on some of the hillsides. Now eighteen and technically an adult, she thought constantly about what life ahead of her would bring, such as who would she marry, or prepare to hand the torch of the shrine to, and how much more different other things would become. For now, though, she simply focused on the now.

She got ready for the day, washing herself, brushing her teeth, unfrazzling her hair and getting the fussier aspects of her shrine maiden's dress into place, before making and having breakfast, which typically consisted for her of some fruit, leftover rice and fish from the night before, and, of course, the morning “cuppa.” You can't resolve incidents or hold up danmaku battles without a healthy dose of caffeine running through your veins, especially when facing down hell ravens and goddesses and the like.

After breakfast, she got down onto her chores. She started by filling a bucket up with water and wiping down the tables and counter tops, before moving on to sweeping and mopping the floors throughout the shrine. After that, she took the broom outside, set it against the wall, and opened up the donation box to see if there was anything. Surprisingly, there were a few gold coins; she would have thought that with all that rain yesterday no one would be in the mood to go outside, much less haul up here and make offerings. She took the coins out and placed them in the repository inside the shrine before sweeping the front steps, then working her way down the steps beneath the torii until they were free of leaves and detritus blown in by the storm.

It took her until about eleven before she got through with everything. Normally, at this point, she would have lunch, then take a brief flight above Gensokyo to patrol for possible incidents before spending most of the rest of the day in prayer unless a guest decided to show up. Today, however, seemed different. The sun was shining, the air was crisp an pure from being cleansed by the rain, and unlike most days the temperature was pleasant. There was a mild breeze working its way down the mountains, and from her perch the whole valley seemed to open up like a book.

She looked on, and reflected. “You know,” she mused, “it's been so hectic lately with all the incidents. Perhaps I should just slow down, and take everything in... the birds, the sound of fairies rustling in the bushes, the gentle breeze...” She thought it might be nice to hit a new café that opened up in the human village that made some really good tea and biscuits. She had enough funds to get her through the next couple of weeks at least, so she felt she could afford it. However, rather than fly there, she decided it would be best to walk and enjoy the slower pace to take in the day.

So, she got ready to go out. Being a youkai extermination shrine maiden, she never left the shrine unprepared, and even on short trips she was always ready for a high-class spell card bout. She grabbed a pre-made deck of spell cards off the shelf as well as her yin-yang orb, and stuffed them inside a satchel she kept underneath her dress, since she didn't want to look like she was looking for trouble unless she was (which is more often than you'd think, given how boring the shrine gets). Aside from those, she also got some basics together, like her purse, some chapstick courtesy of Eirin, and other bits and pieces, before setting off. She resisted the urge to run down the walkway that also served as a runway and made her way down the steps, taking care not to trip and fall.

The shortest path between the shrine and the village was lined with wards to keep the path clear of wandering youkai who might try to torment the humans as they made their way to give offerings, and these often had to be changed due to weather damage and the like. Because of the rainfall the previous night, she looked around and already knew she would be busy the next couple of days doing exactly that, but that wasn't her concern now. Days like this were rare, she reckoned, so why not take advantage? There's always tomorrow, she thought to herself.

Looking around, there seemed to be nothing particularly amiss. The closest thing to something resembling an incident she could see or hear was a fight between two fairies over a piece of food, but that was normal and none of her business. Fairy scuffles usually ended quickly whenever they so much as heard her coming by anyway, so she paid it no mind. She looked up at the sky, which slowly started filling up with small, bandy clouds as the moisture from last night evaporated and drifted upwards. There were no signs of any evident spell card duels, even though it was the perfect day for them; the skies were clear of fighters and the only things flying around were birds, and perhaps the occasional Aya taking pictures for her newspaper. For all intents and purposes, it was a perfect day as she strolled down the path.


All that serenity was slowly broken, however, as a faint humming noise could be heard emanating from the northwest. At first, Reimu brushed it off as just some huge bugs, but as it grew louder it seemed to almost have some electrical effects added to it.

“What's making that noise?” she wondered as she attempted to look for the thing making it. Her attention slowly turned to the sky, which had what appeared to be a subtle distortion forming and electrical bolts coming from it. She thought it could be a spell card duel before looking closer and realizing that whatever it was seemed to be a distortion in space-time, much like the Netherworld portal. If that's what it was, she realized, this was deathly serious; ANY threat to the Hakurei Border was treated with all the urgency of a confirmed nuclear attack occurring on the Outside.

The distortion soon ripped open and revealed a circular wormhole with a flowing fishnet pattern and dark blue/purple energy radiating inside. Without hesitating, Reimu sprinted down the path and took to the air, towards the wormhole, ready to face who or whatever opened it. As she rose above the valley below and barreled straight towards the wormhole, she thought to herself “and here I thought today would be boring, but turns out, there's an incident after all.” A mild smirk drew across her face as she drew closer to the anomaly.

The wormhole, however, soon intensified. As she approached, Reimu slowly realized she was losing control of her flight and was being pulled in. She tried to turn around, but the force was too great. Soon, she was flailing about trying to escape its pull, but it was too late; she was already past the event horizon.

“Wha-wha- no, I can't let it – gaaah!” She tumbled around before, swiftly, she was sucked in and disappeared within the void.


And so began the adventure that would change her life and that of the rest of Gensokyo – and worlds beyond – forever.

 

Chapter Text

Meanwhile, from ground level, a stunned Hong Meiling looked on as the hole in the sky ripped open seemingly out of nowhere and hummed so forcefully she could actually feel it in her bones. To her, it seemed as if some otherworldly force bent on destruction was making its grand debut in Gensokyo.

Her first instinct was to warn the mistress. She vaulted over the gate, blew through the front doors of the mansion, and started running down the halls straight to Remilia's bedroom. She didn't care if she was asleep, there was a hole in the sky and she needed to know, NOW.

As she plowed through the fairy maids like a mad bull, a focused Sakuya was busy tidying up the china cupboards before she heard what she swore was a freight train coming down the halls. She paused her work and saw the fairy maids get tossed in all directions while a green-and-orange blur came straight towards her.

“OUT OF THE WAY!!!” Meiling screamed before Sakuya, who had just barely fathomed what was going on, came just shy of getting bulldozed before hastily stopping time in order to sidestep Meiling, freeze her in place, and try to figure out what on Earth was going on.

“What is the meaning of this?” she asked in her typically sharp tone. “Why are you not at the gate? What's the hurry and where are you intending to go?”

“No time to explain,” Meiling replied. “I- we gotta warn the mistress! Something's happening!”

“What is it?” Sakuya asked. Meiling then showed her to a window with a clear view of the wormhole in the sky. “THAT is it.”

It took Sakuya a second to understand the ramifications of what she was seeing. Slow as Meiling was at times, she did know a threat to the mistress when she saw one. Her refined expression soon turned into a face of pure, wide-eyed terror as she stared at the enormous hole emanating in the sky.

A split-second later, they were in Remilia's bedroom trying desperately to wake her up. The summer climate meant that she wasn't at her best, so she was none too pleased about waking up in the middle of the day with a pair of panicked voices screaming into her ear.

“Wake up! Wake up! WAKE THE HELL UP, REMI!” Their desperate voiced echoed inside the vampire mistress's ringing ears and head as she rolled over and up, revealing a less than kept face with messy blue hair going every which-way, half-open eyes with dark bags under them, and a mouth from which groans of displeasure were emanating. She looked up at the two wondering what the hell was going on that would warrant this behavior when all she wanted was some beauty rest.

Her head turned towards Sakuya first, and with a choppy, raspy voice, she grumbled “what is it?”

Meiling attempted to respond, but her panic and anxiety at that moment foiled all attempts at a coherent sentence. “There's a big-uh-there-a-ah-dah-buh-la-kooh-la-fra-da-”

Sakuya's hand slapped across Meiling's trap as she turned towards her mistress with a sharp but very clearly concerned look on her face. “There's a huge hole in the sky outside.”

“Oh, is that so?” Remilia rasped as she still shook herself awake. Typical Remi, Sakuya figured; even in a crisis she always kept her composure despite her immature tendencies at times. She handed her mistress a robe and led her out to the back balcony, which was always shaded thanks to a charm they wrung out of Marisa the one time Meiling stopped her stealing books and defeated her in a duel. There, she pointed out the hole in the sky, which Remilia studied. She quickly surmised that this was not Yukari's doing, nor was it likely that any other group such as the Lunarians or Celestials would be behind this anomaly.

Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the wormhole closed up, and the disturbance dissipated.

The two women at her side, still visibly shaking in place, attempted to regain their composure to ask her of her thoughts on the matter.

“Well? Sakuya inquired. Meiling was still too terrified to speak.

Remilia thought silently for a few seconds before turning around to her maid and replying “something bad has happened. And if nothing is done...” She paused, looked down, then looked up again before continuing. “...if nothing is done, then all of us – this whole land – we are all fated... for disaster.”

Sakuya was stunned. Remilia had never responded with quite this sort of tone before. Not during the endless night, not during the faith incident, not during the religious war, not during Seija's uprising and not even during the recent lunar crisis. This, she could tell, THIS, whatever it was, easily trumped all of those.

“Disaster?” she asked.

“Whatever is behind this, it clearly wants Gensokyo destroyed or disrupted in such a way as to endanger its balance and the lives of every living thing here. It has the means to do so.” She paced around a bit, and then turned around to the maid and the gatekeeper. “And this may be its calling card, its way of signaling our doom.”

“What should we do about it? Meiling asked. “We can't just stand here contemplating our dooms!”

Remilia, in spite of her disheveled appearance, still managed to give her that piercing look of playfulness that suggested maybe she shouldn't have asked that question.

“Obviously,” she told the gatekeeper, “this is a job for the shrine maiden. So I want you to go track her down and bring her to me.”

Meiling took a second to suck that sentence in. “M-me? But, what about the gate? What if that blasted magician, her lover and that doll-thing they call a kid come by to, er, borrow books?”

“Realistically, given that hole in the sky, I think stealing books is not going to be very high on their respective priority lists right now,” Sakuya responded. “And besides, it's about time you got off your napping ass and solved an incident for us,” she said with a smile.

The gatekeeper looked between the two in front of her for a few seconds, before looking straight forward, realizing the task she was given. After all, she never ignored the lady's orders, and dark times were facing her home.

So she puffed up her chest and bellowed out “yes ma'am! I will go find the shrine maiden and then I'll beat up the ne'er-do-well causing this mess!” The goofy expression on her face really sold it, as Remilia couldn't help but smile and smirk.

After that, she promptly ran to the edge of the balcony and jumped over the railing.

The mistress and her maid couldn't help but stare forward confused. As Sakuya walked over to the railing and saw Meiling scramble across the ground in the general direction of the shrine, wondering why she didn't just fly, she looked over her shoulder and saw that her mistress had already shown herself back to bed.

She looked forward again and mumbled to herself “y'know, I've worked with that strange woman for decades and I still don't get everything she does sometimes, even if I just excuse it as her being a youkai.”

After that, we went back to roughly where she was working before this whole mess started, trying her best to peel her brain off of the disturbing scene she had just borne witness to. But she knew, in the back of her mind, that whatever this was, it was only the beginning of an incident the likes of which Gensokyo had yet to see.


Across the valley, similar reactions were erupting in response to this strange wormhole. The Taoists interpreted it as Chang'e somehow tearing a way into Gensokyo, something which only served to enrage Junko considerably more. The residents of Eintei thought this could be another invasion attempt, despite the peaceful resolution of the Lunar incident; perhaps one of them didn't get the message. Sanae saw it an frantically started conjuring up miracles to try and counter it. Even in the underground, whose residents didn't physically see it, Satori still sensed widespread terror on the surface about something horrible, causing her to toss around going up there with her pets to see what it was.

And those were some of the more measured reactions. In the human village, discord spread like wildfire as people were running about back into their houses or the nearest building, screaming and cursing at the wretched hole in the sky all the way. Because of how muddy the streets were from the night before, mud kicked up all over the place, causing people to slip and fall and kids and small animals to be trampled in the frenzied panic. Dogs were barking up a storm and the chickens were scattering all over the place.

The discord made its way to the schoolhouse, where Keine hurriedly rushed the kids back inside to try and shield them from whatever threats might spill out of the ominous portal looming over the town. Among the kids wondering what was going on and confusingly rushing back inside was not biologically human, but rather an animate doll in a yellow dress with a smaller doll floating behind her.

As the herd tried to cram into a too-small door, she took a moment to turn back and stare at the gaping maw that tore itself into the sky above. Her moms had described many crazy incidents, including one with a similar portal and spring being sucked through it, so she wondered if this was possibly a repeat of that incident. The past winter had been long, and she wasn't sure she wanted it to come back so quickly.

“Sunshine, dear, what are you doing? Get inside now!” Keine grabbed her hand and dragged her in just as the portal above closed.

Inside, all the kids were chatting among one another, trying to come up with explanations of what they just witnessed, but to no avail. Their teacher, miss Keine Kamishirasawa, walked in with Sunshine, her face still half-paralyzed with fear. She ordered the living doll back to her seat and stood in front of the class. Everyone could tell she was immensely terrified, but they were too nervous or confused themselves to really question it.

She set her things down and addressed the class. “Class...” She hesitated before continuing. “...in light of what has just happened, we will be practicing lockdown for the rest of the day. No more recess until it is time to go home.” At first some of the kids groaned about there not being any recess, but upon recalling the bedlam going on just outside the school's walls, they changed their minds about the matter.

Being in school for just a few months, Sunshine didn't really understand the concept of this “lockdown” other than that it involved not going outside for the rest of the day. She also still wasn't too good with emotions yet, but she could tell something was seriously wrong, in the way miss Kamishirasawa was acting, the way the other students were acting, the mayhem going on out in the streets... she wasn't too terribly sure how to take it all in. So, she decided to just act concerned about it like the other kids, even if she didn't understand what was going on; after all, the more like them she could be, the less many of them gave her a hard time about being a doll and the more she could fit in.

Barely a few minutes passed by before a horde of parents were outside the schoolhouse, asking to take their kids home early for the day. Keine was annoyed by this given that she still had important lessons to get to for her 3rd-6th years, a group that included Sunshine, but given recent circumstances she decided not to question it and decided to let them off early. That way, at least, she could devote some time at the town hall crafting a response to this latest incident.

As she dismissed the class, Sunshine made her way down the hallway looking for her moms. Once outside, she saw them, clear as day, looking right at her.

Before she could even speak up, Marisa grabbed her, threw her on the back of her broomstick, and the three of them took off back towards home.


At home, Alice offloaded Sunshine's books and bags while Marisa gave her the rundown on what just happened.

“So... mom,” she stumbled, still not that great with words. “What happened?”

“Well,” Marisa started, “me and your mom were out huntin' mushrooms so we could sell them at the market tomorrow, when all of a sudden, she was like 'Marisa, look over there!' and she pointed at the sky. So I look and, well, a big, huge hole opened up and scared the living daylights right outta both of us! So we knew, right then, 'we need to get Sunshine home right now, otherwise she's gonna get run over by dumb, panicky villagers!' And you know, she didn't complain one bit.”

Sunshine took her turn by explaining how everyone was out enjoying lunch recess before a couple of kids pointed out the sky distortion, which some were looking at when it opened straight up, revealing the violet-blue void with the white light at the end with fishnet patterns flowing out, and how the teacher called them back in as soon as it happened. She also described the general pandemonium in the streets and how it seemed like the whole place was falling apart.

Marisa took this all in before it hit her: this was a barrier incident, and barrier incidents required only one red-and-white clad shrine maiden for the job. So she got some things together and began to head out.

Alice came back from the other room when she spotted Marisa gathering things together like she was going somewhere. “Where are you going?” she asked. Marisa replied “the shrine. Reimu's gonna need all the help she can get, and we missed out on the last incident with the Lunar invasion so this will make up.” She grabbed Sunshine by the hand. “And I'm taking pipsqueak with me.”

Alice was furious upon hearing that last bit. “No, absolutely not! She's staying here where it's safe, I'm not letting some wormhole eat her up because of you!”

“Why not?” Marisa shot back coyly. “It's not like it's going away, if anything it's just beginning. And besides, this'll be her first real incident, and there's sure to be more, so why not now while it's fresh?”

Alice sighed. Marisa was always hot-headed and headstrong in her ways, and she did make a fair point: this would catch up to them if nothing was done. So she responded “alright, fine. But, if she's going, I'm going with you.”

Marisa nodded. “You got it, girlfriend.” The puppeteer threw together some combat dolls in a basket and got a couple spare decks off the shelf, and in no time flat they were outside. Marisa thought about taking the Black Arwing for a spin, but decided that would probably be overkill for the freaked-out villagers and youkai who's minds were already overloaded by the wormhole. Maybe if the situation got even more out of hand, but until then, she was content with her broomstick.

The trio flew straight to the shrine, and upon arriving were surprised to see another, unrelated figure had beat them there. Just as they landed, Meiling made it up the last of the steps, and was huffing and puffing as she staggered towards the shrine when she spotted the magicians. Of all the people she wanted to see right now, she thought, these were probably clear on the bottom.

She approached the magicians. She wanted to say something that clearly expressed her displeasure, but she just got done running a marathon so all she could manage was a slightly annoyed “hello.”

“Well, hi,” Marisa responded. “Fancy seein' you here. I take it the lady sent ya?” Meiling nodded in response. They all knew why they were there.

As they approached the shrine, they skipped the wash basin they were supposed to use before entering; when you're dealing with a crisis, what's skipping the proper procedure once gonna harm anyway? They also walked past the donation box, but Sunshine couldn't help but leave an offering, so she tossed a couple coins and made a quick wish before catching up to her parents and the gatekeeper at the front door.

Marisa banged a couple times. “Reimu, you there?” There was no response. She banged a couple more times a little more vigorously. “Reimu, this is Marisa, c'mon, we got an incident to swat!” Still no response. Marisa then just thought “screw it” and threw the sliding doors open and started looking everywhere for the errant shrine maiden, but she wasn't to be seen.

“Where is that blasted brunette when you need her?!” she scowled, looking all over. It was then that Alice suggested “maybe she's already out trying to resolve the incident.” Marisa turned around with a frustrated expression and yelled “GEE, YA THINK?!?” As they walked out the back to see if she was there, Meiling walked in file behind Sunshine, and couldn't help but stare at Ichigo levitating behind the living doll child. If only she had a doll assistant, she thought, that would make guarding the gate easier since she didn't have to be awake half as often.

“She's not here,” a voice called out. Marisa instantly knew who its owner was. They looked over in the direction it came from, and saw a gap where a small pond normally was. Out of it crawled Yukari, still as much of a troll as ever, but this time she seemed much more focused and serious.

“I thought you were supposed to be sleeping,” Marisa said. “You always do that, y'know.”

“Not when an incident of this magnitude crops up, I'm afraid.” She clearly sounded different. Usually, when she spoke, it was with a slight haughty air with a dash of demeaning and sarcasm, but this time her tone was noticeably more serious and grave. That's when you knew it hit the fan, Marisa realized: when Yukari was actually dead serious.

“So, I'm assuming you know where she went?” Marisa inquired the boundary youkai. Yukari didn't hesitate. “I'm afraid so,” she responded, “for it seems... she was a little too zealous in investigating this incident.”

Of course.

They didn't really need an explanation to puzzle out what had happened to her. “That damn idiot, always rushing to save the day without caring about her own safety, you'd think the Hakurei shrine maiden would be a little more careful when literally the weight of this valley sits on her shoulders,” she snarled.

“Now,” Yukari responded in a rather subdued tone, “what an interesting assessment. Is that not what some would call, the pot calling the kettle black?”

Alice tried hard to hold back a snicker at that statement. As much as she didn't care for the hag sometimes, she had to admit, that was too true to balk at.

They stared at the sky where the wormhole had been hours before. Meiling was still confused, so she spoke up. “So, now, what does this all mean?”

“Well, for one, she'd better not be dead without a replacement,” Marisa said, “'else this place'll come crashing down on our heads. Or at least that's what I've been told.”

“No, she's not dead,” Yukari replied. “Not yet, at least.”

“Well then, where is she?” Alice asked.

Yukari took a moment in her response before delivering a crushing statement.

“For once, I do not know.”

 

Chapter Text

It had been an interesting morning for Lillie.

It all started as she was steeping some breakfast tea while the sounds of Professor Kukui wrestling his Lycanroc were all too audibly rumbling up from downstairs and shaking the floorboards. She had left Nebby up in her room, where it was messing around on her tablet with a bubble-popping game meant for cats.

She looked out the window, trying to ignore the brawl in the basement, where the sun had just cleared the horizon, its rays glistening across the sparkling waters of the Melemele Sea. Early morning surfers were taking advantage of the lack of crowds on this part of the island to paddle out and hit the tides. Trainers were busy wandering the beaches, hoping to snatch up the Staryu that often buried themselves in the sand or the Slowpoke that often lounged in the grass. The nearby Ten Carat Hill cave also served as a magnet for trainers hoping to score some rare Pokémon to add to their teams.

Lillie herself didn't train Pokémon. After all, she'd been raised around Pokémon who had been brutalized by bad apples or saved from the grips of predators, so she had a somewhat dim view of the art. That didn't stop her from fantasizing, though. Her whole life, she had always wanted a cute Alolan Vulpix. She had only ever seen one, brought in by an ace trainer to the Aether Paradise once, and she was immediately lovestruck. Sadly, they tended to hole themselves halfway up Mt. Lanakila and rarely came down, so it seemed a distant goal to her.

As for Nebby, she still wasn't quite sure what to make of it, or, really, what drove her to make off with it with several Aether employees chasing after her. All she knew now was that she was a fugitive of sorts; that her mother hadn't actively tried to go after either her or her brother at this point seemed proof positive that she didn't care anymore.

But Nebby didn't seem to mind; it just seemed grateful that she saved it, and adopted her as a mother of sorts. She was also lucky enough to find Professor Kukui, who was nice enough to give her a place to lie low. She could keep going to school, and when she wasn't busy with schoolwork she would sometimes visit Hala in Iki Town who would show her how to do traditional Alolan stone carvings and sculpture. It was a fun activity, one she got really good at. Good enough, in fact, that she was recently entrusted with a spare Sparkling Stone, one which she intended to make a Z-ring out of. She set out to make a masterpiece, because this one, which she had just put the finishing touches on, was meant for Hau, whose eleventh birthday was tomorrow. The boy, who was Hala's grandson, just couldn't wait to get his first Pokémon and start his Island Challenge, and the amount of energy and tenacity exuding from his bubbly exterior was just touching to her.

The tea was ready just as a scratched-up and bruised Kukui came upstairs, his Lycanroc all ruffled up and with a bone in her mouth. He took a big whiff of the scent thrown out by the tea kettle as Lillie started on the toast and eggs.

“Good quality time with your pooch?” she asked the professor with a subtle dash of condescending mixed in.

“You know it!” he responded with his usual bombastic energy. “I was just testing out some new techniques with her, see if I could get her to learn Earthquake!”

“If that happens, this whole place is going to come falling on our heads,” Lillie responded. “I already spent most of yesterday after school mending the thatching from your fights with your dog.” She set a plate of bacon on the table and filled up Kukui's cup with tea from the kettle before checking on the scrambled eggs and getting the toast out of the toaster.

She sat down with the professor, who began discussing his plans for the day. As he drank his tea, she couldn't help but wonder how on earth he was able to drink it straight without wincing; she always took a couple spoonfuls of sugar with hers. He also liked his bacon extra greasy for whatever reason, which she found off-putting and so did Burnet to an extent, but neither of them really criticized him for it, and Burnet just took it as part of his charm.

“So, after I get done programming that Close Combat TM I've been working on, I was wondering if you wanted to come with me up to Iki town and visit Hala. I know Hau's been dying to see you.”

Lillie always thought it funny why Hau liked her so much, given she had a good three years on him, but then again, this was a boy who apparently tried to throw himself into a sumo match when he was six, so eccentricy was something she had come to expect from him – he was just a boy, after all. And she did honestly enjoy seeing him. It was Saturday, and school had just ended for the summer so it wasn't like she was in a hurry to do anything.

“Of course I would like to go!” she said with a smile and bright eyes.

“That's my Lillie! Alright, I'll just be an hour or so and then we'll head up!”



Moves like Close Combat were tricky to program into TMs because of how complex some of the more specialized techniques were. In particular, that's why certain moves like Superpower had to be tutored; you just couldn't shove that onto a disc efficiently. But Kukui felt he was nearing a big break; the moves professor had always prided himself on coming up with new and easier ways for Pokémon to duke it out, and to let things like Dragonite and Bewear have it, he felt, was a big draw, given how coveted the move was. But in order to actually get it to work, you have to first convert a technique into data form, which required extracting it from a Pokémon in the PC. Then you had to hotrod it to make it compatible with certain DNA bits present in Pokémon that dictated whether or not they could actually conceivably use the attack, and you had to do that for everything that couldn't learn it naturally, which took time. Finally, you had to compress it all onto a disc for use in special cases or ray guns trainers carried with them that allowed for the teaching of those moves, and make sure the compressed data still worked. It was a daunting task, one that had taken him months, but he was finally on the brink of having a functional Close Combat TM that he could trademark and sell for buckets of cash.

As he pulled out the freshly pressed disc, he recalled his Lycanroc Suzie into her Ultra Ball, placed it in his case, then put the disc in. After a few seconds, it prompted him to make her forget a move. He selected Bite, which was redundant as she had Crunch already, then waited a few more seconds before it announced a success.

He then took the ball out, sent out Suzie, and instructed her to use Close Combat on a training dummy in the corner of the room. She hesitated for a few seconds before growling and lunging at the dummy, clawing, biting, slamming and tearing at it with all her might. Afterwards, she got down from it and just looked at him with that derp look dogs often give to their owners.

Success.

He got down and started praising her. “Who's a good girl? Yes, you are! You are a good gir-” he gave her a raspberry as she licked his face. He then gave her a treat and took her upstairs.

“Ya ready?”

“Give me just a minute, professor!” Lillie responded. She quickly dug out a Pokéball and called Nebby into it. Even though she wasn't a trainer, Professor Kukui still convinced her to keep Nebby in a Pokéball to make it easier to conceal from people who might be too interested in it, which she ultimately agreed with and followed through on. Even so, it was still really good at just letting itself out, which made her question whether it was a Pokémon at times. She put the ball in her duffel bag, got her things together, and walked out the door with the professor.

The trip to Iki town was a bit inconvenient given that there were no paved roads and most people just walked in, so Kukui would often just call up a Tauros and ride into town from his lab that way, with Lillie riding behind him as the bull charged through the grass scaring off varmints that would otherwise try to give them trouble. In fact, cars were rare outside of Hau'oli City, the biggest city on the island and all of Alola for that matter, giving the island a relaxed, rural feel of the kind that attracted hikers and nature lovers from other regions. Alola had some killer bird watching, with birders coming from as far-flung as Kalos to watch nesting Toucannon taking care of their hatchlings, or catch a glimpse of an elusive Oricorio.

Eventually, they pulled up into town and dismounted. As the Tauros was recalled back to the ranch where ride Pokémon not in use were cared for, Hala was already walking up to them.

“Professor Kukui!” the large, elderly man exclaimed, walking up to him with arms open.

“Hala, what's up?” he replied as he gave the elder a man-hug.

Just behind Hala, Hau was already bouncing out, ready to greet them.

“Hey Lillie!” he said waving his hand with a smile.

Lillie knelt slightly to his level to meet him. “Hi there, Hau. I'm doing fine, how about yourself?”

“Can't wait!” he said cheekily. “Just another day, and I'll have all summer to tear up the islands and become the next Island Champ!” The energy in his eyes and speech was simply bursting.

“Well, I'm sorry, but I don't have a Dialga on me,” Lillie said to the boy, “or I could turn time forward and we could have your party right now!” She stifled a laugh, but Hau didn't seem to notice or care. He was just blinded by the prospect of his very own Pokémon, so much so he hadn't even seemed to have given much thought as to what he wanted said first Pokémon to be. He could probably be given a Magikarp for all he cared and he would still be happy.

“Why don't you all come on inside?” Hala asked them. “I got my boy Hau to cook us all up some salt pork and glazed sitrus skewers to snack on!” They all made their way inside and sat around the table on the back patio, which had a carving of Tapu Koko chiseled into it. Hau laid out the snacks on platters in the middle and got everyone some plates and some fresh leppa juice, except for Kukui who helped himself to a cup of coffee.

Kuki told Hala about his latest invention and proudly waved it in front of the kahuna's face. “And THIS,” he commented, “is the fruit of five straight, painstaking months of work. And now it's ready for market.”

“Well done,” Hala said whilst slowly clapping. The old master of Fighting-types was nothing less than satisfied that his young but close friend and pupil had managed to fit Close Combat, of all things, onto a TM. “Have I told you I've always admired your dedication to your research?”

“It's only matched by my passion for battles,” Kukui chirped back. Hala gave a big belly laugh as they toasted his accomplishment.

Meanwhile, Hau was busy describing to Lillie how he read up on all sorts of cool strategies and how he was ready to become Alola's strongest trainer. “But Hau,” Lillie asked him, “how are you going to do that if you don't even know what to start with?”

“That's easy!” he told her, “cause I already know what I want!” He pulled out a crumpled piece of paper with pictures of Rowlet, Litten and Popplio on them, with Rowlet circled.

“Oh,” she remarked. “So you DO know what you want.”

“Why not?” he responded. “It's round, it's an owl, it turns its head around when you're telling it what to do, and I hear it's got a really cool evolution!”

The “head spinning around to see its trainer” part creeped Lillie out a bit, but she had seen stranger, such as how Pyukumuku apparently spit their internal organs out at you in the form of a fist as a defense, so she just took in his words and nodded as he went on about how he and Rowlet were going to go and find all of Alola's rarest and strongest Pokémon, from the powerful Salamence of Melemele to the wise Oranguru of Akala to the mysterious Mimikyu of Ula'ula to the elusive but steadfast Kommo-o of Poni, and everything in between. He even dared to say he would capture one of the Tapu and add it to his team, something no one had done in over five centuries.

“And that's how I'm gonna conquer the islands,” he said.

“Well,” Lillie responded, “sounds like you have quite a bit in front of you!” She smiled and sipped on some more leppa juice.

“You bet!”

She was enjoying the boy's enthusiasm about becoming a trainer. So much so, she hadn't noticed Nebby had snuck out of its Pokéball and began wandering off the porch towards the forest behind town. That is, until Lillie got up to go refill her glass, when she noticed it in the corner of her eye heading into the trees.

She just stood there, and looked on with a mild sense of terror on her face.

“Uh, professor... I uh... gotta go check something, if that's okay with you.”

“What is it?” Kukui asked.

“I, uh, well... bye!” She took off towards the trail.

The two men and one boy looked on as the girl in the white dress jumped into the jungle on the Mahalo trail.

“What's with her? Shouldn't we go after her?” Hau asked the professor.

“Nah, I think I know exactly what's going on,” he replied. “I kinda figured that thing would want to see a Tapu at some point. It just seems... attracted to them, whenever we walk by a statue of them, it flails its puffballs around.”

“That's odd,” Hala responded. “Most Pokémon and other animals avoid the Tapu if they can, unless they think they can take them. I wonder what's so special about... what's it called, Nebby, that it wants to see them so badly.”

“I guess that's true,” Hau said. He didn't actually know what either of them were talking about, but he just kind of went along. “By the way, why didn't she just say Nebby ran away and then took us with her?”

Hala knelt down to Hau's level. “Hau, I think you'll understand this a little better when you're older and you start dating, but women often do things that seem strange to us. I remember back in the day your grandmother used to do things that I didn't really get, and your dad was the same way, and you'll be the same way, too.”

Yeah, his dad... Hau didn't pay it too much mind. He figured, well, I'll just focus on being a master now and worry about girls later. After all, it wasn't like his grandpa's advice was going to be applicable to him right this second, it's not like he was going on his quest to meet a bunch of girls after all.

At least, that's what he thought...



Reimu suddenly woke up with a gasp. She didn't even realize she had passed out. One moment, the wormhole was sucking her in, the next, this.

She could tell she was floating in a void. Her limbs were numb. She flailed them around a bit to try and get some feeling back into them. It was really stiff and painful once she did, but the feeling subsided after a while, and once it did, she took a moment to more closely survey where she was.

It was definitely... different. The fishnet patterns seemed to be going in all sorts of different directions against the background of purplish-blue energy. Various bits of light were flashing everywhere. It was really hard to get a clear point of reference which way was up and down – maybe it didn't matter, so she just tried to adjust her position to what she thought was up.

She found she could control her movement... at least somewhat. Enough to where she wasn't spinning around, at least. Again, there was no point of reference to speak of. If she was moving, she didn't know it.

She looked around to try and find an exit, or at least a surface to get her bearings, but the lights everywhere were making it difficult to tell what was an exit – she assumed it would be a large, white orb of light, since that was what was inside the wormhole that appeared in Gensokyo.

This was so strange, she thought. Normally, she could manipulate barriers and fly through worlds with no issue, but whatever this was, it was stymieing her efforts. It was just so unlike what she was used to – so alien, it felt – that she couldn't immediately wrap her head around...

Then, she heard a noise. Flash. It almost sounded like chimes.

She immediately drew her gohei and stuck it forward. “Who's there?” No response. “Show yourself!”

Then, it appeared. It flickered in front of her for a couple seconds, then it materialized. It was a glassy creature, it almost looked like a jellyfish. And it looked like its head – or something, she couldn't tell – was a hat.

“What are you?” she asked forcefully. The creature gave no reply.

“Are you a youkai? If you are, and you did this, then I, the maiden of the Hakurei Shrine, must destroy you for your crime against the barrier.”

Again, no reply. It just stared at her listlessly... or maybe it wasn't, it didn't seem to have eyes.

“You are defying the laws set forth by the erectors of the Hakurei Border. If you do not answer –”

“...nihhhiiihhhhihhhiiiihhhhhhhhhhhh” It made a sound, and a slight backward jerking motion, which made it look like its “cape” was blowing forward. It then lunged at her, and she took a defensive stance, but instead of physical contact, reality seemed to flicker for just a moment.

She looked behind her, and the creature was making its way into the abyss, like she wasn't even there.

“Gahhh... what's going on here?!” She felt herself losing control again. A huge, bright ball of light was moving closer to her... no, she was moving closer to it. “What is this? I'm losing – ahhhhhh –”



As she rushed up the trail, Lillie looked everywhere for Nebby, but it was nowhere to be seen.

“It can't possibly move that fast, can it?” she said to herself as she rushed up toward the bridge across the Maholo stream that led straight to the Ruins of Conflict. She could sense the Pokémon in the trees eyeing her... this was a bad spot for someone without a Pokémon to be. Good thing repels existed.

Eventually, she made it to the rickety bridge, and right in the center was Nebby.

“Nebby!”

Nebby turned around and saw her. It knew it was in trouble, but it wanted to see the Guardian so bad...

She took out her Pokéball that she kept it in. It immediately started pouting. “Pew! Pew!” it exclaimed.

“Look, I know you want to see Tapu Koko, but this place is dangerous! Please come ba –”

She was interrupted by the sound of a Spearow up above.

“Caw! Caw! Speeearcaw!” Crap, there were three of them. And they saw Nebby, thinking it was food. The three birds bore down and started circling Nebby like vultures.

“Pew! Pew! PEW!” Nebby cried out and flailed its puffs to try and scare them off but, obviously, it didn't quite work. Meanwhile, all Lillie could do was just watch on in horror as what she feared would happen, DID happen.

“NO, get away!” She tried to cross the bridge to scare them off herself, but it started swaying violently, and she was worried about falling over.

She then cried out. “Please! Anyone who can hear me! Please help me! Please save Nebby!”

There was no response.

Then, as if on cue, a wormhole opened up in the sky. Lillie looked up. She knew what this was. She'd seen them before and Professor Burnet talked about them a lot in her tales. It was an Ultra Wormhole. Did Nebby open it? Well, maybe, as a defense mechanism, but it didn't seem to be straining itself to do so. Maybe another force opened it, or it just appeared randomly.

The wormhole on its own didn't seem to faze the birds, but then she looked closer, and swore she could see an object coming through.

She squinted. Yup, it was an object alright. Then it got bigger, and she heard sustained screaming. Then it got big enough for her to establish that it was a person. Wait, a person falling out of the wormhole?!

When the figure came through, it barreled straight down towards Nebby. The Spearows saw it and immediately scattered. It landed right in front of Nebby with an audible BANG on the wood of the bridge. Nebby jumped in the air in surprise.

Lillie looked closer. It seemed to be an older girl or a younger woman, dressed up in a manner similar to a kimono girl.

The girl looked up, and saw Nebby. Lillie called out “oh my... m-miss, are you alright?”

She didn't respond. Instead, she groaned softly whilst still looking at Nebby. She was clearly delirious. She just looked forward, and barely managed a sentence. “Ohhh... oh, oh. A-are you, a...” Nebby looked at her with a puzzled expression on its face.

Then, the ropes on the other side snapped, and the bridge started to collapse.

“Wha... Wha, OSH-” Without thinking, she grabbed a hold of Nebby, who was both scared and ticked at being handled by a strange lady. “Pew, Pew!” It struggled against her for a second, before realizing what was happening. As the two started falling down as the wood planks fell in all directions, she screamed, it screamed, all Lillie could do was look on paralyzed with fear as Nebby and a person she didn't know fell down into the canyon.

Then, a yellow dot shot out of the sky, and into the canyon with a magnificent woosh. “Tapu kokokokokokokoko!!!!!” It sounded like an oversized chicken as it grabbed a hold of the girl and brought it back up to safety on Lillie's side of the canyon.

As she was set down, Reimu let go of Nebby, then turned her head around to get a look at her savior. It was the most bizarre thing, black with an enormous orange mohawk and what looked like white face paint, a torso that terminated in what seemed to be large, orange feathers, and two halves of a yellow, ornately painted shell with black pincers on them. They just stared for a second, before the... thing called out loudly “KOKOKO!!!!” and took off into the air, dropping a sparkling object onto the ground as it did so.



Lillie knelt down to the beleaguered shrine maiden's level and talked to her softly. “...you okay?”

Reimu pushed herself off the ground, a few bones and joints cracking as she did so. At least she didn't break anything, she thought. “Yeah... I'm okay... sort of.” She had some scrapes on her arms and hands, and one of her sleeves was partially torn, but for falling out of an ultra wormhole onto a bridge, she looked great.

Lillie brushed some of the dust off of her, then helped her back up onto her feet. “You... you saved Nebby.”

“Nebby? Oh, that thing,” Reimu responded. Nebby gave a pouting look at her for a second, but then returned to smiling like it always did.

She looked at the shiny thing that whatever had saved her had dropped. It looked like a strangely patterned stone of some sort. She was about to grab it, but Lillie did it first.

“Here, I'll get that for you.”

She then recalled Nebby and led the confused girl back down the hill towards town.



When she returned, Hala and Kukui were already there waiting for her to return. They saw Reimu being helped by her as well.

“Oh, well, who do we have here?” Hala said in a surprised tone.

“Well... it's a long story, I suppose.” She didn't want to come off as saying she saw an ultra wormhole when most of the town didn't even know what that was.

Reimu looked up and looked around at all the various faces looking in her general direction. People dressed in ways she didn't recognize. Unusual trees and plants everywhere. At least two youkai-looking creatures, three if you counted the thing in the wormhole. This all was way above her cognitive pay grade at the moment.

“W-where am I?” She managed to get out, still smarting from the fall.

“She, uh, I think we should take her back to your place, professor. Then I can explain everything.”

“Hey gramps, can I go with them?” Hau asked Hala. But Hala seemed to understand the gravity of the situation a little better than his excitable grandson.

“I think it's best if you stayed in town. This poor girl seems to need a lot of rest, from the looks of what she went through... oh?” He noticed the sparkle in Lillie's bag. “Lillie, do you mind?”

Lillie looked, and then nodded. He reached into her duffel bag and pulled out what was unmistakably a Sparkling Stone. “She found it.” Hala looked at Reimu. “Young lady,” he asked her, “where did you get this?”

“Um, well...” She didn't quite know how to respond. “I... well, I fell out of this hole in the sky and onto a bridge... then I grabbed this purple puffball as the bridge collapsed... then we were saved by this... this huge yellow thing that sounded like a chicken and...”

Hala didn't even need to hear the rest of it to know where this was going. Not only was she saved by Tapu Koko, but it clearly saw something in her worthy of a Sparkling Stone. It was rare for non-Alolans to be blessed with one. But apparently she fell out of a hole in the sky? Well, obviously, that was nothing short of a miracle! This girl was very unusual indeed.

He looked at her again. “Do you mind if I hold onto this, just for a day? I'll give it back to you, you'll want it.”

“Sure, I don't mind,” she said. She still didn't really understand what was going on here. This all was strange and new for her. She didn't really resist when she was loaded onto the back of a Tauros and taken to Kukui's lab down on the beach. It all just seemed a blur.



“Thanks for the help!” Kukui waved at Hala as he went off on his Tauros.

“Always happy to hear it!” He took off back towards the village.

As this was transpiring, Reimu tried to get a better grip on her surroundings. In front of her was... a lake? A river? It took her a moment to realize... that was the ocean. She'd always heard stories of the ocean, but of course, Gensokyo was not on the sea, so she never thought she would see it. But there it was. She didn't know what they were, but there were several Wingull flying over trying to catch some of the fish Pokémon that would occasionally come close to the surface, mostly Wishiwashi.

As they made their way inside the shack that passed for a Pokémon lab, an unexpected face greeted Kukui.

“Oh, honey, you're back!” It was professor Burnet, apparently back from the lab and making a quick snack.

“Oh hey! Wasn't expecting you back so quickly. What's up?”

Burnet responded to him, “well, it was a pretty slow day at the lab, so I just left early, got on my boat and drove back here.”

“Well, lemme tell ya, you missed the show,” Kukui boasted. “A bunch of things happened and, well, we found this young lady, or rather, Lillie did.” Reimu walked up sheepishly towards the strange white-haired lady.

“Now, honey, what did I say about dragging in more vagrant girls? One's enough already!”

“I saw it,” Lillie said. “She came out of an Ultra Wormhole.” Ultra Wormhole? Is that what it was? Reimu didn't even know anymore.

Professor Burnet stood there for a moment, before she said “...I see.” If what Lillie said was true, then this was huge. “...well, why don't you have a seat over there? I'll make you some tea, if you want it.”

After all she'd been through, the fact that these people at least knew what tea was was comforting.



After Lillie put a few bandages on her harms and fixed up her sleeves, Reimu sat down at the table with these people. They looked at her with curiosity, which unnerved her, but then, she was a strange person who got thrown out of an interdimentional portal, so it only made sense.

“Can you tell us your name? Do you know what we're saying?” Burnet asked.

It was strange. They clearly were not speaking Japanese, but for some reason, she could understand them perfectly... maybe she was just imagining things. Their script was a little strange, too, almost like those books back in Patchouli's – hold it, this was English or something like it. What was going on here? Strange portals don't just make it so you instantly know languages!

...she decided not to overthink it and just give out a response. “...my name.... My name is... Reimu Hakurei....”

“Reimu?” Burnet said. “That's a pretty name. I think I remember a colleague from Johto named Reimu as well.” She looked over the shrine maiden. “But you don't look like you're from Johto. In fact, you probably don't know what Johto is, or what any of this is.”

What's a Johto? She'd never heard of anyplace on the Outside that went by that name. “Please tell me... where am I? Right now?”

Kukui spoke up. “Well, if you want the straight answer, you have landed in the sunny Alola region, a chain of paradise, right smack in the middle of the great, blue ocean!”

Wait, what? She was on an island far out in the ocean?! No other land for thousands of kilometers?! She'd spent her whole life not knowing the ocean and now it surrounded her on all sides! This was all way too much for her to absorb, but it at least helped her understand her place in this world. She was pretty sure it was a different world.

So, she decided to test it. “Do you know... which way Japan is from here?”

“Japan?” Kukui asked. “Never heard of it.”

Yup, definitely a different world. And yet so much like her own.

She picked up the tea in front of her and took a sip. A little bitter compared to what she was used to, but otherwise pretty decent. She stirred in some sugar to help even the taste out.

“It seems I've landed in an alternate reality. Please tell me, do you know what happened?”

Burnet spoke up. “Well, if what Lillie over here is saying is correct...” Lillie? That was the girl's name? Well, she did look a little bit like Lily White, what with the white dress and the blonde hair.

“...then you came out of an Ultra Wormhole. It's a phenomenon people associate with Alola, because it happens here the most. I work at a place called the Dimensional Research Lab, where we study these sorts of things.”

Reimu's ears perked up. This woman might just know how to get her back home if she studied these sorts of things. But, one way or another, she knew she was probably going to be here a while, stressing Yukari out to no end, but even so, the sooner she could find a way back, the better.

“I'm sorry, but I didn't catch your name,” Reimu said to Kukui.

“Oh, I'm sorry, I'm Professor Kukui, and I serve as the regional Pokémon professor here in Alola.”

Wait, a Pokémon? What was that?

“What's a Pokémon?” Reimu asked.

“Oh, right, a Pokémon. Well, for one, the thing that saved you back at the bridge is one. And there are hundreds of species of them in this world, and they come in all shapes an sizes!”

He pulled out a sphere from his coat pocket with a white bottom and a black top with yellow bands on it. He tossed it in the air behind him, and out in a burst of energy came what looked like a wolf. A wolf with a mane that had rocks sticking out of it.

“This here is one species that graces these islands, and also my best bud!” He gave the wolf some pets on its head. “Yeah, who's a good girl, yes you are!”

“So,” Reimu continued, “what other kinds exist?”

Then, out of the basement, came a sound, “bzzzrrrrrrrrt!” A small, orange thing that looked like a sprite came up from the basement, zipped around the room, then floated onto the table right in front of Reimu's face.

“Well, I think someone wants to say hi,” Kukui said. The sprite then looked over at a shelf, towards a red thing. It floated over to it, then in a split-second, transferred itself inside.

The red thing began to stumble a bit, then flew off the table right back in front of Reimu's face. The black screen in the middle lit up, and blue bolts shot out of the sides while the sprite's face lit up on the monitor.

“Bzzrrt! Hello there! I'm a Roton-Dex! I can tell you everything you need to know about everything there is to know!”

...it was so weird. These Pokémon, from her observation, seemed extremely similar to youkai, but were not feared by these humans; if anything, they seemed to coexist as if they were inseparable.

“So... these Pokémon... how do you use them?”

“Well,” Burnet began, “Pokémon and humans have been together since time immemorial. At first, they were feared by early humans...” Aha, so they were like youkai, at least at one point. “...but then we learned how to control them, work with them, coexist such that one can hardly live without the other. Pokémon and humans have fought wars alongside each other, built cities with each others help, restored habitats, advance technology... but perhaps the thing they're most famous for, is their immense fighting spirit. There isn't a single Pokémon alive who doesn't enjoy a good fight with others of its kind, or other kinds. And we have taken advantage of this, not only to quell their urge to try and take it out on humans out of boredom, but also to settle conflicts, or just for fun. In fact, battling Pokémon is so widespread, that not only do leagues and tournaments for it exist, but we even settle international disputes with them; there hasn't been a major war in hundreds, nay, THOUSANDS of years, and lethal weapons are extremely rare.”

So basically, Pokémon battles were these people's version of spell card duels. Something she could latch onto, at least. Perhaps this place was almost an alternate Gensokyo blown up to global proportions?

“Sounds like a pretty good place to live in. And I just happened to get dumped here.” She took another sip of tea. “If you don't mind, can I tell my side of the story?”

“Sure, go right ahead, I'm sure you come from a strange land with all sorts of strange things, and we'd just love to hear from you! You know, to get to know you, at least.”



She told stories about her past adventures long into the night. She started by briefly explaining to them just what Gensokyo was, then started from where things got interesting. She told them all about the incident with the red mist, the one where Yuyuko tried to make the Saigyou Ayakashi bloom, the story about Suika, the endless night and the lunar princess, the sixty-year bloom, Kanako's faith plot, the unstable weather caused by Tenshi, the crisis in the former Hell, the tale of the Palanquin ship, the resurrection of Miko, Seija's uprising, the Lunar crisis... the further she got into her yarns, the more the three were spellbound by how strange an bizarre the place she hailed from just was.

“So,” Lillie asked the shrine maiden, “a sort of safe-haven for things that people no longer believe in.”

“Well, I wouldn't say 'safe-haven' is the right term for it. Maybe more of a refuge, if you see half of what goes on there,” Reimu replied.

Both professors laughed. After all, Kukui wasn't all too sure himself what he would do if he ran into a nuclear hell raven with a control rod on one arm and all the temperament and intelligence of a six-year-old child. Maybe try and get Suzie to use Stone Edge on it, he supposed, and then run the opposite direction.

“So,” Burnet asked Reimu, “these 'youkai' you're describing seem like interesting creatures.”

“They're a piece of work, that's for sure,” Reimu replied. “Some of them try to eat humans, although they don't do that to humans living in Gensokyo anymore, just errant outsiders. Most of them these days are just content with giving humans as rough a time as possible. A few try to hide their traits and fit into human society. And then there are others that aren't youkai, but they act in more or less the same way. My job is to make sure they don't get out of hand, but also to make sure they're still around, because if they were to disappear, Gensokyo would become highly unstable.”

Burnet looked on. “I think I mentioned this already, but they say that in prehistoric times, Pokémon used to act in, well, essentially the same way around humans as these 'youkai' you're describing. But then, ancient civilizations learned to tame and control them. Even now, however, there's still some Pokémon that remain the stuff of legends, and are revered as deities. Like the one that saved you.”

Reimu spoke up. “Yeah, what WAS that thing that saved me at that canyon back there?”

“That was Tapu Koko, one of the Guardian Deities of the islands,” Kukui responded to her. “They're responsible for safeguarding Alola from outside threats, but they can be very finicky at times, and don't operate in ways we or even other Pokémon expect them to. For it to save you and give you that stone was highly unusual, which meant it saw something special in you.”

He continued on, “there are four Guardian Deities, one for each major island in Alola. Tapu Koko is the Deity of this island, Melemele Island. It loves itself a good fight, and in addition to Pokémon battles, we please it by holding regular Alolan sumo matches in its honor. It always watches them from afar, and gives its approval if it thinks the fight was intense enough... and boy, do we know intense fights!” He clapped his hands and slapped the table, startling the others.

“If that bridge hadn't collapsed, you would have been able to climb up the hill and visit the Ruins of Conflict, which is a shrine that ancient Alolans built for all the Guardian Deities thousands of years ago. It's where we pay tribute to it, and where new kahunas are appointed, but... it doesn't always show up. Like I said, these Deities are very finicky, and don't always care for human company. Sometimes, though, they can't get enough of it.”

It sounded like, even in this very different and advanced world, faith was still going strong. That was at least one thing like home that Reimu could relish in. Speaking of which...

“Hey,” she spoke up, “I was wondering, did you want to see some of the battling techniques I was talking about?” She probably knew better than to simply show some outsider humans her powers, but this was a different dimension and these people didn't seem too phased by magic and magical battles – according to Burnet, human mediums were apparently a thing in this world.

“You know, I think that would be great,” Kukui responded. “I always like seeing some new moves I could shove onto Pokémon.”

Burnet smiled, while Lillie just looked at her with a look, then smiled and said “yeah, let's see it!”

“Alright then! But, hey, we gotta take this outside. Spell cards are not things you really ought to fire off in small, indoor spaces,” Reimu told them.



Outside, the tropical air of the islands whipped across the beach and stirred up the sands. The sweet smell of ocean spray was a new one to Reimu's nose, and it was unlike anything she had yet experienced. And even though it was twilight, it was still pleasantly warm, the glow of the lab that doubled as a house contrasting nicely with the dark-salmon banded sky. Around them, the bushes rustled, obviously from Pokémon hiding inside them.

As she looked for a nice, open spot in which she could do a demonstration, she suddenly heard a voice yell out “hey, Reimu, watch your step!” When she looked down, she what appeared to be a small, dark lump in the sand. Kukui rushed over and picked it up, revealing what she was about to step on. It was a small, brown thing with pink spikes on top and a face with beady, white eyes and a puckered mouth. At that moment, the Rotom-Dex from inside came outside and hovered right next to her. “I can tell you all different kinds of Pokémon species, if you want,” it told Reimu. It then proceeded to pull up an entry on the thing in front of her in Kukui's hands:



Pyukumuku, the Sea Cucumber Pokémon. These peculiar sea creatures wash up on shores and scour where they wash up until there's no more food, then wash back out to sea with the tides. They don't like being stepped on, and will attempt to use their innards to form a fist shape to punch away the offender, often releasing foul-smelling scents from its glands in doing so.”



“Pyuku?” the sea cucumber chirped at Reimu briefly before Kukui stood back and hurled it back into the sea, after which it began to swam off.

“You gotta watch your feet when you're walking on Alola's beaches,” he told Reimu. “You're actually lucky it was just a Pyukumuku, those things are mostly harmless. Sandygast, on the other hand, are much harder to see and might try to possess you to build them up with sand if you're not careful.” Reimu didn't know what a Sandygast was, so she decided to ask the Rotom-Dex what it was.

“Hey, Rotom, can you show me a Sandygast?” she asked. The screen went blank for a second while Rotom loaded another page, this time showing what looked like a lump of sand with black eyes and white pupils and a red toy shovel stuck on top.



Sandygast, the Sand Heap Pokémon. Said to be born from the grudges of deceased Pokémon, they are a common feature of Alolan Beaches. It is a test of courage in Alola for a child to stick their arm inside the hole in its body, and attempting to grab the shovel on its head is said to allow it to possess children to heap more sand onto it to make it bigger and allow it to grow into Palossand.”



There was a prompt to see this other Pokémon, which she clicked. The new page depicted a larger sand pile in the shape of a castle with similar features.



Palossand, the Sand Castle Pokémon. Palossand suck smaller, unsuspecting Pokémon down into their sand pits, where it is said they steal their souls and use those souls to make more Sandygast. If it is injured, it can absorb more sand to build itself back up, and can harden its body if exposed to water.”



If this thing existed in Gensokyo, it would definitely qualify as a youkai. But, suppressing the urge to try and exterminate them, she decided to inquire as to how one Pokémon morphed into another.

“So, professor, what is the relation between these two Pokémon on the screen?”

He looked at the Rotom-Dex and then said “oh, that? Palossand is what we call an evolution of Sandygast, although it's not really 'evolution' in the scientific sense, more like a metamorphosis, but evolution sounds cooler to the kids. Most Pokémon start out as small, weak species, but eventually grow into much stronger beasts that can hold their own in serious battles. The more battling experience a Pokémon gets, the faster this happens. Of course, some Pokémon evolve in other ways. Sandygast is one of the easy ones that only needs to battle a lot, but others require stones, having enough experience at a certain time, such as at night, some need to bond with their trainers sufficiently, all sorts of things. The Rotom-Dex can tell you how different species evolve. And then there are some, like that Pyukumuku, that don't evolve; they're born that way, live that way, and die that way.”

Fascinating stuff, she felt. “Tell me, how many species of Pokémon exist in this world?”

“How many species?” the professor responded. “Thousands. There are over four-hundred known to inhabit Alola alone, including some rare ones that can't be found in any other region, at least not in the wild.”

If there were thousands of species, it seemed as if they were far more diverse then even the hundreds of different kinds of youkai she knew off the top of her head. Truly, this world was a strange, wonderful place that she wished she could explore more thoroughly, if only for the stories she could tell once she managed to get back home.

Getting back to the task at hand, she found a clearing free of hazards and instructed the other three to stand back while she demonstrated.

“The first thing I should mention is that, as the maiden of Gensokyo's most important shrine, most of my powers are sourced from the blessings of the god of the shrine. First, and foremost, is flight. Most powerful people in Gensokyo can fly, of course, but mine is a special kind of flight which allows for travel between different planes of existence. And all of that, comes from this, my yin-yang orb.” She pulled it out of her satchel... and was instantly taken aback both by how heavy it was, and how it both refused to float and was dull as a hunk of lead. She wondered why this was, and then attempted to fly... except all she did was jump off the ground a few times, flailing her arms.

The professors didn't quite understand what was going on. Neither did she. Why were her powers not working today?

She saw Lillie stifling a chuckle. Exasperated, Reimu asked her “what's so funny?”

Lillie looked up at her, then with a straight face, inquired “you know, don't you suppose being sucked through that Ultra Wormhole maybe separated you from that shrine and the source of your powers?”

Crap. She had a point.

And that also meant that the majority of her spell cards, which were faith-based, were duds. This was highly embarrassing for her; thankfully, Yukari didn't have the ability to gap here and make fun of her situation. At least, she assumed Yukari didn't, otherwise she probably would have gapped here and pulled her back home by now.

So she flipped through her deck to find a card that could work here on its own. She found a weak counterattack card she didn't remember the name of, pulled it out, threw it in the air and hoped for the best.

As it flew up, it froze in the air and began to glow, before streams of laser bullets began to stream in a fireworks pattern. In the twilight sky, it made for a spectacular (for the other three – this sort of thing was normal for Reimu) light show, all the different effects scattering across the place. Fortunately, they dissipated before hitting the ground, and the only thing hit by the bullets was a Trumbeak that seemed mildly irritated before flying off.

After a few seconds, it stopped. Luckily, no one else was around, or else they would have asked what on Earth that was.

“It almost looks like Dazzling Gleam,” Kukui said, “so if anyone asks, we'll just say we had a Pokémon battle here on the beach and someone used Dazzling Gleam at one point.” She was surprised that they weren't more mesmerized, but then, it was just a weak counterattack card, and if there were Pokémon attacks that were like this, then they've probably seen a lot of crazy stuff themselves, too.

Going back inside, the four exchanged some more stories for a couple of hours, including a tale from professor Kukui about how he apparently had an encounter with a herd of wild Bouffalant that almost ended badly, before they decided to hit the sack. Oddly, it seemed, Lillie was mostly silent, making Reimu wonder what she was hiding, or if she was just always quiet.

As the two professors headed for the other side of the cabin, Lillie decided to show Reimu to the room she had up in the loft. Normally, she didn't really let anyone else up there, but she felt comfortable letting another girl sleep in her room.

After they brushed their teeth, she showed Reimu up the ladder. Her room was rather sparse, with just a TV set with a computer attached to it, her tablet, a bed, and a dresser. Nebby was still on the desk, this time snoozing.

“I'm sorry I don't have another bed for you,” Lillie apologized to Reimu, “just this sleeping bag.”

“That's okay, I'm used to sleeping on the floor.”

Reimu didn't really have “sleeping clothes” to speak of, so she wondered if Lillie would be fine at all with her just in her bloomers and her sarashi unwound with no top, but then saw her grab a nightgown out of the closet. “I have one about your size, would you like it?”

Reimu decided to take her up on her offer. It was really soft and silky, she was amazed. As she laid out the sleeping bag, she decided to shoot Lillie one last question.

“Hey, Lillie, so, how did you end up here? If these two professors aren't your parents, who are? You seem a little young to be out on your own.”

Lillie hesitated at this question. She didn't quite feel comfortable telling Reimu the whole story of how she wound up there just yet, so decided to tell only a little, maybe some lying.

“Um, well, I... Nebby. Nebby is why.” She pointed at the ball of mist sleeping on top of the modem. “You see... I found Nebby... some bad people want it. As for my parents, my father went missing, years ago. And my mother... mmm, can I not talk about it, please?”

Reimu seemed to understand. She never knew her parents, and she knew Marisa was estranged from her father for various reasons. So, she decided to lay the subject to rest, satisfied she at least knew the gist of it. “Alright, I understand.” She cut the lights and lied down while Lillie did the same.

“Good night,” she told Lillie.

Outside, she could hear the comforting sound of night bugs, of the type she was used to at home, but there was also the gentle sound the ocean waves made as they came in and out. It was all very soothing, and soon, she melted away into sleep, into dreams.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Now, I hope each of you know why you are here and why I have called this meeting.”

Normally, Yukari wasn't the type to organize huge meetings such as this one, no less in the only place in Gensokyo big enough and formal enough for this purpose, which happened to the Scarlet Devil Mansion's banquet room. However, at the behest of the other two sages, which came out of hiding specifically to address this latest situation, and with Remilia's blessing, she appeared in Aya's news office and instructed her to round up every name on a list of individuals she had written up, each one specifically hand-picked by her due to either their power or previous incident-resolving experience, or both. She told her that by order of the three Youkai Sages, they were to meet in the Scarlet Devil Mansion's banquet hall that night.

Normally, during mansion banquets, the lady herself always occupied the head of the table, but this time deferred to Yukari, given the purpose of this gathering. So she resigned herself to an overhead balcony with a sweeping view of the hall down below, her presence set to establish that, even though this was Yukari's meeting, this was still her house, and no one could forget that. She had Sakuya busy making and serving tea to her and her guests, as was customary.

To either side of Yukari were Kasen and Okina, the other two sages charged to maintain the integrity of the border and Gensokyo's society. In front of them, more than thirty humans, youkai, goddesses, and otherwise, either at the main table or sitting at side tables with a clear view of the sages. As per usual, Ran stood at Yukari's side, while Chen was left to play with the fairies outside. Of the guests who were to attend, only Alice failed to show up: she had requested to stay home to look after Sunshine, a request that was granted; Marisa showed up both in her stead and because she herself was asked to come as well. Everyone else arrived no later than five minutes earlier than they needed to. It didn't matter who you were in Gensokyo, or your motivations; when all three sages requested a meeting such as this, you knew something was both huge, and seriously, seriously wrong.

Yukari then snapped her fingers. A few seconds later, three kappa entered the room, two carting a large, white screen and a third carrying a rounded, rectangular object (a projector) and a power source. The kappa carrying the projector used some indeterminate magic to make it float in the air above the banquet table, before handing Yukari a clicker. The two other kappa positioned the screen against the wall behind Yukari and directly opposite of where Remilia was observing the meeting.

Pressing the red button on the top, the projector flipped on, projecting a slide with some Japanese characters on a blank background which translated to “The Wormhole Incident: What We Know.” Most in the room had never seen a projected image before, so for them, this was something very fascinating, especially since it came from the kappa and wasn't overly complex, like half of what they did.

She pressed a button to reveal the first slide, an image of the wormhole captured by Aya just after Reimu was sucked in. Yukari got up from her chair and walked towards the screen, then started walking back and forth in front of it, lecturing everyone in the room on the incident and how it was being handled.

“This,” she projected to the crowd, “is an image of the wormhole that appeared earlier this afternoon for about five minutes before closing, for those who did not see it. After it appeared, there was general chaos and bedlam across the valley, especially in the human village. Now, seeing as how this valley sees incidents as frequently as twice a year, something like this causing this amount of pandemonium is unusual. That means, surely, that this portal is just a symptom of an incident beyond incidents.”

She took a sip of tea before setting it down and continuing. “Now, some of you were probably wondering if I perhaps caused this, if this is similar to the Spring incident several years ago. The short answer is no, I did not cause this portal to appear. And I shall elaborate why.” Some in the room weren't fully convinced Yukari was being sincere, given her rap sheet, but they listened along anyway. “Obviously, I possess a powerful ability to manipulate boundaries: the boundary of life and death, between worlds such as Heaven and Earth, in between Gensokyo and the outside, fantasy and reality, truth and lies, and so on. I can use this power to close the distance between places and things, and travel to and fro. However, I am not a goddess, this power comes with limits, and in particular, there is one type of boundary I am unable to breach: ones between parallel universes and dimensions. And that's what we're dealing with here: a portal to alternate worlds. This means that whoever or whatever created this wormhole is far stronger and much more capable than any being inhabiting this valley, or at the very least, has powers whose context allows for manipulation of things beyond the scope of this realm.”

There was a hand raised in the back. It was Mamizou's. “Yes?”

“So in other words, we're dealing with something which is completely alien to our universe.”

“Ten points to Gryffindor,” Yukari exclaimed. No one was sure what Gryffindor was, but again, Yukari.

“Now, the maiden of the Hakruei Shrine has disappeared through this wormhole. So far, we know she's alive, but in another dimension, because we have seen no anomalies in the border... don't ask me why this is the case, I'm just guessing. Also, she's most likely cut off from her powers here in Gensokyo, as she cannot access or draw power from the shrine's god. This means we cannot say she is definitely safe where she is, because she will be only a little above an average human. Now, can anyone tell me what happens if she dies?”

Marisa was next. “Basically, all Hell breaks loose.”

“To an extent,” Yukari replied, “but I don't think Hecatia would use it as a cue to try and expand her establishment. But what would happen is not only would the the Border become unstable, since the barrier maiden is a crucial component, but generally, the next person in line to deal with major incidents is the Dragon God – who does NOT like being disturbed and possesses tremendous and horrible power. Combined with the weakened barrier, and there is an extremely high chance – which becomes inevitable after long enough – that unless a replacement maiden, preferably of the Hakurei bloodline, is found, the Border will come crashing down and all Gensokyo destroyed. This would have three undesirable effects: first, everyone in Gensokyo not named Kaguya, Mokou or Eirin when this happens will be killed. Second, it would cause the mass extinction of almost all magical beings across the world, severely disrupting the order of life, death and nature – according to some calculations, it would take centuries to recover from this. And third –” She flipped the next slide, showing a map. “This event would resemble a nuclear detonation on the outside. Not only would the event be visible from space and flatten most of Nagano, but across the sea here, on the northern part of this peninsula that you see,” she pointed towards Korea, “is a government that really hates the Japanese and has weapons that could do this. Assuming a cover story is not disseminated, the most likely domino effect of this calamity would be a nuclear war that engulfs the region, especially if Japan and southern Korea's American and Australian allies got involved, and then there would be no Japan – and if it got really out of hand, no rest of human civilization either. And that means no more youkai as well.”

It seemed a chilling prospect to all in the room, how this one shrine maiden had not only the weight of Gensokyo on her shoulders, but to an extent, the rest of the world too. It almost made one wonder if she really knew how awesome her responsibility was, for a person known to be a lazy, crazy lady.

“This is just the worst-case scenario, of course, but we always have to assume the worst case.” She flipped to the next slide, another blank background with the words “The Plan” on it.

“Now, we the sages have already enacted contingencies to counteract this threat, and act on it as much as possible. We've begun vetting girls in the human village to serve as potential stand-ins in case Reimu cannot be found or does not return. However, we simply do not know how stable the border would be with an untrained maiden not of the Hakurei bloodline or some relation to it. Now, before I get to the main point, I want to point out that until the incident is resolved, there are some... restrictions in place. Humans in the human village, as of now, are not permitted to leave the town limits, and a curfew is in effect. Keine is helping safeguard the human's well-being as well as helping enforce this rule. Furthermore, anyone living outside the village, apart from Marisa, Alice, Yomou, Sakuya, people in this room right now and any students at Keine's school are not permitted to enter under pain of lethal enforcement from us. No human-youkai contact outside of people in this room, plus Alice and schoolchildren, is permitted, and outside human hunts are canceled until further notice.” That last one got a few groans from some of the youkai in the room. “I'm sorry, but we cannot afford to permit anything right now that could potentially leave anyone unaccounted for, because of the nature of this threat.”

Speaking up again, she then made an announcement. “Everyone invited here today is invited to join a task force to help resolve this incident with us. All of you have been chosen due to your exceptional abilities in solving incidents. Your task will be to monitor any and all anomalous activity, notably the appearance of portals, which you are to log and report to us immediately. Kasen will set up a point of contact where she will take all reports. Furthermore, you will all be asked to be ready to fight, 24/7. If anything other than Reimu is to come out of a portal, it has a high chance of being our perpetrator and you would be under orders to engage, capture, and turn it in as soon as possible for interrogation. All who wish to join, say aye.”

Everyone in the room did. And because Marisa did, Alice was bound too.

“Excellent, I figured no one would turn this down. Now, the first thing we need to do is come up with a code name for our task force, something easy to remember so we remember who's in on it. Any suggestions?”

“How about 'Hakurei Hunters,' since we're hunting for Reimu?” Reisen called out.

“I like your thinking, but it sounds too much like we're hunting her for food.” Yukari couldn' help but chuckle a bit. “Any others?”

“How about 'Border Guards?'” a voice came from Yuyuko.

“Border guards... oh, wait, I have an idea!” Yukari said excitedly. “How about 'Border Patrol?' I think that describes what we're doing perfectly. All in favor, say aye.”

Again, everyone did, even Reisen.

“Alright, Border Patrol it is.” She clapped and turned off the projector. “You may break.”

As people scattered and chatted with each other, Yukari went up to Remilia at her perch. “I want to thank you again for letting me use your banquet hall. You have no idea how important this all is.”

“It is my pleasure,” Remy said nobly as she took another sip of her blood tea. “After all, I always serve to please my guests the highest possible experience, no matter their purpose. And I don't underestimate the gravity of the situation. Because if nothing changes, our fates would be most unpleasant indeed.”

“...yes, our fates.” Yukari felt a chill up her spine for the first time in decades as she stepped down back towards the others.


Reimu slowly woke up from her sleep, a little groggy and briefly unsure of where she was, before remembering her predicament. It was still a little dark, the sun only starting to rise up over the horizon. Lillie was still sound asleep, and so was Nebby. However, she did not feel tired enough to go back to sleep, so she decided to get up, get her clothes, and head down towards the bathroom to wash up.

She'd been in here a couple times, and was still getting used to the idea of a flush toilet. She looked inside the shower, supposedly where people in this world cleaned themselves unless they were out in the sticks. Investigating the knob, she wondered how the shower was operated, since there wasn't a distinct on/off switch on it to help her out. She turned it one direction, before being blasted in the face with cold water.

“Gyahh!” she exclaimed. The water remained cold, and she was used to cold of course. But she was told it was warm, too, and she thought that might feel better than cold, running water which your body never heated up. So she turned the dial toward red, and it started heating up. Eventually, the temperature was just right, and she climbed in.

She put her hair under the water and started washing it. She looked around and saw various bottles of chemicals claiming to be for hair care. Some were marked with names saying who they were for, such as Lillie's name on one bottle saying it was for “smooth, silky hair.” She decided Lillie wouldn't mind to much if she used some, so she put a dab on her hand and lathered it in. She wasn't sure how this was supposed to be good for hair specifically; wasn't that what soap was for? But she digressed; as long as she stayed in this world, she needed to act it. After washing her hair, she grabbed the bar of soap on the side and a cloth and scrubbed her body of dirt and sweat, then got another cloth so she could wash her... feminine places.

After getting out, she dried herself off with a towel, then figured out how to operate the blow dryer so she could dry her hair off quicker. She then briefly styled it so it looked neat, before briefly washing her clothes off so she could wear them again – she really didn't have anything else at the moment. She got her bow and hair tubes on, got her dress together, looked in the mirror to make sure she didn't mess anything up, then went out to the kitchen to see if she could throw together something to eat or drink.

The sun was a little higher in the sky. As she walked out, she saw professor Kukui outside jogging on the beach in shorts and a sweater, and Suzie running alongside. She decided to go out and meet him. It was a little nippy outside still, but nothing like Gensokyo winters sometimes.

The professor started some push-ups when he saw Reimu come by. “Oh hey, Reimu! Didn't think you got up this early!”

“Well, I don't usually, but I couldn't get back to sleep so I just decided to get up. What are you doing?”

“I'm doing my morning exercises! It's how I keep up and how I keep my pecs and six-pack from turning into a keg!” He was dedicated to his physique, that's for sure. Why else would he wear a jacket that showed that he was shirtless all day?

As he did more push ups, Reimu heard a sound of a roar in the sky, and looked up. It appeared to be a large, orange European dragon with what looked like a large sack on the side. It landed right next to the house near a post with a box on it – a mailbox. A boy in a blue-white striped shirt, brown khaki shorts and a black cap with a white design dismounted the dragon carrying a bag with letters in it, pulled out a couple and a rolled up paper, put them in the box, shouted “mail!” got back on the dragon's saddle, then took off again towards the west. Is this how mail is delivered around here? They really use dragons, some of the most powerful beings in existence, as flying mounts to deliver things? She knew the rules here were probably different, of course, but being brought up knowing dragons were the highest being in Gensokyo, it was a little jarring.

As they walked back inside, Kukui got the letters and the paper out of the mail box. When they got in, they could see both Burnet and Lillie were now both up, with Lillie cooking breakfast. Kukui put the paper on the table in front of Burnet, who started reading it while sipping some coffee.

“How was your workout?” she asked Kukui.

“Excellent! Lemme tell ya, Suzie's a piece of work since I managed to get her to learn Close Combat,” he replied. “She's like a new pup!”

“Oh, so it's actually working now?” she asked him, regarding the TM.

“Yup! Now I can copy and sell it!”

Burnet smiled. This sore of enthusiastic and over-the-top energy matched only by his dedication to his work was exactly what attracted her to him in the first place, and despite his eccentric tendencies he was one of the best Pokémon professors she had come into in terms of how much work he was able to crank out and how much his theory translated into practice – Suzie, for instance, had 6-0'd entire teams of Pokémon Rock was weak to before.

She looked over at Reimu, who had gotten herself a cup of coffee, perhaps thinking it was tea. She watched as the girl grimaced for a couple seconds as she swallowed it, then reached for some sugar to try and sweeten it.

“Egh, what kind of tea is this?” she asked.

“That's coffee, dear. It's a little different then tea. It's something else people here drink.”

Reimu didn't really know what coffee was. No one in Gensokyo drank coffee or grew and ground beans, and while she had read bits and pieces about it from culinary magazines that fell in from the outside, she never really paid it much mind since it wasn't tea. She saw Lillie putting the kettle back inside the coffee machine, before getting some hot water out of the microwave and steeping a bag inside it. Guess she didn't really care for coffee, either. And really, she couldn't blame her. The taste was very strong and different from the tea she was used to.

For breakfast, Lillie cooked up some omelettes with bits of ham, cheese and cilantro mixed in. Reimu could see there was cheese in it; cheese was rare in Gensokyo since there wasn't much in the way of dairy livestock there, and she'd only had it once when she was a child and Yukari gave her some she had brought in from the outside. She also was used to eating things with chopsticks, but didn't see those here. Instead there were forks and knives like what used at banquets and “bring your own sake” Cards against Youkai nights at the Scarlet Devil Mansion. She was familiar with their use; she just didn't use them often. So she cut off a piece and put it in her mouth, letting the earthy, salt-and-peppery taste of the eggs mixed with those of the savory ham, the gooey cheese and the fresh aftertaste of the cilantro meld together in her mouth before swallowing.

Lillie might be shy and awkward, but hot damn, she was a really good chef. No wonder she cooked meals around here.

“Do you like it?” Lillie asked her.

Reimu swallowed first before responding “it's really good! It's... not really like anything I've ever had before, but in a good way.” Trying new food was something she always enjoyed doing, especially since she didn't have the funds to buy much aside from the basics. Lillie seemed pleased by the comment, confident that at least one more person enjoyed her cooking. She picked up the dishes and rinsed them off before sticking them in the dishwasher, which she had emptied from the night before. As Reimu watched her actions, she could tell that even though she was a permanent guest of sorts here, she could easily pass for a live-in maid with her skills.

About an hour later, Burnet took off for work at the lab. As she did, Reimu followed her out to her boat, chatting some more the whole way.

“Oh, you boat to work?” Reimu asked confusingly. There weren't any bodies of water large enough in Gensokyo for anyone not named Komachi to need a boat to get anywhere, so the concept of using a boat in that fashion, especially a power boat like Burnet's, was a bit strange.

“The lab is in a town on another island. So like how most people use a car or ride on a Pokémon to work, I take a boat to work.” She powered the boat up, waved at Kukui, and sped off into the blue horizon, although Reimu could make out another island in the distance; that must be the island her lab is on.

As Burnet's boat disappeared in the distance, the familiar sound of a Tauros pulling up in front of the house echoed across the beach. It was Hala, the man who helped her here yesterday.

“Hey Professor Kukui! Thought you could use a hand getting some more people to Hau's party!”

“Sure do!” Kukui responded. “Reimu, would you like to come to Hau's birthday party with us? He's really excited to see you.”

Oh, Hau. That boy from yesterday. It was his birthday? Well, she guessed it might be a little rude for her not to, and it's not like she had anything better to do. So, she hopped onto the back of Hala's Tauros while Kukui loaded Lillie onto the back of his. The gang made their way back towards Iki Town, where Reimu had fallen near yesterday.

Once they arrived, there was already quite a scene going. Alolan Luau dancers were performing with their Oricorio in front of a crowd, drummers and pipers were making music, children were making arts and crafts. Some birthday party for one kid, it seemed. How important was Hau, or his father or grandfather?

Hau was waiting in front of Hala's house, impatient to see the shrine maiden from the sky. The kid seemed full of energy, because he just would not stop jumping up and down and all around.

“Hau,” Hala said whilst dismounting the bull. “I know you've been dying to see her, so here she is.”

Reimu walked forward, still a little overwhelmed. “Wait, hold on, who are you again?”

“Oh... oh! Well, I apologize. I must not have properly introduce myself.” He did a stomping routine much like sumo wrestlers do, then struck a pose with one palm and foot forward, before standing back up like normal and answering her question. “My names is Hala, and I'm the kahuna here on Melemele Island. And this is my grandson, Hau.”

Hau waved his hand cheekily. “Hi there!”

Reimu walked over to him and knelt down to his level. “Well,” she smirked, “you're a funny little boy, aren't you? So how old are you? I hear it's your birthday today.”

“Eleven!” he said excitedly. “And I can't tell you how long I've waited for today to come!” He then stood up and stopped jumping around so much, and switched to a more laid-back tone. “By the way, where are you from? I heard you came from the sky!”

Reimu knew she could tell the truth, but the truth was a long story and she knew he might not care. So she came up with an answer for him. “Well, I guess you could say I was sent from the heavens down here to this island.”

“You sure look like you came from the heavens!” Reimu wasn't sure how to take this comment from an eleven year-old boy, knowing what he meant, so she blushed up a bit.

She decided to distract herself by asking Hala “hey, so, what's so special about eleven? He makes it sound like he's gonna get crowned today.”

“Ohoho, I'm glad you asked! Eleven is when boys and girls in Alola can get their first Pokémon and start their Island Challenge!”

“What's an Island Challenge?” Reimu asked him.

Kukui decided to step forward. “The Island Challenge is a rite of passage for kids in Alola. You get your first Pokémon, then you venture across all the islands, where you face different trials, headed up by Trial Captains. Each one is a kid who has completed their Island Challenge, and who passes the torch when they reach twenty to another kid who has completed their challenge. It's mostly aimed at kids, but anyone who comes into possession of a Z-ring is eligible for it, even if they're an elderly monk from Sinnoh.”

Kukui continued on. “Anyway, each trial has different rules. Some ask you to fight a certain number of wild Pokémon, others might call for one or two fights against other trainers, or even entirely unique tasks like answering quiz questions or finding ingredients for a soup. Whatever the trial is, they all end with a battle against a Totem Pokémon, which are much tougher versions of a normal Pokémon of their species. Each trial is themed around one type, and if you clear a trial, the captain gives you its Z-crystal, and you move on to the next. Clear all trials on one island, and you gain the privilege to face that island's Kahuna – in the case of this island, you'd face Hala. Grand Trials, as they're called, consist of just a battle against the Kahuna, which is chosen by the Guardian Deity of each island. Like regular trials, each Kahuna has a team themed around one type. Once you defeat a Kahuna, you get their Z-crystal, and a special stamp in your Trainer Passport saying you've cleared that island, after which you go onto the next. You can to the islands in any order you want; the traditional route, though, is Melemele-Akala-Ula'Ula-Poni.”

Reimu asked the obvious question. “What happens if you clear all the trials on every island?”

“Well,” Kukui trailed on, “traditionally, you then climb Mt. Lanakila, the tallest mountain in Alola. Up there, you'll face all the Kahunas in rematches without breaks. If you manage to do that, you're crowned an Island Challenge Champion. However, due to some, ah, recent events, plus a little suggestion of mine, this year we're changing that up to a new system. But, you'll see what I mean when you get there.”

Wait, had she been signed up for this without her permission, or was he talking to Hau? She was very confused. So, she decided to ask some more questions. “What's a Z-ring?”

“This!” Hala produced a stone ring similar to the rock she found yesterday. “I spent last night carving it into a Z-ring for you. Would you like it?”

“Well, I guess the more appropriate question is, would you like to take on the Island Challenge?” Kukui asked. “You don't have to if you don't want to; if you want to focus more on finding a way back home, I completely understand. But this might give you an opportunity to find that way back home as you travel all over the islands, instead of just sitting on one spot hoping it appears.”

Reimu thought about it. On one hand, she never passed up a good challenge when offered one. On the other, she really didn't want to get distracted much from her main goal, which was getting home. However, she supposed, if she scoured the islands with a purpose, she might be able to find some clues about what brought her here, and how she could go back. Also, imagine the kinds of stories she could tell when she did get back. Marisa would be jealous. She also didn't have her spell cards or powers; getting a Pokémon would be a good way to ensure she stayed safe until then.

After sitting on it for a minute or two, the answer seemed clear. “I accept your challenge.” She took the ring from Hala's hands, clipped it onto her wrist, and flashed it like a champ. A big, fat smile grew across Kukui's face.

“Lookin' good with that bling there, miss Hakurei!”

Lillie watched this scene unfold, and felt this would be the perfect time to present her gift to Hau.

She walked up to him. “Hau, I made you something as well!” She got the ring out of her bag and showed it to him. “I made it myself! For you, for your birthday!”

“Oh wow, thanks!” he said. Lillie smiled.

“...but I already have one.”

She fell face-first onto the ground.

Hau walked up to her. “Hey, sorry, I didn't mean THAT. I just meant grandpa already gave me one this morning!”

Hala gave a big-belly laugh at the whole situation. “Oh, I'm sorry Lillie. I guess I should have told you he would get one.” He then regained his composure. “But I do have an idea.”

Lillie got up off the ground, clearly embarrassed. “What's that?”

Hala looked at Kukui, who then started speaking to her. “Lillie, me, Hala and Burnet have been talking about this for a while, and I think now is the perfect moment. You've got a new, strong friend here, and this wonderful boy of Hala's. You're no longer a child, and we think it's time you took on the Island Challenge for yourself.”

Lillie hesitated. She feared he might one day suggest this. There was a reason she was trying to lie low, and it wasn't because of the law – in fact, a restraining order should be keeping her away from... her, and in Kukui's and Burnet's custody as godparents. That didn't mean her and her goons weren't after Lillie, and there was only so much the law could do to keep them at arm's length. But then, she didn't train Pokémon, and even though it went against what she grew up with, if she trained strong Pokémon, she had a chance, just in case. Plus, if anything happened, Reimu seemed perfectly willing, perhaps a little too willing, to intervene on her behalf.

So she took her own Z-ring, clipped it onto her wrist, and displayed it a bit awkwardly. She then saw that Hau had done so as well.

Hala gave out another laugh. “Well now, we've got a power trio on our hands!” He clapped his hands, and showed them to the stage in the center of town.

Once there, he produced three Pokéballs, tossed them all at once, and out from them popped three Pokémon, an owl, a cat, and a seal. One of these, Reimu knew, would be her first Pokémon.

“I'll let the birthday boy get first pick,” Hala announced. Hau didn't hesitate before gravitating towards the owl. He knelt down to its level, with a big, dumb, toothy grind plastered across his face. The small owl responded by turning its head all the way around with a “koo!” of approval, before flying on top of his head and sitting there like a hat.

“I suppose Rowlet thought you were the right choice too!” Hala told him.

Lillie decided to defer her turn to Reimu, who looked at the two remaining choices. The seal seemed a bit haughty, standing up on its hind flippers and puffing up its chest in a “look at me, I'm so strong” fashion. The big, pink nose and frilly collar-thing also didn't really appeal to her so, no thanks, she thought.

Her attention then turned to the cat, which she noticed had gotten a little closer to her and was eyeing her closely. There was just... something about it. Maybe it was those huge, yellow eyes, or the oversized head compared to its body, or the strange marking on its head, but it gave her a deliciously otherworldly vibe. It was also nowhere near as expressive as the others, or if it was, it wasn't showing it.

Of course, behind Litten's stoic and calculating exterior, it was already imagining Reimu giving it raspberries on its belly, playing spin-the-kitty on the floor, giving it a whole, straight-from-the-sea stack of Wishiwashi in a bowl the size of a semi-truck, and, of course, snuggling in with her to protect each other from monsters at night, before putting its butt in her face at five in the morning with a troll expression on its face.

The only thing it let out was a high-pitched “nyaa” while looking down at the ground near Reimu's foot. Reimu, in turn, looked at it, wondering if maybe one of Rin's siblings had somehow gotten misplaced, since it reminded her of the soul-toting kasha.

After a few seconds, Litten walked forward to her, rubbed her leg while purring, and let her pet it. It then ran out in front of her, faced her suddenly, let out a “nyaa-ha!” whilst smiling, then jumped into her outstretched arms while she stood up and held it in the air, still smiling.

“Looks like he loves you!” Hala said. Oh, it's a boy cat. Alright, then. That was fine.

Lillie looked at Reimu's new cat, then down at the one remaining choice. Or, well, she would have, had the Popplio not decided to do a jumping tackle that forced her down to the ground and started licking her face like a dog.

“Ah, ah, ahahahaha,” she exclaimed, then laughed. “Alright, alright, you can get off me now!” She held Popplio in her outstretched arms in front of her, and all it did was wriggle for a bit, then stop before giving a single “bar?”

“And I think you'll have lots of fun with that big girl over there,” Hala said to her.

So, it was settled. Hau got the grass owl, Rowlet; Reimu got the fire cat, Litten; and Lillie got the sea doggo, Popplio.

Reimu looked at her new cat Pokémon and told it “I think I ought to give you a name.” Unfortunately, finding out it was a boy cat kinda ruined her plan to name it Orin, so she had to think of a substitute. “How about if I named you... Sasha?” Sasha was a boy's name in Russia, after all. It was a girl's name too, and it rhymed with kasha, so why not?

The other two were inspired by Reimu's action, so decided to name their new Pokémon as well. Hau loved old magician movies, and when he learned his Rowlet was female also, decided to name her Hedwig. Lillie named her Popplio Adele, since she knew what the silly clown seal would grow up into and would fit the name in due time.

It did not take long for the next logical step after this to come to mind: the inaugural battles of each trainer. But first, Reimu, being an outsider, needed to be drilled on the basics of type effectiveness and commands. And no one was better qualified for the job then the Rotom Dex, which stowed away in Lillie's bag and flew straight out at the shrine maiden.

“Bzzzrt! So, is it true?! You don't know how types work?!”

Reimu still wasn't too sure what to think of the prospect of having a fairy companion, something reserved for certain youkai back at home. But, it was her most helpful and handy source of info on, well, everything related to Pokémon, so she felt she had no choice.

“No, I do not know how types work,” she responded. “Will you show me?”

“Absolutely!” It seemed just a little too enthusiastic about even the most basic topics. It quickly pulled up a screen on its monitor displaying the three Pokémon she just saw, including Sasha, whose species name was apparently Litten. Appended to each were words describing which elemental type each one belonged to; in the case of Rowlet, both of them. Red arrows showing type effectiveness were also present.

“Professor,” Reimu asked, “what am I seeing here?”

Kukui walked forward and studied the screen. “This is showing how strong these Pokémon are against the others. The red arrows going back tell you that that Pokémon's main attacks are strong against the target. In this case, your Litten is Fire-type, which is strong against Rowlet's Grass-type. Rowlet is also part Flying, but that shouldn't matter for this demonstration. It also takes less damage from Rowlet's Grass attacks. However, Popplio is Water-type, which is strong against Litten's Fire, and resists Litten's Fire attacks. Finishing the cycle, Rowlet is likewise strong against Popplio.”

It was decided that Hau should first battle Lillie, so that Reimu could watch and understand this a bit better. So, the stage was cleared, and spectators looked on. Hau and Lillie looked each other in the eye. Hau was confident. Lillie was still wondering if all this was a good idea.

“I challenge you to a battle!” Hau exclaimed energetically. This startled Lillie, who, after a few seconds, managed to spit out “I-I accept your challenge!”

They both sent out their new Pokémon. At this point, each stood ready, ready to receive their trainer's orders.

“This is important,” Kukui told Reimu. “Pokémon that respect their trainers will always wait to act. All you have to do at that point is give it a command that it knows and the target, and it will act accordingly.”

Reimu seemed to understand, but still had some questions. “How do I know what to tell it?”

“Well,” Kukui responded, “each Pokémon can know up to four commands which we call 'moves.' A move can either be an attack meant to damage the opponent, or a special technique that has another effect which either makes the user stronger or the opponent weaker.”

“And how do I know what moves it knows?” Reimu asked him.

“Well, for the most part, you're supposed to commit that to memory, but the Rotom-Dex can also reveal what attacks your Pokémon knows.”

At that point, Hala immediately declared that the bout was on, at which point Rowlet swiftly took to the air. “Hedwig!” Hau commanded her. “Circle the air and use Leafage on Popplio!”

And Hedwig did precisely that. After ruffling her wings a bit and letting out an excited “koo,” she leapt into the air and started harassing Adele with a bunch of leaves shot out of her wings. Lillie responded by trying to get Adele to use Water Gun to shoot the Grass Quill Pokémon out of the air, but under duress, most of them missed, and the ones that did hit were too scattered to do anything other than make Hedwig shake the moisture off in mid-air above the reach of her opponent before going back to dropping leaves onto the poor sea dog.

Reimu studied this fight closely, and thought about how to go about dealing with Hedwig. Because she possessed years of experience in spell card dueling (having partially helped Yukari make the system back when she was only five), it did not take her long to zero in on Lillie's errors and how Hau was taking advantage of them, whether or not he was consciously aware of it. She thought about ways she could apply years of aerial and physical combat to a fire cat she just met and come up with a win.

Before long, the fight was over, and Adele, battered by the constant pelting of super-effective leaves, was too tired to keep fighting, forcing Lillie to recall her and concede the match to Hau, who was satisfied about winning his first battle. She looked a bit glum, both because her Pokémon was injured and because she just lost her first real battle, but she was soon comforted by the boy, who walked up to her in a rather humble fashion. “Hey,” he said patting her on the back, “don't get down. You're still new at this, and you were at a disadvantage. Just keep doin' it, and you could probably get back at me!”

She looked up. This kid had every reason to gloat, but instead he was being surprisingly mature and professional about his win for his age. She smiled. “Thanks.” She walked over to a lady who offered to heal her Pokémon back up.

Next up was Reimu vs. Hau. As she walked up the stage and met him right in the eye, she didn't hesitate to try and intimidate him. Even though he was just a child still, he was still clearly more mentally mature than some of the people she's had to deal with, so she felt it didn't quite count as picking on someone smaller than herself, especially since, if anything, she should be at a disadvantage here for not knowing any of this world's lore on battling.

“Well now,” she said in a cold, collected tone. “I might be worlds distant from it, but I still represent the Hakurei Shrine, and it is my duty, as the Hakurei Shrine Maiden, to emerge victorious against anyone opposed to me or it.”

“Whatever you say!” Hau shouted back as he threw his Pokéball and re-summoned Hedwig.

Reimu followed in kind. “Go get 'em, Sasha!”

As soon as Sasha hit the field, Hedwig, sensing her trainer's will, took to the sky again. Sasha has a type advantage, Hau realized, but since it was also grounded like Adele the same strategy of staying in the air and pelting it with leaves should still work. So he ordered her to use Leafage again, with Sasha as the target.

Reimu, however, was not prepared to let Hau win as easily as he did against Lillie. With a strong voice and a forceful hand, she looked at Sasha and pointed to a spot out of the leaves, looking at them as she did so. “Dodge there!” she shouted, and Sasha did just that. None of the leaves hit him.

Hau ordered another salvo of leaves be shot at the fire cat, and again, Reimu ordered it on where to dodge. As he dodged wave after wave of leaves, he developed a sort of taunting grace in doing so, and even figured out where to go to be safe without Reimu's input, or at least anticipating where she would ask it to go.

This went on until Hedwig started to tire from using too many Leafages in a row; they were now less accurate and thinner. This was her moment to strike, Reimu thought. She briefly examined Hedwig's trajectory, then pointed to a space in the air in front of her.

“Sasha, use Ember right there!” Sasha was a little confused as to why he was being asked to shoot the air and not the target, but did so anyway. The small flame lined up exactly with where Reimu predicted Hedwig would fly, and the shot successfully intercepted the owlet mid-flight. Now on fire, she landed and tried to roll around to put the flames out, but was so exhausted that it didn't work. The flames took their toll as they burnt out on their own; Hau tried to get her to tackle Sasha, but she fell flat in doing so, and she was declared unable to battle.

Rush with victory, Reimu walked over to the boy, who seemed a bit mopey after his loss. “Y'know, I might be new to Pokémon battles,” she said to him, “but I've got years of experience fighting all manner of ghouls and crooks, so don't take it so hard.” She patted him on the back, which seemed to get his spirits up, as well as his curiosity.

“Ghouls and crooks?” he asked. “What sorts of ghouls and crooks?”

“Well,” she said to him. “I'd be more than happy to tell.” The three were led back towards Hala's patio, where there was tons of barbecue, birthday cake and ice cream waiting for them.


“No way,” Hau exclaimed through a mouthful of kebab. “SUNS??? Like what's up in the sky?!?”

“Yes, suns. Tons of them, and with tons of laser bullets scattered in between going in all directions.” Hau was absolutely spellbound by her story of how she dove into the underground and dealt with the denizens below, but the idea of a hell-raven girl with a control rod on her arm shooting literal suns at Reimu seemed a tad ridiculous. If nothing else, then holy tapdancing miltanks was the idea of him in that situation scary. So her describing the experience as casually as one might mention buying milk impressed on him a person who's been through some really crazy experiences. He wasn't sure how much of it to believe at first, especially since Reimu couldn't really demonstrate to him how she did any of this, but even seeing her inert yin-yang orb and deck of spell cards was enough to convince him that what she was telling was most likely the truth.

And he wasn't the only one. Several guests at his party were also listening intently to her stories, of how this strange maiden from beyond the wormhole dealt with what sounded like horrifically strong monsters, aliens, demons, vampires, magicians and fairies. Of course, none of them knew that basically all of them were cute, but slightly mentally unstable magical girls with drinking problems, something Reimu used to her advantage to make her stories sound more impressive. It was Hau's party, but at least at the feast, she stole the show.

At one point, the inevitable question came from the crowd as to how she wound up here. So she responded earnestly: “well,” she began, “it was kind of sudden. It was a slow morning before it appeared, and when it appeared I immediately went to investigate it. And then, well, it sucked me right in, and now here I am.” She left out the part about the jellyfish creature, thinking it might confuse them.

After she finished her stories and most of the party guests finished their food, they shared cake and ice cream while Hau opened his presents.

“Oh wow!” he exclaimed, holding up a box and showing it around like it was some unearth holy artifact. “It's a Nintendo Switch with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe! Thanks, professor!”

Kukui took off his glasses and winked. “Figured you'd like it!” Reimu wasn't sure what Hau just got, and why he was so excited about what looked to her like just some black box, but hey, she did come from a society with essentially medieval levels of technology throughout most of it, so she most likely didn't understand why a Nintendo Switch was such a big deal, or whatever Mario Kart was. So she just kind of nodded and did her best to look happy for the kid.

By the time they got out, it was getting late. As they waved goodbye at Hau, he asked Lillie and Reimu a question.

“Hey, so, I wanted to start my journey tomorrow, and we've all got Z-rings and Pokémon now, so, hey, wanna come?”

Lillie still wasn't sure whether she wanted to do on this journey, but unfortunately for her, Reimu took the liberty of answering for her. “You betcha!”

Hau beamed as he shot back “thanks! I'll meet you down at the professor's lab in the morning, and then we can get going!”

As they walked away from the village, Kukui offered them a rid back on his Tauros, but then Reimu told him “actually, would you mind if we just walked back?”

“Not at all,” he responded. “It might take you a little while, especially since Ratatta like to pounce on you this time of day, but you're trainers now! You should be able to kick it to the curb and handle it like champs!”

Reimu grasped Lillies hand. “Don't worry,” she told her. “As long as you've got me, you'll be alright.” Lillie nodded in understanding. “...thanks.” A soft grin appeared on her face.


It was decided that Nebby should go with the professor back to the lab, to minimize the risk of it running off on them. He also left the girls with some potions, and instructed Reimu on their use. As he charged off into the distance, the two girls hiked through the grassy bluffs over the beaches between Iki Town and the lab.

It was a lovely scene: the sunset turned the sky a brilliant orange, the gentle sea breeze bristled through the beachgrass, and the palm trees swayed with the breeze two. Looking closer, Reimu could notice the Crabrawler who climbed up some of the trees, attempting to knock down coconuts for the others on the ground and each trying to prove themselves the best by being at the top. Of course, as they wandered through the grass, no shortage of Pikipek and Alolan Ratatta gave them trouble, but they were swiftly dealt with by Sasha and Adele. As the two battled together, it almost seemed to the two girls as if Sasha enjoyed fighting alongside Adele despite being type-weak. Perhaps friendship isn't defined by type advantage, Reimu surmised, and in any case, that was a good thing, in comparison to some of the racism present back home.

When they got back to the lab, Kukui already laid out some grilled fruit and veggies for them to eat. They were decent, Reimu felt, but now she knew why Lillie usually cooked. There wasn't as much to talk about from the day, and professor Burnet was not there; apparently she had to stay overnight on Akala to help a colleague out with a project. This sort of thing happened all the time, Kukui explained to them, and it wasn't unusual for her to be here only a couple days a week. So Reimu decided to tell the some more stories, this time some more low-key ones relating to daily life in Gensokyo and how she was sometimes called on by Marisa for help with whatever insane new scheme she had cooked up that week.

“You must have the worst friends,” Lillie joked “for them to come to you for help stealing aircraft from a bunch of duck people.” Reimu thought that sometimes herself, but people here in Alola didn't seem to get the concept of a place where rational thought was an endangered species, and how laid-back and easygoing their lifestyle was in a tropical paradise where it was warm year-round and there was nothing waiting outside the town limits trying to eat you or burn you into the nearest rock face, so she wasn't sure how else to characterize it.

“Yes,” she responded to Lillie, “yes I do.”


The two others went to bed, but Reimu decided to stay up a bit to bone up on some more Pokémon knowledge with the Rotom-Dex. She was amazed as to how there were eighteen types total, with a complicated web of effectiveness against each other; how strange many of these Pokémon got and all the different sorts of shapes and sizes they came in; how many other regions of the world there were beyond these islands – enough to confirm that this wasn't the world just outside Gensokyo, but an alternate reality entirely. And she did this all with her new companion curled up on her lap and keeping her warm, literally. As she went to bed and drifted off, Sasha plopped himself down where her legs were, curled up into a ball and dozed off himself. The beginning of a long, fruitful friendship indeed.

 

Chapter Text

The morning after the meeting, the sage's rules went into effect: with exceptions, no one allowed in or out of the human village until the incident was resolved. This also meant that any youkai who happened to be living undercover in the village had to be evicted for the time being, since youkai were completely barred from access under the threat of getting their brains blown halfway to the Nameless Hill.

The knock on Sekibanki's door came way too early in the morning in the rokurokubi's opinion. She was not one of the people invited to the meeting the previous night, and had no knowledge of the wormhole's appearance due to her sleeping through it; she only later suspected that there was an incident due to the general tense state across the residents of the village, as well as talk of a rift in the sky.

It took her a minute to get herself back together – quite literally, due to her head falling off the bed an onto the floor the night before – before she walked up to the door to answer it. It was Keine. What did she want?

“Good morning,” Keine said firmly. Sekibanki groaned in response, still not fully awake. “I've come to you with bad news. Yesterday, there was a major incident, and now the shrine maiden is missing.” She didn't really care, since she never really meddled in other's affairs much; so what if she was missing, as far as she was concerned?

“We had a meeting last night with the sages. We decided that until this incident is resolved and the shrine maiden found, no one from outside the village other then certain humans and their families are allowed in, and that includes all youkai.” Keine paused for a moment. “I know I let you live here undercover as long as you cause no trouble, but for now I'm going to have to ask you to leave at once.”

What?! Leave? Now? She didn't do anything wrong, she didn't cause the shrine maiden to disappear. But, orders were orders she supposed, and if it came from the Youkai Sages then she had essentially no veto power in the matter.

She was given until sundown to pack up her essentials and relocate outside the village to wait out the incident. At least Keine solicited help from Sakuya to help make this quick. Sekibanki still had a rather dim view of the maid ever since she was sliced to shreds by her knives back during the uprising, and that animosity was shared by the way Sakuya shot her the occasional dull glare in her direction as they rushed belongings to a cave close to the Mausoleum where she was to stay until the incident was resolved. She was never a big fan of the idea of youkai being cave-dwellers, which was part of why she moved to the village in the first place.

After the last of the items that she needed were moved out, Sakuya confirmed with her that everything she wanted was now out, since she would not be able to go back to the village later to get anything until the incident resolved itself. She confirmed, and so Sakuya pulled out her pocket watch. A second later, she was back at the mansion resuming her chores there.


Sekibanki looked around. Being as prideful as she was, it was a bit humiliating to her to be forced to live in this uncomfortable and dank place by two humans, even if it was supposedly for the greater good. If she weren't promised up and down that this was temporary, she would probably head out right now to see if she could find Seija and convince her to restart her rebellion; according to rumors, Seija was living in a hole in the ground concealed by flowers in the Nameless Hill.

Of course, she was still interested in heading out, but not to find food or anything like that (she had enough for two weeks; very few incidents lasted longer than a few days). Instead, she was more interested in finding out what the heck was going on that was causing things like this to happen. She knew Yukari was a lazy jokester, so for her to completely shut Gensokyo down like this was completely out of character for her. That combined with the looks of dread on the human's faces in the village and the level of seriousness Keine met her with despite doing nothing wrong indicated that this was huge.

This could be highly entertaining, she thought.

She recalled that she was close to the Mausoleum, suggesting that this cave was part of the same system as the one leading to it. By extention, this also meant she was close to the Myouren Temple, which was right on top of it. Either of those places could have good people to go ask about whatever was going on.

She stepped out of the cave to go searching for the temple, when she noticed the soil in the ground near her was being disturbed. After a few moments, a head popped out of the ground which she recognized as belonging to Miko, covered in dirt.

“How are you today?” Miko asked the rokurokubi.

“Well, considering I've been kicked out of my house, not too great.” Sekibanki decided that as long as the taoist hermit was a head in the ground, it would be most proper if she were a head on the ground, so she took her head off and placed it on the ground next to Miko's.

“I sensed your desire,” Miko told her. “You wish to know why you're living in this cave for the moment, and why everyone is on edge.”

“Generally speaking,” she replied. She was still wondering why Miko was now reduced to burrowing through the ground, but she guessed it had something to do with Senkai and cracks or something, so she decided not to question the ruler's judgement.

“Well, I supposed the best answer to that question is... the truth.” She trailed off into a more serious tone. “I suppose you deserve to know what is going on.”

Rather than speak, she raised one arm out of the ground holding a picture. She was present at the meeting, and these pictures were handed out to everyone present. It depicted the wormhole in color, which was all Seikibanki needed to be convinced that this was a serious incident.

“So, what is being done about this?” she asked Miko.

“Well, we've put together a special task force called,” she paused for a bit, as if to be dramatic, “the border patrol. Our job is to comb the land for every piece of evidence we can find to figure out who the mysterious culprit is, and if we see any more of these wormholes, to report them and engage as necessary.”

“Border patrol” seemed like kind of a cheesy name for a group literally trying to save Gensokyo, but if Yukari came up with that name herself, then it was a little less surprising.

“I've already roused my followers to assist me in this hunt. If you wish, we can recruit you. That way, you might get your house back faster!”

She'd rather not. She never really cared for meddling in other's affairs, and preferred instead to just let the trained incident resolvers do their thing. Besides, she wasn't a powerful enough youkai to take on Gensokyo's highest-level battlers, much less whatever caused this. So she respectfully declined the offer.

“Well, alright then, I suppose,” Miko replied in a sort of defeated tone. Her head receded back into the ground, and there was no trace of her after that.


With her questions answered, Sekibanki knew there was no reason for her to really go anywhere, and just veg in this cave, but curiosity struck. She wondered where her buddies Kagerou and Wakasagi were, and she was kind of interested in this hunt for the shrine maiden, if for no other reason then to see people's reactions to the whole affair. So she got together a few cards and some snacks, threw them into a sack, and decided to start poking around to see if she could find anything in her immediate area.

The area surrounding the cave was mostly forest, and there were animals and fairies playing around as usual. Being a youkai herself, she never really gave much thought as to the things hiding in these woods as a human might, since any that saw her would just assume her to be a denizen. That said, she still preferred life in society to this, since she felt that life was more interesting there even if everyone and their mother would be after her if her secret was found out.

After a short while in the woods, she heard some rustling. At first she just assumed it to be a deer or a fairy, and continued on. A few moments later, however, she heard a rather strange cry that sounded like a gaggling of alien turkeys to her. Intrigued, she went off in the direction of the cry, but upon reaching a clearing at the edge of the forest found nothing. She decided to turn around and head back when, out of the bush, a most bizarre figure popped out and shouted the same cry at her, perhaps attempting to scare her.

Of course, she wasn't fazed, so instead she approached it and decided to interrogate it. It was a weird thing: a seemingly wobbly noodle thing with white high-heeled “shoes” with a pink and blue ball on them each and stocky legs, a thin body with a pink, yellow-and-blue swirling pattern and arms with delicate “gloves” at the end which she guessed were its hands, a frilly collar around its neck and a white head with pink and blue dots all over it and starbursts on the side.

“You're pretty bizarre-looking,” she told it. “What kind of youkai are you?”

The figure realized that its attempt to spook her didn't work, so it decided to pull another trick. It briefly rolled its head around its “collar” in a silly fashion before removing it completely and tossing it in the air, creating a brilliant, smoky explosion that sent out sparks in all directions like fireworks.

As strange as it was, Sekibank realized that she might just have met another of her own kind. She responded by removing her own head and levitating it in the air. The figure seemed to fidget with excitement. Alright, I got its trust, she told herself, before placing her head back on her neck.

“You're the strangest other rokurokubi I've ever met. What brings you out here?”

It seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if it didn't understand what she was telling it, before it began to seemingly pantomime a scene, using its arms to form a circle shape before pointing at a part of the sky above them.

“Ok, hold on. So, a circle, the sky... are you trying to tell me you came out of a wormhole?”

The figure shook with excitement as if to say that was correct. “And what led you to Gensokyo in the first place?”

The figure responded by gathering some sticks and holding them in its hands before leaping into the air and giving out as intimidating of a shout as it could provide while holding the sticks out as if they were claws, before returning to the ground and miming itself being chucked through the hole.

“I'm not sure I understand. So, what, a big, scary creature threw you through the hole?” It nodded in affirmation. “And let me guess: you're trying to find a way home?” It nodded again.

She asked it another question. “Have you seen a girl in a red-and-white dress with brown hair?” It looked down for a second, the looked up and shook its head to say no. “No? Well, that's okay.” She asked it one more question. “Would you like to come with me? I have a place you could stay.”

It stood in place for a moment as if to think it over, before its dots lit up, it let out another cry and gave a short, silly dance. “I take that as a yes! Alright, come with me.”

The figure followed her back to the cave she was living in for the time being. After arriving, she felt the need to apologize for her situation. “Sorry about the mess,” she told it. “I was asked to stay in this cave while this incident is being resolved.” The figure didn't seem to care; it was just happy it found someone who accepted its ability to use its head as a weapon.

“By the way,” Sekibank asked, “this might sound funny, but do you eat? Are you hungry?” She got some rice cakes she had stashed and gave them to the figure. Its head tilted back on its “collar” slightly, revealing the hole underneath, while it seemed to absorb energy from the rice cakes. “Well, I guess that answers my question,” she surmised.

That night, she made a fire and they played games over it, while she asked it if it knew any other tricks. It demonstrated the ability to conjure and hurl a shadowy blob as well as spew flames from the hole underneath its head, demonstrating that it could also fight if it needed to. Satisfied that she had a battling partner, she then went to sleep, while it seemed to petrify itself in place, which for it was probably how it “slept,” she felt.

 

Chapter Text

“C'mon, are ya girls coming or what?!” Hau shouted back at Reimu and Lillie. He had gotten up bright and early, and popped down to the lab so that the three could start on their adventure. The problem? It was way to early in the morning for them. Reimu alone probably drank three cups of tea and still was not feeling ready to face the world. But, here they were, like it or not, being dragged along by a boy who was so excited to start his adventure.

“Is he always like this?” Reimu asked Lillie.

“Pretty much, at least as long as I've known him,” she replied.

Reimu went on, “I'm surprised they let youngsters like him out loose to catch and battle with dangerous creatures; back where I'm from, children aren't allowed to leave the confines of the village until they're at least sixteen, myself exempted because I'm the shrine maiden and have – or had, at least right now – powerful magical abilities to fight off youkai with.”

“You'd be surprised,” Lillie replied. “I've seen kids as young as four with fully-evolved and trained Hydreigons; not borrowed from anyone, mind you, although they might have received it as a present. Technically, kids need to be at least eleven before they're allowed to start battling Pokémon, but there's no rule saying kids can't own one and then let someone else like their parents train it up for them so they have a strong start.”

“That seems like cheating,” Reimu said.

“It sort of is, and to tell you the truth, you mostly see that in hardcore trainer families,” Lillie answered. “You know, the types who battle to win.”

“Sounds like a lot of people I know,” Reimu chuckled.

As they walked down the trail, it turned into gravel, then into paved road. And in the distance, the Hau'oil City skyline crept over the horizon and came into view.

Reimu stood for a second, awestruck. Of course, she was aware of cities that seemed to pierce the heavens in the outside world from back home, but she never imagined she would get to see it in person. The sleek, glassy facades of the tallest buildings with many shorter ones at their sides were unlike anything she had seen before in her life.

“That's Hau'oli City,” Lillie told her while pointing at it. “It's the capital and largest city in the region.”

Hau came back up to them. “Everyone who's anyone on this island lives, works, or visits there. And they got all sorts of stuff! They got all sorts of places to eat, beaches, stadiums, parks – there's even places where you can nab Pokémon while having a malasada!”

Reimu was puzzled. “What's a malasada?”

Hau was all to eager to respond. “Only the best food in the world! They can be sweet and filled with jelly, or nice and spicy and filled with all kinds of meat and veggies, and thrown together and fried until they're all crispy! You can even feed them to you Pokémon!”

“Sounds like health food to me,” Reimu replied sarcastically. Hau was less then thrilled, giving a bored, annoyed look at her dry sense of humor.

As they wandered along, they passed a white building with a pink roof. “Oh, Reimu,” Lillie said suddenly, “I don't think you've been in a Pokémon center yet. Wanna go inside and see?”

“Uh, sure,” Reimu said. She wasn't sure what a Pokémon center was, but she guessed it was important. So they went up the steps and through the automatic door.

Inside, directly in front of them, was a large stall with a pink-haired nurse and a large computer in the background, a café to the left and a couple of guys in aprons behind a counter to the right.

“So, what's this place all about?” Reimu asked.

“This is where you can go to get your Pokémon healed,” Lillie answered. “I've seen people do it a lot, but I've never done it myself. You just give them your Pokémon, and they take a few seconds and then they're fully healed. It's also free.”

“Free, huh? I wonder how they do that.”

“Taxpayer supported,” some guy said, although Reimu didn't see who. She actually thought it was impressive that a miracle machine that healed Pokémon back up to full health could be supported by taxes of all things, and it made her wish that she collected taxes for her shrine as a way of making money.

She noticed the laptop next to the Nurse Joy, and went over to inspect it. “Can I ask what this is?” Reimu asked her.

“Oh, that's the PC,” Nurse Joy responded. “You can use that to access the Pokémon Storage System. All you need to do is make an account, then you can put your excess Pokémon in at any time, anywhere.”

“So you mean you can actually convert Pokémon to data form and they rest in this... network?”

“That's pretty much it!”

Converting life forms to data... yeah, she was pretty sure at this point that the level of technology in this world must surpass even the outside by a wide margin. It almost sounded like Lunarian technology.

“Also, what do you mean by 'excess Pokémon?” Reimu asked again.

“Well, trainers are only allowed to carry six. Any more than that, and extras have to get sent to the box. This happens on the spot, so you don't need to go back to a PC every time you catch a new Pokémon.”

“I see.” Reimu got some help setting up a new account, and after that the nurse helped Hau and Lillie set up theirs.

She wandered over to the café to see what it was all about. She saw some travel brochures as well as a newsstand for the Hau'oli Register on some racks off to the side. As she walked up to the counter, she saw someone insert a coin into the newsstand and grab a paper out of it. That's interesting, she thought; papers sold by the various Tengu news companies were either kept behind the counter or subscription-only; these were kept in a cabinet that opened when you put your money in. That's something she might mention to Aya if she got back to Gensoyko, then she could get her to shut up about Hatate stealing her business by putting newsstands all over the human village and then keeping them stocked.

“Welcome to the Pokémon Center Café!” the man behind the counter said to her as she walked up. “What can I get you today?”

“I don't know,” Reimu told him, “what do you have?”

“I can go ahead and show you our specials for today,” he told her. He pointed to the chalk stand over to the side that listed the specials; since it was Monday, that meant Roserade Tea with oat bagels for only ₽300. Before they left, she had been given a decent amount of spending money, and also knew Lillie had a lot more, since she apparently came from a wealthy family. She decided to get that, which the barista behind the man immediately got started brewing.

“Also,” he said, “we give these out once a day to our customers.” He handed her a paper-wrapped galette and a dozen blue, glossy heart-shaped beans. “Those are Poké Beans,” he explained. “Pokémon here in Alola just love them, so we give 'em to them as treats.”

She got her drink and her bagel and sat at one of the tables. She saw some people with their Pokémon out of their balls, so she decided to let Sasha out and, thinking about what the man said about the beans, let him nibble on one while she read some more info on battling Pokémon and what kinds of Pokémon were found in Alola.

After a few minutes, she got up and gestured to Sasha to follow her. By now Lillie and Hau were done setting up their accounts and were over at the Poké Mart getting some things. Lillie handed her some potions and extra Poké Balls, explained how to use the potions, and then they all place their items inside the “hyperspace pouches” Kukui had given them before they left, which were made using an ability of some Pokémon not found in Alola named Gardevoir.

As they left the Pokémon Center and continued down the road, Hau opened up a map of the city and started looking for things to do while they were there. That's when he noticed something.

“Hey, guys,” he said, “there's a Trainer's School on the way to the city. Wanna go check it out? We could probably learn a thing or two about how to do awesome battles!”

Hau had a point; other than the spar with each other the previous day, neither of them had any real experience catching and battling Pokémon, so it was at least worth a look. It was a half-mile up the road, so it was also fairly close. So they began heading towards it.

When they got there, they came into a somewhat large painted cement building, with a large arch over the entrance that proclaimed the school the “Hau'oli City Official Trainer's School.” On each end of the arch was two triangles, with the left side having a yellow and a red triangle and the right side having a pink and a purple triangle, as well as four designs impressed into the sign behind the letters. One of them Reimu could tell was Tapu Koko; she wasn't sure who the others were supposed to be. She decided not to ask, at the risk of sounding like an idiot, and they proceeded into the courtyard, where they were immediately confronted by a boy in a green shirt and shorts and sporting a slicked-back haircut.

“You must be new trainers, aren't you?” he asked slyly.

“What makes you say that?” Reimu said, attempting to sound intimidating. She could tell this boy was obviously full of himself, going by the way he looked and talked himself up. But, of course, Hau had to bounce up in front and shout “of course we are! Why else would we be here?”

“I think you should watch out, because I'm the strongest trainer at this school. I practically eat new trainers for breakfast.”

Yeah, he was full of himself, Reimu figured. If she threw him in front of Yuuka, it would be more than enough to make him eat his words before his slow, painful death by having flowers grow out of his skin while she beat him over the head with her bare fists. She was just so eager to prove this punk that she was more then she seemed, and so were her friends.

“Well,” she sneered as if she were about to throw down with a lesser youkai who was also too sure of their strength, “if you're so tough, why don't you prove it?”

“I don't just fight random people,” he retorted, seeming sure and secure about himself, but Reimu had dealt with these kinds of characters for years and could hear the faint fear in his tone. To Lillie, though, he did sound intimidating, while Hau was just wondering what was holding up the fight. “These kids are all out for morning recess. If you can beat them I'll, I will challenge you.”

Reimu decided it was best if she played his game. “Challenge accepted.” Lillie breathed a sigh of relief, thankful she didn't have to fight this kid right now, right then.

She turned to Lillie and Hau. “Why don't you two go around and battle some of these kids for me so I – we, have less work.” Lillie reluctantly agreed, while Hau was already on the other side of the courtyard battling a girl with a Yungoos.

She decided to ply the grounds herself, battling the various kids who were scattered about. Most tried to show off their knowledge of battling by spouting off random facts; unfortunately, she already knew everything they were telling her, since she did her research beforehand and knew about type matchups that they hadn't even learned yet, plus a few other factors. And these kids proved to put up even less of a fight than Lillie and Hau, mostly because they were using weak, common scrubs like Yungoos and Caterpie that Sasha could easily outfox and outmaneuver before landing one or two decisive blows, with maybe a couple scratches along the way if he messed up his dance-like timing. She took pride in attempting to make Pokémon battles as much of a work of art as danmaku bouts, and was surprised how easily this came to her.

After beating down a few frustrated students, she decided to practice some more by venturing into the grass and bushes to seek out some wild Pokémon to deaden Sasha's bones against. Most of what little she found were just some weak Pokémon that she knew weren't really worth the bother; she wanted something strong that Sasha could fight against.

As she wandered around, she heard some metallic screeching coming from near the fence. She walked over to it, but didn't see anything. So she turned around, and noticed a large, metal ball near the building's generators. She decided to send Sasha out, figuring it was a Pokémon, and have him sneak-attack it with an Ember. Sasha shot the flame, which hit the metal ball, who immediately turned around startled and started shooting electricity everywhere, which caused the generator to overload and the building to black out. Yup, that was a Pokémon, alright. She decided to sic the Rotom Dex on it to find out what it was before it caused more damage.



“Magnemite, the Magnet Pokémon. Magnemite generates a magnetic field which allows it to levitate off the ground. True to its magnetic nature, it is attracted only to strong trainers, and can be a powerful fighter if befriended.”



The wild Magnemite immediately attempted to flee, but Sasha, blood knight as he had already become, was having none of it, and actively blocked the Magnemite from escaping, forcing to it fight by trying to slam into Sasha. Reimu expertly commanded the fire cat by ordering it to dodge all of Magnemite's attacks, wearing it down enough to open up potential weak spots.

As it was worn down but Sasha's fighting spirit still riding high, however, Reimu thought of something. According to the Dex, Magnemite was Electric/Steel. Steel, she read, was very good defensively because it resisted a lot of things, and she thought that having something that could deal with Water-types for Sasha would be a good idea.

So she ordered out to Sasha to hold back. The cat, who had grown so used to landing decisive victories, was confused, but sensing his trainer was plotting something, was willing to oblige. The wild Magnemite was too tired to do anything, giving Reimu the opportunity she needed to reach into her bag, pull a Poké Ball out of it, and toss it vigorously at the Magnet Pokémon. It provided basically no resistance; the ball snapped it in easily, officially earning Reimu her first caught Pokémon.

The first thing she did was let it out and heal it back up to full strength, to make sure she could use it immediately if she needed to. After she did, she attempted to gain its trust by holding out a Poké Bean; she wasn't sure if the thing even ate solid food, but it was worth a shot. She held it out, and the Magnemite grasped it between its two magnets, then ran a charge through it and held it in the air for a few seconds. Reimu started to wonder what it was doing, and Sasha had taken an interest in it too.

Eventually, the charge created a spark, and the charred remains of the bean fell to the ground. Like a child inspecting their broken toy, it levitated down to the ground to look at the bean, then looked up at Reimu in a sheepish manner, its big, white eye with a tiny pupil looking at her as if it were a child about to be scolded by their mother.

She gave it a gentle pat, then a playful punch. It responded by jutting forward and attempting to tackle her, but it just lodged itself in her stomach instead. She grabbed it and held it out, and it had the most adorable happy face a faceless eye could provide plastered all over.

“Welcome to the family,” Reimu told it with a confident smile. She felt she had the prefect counter to whatever that boy out in front was packing.

After recalling both of her Pokémon into their balls, she made her way back out to the front courtyard, with a most sinister smirk and a spring in her step as she pressed forward ready to give the boy his medicine. He found him confronting Lillie and Hau, and got ready to challenge him...

...only to discover that Lillies' Popplio Adele had already given the boy's Grimer the once-over, so much so that he was still mopping parts of it out of the cement so that he could recall it into its ball. She still looked visibly startled.

“I'm sorry!” she exclaimed holding her hands up to her red, embarrassed face. “I swear it was an accident! I think she just got a little too into fighting!”

The boy looked up with an annoyed expression as he wrung out the rest of his Grimer and recalled it into the ball. “You need to learn to control your Pokémon, because otherwise they get a little overboard with their attacking.”

Reimu sneered, “I think you're just mad because you lost to a girl.”

He looked at her with a blush. “Am not!” But she could tell all too well how flustered he was. It was cute and funny to her.

She walked over to Lillie. “Nice job, whatever you did.”

Lillie just looked at her with a confused expression. “Um, thanks? I just told her to attack, and, well, she just blasted a bunch of bubbles at his Pokémon, and it became all soaked and runny and –”

Meanwhile, off to the side, Adele was having fun bouncing Hedwig around in a bubble off her nose. Hedwig didn't seem to mind much, and just rolled with it.

At that moment, the generator rebooted and the lights came back on inside the school. A PA came on, saying “the power has been restored. Recess is over; please come back inside. And would whoever beat Joseph please come to Ms. Snyder's office?”

The three realized that the PA was talking about them. Did they do something wrong? Lillie was worried she might have done something wrong, but the other two didn't seem too concerned, and walked with her inside the building.

They were led by the boy, Joseph, to the teacher's office. Inside the building, it was fairly well-organized, but also larger than it looked from outside – hallways that seemed to go on for miles, and a huge gymnasium where kids trained with their Pokémon, mostly Fighting-types but it wasn't uncommon for kids to cheat at basketball with their Ghost- or Flying-types. The gym alone seemed bigger than Keine's entire schoolhouse. On the walls were obvious signs of past kerfuffles, such as claw marks, chars and burns, places with mold and mildew leftover from wayward Water Guns, Scalds and Hydro Pumps; all these were being cleaned up by janitors all over the building. Various aspiring trainers walked down the hallways, chatting about various things going on in their lives like family matters, how well their training was going, what they did last weekend, and all sort of other idle banter. Outside in the courtyard were just kids, but the students at the school represented a diverse age range from small children to full-grown adults in their 20's.

Reimu elbowed Hau just a bit. “Psst, Hau,” she whispered. “I thought you said something about your school being over for the summer.”

“Oh, that's just regular school,” he answered. “The Trainer's School is open pretty much all year, but I've never gone because dad and grandpa always wanted my help at the ranch at home taking care of the Tauros, and I learned all about Pokémon doing that! But, I've heard from friends this place lets you just drop in and take a couple classes if you need to know some stuff, and that's why I thought it would be a good idea to drop by.”

She looked around. All these kids, she realized, were taking classes to learn how to be trainers. Perhaps that's just how some people learned to do it, she guessed, but in her experience, fighting wasn't something you learned to do by reading a book; you went out there, practiced against weaker foes, made mistakes, then worked your way up. She spent a good part of her early years fighting fairies in the forest before her first “big game” incident with the red mist when she was eleven, so she was used to jumping into new things and learning by trial and error – actually, she was prone to just jumping into anything, period, which was probably how she got herself into this mess in the first place, she realized. But, it was too late to cry over spilled milk, and she focused on the task at hand, which was the teacher's office door in front of her, Hau and Lillie.

As it opened, it revealed a petite, black-haired lady with glasses working on her computer and gathering some papers together in a folder before class. She was a lot less imposing than Keine, that's for sure, but to her credit she didn't sound like the headmaster, just a subordinate teacher, so was probably more comparable to one of Keine's assistants.

They shut the door behind them, and she glanced over towards them. She didn't seem too angry, at least. Then again, Yuuka doesn't usually look angry before she mauls you, so Reimu still played it cautiously and signaled to Lillie and Hau to do the same.

She looked up from her work toward them. “Oh, I assume one of you beat one of my students down to a pulp in a match?”

“That's one way you could put it,” Reimu responded. She slightly nudged Lillie to fess up to the deed. “Just be honest,” she whispered in Lillie's ear. “We're not leavin' till one of us says we did it.”

Lillie gulped as she stepped forward. “It was me,” she said, with a certain amount of trembling and nervousness in her voice.

The teacher, Ms. Snyder, looked at her for a few moments, before she stood up. “Then you must be a strong trainer!” she said with a smile.

“Oh, uh... thank you?” Lillie asked confused.

Hau butted in, “well, he did boast about being the strongest trainer at this school, but we're all brand-new to training Pokémon, so, that means we're better than the whole school?” He put his hands behind his head and gave a toothy smile.

“Well, I wouldn't say the whole school...” the teacher replied, “but he is the strongest in my class. And I hear you all pretty much gave the rest of my class the business, as well. How recently did you become trainers?”

“Like yesterday,” Reimu told her.

“I see. Well, if you don't mind, would you all be willing to hang around until after my next class period? I feel like I need to show you something.”

Neither of the three knew what she had in mind, but they agreed to stay around until about eleven, which was when her next class got out. They followed her to her class, which was composed of everyone they faced out in the courtyard, including Joseph. They stood at the back of the class, but even there they still got stares from the people they had wiped the floor with only a few minutes before hand.

Ms. Snyder walked up to the front of the classroom, where the write-on projector board was already fired up and am image of a fruit was on it.

“Welcome back, class,” she told her students. “I've that you've all battled those three in the back,” she pointed at the trio with her stylus, “and that they totally creamed you. Is that right?”

No one wanted to fess up to the failure.

“Well, either way, I all want you to go out and practice battling some more, and not just think that your theory work is enough. I know that you all have been skimping on your practical experience, and I want this to serve as a stern lesson.” She turned her attention to the board. “Now, with that out of the way, we will now talk about berries. Can anyone tell me what this is on the board?”

A student raised her hand. “Yes, Mia?”

“That's a Sitrus Berry!” the student said.

“Correct. And can anyone else tell me what it does?”

A boy raised his hand. “Yes, Satoshi?”

“You give it to a Pokémon and then they will eat it if they're injured to get back some energy.”

“Excellent. So you all have at least been doing your assigned readings. Now, up here I have a basket of berries, and before next recess I will give them to you so you can practice battling with Pokémon holding them. For now, however, I'm going to demonstrate to you how these berries work. So I'm going to call up a volunteer and we'll have a mock battle.” Some students raised their hands, so they could battle the teacher and try to redeem themselves, but she already knew who she wanted. She pointed at Lillie and said “Lillie, can you come up here and show my students how its done?”

She was stunned – she wasn't that good of a trainer, was she? No, she couldn't be, she was very new at this after all! That win was just a fluke! But Reimu was already shoving her up forward, so she didn't really have a say in the matter.

“Rock the house, sistah,” she whispered in Lillie's ear. This was going to suck.

Up in front of the class, her knees nervously shook, and she introduced herself to the class. “Um, hi, my name is Lillie,” she uttered. “And I'm going to show you all how to... use berries, I guess.”

To some of the students, it was hard to believe she was the one who stomped Joseph's face into the curb. She just seemed so delicate and awkward. But, maybe that was her tactic to lull the opponent into a false sense of security.

She and the teacher exchanged bows, and sent out their Pokémon, Adele and a Magnemite. Before they began exchanging blows, the teacher handed each one a Sitrus Berry. “So, in this battle, we will be demonstrating the use of these berries. Lillie, I will let you attack first because you are at a type disadvantage here and you only have one Pokémon.”

Lillie nodded in agreement, then ordered Adele to use Water Gun, which she happily did. It was just a short spray – but it was somehow enough to send Magnemite rocketing out the door and into the wall outside the gymnasium, leaving a three inch crater in the wall as it fell down to the ground and fell apart, clearly unable to battle, defeating the purpose of the tutorial.

Ms. Snyder looked outside, wide eyed, then looked back at Adele, then back at the Magnemite before recalling it. “Okay, let's try that again!” she said with a false smile. She sent out her other Pokémon, a Meowth, and then asked Lillie “try using a weaker attack this time so these students can see how a Sitrus Berry is used.”

“Alright,” Lillie responded. “Um, Adele, use Pound this time, and don't do it so hard. I know you enjoy fighting, but just... go a little softly.”

The sea doggo again nodded in agreement. The Meowth bared is claws and began smirking as it thought about the dirty trick it wanted to pull to counter the attack, only to get a bunch of seal landing on top of it licking its face and panting like a dog in affection.

Trouble was, the Meowth was female. She pulled itself out from under Adele and wrapped herself around her trainer's leg as if she were trying to escape a raging butch lesbian, staring back at the seal in fear.

“C'mon, Meowth, use Scratch!” She didn't want to; in her mind, the scent of raging bitches was already filling up the room ready to bear down on her any second, as that... thing stared back at her as if it were totally coming on to her.

Of course, all Adele was doing was giving her a confused look as to why she wasn't fighting back. She even offered the Meowth a berry to try and get it back out from under its trainer, but by now, it was too late. The Meowth fell to the ground covering her head and eyes wide and mouth open, worried about getting gang-raped by steaming bitches at any moment.

Reimu could swear she'd seen this sort of thing somewhere before, but couldn't put a finger on it right then. From her perspective, it just looked like the Meowth didn't want to fight for some reason.

The only thing the befuddled instructor could do was concede defeat and recall the Meowth. She gave a confused stare at Lillie, who stared right back at her. “Well, uh, I guess you really are a strong trainer!” was all the teacher could say.

After the rest of her lesson, she dismissed the students out to the courtyard and then met the three again, specifically Lillie. “You have a really strong Popplio,” she said. “Are you sure it isn't over its level?”

“I don't think so,” Lillie said. “I just got it from Hala yesterday and she lost to Hau's Rowlet. I'm not sure why she's so strong, all of a sudden.”

The Rotom Dex checked her power level, but it only indicated that Adele was at a normal level of power for a newly issued starter Pokémon.

“Well, perhaps she's just special. Be careful with her so she doesn't hurt anyone,” Ms. Snyder told Lillie.

As they were about to leave, she stopped them one more time. “Oh, yes, I did say I wanted to give you something.” She got some berries together. “You can have these Sitrus Berries for your time.” She gave a few to each of them, waved them off, and they were on their way.


“Well, that was dumb,” Reimu said to both Lillie and Hau. “But at least I got a new Pokémon out of it!”

“I don't think it was dumb,” Hau told her. “We got to see Lillie's awesome Pokémon in action!”

“Uh, sure,” Lillie said, holding her hand up to a smile.

With the school behind them, they set their sights on the city in front of them, ready to tackle everything within.

 

Chapter Text

As they walked down the main avenue, Reimu looked up, and she was amazed. Buildings reaching dozens of stories into the air. Expansive luxury hotels overlooking the ocean. Sunbathers on the beach. All sorts of buildings lining the maintained roads and alleys, and plenty of park space in between all of it. Behind the Lunar Capital, it was the most beautiful town she had ever walked through.

“Wow... look at all this,” she told Lillie. “I wonder how much money and manpower went into creating a city this big and modern.”

“Well, it is the largest city in the islands,” Lillie told her. “All sorts of people from all over the world come here.”

“Not hard for me to see why,” Reimu replied. “This place is beautiful.”

“Yeah...” Lillie trailed off. “Hey, Hau, I was just wondering if –”

He wasn't there.

“Huh, well, I guess he already ran off,” Lillie said.

“Should we go looking for him?” Reimu asked her.

“He's probably fine. Knowing him, he's probably stuffing himself and his Pokémon full of malasadas. He might also be out catching some new Pokémon as well. There's a lot of parks here where there's wild Pokémon. And I was about to shoo him off anyway.”

Reimu was confused. “Why?”

Lillie looked at her. “Because it would be weird if a little boy were with two older girls out clothes shopping, of course!” She put her hand up to her mouth and snickered a bit.

“Wait, hold on. Clothes shopping? Don't we have enough?” Reimu asked again.

Timid as Lillie was at times, it was amusing to her that Reimu wasn't familiar with the time-honored practice of hitting up the mall and looking at clothes and buying some. To be fair, though, Reimu was from a more backwards society in which shopping for clothes for fun was a bit of a foreign concept, but to Lillie, this was a chance for her to show her something and be the one in charge for once.

“You can't just go around dressed like that here all day, can you?” Lillie asked Reimu. “People will think you're a kimono girl on your way to something all the time. I think you should loosen up a little and try different things.”

Well, technically it wasn't a kimono, but there were people in Genoskyo who didn't care about the difference either, so it wasn't surprising that there might be even fewer people in this world who cared either. But, the thought of her wearing clothes like what everyone around her was wearing was a little daunting. She supposed that she would need to in order to fit in more, though, so she went along with Lillie's plan.

Going into the mall, Reimu was taken aback. An entire concourse of shops, diners, children's playstructures, all under a tall, glass roof with hundreds of people crisscrossing each other, some walking with their Pokémon as if they were pets, or even other people. This place continued to amaze her with surprises more breathtaking than the ones before.

Lillie led her into a store specializing in more casual wear, as opposed to other shops, such as the prestigious Gracidea outfit where her family were regular customers. Inside the store was a large selection of shirts, shorts, pants, skirts, blouses, hats and other articles for women.

Reimu pointed out some of the shorts for sale, including many of the “short shorts” that she had seen many other girls wearing in addition to the longer shorts and skirts. “These seem awfully short,” she commented. “Wouldn't my bloomers stick out from under them?” Contrary to popular belief among those in Geonsokyo, Reimu didn't actually own panties; she WAS vaguely aware some youkai wore them, but the idea of her wearing such small undergarments with her miko dress never really occurred to her, given how drafty it would be especially during Gensokyo's cold winters.

“Oh, yeah, that,” Lillie responded. “I didn't really think about that, did I?” She seemed embarrassed. “I guess we should go ahead and address that, first.” She decided she would just help Reimu pick out some basic women's undergarments for now, the kind packed tight in vacuum-sealed bags, just something in bulk so she had a decently large change of clothes. Fancier lingerie could wait for another time. After that, they could pick out some shirts and shorts, some new, comfortable shoes and socks, maybe a cap or visor and some sunglasses to keep the sun out of her eyes. She led Reimu into a dressing room and used a tape measure to quickly get her measurements so they knew which sizes of clothes to get. Medium shirts. 28 waist, 30 length. Size 8 shoe. 34B. She took notes, she didn't want to mess this up.

Once she got all the measurements, she took Reimu for a tour around the store in order to fill out a good traveling wardrobe. They went ahead and snatched some underwear that fit Reimu's sizes, then Lillie paid for those so they could open the bags up and let Reimu change right away so the trying of other clothes would be less awkward. Reimu gravitated towards things which matched her miko outfit, which meant picking out, among other things, a red tank top and white shorts, as well as a matching pair of sneakers and some sturdy sandals. She also found a red-and-white Pokéball visor to go along with all this, and a pair of sepia-tinted sunglasses as well.

As she came out of the fitting room, bag in hand, Lillie absolutely fell in love with what she saw.

“Well, what do you think?” Reimu asked her. “Did I do alright?”

“I think you're adorable!” Lillie answered. “Did you see yourself in the mirror?”

Reimu looked in the mirror, and looking back at her was someone that she swore didn't look like Reimu Hakurei at all, but it was. She still had the hair tubes on the side, but that was just kind of her own personal signature. Then again, she was still wearing something that exposed her armpits, so maybe old habits die hard.

After paying for everything, they briefly looked around to see if they could find Hau anywhere inside the mall, but he was still nowhere to be seen. No worries, Lillie figured, she had his cell number just in case. So they just wandered around for a while, looking at all the various quirky storefronts, before exiting back out to the street.

Just across the street from the mall was the Alola Museum of Culture, which collected all sorts of artifacts from all over the islands, as well as items brought in from abroad that had had an impact on Alolan culture.

“Hey, Reimu,” Lillie asked. “Would you like to go check out the museum?”

Reimu had to ask “what's a museum?”

“Oh, well, it's a place where there are many objects on display, and you look at them and there's descriptions of them saying what they are,” Lillie responded.

Actually, there was a place kind of like that in the human village – just a small place that you could wander into that had murals depicting Gensokyo's early history, as well as various objects collected from that time period, plus things that fell through the Hakurei Border and were put up on display for all to see. It wasn't terribly interesting, since she'd seen it a million times, but this museum was both very large and most likely contained objects depicting culture she had no idea of. She figured that visiting the museum would give her a better idea of the land she was in, its history, and how it got to where it is now.

“Sure, why not?” Reimu told her. Lillie smiled. So they went inside the museum.


Inside, they went up to the front desk. Lillie could see the museum was behind rotating bars to track access, so she knew that they had to go up to desk to get in.

“Good morning,” the receptionist said to them. “Two of you?”

“Yes, please,” Lillie told her.

“Alright. General admission is ₽100. We can also provide you with an audio guide for ₽200, or one of our guides for ₽300 per person. The next in-person guided tour is in ten minutes.”

Lillie decided to get into the guided tour group, that way Reimu could ask the guide any question she wanted and get the answers she needed. Once they got in, they just waited for the guide to show up and begin the tour.

She showed up after a few minutes, then waited a few more to see if anyone else was going to be in the group. Once it was clear Reimu and Lillie were the only ones, she commented “well, it looks like it will just be the two of you. Welcome to the Alola Museum of Culture. My name is Jennifer, and I will be your guide.” She bowed at them politely, then asked them “may I start with your names and where you are from?”

Lillie started “well, my name is Lillie and I'm actually from this island.” Then she looked over to Reimu. She couldn't exactly say she was from Gensokyo, otherwise the guide would wonder what the heck that was. So she decided to just come up with something quick plausible.

“And this is Reimu. She's visiting from Johto.”

“I see,” Jennifer responded. “Welcome to Alola, Reimu.”

Reimu decided to just bow politely to her and go with Lillie's lie. They then started off on the tour.

The first place they arrived at was an exhibit explaining Alola's early history. The tour guide explained all about how Alola was first settled by seafaring aboriginals thousands of years ago, and how each island developed its own civilization, before being united under a chieftain from Melemele Island. On each island, there was a guardian deity who protected that island from destruction, and who would fight each other on occasion to see who was the strongest, inspiring the Battle Royale four-way battling format.

“Can I ask who they are?” Reimu asked Jennifer. “The other three, though; I already know about Tapu Koko.”

The guide responded “so, the guardian of Akala Island is Tapu Lele, then there's Tapu Bulu of Ula'ula Island, and Tapu Fini of Poni Island. Each of these guardians are skilled, strong fighters, so much so that humans and regular Pokémon usually avoid them, unless they think they're strong enough to take them. They're also very finicky, and tend to avoid human affairs; each island has a shrine dedicated to them, but they're not guaranteed to show up.”

“How finicky?” Reimu asked.

“Well, for instance, Tapu Koko loves to fight. It is constantly flying around, looking for a strong opponent, such as a strong trainer or powerful wild Pokémon. Historically, the people of Melemele would hold ceremonies such as Alolan sumo matches to pay tribute to it, because fights get its attention. It may or may not help out in times of need, since it is ultimately driven by its desire to fight and little else.

“Tapu Lele is not quite as active as Tapu Koko, but it is often seen flying above Akala Island, especially on bright, moonlit nights. It constantly sheds scales which have healing properties; however, in excess these scales can cause people to go mad, which in the past cause warriors to quarrel to the death, either to the indifference or excitement of Tapu Lele.

“Tapu Bulu is very physically strong, strong enough to uproot entire trees and swing them around like nunchucks at aggressors and wrongdoers. In the past, a landslide and storm destroyed a village built on sacred grounds, thought to be its doing. However, its also thought to be the most benevolent of the Tapu, since legend tells of it visiting farms and causing crops to become very bountiful, and spends most of its time lounging near the Ruins of Abundance.

“Tapu Fini is the least personable of the four Tapu, isolating itself on a remote part of the already sparsely populated Poni Island. It can surround itself in a disorienting mist, which in the past caused sailors from other lands to crash into the jagged rocks surrounding the island. Legend has it that those who can meet it can benefit from its special mists that possess healing properties.”

This sounded a lot like the sages and some other youkai in Gensokyo; protectors with an alien sense of morals and tended to isolate themselves from society. Reimu found this highly interesting.

The next exhibit was about how Alola was settled by outsiders, mostly from Kanto and Johto but from other places as well. Around them were some other exhibits making mention of dates AGW (after the great war).

This got Reimu asking, “What was the Great War?”

Jennifer answered her question. “The Great War is the largest conflict in all history, and occurred over three thousand years ago. It started as a dispute between the Kalosic peoples of the west, and the Novograd Empire to their east. In time, however, it soon encompassed more than half the world. Millions of men, women, children and their Pokémon died, and it would have gone on for a long time, had the war not been ended in tragedy.”

She continued, “one man, known only as AZ, developed a weapon capable of massive destruction. Just to power this weapon required a most abhorrent power source: the souls of Pokémon. This ultimate weapon was fired just once, which was enough to decimate over 50,000 square kilometers of land and kill thousands upon thousands of soldiers. The weapon was strong enough, it stopped the war single-handedly. However, it also created permanent, irreversible effects, such as introducing the radiation that mutated rocks into the first Mega Stones, which would be used later by trainers in battles.

“No war has been fought since, out of fear that an even more destructive weapon would be built and used that could end civilization as we know it. Every dispute since then has been settled with the Pokémon battling system still used today, which was developed as an alternative to armed conflict. The world has enjoyed an era of peace ever since.”

Wish I could say the same of home, Reimu thought.

They continued on to a third section, which detailed all the myths and legends of the world's various regions. All around them were large portraits and landscapes, depicting all the various legends from all over the world.

“And this is a mural depicting the conflict between Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre,” Jennifer told them. “This is a legend from long ago, even before the war. Ancient aboriginal Hoennese believed the fight heralded the end of the world, as the storms brought on by Kyogre and the drought created by Groudon brought great destruction to their land. The aboriginals pleaded to the skies above, praying for Rayquaza, the titan's keeper, to settle the fight once and for all.” She pointed to the figure up top. “Their prayers were answered by Rayquaza, who gained enough power from their prayers to mega-evolve. This is thought to be the first case of a mega evolution in history. It came down from the heavens and used its power to seal away the two titans forever, and brought peace to the land.”

Reimu had heard this term “mega evolution” a few times, but wasn't quite clear what it was. She figured she could just find out for herself if she ever came across it somewhere; her main goal was still finding a way home, so she figured she didn't have to learn every single thing about this world and how it worked. But what caught her attention was Rayquaza; as depicted on the mural, it bore a striking resemblance to the Great Dragon of Gensokyo, and was described as having similar abilities. Was it this world's equivalent of the Great Dragon? Was it even the same entity? It seemed far-fetched, but the dragon was described as having awesome power beyond anything that lived in Gensokyo.

“Rayquaza is interesting in that it travels the world, so many cultures have their own stories about it. In Kanto and Johto, it was seen as a somewhat enigmatic figure, a powerful being that seemed to cancel the effects of the rampages of the legendary birds and their keeper, Lugia, and its appearance seemed to calm the monsoons, so it was often regarded as the herald of the dry season, and a protector thought as superior even to the legendary birds.

“In Sinnoh, it was interpreted as a powerful being who was another one of Arceus's creations, and a god of the sky. It is said that it appeared in the skies above Jubilife City the day the city was established.

“And in Novograd, it was believed that Rayquaza was one of the war animals that served the nordic gods, since it frequently appeared in the skies above the battlefields of the Great War.”

She walked over to and pointed out another picture. This was a newer-looking picture, depicting a fight between Mega Rayquaza and a bizarre blue-and-orange humanoid figure in space.

“A few years ago, a trainer from Hoenn flew on the back of Rayquaza to shatter a meteor that was headed straight for Hoenn, and would have destroyed it had it reached the surface. She then battled an alien figure named Deoxys who emerged from the meteor and attacked her and Rayquaza. She managed to capture it for herself, and to this day uses it in various world circuits.”

That woman must be a complete badass to ride a legendary dragon into space and destroy a meteor with an alien hitching a ride in it, Reimu realized. Maybe she would be lucky enough to meet her.

“Does Alola have its own legends? Beyond the Tapu?” Reimu asked the guide this question because she wanted to know about the Ultra Wormholes and their creators, to see if she could figure out a way home with that knowledge.

Jennifer responded by walking them over to a stained-glass window depicting three figures. “Ancient legends tell of a variety of cosmic beings who visit the Alola region for unknown reasons. Chief among them are two which we call Solgaleo and Lunala.” She pointed to the left figure, a large, white lion against an orange background. “Solgaleo is regarded as 'The Beast who Devours the Sunne,' because in its first appearance it seemed to jump out of the sun in a way that made it look like it was eating it. It is considered the emissary of the sun, responsible for giving life to Alola and making its idyllic climate and fertile soils possible. It is also thought to have introduced the knowledge needed to control fire and forge metal to Alola.”

She pointed to the figure to the right. “Lunala is regarded as 'The Beast who Calls the Moone,' because in its first appearance, it swooped out of the sky and seemed to cry to the moon. Lunala is said to lead lost spirits to the afterlife, and is also said to be the bringer of pleasant dreams; it is said that its wings act as a dream catcher, absorbing the nightmares of people and Pokémon that it flies over. All told, it is charged with defending Alola from evil spirits. Both these Pokémon are capable of appearing out of Ultra Wormholes, which they are also said to be able to make. What lies on the other side of these wormholes is a mystery, but tales tell of strangers from other worlds who have appeared from these wormholes.”

She wasn't the first one, apparently.

“What's that one in the middle? Reimu asked.

“The middle one is a bit more mysterious,” Jennifer commented. “Ancient islanders referred to it as Necrozma, since it was thought to be, in essence, the grim reaper, taking souls to the underworld. Legends say that darkness followed it wherever it went, which islanders attributed to it actually absorbing light to power its abilities. According to legends, it first appeared during a total eclipse, which led to a nickname of its own, 'The Beast who Steals the Light.' Like the other two, it too is said to be able to open Ultra Wormholes.”

She got something out from behind some files tucked near the stained-glass design. “No one in the modern day has ever actually seen these beasts, so artists impressions were created based on carvings and clay designs from the tribal era.” She showed them to Reimu and Lillie. “These and the stained-glass design behind me depict what they could look like, and these are what you'll find in the Pokédex if you look them up.” Reimu decided to pull out the Rotom-Dex and asked it to bring up their entries. Naturally, there wasn't much on them, just these hypothetical designs and the lore behind them. Unlike other Pokémon, their typings, abilities, and possible moves were simply listed as “unknown.” Scanning the artist's impressions here in the museum was apparently enough for them to count as “seen” for her 'dex, however.

“The ancient Alolans built shrines for both the Tapus and the cosmic beasts. Two sites in particular stand out: the Lake of the Moone on Ula'Ula Island, said to be where the moon shines brightest even on the darkest of nights, and the Altar of the Sunne on Poni Island, constructed by the islanders as a way to try an “reach” the sun and honor the beasts. In addition, as I said before, each of the Tapu have a shrine on each island, carved out of the ruins of ancient cave hollows. They are the Ruins of Conflict, Ruins of Life, Ruins of Abundance and Ruins of Hope.”

“And what about the Island Challenge?” Reimu asked.

“The Island Challenge is an ancient rite of passage that goes back centuries, though some claim it goes back further. For reasons not fully understood, radiation from the appearance of Ultra Wormholes irradiates gemstones with a special power that allows Pokémon that utilize them to use powerful techniques, known as Z-moves. Just occasionally, this same radiation finds its way to regular Pokémon and causes them to dramatically increase in power and size. The ancient islanders considered these mutated Pokémon to be sacred beings, known as Totem Pokémon, and that the appearance of these and Z-crystals were gifts from the Tapu and the Beasts. They utilized them to set up a challenge called the Island Challenge, where youths from all over the islands would go around and challenge these Totem Pokémon, which are cared for by Trial Captains. Each Trial Captain is someone who has completed their Island Challenge previously, and passes the torch to another person upon reaching a certain age, usually 18-22 but most commonly 20. It is not, however, unusual for a Trial Captain to reach elderly age before a suitable replacement comes along. In between, they must challenge the island's kahuna, after defeating all the island's Totem Pokémon and collecting their Z-crystals. The final challenge is a rematch against all four kahunas with no break in between each. Each kahuna is selected by the Tapu themselves. Becoming an Island Challenge champion was considered a requirement for children to become adults.”

“Fascinating,” Reimu replied. Lillie just looked on, amazed how the museum curators knew so much.

“Early explorers who came to these islands were fascinated just as you are right now by this challenge and how it was set up. In fact, upon returning to their homelands they attempted to set up similar challenges, and this is believed to be the origin of Pokémon Leagues in other regions. Gyms were supposed to emulate the individual trials, with powerful trainers called Gym Leaders specializing in a particular type in place of a Totem Pokémon, and badges instead of Z-crystals, capped with an Elite Four at the end emulating the match against the four kahunas on top of Mt. Lanakila, after which one can become champion. But I suppose if you're from Johto you already knew that.”

“Er, yeah.” She wasn't, but she and Lillie had to keep lying at this point.


After a while, the two exited the museum, and their thoughts turned to food. Lillie remembered an excellent traditional Alolan grill pit close to the waterfront, so she decided to lead Reimu down in that direction.

“So this place has a very rich history,” Reimu commented to Lillie. “You should be proud. And yet,” she looked around, seeing all the tourists sunning themselves on the beach, the high-rises, the kids carrying ice cream cones stacked three high, “it almost seems as though there are many who don't care regardless. I wonder, if there were an equivalent to Gensokyo here, how much of these stories and myths would have been sent –”

As she was talking, she bumped into two guys in black skull shirts and baggy shorts.

“Oof! Watch where you're standing!” She exclaimed.

“Yo, say excuse me next time!” one of the punks said. “Yeah, say excuse me!” They made dumb hand gestures.

“Oh. Oh no.” Lillie looked on.

“Well, if that's how you're gonna play it,” Reimu said brushing herself off, “I guess you two are looking for a high class bout. In which case,” she sent Magnemite out, “bring it.”

One of them look wide-eyed at the other. “Whoa, you see that? Now she's lookin' for a fight already!”

“Yeah, why don't you fight her? She's obviously not backing down, and look at those eyes, can't you see she's ready to knock up our stuff?”

“Yeah, I'm not gonna mess with that, you crazy? My only mon's gonna get totally zapped by that things electric shocks, y'know? I can't deal with that!”

“Hey, man, what if the boss finds out you turned down a fight with a girl? Then what, everyone's gonna laugh at –”

“GET ON WITH IT,” Reimu yelled. One of the grunts snatch the Pokéball out of the other's guy's pocket and sent out his Zubat, which was instantly zapped with Thunder Shock and had to be recalled.

“Hey, why'd you do that?” the grunt yelled at his mate. “Now I gotta give her all the money I saved up for today!”

“Hey, it's not like you were any help back there with the kid with the Rowlet who messed up my Yungoos, now we BOTH gotta haul down to the Pokémon Center and spend the rest of the day without our lunch or dinner money all because you didn't help me out back there –”

“Well maybe if you gave it Rock Tomb like I told you a million times to it wouldn't have ended with my having to be your personal bodyguard –”

“Hey man, look, we gotta head up to the Center now. And we can't tell anyone we got beat by a kid and a lady, ya hear?”

“Oh. Right! Yeah, I forgot about that. Let's do that. But, we gotta give her the money first and –”

They already left.


“That was stupid,” Reimu said to Lillie as they walked towards the grill joint. “Who were those ruffians supposed to be?”

“Team Skull,” Lillie replied in a somewhat fearful tone. “They're the biggest and meanest gang in the islands.”

“Biggest? Meanest? Please, I've flossed my teeth with fairies more dangerous than those guys,” Reimu said. “I wonder if the rest of their gang is like that. If it is, they really gotta come up with something better to do with their lives, or at least spend more time training than bickering at each other.”

Lillie might be having a good start as a trainer, but she was nowhere near the lady blood knight that Reimu was. If only she had Reimu's confidence, she felt, then maybe she could stand for herself against the people after her without fear.

Just as they were going inside of the grill joint, they were approached by a boy with pink hair and a white shirt and vest.

“That was impressive,” he told Reimu.

“Oh, I'm sorry, who are you?” she asked.

“Oh, I suppose I should introduce myself, apologies. I am Ilmia, and I am the trial captain on this island.”

Reimu adjusted her gait. “Oh, so you're the trial captain. Is the trial in this city or...”

“No, I just live here. You didn't think I lived in the cave with the Totem Pokémon, did you?” His tone was still formal and professional, but with a dash of joking in there as well behind his sly half-smile.

“Wouldn't be the worst living conditions I've seen or endured,” Reimu retorted. “So, what, are you coming in?”

“Well, why else would I be here?” he replied.


Inside, they finally found Hau messing around in the arcade, and Lillie briefly let him know they were there. He had already stuffed himself full of malasadas at the malasada place, and was just here to try and earn the TM for Thunderbolt that was behind the counter. He had apparently caught a Pichu while he was out, and said he wanted a strong move for it.

They sat down at a table and talked about many things for a while over food, such as how Ilmia was a graduate at the Trainer's School and how he was regarded as a hero among the kids there. After getting to know him, Reimu decided she was comfortable with telling him about how she got where she was now, which was that she was spat out through an Ultra Wormhole, and what the world she was from was like.

“Well,” Ilmia replied, “it sounds like all that tenacity carries over into your battles here as well.” He didn't seem to be particularly fazed, as if crazy stuff happens all the time in this world that made her story seem relatively uninteresting in comparison.

“I supposed beating my figurative and literal fists thousands of times against monsters and crooks since I was little has that effect,” she smiled. “Anyway, where is your trial site? We're all itching to get on with our trials.”

“Just head up Route 2 on the north side of town; you'll find it near the end. It's a few hour's hike, though, so you might not get there until nightfall unless you literally left right now.” He looked aside. “I was just about to head back there myself. I can just fly there, but it doesn't look like you've got your Poké Rides yet, so you'll have to walk.” He walked out of the establishment, and Reimu, Lille and Hau followed him outside. “Until then, farewell.” A Charizard appeared out of the sky and picked up up, before disappearing in the distance.

“I wish I could fly here,” Reimu commented as she looked on. “Sadly, it seems my god's powers don't extend beyond the Earthly realm, so I have to make do with whatever I'm able to find here.

“By the way,” Hau said, “you're looking good!” He folded his hands behind his head and smiled cheekily.

“Oh, uh, thank!” Reimu replied awkwardly.

After healing up at the Pokémon Center, they decided that there was no longer any point in hanging around the city, nice as it was. There was only one way they were going to get stronger as trainers, and that was to forge ahead.

 

Chapter Text

Shoving up the long trail towards the north side of the island where the trial site was, the three were anxious to challenge all the trainers that lie in their way, check out all the cool Pokémon that lived in the bushes and under dirt mounds. And they were not disappointed in that regard, as there were numerous Pokémon waiting in the grass to pounce on nearby trainers, and just as many who were out for the hunt. And the trail was lined with enthusiastic trainers waiting to show off their skills, not that many of them were actually in any shape to take on Hau's enthusiasm for fights, Reimu's tenacity and fiery skill, or Lillie's overpowered Popplio. As they went along, collecting prize money and items form trainers as well as dropped items that were just lying around. Their Pokémon weren't even getting tired that quickly, since they were at most only taking one or two hits per battle before unleashing the business all over them.

Hau was eager to show off his Pichu to Reimu. The mouse Pokémon stood in front of her, presenting itself as if it were a performer on stage, and trying to charm her with its high-pitched, squeaky cry. She knelt down to its level and scratched it behind its ears, which gave her a static shock on her hand.

“Ack!” she exclaimed as she pulled her hand back in surprise. “No wonder this is an Electric-type, it's brimming with energy!” It did a cute little dance and a chirp. “Chu~~”

“Isn't he the best? I can't wait to evolve it, then it will be really strong!” Hau was literally brimming with excitement at the prospect of having his own Pikachu, and then Raichu. Lillie just looked on and stifled a chuckle while Reimu was still shaking her hand in the air trying to get the static charge off.

It was at that moment that a chill went up her spine.

Reimu took notice. “You okay? You look like you just had a shudder.”

“No, I'm quite fine, really... in fact, I wasn't really thinking about anything in particular and then... well, I just got a chill up my spine!”

“Could it have something to do with the fact that were standing next to a cemetery?” Hau commented. Lillie looked behind her, and there was the sign: “Hau'oli Cemetery.”

Now, Reimu was no stranger to the concept of ghosts living in cemeteries and then popping out on humans who walked near them and try to startle them, and she knew that Ghost was a type that existed, so her immediate thoughts went to a Ghost Pokémon of some sort.

“C'mon, let's go check it out,” she said, gesturing to them to follow her in. Lillie wasn't too sure about it, Hau just went along with her idea.

Entering the cemetery, they looked around, but didn't really see anything other than bushes, gravestones, and people mourning their deceased loved ones. Reimu wasn't daunted, though; she knew darn well that ghosts, while they liked pranking humans, were also terribly shy and didn't like being sneaked up upon themselves; Yuyuko was just about the only ghost she'd met that wasn't like that.

“I have an idea,” Reimu whispered, not wanting to disrespect those who were there mourning graves. “I'll go out there and act all clueless like I don't know what I'm doing. I want you two to hide in the bushes over there, with your Pokémon out. Now, I don't want you to make any noise, or that will scare the ghost back into hiding. Instead, when it appears, I want you to sneak up on it and then silently gesture your Pokémon to attack it, at which point I'll turn around and then we'll corner it and catch it. Alright?”

Lillie was still unsure. “Are you sure this is going to work?”

“We won't know if we don't try, now won't we?”

She stepped out of the bushes and feigned not knowing what she was doing there, looking around and then taking the Rotom-Dex out and using it like she was taking pictures of the landscape, as well as using the Poké Finder to take pictures of various critters in the area.

“Say, Reimu, did you happen to hear about that –”

“Shh!” Reimu had to quiet the Rotom-Dex so as not to scare off any ghosts – then again, Rotom was a Ghost-type itself, so it was completely in-character for it to be acting like an ass when she didn't want it to.

For a few minutes, nothing was happening. Hedwig was getting restless, and Lillie was having to steady Adele to keep her from just jumping out, on top of having to keep Nebby in the bag; its Pokéball still rattled from time to time, reminding Lillie that it really did not appreciate being locked up in that thing, even if it was for its own good.

As Reimu was looking around playing dumb, Hau whispered to Lillie “do you think she knows what she's doing?”

“I don't know. It looks like she's confident this will work though, so –” At that moment, Lillie froze in place and stared.

“What is it?” Hau asked her, not noticing the Gastly right behind him.

“L-l-ook!” she whispered.

He turned around, but the Gastly disappeared. Hau looked puzzled. “I don't see anything.”

“It was behind you...” she replied, before looking over at Reimu. It was now hovering over her and was flailing its tongue about while Reimu obliviously continued to take pictures.

Lillie hesitantly looked over to Adele. “Water gun,” she quietly commanded, pointing at the Gastly. She complied, then shot a jut of water at the Gastly over Reimu, scoring a direct hit on it. Immediately it yelped and turned invisible.

Reimu noticed this as well as the water left over from the attack dripping down onto her head. “What was that?”

There was a few seconds of silence, where the three just looked around awkwardly.

“Are you kids looking for something?” an older woman asked them.

“Uh, oh, um, well, we're... we're ghost hunting,” Reimu replied. “My friend over here felt a chill up her spine, and we were just trying to find the thing that was causing it.”

“Oh, I understand,” the woman responded. “This cemetery attracts all sorts of ghost Pokémon. It would be a shame if you let them sneak up on you... a very big shame...

Suddenly, an enormous tongue came out of her mouth and licked the air in front of Reimu, only because she flinched backward onto the ground. When she got back up, the Gastly was in front of her was already cackling to itself, apparently quite pleased at its latest surprise. Kogasa would be proud.

Reimu immediately sent out Sasha and ordered him to use Bite. He jumped into the air just as the Gastly attempted to dematerialize; however, the Bite managed to catch just before this happened, and the super-effective attack was enough to weaken Gastly enough to keep it from escaping and force it into fighting. That lick was the only offensive attack that it knew, so it kept attempting to lick Sasha, but he just kept the pressure coming with his flames. Eventually, the slippery Ghost Pokémon was weak enough that Reimu felt confident a Pokéball would be able to capture it, so she reached into her bag and started to fish one out...

...only for one to fly out of the bush and capture it. A few seconds later, it clicked, indicating a successful capture.

“Hey, that was mine!” Reimu cried out. She looked into the bushes and summoned Hau and Lillie out of them, each with an adorably sheepish look on their face.

“Alright, whichever one of you caught it under me, fess up or I'll give both of you a bad time.” Her intimidating, piercing gaze went right through their souls, and was forceful enough to paralyze a Pokémon, literally. They just stood there like statues, unwilling to fess up to it.

“Was it you, Hau?” Reimu questioned forcefully. He shook his head. “You sure? I know you tend to do things recklessly. It would be a shame if I had to teach you a lesson with Sasha again.”

She continued to scrutinize him, before she spotted Lillie trying to hold back a grin out of the corner of her eye. So she went over to her.

“Know something I don't? She asked Lillie. She tried to continue to look dignified and timid, before a dumb, wide grin holding back laughing spread across her face. After that, she let out a big laugh and brushed Reimu aside to grab the Pokéball. She let the Gastly out, who joined her in laughing.

Reimu just stood there. From what she knew of Lillie so far, this was unlike her, so what was going on? Where did she become a jerk like that Gastly all of a sudden?

“Care to explain?” Reimu asked her.

Lillie decided to tell the truth. “Well, you two have two, and I only have one. It wouldn't be fair for either of you to start getting greedy, now would it?” At the same time she was telling Reimu this, she was trying to keep Gastly from licking her like a dog before eventually tossing a Poké Bean its way to pacify it.

Fair point, Reimu supposed; with this development they now each had two Pokémon to fight with. Still, stealing a fair catch right under her nose? That was something she expected from a certain other blonde-haired girl she knew. She decided just to set it aside, and get on with their journey.


As they were leaving the cemetery, Hau had an idea. He reached into his bag and grabbed a disc out of it.

“Hey Lillie,” he asked her. “You remember that ray gun the professor gave you before you took off? Could you get it out?”

Lillie paused before realizing what he was talking about. “Oh, sure. Hold on.” She felt and rustled about her bag for a bit before pulling out what Hau was talking about. It was a ray gun-type device which had a disc drive in the back of it.

“What's that?” Reimu asked them.

Hau held it up as if he were Flash Gordon. “This is a TM device,” he proclaimed. He held up the disc in his left hand. “And this is a TM.”

“Oh, so you actually managed to win it?” Lillie asked.

“Yup! Got lucky twice and got the max prize on the big wheel! Now I can teach everyone here Thunderbolt!” He sent out his Pichu and demonstrated the move, to show that he had taught it the move.

Reimu decided to quickly look up Thunderbolt's TM on the Rotom-Dex to see what was compatible with it. Magnemite, obviously, but also Lillie's newly caught Gastly, which was interesting. She decided to let Hau zap her Magnemite so that it knew the more powerful Thunderbolt instead of Thunder Shock, and Lillie let him zap Gastly as well – after all, Thunderbolt would be the only strong move that it knew at the moment.

Once they taught their Pokémon new moves, they let them all out and had them simultaneously shoot lightning into the sky as a grand proclamation, you do not mess with them!

This was even visible from Iki Town, where Hala looked on and realized, it had to be them, having a fierce battle of some sort. In fact, it caught the attention of Tapu Koko, since Hala could hear its rooster-like cackle through the canyons below town. He couldn't help but smile.


They continued up the trail, battling and trouncing all the trainers who were along the way. In fact, it started to get to the point where people further up seemed to avoid them, as if someone from further down warned them about the trio.

As they walked along, they noticed a palm tree with a pile of berries beneath it. “Oh, look!” Hau called out. “A berry tree! We can pick up some berries here, then give 'em to our Pokémon so they can fight better!”

Reimu decided to scan some of the berries to see what was in the pile. According to the Rotom-Dex, mostly Oran, Perism, and Chesto berries. She decided to focus on the more useful ones as she picked them out and placed them into her back.

Suddenly, the berry pile began to shift. This caught them by surprise as they jumped back. A claw poked out of the pile, which lifted a crab out of the pile, who then put up its dukes and challenged them to a fight, which Hau obliged. Obviously, it was helping itself to some berries, and was none too happy that it was being disturbed.

Reimu was curious what this critter was, so she looked it up.



“Crabrawler, the Boxing Pokémon. It uses its large pincers to punch trees to knock berries out of them, which it then feeds on. They are a proud species, getting into competitions with each other as to who can climb higher than all the others.”



That explains the berry pile. They knew they would need to be more careful with them going forward, since one of those things could be hiding inside. She looked up from the Dex and saw that Hau had somehow managed to capture it and add it to his team. More power to him, she supposed, and they were just about to continue when they noticed a red-and-white bird with a sack walking over and picking up what was left of the berry pile before running back towards a fence near the hillside.

“What's that bird doing with the berries?” Reimu asked. “We should probably go after it.” They followed the bird inside a fence. Within the fence were many dirt plots, some of them with bushes growing out of them. When they got near the house, however, the bird was suddenly abducted by two men, and began kicking and flailing it and its pouch all about. It was the two Team Skull grunts.

A man came out the door to the house and demanded them to unhand the bird, which was apparently a Delibird. “That Delibird is one of my assistants! You must unhand it!”

“Dude, we're just lookin' for stuff from it so we can sell it and make ends meet, y'know?” one of the grunts told him. “Yeah, that's what we're doin'! How much stuff does the bird need anyway?”

“Stealing is stealing, and the items in Delibird's bag belong to it! Perhaps you should work on getting a job if you need money. Now unhand it!” the man told them.

“Alright, how about if you challenge us to a match, then if you can win, you can have it back with all its stuff in it!”

The man crossed his arms and began reaching for something. “Well, if that's how you want to do it...”

“Unhand the bird,” Reimu projected at the grunts, who immediately turned around and had all the blood run out of their faces in fear.

“Oh snap, it's the Reapers!” one of them yelled.

“We'd better split! Here, you can have the bird!” the other one shouted as he dropped the Delibird back onto the ground as they took off running.

Reimu walked forward to the man. “Sorry about that,” she told him. “I take it this is yours?” she said, referring to the Delibird.

“It is,” the man replied. “And I do thank you for driving them off for me. For them to just run away from you like that, you must be strong trainers who buried them before.”

“Pssh, they didn't even stand a chance,” Hau said. “I took on one of them and my Rowlet got out of it without a scratch.”

“And my Magnemite won against the other one before the fight even started,” Reimu added on.

The man thought for a second before saying “ah, you must be the trio of unbeatable trainers I've been hearing about. Please, come on inside, I've got something for all three of you.”

Surprised at the sudden invitation, the three of them followed the man inside of his house, where there were five or six more Delibirds in addition to the one they saved, as well as a couple stacks of bags on one of the counters.

“My name is Diego, but most just call me the Berry Master, because of my farm here, which has all sorts of different berries from all across the islands and beyond.” He went over to the counter and got three of the bags, and gave each one of them one bag apiece. “These are berry seeds,” he told them. “Just find a suitable plot to grow them in, take care of them, and they'll grow in to bushes that you can harvest more berries from.”

They each looked at their bags of seeds which claimed to be assorted. They didn't really have a plot they could plant them in, but they guessed they could dig one in Iki Town or something. Reimu bowed politely to the man while thanking him, and had the other two do the same.

At the same time, the Delibird they saved unloaded its berry harvest onto the counter. “What do these birds do?” Reimu asked the Berry Master.

“They go out and find more berries for me so I can harvest their seeds and make more bags of seed. It's not much, but it does help when my crop isn't ready for harvest yet,” he commented. The Delibird then went over and pulled one last item out of its bag, a TM for Brick Break, and handed it to Reimu, seemingly as thanks for saving it.

“Oh. Well, thank you!” she said. The Delibird chirped at it joyfully as it went back over to its brethren.

Just as they were heading out, the Berry Master said “oh, by the way, I actually get one or two of those grunts once every couple of weeks or so. They try to frisk my Delibirds for goodies they find to sell on the street.”

“Sounds like you need a better security system,” Reimu joked.

“I do have a better security system,” he said, pulling out an ultra ball from which a Salamence came out, the beast calling out as it came out of its ball. He petted it under its chin as he thanked them again for sticking up for his Delibirds. They left his farm and continued up the trail.


It wasn't long after the Berry Master's house that they finally arrived at the Trial Site, as well as a Pokémon Center conveniently located right across from it. “What's a Pokémon Center doing out here in the middle of nowhere?” Reimu asked.

A man in a vest came down from it and answered her question. “Well, they serve weary trainers away from town. In addition to healing Pokémon, centers like this out in the backcountry have rooms and camp sites for traveling trainers out on their Island Challenges and whatnot.” He looked over at the trail site, which was inside a cave and marked with a fence with triangles on it. “And because its across from the trial site, it usually gets a lot of business.”

That makes some sense, Reimu thought, but it still came off as odd that a place like this out in the countryside was able to get so much business. She didn't imagine enough kids came out to this trial site to make it worthwhile.

They took advantage of the convenient location to heal up their Pokémon and stock up on some more healing items, and because it was early evening and, according to the map, there weren't any services between them and the route looping back to Iki Town, they decided it was best if they each did their trial and spent the night here.

Walking up to the cavern, they saw Ilmia leaning against one of the gate posts, having anticipated them all afternoon.

“You made it,” he told them.

“What, you didn't think we would show up? We would just waste time in Hau'oli doing whatever?” Reimu said sarcastically. “So, what's the deal with this trial?”

“Each trial has their own rules, but they all end with a fight against the Totem Pokémon. In this case, all the Pokémon in this trial contain Normal-type Pokémon, and your task will be to defeat three of them emerging from their dens, before you will be allowed to wrestle the Normalium-Z out of the clutches of the Totem Pokémon at the end. You cannot capture any Pokémon here until your trial is finished. However, you may return to any trial site you have cleared to capture the Pokémon and find any goodies within.”

He paused to catch his breath and clear his throat before continuing. “You must clear all the trials on each of the four islands before you may challenge the Kahuna in the Grand Trial, then earn your stamp and move on to the next island.” He directed their attention toward the trial gate. “Once you pass the gate, you cannot leave the challenge until you either win, or are forced out because you have no usable Pokémon left. You can try a trial as many times as you need in order to win, but just know that. Only one trial-goer is allowed in at a time. Now, who wants to go first?”

Hau instantly volunteered. “I'll go!” he smiled.

“Eager as ever, aren't we, Hau?” Reimu remarked. “In any case, if it's mostly Normal-types in there, you might wanna use our Brick Break TM on that Crabrawler of yours to get through it more easily.”

After she got Hau set up, he went bounding through the trial gates. Reimu and Lillie decided to kill time while he was off doing his trial by talking about idle things, which mostly included pepping Lillie up for her first trial. Then, the conversation drifted towards a topic that Reimu had been thinking about.

“So, Lillie, where exactly did you get Nebby from? And why do these bad people want it so bad?”

Lillie decided to speak in a quieter tone, just in case someone was listening in on them. “Uh, well, I stole it from them. They were planning on doing inhumane things to it, but I wouldn't stand with it. So I went in one day and swiped it in my bag.”

The Pokéball containing Nebby wiggled around a bit and a “pew!” could be heard coming from inside. Lillie had to steady it to keep it from popping out where there were a bunch of people.

“What kinds of stuff?” Reimu asked. “Were they gonna stick needles in it? Because I know that's what Eirin likes to do to her rabbits, especially Reisen.”

“I'm not sure exactly what they were going to do with it,” Lillie responded, “but I can tell you it might have something to do with you ending up here.”

Reimu's eyes widened when she heard this last bit. “What do you mean?”

“I'm not sure, exactly. However, I was cornered by the bad people when I was trying to escape, but Nebby teleported us to safety to get us out. However, this knocked it out for quite a while afterward. I heard them talking about some kind of dimensional holes, and after we got out of the museum I started thinking, and I realized they might have been wanting to see if it can open Ultra Wormholes.”

Reimu put her fingers up to her hand in a thinking gesture as she said “hmmm, interesting.” She started thinking about what this might mean. Why would such a small, seemingly weak puffball have the ability to do things that she was under the impression only gods could do? Why would these people be so interested in it? What were they trying to accomplish? What implications could this have for her prospects of getting back home? And what would happen if they found another avenue to pursue their experiments, or even captured Nebby and Lillie so they could resume whatever it was they were trying to do? What would happen if they succeeded, and what were they plotting to do with their success?

It sounded like an incident beyond an incident.

She thought about what this all could mean, but decided she might be getting ahead of herself and brought herself back to the present. She told Lillie that she would hang onto Nebby for her while she was out during her trial to make sure it didn't try to run off in the middle, especially since it couldn't fight. Lillie agreed it to it; Reimu was someone she had come to trust, and she felt she could trust Nebby to her while she was doing trials. Even so, she still saw herself as Nebby's caretaker, and wanted to prove she was capable enough to guide it onto a safe path, away from the people pursuing her.

After a while, Hau emerged from the trial site, holding his shiny new Normalium-Z in the air like a child holding their first baby tooth that fell out. He then clipped it right into the Z-crystal shaped slot on his Z-ring and showed off his brand new bling to each of them.

“Look what I got!” he boasted.

“Don't get so full of yourself, kiddo,” Reimu cautioned. “We'll be joining that club with you soon enough.” She patted him on the head, as if to say “that'll do donkey, that'll do.”

Ilmia told Reimu he would need a few minutes to reset the trial site for her, so they would have to wait. While they were waiting, Reimu decided it would be fun for Hau to demonstrate Z-moves for her and Lillie. So she got some rocks from a pile on the side of the hill that the trial site cave was buried inside of, set up a mock target in front of Hau, and asked him to send Hedwig out.

She was surprised when, instead of the small, round owlet that Hau had started out with, a larger barn owl popped out of his Pokéball. “What do you think?” he asked. “She evolved while we were in there.”

As usual, Reimu got out the Rotom-Dex to check out this new development.



“Dartrix, the Blade Quill Pokémon. The evolved form of Rowlet, it is very fussy about its appearance and spends most of its time grooming itself. It can shoot sharp leaves with pointed stems at its targets from under its wings.”



As she looked up from the Dex, she could see Hau brushing and cleaning Hedwig, who almost seemed to instruct him on where to brush, where to wipe off the dust and mud, don't touch her head quill, and so on.

“Hey, Hau, focus,” Reimu told him. “Could you demonstrate your shiny new Z-move for us?”

Hau looked up and smiled. “Oh, yeah sure, I would... if I didn't make her forget Tackle, which means she can't use it.”

Reimu was puzzled. “Wait, what?”

“Yeah, so, the way Z-moves work is that the Pokémon has to have a move matching its type and then it upgrades the move, is what Ilmia told me. Or something like that.”

“Well, that's a little disappointing,” Reimu told him. She was looking forward to seeing what she could use before she actually got the ability to use it. She did realize that Magnemite still had Tackle, so she could probably find out for herself what the move was all about once she got the Z-crystal for herself.

After a few minutes, Ilmia emerged from the cavern and waved Reimu inside of the cave, which she did. Getting her things together, she stepped up forward and marched right in, ready to face whatever was lurking inside with confidence.


Inside the cavern, the air was muggy with moisture from small streams that flowed through it. All the nutrient-rich basaltic rock walls were covered in thick layers of moss, which glistened in the light of the sunset beaming in from either side of the cave. Logs bridged across precipices, and holes could be seen in the sides of some of the boulders and under stumps where Yungoos had made their dens.

“Welcome to the trial,” Ilmia greeted Reimu walking alongside her inside the cave. “Your task if fairly simple: just make it from one side of the cavern to the other, and grab the Z-crystal inside the stone obelisk at the end.” He swept his hand out across the cave. “However, Yungoos will jump out at you and attack you as you pass by their dens, and you are required to defeat at least three of them before you may proceed. This being a cave, Zubat and Alolan Diglett will also sometimes appear and attack you; whether or not you decide to deal with them will not affect the outcome of the trial. As a reminder, you may not capture any Pokémon here until after your trial is complete.”

Reimu could live with not catching any Pokémon. It didn't sound like anything lived here that she was interested in anyway. Ilmia was quickly flown to the other side of the cave by a Charizard that came out of nowhere, and he stood at the exit, overlooking the cavern. This marked the start of the trial.

Beating three Yungoos sounded easy; after all, she had chewed through at least twenty of them over the course of the day, and she was thoroughly familiar with how they fought (not well at all despite their scowls). So she intentionally walked in front of one of the dens, and sure enough was “ambushed.” “Ambushed,” because Magnemite instantly sent about 50,000 volts through it, knocking it out.

She quickly scoped out a path through the cavern to figure out the quickest route, then scanned the area for all the Yungoos dens that were present. She went over to the next one, knocking out a wayward Zubat along the way, and got ready to engage the Yungoos within. However, this one decided to withdraw, and not come out.

She needed to knock it out in order to proceed, so she sent out Sasha and had him go in there and smoke out the critter, which he did. Seconds later, black smoke came out of the den as the Yungoos rushed out, with Sasha in pursuit. He managed to Bite onto it and shake it around several times before throwing it back at the rock wall around the den, then sent an Ember at it to finish it off.

Alright, cool, she thought. Just one more to go. She saw a dust cloud coming from one of the nearby dens, so she quickly climbed the rock wall just above her in order to reach it. As she did so, she kicked off a chunk of rock, which fell to the ground and glimmered on one side.

Noticing this, when she got to the top, she sent Magnemite out to go retrieve it and bring it back. While inspecting the rock, she realized that it concealed a piece of gold. So she threw and slammed the rock against the ground and the walls a few times in order to dislodge it from the surrounding black rock, and was rewarded with a small, rough nugget of pure gold. Amazed, she stuck it inside of her bag, and continued with her trial.

As she approached the dust cloud, it retreated back into the den, just like the last one. She then noticed another dust cloud in front of another hole. She went over to it to try and trap it, only for it to retreat again and another dust cloud to appear in front of a third hole. So she went over to the third hole, only for it to go back over to the first.

This was annoying, she thought. How am I supposed to go after it and beat it if it just keeps running away? It's almost like I need three of me in order to stand in front of each hole and...

Then she got an idea. She sent out both Magnemite and Sasha, and ordered each of them at one den hole each in order to block it, and to fire moves into them in order to force it into the last hole. Once they did, she got down to the ground and stuck her arms in.

Once she felt fur, she grabbed on. “C'mere, you little creep!” she exclaimed as she yanked it out of the den, the Loitering Pokémon squirming and wiggling around in her hands. She then threw it into the air, and was about to order Sasha to fire an Ember at it, before a Skarmory flew in out of nowhere and caught it in its mouth before flying out of the cave.

“Well... that didn't go QUITE as planned, but I hope that still counts as a KO,” she said to herself. Recalling both her Pokémon, she approached Ilmia and asked him for his opinion on whether she should proceed.

“Okay, so, yeah, I probably didn't deal with that last one 'correctly,'” she stated, “but I hope that and everything else counts as three KOs for you.”

Ilmia thought for a bit, then responded “I've never seen anyone else try and trap and beat a Pokémon themselves; that's actually supposed to be illegal except in self-defense. However, I think it was creative to trap the Yungoos in the way that you did; that puzzle trips most people up. Sad to see it end up as a Skarmory's dinner, though...”

“Yeah, sorry, didn't mean that,” Reimu told him. “I was going to order Sasha to Ember it in midair and let the impact finish it off.”

Ilmia clapped his hands. “What excellent synergy you have with your Pokémon to be able to fight alongside them! Alright I'll let you pass.” He got out of the way, and she quickly rushed out.

Outside, there was a grass field with a rocky outcrop in the back behind a single stone obelisk containing the prize. Reimu walked forward cautiously, constantly looking to each of her sides looking for this Totem Pokémon. The closer she got, the more her eyes widened to scan a larger area, the more attuned to sounds her ears got, and the slower her steps became. She looked behind her occasionally, just to make sure it wasn't going to try and sneak up from behind, something many youkai such as Rumia were known to do in order to try and sneak-attack humans like her. Lots of these Pokémon were youkai-like, she noticed, so it didn't hurt to treat them more or less the same way.

Eventually, she reached the obelisk. She looked around. Still no sign of the Totem Pokémon, or any Pokémon for that matter; not even so much as indiscernible bugs could be seen. It was silent, the distant sound of the ocean waves the only ambiance to be had.

She eyed the Z-crystal with anticipation, the shimmering, brilliant milky-diamond gemstone with a symbol on it reflecting the soft orange rays of the sunset off if it. What if its appearance were triggered by her grabbing this? Many thoughts went through her mind in that moment.

She clenched Magnemite's Pokéball with her right hand, and with her left swiftly grabbed the crystal out of the stone and shoved it inside her Z-ring in one deft motion. She then decided to make a break for the exit, just to see if she could beat the Totem Pokémon's game without fighting it.

Whatever hopes she had of being able to do this, however, were soon dashed. An echoing bellow could be heard behind her in the distance, before the figure that made it leapt off a rock peak behind her high into the air, and landed on the ground in front of her with such force as to create a small earthquake, knocking her down to the ground and causing rocks to fall down onto the ground all around the field.

Reimu recovered from the shock of being knocked down and got back up onto her feet, and once she fixed her sunglasses saw the behemoth standing in front of her, staring her down like a predator eyeing its meal. It was blocking the exit and was NOT letting Reimu out without challenging her to a red-hot bout.

This – THIS, she realized – was the Totem Pokémon. It was a truly massive Gumshoos. It wasn't happy. It was surrounded in a bunch of orange energy. And it wanted the blood of a maiden on this night.

The monster stood up and let out a deafening roar before bending down to the ground and challenged her.

“Alright,” she said after a few seconds. “If a fight is what you want, then I, the maiden of the Hakurei Shrine, will cast you to the forlorn pile of hopers wishing to question my authority, and that of the line of Hakurei maidens before me.” She sent out Magnemite. “Let's rock.”

The monster began by letting out another bellow, which summoned two Yungoos out of their hiding spots to back it up in the fight. It then ordered them to attack Magnemite, and they immediately began rushing toward it. But Reimu was having none of it. She ordered it to use Thunderbolt on both of them, which it did, putting its magnets together and letting out a concentrated electrical blast which blasted them apart. Once the dust settled, she saw one was down and out, and the other covered in electrical energy and struggling to move – paralyzed. She simply ordered Magnemite to Tackle it to finish it off.

That left the main beast to tame. It lashed out with its claws, knocking Magnemite back a few feet but otherwise not dealing much damage. It then lunged at it with its teeth hoping to crunch down on it, but Magnemite fired a weak bolt into the beast in self-defense, causing the Gumshoos to stagger back.

This gave Reimu the opening she needed to unleash a can of whoopass. She briefly looked up the Normal-type Z-dance on the Rotom Dex, and then ordered Magnemite to get ready while the Gumshoos was still distracted. Activating her ring and putting her arms up in a Z-shape, she called out to Magnemite “now's you chance! Unleash Breakneck Blitz!”

This caused Magnemite to absorb a massive amount of orange energy from the space around it, similar to the aura surrounding the Gumshoos. It then proceeded to take off like a rocket at high speed. The Gumshoos was able to look up from nursing its jaw long enough to see the train of incoming pain coming straight at it before being knocked down backwards onto the ground. Magnemite then flipped into the air straight above the Gumshoos, looking right down on its target.

“Now, blast it with Thunderbolt!” Reimu called out. A stream of electricity blasted down from where Magnemite was onto the Gumshoos, singeing it as the energy dissipated into the ground around it.

As it landed back on the ground, it stood – or, well, floated – in place, waiting for its next command. But Reimu had other plans. She recalled it, and sent Sasha out.

“Now, Sasha,” Reimu said in a low tone with her arms crossed and her eyes closed, “finish it off in any way you choose.”

Sasha looked at her with a look of determination and understanding across his face. He wasn't going to let his beloved master down at this critical moment. He wound back as if getting ready to pounce while whipping his tail around in the air, focused on the heavily weakened and struggling, but still conscious, Totem Pokémon in front of him. He emitted low growls as he stalked his prey; in his mind, he imagined himself Godzilla-sized and making off with the Totem in his mouth like a mouse he just caught.

Finally, he made his move, leaping high into the air. As he did, he was engulfed in light, his form beginning to change in midair as he just floated there. Finally, he began to fell back down to the ground and the light wore off, revealing a form which was larger and more feral-looking than the cool-looking kitten that had leapt into the air initially. He then turned around, and kicked the Gumshoos in the face with his newly muscular hind legs. The kick was strong enough to send it up and back, crashing back down into the ground.

The beast let out a low grunt as its arms and legs dropped, signaling defeat.

Reimu was proud at Sasha's accomplishment. She realized he must have evolved, so she took a moment to look up his new form, which seemed to grin right back at her.



“Torracat, the Fire Cat Pokémon. The evolution of Litten, it is considerably more expressive and wild than its previous form, its temperament matching its fiery powers at last. It uses powerful swipes and kicks to pound its opponents into submission, and it can fire streams of fire from the bell-like flame sac around its neck.”



Sasha purred loudly and rubbed against her leg. She gave him a big shake, and he yowled in affirmation. He sounded more wild now, too.


Moments later, she was approached by Ilmia, who had watched the whole thing. He was clapping his hands and had a happy expression painted all over his face.

“Bravo! Bravo! I have never seen such a spectacle of a fight in my life before. Do you intentionally make your battles as spectacular as they are intense?”

She replied “well, where I'm from, fighting is practically an art. Part of winning a spell card duel is that your attacks are as pleasing to watch as they are powerful. I decided that myself when Yukari helped me come up with the spell card rules to begin with. And I expect my Pokémon to fight the same way I have trained myself and others, with grace, splendor and an overwhelming amount of force.”

Ilmia was impressed. Here in front of him was a true lady of war, a knight who commanded her Pokémon like a general his men, who fought with honor but who was not above cunning tactics. And her tone suggested someone who could fracture your skull in a single motion underneath a seemingly delicate frame, and whose voice projected with an interesting mix of cheekiness, boredom, humor and hard authority. If you were around her, you were beneath her, and she made sure of it whenever possible.

If only his girlfriend was anywhere near as motivated and forceful.

“You're quite the warrior, Reimu. If I were to end up where you're from, I'd probably end up dead pretty quickly,” he remarked. Reimu smirked; a pretty boy like him? Yeah, he'd be youkai chow pretty quickly, and even the people in the village would consider him weak, whether or not he actually was. But, if it was a facade, and she was starting to be sure it was, then he could theoretically hold his own.

He led her back out of the trial site, to a waiting Hau and Lillie. Again, he told them he was going to need a bit to reset the trial, especially since a Skarmory made off with one of his Yungoos, the third time that happened in two weeks. Once he was done, it would be Lillie's turn to face the music.

As he stepped back into the cavern, Reimu was approached by the both of them, brimming with curiosity about her performance.

“You did great in there!” Lillie beamed.

Reimu said in a lazy tone, “I did okay.”

“Okay?” Hau replied. “I could hear the lightning bolts all the way out here! I'd say you did better than okay, I think you did even better than I did!”

“Well, maybe I did,” Reimu told him.

As agreed, Lillie handed over the Pokéball containing Nebby to Reimu as they waited for the trial to be reset. It took thirty minutes, but eventually Ilmia came back out and motioned for Lillie to come challenge his trial.

She hesitated. She wasn't so sure about going into the trial chamber all by herself. She was visibly trembling. However, both Reimu and Hau gave her encouraging looks and words.

“You can do this,” Hau told her. “It's honestly not that hard.”

“You've got that overpowered Popplio with you, I think you'll rock house. Just believe in yourself.”

Lillie nodded her head in understanding and smiled. “Alright. I won't let you down.” She then disappeared inside the cave.


Reimu decided to sit down in front of the Pokémon Center with Hau. She decided to let Nebby out for a bit so it could play; if anyone wanted to steal it, she would beat them up. She wasn't worried.

As the blue-and-purple puffball bounced around the ground and played with a bean Reimu had thrown it, she sat there with Hau while staring at it.

“Hey Hau,” she asked him, “this might be a bit of a loaded subject for an eleven year-old, but I was about your age when I had to start facing the real world, so I hope you get it. Have you ever thought about there being forces beyond our worlds who pull the strings and, just occasionally, send us zingers just to mess with us and see how we cope with them?”

He seemed a bit puzzled by this question, but tried to answer nonetheless. “Y'know, I just like to live my life and discover new things as I go along, and if some sort of jerk god decided to mess with my life somehow, I would just find a way to roll with it and then punch back if I can.”

“I see,” Reimu responded. She continued to monitor Nebby. “I was brought here by some force who wanted to separate me from Gensokyo for whatever reason, beyond the scope of what I'm used to dealing with. And to give you an idea, I've visited the Netherworld, been to Hell and back, traveled through the dream world to infiltrate the moon, stepped into a world parallel to the “real world” which was accessible through any crack if you believed hard enough... heck, my own ability is flying between alternate planes of existence at will, or at least, it is when I have access to my god's blessings.”

Hau was intrigued by that last bit, and decided to ask her “how important is faith where you're from? Because here, we give our thanks and blessings to Tapu Koko whenever we can, but it sounds like you go further than that.”

Reimu sighed. “Hau, where I'm from, faith, belief and religion are all very serious business. The reason Gensokyo exists to begin with is because when humans no longer fear the unknown or come up with rational explanations for stuff with scientific backing, mystical and magical beings and gods, well, they tend to disappear. Die, if you will. I know after a magazine explaining how echoes actually worked fell through the border one day, echo youkai started poofing out of existence like that,” she said while snapping her fingers. “The last ones are being holed up by Miko in Senkai for that reason. The problem is that the people in the outside world from where I live lose faith too easily, lose things to believe in, put spiritual value into. I've heard things about the outside from Yukari's exploits there, how it's an uncaring world, full of corruption, famine, war, poverty and inequality. I've even heard they maintain weapons at all times for seemingly no purpose but to commit mass suicide. And I mean, sure, youkai are dangerous, but I feel humans without faith are infinitely much worse than even the strongest youkai or goddess. Without magic, whimsy, faith, spirituality, they're reduced to the animals they are deep inside, acting on instinct and survival of the fittest. So Gensokyo was created as a last bastion of all that stuff, where magic and faith could live and breathe freely, where humans could have something to believe in, where youkai and fairies could still roam and prank and torment humans without fear of facing extinction. Locked away from the outside world for all eternity. And my duty is to be the gatekeeper, the stewardess who makes sure no one steps out of line and that the integrity of the border separating the land from the outside is maintained.”

She took a breath before continuing. “But here? You never let go of faith. Magic and stories are still alive and well here, even with technological advancement. You've learned to live with all that makes the world tick and even control it. I envy you; I wish I could bring my friends in Gensokyo here to see a wider world that might accept them.”

To Hau, that was a lot of words. At the same time, it hit him significantly how a teenage girl like her knew so much and thought so much about the world around her. He was amazed at how wise she was, even if she was a bit of a lazy jokester at other times.

Their train of thought was broken when they heard a loud bang coming from the direction of the trial site. They both looked up and saw a column of smoke, dust and debris rising up and forming a mushroom cloud above the cavern.

“I think Lillie won,” Reimu remarked. Hau just nodded at her in unsure agreement. Nebby didn't even know what was going on, because it was still focused on that bean.

A few minutes later, Lillie emerge from the cavern, covered in dust, the only thing shiny on her person being the Z-crystal she won from the Totem Gumshoos, who was currently having max revives shoved down its throat by Ilmia in an attempt to resuscitate it.

“I take it you were successful,” Reimu told Lillie.

She looked down at Adele, who had now evolved into a Brionne, then looked up at Reimu and said “that bang happened right after she evolved. I simply can't explain it. After I won, Ilmia looked at the Totem Pokémon and then told me in a funny voice that he probably wasn't going to be able to run the trial for a few days.” She seemed a little embarrassed. She was always concerned about trainers abusing their Pokémon, but never really thought about the Pokémon themselves being capable of such wanton destruction to the point that others did not want to fight it. And yet why didn't Adele display this when sparring against Hau and Reimu for practice?

Whatever the case, they had all now passed their first trial. Ahead of them was the grand trial against Hala back in Iki Town. But now, they would rest. So they checked out a camp space behind the Pokémon Center, which also included a three-person pup tent and sleeping bags. They had an excellent view of the ocean, which was almost a half-mile beneath them at the bottom of a large sea bluff. Even from their perch, they could see the waves gently rolling in and out, crashing against the rock walls, and the various Wingull and Pelliper gliding over the surface hoping to snatch up some tasty fish who were near the surface, before returning to den in hollows in the side of the bluffs rising over the thin beaches at the bottom.

As the sun set over the horizon, tinting the sky pinkish-orange and casting a far reaching glimmer across the sea, Reimu stood at the edge of the bluff, the winds whipping in against her and causing her hair to flow like the waves the winds helped push in.

“'mazing, isn't it?” Hau commented as he walked up to her.

To Reimu, “amazing” didn't do the sight justice. She had never seen the ocean before in her life, and was still amazed at how it seemed to go on forever. Of course, she knew it didn't really go on forever, but it was so vast that it overtook the horizon and made it certainly seem that way. She wondered just how far out in the ocean Alola was, how far she would need to travel before encountering other land, or indeed the continent.

As the light died down, people began to make campfires or fire up their grills to cook dinner. Dinner for the three was some hot dogs that they had picked up back in Hau'oli, which they cooked on skewers and roasted over the fire while telling each other some more stories.

“Alright, so, there was this one time where Remilia was hosting a talent show in the ballroom of her mansion,” Reimu told Hau and Lillie as they listened on. “Cirno got up onto the stage and tried to show us how she was the strongest fighter of anyone in the room. Now, keep in mind, she's the most powerful fairy, which still isn't much because most fairies will go down to so much as smacking them with a broom.”

She took a bite out of her hot dog before continuing. “So she had Daiyousei bring up a wood target and tie it down so she had something to demonstrate her new technique on.” She used hand gestures to describe what happened next. “She pulled out a spell card no had seen, which struck me as impressive because Cirno actually managed to come up with her own spell card by herself. After she played it, she put her hands together like this, then shot a massive wave of snow and ice out from them. Now, this wave was HUGE, and knocked down everything in the room that wasn't bolted down, froze people in place, and there was just this white haze for a few seconds before we saw that the entire ballroom was covered in snow and enormous ice crystals.”

Lillie sipped on some punch. “And then what?”

“Well, we pretty much beat the crap out of her after that, before Remilia herself impaled her with a spear. She respawned, of course, since all fae respawn instantly after dying. So we just continued to beat on her the rest of the night while Keine managed to get Mokou to come to the mansion and melt all the snow and free everyone who was frozen, who then started to beat on Cirno after that. I think Cirno died about 1,283 times that night – no, I wasn't keeping count, one of Nitori's friends was – which was a new record. She still walked away from it like nothing happened, no worse for wear.”

She paused before dropping the punchline: “and the best part? The target was still intact.” All three of them had a good laugh over that one, even if dying over a thousand times seemed really brutal. “So, is she really that stupid?” Hau asked.

“Well, I wouldn't quite call her stupid – she's actually pretty sharp and clever by fairy standards. But, again, that's not really saying a whole lot, since she only has about the common sense of a mentally restarted nine year old, and looks like she's nine, too, even though she's actually older than Remilia, who's past five hundred despite looking about thirteen. So she tends to get herself into situations with a lethally high amount of cockiness about her strength, which usually gets her killed.”

Hau decided to ask a dumb question, just because he thought of it. “So if she's fairy, would that make her immune to Dragon-type attacks?”

Reimu scratched her head. “I wouldn't know, because he have neither something with a Dragon-type move nor Cirno here with us to test it. If nothing else, she got vaporized the one time she met a dragon, but I guess it didn't really use an 'attack,' per se, since it barely registered that she was there to begin with.”

“What kinds of Dragons are in Gensokyo?” Lillie asked.

“Not many, but they're all very powerful. Dragons are actually the most powerful type of being in Gensokyo, since many of them can manipulate the weather, change the landscape, affect life force, lead and guide spirits, and in the case of the Great Dragon, travel in and out of the Hakurei Border itself.”

She finished her hot dog before asking “and it looks like you have some really interesting Dragon legends here as well. Like that Rayquaza the museum lady was talking about. Looking at it gave me a lot of vibes of the Great Dragon.”

A new voice chimed into their conversation “the Tao trio.”

The three of them looked around trying to find the person the voice belonged to, before catching sight of a man with long, green hair and a black cap.

“Would you mind if I joined your conversation?” he asked them.

Reimu was a little apprehensive. “Who are you?”

He held his hand to his heart. “Oh, sorry, I should have introduced myself. I am N.”

Lillie then spoke up. “Wait, that N? I've heard about you, you're that guy who – ”

“ – led Team Plasma before walking out on it. You would be correct.” He sat down in front of the fire between Hau and Lillie, facing Reimu.

“Wanna hot dog?” Hau asked him.

“I'm fine,” N told him. “I just came over here because I heard about you three talking about dragons.”

“What do you know about dragons?” Reimu asked him.

He took a breath before starting a story. “Thousands of years ago in Unova, a large meteor fell out of the sky near a village. After the impact, the villagers inspected the crater, which was massive and went down seemingly forever.

“They made it down to the bottom, where a large rock sat in the middle of the impact. The rock cracked, and then blasted open, revealing a powerful dragon with control over fire, ice and lightning. The villagers revered it as a deity, and for centuries afterward, a prosperous civilization grew in Unova, and the being which they called Kyurem, came to be central to Unovan Taoism.”

He continued, “however, one day, two princes, who were brothers, got into a dispute over truth and ideals. This dispute eventually grew into a bloody civil war, which was part of the larger Great War. With its civilization split between truth and ideals, Kyurem split into three beings: the fire dragon Reshiram, who represented truth; Zekrom, the lightning dragon who represented ideals; and Kyurem's own icy husk, which represented void.

“The war soon ended, leaving behind immense ruin, and both brothers were dead. Anguished by the loss of his sons and the dispute which had led them to war, the king attempted to bring the land back together, in order to bring Kyurem together. But by then, it was too late, as the two light and dark dragons had disappeared, and Kyurem cast in self-exile at the bottom of the Giant Chasm.

“Millennia passed, and the events of the war faded into the stuff of legend as Unova built itself up as a modern land. But Ghetsis never forgot. He was a descendant of the royal line, resentful at the actions of his forebears that had led to the collapse of their kingdom. So he set out to find the dragons and reunify Kyurem, so that he could take over Unova and rule like his ancestors before him.”

He continued, “I never knew my parents. They were killed in a building collapse when I was an infant. In my first few years, I lived out in the wild and was raised by Pokémon. I came to see Pokémon as my friends, and bonded with them as such. Ghetsis took advantage of this when he found me and took me in. You see, he wanted someone who he could control to be the head of his scheme until he felt it was time to come out with his plan more openly. So he created Team Plasma. He found six other royal descendants to form the Seven Sages, and cast me as the 'king' of Team Plasma. I told him I wanted it to be an organization which encouraged friendship between humans and Pokémon. He didn't exactly agree with this at first, but soon twisted it to mean that humans and Pokémon should be separated so that Pokémon could be free from the tyranny of human control and being made to fight. In reality, he wanted to control all the Pokémon in Unova so that he would have no serious challenge once he reunited Kyurem. I was resentful of what he was doing, but had no choice but to go along with it.

“In came a strong trainer. Like you, he was starting his Pokémon journey. I decided to battle him on a whim, and was amazed by the amount of passion and drive he had for battles, and the love and caring he expressed for his Pokémon. So I followed him through his journey and secretly helped him obtain the Black dragon, Zekrom, while I controlled Reshiram, the White dragon. We faced off in the Plasma Palace, and he won the fight both against me and against Ghetsis. After the battle, I decided to release Reshiram so it could be free, while entrusting Zekrom to the trainer's care. After that, he disappeared, and I ditched Ghetsis.”

He continued, “but the story doesn't end there. A couple of years later, another trainer who was starting her journey dared to take on Team Plasma, who by now was more openly led by Ghetsis and plotted to take over and control Unova with an iron fist. I helped her along by jinxing many of their plans, which culminated in a battle at the bottom of the Giant Chasm, where Ghetsis had succeeded in fusing Reshiram and Kyurem. She defeated him, after which he was reduced to a broken, mad mess. Nobody knows what happened to him after that, but Team Plasma disbanded, and the girl was entrusted with both Reshiram and Kyurem.”

He looked out towards the now-moonlit ocean. “I still look for the other strong trainer, and wonder where he may be now. I've always wanted to tell him something, but I could never find a trace of him anywhere. But I know he's out there, with Zekrom, traveling the Earth and challenging trainers.”

They took in his story, before Lillie asked him, “do you think we are strong trainers?”

He looked back at them and said “I came to this island a few months ago and have watched other new trainers struggle with their first trial. I like to observe the fights from there,” he pointed at an outcropping just above the cavern. I think you three all have the potential to be excellent trainers, especially you,” he looked at Reimu. “What is your name?”

“Reimu,” she told him.

“Reimu... what a lovely name. I saw how you fight, how the bond you have with your Pokémon allows your fights to not only be completely one-sided, but works of art. I think you have the potential to exceed everyone I have ever met.”

Reimu smiled. “You know, I've faced off with all kinds of things in my life. But, I still feel like there is much for me to learn, like I haven't seen everything that life has to throw at me, even in a predicament like what I'm in. All the mysteries, the tricks, y'know?”

“Mysteries and tricks....” N murmered.

There was a voice just like his calling out from the distance. “Shadow, it's time we went home. Please come back to me so we can leave.”

He looked at the three. “I think master N is calling me.” He poofed into smoke before a black, fox-like creature with red hair emerged where he had been sitting and cried out before returning to his master.

The three just sat there wide-eyed wondering what had just happened.

“This place gets just a little weirder the longer I'm here,” Reimu remarked.


The moon was at a waxing crescent as its light shimmered across the sea. The three were still huddled around their campfire, and Hau was teaching Reimu how to cook up s'mores. She thought the treats were kind of strange, but otherwise tasted good. It soon got to be late, and everyone around them was putting out their fires, so Lillie had Adele put out the fire with a squirt of water, while the other two jokingly braced for the fireplace to blow up, which of course didn't happen.

Just before going to bed, they spent some time looking up at the stars in the skies above. They could see the constellations formed by the various stars up above, all the sorts of shapes that the imaginary lines formed in between the small white lights that dotted the skies above. In the distance, the faint glow of Hau'oli city shined from behind the hillside.

Reimu bumped Lillie and asked her “where's the north star?”

Lillie pointed at a constellation. “You see that? That constellation where I'm pointing up at?”

Reimu looked for a bit before seeing it. “Yeah, I kind of see it.”

“That is Ursaring Major. They call it that because it looks like an Ursaring. And the North Star is in the ring on its 'belly.' Why do you ask?”

Reimu replied “when I was a child, I was taught how to navigate using star charts, so I could easily find my way if I ever got lost or disoriented. I didn't want to get lost while I was here, so I just wanted to know which way was north and which way was south.”

“They don't teach us star charts,” Lillie told Reimu. “In fact, they don't really teach you how to navigate in school unless you go into something like boating. Everyone just relies on their phones to get them where they need to go, their GPS's. But I'm a licensed boater, so I was taught how to navigate using old-fashioned methods, maps and compasses. And even then, I never thought about navigating using just starts, like you. I think that's pretty impressive that you know how to do that.”

Reimu smiled. “When it's all you have, it's what you get good at doing.”


They decided to huddle inside the tent, where Hau was already sleeping. They got into sleeping bags next to each other, and buried themselves inside the bags.

“Good night,” Lillie whispered. “You too,” Reimu whispered back, as they each rolled over and went to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

It had been an interesting past couple of days for Yuuka.

It started when she was tending to her flowers, in the massive field on the Nameless Hill that she maintained, when the hole in the sky appeared for a few minutes before disappearing. After that, she began hearing rumors that the shrine maiden had vanished, supposedly within that same hole in the sky. Following that, a crack coalition of Genoskyo's most powerful fighters began patrolling the land for any clues that might be used to bring her back, or stave off any threats brought upon by this incident.

She was not one of them. She was feared, all across Gensokyo, for her power, and most importantly, her notoriously volatile attitude, especially when it came to anyone who so much as laid a finger on her beloved flowers. She was so reviled, even other youkai avoided her, and it was told in the human village that seeing her meant certain death.

This was a reputation she could do without, however. The truth was, even though she was very powerful, the only reason she ever attacked anyone was because they threatened her flowers. After all, she WAS a flower youkai; to her, her flowers were her children. And you don't threaten a parent's child, no matter your species. She was actually fairly personable and affable, provided you didn't threaten her flowers. It was an odd twist of logic, but then, youkai do tend to operate on logic which differs from that of humans, part of the reason the feud between them was so long and rocky. In this case, this twist of logic meant a general lack of friends, and she spent most of her time alone, which only fed into her reputation.

She had been taking some personal enjoyment out of the ruckus caused by the shrine maiden; it's not every day you see Yukari absolutely freaking out, that's for sure. And it isn't every day that you see Mokou and Kaguya on the same side, if grudgingly. This whole incident was very amusing to her, and it would be a shame if it ended quickly, so generally she didn't act on it and just went about her life, taking care of her flowers and guarding them from intruders.

This morning, she had gone out early, the result of the summer sun rising so early in the day, dressed in her gardener getup and armed with tools, seed, plant food, fertilizer and a little bit of magic. Today, like most days, she went out to her vegetable garden, where she got most of her food from, and started picking out roots and tubers, harvesting lettuce, picking berries in season and placing them in her basket, before feeding them and using some magic in order to make them grow faster to provide more food more quickly. She was a very meticulous artisan when it came to gardening, making sure plants were arranged very specifically in perfectly straight rows with enough space to walk between them without harming them; so much as a couple of centimeters off was enough to grate on her to no end. And she also tended to and cared for her plants such that they grew into big, strong specimens that she could be proud of when her few visitors saw them.

After tending to her vegetables, she brought them inside her small cottage. Most went to the cellar, where they were stored to help get through Gensokyo's icy winters. The rest were thrown into a pot above the fire and cooked – breakfast, which she enjoyed with tea that she grew herself in her garden, a rather pungent breed of green tea which was enough to awaken the senses of even the most sleep-deprived sloth, whose scent wafted through even the most stuffed up of noses. Everything a flower youkai needed to perk up and be ready for anything sent her way.

After breakfast, she washed up, cleaning off the dirt smudges that materialized all over her body while working the garden. After drying herself off and styling her hair – she was very conscious about her hair – she changed into her usual dress, grabbed her parasol and a pail, and walked out the front door and into the vast fields of flowers surrounding her establishment in all directions.

It was a beautiful day, with no clouds in sight and the hot sun bearing down on the flowery fields. The pail she carried contained a special water designed to give them the nutrients they needed and protect them from being dehydrated by the oppressive summer sun. It helped to maintain a vast field of yellow which stretched for countless acres all around. From her position, the flowers seemed to stretch out over the horizon, a veritable idyllic setting masking a deadly secret. And this was her life, walking through and tending to these fields and maintaining their vitality. For a flower youkai, it only came naturally.

Many insects visited the fields, most notably butterflies and bees who served to pollinate the flowers. In general, these were the only things she allowed to touch her flowers, and their presence was even welcomed. One such bee buzzed up and landed on her sunhat, apparently confused as to why it wasn't a flower. Yuuka was flattered, because she took it to mean that she was as beautiful as the flowers she so carefully maintained, that it was no wonder the bee had mistook her for one.

She reached a small roll overlooking the rest of the fields. Walking up to the top of it, she was greeted by a view across the valley, with the towering Youkai Mountain to the northeast and the various temples and shrines dotting the sides and tops of the mountainous fence, the rivers and creeks cascading down from their sources and flowing lazily into the Misty Lake, then somewhere beyond into the outside. It was a splendorous scene, one which made Yuuka proud of the place she called home, even if it was populated by people who didn't care too much for her flowers, and she looked on as the breeze picked up slightly and flowed through her hair and dress, gently rustling the flowers.

Moments later, however, she heard a noise. At first, she wasn't too sure what it was, so she just ignored it. Soon, however, it grew loud enough that she could recognize it as horrendously loud buzzing, which almost made her want to cover her ears. But what insect was loud enough to make buzzing that loud? This was easily much louder than the famously forceful buzz of the cicada, and she knew of no insect youkai capable of making the noise.

She got her answer when it swooped directly over her, creating a wake which made her flinch and which blew the flowers near her sideways. She looked over to the south, where the object had gone, and saw a massive red blur whose form she could not discern from where she stood.

She chased after the creature, wondering what it was and what it was doing in her fields. If it was another youkai who wanted to pick a fight, they chose the wrong woman to do so with. After a short while, the buzzing stopped, indicating that it had landed. However, this also made it more difficult for her to find it, since it had disappeared into the maw of the fields, forcing her to fly up a bit in order to try and find it.

She found it standing in the middle of a field of sunflowers, so she landed and began approaching it. As she did, she could make out a most bizarre creature: it seemed to have the head of a mosquito, with a very long proboscis, and what appeared to be massive, bulging pecs, abs, and highly muscular arms with tough fists at their ends, supported by four stands resembling insect legs. And it stood over two and a half meters tall. As she got closer, she saw it was holding one arm out with a finger outstretched and it seeming to look on as if there was something on it, which she soon determined to be a butterfly.

She accosted the figure, asking politely but with clear agitation “now, excuse me, who are you?”

The creature turned its head towards her in notice, causing the butterfly to flutter off. It then struck a pose with its arms above its head as it let out a screeching sound, presumably a warning sound of some sort. It then put its arms down and began facing Yuuka with seeming scrutiny.

Yuuka stood back a bit, her hand on a single spell card ready to be played any second, as she confronted the creature. “If you're a youkai looking for a fight here in my flower fields, intent on harming my flowers, then you should be ready for me to treat you to a very, very bad time indeed.” She then paused. “But, I shall be merciful first. Who or what are you, and what is your purpose?”

The creature seemed to stare at her for a few seconds, although she couldn't tell if it was staring at her or not since it lacked recognizable eyes. After a few seconds, it struck another pose, this time with its left arm held straight in the air with its palm flat and its right arm bend beside it in a similar fashion while it looked on in the sky. Then it struck another, this time a lumbering strongman look with it bent down and its arms flexed down below it in a circular shape.

This is a very odd creature, she thought, communicating by striking bodybuilding poses. She asked it another question. “Can you understand me?” she asked. It responded by first pointing at her, then pointing at its antenna or whatever it used to hear, then gave a thumbs-up. “Interesting,” she remarked. “Please tell me: I have not seen you before. Are you new to Gensokyo? Where did you come from?”

It took a moment to process these words, before it pointed up at the sky, in the general direction where the hole was a few days ago. It then made a circle shape with its hands and fingers, then pointed at the sky again.

“Hmm, I don't get it. The sky, then you make a circle with your hands...” she thought about it, then responded “you mean to say you came out of that hole?” It responded with another thumbs-up.

She then asked it another question, this one in a slightly more accusatory tone. “Why did you come to Gensokyo? What is your reason for being here?”

It started by pointing at itself, then holding at its palm whilst doing a gesture with its other hand to represent a walking figure, then pointed at itself again then back at the walking hand.

“Is that supposed to be you?” Yuuka asked, and the creature nodded. It then held out its hands as if to suggest “suddenly,” before lurching forward and letting out another shrill call with its arms stretched out in front of it and its hands open like it was trying to lift something, before reeling back with an even louder shrill and its arms stretched out to its sides, its hands still open. It then made the walking gesture with its hand again, and pretended to “punch” it to the side and made it go through a loop it made with its other hand.

Yuuka wasn't sure what to make of what it was trying to communicate here. “So you were forced through the hole somehow... are you trying to say that some big, scary monster kicked you through?” It gave another thumbs-up. Yuuka was smarter than she was scary, so she could figure these things out very quickly.

She then asked it yet another question: “why did it throw you through the hole?” The creature shrugged; it wasn't sure why it was thrown through, but it did manage to communicate that other figures had been forced out the hole the same way.

“Are you trying to find a way back home?” she asked it. It nodded. She then asked “would you simply fly through another hole if one were to appear.” It shook its head. “Why not?” It then made the same pose representing the big, scary monster. “The big, scary monster would throw you back out, and you can't beat it in a fight?” It lowered its head in sorrow and nodded.

“I see,” she responded. “Now, why are you here of all places in Gensokyo? This is a dangerous place, and many feared youkai live out in these fields.” It swept one swole arm over the fields, pointed back at the sky, then swept over the field again with its other arm.

“I'm not sure I understand,” Yuuka replied. “Are you trying to say there's a flower field on the other side of the hole?” She asked. It gestured in a way as if to say “eh, kind of.”

She then made the next logical bridge: “do my fields remind you of home?” It looked off to the side, then struck a more vigorous thumbs-up.

She was amused by this strange encounter with something related to the incident. And interestingly, it appeared as if it had the opposite problem Reimu did: she was flung through the hole and was trying to get back to Gensokyo; this creature was stuck in Gensokyo and was trying to get back to the land beyond the hole.

She then decided to see what this thing was capable of. “What sorts of things can you do, with those big, bulging muscles of yours?” she asked.

It held out on finger in front of her, as if getting ready to demonstrate a trick. It then jumped into the air, then slammed down to the ground, its arm piercing the soil beneath it. She was wondering at this moment what it was doing, hopefully not ruining her flowers.

It moved its hand around, clearly feeling around for something, before stopping as if it had found whatever it was looking for, deep down inside of the ground. Using its free arm, it pushed up and began slowly pulling its arm out of the ground before quickly uprooting a screaming, yelling black-haired girl in a white dress with red and blue arrow accents.

Yuuka instantly knew who it was. It was Seija, the runaway amanojaku that was wanted all across Gensokyo after her failed rebellion. The girl flailed around in the air, cursing the ears off the creature. “Unhand me, you evil, grotesque monster!” she yelled, her arms and legs flapping about as it grabbed her by the collar.

“Well, well, well,” Yuuka sneered as she looked on. “If it isn't the amanojaku who tried to invert the barrier. I've been looking all over for you, hoping to claim the handsome reward for myself, but it seems my friend here has accomplished that for me.” She walked closer to her, and was amused. All the most powerful characters in Gensokyo had been after her for many months, whipping out their most dangerous and lethal spell cards to try and stop her, and only now was she captured by a big, red musclebound mosquito thing that didn't even know how to use magic.

“I think I'll hold onto you for the night and then turn you over to the border youkai when I'm done playing with you,” she said slyly. She then turned back towards the creature holding on to Seija. “I think I'll reward you by showing you back to my house. I could always use more company.” So she started walking back, only to be suddenly grabbed under the creature's other arm as it flew the both of them back to Yuuka's house.

 

Chapter Text

Meanwhile, in Alola, it had been a busy morning for Reimu, Lillie and Hau, who got up early and left their campsite in order to circle back to Iki Town before day's end, so they could challenge the Grand Trial and move on to the next island. The shortest route back to Iki was along the northeast shore of the island, along Route 3, a scenic but notoriously rough and craggy area infested with Fearow and Mandibuzz hoping to pick up a quick snack in the form of the critters which inhabited the jagged rock outcroppings and canyons below, but which were also counter-hunted by the Electrike and Manetric prowling the grass and bushes that lined the sea cliffs. None of these were any match for Reimu's posse, though, and such was their reputation already that even Ace Trainers gave pause before deciding to challenge them. This actually proved to be somewhat of a problem, since battle winnings had become their primary source of income, and having to literally beg for fights was inconvenient and tiresome, never mind not supposed to be necessary since the rules stated if two trainer's eyes met and they had healthy Pokémon, they had to fight.

All morning, they blazed a veritable trail of destruction along the path, and their Pokémon were barely breaking a sweat, let alone getting injured enough to warrant using a bunch of healing items on them just to get them back into fighting shape. Of course, after the trial, Lillie decided to keep a bit of a tighter leash on Adele, lest she accidentally do something which caused the entire island to blow up and sink into the sea. So she let her Gastly do most of the work, which was a little problematic since Gastly can't exactly take hits.

After a while of hiking, it was close to lunchtime, and they were getting close to Iki town; Reimu estimated it would only be about another hour or two from where they were before they got there.

“Yo, guys,” Hau said, “where do you think we should have lunch at?”

“To be honest,” Reimu told him, “I'm not that hungry yet.” She took another swig of water out of her canteen.

“What do you mean you're not hungry?” Hau exclaimed. “We've been walking and battling Pokémon and trainers for hours! I'm starving after all that!”

“We don't exactly have a little boy's metabolism,” Lillie said with a soft grin.

“I AM NOT A LITTLE BOY!” Hau yelled out as he stamped the ground. Reimu and Lillie couldn't help but laugh as they watched his frustration.

As they stifled their laughs, Reimu noticed Nebby out of the corner of her eye, and asked Lillie “hey Lillie, did you mean to let Nebby out of the bag? Because its going into that small cave over there.”

Lillie's smile quickly morphed into an expression of pure terror as she processed what had just come out of Reimu's mouth, and looked over at the cave, but Nebby wasn't there. She dashed into the cave, calling out “Nebby, get back here! You're not supposed to wander off like that!”

Reimu and Hau couldn't think of anything else to do but run in behind her and try and recapture the wayward puffball. As they did, Reimu wondered what kind of Pokémon it was to just seemingly be able to let itself out of its Pokéball whenever it wanted, no matter how close an eye Lillie kept on it.

They went through the cavern, which quickly opened up into an open-air flower field, with light shimmering down from the sky above onto the carpet of yellow flowers, in which Oricorio played and Cutiefly danced between the petals and buds. None of this really impressed upon their minds at the moment, however; their main objective was to get Nebby back in the back.

“Looks like Yuuka's flower fields,” Reimu remarked. “We'd best be careful, or else she might pop out and rip us all in half!” she joked. But of course, no one was laughing, although she wasn't sure if it was because they were focused on finding Nebby, the sheer morbidness of her remark, or both.

They all knew finding Nebby in these thick flowers was going to be a challenge, made all the more pressing due to the fact that it couldn't defend itself from anything that decided it would make a good snack. So Reimu, Hau and Lillie all went off in separate directions, whacking and hacking through the flowers, quickly dispatching or scaring away anything standing in their way.

“Geez,” Reimu said. “You'd think finding a blue-and-purple puffball in this field of yellow flowers would be easy because it would stick out like a sore thumb. But the thing is so danged small that you might not see it until you step on it and it starts crying and stuff.” She called out to the others “you finding anything?”

“Not yet,” Hau shouted back.

“Me neither,” Lillie shouted as well. For her, this was a challenge due to her general aversion to charging straight into tall grass and flowers and Pokémon jumping out at her, but she had developed a maternal instinct with Nebby, and things like it running off made her do things going against her nature in order to make sure it was safe. At least the weaker Pokémon seemed to run in terror at the sight of her Gastly, so she kept it floating behind her for exactly that reason.

It had only been a few minutes since they started looking, but it already felt like hours. For Reimu, her primary concern with finding Nebby was because she had begun to develop a sense that it might hold the key to her finding a way back to Gensokyo, based on the sorts of experiments that Lillie was talking about before she escaped with it. However, she also found herself legitimately concerned about its well-being as a living creature, as well as concerned for Lillie's well-being in turn. She always did treat people in the same way, open but also a little wary until good intentions were confirmed. This was why she made friends so quickly, even with foes.

Then, a terrible shriek sounded out and instantly got their collective attention, especially Lillie's. “NEBBY!!!!” she screamed as she rushed toward where the sound came from. Reimu and Hau each broke off their respective searches and ran beside Lillie.

They emerged from the flowers onto a rock clearing rising above the fields. There they saw Nebby, who was crying out and flailing in the arms of a mysterious female figure.

Lillie rushed up with determination in her eyes and confronted the figure, ready to fight if necessary to save Lillie. She had only been a trainer for a few days, but that combined with having Reimu at her side was enough to give her the confidence she needed to do something like this.

She stood and accosted the figure. “Unhand Nebby, you bitch!”

The figure looked up at her in response, and her appearance gave Lillie some pause. Her eyes appeared shadowed out beneath her pale-blonde hair, and her dress was also washed-out shades of black, gray and burgundy. She also had a washed-out bow, and floating behind her was a small, purple creature with blue eyes, a bulbous head and a long tail.

Reimu studied the figure as well, and it took a moment to process what she was seeing.

“Hold on... is that – is that Medicine Melancholy?” she said.

Lillie looked behind her. “Medicine what now?”

Reimu walked up and gently armed Lillie aside. “I think you'd better let me handle this one, Lillie.” Lillie really wanted to save Nebby herself and prove she was capable to Reimu, but she realized that Reimu knew what she was doing, and deferred to her judgment.

Reimu approached the figure herself and sent out Sasha, who was itching for a brawl. “Unless that thing behind you is a Pokémon, I'd suggest you hand over the puffball now and you won't get hurt.”

The figure looked up at her and revealed her eyes. One was normal-looking, if a bit doll-like, but the other was truly bizarre: it appeared to be a conglomeration of crystals which lit up and dimmed to show different facial expressions, with a yellow circular crystal face in the middle standing in for an iris, and black, obsidian-like crystalline material on either side of it. Examining it further, Reimu also realized the figure had some other unusual features – in addition to the washed-out colors, she had more stark black, diamond-like features across her person, including sharp crystalline joints where her doll joints would be, and although one hand had normal-looking doll fingers, the other hand had sharp, black, claws holding Nebby in place.

She set Nebby aside but closely guarded it. She then directed the creature behind her forward to face Sasha.

Reimu was curious, so she sent out the Rotom-Dex to examine it. However:

“Unknown Pokémon identified, bzzrt,” it told her. “I'll try to give you some info, but it might take time.”

Unknown Pokémon? Is it a new species? She wasn't sure – the only thing she knew was that it resembled a character from one of those Dragon Ball mangas Yukari brought her sometimes for show-and-tell. But, a promise to fight was a promise, so she ordered Sasha to assault it with Fire Fang at once, which he did, pouncing up into the air for the kill; however, it managed to dodge the attack, moving swiftly to the side.

“Hmm,” she wondered. Maybe direct attacks won't work against it with agility like that, she thought. She decided that just using Ember for now would be best until it was too weak to dodge Sasha's contact attacks.

It was then that the creature began attacking by spewing a stream of poison from its hands, which Sahsa evaded, but barely. He reeled from the foul stench of the poison stream, which soon dissipated.

“Sasha, focus,” Reimu told it. “Use Ember!” Sasha obeyed his order's master without so much as a second thought – after all, he didn't want to disappoint a strong trainer such as her, and it wanted her affection more than anything else. So he shot the fiery bolt at the creature, leading the target just like Reimu instructed him to. Boom, direct hit, as the creature flinched and tried to put itself out.

At that moment, Rotom called out “got it! Here's some info for you! Sorry, best I could do on short notice.” Reimu had Lillie read it off to her. Pure Poison was the creature's type. Reimu decided a tactical switch was needed at this point, so she recalled Sasha and sent out Magnemite to handle the threat, confident that it was immune to Poison.

But the mysterious visitor had an ace up her sleeve. She pointed one clawed finger forward and spoke, but what came out of her mouth was an indecipherable language that sounded like the clanking and shattering of ice and glass. The creature then bowed forward, with the stinger on the top of its head pointing right towards Magnemite, before shooting a stream of violet liquid right at it, covering Magnemite and sticking to it like an adhesive.

It didn't hurt Magnemite by any means – it was immune to the attack, after all, due to being Steel-type – but it was now completely blinded and couldn't tell its left from its right. It sent electric sparks in random directions trying to hit its opponent, forcing Reimu to command it to stop. The figure and its servant couldn't help but laugh at Magnemite's predicament.

Of course, Reimu wasn't one to lose easily, so she grabbed Magnemite and bent its magnets forward toward the purple creature. She then ordered “okay Magnemite, shoot Thunderbolt straight in front of you!” It did as it was told, shooting a blast of electricity so intense it knocked Reimu backwards and struck the purple creature with tremendous force.

In the aftermath, the creature lie on the ground, paralyzed and unable to battle. The mysterious figure saw this and recalled it back into its ball, a strange blue ball with gold ridges which neither of them had ever seen. It then silently cursed at them – or, at least, they assumed it was cursing, given the figure's angry expression and tone – before being enveloped in energy and disappearing into nothing.


Lille rushed over to Reimu. “Are you all right?” she asked in a worried tone.

Reimu managed to get herself off the ground and dust herself off. “Yeah, I'm okay. Been through worse.” She still had Magnemite in her hands, and it was still covered in sticky poison. Worse still, so were her hands. She didn't know how potent the creature's toxins were, but she was well aware of what Medicine's could do, even if it was an imposter.

“What am I going to do about this poison?” Reimu asked. She couldn't just sit there with poison all over her hands and her struggling Magnemite blinded. It seemed a problematic predicament.

Then, Hau got a brainwave. “Hey Lillie,” he asked, “maybe your Gastly could help us out here!”

Lillie wasn't sure how the gas cloud ghost could help, but she decided to let it out anyway to see if it could help Reimu. With the same scary smiling expression on its face, it drifted over towards her and Magnemite, let out a short cry as it hovered over them, then began absorbing all the toxin into its body.

“Of course!” Lillie said. “Poison-type Pokémon have the ability to absorb poison from their surroundings to power themselves up!” And that was exactly what Gastly was doing, and Reimu was amazed that it could remove the adhesive toxin so easily.

In just a few seconds, it was all gone, off of Reimu's hands and off of Magnemite. She let go of Magnemite and had it face her. “You okay?” she asked it. It turned around and made a happy expression in response. Seems as it getting covered in poison doesn't stop it or get it down, she guessed.

Lillie went and got Nebby, still scared and cowering from what had just happened. She looked at it and lightly scolded it, “please don't do something like that again! You could've gotten hurt, or worse, and you got us into serious danger in order to save you!” It looked down, sad that it made its adoptive mother upset, before looking back up with a “pew!” and getting back in the ball and the bag with it.

“Well,” Reimu said standing straight up, “that was hairy.”

“Yeah,” Hau responded, “but, what was that strange figure? It seemed like you knew her?”

Reimu looked at him, looking down and thinking about the whole encounter. “Well, the figure at least resembled Medicine Melancholy, one of the youkai that live in Gensokyo. She's a doll youkai with the ability to manipulate toxins, and hates humans. But, that wasn't the real one – or at least I'm assuming it's not her. And the way she teleported away, it seemed she was escaping into one of those 'Ultra Wormholes.'”

Lillie was confused. “What does that mean?”

“I'm not sure,” Reimu replied. “What I do know now is that this incident could be far larger than I imagined. Maybe what's causing this is endangering not only Gensokyo, but this place as well. What it wants from both, I don't know.”

She turned around and faced them both. “Of course, I would like to get home, but I feel that if I do that without getting to the source of the incident, the problem will come back worse than before. And this affects not just me, but both of you, and everyone in this island chain as well.”

Lillie looked up at Reimu. “Well,” she said in an unsure way, “to be truthful, I'm trying to get Nebby home as well. It's not from this world. I've been wanting to travel the islands, because it seems interested in the Tapu, as if they know a way for it to return home. It seems... connected to them, somehow.”

Reimu thought about the Tapu for a second, and how the bridge to the Ruins of Conflict was blown out. “Are there any alternatives to Tapu Koko?”

“We could try the guardian of the next island, Tapu Lele,” Lillie responded. “Although I've heard Tapu Lele is very timid and finicky, so it might be even harder to track down than Tapu Koko.”

“Better than nothing,” Reimu replied. “C'mon, we got business to take care of. To be honest, this whole Island Challenge is invigorating, because of how much we get to see and experience. And it might be easier to secure a ride to the next island if we tell people we've punked Hala – ”

Hau pouted. “Gramps is a strong trainer! He won't just get 'punked' easily!”

“With Adele around,” Reimu said looking at Lillie, “I'm not sure how true that's going to be with us.”

They made their way out of the meadow and continued down back towards Iki Town.


They continued down Route 3 as it looped back down south toward Iki Town. The route was located along sea cliffs rising above the sparkling blue waters of Kala'e Bay down below. As they traveled over bridge above the gorge of the stream roughly cutting the island in half, Reimu looked down and happened to notice a very large number of moving objects on the beach down below.

“Excuse me, but what are those?” she asked.

Hau looked down. “Oh, it must be breeding season for the Samurotts and Primarinas! Wanna go down and see?” He pointed toward the staircase chiseled into the cliffside which went down to the beach below.

“I dunno,” Lillie said. “Do we really want to mess around with animals during the breeding season?”

“Oh, come on, Lillie! I go down to see them every year! They're super friendly as long as you don't try to hit their kids,” he said. Reimu had never really seen sea lions up close, so she decided it might be a fun detour on their adventure, and they could eat lunch down there as well.

Down on the beach, it was incredibly noisy, as the various Primarina attempted a choir concert, but only managed a mangled and disjointed concerto of high notes and shrieks. Of course, given what was on their minds at the moment, it was small wonder they had a hard time coordinating. This combined with the orks and grunts of their male counterparts made it almost impossible to communicate without shouting.

As the trio came down the stairs covering their ears, the singing slowly died down as the Primarina briefly observed their visitors, before returning to their haphazard choir practice.

“Do they always do this?” Reimu asked Hau slightly shouting.

“I think its their mating call,” he responded. He looked around to see if he could find the male of the harem. Samurott keep harems of Primarina, and will fight each other over groups of mates. Off to one side, one such battle was unfolding as two Samurotts were sword fighting using the horns on top of their shells, and one was visibly bleeding. Off to another was a lone Samurott watching over his harem, and interestingly, this one had sunglasses.

“Hey girls,” Hau said, pointing towards him. Reimu looked, and saw the Samurott commanding his area, stoicly looking over it and instilling a strong sense of dread to anyone that dare challenge him.

“What's with the sunglasses?” she asked.

Hau replied, “well, that Samurott is something of a living legend on this beach. They say he's far more powerful than any other Samurott, and once towed a sinking cruise ship back into port all by himself. And basically no other Samurott questions his authority, and the ones that do, well, they learn a painful lesson quickly.”

“Seems like he would be one heck of a teammate,” Reimu remarked.

“Yeah, well, you're not the first one to think that. Gramps told me stories about people who try to catch him, but he decimates all their Pokémon like that,” Hau said snapping his fingers. “You just can't go near him. I even heard some poachers were trying to get him one time, but he just sliced through their ropes and swatted their darts out of the air before blasting them away with a really strong Hydro Pump.”

As Lillie was listening to this conversation and observing the Pokémon on the beach, she thought she felt something in her bag, like a Pokémon was letting itself out. Oh no, she thought, Nebby got out of the bag again. She looked in her bag, but confusingly, it wasn't Nebby's ball that was open, but Adele's. She then looked up and saw the errant pinniped bounding her way over to the sunglasses Samurott.

“Ah, Adele!” she cried out, trying to chase after her, but once she got too close to the Samurott, it was too late, since Lillie knew it would be unwise to approach him. Instead, she hung back, hoping Adele would come back unharmed.

Both Hau and Reimu looked up. “What's she doing?” Reimu asked Hau. “I don't know,” he responded.

Adele seemed to bound up enthusiastically to the Samurott, and once in front of him presented herself with a cheerful smile and a high squeal.

It took the Samurott a while to notice her, but when he did, he slowly looked down in her direction, and the two eyed each other for a few seconds before the Samurott uttered something that broke the thick silence.

“...Git Gud.”

And then Adele seemed to nod with a determined look on her face, before returning to Lillie.

The three humans were stunned. Did the Samurott just speak? That was almost unheard of outside of Psychic and Ghost-types, and even then it was exceedingly rare and mostly limited to telepathy, not vocal speaking. And what did he mean by “gid gud?” Did he think that Adele was weak? And why did she respond with such a determined expression, as if to say “I won't let you down?”

The three decided not to try and strain their brains trying to answer these questions, instead just finishing their lunches and then heading back up the stone stairs to the cliff side above.


“What was THAT all about?” Reimu asked the other two.

Hau shrugged. “I don't know. That was so weird. It just looked at Adele with that glare and, well, I don't know.”

“That was very strange,” Lillie said. “I wonder how the professor would react if we just told him we literally saw a talking Samurott, and it was the Sunglasses Samurott of Kala'e Bay to boot.”

“I bet he would think it was the coolest thing ever,” Hau chuckled. “Imagine, all he needed was one of those chip bags and a joint, and he could have been one of those MLG types!”

Lillie glanced at Hau. “I think you need to get off the internet.”

“Oh, alright, mom,” Hau said said sarcastically as he put his hand behind his head. Lillie pouted as Reimu chucked while they continued down the path.

As they made their way down the hill back towards Iki town, Reimu caught sight of what looked like a baby dragon standing near the edge of the cliff, looking down.

“What's that thing, Rotom? Is it a Pokémon?” She pulled out the Rotom-Dex. It scanned the little dragon and came back with a reply.

“Oooohh, you're lucky,” it told her. “That's a rare Bagon! It's a Dragon-type Pokémon known for jumping off cliffs while trying to practice flying!”

Reimu just took this in for a moment, then looked up wide-eyed and turned over to the Bagon, who conspicuously lacked visible wings, and yet it was trying to practice flying.

Maybe it was her miko instincts acting up, but given how exalted dragons were in Gensokyo, she couldn't help but rush over to the errant baby dragon as it was rushing towards the cliff edge, jumping and sliding across the ground on her belly while her hands stretched out to catch the little dragon in midair just as it jumped off flapping its arms.

Needless to say, the baby dragon did not take kindly to being manhandled by a human just as it was attempting to realize its dream of flying, so it flailed about trying to free itself from her grasp. Unfortunately for it, Reimu's grip was hardened by years of beating up youkai with her bare fists, so about all it could manage was bonking its steel-hard head against her chest and kicking her with its legs while she held it tightly to keep it from running off again.

“Oof! Ow! Stop it!” Reimu grunted as it struggled. “I'm just trying to keep you safe, little guy! I don't want you to hurt – OW! Lillie, Hau, can one of you give me a hand here?!”

Lillie looked on for a second, before she got an idea. She reached into her bag and pulled out a Poké Bean, then held it out in front of her where the Bagon could see it.

“Over here,” she called out. “Do you want some food? Are you hungry?”

After a few moments, the Bagon stopped struggling so much as it sniffed the air, then caught sight of Lillie's offering. It looked at it for a few seconds, then tugged at Reimu to try and get her to put it down. Carefully, she did, blocking the way back to the cliff as she did so.

Lillie knelt down to its level, holding the bean out in her hand, while it waddled over to her. It stopped just in front of the bean, which it sniffed for a bit, making sure to do so from all angles. It slowly put its mouth near the bean, then licked it a bit before gently mouthing it out of Lillie's hand and began chewing on it.

“Well,” Lillie said to it, “do you like it?”

It swallowed the bean, then looked up at her for a couple seconds before giving an approving grunt.

“That's the way!” she said smiling. Then, at that moment, she could feel something letting itself out of its Pokéball. She looked at her bag for a second to see who it was, before looking back and seeing Nebby in front of the Bagon.

“Nebby!” Lillie said, a little startled. She wasn't sure whether it was safe for Nebby to interact with other Pokémon, even the weak ones like this Bagon. She looked on, ready to recall Nebby if need be.

The little dragon was curious of the puffball, who circled around it checking it out. It tried to reach out to Nebby, but Nebby backed off a bit to keep it from doing so. Then, Nebby faced it, and covered its face with its pom-poms. The Bagon looked at it confused, and tilted its head trying to figure out what it was doing.

Then, Nebby let out a “Pew!” as it suddenly raised its pom-poms and gave a forceful smile. This caused the Bagon to do an adorably dumb happy dance as it spun around and smiled while letting out a happy growl.

“I think they like each other,” Reimu smiled. “And I think it likes you too, Lillie.”

Lillie blushed. “Oh, uh, thanks!”

“So why don't you take it in? Make it strong?” Reimu asked casually. Lillie paused. Dragon-type Pokémon always seemed daunting to her, their fierce personalities making them difficult to control at times. She wasn't sure if she could do it, but the little guy seemed awfully attached to her, the way it played with Nebby and gnawed on her leg lovingly. Maybe when it grew into a powerful Salamence, it could be a protector for Nebby, keep it away from bad guys and other Pokémon until she could get Nebby home.

So she took out a Pokéball and showed it to Bagon. “How would you like to come along with me?” she asked, kneeling down to Bagon's level. It stared at the Pokéball, and then gave it a butt with its rock-hard head. This caused the ball to pop open and suck it in, close up, and shake a few times before clicking, signifying a capture.

Lillie wasn't sure what to think. Did it just catch itself? She was slightly embarrassed, and just to make sure, she sent it out, and when it materialized on the ground, it turned its head around and grunted at Lillie.

“Uh... use Headbutt! On that tree!” she commanded. It looked at the tree that Lillie pointed at, processed the order for a couple of seconds, then charged at the tree and butted it with full force, causing it to shake and drop a pile of berries on top of it.

“Bagon?” Lillie said concerned. The three of them walked over to the berry pile that formed under the tree, and Lillie began to sift through it, before it rustled, causing her to jump back.

A second later, Bagon popped out, chewing on some berries that had fallen out of the tree. Relieved, Lillie patted Bagon on the head.

“Oh, thank goodness you're alright,” she said. “Please be more careful next time!”

“Hey, you ordered it to headbutt the tree,” Hau said, “and now it's got a bunch of berries all over it.” He took a berry out of the pile and began chewing on it before spitting it out. “Ech, bitter. I don't like the bitter ones.” He took a pink one out of the pile, and popped it in his mouth. He then smiled in approval. “I've always liked sweet ones, like a berry should be!”

“Oh, so that's why you're naive,” Lillie commented. Hau wondered what that meant before thinking about it for a second, and then scowled at her while she was laughing. “Oh, har har, very funny. Well, I hope dry is your least favorite flavor.” Upon hearing that, Lillie immediately stopped laughing and started scowling right back at him. “You take that back!”

Reimu didn't quite get what was going on here. “What do these berries have to do with your personality?” she asked.

Hau looked over at her. “Oh, well, they say you can determine someone's personality based on their favorite berry flavor. Here, try this yellow one,” he said, handing her a Sitrus berry. She tried it, and absolutely loved the tart, sour flavor.

“Wow, that's some of the best fruit I've ever had!” she commented. Hau smiled. He then handed her a green one like what he had spit out. She tried it... and also spat it out. Too bitter for her, it seemed.

“Oh, so it seems you're Lax,” Lillie said.

...yeah, that was an accurate descriptor, Reimu thought.

They decided to gather some more berries from the pile before heading back down the hill towards Iki Town, eager to knock their Grand Trial out of the way and head to the next island.



Peering out of the bushes observing them was a sphere-like energy creature, who let out a quick cackle before flying off into the distance.

 

Chapter Text

The three made haste to Iki Town, where Hala was at home meditating between commercial breaks, before going back to watch his classic movies. All of a sudden, there was a banging on the front door, prompting him to get up from his chair and go check and see who it was.

He opened the door, and was greeted with his enthusiastic grandson jumping up and down. “We did it, we did it!” he exclaimed. “We cleared the trial!” All three of them showed off their Z-Rings, each with a shiny Normalium-Z occupying it.

Hala slapped his hands together. “Well, I knew you all could do it!” he said smiling. “I don't suppose you want to challenge me to my Grand Trial and get on with your challenges?”

“You bet!” Hau said, jumping up and down with excitement. Reimu steadied him before proclaiming “we've had quite an adventure going around this island.”

“Oh I'm sure you have!” Hala said. “There's plenty to see and do on Melemele Island, though of course not as much as all the islands put together!”


A little while later, the crowds had gathered. When ol' Hala sounded the horn of a Grand Trial or two getting underway, that was always enough to make the people of Iki Town change whatever plans they had and gather around the center stage to watch the furious brawls that he and all the different trial-goers brought.

“So,” the big man asked, “who's first?”

Reimu stepped up. “Me.”

“Oh ho ho, I see,” he chortled. “Fiery fightin' spirit like you, I knew you'd want to step right up and challenge ol' Hala the first chance you got!”

“Well,” she remarked, “it comes with the territory.” She was right, of course: having to be ready for an incident at a moment's notice typically meant she was ready to fight, whenever, wherever.

Both of them stepped up their respective sides of the stage and bowed politely. Then, Hala announced:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I'm glad you could all come here today to witness these battles. These three trial-goers,” he swept his arms out at the two on the sidelines, then to Reimu herself, “have toured the island to prepare themselves for this very moment, a series of ferocious battles sure to please our island's guardian – ”

“Kokokokokokokoko!” A call was heard off in the distance.

“Ah,” Hala said, “it seems Tapu Koko is already happy and we haven't even started yet!”

“So,” Reimu asked clutching her Pokéball, “shall we begin?”

“Let's do it!” Hala said throwing his first Pokéball, out of which popped a Makuhita.

Reimu started out with Magnemite. “Hmm,” she thought, “Fighting-type. This might be a little dicey.” But then she had an idea. She thought, I'll just have Magnemite float out of range and hit them with Thunderbolts.

So that's what she did. She commanded Magnemite float above the arena and rain down lighting from above onto Makuhita, who couldn't do anything because all its attacks were melee attacks, and it soon went down. Hala sent out his Machop, but it suffered the same problem: melee-only, target out of range, Thunderbolts take it down quickly.

But Hala was an old battler, and hadn't yet revealed his trump card. He sent out his ace, Crabrawler, and immediately resorted to doing the Fighting Z-Move dance, which involved punching the air several times. Power immediately surrounded Crabrawler, while Magnemite continued to pelt it with lighting.

As Magnemite was readying another charge, Crabrawler started punching the air above it. This time, however, fists made of pure energy flew out of them, homing in on Magnemite and hitting it several times before a much larger energy burst was fired, hitting it square in the eye and causing it to fall out of the air.

“What the –!” Reimu exclaimed as Magnemite hit the ground and she recalled it.

“Ohoho!” Hala chortled, “that's Z-power at work right there!”

Z-Power could do that, huh? Reimu was certainly surprised. Still, she could still see a way to victory. She had one Pokémon left, and his was injured, plus that Z-move was one he could do just once.

She sent out Sasha, and had a plan. “Sasha,” she commanded, “I want you to circle that Crabrawler and pelt it with Embers while staying out of range of its punches.”

That was a lot of words in Sasha's pea-brain, but his master's will was one he would not fail to serve. He rushed towards Crabrawler, but instead of a direct engagement, he circled around the slow crab, dodging its attempts at attacking it while turning its head occasionally to hit it with flames from his bell sac. The Crabrawler tried to turn around and hit it, but strategic thinking wasn't its strong suit. There wasn't much old Hala could do as he watched it be whittled down until eventually he had to recall it.

He stood back, staring at her, while the crowd was stunned. Then, he broke the silence, “well now. I can tell your reputation as a tough battler is well-deserved! I've never had such a loss like that in a Grand Trial in years! I had to use Z-power and even then that wasn't enough!”

“I know,” Reimu said slyly. “I could tell you were holding back. Which is fine, against new battlers. But even if I'm new at training Pokémon, heated battles are no strange territory to me, and you gravely underestimated that.”

“I may have, I may have,” Hala replied. After healing up his Pokémon, he asked who the next one up was.

“How about you, Lillie?” he said pointing at her.

Lillie was surprised. “Me? Well, I, uh... don't know if I should go next!”

“Oh come on,” Hala laughed. “You're not too scared to challenge ol' Hala, are ya?”

Reimu butted in, “I think what she's trying to say is that she shouldn't go before Hau unless you're interested in this place being turned into a disaster area before he gets to go.”

“Disaster area?” Hala asked. “Does that mean there's a massive amount of steel underneath all that silk?”

“No,” Reimu responded, “it means her Brionne – ”

“C'mon up here an show the crowd what you've got!” Hala told Lillie as he motioned her up. Still nervous, she stepped onto the stage, bowed with him, then sent out Adele.

“Alright Adele,” she said smiling. “Do your best!” Adele smiled back at her, then looked forward in anticipation.

Reimu whispered to Hau, “I think we'd better duck and cover.”

“Good idea,” Hau said as they hid in the bushes.


It was over in seconds.

The center stage was in splinters as a water-filled crater occupied the ground where it had been before. Ash was rising up in the air and soaking wet and dust-covered spectators were busy drying themselves off and cleaning up. Somehow, Lillie and Hala were just fine, and so was Adele. The same could not be said for Crabrawler, who was now lodged in the roof of an office building in Hau'oli City, and Hala didn't even bother sending out any of his others. Even Nebby and Gastly were shocked.

Hala stood there, in shock, looking at the beast that Lillie had used against his now errant Crabrawler.

“What.” That was all he could muster.

Lille was panicking slightly. “I'm sorry, Mr. Hala! I, er, Adele didn't – ”

Professor Kukui cut her off, “that's the most vigorous attack I've ever seen!” He walked up to them from behind a house where he had taken cover.

“I can't believe a mere Bubble Beam could do so much damage!” he remarked.

“Well,” Reimu said emerging from the bush, “that's the point I was trying to make to Hala, that he should have battled Hau first, but he didn't listen and now look what happened. The place is a mess!”

“Ah, that's alright,” Hala said, “I'll have the place rebuilt in a jiffy, and I'll also have my Crabrawler back soon as I can find it.”

“Kokokokokokokoko!” a cry could be heard off in the distance.

“Seems Tapu Koko thought the attack was intense, too!” Kukui remarked.

“Sure seems that way,” Hala said back to him.

Hala approached Hau. “Hau?”

“Yes grandpa?” he said.

“I know you want to get on with your island challenge, but it seems there's been an upset here after Brionne's attack, and I can't properly conduct your Grand Trial like this. So I want to put a rain check on it; you can come back and try it once I have this all built back up.”

Hau pouted a bit, since it meant he wouldn't have his Grand Trial under his belt while the two girls did. But then he thought, well, I can always come back, as long as summer doesn't end before then.

“Okay, gramps,” he said.

“Of course, I don't want you to be left behind in terms of Z-power,” Hala told him. He then got in front of all three and held out three Fightinium-Zs.

“For each of you,” he said, “for your valiant battling skills.”

“Thanks!” Lillie smiled, taking hers. The other two got theirs from Hala as well, thanked him, and then all three started back down to the professor's house.


“Alright, so, Marisa comes up to my shrine, right, and she's asking me if she can spend some time picking mushrooms.” Reimu was telling more stories over dinner, which was lasagna.

“Mushrooms?” Hau asked.

“Oh yeah, Marisa's a huge mushroom nerd. She picks them and extracts their magical properties so she can use them in potions. She was looking for this one that gives you the ability to turn anyone into small children, but only for 24 hours, because she wanted to play a prank on Alice. I told her I didn't have any, and she asks why.”

“Why?” Kukui asked.

“Because I ate the last one. And then I turned her into a kindergartner!”

“Oh my god, really?!” Burnet exclaimed.

“Yes!”

Everyone at the table howled with laughter when she said this. After catching his breath, Kukui asked her “and then what happened?”

“I invited Suika, Remilia, and Aunn over and we played dress-up with her! She was SO embarrassed! And then we put her to bed and fed her a bottle like a little baby, and after she went to sleep, we all got drunk and passed out.”

“Sounds like that's how most nights end in Gensokyo,” Lillie remarked. “Everyone gets drunk.”

“Pretty much,” Reimu replied. “Anyway, it gets even better. Alice comes over, with Sunshine, and asks where Marisa is because she didn't come home last night. I told her that Marisa was too hungover to go home before little miss witchy herself shows up and demands to know what the hell we did last night after she went to sleep, only to stare Sunshine right in the eyes.”

“Oh snap,” Kukui remarked. “And Sunshine is their kid, I'm assuming?”

“Yeah. The poor thing was so confused. You could cut the silence with a knife. But you won't believe what happened next.”

“What?” Burnet asked.

“I decided – drunkenly, now that I think about it – to turn myself into a small child and told her 'it's not unusual.'”

The table howled even harder with laughter this time. “Ohhhhhhhhhhh, shoot that was a good one!” Kukui exclaimed pounding the table with his fist.

“Yeah, she was a pretty confused little kid,” Reimu remarked. “Anyhow, so Marisa eventually turns back, and swears revenge on me by challenging me to danmaku, which she thought she would win hands-down because I'm a child, right?”

“Nope?” Burnet asked.

“Correct,” Reimu replied, “I handed her ass to her.”

“Ooh, that stings,” Kukui said smiling.

“That was a month ago,” Reimu said. “She still hasn't gotten back at me for it.” She then looked down. “Although now I'm kind of hoping she gets the chance and I'm not stuck here forever.”

Burnet patted her on the back. “We'll get you back somehow. Don't worry.”

“Yeah,” Reimu mumbled.

Reimu noticed Nebby wandering around, which made her realize something.

“By the way,” Reimu asked, “what is Nebby?”

Lillie spoke up, “Nebby is a very rare creature called a Cosmog. Not much is really known about it, other than that it can open Ultra Wormholes.”

Reimu's ears perked up. “Ultra Wormholes?”

“Correct,” Lillie said. “It can do things like open Ultra Wormholes and teleport under stress, but it takes a lot out of it, and could kill it if it actually tried to open a Wormhole. We think it's a baby form of something, but we're not quite sure.”

“How did you come to have it, then?” Reimu asked her.

“I stole it. From mother.”

Reimu edged in closer, eyes widened. “I see.”

“I couldn't bear to see the experiments they were trying to do on it, so I ran off with it.”

“I take it your mother was abusive?” Reimu asked her.

“Not really,” Lillie told her, “just mad and obsessed to me and Gladion's detriment.”

“Gladion?” Reimu asked.

“My brother. He ran away two years ago with another experiment. I don't know what happened to him after that.”

“Mmm-hmm,” Reimu thought. “And then what is your mother obsessed with?”

“Finding father,” Lillie told her. “I never knew him, and mother never really talked about him, or Gladion's twin sister, who both disappeared into an Ultra Wormhole before I was born. Every time she tried, she just broke down into tears. So she became obsessed with finding them, more so in recent years, and often took out her frustration on us.”

“Ouch,” Reimu said. “Yeah, I know what neglectful, abusive parents are like. That's why Yukari practically raised me.”

“Oh,” Lillie said softly. “I'm sorry.”

“It's okay,” Reimu told her. “It's just something I accepted.” It was so strange, how they, two people from different dimensions, could have things like this in common. She had been chucked through an Ultra Wormhole, Lillie had a father and sister who were, and both had abusive parents.


After dinner, they stayed up a while telling more stories to each other before eventually deciding to head to bed.

“Alright, kids, I need to go to work tomorrow, and Kukui will be very busy tomorrow as well,” Burnet called out. “Don't stay up partying all night.”

“Oh don't worry about that,” Reimu said. “We're beat.”

“After all that adventuring, I'll bet!” Kukui said.

Reimu and Lillie both got ready for bed. Brushing her teeth, Lillie decided to strike up one last conversation.

“So Reimu,” she asked, “what will you do now that you're here? I mean, here in Alola?”

“Well,” Reimu responded, “this Island Challenge is fun, I could keep doing it while I search for a way back.” She spit out her toothpaste. “By the way,” she asked, “about that Cosmog.”

“What about Nebby?” Lillie replied.

“Do you think, and this is just hypothetical, but do you think, under duress, it created the wormhole that sent me here?”

“I highly doubt it,” Lillie said back. “Nebby's never generated a wormhole and the last time it was under stress was over three months ago when I ran off with it.”

“Doesn't mean it can't do it through time and space,” Reimu said.

“That's true, I suppose,” Lillie replied.

After brushing their teeth, both of them crawled into bed in Lillie's loft.

“Goodnight, Lillie,” Reimu said shutting off the lamp.

“Goodnight,” Lillie said softly, drifting off into sleep.

 

Chapter Text

It was cold, dark, and uncaring.

Sunshine had been here before. Or had she? She wasn't quite sure. Several months after the creation of her new body, sleeping was still a strange sensation for her. What was even stranger, though, was when things happened one moment, then the next she was in bed. Alice explained to her that these were “dreams,” and that people had them whenever they slept. Sometimes they were good dreams, other times they were bad; these bad dreams were called “nightmares.”

She wasn't sure if she was in a nightmare, but it was a dream she had had many times before. She knew she was dreaming because this was a place she only ever visited in her dreams. And it always seemed to happen at random intervals, but ended more or less the same way. And she'd been having it more and more.

She looked around. The sky was completely dark, with several large, glassy towers in strange shapes rising high into the sky all around her. There were little lights coming from these buildings, but the most significant source of light was a thin tower with a disc at the top beaming with light, and she was on a path that directly approached it.

She looked inside some of the buildings. There were strange figures in them. They looked like people, but with blue skin. All of them seemed cowering – she eventually figured, after having this dream so many times, that they were cowering in fear of the thing inside the beaming tower. The doors were locked, and there were impassable roadblocks everywhere.

There was only one way to end this dream, and it was uncomfortable every time it happened. And it often shook her awake with fear or agitation.

She approached the tower, which had a door at the bottom leading into an elevator. Next to it was a sign labeling the tower “Megalo Tower.” Entering the elevator car, the door closed and went up, the glass walls giving her a view of the darkened, blue-hued cityscape that was nonetheless dwarfed by the tower, which seemed to pierce the void and go up forever.

Eventually, the elevator stopped, opening up to a metal spiral staircase. She began walking up. It was still a nervous experience, but she's done this song and dance enough now that much of the suspense factor was gone. She knew what was waiting for her at the top, so there was no reason to delay the inevitable.

The spiral staircase went up for quite a ways, before taking a turn leading straight up to a stage. The doll steeled herself briefly, before walking up to it.

As she stepped onto the stage and approached the center, a small gleam of light beamed down onto the stage. She stopped, and looked up. It had been expecting her, it seemed, the being in this dream, since it came down a bit early. She figured that it had a reason to keep bringing her into this dream realm, and it was to the point now that it was routine.

The beam grew in intensity until several rays concentrated into the center of the stage, forming a ball of light which steadily grew into a tall mass. After a few moments, a pair of gemstone eyes, one blue and one red, emerged visibly from the light. Moments after that, the being's arms and huge, clawed feet emerged from the light.

It stared down at her, and she stared back. The two looked at each other for some number of seconds.

Sometimes, these dreams just ended like this with nothing else happening. Other times, the being would grow in intensity until the sheer brightness woke her up. But this time, she was dreaming more lucidly, and had some control over what was going on.

So she spoke to it. “Why do you keep bringing me here?” she asked.

The being seemed a bit surprised by this, since its eyes went back slightly as if the head they were on – if it had a head – went back in surprise. So it decided to do something a little different. It reached out with one of its arms, and a pair of light rays struck Sunshine, almost seeming to burn straight to her core.

She looked up suddenly, and her arms went out. She wasn't fully in control now. Her blank stare wasn't focused on anything, except a brilliant flashing light just above the being. At first, it was too bright to look at without going blind. However, her eyes then shifted in shape until they were the same gemstone matrix makeup as the being. Then, not only could she look at it, she couldn't focus on anything else.

Arms out, and with the air flowing up from under her, she levitated up, and began absorbing this ball of light. It seemed... pleasurable, in ways, even, that an eight- or- nine year-old seeming doll shouldn't be experiencing. She almost got drunk off of it.

Then, it was cut off suddenly, and all was dark. The being was no longer there, and she was surrounded in darkness. She begun writhing in excruciating pain which engulfed her entire body. She clutched herself to try and nurse the pains, before the light flashed back again. Then a rush of power hit her again, and all her limbs spread out and she cried out.

“....lie........LIE..........LIE............”


“LLLLLLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!”

She shot up out of her bed screaming. If she wasn't a doll, she would be gasping for air about now. After shaking her head and getting her bearings, she realized she was back in her bedroom, the sun outside barely breaking the horizon.

Alice heard the scream and rushed into her room, still in her nightgown. “Sweetie!” she exclaimed comforting Sunshine, “are you alright?!”

It took her a few moments to respond. “Um,” she muttered quietly. It took her a few moments to come up with what to say next. “I had that dream again.”

Alice looked at her wondering, then remembered what dream she was talking about. Sunshine had described this dream to her mothers a few times, but this time it seemed particularly severe, since instead of just waking up suddenly or with a short shriek, this was a sustained scream where she called out for light.

“Oh,” Alice said to her patting her. “I see.”


“And how often have you had this dream?” Eirin asked.

Sunshine took a moment to respond. “Several times,” she said. “And I've been having it... more often.”

Eirin took down some notes. “Okay,” she said, “and you said that this one was different from the others?”

“...yes,” Sunshine said. “It took me and... showed me a ball of light and... I don't know how to describe it. Only it felt real, like it wasn't a dream, but it was.”

“Let's take a step back,” Eirin said. She brought out a paper and some coloring pencils. “Can you draw the being in this dream for me, please?”

Sunshine looked at the paper for a bit. She wasn't too sure how to draw something that was always cloaked in light. It didn't seem right for her to just draw limbs and eyes floating in midair. Still, she took a crack at it for the good doctor. She started with the gem-eyes, then drew the arms, then the clawed feet. Finally, she filled it in with yellow lines to represent the fact that it was beaming with light.

“Here,” she said giving the drawing to the doctor.

Eirin studied the drawing for a bit. “And you've never seen what it looks like beneath the light?” she asked.

“Yes,” Sunshine nodded. “That's true.”

“Okay,” Eirin remarked, “I think you've given me all you can. I would like to speak with your mothers in private, if I may.”

She led Sunshine out of the room and gestured Alice and Marisa in. Out in the waiting room, she fiddled around with some dolls and toys left out for kids. Occasionally, one of Tewi's rabbits would come by and check her out, curious of the living doll, and then leave. She didn't mind; Gensokyo's quirks were, after all, entirely normal to her.

 

“So?” Alice asked somewhat impatiently.

Eirin turned around and showed them the picture that she had drawn for her.

“I gotta tell ya,” Marisa said, “she's pretty good for something that only got a human-sized body a few months ago.”

“Well, that's the only way she could talk to us for a time,” Alice smiled.

They turned back towards the doctor, who seemed to be waiting to say something.

“So she's been having this dream more frequently, and the Butterfly Dream Pills don't seem to do anything?”

“That's correct,” Alice said. “You said if they weren't working or if the dream came back to come back right away.” Sunshine had been to Eirin's office a couple times in the past month regarding the dream. Most doctors weren't good at interpreting dreams, but Eirin was a natural at it; the only one more qualified was Doremy, who was unreachable most of the time.

“Hmm,” Eirin muttered. She sifted through some notes and documents, before producing one she had written seemingly a long time ago regarding dream intrusion.

“The only thing I can think of at this point, given what you've all told me, is that someone or something is intruding her dreams for some reason.”

Alice gripped her seat a little and her eyes widened. Marisa, meanwhile, just seemed like she wanted to get out of there and go treasure-hunting.

“Intruding?” Alice asked nervously.

“Some beings in Gensokyo are capable of entering others' dreams and manipulating them, although they can take a form which is vastly different from their real form while doing so. I suspect this is exactly what is happening with Sunshine. Unfortunately, there are only two ways to deal with this. One is to find the thing doing it and get it to stop, which is much easier said than done.”

“And the other?” Alice asked.

Eirin produced a piece of foil from a drawer and showed it to them. “This is a telekill foil. It stops any and all psychic waves attempting to pass through it. I'm going to give Sunshine a special nightcap which contains this foil, and she needs to wear it every night for two weeks. Eventually, whatever is invading her dreams should grow bored and stop doing so. If it does not, keep using it until it does. In the meantime, you should be on the lookout for beings that often do this such as tapirs and satori.”

Alice took the nightcap, hoping that it would work and that whatever was tormenting her daughter would go away. Marisa, though, seemed more interested in finding who or what was doing it so she could beat them up.

As they walked out of Eirin's office, Alice popped a thought.

“Marisa,” she asked, “do you suppose that, if something is intruding Sunshine's dreams, they could have a connection to Reimu's disappearance?”

“Beats the heck outta me,” Marisa replied. “Things going into other's dreams is something I've seen a lot. Something sucking up Reimu into an interdimentional vacuum cleaner, well... actually, I could see Yukari doing that just to mess with her.”

“I highly doubt that,” Alice said. “Yukari might be a jerk at times, and a little whacked in the head, but she would never knowingly put Reimu in harm's way.”

“Just tryin' to scratch off possibilities,” Marisa said cheekily.

“Then why don't you go searching for more leads?” Alice asked. “I had my turn yesterday, and I got a tip from some fairies that Cirno might know something.”

“Cirno?” Marisa sneered. “Please, those fairies are messin' with ya. Just because she's not as dumb as she used to be, I don't think she'd be able to tell tofu from a pile of moldy mushrooms. But, I guess I could go pump somethin' outta her. If nothing else, we're getting' paid top dollar for this, and I'm always itchin' for an incident to solve!”

She got on her broom and took off.

Alice looked on with Sunshine. “More like find an excuse to get her hands dirty.”


The school was on a break, so the two magicians would take turns watching Sunshine while the other was out on errands – or in this case, hunting for the errant shrine maiden. Alice's days with the young doll often involved practicing more with more complex kanji and sentence structures, as well as some arts and crafts and playing outside. Marisa, however, preferred to teach her how to get good at the traditional Gensokyan handshake – that is, danmaku battles, the scars of which were plainly visible all around the house grounds. Most of the time, said lessons would amount to Marisa kidnapping a random fairy and having her and Ichigo spam thousands of rounds into it until it stopped moving, rather than anything constructive. Alice thought it was sadistic, even if fairies couldn't actually be killed, while Marisa defended it by saying they deserved it, one way or another, and how else was Sunshine going to learn?

Alice led the doll home, and when they returned, she told Sunshine that she had to work on some new dolls. When asked why, she only said that she lost a fair number trying to pump Yuuka for information following rumors of a giant red insect prowling the Garden of the Sun. She put Sunshine in her room and instructed her to work some more on making her own dolls while she was off doing her own thing.

But, Sunshine didn't really feel like making dolls. She couldn't take the thing in her dreams off her mind. It seemed to haunt her, follow her, as if it wanted to show her something badly. And after that dream last night, she was still a bit shaken. She had to get it out somehow.

So she grabbed a piece of paper and decided to start drawing Megalo Tower. After seeing it so many times, the intricate details started impressing into her mind: the light, the metal supports, the glass elevator, even the plaque out front proclaiming the tower's name. She needed to get this world out somehow and communicate just what she was going through. She put in so much detail, she even started shading in where the light cast long shadows on the darkened city landscape that surrounded the tower.

Then, she heard a thump.

She looked around, and it sounded like it came from outside.

Now, she knew she'd been told by Alice to practice making dolls, and normally her own doll instincts made such instructions hard to ignore. But she was already deviating from that by drawing instead, and she wanted to know what was outside that made the thump. So she got up and went out the door, and went to the part outside the house where the thump was heard.

As she rounded the corner, she saw a large object lying on the ground. Getting closer, she could see it was a rock with what looked like a small fairy attached to it, with pink gemstones poking out of it. She flipped it over, and saw that it was, in fact, a fairy of some sort, one that had a large, pink, circular brillianteered gem on its forehead and pink gemstones arranged in a way that resemble a tiara and hair, wearing what looked like a small, white dress. She could tell it was injured, seeing a small hole on its chest where a gemstone should go.

Having had run-ins with youkai and fairies before, and given Alice wanting to keep her away from them for the most part until she was older, Sunshine knew that she might not appreciate her bringing a strange fairy into the house, but this one looked gravely injured and needed help. She decided to pick it up and bring it into her room to try and help it. It was surprisingly light for its size and composition, but nine kilograms was still a lot of weight for a child like her to lift at once, so she needed both hands as she hauled it into the house and plopped it onto her bed.

She examined the fairy, and tried to puzzle out how best to assist it. Ultimately, she realized, the best solution was to try and replace its missing gem somehow, but where to get gems? One of her moms might have some, but would they work or fit? And would they let her have one?

She was thinking this through when she heard rustling from her bed. She looked over, and saw the fairy start to move. So she went over to try to help it out.

The fairy opened its eyes, which were red with lighter red pupils, and propped itself up with its arms, looking at Sunshine.

Sunshine spoke to it. “Are you okay?” The fairy just looked on. “Can you understand me?”

It nodded.

“Then can you speak?” she asked. The fairy shook its head and murmured a weak cry.

“So you can't speak people language but you can understand me?” she then asked. It nodded.

“I see,” she said softly.

At that moment, she heard the front door slam. It was Marisa, fresh off her search for answers into Reimu's disappearance.

“I'm home!” she hollered at the top of her lungs. Several dolls raced out the back door to fetch Alice, who came in a couple minutes later.

“Did you find out anything?” Alice asked.

“Well, yeah, I suppose,” Marisa replied. “See, I – ”

Sunshine came into the room. “Mom? Mom?” she said.

“Yes dear?” Alice asked.

“I need to show you something.” She led them into her room, where the injured fairy was still lying on her bed.

The two magicians examined it. “Well, well,” Marisa said poking it. “What do we have here?”

“It fell outside the house and I went to see what it was,” Sunshine responded truthfully. “I think it's hurt,” she said, pointing at the hole in its chest.

“Well, I suppose if it's a fairy, we could just shoot it and it would respawn somewhere!” Marisa quipped.

Alice backhanded her. “Don't say things like that! Always thinking about violence to solve things, God!” She turned her attention to the fairy. “And in any case, this doesn't seem like that kind of fairy.”

“What do you mean?” Marisa asked.

“Well,” Alice said, “this isn't a Gensokyo fairy, that's for sure. It looks to me like a carbuncle of some sort. I've read about these in beast compendiums, they're native to the Andes Mountains of South America. They can resemble anything from sprites to small animals, but they all have gems on their foreheads like this one here.” She pointed at the hole on its chest. “And I suppose a gem is supposed to go here.” She thought, then came up with something. “Give me a moment.” She went back outside to her workshop.

A couple minutes later she came back with a small diamond. “Perhaps we can patch it up. I was going to use this in some magic experiments later, but I suppose we could help out this creature instead since Sunshine saved it.” She handed the diamond to Sunshine. “Can you gently hold this up to the carbuncle?”

“Um, sure,” Sunshine said. She held the diamond up to the fairy. Then, the fairy, on its own, held its hands up to the diamond and it started flashing. A few seconds later, it was assimilated onto its body, a perfectly cut, pink diamond brooch.

With that, it levitated up into the air, then spun around exclaiming in joy before turning to Sunshine.

“I think it likes you,” Marisa remarked.

All three of them smiled at the fairy, who did a happy dance around Sunshine's room. Then, it turned towards Alice, and held out its hands. A light shone briefly between them, and out of it grew a diamond like the one she had gave Sunshine.

Alice was flattered. “For me?” It nodded. She carefully took it and put it in a pocket.

The fairy then pointed at the window in Sunshine's room. “Huh?” Sunshine asked. “Do you want to go back outside?” It nodded yes. So they let it lead them outside to a forest clearing.

It motioned with its hand to have them step back, while it faced toward a stump on the far end of the clearing. It then raised its hands in the air, where several lights flashed all around it, forming into a flurry of diamonds, large and small, which it then cast at the stump at full force, eviscerating it. The magicians and the doll stood back in awe at the sight.

It wasn't quite done however. Following this, it flipped into the air, where it held up its hands again to summon a misty ball of light from the sky, and fire it down at the remains of the stump, creating a misty explosion.

After all that, it floated back down towards the trio with a confident look on its face.

“Bravo,” Marisa clapped. “Guess lil' squirt here fixed you right back up to fightin' capacity!”

At that moment, for whatever reason, Ichigo floated right up to the fairy. The fairy was curious about the figure in front of it, and decided to poke it, provoking a reaction from Ichigo. The haphazard floating doll fired off a few bullets in random directions in response, before approaching the fairy again. They seemed to stare at each other for a while, then the fairy did something interesting. It went behind Sunshine and pretended to replace Ichigo as her little fairy companion. It matched sunshine's movements, circled around her briefly, and then went up to her bosom and clung onto it like Sunshine was her mother.

Then, a voice rushed into Sunshine's head.

“COME.”

She looked around. “Who's there?”

Alice was confused. “I didn't hear anything. What's wrong?”

The fairy seemed to hear it too, and it got off of Sunshine and pointed towards the forest.

“Hmm?” Alice wondered. “Do you want to show us something?” Then, she realized. “Oh, do you want to lead us somewhere?”

The fairy nodded.

“Alright,” Alice said. She summoned some fighting dolls around her. “Marisa, you stay here with Sunshine while I go see what our little friend wants to show off so bad.”

“No problem,” Marisa responded as she took Sunshine back. However, the fairy flew over to Sunshine, stopping them while shaking its head.

“Oh?” Marisa remarked. “Whaddya want with her, then?”

The fairy grabbed Sunshine and pulled on her shirt while pointing at the trees, as if to say it wanted her to go with.

“You want her to go with?” Marisa asked it. It nodded.

Alice was a little suspicious. “I don't like this. We did save it, but I'm still not totally convinced that it has Sunshine's best interests in mi- ”

“COME.”

This time, all of them heard it. It was a loud, booming feminine voice that seemed to come from the thicket.

“What the hell was that?!” Marisa exclaimed, still looking around.

“Well,” Alice said, “obviously, someone wants us to come.” Curious, they let the fairy lead them into the forest. Both Marisa and Alice were resolute to stifle a skirmish should one come up. Even Sunshine was hyper-aware, making sure Ichigo was ready to leap into action any moment.

As they picked their way through the forest, the fairy would occasionally form gem-blades to slash through the underbrush like a machete, and shone like a beacon to light the way through the dark understory of the wood. Both magicians and the doll were still trying to be aware of their surroundings to make sure nothing was up. But, they also realized the carbuncle was sincere about leading them someplace and making sure they got there without incident, even sniping some trouble-making fae along the route to avoid skirmishes.

They walked for a short while before they saw bright lights through the trees. Emerging from them, they entered a clearing, and were absolutely awestruck by what they encountered.

Alice was wide-eyed as she examined it. “Oh. My. God,” she said softly.

It was the most beautiful meadow either of them had ever laid eyes on. Sunlight beamed through the leaves above, striking emerald-green grass crisscrossed with streams and springs. Wildflowers emerged from various spots around and throughout the meadow, while bees and butterflies scattered throughout, hopping between the flowers while the calls of birds could be heard in the canopy above.

Perhaps the most striking feature, however, was what was at the center of the meadow, taking a drink from the spring. It was a massive cervine creature, blue with a black underside, and large, spindly blue gem-encrusted antlers emerging from its head. It was unlike any other living thing that the three had seen in their lives.

They stood back, awestruck but intimidated. The fairy, however, bounded towards it enthusiastically.

Another telepathic voice came up. “Master Xerneas, I'm here! And I brought guests!”

The blue deer, apparently named “Xerneas,” looked up at them, its piercing gaze staring right into them, instilling both respect and some fear in the magicians, before looking up at the fairy.

“Diancie,” the familiar booming voice said. “I was beginning to wonder when you would arrive.”

“Well, I got separated, then fell and lost my brooch gem. But this girl here saved me, so I led her here!”

“I see,” Xerneas responded. The deer looked at Sunshine. The doll wasn't too sure what to make of the beast as it scrutinized her with its piercing gaze.

“So, your name is... Sunshine,” it remarked.

“Um... yes?” the doll said, a little nervously.

“I've been expecting you,” it said.

Alice looked up and stammered “wait, expected? What do you mean?”

“Let me introduce myself,” it said to them. “I am Xerneas, and this is my helper, Diancie. I understand your daughter here saved her.”

Alice spoke up. “Well, I helped, but she found it outside and put a replacement diamond back onto it, yes.”

“That counts just as well,” Xerneas said to her. It then turned to Sunshine. “I am grateful to you. Most likely, Diancie would have lost power and stopped moving had you not saved her, and even my power would not have been able to fully resuscitate her.”

Sunshine was curious. “What is your power?”

Xerneas took a pose that resembled an X from the front. “I represent life and birth. I have the ability to exude life and create it where there is none.”

Marisa decided to get smart at that moment. “Sounds like one of Junko's plots with the Hell fairies and clearing out the moon.”

“I do not know of a 'Junko,'” it said. “That must be a different entity. I simply represent one axis of the wheel of life, death and order.”

Sunshine was curious. “So, if you're life, then who's death? Who's order?”

Xerneas was willing to answer. “There is my counterpart, Yveltal. It flies the skies, bringing death and ruin where it goes. However, it is not evil, but a necessary force of destruction, because life without death is dangerous and unstable. And between us is the mediator, Zygarde, whose aura and all-seeing eye keeps us in check.”

“What brings you here to Gensokyo?” Sunshine asked.

“Life knows no boundaries,” it responded simply.

A few seconds of silence passed, before it stood back in the center of the meadow. Its antlers glowed, so that instead of blue they became a bright ivory with multicolored gems dotting them, resembling DNA strands. The area dimmed, as Xerneas began brimming with energy.

As it began absorbing power, magic circles began to take shape around the meadow. Arcane symbols dotted the inside edges of the power circles, and columns of light began to shoot up from the ground.

Somehow, Sunshine got the feeling that she should step into these circles. As she began to step forward, Alice tried to stop her.

“Wait, don't!” she called out, reaching out. But, Sunshine seemed entranced by the activity, and Ichigo felt no choice but to follow her master within.

As the power circles intensified and the beams of light shot up in luminosity, she stopped about halfway from the center, reached her arms out to her sides, and began to levitate up.

“What's going on?” Marisa asked. At this point the power grew so intense that both her and Alice had trouble holding their ground as the power of the circles pushed out.

Both Sunshine and Ichigo began to absorb energy emanating from the Geomancy circles, which swirled around them and engulfed them until they were no longer visible by Alice or Marisa.

“What's happening?!” Alice yelled out whilst averting her eyes from the light, which was now too bright to look at. Several dolls were being blown back by the force of the act, winds were whipping up and loose leaves scattering around in a loose tornado around the meadow.

Finally, Xerneas released all the pent-up energy at once, creating a forceful blast which knocked the puppeteer and the magician down to the ground. The energy bowed around towards Sunshine, entering her all at once before she released a burst of light, which even made the rock-hard Diancie, who had witnessed several of these events, flinch.


As the dust settled and the area returned to normal, Alice got up and raced over to Sunshine, who was now lying on the ground face-down. Ichigo was nowhere to be seen. Alice was rush with fear, wondering what had just happened to her little girl.

“Sunshine!” she exclaimed. “Are you alright?!”

At first, the girl wasn't making any noise. That's when Alice, while frisking her to see if she was alright, noticed something strange. Her doll joints, once clear as day, didn't seem to be visible; instead, they were more natural-looking joints. What's more, she seemed warm, and also seemed to be breathing, things which she didn't do before.

It didn't take her long at all to figure out what this all meant.

She looked up at Xerneas, and was about to speak before it spoke for her.

“I gave your daughter life where was none.”

Alice was awestruck. She looked down at Sunshine, who was starting to stir and groan. She flipped her over to get a clear view of her face.

“Sunshine, can you hear me?”

The doll groaned and slowly opened her eyes. She looked up, first a bit dazed, then focused on her mom.

“...”

Marisa came over to her, but Alice gestured for her to stay back a bit.\

“How ya feelin', kid?” she asked.

“...mmm.” Sunshine was still wriggling and groaning. She tried getting up, but the sensation of her new body was completely alien, so she fell a couple of times.

“Don't rush it,” Alice told her. “This is a totally new feeling for you.” She was barely managing not to cry tears of joy.

Eventually, Sunshine managed to get up, and stay up, on her own two feet. She looked at herself: no doll joints, no other signs of being a doll... for all intents and purposes, she resembled a real girl.

“Ichigo,” she muttered. “Where's Ichigo?”

A small object flew out of some leaves kicked around by the whirlwind and met Sunshine, but it didn't seem like Ichigo. Her doll companion was haphazardly made and painted, but this doll was much nicer and seemed to be dressed more like a witch or wizard. However, upon closer inspection, it appeared the robes were part of its body.

“What happened to Ichigo?” Sunshine asked Xerneas. It didn't hesitate to reply.

“I also gave your doll life where there was none,” it responded, “but it seems, not in a way it had before.”

“What do you mean?” Alice asked.

“It seems,” Xerneas remarked, “our little doll has become a new Pokémon species.”

Sunshine was confused. “Pokémon?” she asked.

Alice was confused too. “Pokémon?”

Marisa, however, paused and shuddered. “...pokémon?”

Alice looked at her. “Marisa? What is it?” It was odd to her, Marisa's behavior just now was, well, highly uncharacteristic of her overall nature.

Marisa shook her head. “It's nothing. Sunshine?”

She stared forward at a stump at the far end of the meadow. Alice was confused. Why was she staring at that stump? What was so special about it?

Then, Sunshine began to focus, and as she did, she began to glow softly. Both Alice and Marisa were taken aback. Was she about to cast a spell? Patchouli had said that as a doll she didn't have any inherent magical abilities, but maybe whatever Xerneas did that made her not a doll changed that?

Finally, after some moments, some bright, white lights shaped like gemstones came from her body, and when she unleashed her focus, each projected a white laser blast at the stump, blowing it to pieces.

At first, Alice and Marisa were stunned. What kind of attack had Sunshine just used now? Were her powers gemstone-related, just like Diancie's? But that stunned feeling soon melted into manic elation from her moms. Marisa glomped her and swung her around in the air, hugging her tightly while shouting “you did it kid! You did it! You used your own first attack!” After putting her down, Alice, wiping away tears of joy, came up to her.

“That was superb,” she said. “Now what would you like to call that attack?”

Sunshine didn't really know. The attack just... happened, like it was instinct. She didn't really know what she had just done.

“Well,” she began, “I...”

“POWER GEM.”

That voice come into her head again.

“...power gem?”

“Power Gem?” Alice asked. “That's... a nice name!” It really wasn't that original, but she was only a child, so Alice couldn't afford to be picky.

Alice looked back at Xerneas, whose gaze seemed to shoot right through her soul.

“After she gets stronger, I want her to come back and face me in a test of might. In the meantime,” it trailed off while Diancie approached her, “I want you to take Diancie with you and help her get stronger.”

Diancie floated towards Sunshine sheepishly. Sunshine didn't know what to think, but the new Ichigo and Diancie seemed to check each other out quite a bit.

She felt a new fairy companion couldn't hurt, so she went with her mothers back to the cottage, new family member in tow.

A few moments passed, before that voice accosted Xerneas.

“DOES SHE HAVE LIFE?”

Xerneas spoke in a low tone, “yes, she does. Are you sure this is a good thing to do?”

“SHE NEEDS POWER. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.”

“Mmm, alright,” Xerneas responded. The presence disappeared.

 

Chapter Text

Early in the morning, Reimu found herself unable to get back to sleep, so she decided to get up early and head downstairs to make breakfast.

As she made her way down, the smell of fresh coffee wafting through the air was enough to tell her that someone was already up. She still didn't quite know what to make of the stuff, but did find a balance of cream and sugar that worked for getting it down. She still preferred tea, however.

She came down and saw Burnet at the stove cooking something up. Upon closer inspection, it was eggs.

“Oh,” Burnet said, a little surprised, while turning around. “Morning, Reimu. I wasn't expecting you to be up so early!”

“I couldn't get back to sleep,” Reimu said, “so I got up early.”

“I see,” Burnet said to her before turning back to her cooking. “What's your plan today?”

“Me and Lillie and Hau are going to go to the next island, it sounds like.”

“Of course it is!” Burnet exclaimed. “That means Akala Island, to the east. I work at my lab there. Would you like a lift?”

“Sure, I would,” Reimu replied. It would be so much easier if she could just fly, but...

Burnet made some extra food for Reimu and they talked a little more about their plans. Reimu thought Burnet's work at the Dimensional Research lab was interesting, and definitely a stop that she needed to make. After all, any leads she could find pointing towards a way back home were worth looking into, and the only reason she was doing this Island Challenge was to both get out and do something, as well as find more opportunities to get back home.

Of course, the adventure was beginning to grow on her...


The familiar call of the Charizard outside heralded the mail call.

“Reimu,” Burnet asked, “could you go outside and get the mail?”

“Sure thing,” Reimu said back. The mail seemed a little early today, but perhaps there was no set schedule. This place, or at least this island, seemed laid-back in general.

She headed out, just as the dragon landed and the boy on it put letters in Kukui's mail box.

“Morning,” Reimu said to him.

He turned around. “Morning! How are you?”

“I'm doing fine, I suppose,” Reimu answered.

“Well, I suppose that – waaait a second,” he said, recognizing her. “Aren't you that girl that rips people to shreds in Pokémon battles with your Torracat?”

“That could be anyone,” she said.

“And you came out of the wormhole?”

Reimu conceded, “alright, fine, yes, it's me.”

“I've heard all about you!” he said out. “Your name is, uh...”

“My name is Reimu Hakurei.”

“Reimu! Yeah! My name's Elio. As you can see, I do mail routes on this island.”

“I can see that,” she said. She looked at Charizard. She was jealous that people here could tame beasts to fly them around while she couldn't fly herself, at least at the moment.

“Nice Charizard,” she remarked. “Is it yours?”

“Actually, it is,” Elio answered. “Most people use the Ride Pager Charizards, but ol' Alduin here was my starter back in Kanto seven years ago. My eleventh birthday, I went to Professor Oak to pick him out, and we were such a natural fit. We beat all the gyms, and were just about to challenge the Elite Four.”

“And then what?” Reimu asked.

“Well, and then we moved here, me, my mom, dad, sister, the whole family. Mom's from here, and dad got a job offer here, so we moved.”

“Interesting,” Reimu replied.

“Yeah, I was a little bitter about never finishing my league challenge, so I did the Island Challenge here instead, and beat it, and so did sis.”

“What does your sister do, if you deliver mail?” Reimu asked.

“She teaches archery at a day camp over on Akala,” Elio replied. “Did you know she can hit a squirrel right in the eye?”

“No I did not,” Reimu answered, “although, I know someone who's a master archer as well, probably far more so than your sister,” she said, thinking of Eirin.

“I see,” Elio said. “Well, I gotta get back to work.” He mounted his Charizard, mail bag in tow. “Nice talking to you. Hup!”

“It was nice to meet you too,” Reimu said as he took off into the light of dawn.

Professor Kukui came out at that time with his Lycanroc Suzie.

“Talkin' to the mail boy?” he asked her.

“Indeed I was,” Reimu replied.

“You know,” he said smiling, “you're really bad at lying.”

“Why else do you think I get into the fights that I do?” Reimu smirked. Both shared a brief snicker before Kukui got started on his morning exercises.

Reimu was about to go back inside when he heard grass rustling in the direction of the footpath leading to the lab. She looked, thinking it was just Kukui, but in fact it was a Tauros with someone on top of it.

The Tauros pulled up in front of the lab, and Hau dismounted it.

“Whoa, boy!” he called out. After he dismounted, he pulled out a small yellow device and pushed a button on it, causing the Tauros to dematerialize.

“Whoa! What was that?!” Reimu exclaimed.

“That? Oh, that was my Ride Pager!” Hau responded. “Gramps gave me one last night after the trial, and he said he wanted to give one to you and Lillie too!” He handed a Ride Pager to Reimu.

“Uh, thanks!” Reimu said, still unsure about the whole deal.

“No prob!” Hau smiled.

They both went inside to have breakfast, which Burnet had cooked up by now.

“Hi Hau!” she smiled. “I wasn't expecting you to be up this early!”

“Sleep can wait!” he said. “All I want is adventure!”

“That's the spirit!” she said to him. “Would you like some eggs?”
“Sure!” Hau smiled.

By then , Lillie had gotten up and showered, and all five were sitting around the table talking about what their plans were for the day.

“Hey professor,” Hau asked Burnet, “can I ask you something?”

“Sure, Hau, what is it?”

“I was wondering if I could surf to Akala instead of taking the boat there. I really wanna go Mantine Surfing!”

“Really?” Burnet's eyebrows raised. “Mantine surfing is a bit dangerous, are you sure you can do it? I can still take you all on my boat and get you there that way.”

“But I wanna do it!” Hau exclaimed. “Right Reimu? Wanna come with me Mantine Surfing?”

Reimu wasn't sure what that was. “What is 'Mantine Surfing?”

“Only the coolest sport in the islands!” Hau said to her. “You get to ride on the back of a Mantine from one island to another! It's fast and fun!”

“Fast and fun, huh?” Reimu said. “Well, I guess it's worth a shot. I do like myself a good thrill every now and then.”

“Awesome!” Hau said jumping up and down. “Wanna come with us, Lillie?”

Lillie sat up. “Huh? Er, uhm, I think I'll go with Burnet on the boat.”

“Aw,” Hau said deflated. But, in his mind, at least Reimu was going with him! That meant one of his friends and rivals would race him to Akala!

“C'mon Reimu, last one there's a rotten egg!” he said out running through the door.

“Oh? Right now?” Reimu said surprised. “Well not if I can help it!” she bolted out the door, used the Ride Pager, hopped on a Tauros, and sped up the trail in pursuit.

Both professors looked on at this scene with content.

“Y'know,” Kukui said to his wife, “it's a shame she's trying to get back home. She seems to like it so much here.”

“Yeah,” Burnet sighed. “I wish I had that kind of wit and charisma. Maybe if she does find a way home, she can always come up with a way to return every once in a while.”

“Perhaps,” Kukui said.

Burnet got her things together. “Well, I've got to head to work.” She kissed Kukui on the lips. “See you tonight.”

“See you tonight, babe.”

Burnet walked out the door. “C'mon Lillie, we're going!” she called out as Lillie threw her things together to meet her out the door.



Reimu couldn't believe how fast Tauros actually was. What was a several-hours trip on foot seemed to take no time flat on the back of a Tauros.

“I can't believe you actually beat me even though I had a head-start!” Hau smiled.

“Well, I did find a shortcut,” Reimu smirked. “Not getting pulled over also helped.”

“C'mon, that wasn't fair!” Hau said to her. “You were going the same speed I was!”

“Yeah, but unlike you, my Tauros didn't leave a patty in the middle of the stoplight.”

Hau looked down, “well, it can't be helped.”

Both stood over the cliff heading down to Big Wave Beach, the main surf spot on Melemele Island.

“Here it is!” Hau waved his arms across. “Big Wave Beach!”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Reimu said. “Let's head down!”

They both walked down the trail, passing a couple surfers along the way as they did so. Reimu was interested in this whole surfing thing ever since she saw them paddling offshore near Kukui's house, and now she was able to try it out for herself.

When they actually got there, however, they encountered a ruckus. And when Reimu looked around, she could see the cause: the two Team Skull grunts from the other day dancing in front of a large manta which Reimu assumed to be Mantine.

She walked over to them. “Spending some quality time with that Mantine?” she asked sarcastically.

One of the grunts looked around. “Whoa! It's that chick from the other day, yo!”

The other one looked around too. “Yo, dude, we better split yo!”

“Dude, don't you wanna surf to that other island to meet underboss though?”

“Can't we just take the ferry?”

“Dude, we have no money, yo!”

“So? We can just hide in the cargo and then split before they see us, yo!”

“That place stink and it's cold!”

“It's our best bet now, yo!”

“Alright, if you insist. Let's go, yo!”

Reimu blocked their way. “I don't think you're going anywhere without a fight,” she said clutching a Pokéball in her hand.

“But our Pokémon don't want to see yours again and we got no money, yo!”

“No fight, no passage,” Reimu said crossing her arms. It was clear she was getting some enjoyment out of tormenting them like this, not unlike her mentor. The grunts seemed clearly in a bind until, “alright, break it up, break it up! You two get out of here! You're not allowed here!” A bikini-clad blonde came up shooing the grunts away.

“Let's get outta here, yo!”

As they went away, the woman spoke to Reimu. “Sorry about that. They come down to this beach every so often to try to surf even though they're banned from coming here.”

“How come?” Reimu asked.

“Well, they keep trying to dance on the Mantines and wipe out every single time, so we just ban them for their own safety.”

“Wow,” Reimu said. What a bunch of idiots, she thought.

“Yeah, I know right?” She paused, then said, “well, anyway, welcome to Big Wave Beach! I take you're here to surf?”

“Yes we are!” Hau said bounding up to her smiling.

“Oh hey, Hau! I thought you'd be back here as soon as school ended!”

“Yeah, well, this time I'm on my Island Challenge and so is Reimu over here!”

“Island Challenge?” she said surprised. “Well, how about that! Hala's boy is finally on his Island Challenge!” she smiled. “I assume you're here to travel to Akala, then?”

“You bet!” he said jumping up and down.

“Splendid! Nothing like traveling between the islands on the back of a Mantine!” she said.

She looked over at Reimu. “Ma'am, have you done Mantine Surfing before?”

“No I have not,” Reimu said to her.

“Alright then,” the lady responded. “Go over there and get your wetsuit on, and we'll have you take a short swim test before we let you go on the Mantine. I'm sure this young gentleman can show you the rest,” she told Reimu.

After going over to the lockers and being given a wetsuit, Reimu slipped into it and handed her clothes over to the attendant. “Don't worry, your clothes and belongings will be waiting for you once you get to Akala Island.” Then, she went and did the swim test, which was mostly just to see if she could tread water long enough for the Mantine to rescue her and bring her ashore if she wiped out. Swimming in Gensokyo was a rare skill, but one which Reimu nonetheless could do just in case she couldn't fly out of water for some reason. She, of course, passed.

“Excellent!” the lady said. “I think you're all clear to go ride that surf!”

Reimu was please she could finally take off, but she was still a little nervous about trusting the Mantine to hold her up while she stood riding the waves.

She approached it and put out her hand, in order to try and get familiar with it. It nudged forward, and she rubbed its head, to which it responded with contentment.

“I think he likes you,” Hau said.

Next, Reimu tried standing on it. Getting her balance was a little tricky, but she soon figured it out. Hau, of course, hopped on his like a natural.

Slowly but surely, the Mantines moved out.

“Have fun!” the lady called out.

Reimu got nervous as land got further and further away before the Mantine started turning to head along the south side of the Island.

“Hau,” she asked, “I've never been out on the ocean before. Is this safe?”

“Of course it's safe!” he exclaimed. “I've done this a dozen times!”


Soon, they made their way out far enough to catch the big wave swells. There were many sea birds out today, mostly Wingull, and lots of Wailmer bobbing up and down out of the water.

“Alright,” Hau said pointing. “See that wave over there?”

Reimu caught the wave to her right. It seemed ready to engulf her.

“What you wanna do is head up it, then head straight back down to catch some speed. Follow me.”

The two leaned right on their Mantines to start climbing the wave. As they did, the bottom got increasing sideways from Reimu's perspective. She didn't think water could do this or get this high, but it was.

As they neared the crest of the wave, Hau motioned her to quickly slide back down to gather momentum. She did, and the rush from doing so was exhilarating.

“Awesome!” Hau said. “Now just keep doing that to get your momentum up!”

They did this a couple more times, and each time she did so Reimu could feel herself getting faster and faster.

After they gathered enough speed, Hau told her “now, head up the wave again, but this time, you're gonna fly right off into the air!”

“What?!” Reimu exclaimed. “I can do that?!”

“Mantine ain't part Flying for no reason!” Hau told her. So, once again, she headed up the wave, took a deep breath, and jumped up into the air.

When she got airborne, she could feel the Mantine flapping its fins like wings in order to stay airborne. At that height, she felt like she was on top of the world, and the familiar feeling of flying came rushing back in one huge tide.

It was enough to get her completely amped up.

“Wooooohoooooo!!!!!” she screamed as she gripped the Mantine with one arm and flailed the other in the air.

After coming back down, Hau told her “that was awesome! I knew you'd love it! Now, I got another thing for you.”

“What's that?” Reimu asked.

“Tricks, of course!” he said. “So, there's one – ”

“Tricks you say?” Reimu said back. “I know one I wanna do!” She gathered some more momentum before heading up the wave again. As she jumped the crest to gain altitude, she slowly spun once on her axis, being upside-down at the crest, then adjusted her position in order to come back down away from the wave at a slight angle.

In other words, she did a barrel roll.

“I know all sorts of aerial maneuvers!” Reimu exclaimed. “You think I'm a rookie at flying?!”

“Well,” Hau said, “you're new to surfing, but...”

“But nothing! Last one there's a rotten egg!” She sped off towards the island off in the distance, doing fancy aerial maneuvers the whole way, with Hau struggling to catch up.



She was taking another step closer to becoming a true Alolan.

 

Chapter Text

Today, Mokou died.

It happens every day. For the Hourai immortal, dying frequently for the past 1300 years has become little more than a fact of everyday life. In her constant duels with Kaguya, sometimes she one, sometimes the lunar princess won, but in this war, there was nothing but everlasting stalemate. Each time each one died, they simply regenerated, good as new. There was no such thing as permanent victory, and today was no exception.

“I'll be back for you tomorrow,” she said to Kaguya.

“And I'll be waiting,” the princess responded. They had been at this for so long that the name-calling and true hatred has since dissolved. Now, it seemed to both just how hopeless the situation was, so the whole routine settled down into exactly that: routine. Sure, they could stop fighting whenever they wanted, but they always had, and to Mokou it seemed inappropriate to simply stop now. She had inflicted enough pain in her mind to get revenge on her father's humiliation, but by now a certain level of sameness and respect was commanded by both sides, so they just kept doing it, with no expectation of change.

As she stepped away from the arena outside Eientei where the violent bouts occurred, wiping the blood off her face she wondered what she would do next.

She decided, as a member of the Border Patrol, to go searching for more leads.

Yukari had decided that Mokou's immortality made her perfect for investigating this incident due to her just being able to regenerate from whatever eldritch damage the thing causing the incident was capable of inflicting.

However, the only eldritch thing Mokou had been finding over the past couple of days was sheer silence as the bamboo forest which she called home failed to give up any clues. As minutes turned into hours, she honestly wished she could spend her whole day brawling with Kaguya, since that was infinitely more interesting than this dead-end womanhunt.

"This sucks," she commented. "Why can't I just be left alone to wander the forest in peace while she worries her pretty little head over such a fleeting shrine maiden? Can't she just be replaced if she got sucked into another dimension?"

It was true, at least from her perspective. Being a centuries-old immortal meant that the lifespans of normal humans were fleeting in comparison. In her mind, what was one lost shrine maiden if she was just going to die in a few years anyway? Which was why she didn't really form emotional attachments with people, because to her they might as well die tomorrow.

But, despite this, she knew it was still important to Yukari that Reimu be found, so she kept up her search for whatever clues she could find. She was about to give up for the day when, out of the blue...

"Shiningiliiiii!" A strange cry could be heard somewhere in the forest.

Mokou turned around. "Who goes there?!"

No response.

She decided to head in the direction of the strange cry. She didn't know if it could be a clue pointing to Reimu's disappearance or just some freak appearance by a large youkai or animal, but it was something to break the ice for her.

As she flew through the forest, racing towards whatever made the noise, she noticed burn marks and craters on the ground – not hers, but more unnatural-looking. She couldn't quite describe it, but the closest she could think of was that they seemed to have been created by a rocket of some fashion.

"What caused this?" she wondered. "Probably whatever made that noise."

She continued to race through the forest, eager to meet this mysterious creature head-on. In terms of battles, she often got cocky with anyone not named Kaguya, Reimu or Marisa, since because she couldn't die, she couldn't lose as long as she was able to fight.

But nothing could have prepared her for the sight that met her eyes when she emerged into a clearing.

She stopped. "What is THAT thing?" she gasped.

The thing was enormous; ten meters in height, one metric ton, and rooted into the ground like a plant. Its appearance gave of an air of Mokou's nemesis: long, greenish "hair" in a hime cut and a green-and-yellow "dress" but covered by these things was a small head with a small mouth and no visible eyes – at least, she thought no eyes, unless those dots in the "bangs" were its eyes – on top of a long, spindly neck. At either side were long structures resembling bamboo shoots.

She approached the figure and felt it; it was made of pure steel and was warm to the touch.

"What ARE you?" she asked. No response.

Mokou stood there, studying the strange, enormous object, wondering what it was. An assassin sent by Kaguya? It reminded her of her, so that was certainly possible. But it didn't seem to do anything to try and harm her.

She was just about to leave when the ground trembled. She looked around and saw the creature uproot itself, revealing exhaust ports at the end of its shoots and at the bottom of its body. The shoots floated in the air like disconnected arms, and the creature spoke again.

"Shiningli!" it exclaimed.

Mokou approached it again. "So it was you that caused the burn marks."

The creature didn't really respond. It just sat there looking straight ahead.

"Can you understand me at all?" she asked. "Raise an arm to let me know you can understand me."

The creature raised its left booster into the air, and then put it back down.

"Alright," Mokou said, "so you can understand me, yet you don't speak people language." This was awkward; Mokou was trying to figure out if this thing was one of Kaguya's assassins, but it could not speak human language even though it could understand her perfectly, meaning it could be given orders.

She decided on a little test to see what this creature's motives were.

"I've never seen anything like you in Gensokyo before," she said. "Can you somehow describe how you got here?"

The creature responded by turning towards a rock wall close to where they stood, and using its blaster arm's flaming exhaust to draw a rough picture of an ultra wormhole.

Mokou studied it. "Is this supposed to be a wormhole like the one in the sky the other day?"

The creature made a sound of acknowledgement. "Okay, so you're trying to say you came through it?"

The creature shook its head.

"You came through a different one before it?"

The creature nodded.

"So you're probably not one of Kaguya's assassins?"

The creature nodded.

"Alright, then that means you're trying to get home?"

The creature nodded once more.

"Hmm," Mokou wondered. "Well, I don't know if I can get you back home, but I can at least guide you out of the forest if you need out."

The creature shook its head again.

"No? Oh, you probably want to feed on nutrients from the ground."

The creature nodded once more.

"Well, I know a volcanic hot spot near the Youkai Mountain that's got rich soil. I could guide you there if you want."

The creature thought for a minute, then nodded again.

"Okay, it's settled. Now, to guide you out of the – "

The creature blasted off into the air straight up.

“...or we could just fly.” Mokou spread her fiery wings and took off.

 

As they flew through the air, with Mokou guiding the creature all the way, the sight was witnessed from the human village.

A couple had come out to see the sight.

“What is that?” the wife asked.

“Looks like an enormous bamboo shoot flyin' through the sky!” the husband responded.

“What's a bamboo shoot doing flying through the air?”

“I dunno, probably a youkai or somethin'.”

“I've never seen a bamboo youkai.”

“I've seen stranger things in my seventy years of livin' here.”

“And is that that Mokou girl leading it?”

“Yeah, I know, right? I thought she didn't like monsters, but here she is leading it somewhere.”

“I wonder where...”

 

After landing at the hot spring, Mokou spoke to the creature.

“Alright, here we are,” she said to it. “I'm sure you'll find good soil here, Ms... what are you, exactly?”

The creature mumbled, “....shi...lesteela...”

“Did I hear... Celesteea?” Mokou asked. The creature was silent.

“Alright, Celesteela it is. Have a good time here, Celesteela!”

The Celesteela rooted itself into the ground and entered an inactive state while Mokou went off to report her important findings to the sages.


“And this thing, you say, came out of the wormhole by its own admission?”

“That is correct,” Mokou said. “However, I do not think it actually caused the wormhole to appear, but rather fell out of it or another one at some point.”

“Hmm,” Yukari wondered, “what do you mean by 'another one?' You imply there could have been or will be others?”

“I guess,” Mokou responded. “I just wanted to help it out, so I led it to a nutrient-rich hotspot for it to rest so it didn't kill all the bamboo in the forest.”

“I see,” Yukari responded. “Do me a favor and keep an eye on it for us so it causes no harm.”

“Will do,” Mokou said, running out the door.

As she left, Yukari turned to Kasen and Okina.

“Bad news,” she said to them, “there might be others.”

“That wouldn't surprise me,” Kasen said. “I've been hearing rumors of strange creatures appearing in Gensokyo ever since the wormhole appeared in the sky.”

“I've been hearing rumors before that,” Okina commented. “If they're true, that would indicate that this incident was planned out long in advance.”

“That's a scary thought,” Kasen said.

“Indeed,” Yukari said.

“There's more,” Okina added. “These creatures are allegedly semi-sentient; they can't speak our language, but they can understand us and receive commands. It's possible they might be minions, possibly spies.”

“Or just things caught up in this mess, since going off of Mokou's description, this... Celesteela was just minding its own business when it was sucked through the wormhole and ended up here.”

“We need to gather more evidence,” Yukari said. “I'll go visit this Celesteela thing while you two stay here to receive leads from anyone else who comes in today.”

“Alright,” Okina said.

Yukari jumped into one of her gaps.

Kasen turned over to Okina.

“I never thought I'd ask this,” she said, “but do you think Gensokyo's very existence is on the line here?”

“Possibly,” Okina gulped. “It's impossible to know the motives of the figure causing this incident until they are apprehended.”

“What if it's something we can't apprehend?” Kasen asked.

“Then, we will have to destroy it.”

“What if we can't destroy it?”

Okina pondered this statement for a moment.

“Then, I do not know.”

 

Chapter Text

The waves crashed against Heahea Beach, and in the distance, two surfers came in on their Mantines, the sun shining overhead and the light glistening off the rippling waters and white sands.

To Samson Oak, it was a sight he had grown to love.

“Looks like we got ourselves some wave-catchers,” he told Big G.

“Master wave-catchers, too, it looks like!” said Big G.

Reimu was the first to wash up on the beach, with Hau not far behind. As she shook herself dry, she looked up at Oak.

“Alola!” he said with the proper Alolan greeting.

“Alola,” said Reimu with short breath before doing the greeting back. By now, she had learned that Alola was both the name of the region and the most common greeting, and had gotten better at remembering to do it.

“So I heard from Big G you've got some excellent moves!” Oak said.

“Who are you?” Reimu asked.

“Oh,” Oak said, “I'm sorry, I should've introduced myself. My name is Samson Oak. I don't look like it, but I'm a professor just like Kukui. I study Alolan forms of Pokémon.”

“Alolan forms?” Reimu asked.

“Ah, so you must be new here. Well, many Pokémon from other regions have different morphs here in Alola in order to adapt to the climate and physical features. For example, Vulpix is normally a fire-type Pokémon, but here in Alola, the Vulpix that inhabit Mt. Lanakila are Ice-type instead!”

“Plus they're soooo cute!” A familiar voice came up from behind Oak. It was Lillie.

“Hey Lillie,” Reimu said.

“How was the surf?”

“Awesome!” Reimu didn't hesitate to express her pleasure with surfing. It wasn't quite flying, but for her, it was the next best thing.

“That's the spirit!” Oak said to her.

He then pulled out a scorecard from his pocket with Reimu's name on it, and another with Hau's.

“Our Mantines actually have devices on them that track where they are and what sorts of tricks they performed, and give surfers a score based on that.” He read Hau's first. “Hau, my boy, your score is... 26,054 points!”

“Awesome!” Hau said jumping up and down. “That's a new record for me!”

“You're almost as good as Boss on this course now!” he flipped over to Reimu next. “Now, Reimu, let's take a look. Alright, you score is...”

He paused.

“What is it?” Reimu asked.

“Am I reading this correctly?” Oak asked. He checked, and then double-checked, to make sure it was right. Then, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed someone.

“Boss?” he asked. After a few moments, he spoke again, “we've got a new champ.”

“New champ?” Reimu asked.

Oak hung up the phone and told her “Reimu, somehow you did well enough to get... 62,345 points!!!”

Hau was aghast. Sure, Reimu did good, but she didn't do THAT good... did she?

“Nah, that can't be right, there must be a mistake!” he said.

“Nope, it's correct. Barrel Rolls, Starmie 720's, Primarina Twists and... how did you figure out Over the Gyarados without being told? This is simply amazing!”

“Uh, thank you?” Reimu said.

A man came down the steps onto the beach, walking towards the group.

“Is that her?” he asked.

“Yes, it's her!” Oak said to him.

The man walked up to Reimu. “Congratulations on your smashing record, cousin!”

“Thank you,” Reimu said to him, “I was just doing my best.”

“And this is only your first try?! That's amazing! You must have legendary surfing skills in the blood! I guess my records for the other courses aren't safe either!” He pulled out a pearl necklace from his pocket. “Here, my gratitude to your new record.”

Reimu took the necklace and put it on. “It's pretty. Thank you.”

“That's no ordinary necklace, that necklace is made out of some of the best Clamperl pearls out there! I was saving it for anyone that could beat my record, and that someone is you, sister!”

The casual way of speaking around here was starting to get to Reimu, but she just took it in stride. She shook his hand, then went to change back into her clothes before stepping off the beach and towards town.

 

The steps up from the beach landed near the ferry dock. As Reimu, Hau and Lillie walked up them, they were immediately met by a brown woman in short pink shorts and a tank top, and next to her was a green-haired girl with long twintails.

“Alola!” the woman said. “My name is Olivia, and I'm the kahuna of this island.”

“And my name is Mallow! I'm one of the trial captains on this island!”

“Alola,” Reimu said. “I'm Reimu. Reimu Hakurei.”

Olivia's eyes widened. “Really?! I've heard all about you! The girl who came from the wormhole and proceeded to smash every trainer in her way?!”

“How do you know that?” Reimu asked.

“Ever since it happened, it's all anyone's been talking about! It's a real pleasure to meet you!” She extended her hand, and Reimu shook it and bowed in a proper Japanese fashion.

“Welcome to Akala Island! As you can see, it's a little different here. Different people, different landscape, different trials and, of course, different Pokémon.”

“Bzzrt, which reminds me,” Reimu's Rotom-Dex popped out, “I need to update real quick. Once I'm done, you can look at the Akala Dex!” A loading screen appeared on Rotom's face, signifying the update being installed.

Reimu looked back up at Olivia. “So I'm famous?”

“Oh, you have no idea! I'm sure you might even run into people here who already know who you are, even if it is a different island,” Olivia said to her.

Reimu turned to Mallow. “So, Mallow, you say you're the trial captain here.”

“A trial captain. There's three of us here on Akala that you need to beat!”

“Three?” Reimu said surprised. “There was only one on Melemele...”

“We're probably the most into the Island Challenge of any of the four island!” Mallow said with a smile. “Besides, going around the island is my favorite way of gathering fresh ingredients!”

“Mallow comes from a family of chefs,” Olivia commented, “so cooking passion runs in the blood.”

“Alright,” Reimu said, “just a wild guess, but your trial is... Grass?”

“That's correct!” Mallow beamed. “How did you know?”

“I don't know, just a blind guess I suppose,” Reimu shrugged. She actually figured it because these trial captains seemed to have a color scheme matching their type specialty.

“The others are a Water and Fire trial,” Olivia said.

“Grass, Fire, Water... that's the same as the starter types!” Hau said.

“So, which will you do first?” Olivia asked the group.

“I think I do Grass!” Hau said jumping up and down. “I think Hedwig's Flying will give it a big advantage there!”

“Then I'll do Fire,” Lillie said. “Adele has an advantage there, although asking her to go easy will be hard, given what happened back at the Grand Trial...”

Lillie went off on her own, while Hau followed Mallow back to the jungle where her trial took place.

Reimu looked back at Olivia. “Then I suppose I'll have to do the Water trial. Hopefully Magnemite can zap 'em into submission.”

“That's the spirit!” Olivia said. “When you've done all three trials, just come to my jewelry store in Konikoni City and we can do your Grand Trial.” At that point, she walked off towards a cave.

 

Reimu still wasn't sure what to make of this new island. On the surface, it was much the same, but for some reason it seemed ever so slightly different as well. She didn't know why, it just had that “air” of difference all around.

Perhaps if Melemele had no leads towards a way back home, then this island with its dimensional research lab might.

She thought about whether she should go to the lab, or if she should continue to the Water trial. On one hand, if she went to the lab, she could possibly find out some more about the Ultra Wormholes that brought her here to see if she could discover a way to use them to get back.

On the other hand, it wasn't like Burnet could just magically make a Wormhole appear, since that apparently happened at the will of the legendary Pokémon, which by extension meant that a legendary Pokémon may well have brought her here. Which, in turn, meant that her best bet of getting home might be to find the legendary Pokémon, however tall an order that was. And the best way to travel the islands to do that was to do the island challenge.

It seemed obvious to her. She had to find the legendary Pokémon, and the best way to do that was to travel the islands. The choice was clear: press on with the Island Challenge.

So she did.

 

The first thing she did was look around Heahea City, getting a feel for the landmarks. There was the Tidesong Hotel on the far side of town close to the beach; there was a waterfront with various stores for tourists and the ferry dock, and a road leading to a place which, according to signs, was called the “Hano Grand Resort.” There were a lot of hotels in Alola, it seemed, evidence of the large amounts of sightseers and tourists who came through.

On a whim, she decided to get out the Rotom Dex and have it check social media to see just how popular she was. “Hey Rotom,” she asked, “can you show me just how popular I am?”

“I sure can!” Rotom said before opening up PikaChat, which was essentially the Pokémon world equivalent to Twitter. All over there were posts and pictures beaming about the mysterious warrior from another dimension.

“OMG I SOOOO wanna meet her! #reimu”

“What's a #ultrawormhole?”

“Despite all the rumors covfefe”

“What's a #covfefe?”

“WW2 RISK AS #Illuminati DUMPS MYSTERIOUS GIRL INTO OUR REALM!”

“I want #reimu to come to my house if you know what I mean <3”

“#creepshow above me”

“Catman482:

“omg now we're bringing Yoda into this...”

“I ship it”

“ew, get out.”

 

It was enough to make Reimu realize how quickly dumb gossip could go around.

She needed to do something about this, lest half the island instantly recognize her, that is if pictures of her existed.

So she approached the haircut place and went in, thinking that changing her hair could give her at least some deniability as to her true identity.

Entering the store, however, she realized that it might not be that simple.

“Hi there! How can I help – ” the receptionist cut herself off upon realizing her customer. “Oh. My. Gosh. If it isn't Ms. Wormhole herself! Welcome!”

“Uh, hi...” Reimu said, uneasy about her newfound fame. “I'm here to get a cut and color.”

“Alright, will do!” she said. “Let me show you to a seat and I'll go get Anna out of the back.” Reimu sat in a chair while the hairdresser came out of the back.

“What can I do for you today?” she asked Reimu.

“I want to do something different with my hair,” Reimu answered as she got her bow and hair tubes off and let her long, black hair fall down. “Something shorter, different color...”

“What kind of color?” the hairdresser asked.

Reimu didn't want something too crazy, so she said “brown.”

“Brown I can do,” Anna replied. “How about length? About the same, up to your shoulders, what?”

“How about a little above my shoulders?” Reimu said to her.

“Excellent,” Anna answered. “And you want something different. What did you want? Waves, curls, bangs...”

“How about something between curly and wavy?” Reimu felt, why not? I've never had my hair done like this before and it might be fun to try something different.

“Okay, so you want brown, wavy-curly hair up a little bit from your shoulders, is that correct?”

“Yes, ma'am,” Reimu replied.

“Alright, let's get started!”

 

Reimu and Anna shared some small talk while the latter worked on Reimu's hair.

“So are the rumors true? You come from another place entirely?” she asked.

Reimu answered “can't say I didn't.”

Anna laughed. “You do realize everyone wants to meet you, right? I wonder if a haircut is really going to be enough to stop them!”

“It's the least I could do short of, I don't know, getting piercings,” Reimu joked.

“You don't seem much like the punk type,” Anna remarked.

“I'm not even familiar with 'punk' culture at all.”

“Probably just as well.”

“I assume so.”

 

After a while, Anna finished up with the cut and color and showed Reimu the result. She didn't really seem much like Reimu anymore: short-medium brown hair with waves and curls in it. Reimu had some initial regrets, but soon learned to like it. After all, she was doing this to experiment, and she could grow it out later if she wanted her old hairstyle back.

“I think you did a good job,” Reimu remarked. She paid and tipped the hairdresser before leaving.

“Thank you for coming in!” she said.

 

After visiting the hairdresser, Reimu stopped by the Pokémon Center to stock up on items before heading towards Route 4, which she was told was a shortcut to Lana's trial grounds. Little did she know, however, that she had a follower.

Observing Reimu from behind some trash in a back alley was a Riolu. He sensed something within Reimu, and quickly darted between alleys and bushes to avoid being seen. Reimu didn't notice, because Rotom was busy talking her ear off.

“I think the new haircut suitzzz you!” it told her.

“Thanks,” Reimu responded.

“Y'know, there are plenty of unique Pokémon here on Akala. You think you could catch them all?”

Reimu wasn't sure. She only caught what she felt she needed, since she felt taking an animal out of its habitat and putting it in a box wasn't particularly nice, but she had already registered over 70 species, so she was onto something.

“I think I'll try and register what I can,” she said.

“That'zz the spirit!” Rotom replied.

 

As she approached the Tidesong Hotel, Reimu saw two people, one guy wearing a yellow tourist shirt and one girl with purple hair wearing a white tank top.

“Hey there, trainer!” the guy said.

Reimu realized he was talking to her, so she politely responded “Alola!”

“Aha, a true Alolan!” he said. “Well, come over here, I want to show you something!”

Reimu went over to them, confident in her battling abilities if they wanted to fight. As she did, they introduced themselves.

“My name is Dexio,” the guy said.

“And I'm Sina,” the girl said. “And you must be... Reimu?”

Crap, the haircut wasn't working as well as she'd hoped.

“Uh, yeah,” Reimu said.

“I could tell by the way you dressed,” Sina told her.

“And the way you talk,” Dexio said.

“Who are you?” Reimu asked.

“We're assistants to Professor Sycamore in Lumiose City back in Kalos. We're here in Alola on vacation, but also to research a unique Pokémon called Zygarde.”

“Zygarde?” Reimu said, curious.

“Zygarde is an interesting Pokémon that lives here in Alola,” Dexio commented. “Legend has it it came here from its native Kalos to aid the Tapu in fighting off Necrozma, and has rested here ever since anticipating its return. It's unique in that it can separate itself into cells and cores, and then form itself back up when trouble arises.”

Dexio then produced a strange green-and-black object from his satchel.

“This is a Zygarde Cube. It was made by Sycamore himself. With this, you can absorb cells and cores as you go along, and maybe add Zygarde to your team! It's already got some cells in it; if you can find a core you can get the cells to form around it and have it take shape!”

Reimu took the cube and said “um, thanks.”

“Don't mention it!” Dexio said.

Sina then walked up to Reimu and asked, “since you're here, would you like to battle?”

Reimu couldn't resist the urge for a high-class bout, and in no time flat Sasha was already outside of his Pokéball itching for a fight. Unfortunately for Reimu, Sina's Ice-types were no match for her two Pokémon, and the battle was over before it really got going.

After recalling her Glaceon, Sina remarked “well, I guess I know better now than to pick fights with you.”

“When you only use Ice-types,” said Reimu, “you can expect nothing less than a complete beating.”

Reimu stuffed the cube inside her bag and headed off towards Route 4, after Sina and Dexio thanked her for her time.

The Riolu had watched the fight from inside a trash can and was impressed by her battling style. It resigned to continue shadowing her, jumping out of the can and moving between some more bushes towards Route 4.

 

A new island meant new Pokémon to register in the Dex, and Reimu was keenly aware of the sorts of different species found here that weren't on Melemele. In particular, she was interested in finding an Eevee. Sina had mentioned that Glaceon evolved from one, but that Eevee could in fact evolve into many different “Eeveelutions” based on the circumstances. Oh, and it was also really cute. Unfortunately, Eevee were elusive, and Reimu wasn't having much luck finding one amid all the Pikipek and Lillipup, and nobody on the route used one, so she was left unable to register it, let alone catch it.

What she did catch sight of, however, was a sign announcing the presence of “Akala Recreational Day Camp.” She wasn't sure what a “Day Camp” was, but she decided to check it out anyway just to see if there were any trainers there worth battling.

“This should be interesting!” Rotom said to Reimu.

“You really think so?” Reimu asked. “Well, I guess we'll have to see,” she said as she went down the path.

 

As she came down the path, it opened up to a small valley where all sorts of action was going on, though mostly involving kids. She guessed that this place was a place where parents could drop off their children and have them partake in outdoor activities, meaning that there would likely be few strong trainers here. Still, she decided to look around to see if there were strong trainers to be had. And even if there weren't, she always did have a thing with children.

She looked around, and noticed an older girl teaching kids archery. This reminded her of Eirin's archery, so she went over to check it out.

 

“And so you draw the arrow back like this,” Selene said to the students, “hold it tightly while aiming while looking down the sight, and then release to shoot.”

The students, all aged 4-12, drew their bows as she showed them, and then shot at their targets on the big board. One kid got a bulls-eye.

“Excellent, Terry,” she said, getting out a piece of candy like she did for perfect shots such as his.

Reimu approached the group as they went to go get their arrows for a second round, and Selene noticed her.

“Howdy, trainer,” she said greeting her with the Alola gesture. “What brings you here?”

“Well, I noticed all the activity and so I thought I'd drop in looking for battles,” Reimu said truthfully.

“Well,” Selene said, “the battling club's over there if you want to go join them.”

“Alright, thanks,” Reimu said.

As she went off, Selene stopped her.

“Waaait a second... you're that Reimu girl, aren't you?”

Drats. That's the second time today the haircut failed.

“What makes you think that?” Reimu asked. “What if I'm an imposter?”

“I don't think so. I've heard about you and your style. It's unmistakable.”

Reimu confessed, “alright, fine, I am Reimu.”

Selene stuck out her hand. “My name's Selene. I help out here at the day camp.” She turned to the kids. “Everyone, Reimu's here if you want to meet her!”

All of a sudden, a small horde of kids was bunched up against her, wanting to know who she was, what her tales her, some wanting to see her Pokémon...

“Hey miss, can I see your Pokémon?”

“Wow, are you really from another dimension?!”

“I've heard all about you!”

“I named my dolly after you!”

“Reimu huh? Cool.”

“My mom read all about you!”

Rotom turned to Reimu. “Seems you're really popular, you clever thing!”

I don't want to be popular, Reimu thought, but it was too late. Right now, she basically had to sell out.

She sent out her Pokémon, and kids from the battling club came over to challenger her. Naturally, all of them were crushed, but they didn't care, she was a celebrity. She even gave out a few autographs for the children's sake.

After the crowd had started to scatter, Reimu turned back over to Selene.

“Phew, that was exhausting,” Reimu said. “Kids don't know what personal space is, I'm surprised I even like them as much as I do.”

“Well,” Selene said, “you get 'em going, they turn into little balls of fire, yes they do.”

“Indeed,” Reimu said, “but I've never seen kids that vigorous.”

“You've gotta remember,” Selene replied, “here in Alola it's nice all year round, so kids get outside a lot and are full of energy.”

“I suppose that's true,” Reimu said. “Back home, it gets very cold in winter, and very hot and muggy in summer, so people often spend their whole days indoors. Here, though, it's practically paradise. You're lucky to have what you have.”

Selene responded, “well, I mean, we do get a rainy season in winter, lots of thunder and lighting, but even in winter there's enough nice days to go out and enjoy some fresh air.”

“I see,” Reimu said.

Selene looked around a bit, then asked “hey, have you met my brother by any chance? Elio?”

“Elio?” Reimu said. “Oh, you mean that mail person on the other island?”

“Yeah, him,” Selene answered. “We're identical twins. Er, well, I guess not exactly 'identical,' but we came from the same egg and all that. Pretty crazy, huh?”

“Yeah,” Reimu said. “That is crazy.” Reimu was vaguely aware about human embryos from Eirin talking about it, but she was surprised it appeared to be common knowledge here. Then again, she reckoned, there were more doctors here that knew that sort of thing, and they probably taught it in schools.

Reimu started to walk off. “Well,” she said, “it was nice talking to you. I need to get on with my Island Challenge.”

“Alright,” Selene waved. “Good luck!”

“Thanks,” Reimu replied.

 

Just outside the day camp was Paniola Town, where Hau said on his phone he and Lillie wanted to meet Reimu briefly before they broke off and did their respective trials.

Approaching the town, Reimu could tell that it was a farming community, with men and women in overalls and big hats driving Tauros and Miltank through fields and large groves of pineapple trees, soybeans and assorted berries being irrigated by large, overhead machines. She was still amazed how even something as basic as farming could be so mechanized, advanced and large-scale.

As she approached town, she saw that it had a rustic appearance, with dirt roads criss-crossing throughout the old-Western style facades and beat-up trucks parked alongside, with some Mudsdales and foreign Ponytas and Rapidashes tied to racks while their owners were inside doing their business. Over the town loomed the Wela Volcano, which provided the town with its rich soils and powered the hot springs which made the town famous among beauty-seekers. All around, the town was buzzing with activity, as trainers did battle, traded, talked and otherwise interacted with the locals. It was a close-knit community.

Standing at the intersection between the general store and the Pokémon Center was Hau, who was clearly anticipating Reimu's arrival.

“Howdy there, pardner!” he said with a mock Western accent. “Y'all here for an old-fashioned Western showdown?”

“Western what?” Reimu asked.

Hau slumped, “oh, right, you probably don't know what I'm getting at.”

Reimu didn't hesitate to send out Sasha, asking Hau “are you asking for trouble, mister?”

Hau didn't hesitate to send Hedwig, at his side, out to meet the threat. “You bet I am!” he exclaimed.

Hau ordered Hedwig to shower Sasha in blade quills, but Sasha's fiery passion literally burned through them as a single Fire Fang felled the bird, a flurry of slashes cut up Crabrawler, and a bunch of Bites did in Pikachu, all while Reimu commanded the cat with masterful oversight and Sasha danced through danger, kicking challenge to the curb and adopting a rhythm that Hau just couldn't match. At the end of it all, Sasha had barely a scratch on him while Hau's Pokémon were forced to concede. The fight was so eye-catching, it caught the attention of the masses as a crowd gathered to watch the show.

As she recalled Sasha, Reimu commented “you're too reliant on brute force to get what you want. I've battled for long enough to know that confusion, strategy and finesse are what you want to use if you want to win. I've won many battles against youkai and goddesses because of that.”

Hau slumped. “Well I've never fought a youkai or a goddess so I wouldn't know.”

Reimu chuckled, “of course you wouldn't.” They healed up at the Pokémon Center before moving on to the ranch.

 

The ranch beyond Paniola Town was vast, full of trainers hoping to capture something as well as breeders raising baby Pokémon. The tall grass all throughout was thick enough to conceal varmints, but these were usually dealt with a small cadre of trained Stoutland and Torracat.

As Hau and Reimu walked on, they were met by Lillie and Mallow standing in the middle of the path.

“Alola!” Mallow said. “Good afternoon! Glad you could make it to the ranch!”

Lillie stepped forward. “Mallow and I were just here to get some Moomoo Milk from the Miltank here at the ranch.”

“Right!” Mallow exclaimed, “because Moomoo Milk is some of the best there is for making pizza! And I just so happen to be perfecting an artisan thin-crust pizza for a get-together tonight!”

Mallow led the group over to one side of the ranch where the Miltank farmers were, all while Reimu looked around some more with burning curiosity.

“I've never seen a farm this large,” Reimu said to Mallow. “Back at home, there are a lot of farmers, of course, but I've never seen an operation this big, this mechanized...”

“Well, it does produce most of Alola's food, so of course it'd be big!” Mallow said back.

They moseyed on into the fenced area where Miltank and Tauros were kept, and were shown to a spot where some Miltank were drinking out of a water trough. Mallow had the group stand a short ways back while she explained her plan.

“Now then, there are a couple steps you have to take when milking a Miltank. One of the most important is to not spook them.” She looked over her shoulder to look at the Miltanks. “They may not look it, but they're actually pretty strong and can knock a full-grown man over like that,” she snapped her fingers, “if they're spooked. So you wanna get down to their level and calmly beckon to them.”

She did exactly that, kneeling down and calling one of the Miltanks over. The Miltank looked around, then happily mooed as it skipped over to her.

Mallow held her hand out and let it sniff it. “Next, you want the Miltank to feel safe around you. I always hold my hand out like this to let it get familiar with me, then I gently pet its head.” She patted the cow's head softly, and it mooed back in content.

“Once you get it to trust you, then you put on some gloves,” she took out some plastic gloves and put them on,” bring out your bucket,” she got her bucket around, “and gently squeeze one of its udders like so.” She reached for a teat and gently squeezed it, causing milk to come out and start filling the bucket. “A typical Miltank can produce a bucket or two's worth a day, moreso if they currently have a kid they're raising.”

This all was very interesting to Reimu, who had never really worked around cattle before, but she could tell Mallow was a country girl who had been doing this for quite some time.

“You're very good at this!” she said.

“Thanks!” Mallow replied. “Now, why don't you try?”

Reimu was taken aback. Me?, she thought. She wasn't really sure she had the touch to do it, but then again, she was famous and it would look bad if she turned it down.

Carefully, Reimu stepped up and put on the gloves Mallow handed to her. She then knelt down to the Miltank, who was staring at her with some level of curiosity.

“Uh... hi?” she said awkwardly. The Miltank continued to scrutinize her as she held out her hand. Slowly but surely, it sniffed it, then stood back up once it was sure Reimu was alright.

Next, Reimu gently reached her hand out again to pet its head. Once again, it lowered its head so that she could do this. She started slowly, then petted some more once she established that it wasn't going to try and hit her or anything. And again, she earned its trust, and it mooed in contentment.

“You're doing good so far!” Mallow said.

“Thanks,” Reimu replied. Finally, she got the bucket, and with some trepidation, reached for a teat and began to squeeze it, causing milk to fall into the bucket. As she did this, she continued petting the Miltank just to keep it calm enough for her to work on the task at hand.

In just a short while, the bucket was completely full.

She got up, bucket in hand, and handed it off to Mallow.

“Wow, Reimu,” she beamed, “you're a natural at this! Most people tend to falter on their first try, but you did it perfectly!”

“It wasn't hard,” Reimu said, “just a little bit daunting.” She shuffled awkwardly around.

Hau jumped up and down. “Can I try?”

Mallow said to him “sure you ca – ”

“Everybody, there's a Tauros on the loose!” a voice cried out.

“A Tauros?” Lillie said nervously.

They looked around, only for Lillie to spot the animal galloping right towards them.

“Oh, uh, AAAHHHH!” She screamed as she took cover.

The Tauros stopped in front out of the group and cried out. Mallow stood up confidently.

“Alright guys, just calm down!” she said authoritatively. “Just keep your calm and don't do anything to get it riled up. Lillie, just calmly back away.”

Lillie backed away slowly as the Tauros turned towards Hau and cried out again.

“Uhhhh...” Hau was nervous and standing back a bit, before realizing he had a defense.

He reached for his Pokéball and did not hesitate to send out Hedwig.

“Stand your ground, Hedwig!” he commanded. The bird just stood there, sizing up Tauros and keeping it from harming its master.

However, the Tauros didn't do anything.

“Alright, alright, I got it!” a farmer came over to get the animal. “No battling inside the fence, ya' hear?”

“Sorry sir,” Hau said, “I was just trying to stay safe.”

“I know ya' are. That one's been trouble since we got 'im in a swap a couple weeks ago. Always runnin' away when we try to corral 'im.”

“He seems calm right now...” Reimu commented.

“Ya gotta be careful around those things,” the farmer told her. “One false move and – ”

The Tauros moved closer to Hau and lowered its head.

“Huh?” the farmer said turning to Hau.

“What's it doing?” Hau asked nervously.

The farmer studied the Tauros and noticed that it wasn't all that angry, judging by its tail movements. He wondered if it wanted something from Hau for some reason.

“I say,” he said out, “I think it wants some affection from you.”

“What?” Hau turned towards him.

“You're a trainer, you can handle this if things go wrong, and I'm right here to corral it if it gets outta hand.”

“Be careful, Hau,” Lillie cautioned.

Hau slowly walk forward, up to the Tauros, and carefully reached his hand out.

“Easy...” he said nervously.

He reached towards the Tauros's snout, and the Tauros lowered its head to let him rub it, which he did for a few seconds.

“There, there, I'm not going to hurt you,” Hau said calmly.

After he withdrew his hand, the Tauros looked up and cried out in contentment.

“I think he likes you,” the farmer said.

“Thanks,” Hau said back to him.

“Now try grabbing it by the horns.”

Hau drew back. “Should I really do that??”

“Go on,” the farmer told him, “if he trusts you, they love that sort of thing!”

Hau, still unsure, carefully reached out again and grasped the Tauros by the horns. In response, it moved its head around to and fro, as if trying to buck off Hau. So Hau let go, only for it to moo in content again. So he grabbed it again, and it did the same thing: bob its head up and down, and moo afterwards.

“Okay, I think I've earned its trust,” Hau said.

“That's good!” the farmer told him.

“Now what?” Hau asked.

“Well, he seems calm now,” the farmer told him. “I'll just corral 'im back where he goes, and you can be on your way.”

“Alright,” Hau said to him. He began to walk off, but the Tauros followed him. Hau turned around, and this time it mooed a little more fiercely.

“Oh? He's not done with you?” the farmer said.

“Apparently not,” Reimu smirked. “Maybe it wants to go with you?”

“With me?” Hau asked. “Like on my Island Challenge?”

“Why not?” Reimu said. “Maybe it's restless because it wants to go do bigger and better things than be holed up on a farm all day. And perhaps it sees something in you, and that's why it wants to go with you.”

“Y'know,” the farmer said, “she might be right. He always seems eager for battles, and we did get extra in that trade. So I'd say it's alright by me if you go ahead and catch it.”

Hau stammered back. “Are you sure?”

“Positive,” the farmer replied.

Hau looked back at the Tauros, who was still looking at him with anticipation. Nervously, he reached into his bag, pulled a spare Pokéball out of it, and tossed it at the bull.

 

Three shakes, and a click. Caught.

 

“It... it didn't even resist...” Hau said confused.

“Then I guess he had his heart set on having you as his trainer!” the farmer said.

“But...” Hau said, “it's not like... it just saw me and... why do you think that?”

“Well,” Reimu said, “I'm no psychic, but I do have the ability to sense the auras of living things. It's not an ability I call upon a whole lot, to be honest, but it's been buzzing ever since I got here, because the auras of Pokémon are just so intriguing. It's almost as if they actively search for strong partners and jump on what they feel is the perfect opportunity. Not just trainers, but each other as well; I've rarely seen a truly solitary Pokémon ever since I arrived. And that Tauros... well, it was doing just that. It was searching for what it felt was the perfect partner, and it saw that in you.”

That was very confusing for Hau, but he just acknowledged it anyway. “I... guess that makes sense?” Lillie wasn't quite sure what to make of it either. Mallow, on the other hand, was thoroughly impressed by Reimu's ability.

“Y'all okay?” a female voice called out.

“We're a-ok,” Mallow chirped.

A girl in overalls and a cowboy hat came over to the group. “I saw all the commotion, and I came over to check. Looks like one of you bagged one of our Tauros?”

“I let him do it,” the farmer replied. “That thing was starting to get outta hand, I think it's good if we just left him in the care of a trainer.”

“I see,” the girl said.

She looked at the group. “Oh, I'm sorry, I should probably introduce myself. My name's Allie, and I'm one of the breeders here on the ranch.”

“Nice to meet you,” Reimu said to her. “I'm... er...”

“This is Reimu,” Hau beamed, “and this is Lillie.” Lillie blushed. “And my name's Hau.”

“Reimu, huh? I've heard about you from some friends of mine!” Allie said. “Although they said you had straight black hair. Did you change it?”

“I did,” Reimu said sheepishly. “I wanted to avoid attention, but it isn't working.”

“Not much for the spotlight, huh?” Allie chuckled.

“I fell out of a wormhole,” Reimu said. “Of course I probably don't want to be in the spotlight too much!”

Allie chuckled again. “Well, I see you're all trial-goers. C'mon, I have something to show you.” She led the group, including Mallow, towards a hay truck and let them sit in the bed of it, which was still lined with bunches of hay and straw for the animals.

“This'll take you to the nursery quick as a hiccup, but hold on tight,” she said, getting into the cab and turning on the ignition.

As they crawled into the back, the rumble of the truck's engine roaring to life caused the loose bits of hay to scatter about and nearly threw Lillie off her balance. Reimu took her hand to steady her.

“Thanks,” she smiled while looking up.

“Don't mention it,” Reimu said. Just knowing Reimu was there was enough to empower Lillie, and she quickly got a hold of herself and held onto the side as the truck started moving.

 

Within a few minutes, they were on the far side of the ranch, towards Route 6 and right outside the nursery.

“This is the nursery,” Allie told them as they climbed off of the truck. “This is where we breed Pokémon in captivity and allow trainers to adopt them. Almost all starter Pokémon here in Alola were bred right here at this ranch. Sometimes, we end up with extra and give them to trial-goers, and as it just so happens we have exactly three eggs today, one for each of you.”

“Eggs?” Reimu asked.

“All Pokémon, no matter the species, hatch from eggs. Nobody's ever actually seen an egg be produced; it's as if they come out of thin air. Another thing is that the Pokémon being bred don't have to be the same kind, since they can breed as long as they're both in the same of what we call 'egg groups.' So for example, two reptilian Pokémon can breed since they're both in the Dragon group. But that's probably more than you care to know.”

Hau spoke up, “oh, so that explains that one time when a Skitty and a Wailord – ”

“We don't talk about that incident,” Allie interjected while blushing.

“What?” Reimu asked.

Lillie blushed, “it's, um, better if you didn't know the details.”

“I'll take your word for it,” Reimu said as they were led inside. She wasn't sure what a Skitty or a Wailord were, but judging by their names, it was safe for Reimu to assume she was probably better off not knowing the specifics of whatever went down. Especially if the Skitty was the mother.

 

Inside the nursery, Allie introduced the three to her sisters Susan and Lynn.

“Hi there!” Susan spoke up. “I'm the nursery lady. I give out eggs to trial-goers such as you three!”

“And I'm the Hidden Power checker!” Lynn announced.

Reimu walked up to Susan. “I heard you have Pokémon eggs for each of us?”

“Sure do!” Susan said to her. She went into the back and fetched exactly three eggs, each one inside a tubular capsule keeping them warm.

“These were laid earlier today,” Susan told them. “So it might be a little while before they hatch.” She put the incubators out onto the table. “Since you're famous, Reimu, I'll give you first pick.”

Reimu looked at the eggs. One was orange with black stripes, another was a brown with a single cream stripe and the third bright blue with snow flake designs on it.

“Does it make a difference?” She asked. “Do these have different species in them?”

“That would be correct,” Susan told her.

“Well, alright,” Reimu said back. She took the brown egg and put it into her bag.

Lillie latched onto the blue egg next. “This one's mine!” she cried out. As she took hold of it, she held onto it lovingly before placing it into her bag.

“Well, gosh,” Hau said sheepishly. “I guess that leaves this one for me.” He took the orange egg for himself.

“Please take good care of them!” Susan beamed.

Reimu walked over to Lynn next. “Now, you said something about 'Hidden Power?'”

“Oh, yes, Hidden Power!” she responded. “Well, believe it or not, each Pokémon is capable of a special power that can only be unlocked with this move.” She then proceeded to hand over a TM. “Practically any Pokémon can learn it. What makes it special is that the damage it does changes depending on which Pokémon uses it.”

“Interesting,” Reimu said, “but how do we know what type it is?”

“I have a hidden power too,” Lynn told her. “I can tell a Pokémon's Hidden Power just by looking at it.”

“Uh-huh.” Reimu wasn't sure whether to believe her or not, but decided to humor her. After all, she'd seen a number of strange things in this world already, and for all she knew three-headed dragons existed in this world too.

Still, wanting to humor her, she presented Sasha in front of Lynn and had her examine him. After a good long while, she responded, “if Sasha was to learn Hidden Power, it's type would be Electric.”

“Interesting fact to know,” Reimu said to her. Hau was next, eager to see what Hedwig would get. In this case, Ground.

“Somewhat ironic for a Flying-type, don't you think?” Lynn remarked.

“Yeah, and you know what?” Hau replied, “it's good against Sasha's Fire, whose Electric is good against Adele's Water!”

“It's as if the type chart of your starters goes backwards with their Hidden Powers!” Lynn said. Finally, they were able to convince Lillie to present Adele to her and have her judged. The results, however, were not what anyone was expecting.

“Hmm, now this is intriguing,” Lynn said. “If I'm not mistaken, Adele's Hidden Power would be... Dark.”

“What's so special about Dark?” Reimu asked. “From what I've gathered, Dark-type Pokémon and moves are all over the place.”

“That's true,” Lynn explained, “but Dark is one of the rarest Hidden Powers there is. Generally, only the strongest Pokémon possess it. No one really knows why, but some think it's because having so much potential causes certain Pokémon to become arrogant about their power, and this warps their Hidden Power. I've worked with competition breeders for over ten years and nearly half of all the Pokémon specially bred for combat prowess that pass through my hands have it. Keep in mind, these competition Pokémon make up almost all known cases of Dark-type Hidden Powers and they're almost never seen in the wild. It's especially unusual for a starter Pokémon, which are supposed to be bred to be easy to raise and train, to have it, and yet that seems to be the case with Adele.”

Lillie blushed. “Well,” she said, “she's quite the fighter when she wants to be...”

“I would suggest keeping her under a close eye,” Lynn told Lillie. “Dark Hidden Power Pokémon can be quite unruly under novice trainers.” Lillie took her advice, and the three took their eggs outside, where Mallow was waiting for them.

“Well,” she said to them, “look what we got here: eggs!”

“The nursery lady gave them to us,” Lillie replied.

“Well, I'm sure you'll take good care of them! Now c'mon, I want you show you all something!”

Without hesitation, they went north along the route to the Pokémon Center just east of Brooklet Hill. It was getting late, so they decided to stay the night there. They all told stories around the campfire, although it was mostly just more of Reimu recounting her adventures to Mallow and the others, who decided she probably had more interesting yarns to weave than any of them.

 

“So we opened up this burlap sack with an occult ball inside of it, and Mokou was all like 'okay, it's worth it,' before we all began beating the snot out of each other.”

Hau emptied the last can of ginger ale before saying “wow, seems like you people will find any excuse to get into a fight.”

“Well,” Reimu said, “let's just say we call them 'Gensokyan Handshakes.” Everyone burst out laughing, with ginger ale coming out of Hau's nose. “Anyway, that's when Sumireko shows up and explains how she used them to punch a hole in the barrier and get into Gensokyo.”

“And?” Mallow egged her on.

“Yukari told me she gapped her into someplace called Guantanamo Bay for a few minutes, which was enough to get her to help us get rid of the occult balls and return her to the outside. But then she discovered she could come back to Gensokyo in her dreams, and ever since then she's been bugging me for beer. Speaking of which, I tried to buy some earlier, but I learned you have to be 21 to buy alcohol here, what's up with that?”

“Eh, probably just as well,” Hau said in an aside.

This storytelling went on long into the night. Eventually, they all just kind of passed out rather than really going to bed, the flame flickering out on its own after a while. Overhead, the stars and constellations sparkled in the clear sky above, telling their own stories of Alolan lore and history.

 

And a small, blue Riolu who watched them tell stories was curled up in the grass just beyond the campground, sleeping.

 

 

Chapter Text

The red rays of the sun filtered through the cloud cover, illuminating the backside of the Wela Volcano and giving it a black silhouette with a stark, crimson outline. All around, wild Pokémon roused from their slumber, the white sounds of bugs and frogs chirping giving way to bird cheeps and grunts and growls. The sun's rays touched the morning dew accumulated on the grass, causing it to evaporate and bring with it the aromatic scent of plants and soil into the brisk morning air.

Reimu was still sound asleep in her sleeping bag, dreaming dreams of home and normalcy. Then, a pleasant aroma entered her nose. This was enough to rouse the still half-asleep girl out from under the covers, out of the tent, and hazily out into the open until...

“Good morning, sleepyhead!” Mallow shouted.

“WAAH!” Reimu exclaimed as she was shaken awake. She looked around. Yep, still in Alola. Then she looked in front of her to see Mallow cooking some pancakes on a flat-iron skillet.

“I see you were woken up by the scent of my whole-grain flapjacks!” Mallow said cheerfully.

“I, uh, guess so,” Reimu stammered.

It took a few minutes for the flapjacks to fully cook, at which point Mallow served Reimu up a couple and gave her some Payapa syrup to drizzle over them.

“This is awfully sweet syrup,” Reimu commented as she munched down on the pancakes.

“It's my own recipe,” Mallow told her. “Payapa berries can make themselves appetizing to whoever sees them, and that even carries on to their mush. Some say they have psychic powers that let them do this. Then I mix it with pure cane sugar, natural tree sap, a special mix of herbs and spices, and just enough salt to counter the payapa's natural tartness.”

“Sounds like an awful lot of work for syrup,” Reimu said with her mouth full. “Still a good job, though.”

By that time Hau and Lillie roused from their sleeping bags and joined the morning feast. Reimu quickly found out that pancakes were Hau's second favorite food behind malasadas, and even his Pikachu was having a field day chowing down. Pretty soon, there was no pancake batter left, and Hau and Pikachu had syrup and bread crumbs all over their face!

“Mmm-mmm! That was good!” Hau said cheekily. Lillie, of course, was less than impressed, having only gotten one pancake the whole time. “Hau, don't you know you're going to get fat if you eat too many sweets?” she pouted. Reimu just couldn't believe how a small boy could pack away 1200 calories without breaking a sweat, or how his Pikachu even liked pancakes. Fortunately for Hau, Mallow was just happy that he appreciated her cooking enough to make her run out of food.

 

The four made their way out of the Pokémon Center campground, talking the whole way about their trials, before Mallow made a proposal.

“I need to head back to by trial site,” Mallow said, “I'm expecting today to be busy. Would you all like to come with?”

Hau jumped forward. “I would love to!” he smiled. “I can't wait to pass my next trial!”

Mallow looked at Lillie next. “How about you, Lillie?”

Lillie blushed. “Oh, uh, I was actually thinking about doing the Fire trial over there,” she said pointing at the volcano. “Only because I think Adele will do well there...”

Reimu was up next. She looked behind her and saw a sign pointing towards a trial. “I suppose I'll do the one over there,” she said.

“Really?” Mallow said in surprise. “That's Lana's trial. Are you sure you want to take Sasha in there?”

“I've got Magnemite,” Reimu told her. “I think I'll be okay. And I have to do it anyway, right?”

“Well, you do have a good point,” Mallow commented. She walked off with Hau. “Good luck! I look forward to you doing my trial, too!”

As the two walked off, Reimu had a brief word with Lillie.

“Are you sure you're going to be okay on your own?” Reimu asked her. “If those Team Skull people really are after Nebby?”

“I'll be fine,” Lillie said steadfastly. “I have Adele, Gastly and Bagon at my side, I could fight them off if I want to!”

Reimu thought about it, then came up with something. She reached into her bag and got out the Zygarde cube. “I suppose if this thing really can summon a powerful Pokémon, then you'll need all the help you can get.” She gave it to Lillie, who grasped it with both hands.

She looked up at Reimu. “Um... thanks?” she said confused. “I appreciate the help, but, you still only have two Pokémon. Are you sure you'll be okay with only two and an egg?”

“If I see a strong Pokémon, I'll add it to my team,” she said. “I have complete faith in my partners to do the fighting I expect of them. And you should, too.”

Lillie smiled softly. “Thanks.” She looked away for a second, then looked back at Reimu. The girl was very brave, very headstrong. Everything Lillie wanted to be to prove she was not a child.

Lillie walked off into the distance, toward the volcano, leaving Reimu on her own, with the water trial being the only way forward.

She started down the path to Brooklet Hill without hesitation.

 


 

The hill was dotted with several cascading pools of sparkling water, fed by rainwater and springs within the rocky, moss-covered basalt rock faces.

As she made her way down towards the shore, she came to a bridge. On the other side was a short girl with blue hair and blue, bell-bottom pants. Reimu crossed the bridge, and met with the girl.

“Good morning,” Reimu said to her.

“Welcome,” the girl said. “I'm Lana, and I'm the trial captain here on Brooklett Hill. I presume you're here for your island challenge?”

“Why else would I be?” Reimu said, flashing her trial emblem.

Lana chuckled. “Well, then, I suppose you could help me with a mystery.”

“Hmm? Mystery?” Reimu asked, puzzled.

“Look over there,” Lana said pointing down towards the larger pools down towards the shore. “It seems the Wishiwashi are a bit restless today. Perhaps you could see what is stressing them out?”

“I don't know what that means, but I suppose I could help you out,” Reimu replied.

Lana smiled. “Splendid. Come with me.”

Reimu did as she was asked and followed the girl down the hill to one of the pools. This pool was large and impeded Reimu's progress down the hill.

Lana pointed to a dark spot in the middle of the pool. “You see that?”

Reimu had to squint a bit in order to see what Lana was pointing out, but eventually she did see it. “Yeah, I kinda do.”

“That is a group of Wishiwashi. They've been like that since dawn. Normally, they spread out throughout the pool, but they've been bunching up much more than normal. I was wondering if you could go see what's up.”

“They could just be bunching up away from those fishermen over there,” Reimu said pointing at some of the fishermen on the shore of the pool.

“Mmm, I don't think that's what it is,” Lana said to her shaking her head. “I feel like there's something in the water.”

“What do you want me to do, strip down and dive in after them?” Reimu said jokingly.

Lana blushed. “Er, no, that's not it!”

“I was kidding,” Reimu smiled.

Lana reached her hand out. “Do you mind if I see your Ride Pager for just a moment?”

Reimu wasn't sure what this girl wanted to do with it, but she did as asked. Lana messed around with the pager for a few moments before handing it back over.

“I just updated your pager to call Lapras whenever you need to.”

“Lapras?” Reimu asked.

“Yes, Lapras,” Lana responded. “You can use it to cross large bodies of water, and you can even fish from its back!” She looked at Reimu again for a second, before saying “but it doesn't look like you have a fishing rod.” She went over to some rocks and pulled out a spare, then gave it to Reimu.

“Um, thanks?” Reimu said confused. Lana held back a small chuckle.

“I'm assuming you know how to fish, right?” she asked Reimu.

“Of course,” Reimu said. “I fish all the time at home. It's how I get a lot of my food, actually.”

“Then I guess there's not much I need to tell you,” she said. “I do want to say, however, that if you find a bubbling spot by some rocks, you're more likely to hook something good if you fish there.”

“I'll keep that in mind,” Reimu said back, before summoning the Lapras to start investigating the Wishiwashi. She was immediately taken aback at its size, four meters tall at the head. It looked down at her with a reassuring look on its face, before lowering its shell so she could climb up onto the saddle strapped to it.

“Whoa, boy!” Reimu said as the shell shook slightly. Eventually, she was able to get herself fully situated, and using the reigns was able to get the Lapras to head off toward the school of Wishiwashi near the center of the pool. As she did, she noticed the previously calm, sunny weather had shifted to overcast. She could also feel the air start to get heavier as the humidity rose.

As she drifted closer toward the middle of the pool where the Wishiwashi were congregating, she could see them rushing down towards the waterfall on the far side of the pool. I must be scaring them, she thought, which made sense given she was riding on the back of a rather large plesiosaur combined with the fact that the Wishiwashi were apparently spooked.

She decided to have Rotom look up an entry on Wishiwashi, just to see what she was getting herself into with these fish Pokémon.

 

Wishiwashi, the Small Fry Pokémon. These small fish Pokémon are among the weakest there are, so they tend to stick together in schools. They use their gleaming eyes to attract others of their kind, and if this happens, one would be well-advised to vacate the area immediately.

Notice: According to the Alola Board of Public Health and Safety, Wishiwashi-related incidents account for over a dozen incidents per year on average. Residents and visitors are advised to give large groups of Wishiwashi a wide berth when surfing, to avoid boating in areas where congregations are occurring, and to avoid threatening or startling this species where possible.

 

Reimu wasn't sure how to process what was on the screen. How can they be “among the weakest Pokémon there are” and be a public hazard at the same time? It didn't seem to make sense how this species became much more dangerous all of a sudden in large groups, but then, there were a lot of things in this world that seemed to flout her (admittedly skewed) sense of logic and the way things should be. She decided to keep the notice in mind, and keep Magnemite in hand just in case – after all, large groups or no, it was still weak to electricity.

 

She reached a far shore, got off of the Lapras, and made her way down the hill towards a lower pool that she thought the Wishiwashi had all swam down to. As she did, it began to drizzle a bit, almost as if on cue. The clouds began to darken, as well. Reimu knew where this was going: a storm was brewing.

As she reached the shore of the lower pool, she summoned up Lapras again, and instructed it to paddle to the center of the pool. It did as told, although as they got closer she could sense the hesitation within Lapras. Keeping Magnemite's Pokéball in a tight grip in between her fingers, Reimu steadfastly faced what was in front of her. Sweat began collecting on her brow; she wasn't sure if it was the humidity, the anticipation, the rain, or all of those at once.

As she neared the center of the pool, she heard a faint roar off in the distance. This spooked the Wishiwashi enough to scatter down another waterfall on the far side of the pool. Reimu's frustration at this development was tempered by a degree of curiosity. That roar, she thought. It sounded familiar somehow... like she knew a kind of creature that made it. It was almost like... a dragon's...

 

Once again, she disembarked the Lapras and made her way down the hill. The rain picked up, so much so that Reimu decided to change into her water gear and stay that way so that her clothes didn't get wet. Her freshly-done hair drooped from the moisture, clinging to the back of her neck like spider's silk, and the first rumbles of thunder could be heard off in the distance.

She made her way, through the grass, toward a large, wooden arch, with the Island Challenge symbols painted onto it and the words “Totem's Den” scrawled into it. Behind it was an ocean cove. Reimu wondered if the Wishiwashi had led her here on purpose, as if one of them or even the whole group was the totem. If it was, then perhaps she could get to see what made them so dangerous. Making sure Magnemite was ready, she proceeded under the arch, towards the water, and called forth Lapras to ferry her to the center.

Numerous Wishiwashi were jumping about the surface of the choppy water, and as Reimu got closer, she could feel an oppressive presence someplace nearby. Lapras did not wish to go further, terrified of what might happen. Despite this, Reimu was able to reassure it by calling out Magnemite to her side, which calmed it down somewhat, knowing that something could at least handle the threat. With that, it pulled forward towards the group.

Reimu pulled on the reins to get it to stop, in order to get a closer look at the group. She could see the school of Wishiwashi forming into what appeared to be a larger fish shape. Reimu's breathing heavied with anticipation, wondering what the fish could be doing. Is this what made it so threatening?

 

Then, there was an enormous wave.

The force of the wave pushed Lapras back and threatened to knock Reimu right off and into the water – possibly the last place she wanted to be right now. Gathering her strength, she held on for dear life, burning rope impressions into her palms in doing so. Magnemite was also knocked about, but steadied itself long enough to get behind its master and help prop her up.

 

Once she recovered, she did a quick scouting of the place, but one object right in front of her froze her gaze, as she simply sat there, jaw agape, at the sight just before her.

A rain of Wishiwashi cleared to reveal what seemed to be a massive, red, draconic serpent, staring right back at her. The beast's heavy breaths rumbled the waves and left thin clouds of steam, and it grumbled in a low, deep tone, its bloodshot, piercing gaze staring right into the shrine maiden's soul.

The two sized each other up for what seemed like an eternity, before a trembling Lapras attempted to flee. Before Reimu could steady her steed, the beast roared a deafening roar into the air, and at that moment, a massive cell of thunder and lightning lit up the sky, striking rock formations and trees and causing them to fall into the cove, creating huge waves in the process.

 

What an entry, Reimu thought to herself.

 

Without hesitation, she called on Magnemite. “Go! Thundershock!” she commanded, and Magnemite did just that. However, the beast dove underwater in order to avoid the attack.

Reimu decided to head back to the shore, where she had a plan. Perhaps if she could electrify the water, she could root it out where she could then attack it mercilessly.

“Bzzrt!” Rotom came out all of a sudden. “Looks like we're in a heap o' trouble now!”

Reimu grumbled as she looked aside to Rotm, “if you're gonna bug me in a moment like this, at least do something useful, like tell me what what it is I'm facing.”

“At your servizzzzzzzzze!” Rotom chirped. It took no time pulling up a Dex entry for the monster.

 

Gyarados, the Atrocious Pokémon. It has a perpetually short temper, and will destroy anything that so much as looks at it funny. It is considered a major hazard to shipping for this reason. Yarns tell of a Gyarados that raged for one month before it calmed down, leaving an entire coastal town in ruins.”

 

“Therezz more!” Rotom said. “That is a rare Shiny Gyarados! You can tell by it's red color-”

Suddenly, Rotom was knocked aside by Gyarados as it surfaced and flipped its tail into it, blocking Reimu's way back to shore. Gyarados roared in the shrine maiden's face once again, making its desire for battle and blood all the more known.

However, the battle-hardened shrine maiden, who had faced down vampires, goddesses, nuclear hell ravens and the entire Lunar army, wasn't about to be intimidated by this animal. Hiding her fear under a thick layer of bravado and determination, she stared right back at Gyarados. The two locked eyes for a long time, each scrutinizing the other and trying to find a weakness. Then, with one deft motion, she reached into her bag, found another one of her counter-spells that would work in this world, and with the flick of a wrist, threw it into the air, causing it to explode into hundreds of brightly-colored laser bullets going in each direction. It didn't really do any damage, and the beast gave exactly zero regards to spell card rules; nevertheless, it provided a distraction just long enough for her to make her escape.

“Go! Hup!” Reimu grunted, kicking the side of the Lapras with her foot to get it going. Just as she did, however, a large, crashing wave hit the Lapras, knocking it over and causing Reimu to fall off.

“Oh no! AH!” Reimu yelped as she fell into the water. As she splashed down into the water, the the Ride Pager's failsafe kicked in, instantly recalling the Lapras back to base, leaving Reimu alone with her Pokémon and the Gyarados. By this point, Rotom had managed to recover, while Magnemite was still busy attempting to dodge the Gyrados's attacks. It seemed the beast had gotten the better of the shrine maiden and claimed the day for itself.

 

...until bubbles emanated from the water, near where Reimu had fallen in. Just a moment later, SPLASH, as Reimu emerged from the water, standing and surfing on the back of a passing Mantine.

As she hung ten in the air just above the Gyarados, she looked down with a crazy grin plastered all over her soaking-wet face.

“...you're gonna have to try a little harder than THAT,” she taunted. “Magnemite, blast it!”

Magnemite did as its master instructed, and readied a bolt of electricity to strike the Gyarados, but once again, it was interrupted, this time by a massive bolt of lighting striking it square on the screw on the top of its head. It just seemed like it couldn't catch a break today.

However, rather than injure it, Magnemite absorbed the lightning that struck it, maintaining an aura of pure, unadulterated crackling blue-and-white voltage which prevented the Gyarados from touching it. The electrical field was so powerful, it even made Reimu's wet hairs start to stand on end and warped the water just beneath it. A maelstrom of lighting swirled around it, and it floated there with the most adorably angry expression it could provide with only one eye.

It was then that Reimu caught sight of two objects in the air, approaching the battlefield fast. As they got closer, she realized that they were other Magnemites. It could call for backup, she wondered? Then, as the two neared Magnemite, they orbited around it for a few seconds before affixing themselves to it, bonding with a quick flash of electricity before unloading the lighting ball at Gyarados. It stood no chance against that much energy all at once; the blast created a brilliant, technicolor explosion that shot a column of lighting back up into the air, blasting Reimu and Mantine back onto shore and sending thousands of Wishiwashi (plus one seriously confused Psyduck) into the air. Wishiwashi rained down for almost a minute before the dust settled.

 

The Psyduck was completely unharmed.

 


 

As Reimu got back up and saw Mantine kick itself up from the sand and fly back towards the relative safety of the open sea beyond the cove, her eyes turned towards Magnemite – or rather, Magneton, as it had just become. Before she could even speak, Rotom swooped by and happily provided a Dex entry:

 

Magneton, the Magnet Pokémon. It emits strange radio signals which can short out electrical equipment. During storms, they gather in high places to absorb any lightning that strikes. Despite forming from the union of three Magnemite, they do not become three times more intelligent.

 

Reimu nonchalantly called back Magneton into its Pokéball after that. Moments later, Lana came running down the hill in a panic.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no!!” she exclaimed with a look of terror and embarrassment on her face. “This wasn't supposed to happen!”

Reimu caught the girl in her hands to steady her, then asked “calm down there, girl. What's going on?”

Lana stepped back, put her hands behind her back, and kicked the sand around with her foot. “Well, uh, that Totem battle didn't go as I wanted it to.”

Reimu was confused. “But I knocked the Totem all the way into next week, didn't I? Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?”

“Er,” Lana said, “you didn't quite... didn't quite. See, those Wishiwashi were supposed to school around the leader, who was actually the Totem Pokémon, and get into their far more powerful School form, and that's what you were supposed to fight. But, I guess I didn't train it hard enough, because that wild Gyarados just ate it right up.” She was clearly upset. “Now I'm going to have to find and raise another Totem Pokémon. Mom's gonna – actually no, I'd rather Mom than Tapu Lele, who actually gave the Wishiwashi power in the first place.”

She was silent for a few more seconds. “You see, the truth is, I only became a Trial Captain a few days ago. I inherited the position from Mom. The Totem Wishiwashi and its puzzle were all my idea, and I spent months training it before I got the job. You are only my first challenger. And, well, maybe my last, for a while.”

Lana started to weep softly, before Reimu came over to her and comforted her. “Hey there,” she said patting her, “don't feel so bad for yourself. Everyone makes mistakes on their first try. I used to be in your position, only the reason I became the Hakurei Shrine maiden was because I witnessed my mother die before my own eyes.” She stopped for a few seconds to shake off that painful memory. “I shouldn't have moved up for another four years, but there were no other replacements. I made so many mistakes at first; in fact, I nearly destroyed the shrine once when I was still new. So, I know what's it's like, having that much burden on you.”

 

Lana looked up at Reimu with a face full of morbid surprise. “...oh,” was all that she said. “How old were you at the time?”

“Hmm,” Reimu thought, “I want to say... six?”

“Wow,” Lana replied. “I can't imagine what that must have been like. Makes losing Wishiwashi seem like nothing in comparison. Totem Pokémon are hard to replace, but they can still be replaced. You can't replace mom, especially when you see her die.” Lana decided to end it there, sensing Reimu tensing up over the conversation.

“The point that I'm trying to make,” Reimu told her, “is you should loosen up. If something doesn't work the first time, try again, and if it still doesn't work, then maybe take it apart, figure out where it's going wrong, try something else, and then try again.”

Lana smiled softly. “Thanks.”

Then, there was a small thud on the ground. Both girls turned around to see what it was, and to Lana's disbelief, it was the Totem Wishiwashi, distinguished by its slightly larger size and orange Totem aura.

“Oh my gosh!” she exclaimed. She rushed over to the fish to make sure it was okay. Fortunately, while it was a little shaken, it seemed no worse for wear.

Reimu walked over to examine it. “Ah, so it did survive,” she said inquisitively. “Guess I have to fight it now?”

Lana looked at the fish, then looked up. “Actually, I don't think so.” She looked back down at Wishiwashi, who was looking up at Reimu. “It seems its glad that you saved its life, even if you couldn't save its companions. It probably needs to rest a while.”

“Yeah, that's probably for the best,” Reimu commented.

It was then that Lana reached into her bag and pulled out a Waterium-Z, the prize for this trial, and presented it to Reimu. “I know you didn't do the challenge 'properly,' but they say that the Island Challenge is about more than just battles; it also tests your problem-solving, your grace, your bravery and valor, and your compassion. And most importantly, it tests bonds, between you and your Pokémon, and even other people. My mom met my dad on her Island Challenge, and they were married after she got her Island Challenge crown. So, take this from me as a symbol of your skill and bravery.”

Reimu did just that, grasping the crystal from Lana's hand and placing it onto her Z-ring before flashing it like a boss.

Lana clapped. “Bravo I did something right today!” Just then, however, there was a rippling in the water just behind them. Both looked to see what it was, only for the rippling to become bubbles, then the Gyarados from before crashed out from under the water, gaping maw faced right at them.

“Gah-GHYAAA!” Lana jumped and screamed as she ran back with the Wishiwashi still in her arms. Reimu, however, stood undaunted.

“Haven't you learned your lesson?” she scolded. “No one beats a determined Hakurei Shrine Maiden!” She stood, Pokéball in hand, ready to fight.

...except, it seemed the Gyarados didn't want that. It just looked at her with what looked to be admiration behind a face stuck as angry. So she let her stance down and tried to read it.

“Lana,” Reimu said, “I think it's safe. It doesn't seem to want to fight.” She studied it some more before Lana came back to her side. “In fact, I think it wants... something more.”

“What do you mean? Can you understand it somehow?” Lana asked.

“Well, I'm no mind-reader,” Reimu told her, “but one thing I can do is read and manipulate auras. It's an ability I almost never use, since my faith powers are more important, but it seems, if I'm not mistaken, that it somehow respects me and wants me to take it with me.” She reached into her bag and got out her one Ultra Ball. “Only one way to test that,” she said, before chucking the device at Gyarados and capturing it inside. It gave almost no resistance, as there was only one twitch before the click.

Reimu picked the Pokéball up from near the water's edge, and held it up. “Well then,” she spoke, “it would seem I have a new ally.”

Lana walked forward to the shore where Reimu was. “You know,” she said, “my mom told me a story about Gyarados. So, the thing about Gyarados is how dangerous it can be, and how hard it is to catch and train as a result. Most people you see who have a Gyarados either caught it as a Magikarp or received it as an egg and raised it.”

It took a moment for Reimu to process what Lana just said before saying, in a surprised fashion, “wait, what? You're telling me that that weak orange fish in the Pokédex grows into THAT?!?”

“I know, right?” Lana snickered.

Just then, however, Reimu recalled something. “Actually, now that I think about it, it's funny that that's how it is, since where I live, they say that a carp who can scale a waterfall will become a dragon. And, well, here is a fish who if you train it, it becomes a dragon.” She looked at the Pokédex entry for Gyarados. “And yet, it's not Dragon-typed, oddly enough.”

“Well, that leads into what I was going to say,” Lana said. “Most Gyarados are blue, but the one you caught is an incredibly rare Red one, which IS part-Dragon. It's said that the Red ones are more intelligent than the blue ones, and while they can be just as fierce in battle, there's a certain amount of grace in their style that sets them apart from the blue ones as well. They say that anyone who manages to befriend one is destined to become the strongest trainer in their region. And, in the Legend of the Alolan Prince, a Red Gyarados was part of Prince Kamehameha's team as a young adult.”

Reimu was puzzled for a second. “Wait, prince who?”

“Prince Kamehameha,” Lana repeated. “The story of him is an integral part of Alolan lore. Everyone who lives here knows his story and how he helped shape the Alola of today.” She paused for a second. “But, I suppose you can learn that on your own time. Right now, I should care for Wishiwashi. You can continue your Island Challenge.”

“Thanks,” Reimu replied, before noticing Lana looking at her strangely. She looked around, before asking “what is it?”

Lana told her “I think you have a shadow.”

Reimu looked behind her, and saw a blue-and-black dog-like figure peeking at her from within the grass for a split-second before it disappeared back into it.

“Hmm, odd,” she commented, before starting back up the hill. Before she left, she turned around toward Lana, and waved back at her. “I'm leaving now. And remember everything I said!”

“I will!” Lana said back, before going aside to tend to Wishiwashi. And with that, Reimu continued on to the next part of her journey.

 

Meanwhile, the Psyduck just sat on the shore, contemplating its existence in light of what happened. Or, maybe it wasn't. To this day, no one quite knows what it thought about that morning.

 

 

Chapter Text

Alice's cottage smells like the things of country living and dollmaking: tea and paint, firewood and ink, dried herbs and newly-fired porcelain.

It's been a busy day at the cottage, and Alice calls her dolls back to their places on the shelves at the end of a hard, long day of working. The dolls do not mind, as their only motivation is to serve the will of their master, such as one doll in particular, made several months before. With a clap of her hands, each one takes their spot on the shelf, and this doll is no different. The lights go out, and Alice goes to bed.

The doll sits on the shelf, awaiting orders.

 


 

The doll was still getting used to not being a doll. Sunshine still wasn't sure what she was: she really wasn't human, and she wasn't sure she felt like a youkai. Instead, she felt... different. She couldn't lay a finger on it; even though she was now fully living, she didn't feel fully organic: for example, she didn't go to the bathroom like her mothers did. She did grow, a centimeter since the previous day in fact, and her hair grew as well, and she had organic-feeling skin, but no saliva or other excretions.

However, she did seem to exude more heat than normal for a little girl. So much so that Alice grew concerned and took her to the doctor again today to have her checked out.

Eirin felt around the little girl, took her temperature, made her cough a couple times, the whole nine yards, in order to try to establish what was going on with her, but other than a slightly higher than normal temperature she seemed to be perfectly healthy.

She let Sunshine go, then talked to Alice and Marisa.

“I'm not sure what's going on with her,” she said. “My guess is that whatever 'gave her life' yesterday triggered something in her that gives her a higher than normal body temperature. Some creatures do have a higher normal temperature than humans do, so I would assume this is true for her. Just watch her and bring her back in if other symptoms come up.”

Alice wasn't totally convinced that nothing was wrong with her, but if even the doctor, in all her wisdom, was stumped, then there wasn't too much she could do about it. She took Sunshine under her arm and said “okay, thank you.”

“Oh, one more thing,” Eirin stopped them before they left. “I did notice one other thing.”

“Hmm?” Alice wondered.

“Well, I tried to use a light to look down her throat, but it went out when I did. So I checked the power source and tried again, but it went out again. I then lit some candles as a test, and when she went near them, the flames went out and a stream entered her body.”

“What are ya' trying to say?” Marisa asked.

“I think she now has the ability to absorb light,” the doctor said to them.

Alice was curious. “Oh? Like Rumia?”

“Well, sort of,” Eirin said. “Rumia creates darkness, whereas Sunshine absorbs light. It's a little different. I think that, if she doesn't excrete, she could be using light as a power source. Has she been eating?”

“Yeah, but not as much when it's bright out,” Marisa said.

“She's not drinking anything, no matter how much we make her,” Alice said.

“Then she must also be converting food into energy to power herself in the absence of light, and her higher body temperature is something like a furnace,” she said. “I guess just make sure to limit the time she's in dark places if that's the case.”

Unsure what to make of this new knowledge, the two magicians took Sunshine home.

 

Diancie still wasn't sure what to make of all the dolls flying around doing chores for Alice. It seemed as if the dollmaker just had wave after wave of servants doing her bidding so she could focus on magic.

She wondered if Alice and Marisa could conjure diamonds out of the air like she did.

She also wasn't sure what to make of Ichigo, who now seemed to be just as interested in practicing magic as the two magicians. Sunshine wasn't really a magician, even if she could fire lasers, but Ichigo had spent the night mastering a technique of its own. No longer simply a mindless servant to Sunshine, it now had a will of its own and a curiosity of the world at large.

Diancie tried to make herself useful in any way she could, such as moving things around and helping Sunshine reach high places. Between the dolls as well as Sunshine's new companions, it was a very busy day around the cottage all around.

Today was cleaning day at the cottage, and given the amount of junk that Marisa had already amassed, everyone knew it was going to be a long day, especially since Alice knew Marisa would do essentially nothing to help out. It was a behavior she didn't really fight, since those arguments never went anywhere anyway.

“Alright everyone!” Alice said clapping her hands. “Today is cleaning day! Sunshine, I want you to clean your room, and when you're done with that I want you to come help out in the living room dusting things off and moving Marisa's junk into our room.”

“Okay mom,” Sunshine said in agreement.

Alice turned to the other dolls floating around waiting for orders. “Everyone else, come line up and get your tools!” The dolls all lined up and awaited their assigned duties. Meanwhile, Sunshine and her companions went back to her room to clean it up.

This didn't take long, unlike most kid's rooms. Her lingering doll instincts combined with her six total pairs of hands meant that the place was usually spic-and-span most of the time anyway, so a thorough head-to-toe cleaning including moving some junk out and dusting off the flat surfaces didn't take more than a half-hour.

She came out of her room to meet Alice, who was still directing dolls to clean the windows, cabinets, shelves, and the like.

“All done!” she beamed.

Alice turned around. “Alright, I'll go inspect your room in a second. Now, I have a new job for you.” She pointed at some stuff piled up in one corner of the fruit room. “I need that stuff out here sorted out so I can put it where it goes. I've been meaning to do it for months, but kept putting it off because of you. Then I need that pile of trash,” she looked at Marisa, who was sleeping on the couch with a duster in her hand, “out front so I can burn it.”

“Will do, mom!” Sunshine said to her. Alice smiled.

Sunshine decided to start with the pile of trash in front of her. She went and found a large basket to carry more of it out in, then filled it up while instructing Ichigo and Diancie to each grab armfuls and bring it out front.

It was about this time that Marisa decided to wake up and actually do something productive. She went over to Sunshine, who was busy carrying more trash out.

“Takin' out the trash?” Marisa asked.

“Yes I am,” Sunshine smiled. So did Marisa, until she noticed a photograph in Sunshine's load.

“Wait!” Marisa exclaimed, stopping Sunshine.

“What is it?” the little girl asked.

Marisa got the photograph out of Sunshine's basket and held it tightly. “This, uh, photo is very important to me! Please be careful takin' out the junk, I might still need some of it!” She walked away to her room.

Sunshine wondered why such a dusty old photo could be so important to a person, before getting back to the task at hand. Eventually, the trash was cleared, and she moved on to the pile of clutter in the fruit room. For the most part, it was just bags of dried beans and other non-perishables, stuff that Alice kept around for emergencies, although doll parts were also in the pile. For all her laying into Marisa for her laziness, Alice was guilty of some sloppiness too, particularly without her dolls.

Sunshine, Ichigo and Diancie all laid this out on the floor in front of the fruit room, and within a few minutes Alice came by to check their work.

“All done?” she asked. “You sure are fast.”

Alice went through the inventory and put it in its proper place – beans on the shelf, cans on the shelf, doll parts in the repository. At one point she got to an origami creation with yellow sticks poking out of the back.

She held it up in the air, unsure what it was.

“Strange,” she said. “I don't ever recall owning something like this...” She looked over at Sunshine. “You can do whatever you want with this. I'm not sure where it came from.”

 

Sunshine took the origami doll and decided to place it in her room as a trophy of sorts. As she did, however, light began beaming from her hands and into the doll. This happened throughout the day, it seemed, light beaming from her hands for no reason; it was just thought to be one of her quirks. This time, however, the doll seemed to react to the light.

After the lights beamed, slowly, the doll got up on its own, surprising Sunshine enough to drop it.

“Whoa!” she said. “I wasn't expecting you to move!”

The doll fell for a bit before stopping the fall and floating in the air. Its face didn't really have any features, just some folds that opened up to a yellow “eye” of sorts.

The doll looked up at the former doll in a way that suggested it was scrutinizing her. At this point, it seemed to Sunshine that she had a talent for attracting fairy companions such as this one.

Then, a telepathic voice shot into her head.

“I have been given light,” the voice said. “I have been given back life. For that, I thank you.”

“Who is that?!” Sunshine called out. Then, she looked down at the origami doll, and slowly put the pieces together.

“It's you?” she thought.

“It is me,” the doll said. “I have been without light to photosynthesize for a long time, so I lay idle. But now you have given me light, so I can move once again.”

“Photosynthesize?” Sunshine thought.

“I may look like an origami doll,” the doll said, “but I am in fact a plant. These arms are my leaves, this body is my stem. But I do not root myself like the plants you know. Instead...”

It went out the window towards the hedges, which some dolls were out trimming, and the origami doll, in one swoop, slashed the hedges into a perfectly trimmed shape, in the process cutting a couple of dolls in half.

“I get my energy from the things I slash with my blades.”

Diancie butted in. “He's a Kartana. I've heard master talk about them. They're a strange category of Pokémon called Ultra Beasts, and they come from another dimension.”

“Ultra Beasts?” Sunshine asked, but before they could answer she could hear voices outside.

“What the heck was that?” Alice exclaimed. She could see a few dolls taking their former comrade's remains with them, and in front of her was a perfectly trimmed hedge.

“Who did this?” she asked. Maybe that new fairy of Sunshine's?

She went into Sunshine's room to see what was up. When she entered, she could see the Kartana with Sunshine, Diance and Ichigo deep in telepathic conversation.

“Is that the origami doll?” she asked.

Sunshine responded, “yes mom, he tells me he's a 'Kartana,' and he came back to life when I gave him light to... photosynthesize?”

“Photosynthesize?” Alice asked. “You mean he's a plant?”

“Yes, and apparently, another 'Pokémon.'”

Alice wondered for a bit, then asked “how did he tell you this?”

“I don't know,” Sunshine responded, “I just kind of heard a voice and figured it was from him. And a voice from Diancie, too.”

Alice took a moment to realize the implications of this, then went and got Marisa.


“Good morning,” Patchy told the couple.

“Patchy, we have some news,” Alice said. “Sunshine's a psychic.”

“A psychic?” the librarian asked surprised. “But I thought I told you dolls didn't have any inherent magical powers.”

“She's not a doll anymore,” Alice barked, “she's... something else. A giant deer gave her life and now she's... something I don't even know what to call it.”

Patchy scrutinized the little girl then asked her, “come with me. We have some evaluation we need to do.”


The last time Miss Knowledge evaluated Sunshine's magical prowess, she had determined that she couldn't project the magical spark needed to perform worthwhile magic. But if she allegedly now had psychic powers and could shoot lasers, that meant something had since ticked in her by being 'given life' by this whatever it was.

She dug out her Triskelion of Philochorus again and asked Sunshine to step on it. This time, she wanted to evaluate what her power potential was. Perhaps not magical potential, per se, but rather what was her ability to use these powers she had.

She got out an enchanted bronze target used for testing spell cards and placed it in front of the girl. Then, she instructed “I want you to concentrate your power into an attack against that target.”

Sunshine nodded, then went deep into thought. She maintained this for several seconds.

Marisa asked “what's goin' on?”

“Give her some time to focus,” Patchy insisted. “I want to see what she's capable of.”

After some number of moments, Sunshine put her hands out as if she were grabbing a ball.

“Mmm, a classic energy attack maneuver,” Patchy noted.

Then, a ball of light energy quickly formed between Sunshine's hands. As it did, the already dim library darkened considerably; candles went out, what few windows there were darkened, light orbs used for seeing went dark or dimmed.

“She's absorbing light in the room to power the attack,” Patchy noted again.

After a few seconds, the light ball reformed into a glowing energy ball which Sunshine released towards the target. As it flew, it whipped up loose papers and incinerated them; magical artifacts came falling down and it left a light shadow where it barreled through.

Finally, it hit the bronze target with a terrific explosion, producing a blinding column of light as the target was sent rocketing back into a wall, smashing into it with full force.

As the dust settled, the light returned to normal and Sunshine was left with a confused look on her face regarding what she had just done.

“Amazing,” Patchy said. “I designed that target to withstand even the toughest, most intricate spell cards, and yet your attack possessed so much raw power it sent it hurtling back. What do you call it?”

Sunshine wondered for a moment, but then that voice came into her head again.

“PHOTON GEYSER.”

“...Photon Geyser?”

It seemed she was getting better with names, Alice thought.

“Photon Geyser... what an interesting attack,” Patchy commented. “Let me talk with your mothers while Miss Sakuya gets you a snack.”

Sunshine walked off with Sakuya while Patchy sat down with Alice and Marisa.

“So?” Alice asked. “Is she magical?”

“No.” Patchy bluntly responded. “She is something more.”

“More?” Alice replied. “How so?”

“That attack you just witnessed tops even the Master Spark in power by a country mile. I have seen that level of power only once before.”

“Toppin' my Master Spark?” Marisa commented. “What can do that?”

“Gods.”

Alice crept forward in her chair. “Gods?”

“Yes, and not just the shrine-based gods of Shintoism and Taoism, I'm talking about the monotheistic-tier ones on the level of the Christian God and the... Dragon God.”

“The Dragon God?” Alice said, “you can't be serious. Is she really that powerful?”

“I don't know,” Patchouli said, “and our only method of being able to confirm that hunch is currently missing.”

She then got out a small magical device. “Now let's measure her psychic potential, if indeed she is a psychic. This device here is used for monitoring psyonic potential. I want to see how powerful exactly her potential is.” She waved the device over Sunshine, and it spat back a number.

“Well?” Alice asked.

“Astounding. Normal levels are 100-200. The Satori has about 5000. But this is registering over 20,000. I've never seen numbers like this. It means she's extremely sensitive to telekinetic forces to the point of being able to interpret the thoughts of lower life forms.”

Marisa slouched back, her hat partially covering her face. “So, super psychic powers and a mini-nuke light attack. Not bad for a former doll.”

“Don't you get it Marisa?” Alice said to her. “We have a very power child on our hands now. She might even be way above our league.”

“Indeed she might,” Patchy added. “Or, she might just be an anomalously powerful... individual. She's certainly not human. And she doesn't have an aversion to iron or holy sources, so she's not a fairy and most likely not a youkai. In fact, if anything, she seems to radiate energy that causes fairies to be averse to her.”

“Sounds an awful lot like a god to me,” Marisa said.

“Who knows? Again, our only reliable way of confirming that is missing at the moment. The only thing I can suggest for the moment is you try and train her as best you can in using her incredible power. Once the shrine maiden returns, it may be advisable to take Sunshine to her.”


Alice wasn't sure what to think after Patchouli let them go. Her daughter might be a god, and she had three fairy companions with a great interest in her. Even Ichigo now had the ability to shoot shadowy blobs at targets, as demonstrated earlier that day.

Whatever that deer did to the two of them, it was incredible. Way above Alice's pay grade.

The family silently went home and spent the rest of the night quietly contemplating what would happen to them now.

 

At the dinner table, Marisa and Alice could barely eat, while Sunshine put away half the food on the table without skipping a beat.

“Hungry girl?” asked Alice.

“Mmmhmm,” Sunshine said with her mouth full. Normally, this amount of food would be enough to keep her up all night, but because of her new body she was more likely to go to rest instead, especially if it was dark since she seemed to become more sluggish in the dark.

Alice leaned to Marisa. “I've never seen such light-related powers in a person before.”

“Eh, beats not havin' no magic skills,” Marisa remarked.

“True,” Alice said, “except it seems to go... beyond that. As if light was her blood. I've begun to notice that she slightly glows in the dark, and that oragami doll seems to be powered by her light just as well as the sun.”

Marisa looked at Sunshine's fairy companions, who were all sleeping in the corner of the room. “She has quite the cadre, I'll give ya' that.”

“It's almost like she attracts them like the Satori attracts animals,” Alice said. “Maybe they sense something in her...”

“Who knows?” said Marisa.

Alice wondered for a bit, then remembered something.

“Oh, yes, you never did tell me if you got anything from Cirno yesterday.”

“Took getting an icicle up my rear, but I blasted her all the same. Still airheaded as always, that girl is,” Marisa smiled. “Anyway, I actually did get something from her.”

“What is it?” Alice asked.

“Well,” Marisa started, “she told me that Rumia's been acting suspiciously lately.”

“Rumia? You mean that darkness youkai?” Alice was puzzled. Rumia was supposed to be one of the weakest youkai in Gensokyo, incapable of causing much harm despite her incessant desire to eat humans, since she wasn't immune to her own darkness powers and therefore stumbled a lot.

“Yeah,” Marisa said. “Apparently, she's been going missing a lot the past few days, and when Cirno did see her she acted... off. It's not much to go off of, but it is something.”

“You know that girl is just a weak youkai, right? I seriously doubt going missing a bunch implicates her in this gargantuan incident.”

“I dunno,” Marisa responded, “ever since I first met her when I was, what, twelve? I used to think that, but for some reason I've always felt like she's hiding something. Something huge. I've heard rumors that that amulet on her chest is a power limiter of sorts, holding back a far stronger form. But, it's just rumors, so I dunno if they're true or not.”

“I'll tell you what,” Alice said taking a bite of food, “I'll go out tomorrow and try and find Rumia. Perhaps we can get what we need, or we may not. Worst case scenario, we just hit another dead-end and we have to go looking somewhere else. The perpetrator has to reveal themselves at some point, and who knows, given what just happened, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if some eldritch monster unrelated to anything in Gensokyo is behind all this.”

“That would be one hell of a fight,” Marisa smirked.

Alice sighed. Always thinking with your muscles, you thick-headed half-wit, she thought. Marisa was so belligerent, she would find any excuse to fight anything, even if she would clearly lose. If it wasn't for her, Rinnosuke and Marisa's father before Marisa left, she would be dead. Several times. Within the past day.


After a while, it got dark and Alice decided it was time for everyone to go to bed. She put out the lights, had Sunshine and the dolls clean up and brush up, then put her to bed.

As she did, Sunshine asked “what will happen to me now, mom?”

“I don't know, sweetie,” Alice said softly, kissing her. Sunshine was very warm, the product of the furnace burning within her. She went to put out the light, but Sunshine objected.

“Don't,” she said to Alice. “It hurts, the dark.”

Alice thought about this, then said, “okay.” She left the magical light glowing in Sunshine's room while Sunshine drifted off.

She went to her room, where Marisa was already in bed. Strange, Alice thought, Marisa usually stays up a while. She shook her head. Perhaps it's been a big day for her too, she thought. She decided not to question it, and after changing into her nightgown, she crawled into bed next to her.

“Good night,” she said putting out the light, and drifting off to sleep.

 

The truth was, Marisa was only feigning sleep. She waited a while until she was sure Alice was asleep, before crawling out and heading toward the bathroom.

There, she looked at herself in the mirror for a long while, contemplating herself and her reality. It was then that she put her hands to her eyes and peeled off the yellow lenses that she wore, revealing piercing emerald irises beneath them. She stared at herself longer, before heading down and heading out.

She looked around to make sure she was the only one up, before heading to her workshop in the backyard. Once there, she shuffled around the clutter, before finding the photograph from earlier among her things.

She cast a light ball so she could see it.

She looked at it while holding it with both of her hands, staring at it longingly while a single tear trickled down the right side of her face.

She muttered, “I'll never forget.” She closed her eyes and looked down for a few moments before uttering, “I will finish what I started.”

She held the photo tightly to her breast while she knelt down and sobbed long into the night.

 

Chapter Text

“What’s a Cosmog, yo"?

“I keep telling you, it looks like this.” The grunt took out a poorly-drawn picture that resembled a hot-dog more than it did Nebby and pointed at it for the other grunt.

“Looks like glitter puke to me, yo,” the other grunt said.

“Well, the boss didn't give a good description,” the first grunt said. “He just said like 'it uh looks like uh some purple-and-black puffball thing with gold sparkles all over it.' He sounded like he was smokin' when he was tellin' us all that.”

“How do you know it was boss and not that stoner Beavis?”

“I dunno, I can't remember if Beavis has a phone or not, so I just assumed it was boss or somethin'.”

“He was posting pictures of him and his girlfriend crashin' that party at that resort near Blush when the cops showed up, of course he has a phone!”

“How do you know he had a phone and he wasn't just bummin' – ”

“You two are completely useless,” Gladion butted in.

“Oh, excuuuuse me, underboss, it's not like we're supposed to be geniuses in everything!” one of the grunts barked.

“There's a difference between being a genius and having enough sense to be able to focus on the task at hand, which you two clearly do not. And in any case,” he snatched the picture from the grunt's hand, “this is so badly drawn a kindergartner would think you're bad at art. We can't gather anything useful from this.”

One grunt spoke up, “then what do you think we should do, hot-shot?”

“Get a better idea of what it is we're looking for,” he sternly said to them. “Find some way to contact Guz- er, Boss and have him spell out to you exactly what it is he wants you to find and why.”

One of the grunts thought for a second before having a brainwave. “Yeah, why are we lookin' for this thing, anyway?”

“I dunno,” the other grunt said to her. “Maybe because we'll get rich?”

“What good's money to us?” the grunt spoke up. “I don't know what else to spend it on besides tank-tops and weed!”

“Food, maybe? Perhaps?” Gladion at this moment could not believe the morons in front of him. Sure, he was attempting to lead them astray and keep them from discovering the truth of what it was they were out to find, and he had a pretty good feeling of who was pulling the strings unlike everyone else in Team Skull, but he seriously wondered how in the world this gaggle of nitwits was able to stay together like it did. They barely had enough money to survive, much less try and dominate the islands in black market activity, and many of the grunts were quite literally subsisting off of grass, dirt and even Bug-types, although they had to do that last one out of sight of Guzma, lest he violently lash out at them.

This all was taking place on the side of the road between Paniola Ranch and Royal Avenue, in front of the bus stop. A bus stop that Reimu was told she needed to go to in order to get to the next trial faster. The two grunts kept bickering with each other, unaware of the legend that had just gotten off of Tauros right behind them and was counting out enough money for the fare.

“ – and so I told HER that it was HER responsibility to go get the berries we needed in order to have that fruit roast, because we all agreed to have a fruit roast!”

“And I said that it was lame we were roasting berries instead of something good like hot-dogs, because we can't even afford THAT!”

“Hey, I wasn't the one that blew all the money on the cheap roofies that didn't do anything!”

A strange voice butted in, “well maybe if you got good at battling, you might earn enough to go buy something decent.”

The two grunts peeked over their shoulders only to be met with the sight of red-and-white death.

“Aw snap!” one of them yelled, wide eyed.

“It's her!”

“We gotta blow!”

“Right!”

And with that, the two scrambled off up the road and into the underbrush of the jungle.

 

“Hmph,” Gladion huffed, “I guess I should have expected to run into you at some point.” He crossed his arms. “I don't suppose you're on your way to Royal Avenue as well?”

“Well,” Reimu said somewhat awkwardly, “that's where they said to go...”

“As expected,” Gladion hissed, “still very naive about your situation, so caught up in your supposed abilities that you don't even try to realize the full extent of what you've gotten into. How easily someone could take advantage of you, or worse.” He hunched back up and grabbed a Pokéball out of his pocket. “Like, what would happen if someone suddenly did THIS,” he said as he swiftly sent out a Zubat.

Reimu, of course, was ready to respond in kind. “Then I would just have to meet the challenge head-on,” she said as Sasha was called out, ready to fight. “Go Bite its head off!”

Sasha did just as his master commanded and lunged straight at the Zubat. It had gotten used to swatting these things en masse when traversing through caves, and one under the guidance of a trainer was unlikely to be much stronger. But this time, something strange happened: just as he was about to attack the Zubat, he seemingly crashed into thin air, causing the “Zubat” to fly back, before being surrounded in a puff of black smoke. When the smoke cleared, it revealed a small, black-and-red fox, which crashed into the basalt face behind Gladion and fell back down to the ground. It struggled to get itself back up off of the ground before Sasha finished it off with a claw slash.

“Impressive,” Gladion commented as he called back Zorua. “You have trained your Torracat well. But have you trained the rest of your team so well? I want to see before I do anything.”

Reimu thought about this statement; he just wanted to get some cheap shots in on her other Pokémon. But then, she knew that she had trained each of her Pokémon well, and was eager to demonstrate to this punk the strength of her team. So she called back Sasha and sent out Magneton, primed and ready to fight, just as Gladion sent out what Reimu hoped was the REAL Zubat.

“Seems you’ve made a poor choice,” Reimu taunted. “Thunderbolt!”

And with that, Magneton pumped thousands of volts into the small flying-type, instantly fainting it. The attack was actually so vigorous, it left burn marks on the ground, frayed blades of grass, left residual sparks in between the magnetic rocks on the basalt face, and left Reimu and Gladion’s hair standing on end.

“Most impressive,” Gladion said lowly. “Guess I’ll have to send in the cavalry.” With that, he grabbed his last Pokéball, which Reimu saw was different from his other, standard Pokéballs; she would later learn that this was a Luxury Ball.

And what came out of that ball was a creature she had never seen before: it had a grey body, with a mammalian body (but with a fish-like tail), reptile-like scales, insectoid front legs, a bird-like ruffed collar, and a head concealed in heavy headgear with only two small eyeholes and what looked to her like an axe on top.

Rotom instantly came out to try and identify it, but couldn’t come up with anything. “Bzzrt, I have no clue what this thing is. I can continue to analyze it, if you want.”

“Do that,” Reimu said. She commanded Magnemite to send out another Thunderbolt, which struck the mysterious chimera in front of her with the same intensity as Zubat. However, unlike the squishy Zubat, this one managed to survive the blast, albeit with some burn marks covering it.

Gladion commanded it to attack Magneton, however it seemed to hesitate in doing so, hinting to Reimu that it didn’t fully trust its trainer. And even when it did lunge forward, it seemed to struggle to do so under the weight of its headgear, such that Magneton could easily avoid it. The one attack it did get in, it managed to knock Magneton back a few meters, but it hardly left a scratch.

Reimu decided at this point that even though it was physically tough, it wasn’t at all well-trained. So she felt it would be a good idea to start training her brand-new Gyarados, since she knew she needed practice wrangling it given its disposition. So she called back Magneton and sent out the red Gyarados, which was ready and willing to go down and get dirty.

Naturally, being fresh out of the wild, it didn’t have much in the way of strong attacks: Dragon Tail, Bite, Twister, Leer. She felt that Gyarados’s overwhelming presence would be more than enough to compensate for shortcomings in actual attack strength.

“Twister!” she commanded. It took Gyarados a second to process this request, but once it did, it whipped its tail around, the fin at the end creating a small tornado which picked up rock and debris as it struck the chimera. No doubt the move was meant to be used in water, she surmised, since the same attack was far more powerful when she was fighting to capture it, so it was no surprise when the creature got back up from it, albeit each time this happened it seemed to struggle more and more.

Bit by bit, attack by attack, it was worn down, and eventually it could just no longer bring itself to try and attack, so it just gave up, leaving Gladion no choice but to recall it and concede.

 

“I see I underestimated you,” Gladion grumbled.

Reimu smirked. “Well, now you see don’t you? I mean, sure I might still be relatively new at Pokémon battles, but I’ve been battling by myself for much longer. And I’ve fought things that you wouldn’t even imagine. Goddesses, demons, space aliens, you name it. I’ve yet to come into anything here that comes anywhere near those things.”

Gladion wouldn’t comment.

“But,” she wondered, “what was that last one? It was super resilient, and also really bizarre.”

Again, Gladion wouldn’t comment. Instead, he just grumbled as he looked down.

“Is there something you don’t want to tell me?” she pressed him.

Finally, Gladion spoke up. “Let’s just say I don’t like talking about how or why I got it when I did.” It was obvious to her, from this statement, that Gladion had gotten a hold of it illegally, but she wasn’t about to press for details since she felt they weren’t needed.

“Well then,” Reimu asked again, “what do you call it?”

It took Gladion a while to answer. “....Type:...Null.”

Type: Null? That was a weird name for a Pokémon, assuming it even was one. “I see,” she said nonchalantly. Of course Rotom overheard this and added this new information to the ‘Dex, but even then what it had was sparse. All it could figure out was that it appeared to be Normal-typed (which gave its unusual name some meaning); it couldn’t glean anything on its statistics other than that at least its defenses were high, at least 95 each, and it also decided its ability was Battle Armor, but other than that it had nothing. Not even if it evolved into or from anything.

The bus pulled up just then, and both Reimu and Gladion got on board. Gladion has refused to hand Reimu any prize money, thinking that that would be an embarrassment he couldn’t deal with, but he decided to at least cover her bus fare once she insisted. They took seats near the back just as the bus started rolling off towards Royal Avenue.

 

“So I’m assuming you’re some sort of leader within Team Skull?” Reimu asked.

Gladion gruffed a couple of times before responding “my job is to keep the idiots in line and make sure they don’t hurt themselves straining their excuses for brains and getting into trouble.”

Reimu giggled as she recalled back at Big Wave Beach how they would constantly wipe out trying to dance on the Mantines, only for Gladion to cut her off. “It’s not funny,” he scowled. “If you were to see half of what we go through, well, you would be very, very shocked and appalled.”

“So why do you associate with them, if that’s the case?” Reimu asked.

Gladion hoped she wouldn’t ask this question. Each time she poked him for details put him closer to spilling the whole truth to her, about how he stole Type: Null from the lab two years ago and ran off. He knew that she hung around Lillie, who likely would have told of him, so just telling Reimu his name would cause her to put the pieces together. So he came up with an answer that he hoped would satisfy Reimu without revealing too much.

“Look, I don’t know if there are gangs wherever you’re from, but Team Skull is what you might consider a band of misfits. Each of us ran away from home for one reason or another. Some of us don’t even have any living relatives left. We only have each other in this miserable existence, and we get by doing what we must.”

Reimu knew that Gladion was trying to make this world sound like a harsh place, but what he failed to realize was that she could relate. At least here, you didn’t have to worry about youkai trying to eat you after dark. And she could relate to not having parents as well, since both of hers were dead or missing. So as far as she was concerned, until she saw their living conditions for herself, she would say Gladion and the other Team Skull grunts were fortunate to have what they had. So she just kind of nodded along as he talked about how hard their lives were.

 


 

 

Before long, the bus pulled up in front of the Pokémon Center on Royal Avenue, a small but vibrant seaside town at the base of the Wela Volcano, built around its star attraction, the Battle Royal Dome. There were a few hotels and condominiums, but unlike the fancy resorts elsewhere on the island, these hotels, inns and B&Bs were more low-cost and utilitarian to accommodate the Royal battlers and the throngs of fans they brought along with them. The dome wasn’t even the biggest of its kind in the world, but it was the first, having popularized the format and being considered a must-hit on the Royal circuit.

Gladion got off the bus and took off without saying anything. Reimu got off and decided to the use the Pokémon Center which was right there to heal her team back up, restock on supplies and see if the café had any good tea.

Of course, she wasn’t the only one with that idea.

 

“Reimu!” a voice called out.

Reimu looked around, and saw Hau standing in the corner, waving and smiling.

“Well, well, what a surprise,” Reimu semi-sarcastically confided as she made her way over to him. “How did you do on your trial?”

Hau beamed, “I killed it! You wouldn’t believe how good Hedwig was at --”

“Nah, don’t give it away,” Reimu replied. “I want to find out for myself what kind of tricks Mallow’s got up her sleeves so I can blow her away even more when I crush it.”

She then went up to the café counter and took a good look at what was on offer. And there was tea, of course, although she still had a hard time understanding why in the world anyone would want their tea iced. Then again, considering Gensokyo’s hot and muggy summers, she wondered why she and nobody at home came up with the idea sooner; surely iced tea would be just the sort of thing Cirno would try to peddle. So she ordered a go cup of it, unsweetened, and made her way back to where Hau was lounging.

As she did, the nurse caught her eye and spoke up.

“Hey,” she said, “you’re Reimu, aren’t you?”

Her new style was getting less and less effective by the minute, it seemed.

“How do you figure?” she asked inquisitively.

“Because I heard you’re the only one with that particular Pokéball visor.”

Reimu wasn’t going to fight it. “Okay, you got me. I’m her.” She sauntered her way to the counter, produced her Pokéballs, and handed them off to the nurse for healing.

“I’ve heard all about you,” the nurse chirped. “Is it true? Are you really from another world?”

“Well, that’s what everyone around here seems to think,” Reimu replied snidely. “Getting tossed out a magical warp hole does that.”

“Wow, that’s amazing,” the nurse said to her. “What’s it like where you’re from?”

Reimu thought for a moment: what would be the best one-word summation for a fantasy kitchen sink where everything forgotten and no longer believed try to blow each other’s brains out on a daily basis with enough firepower to carpet-bomb the entire continental United States and where common sense was not only in short supply, but trying to operate off of it was considered a disadvantage?
“Lunatic,” she replied back.

The nurse gave Reimu her Pokémon, but just after she did, she asked Reimu if she could wait one moment while she went into the back to get something, which Reimu did. A few moments later, she came back with what looked like a large, yellow-spiked crystal.

“This is a Max Revive,” she said. “They’re very pricy, and for good reason: you can use them on a fainted Pokémon to instantly revive them back to full fighting health! It’s like a Pokémon center on the go, but it’s only good once.” She handed it to Reimu, who carefully put it in her bag. “Consider it a gift from me to you,” she said as she bowed.”

“Uh, thanks!” Reimu showed her appreciation before she went back over to Hau.

“So, Hau,” she asked as she said down, “what brings you here? Surely it wasn’t too far from Mallow’s trial to Lana’s.”

“Well,” Hau replied, “that’s what I was gonna do next, but then I got a call from Burnet, who told me that the Masked Royal was going to be at the Battle Royal Dome today! No way I’m missing that!”

Reimu took another sip. “The Masked what now?”

“The Masked Royal! He’s the Battle Royal champ! Nobody can touch him, and everyone loves him!”

“Nobody, huh?” Reimu could sense a challenge coming. Sure, she wasn’t like Marisa, who literally just threw herself into any and every fight that happened to crop up, regardless of whether she would win, lose, or even if she had a stake in it in the first place. She wasn’t stupid. But, she did take a certain amount of pride in being able to humble the strongest of foes, up to and including Yukari herself (granted, Yukari never used the full extent of her power, but actually making her put an effort into it or, even better, sweat, was an achievement all its own). It’s how she’s been able to hold her position as the undisputed incident resolver of Gensokyo, and potentially the reason she wasn’t yet youkai food. So she certainly was tempted to meet this Masked whatever and teach them how to actually fight.

Of course, Hau could see that look from a mile away. “What, you think you could beat him?”

Reimu glanced aside. “Well, I didn’t say that ,” she said in the same playful tone Yukari would often used. “What makes you think that?”

“Oh, c’mon, I know that look. You just wanna go in there and kick his butt. But I’m tellin’ ya, nobody can beat the Masked Royal. Not even Gramps!”

Reimu smirked. “Well, I did beat your grandpa, and so did you.”

Hau slumped in his chair. “Good point.”

Reimu got up. “Well, what are we waiting for? I’m sure he’ll be there any minute. Heck, maybe he’s there right now!”

So the two of them recalled all their Pokemon that they had out, got their stuff together, and exited the Pokemon Center, making their way towards the Battle Royal Dome.


 

The Streets of Royal Avenue were lined with all sorts of vendors selling overpriced souvenirs, overpriced concessions, overpriced… well, let’s just say there was a markup on everything , and considering most things were more expensive in Alola anyway because of how remote it was, that was saying a lot. What disturbed Reimu the most, however, was that between all the stands selling fake TOTALLY LEGIT AUTOGRAPHED POSTERS and novelty blow-up Incineroar mascots (which also weirded her out since apparently that’s what Sasha would eventually become) were people selling art of her and Sasha in Pokemon battles.

She’d only been here a few days and she was already getting brand recognition.

She shook it all off, and the two of them continued toward the Royal Dome. Already, huge crowds had gathered around the entrance, many of them carrying banners declaring their support for the Masked Royal. Others were wearing replicas of his mask.

“This is bad,” Reimu commented. “How are we going to get in?”

“Watch this,” Hau winked. He strutted right up to the ticket counter. Reimu felt she had no choice but to follow him up. As she did, she could practically sense the crowd around her shushing while a few stares shot in her general direction.

“Is that Reimu?”

“Yeah, it’s gotta be!”

“Huh, so that’s what she looks like.”

“I think that hairstyle looks cute on her!”

“I liked the other one better.”

“I wanna battle her so bad, I don’t care if I lose!”

“I would battle her in a heartbeat!... if I had any Pokemon.”

“She scares me…”

“Damn, if only we wasn’t lightyears out of my league…”

She just filtered it out at this point. When you become a celebrity, you just learn how to drown out noise like that.

The two were soon at the ticket counter, and as they walked up, Reimu glanced over and saw Gladion in front of the battler’s entrance.

“Why do I always end up coming back here?” he grumbled to himself, before pulling the door open and disappearing inside.

Reimu paid it no mind, and looked back towards Hau, who was now talking with the ticket person.

“Hi there!” Hau beamed.

“Well, if it isn’t Hala’s little grandson!” the ticket guy replied.

“Hey!” Hau pouted. “I’m not little anymore! I’ll let you know I’m on my Island Challenge now! My birthday was a few days ago!” He then proceeded to flash his Z-Ring to prove it.

The ticket guy chuckled. “Oh, oh, I’m sorry, little man , I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m assuming you’ve got your pass on you?”

Hau pulled a blue piece of paper out of his bag and presented it. “You bet!”

“Alright then! Free popcorn refills and VIP seating, go right ahead!”

Hau was about ready to bounce right in, but then he remembered he had a guest. So he asked the ticket guy if she could sit with him.

“That depends,” the ticket guy said. “Is she a family member of some sort? Because otherwise I can’t grant -”

“I’m Reimu Hakurei,” Reimu spoke up.

The ticket guy froze with his mouth agape for a few seconds, before saying “okay you’re in.”

Reimu smiled. For once, she could use her fame to her advantage. They wasted no time getting inside.

 


 

Twenty minutes later, after getting their popcorn, candy and drinks and after a brief visit to the restroom for Reimu to powder her nose, the two had plush, front-row seats of the action unfolding in front of them.

“IIIIIIINNN THIS CORNER,” the announcer screamed, “HE’S THE ROUGHEST, THE TOUGHEST, HE’S THE BADDEST ROCKER THIS SIDE OF NIMBASA, GIVE IT UP FOR RAAAAAAWK HAAAAAWK!!!!” A huge, musclebound man with an 8-pack, a gigantic mullet, shades and a fake set of wings draping off of his arms walked up, the stage lights focused on him as he arrogantly waved his arms at the jeering crowd, although there were also a few cheers in the audience.

“He’s one of the ‘bad’ battlers that we’re supposed to hate,” Hau said to Reimu in an aside.

“Is he actually bad?” Reimu asked.

“Nah, he just plays the bad guy. He actually helps out at a homeless shelter in Hau’oli City. The little kids love him.”

Reimu took in Hau’s words, then looked back up onto the stage, where the other battler was being welcomed in.

“AAAND IN THIS CORNER, YOU ALL KNOW HIM AS THE SUBTERRANEAN ANEURYSM, THE UNDERTAKER OF OREBURGH, THE MAN WHOSE FIST TURNS COAL INTO DIAMOND! PLEASE WELCOME, THE ONE, THE ONLY, CAAAAAAAVE MAAAAAAAAN!!!!” A man covered in dust with a bushy beard and wearing a stereotypical caveman costume, complete with a club, came up as the crowd overwhelmingly cheered him on.

The two battlers stepped right up, looking each other right in the eyes.

“I’m gonna send you back to the stone age!” Rawk Hawk taunted, pointing at Cave Man. The crowd deafeningly booed him.

“Then I’m gonna have to rock you with Stone Edge!” Cave Man shot back to widespread applause. He then wasted no time sending out his Machamp, pumped and ready to fight.

“AMAZING! CAVE MAN HAS NO FEAR AND SENT OUT ONE-PUNCH MON!” The crowd’s arms flowed like a wave as its name was called.

“He’s called that because they say he can defeat any opponent in just one punch,” Hau commented.

“What if the opponent is Ghost-type?” Reimu asked.

“Well, that’s the beauty of Battle Royals,” Hau said. “Not only can there be up to four fighters, but that ring is also specially rigged so that there are no type matchups, which means everything is equally good against everything else. It all comes down to skill, strength, and most of all how flashy you are!”

Well, she supposed flashy was the right word for it, at least.

Meanwhile, Rawk Hawk wasted no time sending out his Incineroar.

“WHAT’S THIS?!? IT LOOKS LIKE RAWK HAWK AIN’T MESSING AROUND! HERE COMES THE BAD CAT HIMSELF, BONESAAAAAAAAAAAW!” Again, most of the crowd jeered, but some cheered him on and pulled out crude, cardboard bonesaws and began “sawing” their arms off.

A few seconds passed where the fighters stared each other down, the hot lights shining down on them, before the announcer called out “ROUND ONE… FIGHT!” The bell dinged, and almost immediately Bonesaw ran right toward One-Punch Mon and hit it with a fierce lariat. The crowd gasped as Rawk Hawk laughed, but instead of flipping onto the floor One-Punch Mon recoiled back a few steps before steadying himself while flexing his glorious pecs. The Machamp waved to the screaming crowd.

“WOW! HIS ABILITY AIN’T STEADFAST FOR NOTHING, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!”

After that, One-Punch Mon slugged a punch, but Bonesaw dodged it. What followed was two minutes of head-butting, grappling and push-downs that got dangerously close at times to resembling furry bara. It also gave Reimu uncomfortable memories of that one time Suika got drunk (well, drunker than usual), blew up in size, then picked a fight with Meiling but insisted that no danmaku be used, with the result being a drunken catfight in which Meiling somehow emerged the victor, but with most of her dress including all of her long underwear being torn up in the process while Eirin treated Suika who had half her skull bashed in. The worst part was that Remilia decided the long pants-less look looked better on Meiling, and so the gatekeeper had bare legs under her dress from then on, and exactly what she wore under there now, if anything, was an unsolved mystery.

After two minutes, and much to the crowd’s dismay, Bonesaw had slammed One-Punch down to the floor. The referee started counting down, while Rawk Hawk did something that Reimu wasn’t expecting: he pushed the medallion on his head that held up his ridiculous mullet, which turned out to be a converted Z-Ring, and did a roaring pose that caused Bonesaw to be enveloped in Z-Power.

“AND HERE COMES THE FINISHING MOVE!” the announcer blared out. “MALICIOUS MOONSLAUGHT!”

Immediately, Bonesaw leaped onto one of the posts holding up the ring cables and beat his chest while roaring loudly; half the crowd responded with fierce condemnation, still others chanted “Bonesaw! Bonesaw! Bonesaw!” while “sawing” their arms off. He then used his Z-Power to jump impossibly high in the air and dive down toward One-Punch Mon with a T-Shaped bellyflop.

One-Punch, however, had in this time managed to get back up, and looked above him to see Bonesaw raining down on him. But the battered and bruised Machamp had one trick left: thinking quickly, he instantly punched the ground, causing huge, pointed stone spires to emerge from energy rings materializing on the arena floor, right where Bonesaw was poised to land. Bonesaw only had a moment of sheer panic to react before smashing into the stones.

Right in the nads.

Everyone, Reimu and Hau included, audibly and painfully winced, with some, especially the men, averting their eyes and covering their crotches. The announcer cried out “OOOOOOHH!!! I DON’T CARE YOU YOU ARE, I THINK WE CAN ALL AGREE, THAT’S GOTTA HURT!!!!”

All that the pained Bonesaw could do was stumble back while covering his nether-region, and before long he hit the cables, flipped over them, and crashed right off the stage. Right after that, the confetti was released, the lights and cameras shined, and a victorious One-Punch Mon held one of his four arms high with his trainer as they were declared the winners. Meanwhile, an embarrassed Rawk Hawk, trying to avert the fan’s eyes, recalled Bonesaw and rushed him to the nearest nurse; unfortunately, no amount of instant healing machine was going to remove THAT scar from Bonesaw’s ego.

 

“That was brutal!” Hau said through a mouthful of gummy worms.

“Tell me about it,” Reimu grimaced. She didn’t even have a “member” and could still feel the sheer pain of that attack as if she did. Meanwhile, the crowd’s cheers were deafening, with streamers, foam fingers and cardboard bonesaws were flying all over the place.

The announcer picked his mike back up and said, “AAAAAND NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IF I COULD HAVE YOUR ATTENTION. I HAVE JUST BEEN INFORMED THAT A HURRICANE IS ON ITS WAY, RIGHT HERE TO THE BATTLE ROYAL DOME.”

The crowd instantly silenced. Some people started talking to each other nervously. A hurricane? How bad? Did they need to leave?

“IT LOOKS REAL BAD PEOPLE. FOUR-HUNDRED KILOMETER PER HOUR WINDS, STRONG ENOUGH TO LIFT UP CARS, SWIFT ENOUGH TO MAKE A TALONFLAME LOOK LIKE A SLUGMA, FORCEFUL ENOUGH TO SWEEP YOU RIGHT OFF YOUR FEET!”

Slowly, the dread in the auditorium gave way to hype. Both Reimu and Hau looked around in anticipation.

“AND WHAT’S THIS? INSTEAD OF JUST ONE EYE, IT HAS TWO EYES STARING YOU DOWN!”

The volume of the crowd’s cheers increased ever more.

“THAT’S RIGHT, FOLKS! YOU’D BETTER GET OUT OF THE WAY, CAUSE HERE IT COMES! HE’S MR. BATTLE ROYAL HIMSELF! GIVE IT UP, FOR THE MAAAASKED ROOOOYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

Rock music played at top volume as, out of the red corner, all the lights focused on one shirtless masked man, walking down the aisle waving his arms at the crowd, confetti raining down on him and strobe lights dancing all over. Smoke and haze filled the air around him, and as he stepped into the ring he swept around, amping the crowd up even more and making them go crazy.

“See, I told you!” Hau pointed excitedly. “It’s the Masked Royal!”

“Indeed it is,” Reimu said nonchalantly. She examined him a little more, though, and something clicked in her. “Hey, wait a sec,” she asked tilting her head. “Isn’t.... that -”

“THANK YOU, THANK YOU!” the Masked Royal proclaimed as the crowd died down somewhat… but only somewhat. “What an honor to be back home, right here on this beautiful day in sunny Alola!” The crowed roared and cheered in excitement.

“As you know, I’ve been all over, lookin’ for all the best moves to teach to Pokemon! I believe all Pokemon in the world deserve to be able to whip out the strongest and flashiest moves there are! And today, I bring you…” He threw a Pokeball, and out of it popped a Lycanroc that looked like Suzie.

Instantly, the crowd went nuts, with banners flying everywhere. “BLOODHOUND! BLOODHOUND! BLOODHOUND!” the crowd chanted almost like a cult saying a demon’s name.

“That’s right!” the Masked Royal called out. “She’s got some new tricks! And I invite any challenger out there: if you can beat us in a one-on-one fight, or beat us first in a free-for-all, you get 250,000 Pokedollars!”

The crowd gasped: 250,000 Pokedollars?!? To beat HIM?!? Sure, that was a lot of money, but literally NO ONE could beat the Masked Royal!

“Who wants to step up and challenge me?” he dared the audience with a glare.

Immediately after making that statement, Hau started messing around with his shirt, turning it inside-out and revealing it to have an owl-like design with fake wings on it, while reaching into his bag and pulling out a mask. He then tossed Hedwig’s Pokeball high into the air, jumped onto one of the posts, and struck a low pose while Hedwig landed gracefully on his back.

“WHAT’S THIS?” the announcer said. “IT LOOKS LIKE THE WINGS OF SHADOW HIMSELF HAS EMERGED FROM THE STANDS! WHAT A HIDING SPOT! NO ONE EXPECTED IT! LET’S HEAR IT, FOR NIGHT OWL!”

The crowd started going wild as Hau hopped into the ring and stared down - up? - the Masked Royal.

“Black as haze, quiet as the moon, your tricks are nothing for us!” he gloated.

The Royal, however, waved a finger. “You know wolves hunt at night, right? And tonight, we’re hunting you!”

The crowd cheered in response, before, out of the yellow corner, out walked Gladion, clad in gladiator’s getup while cheesy Roman-esque music started playing.

“WOW! INCREDIBLE! AND HERE COMES THE BRAVE WARRIOR, WHO STORMED INTO A SECRET LAB UP IN THE ARCTIC, AND GOT AWAY WITH THEIR HORRID CREATION! AND NOW HE COMES TO CHALLENGE THE ROYAL! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, GLADIATOR AND THE EXPERIMENT!”

Gladion, trying to hide his embarrassment, climbed into the ring while waving a hand at his fans, then sent out Type: Null, primed and ready to fight.

“IT’S A THREE-WAY BRAWL, EVERYONE! COULD ANYONE ELSE BE TOUGH ENOUGH, DARING ENOUGH, TO CHALLENGE THESE TOUGH FIGHTERS?!?”

This was her cue, Reimu thought. She adjusted her hair tubes and bow, just as she did back home, and made sure her detached sleeves wouldn’t fly off or that anyone would be able to look up her dress. Once all that was done, she grasped Gyarados’ Pokeball, got up from her front-row seat, and in one deft motion, leaped up spinning around while her legs held together, drilling into the air while the Pokeball flew out of her hands and down toward the ground. She also threw out another counter-spell from her free hand, creating fireworks that twirled all around her.

The announcer hastily picked up his mike again (unknown to everyone, he had porn on on his smartphone that he was glancing at from time-to-time). “IS...IS THAT?!” He was choking on his words. “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING! THE RED-AND-WHITE DEATH FROM BEYOND THE WORMHOLE HAS GRACED US WITH HER PRESENCE!”

Just as the announcer finished that statement, the Poke Ball containing Gyarados popped open, and the red-and-white dragon’s head stopped Reimu’s fall as she twirled gracefully on it with her gohei in one hand, while it rose into the air and towered above all the other contestants.

“AMAZING!”

The crowd basically lost it at this point: one person actually crapped their pants in excitement. “CAN WE PLEASE BOW DOWN, REIMUUUUUUUUU HAKUREIIIIIIIIIII!”

The crowd hoo-rah’d as four incredibly tough fighters faced each other. One was marked for death. The other three were ready for wolf’s blood tonight.

Finally, the moment of truth came: “ROUND ONE.... FIGHT!”

Right as the bell rang, Lycanroc and Hedwig took toward one another while Gyarados drowned the arena with Twister, hoping to disorient the fighters and make them lose balance. A few moments later, Bloodhound was seen flipping into the air, bird in mouth, and pinned Hedwig to the floor as she began clawing and biting into her.

Just as she could deliver the decisive blow, however, a headbutt came out of nowhere and knocked Bloodhound down to the ground. She looked up, and staring right down at her was a very determined Type: Null, its small eyes cutting through the pitch darkness of the inside of its headgear and glaring right down at Bloodhound’s own piercing, rage-filled gaze.

Bloodhound snarled and jumped straight onto Type: Null, and the two started kicking and clawing at each other. Type: Null had the bulk and weight advantage, while Bloodhound had the edge in agility, and most importantly training, allowing her to just barely overcome the lumberound goliath that was Type: Null.

Her concentration was broken the moment a huge tail smacked her into the air, and biting fangs lunged right in her direction. It was Gyarados, with Reimu commanding right from up top.

“Now,” she commanded, “bite its neck!” Gyarados did as its master commanded, and gnashed its teeth where Bloodhound was; unfortunately, it only bit into thin air.

Reimu looked around, and saw Bloodhound running right up Gyarados’ backside, clawing into the tough scales making Gyarados wriggle around in pain. This is bad, she thought: the fierce wolf was headed straight for her!

Thinking quickly, she made a leap of faith toward safety. Along the way, she actually ended up landing right on top of Bloodhound’s head, using it as a springboard off of the sea serpent and onto the ring below. But, she found out too late that she had miscalculated her jump, causing her to flail about (and really wishing at this moment she still had her ability to fly) as she fell more than four meters down to the ground.

...or would have, had Hedwig not swooped out of nowhere to catch her fall, and guide her safely down to the ground.

“AMAZING!” the announcer cried out. “ONE OF THE FIGHTERS HAS SAVED ITS OPPONENT’S OWN TRAINER! YOU DON’T SEE THIS EVERY DAY!”

Hedwig got off to the side as Reimu, kneeled over on the floor, looked up, and staring down at her was the wolf, standing right atop Gyarados’ head. She was in a prime position to knock out Gyarados, but instead, it glared at her personally . Bloodhound recognized Reimu as the one who bounced off her head, and she wasn’t about to let a human be the one that defeated her.

So, snarling and with pure rage, she pounced right off of Gyarados and straight down to Reimu, the lights casting down in such a way as to completely illuminate her, her pointed, glistening teeth, and her huge, sharp claws. Reimu, perhaps reflexively, reached into her bag to get one of the few cards she had that still worked. Sure, it might be against the rules, but she was about to be attacked, and if showing this dog the power of spell cards what what it took to save her skin, then so be it.

 

Then, suddenly, a string of white, sticky thread grabbed onto Bloodhound, and within mere moments, completely wrapped her up in a cocoon. The dog’s snarls and growls were replaced with the muffled sound of whines and whimpers as the thread, and whatever it was attached to, swung the cocoon into the air before letting go. As it flipped in midair and began to fall, a shape leaped high into the air, its front claws poised to attack. It was Type: Null, surrounded in Z-Power. And with its mighty, insectoid claws, it slashed right through the cocoon and crashed onto the ground, creating shockwaves, kicking up dust and even cracking the ring floor as it stood resolute. Bloodhound took the full force of the attack, and unceremoniously fell out of the air and hit the ring floor.

The referee came over, inspected Bloodhound, and made an amazing declaration.

“Bloodhound is no longer able to battle,” he said. That simple sentence was enough to sent the crowd off the rails, screaming, cheering and yelling wildly.

Reimu got up and looked around. “What was THAT???” she asked totally confused. As she scanned around more, she saw Gladion flashing a Z-Ring with a light-green crystal on it, and from there inferred the attack’s origin.

 

She smirked.

 

“I CAN’T BELIEVE MY EEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYEEEEEES!” the announcer yelled. “WE HAVE A NEW CHAMPION!” Confetti fell all around Gladion and the stage lights focus all around him and Type: Null. “OUR WINNER, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! THE EXPERIMENT AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNND GLADIATOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The crowd went absolutely ballistic as objects, popcorn bowls and even people were thrown about by crazy fans. Someone beat the Masked Royal, and not only that, that someone was the underdog of the match between him, Reimu and Night Owl!

 

All Gladion could do was just stare forward.

 


 

“That was flippin’ awesome!” Hau said jumping up and down.

“Hmph,” Gladion grunted. “You weren’t even taking it seriously. Instead, you just let his Lycanroc take down your Dartrix like that,” he said snapping his fingers.

“They did say it was tough,” Reimu cut in. “I thought you did great out there. I wasn’t expecting the Z-Move, that’s for sure.”

All three were in the back staging area, back in their “street” clothes, away from the prying eyes of the crowd.

“And you,” Gladion snapped his head at Reimu. “What were you thinking, getting in the middle of the action like that? You were almost mauled by it!”

“Oh, please, if you thought I was in any danger back there, I’ll have you know I’ve beaten down giant man-eating skeletons with my bare fists before.” She slugged a punch at a standing punching bag that was over to one side and knocked it over completely. “A wolf is nothing in comparison.”

Gladion hesitated for a moment.

“Now let me ask this,” Reimu inquired. “You used a Z-Move back there, which to me suggests there is a bond between you and Type: Null. It also fought more ferociously then it did in our grudge match at the bus stop.”

Gladion looked down for a bit, before responding, “I was… going easy on you…”

“No, you weren’t,” Reimu. “You were going all-out, I could tell. I can tell when someone is giving it their all. You gave it your all here, too.”

Gladion was not used to being picked apart in this manner. Usually, he was the one doing the interrogating.

“So what changed between there and here?” Reimu stood with her hands on her hips, shooting an inquisitive look at Gladion.

Finally, he broke. “Okay, okay. I’ll be honest. I just…”

“Uh huh…”

“... I realized I wasn’t treating my Pokemon with the proper respect. And that I was holding myself back. After you beat me, I understood that, as a trainer, that was my failing. I’m so used to pushing around nitwits at this point, I don’t even respect anyone, not even my own Pokemon. When I stepped out on that stage, all the noise and lights everywhere, there were people cheering for me, wanting me to be strong. I’m not used to that. I haven’t had that in a long time. So maybe that…” he gripped himself again, clenching his teeth, then regained his composure. “...so maybe that inspired me to do more to be a better person, and a better trainer.

Reimu took all this in for a few seconds, before simply responding with a smile, “excellent.”

Gladion suddenly looked confused, the first time Reimu had seen him like that. “What?”

“Me and Hau both knew you were going to be in the fight, and we’d made an agreement before stepping into the ring that we would soften up Bloodhound, but would let you land the finishing blow, however long it took. I could have had Gyarados smash Bloodhound’s skull in easily. But, I realized it was important for you to feel empowered, like you actually accomplished something as a trainer and a person, so we wanted to let you have it. And besides, if I went full-force, the match would have been over in like, two seconds, and that’s not very fun to watch now is it?”

Gladion was conflicted. On one hand, she let him win, and boasted about how easy it would have been to win the match herself. On the other hand, she saw his feelings and insecurities, and knew that he deserved to win more than anyone. For someone who had been mistreated, put-down, and just overall in the dumps for years, this was a huge leap forward for him, having a complete stranger come along and empower him.

However, his train of thought was soon broken when a voice bellowed in from the hallway.

“Gladdy boy~!” A female voice said. And as she stepped into the room, Reimu instantly recognized her.

“Selene?!” she said in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, I just wanted to congratulate my boy-toy~!” She reached around Gladion and gave him a bear-hug.

“Urg, I am not your boy-toy,” he grumbled.

Reimu stepped back. “Wait, you know each other?”

Gladion glanced aside. “Let’s just say she’s my self-appointed girlfriend.”

Hau tried hard not to laugh at this point.

“Oh, don’t be like that!” Selene said stepping back. “You just beat the Masked Royal and got the whole world shouting your name, and you’re still acting like ol’ mister grumpy pants!” She reached into her pocket, pulled out the 250,000 Pokedollar check and handed it to him. “I told them I was your girlfriend, so they were all like ‘sure! We’ll let you give it to him!’”

Gladion decided to feign contentment at this point, and gave a really half-assed smile. “...thanks.”

“That’s more like it~!” Selene beamed. She took his hand and said, “now, let’s go get something yummy to eat together!”

As Selene led Gladion out of the room, both Reimu and Hau looked forward with blank expressions on their faces, wondering what just happened.

“If I get a girlfriend, will she be like that?” Hau asked awkwardly.

Reimu looked down at him and said, “honestly, I’ve seen worse. Between girls.”

Hau looked away and gagged. Ah, she thought, must’ve been a wee bit much for the young lad. She chuckled a bit and decided to start heading out of the building, but before she could, another figure caught up with her.

“You must be Reimu!” a male voice said. Reimu turned around, and was surprised to see Rawk Hawk, still in full costume, come up to her.

“Oh!” Reimu jolted in surprise. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here!”

“Right back at ya! I heard all about you, but I didn’t think I’d see you here today!”

“Well… of course not!” Reimu said somewhat awkwardly. “By the way, how is, er, Bonesaw doing?”

As if on cue, Bonesaw walked into the room to greet his trainer. “He’s doing great. Nurse fixed him right up, and now it’s like nothing ever happened!”

Of course, Bonesaw’s face told another story: wide-eyed, and clearly trying to forget anything ever happened.

“Of course, he’s probably never gonna live it down. And neither are the fans. But you know what? Stuff like that happens all the time in Battle Royals, and you just gotta roll with it!”

“Hm, sure,” Reimu shrugged. “So, anyway, Rawk Hawk…”

“Nah, just call me Dana, that’s my real name.” He reached up and grabbed his over-the-top golden mullet, and with a tug simply popped it off, revealing it all to just be a highly convincing wig hiding a short, black buzz cut.

“Whoa!” Reimu jumped back. “That was all fake?!”

“Yup! Pretty surprising, huh?” Dana said in response. “And I also fixed my old Z-Ring around it, so that it looks cool and stays out of the way during fights.”

Reimu stepped back up. “Well, I suppose that’s very handy!” She was aware of wigs, but had never seen something so sophisticated in her life; the few she had seen were crude rags of hair glued to a sheet of paper that fell off the wearer’s head all the time.

Dana set the wig aside. “Part of doing Battle Royals is not just to battle well, but to look good doing it. After all, if people just want to watch a Pokemon battle, they can probably just go out to the boardwalk or something and watch a couple ace trainers duke it out. We stand out by making it larger than life, and since there’s no type advantage or disadvantage inside that ring, you can’t just win by, say, using Hydro Pump on the other guy’s Charizard, so it also challenges you and your Pokemon to use different methods to win the bout. So any technique works equally well, which makes for fights that are more fun to watch, especially if there are four fighters in a free-for all!”

Reimu was genuinely amazed. For all the hamminess and show that Battle Royals had, there was a surprising amount of strategy hidden underneath that worked radically differently than the battles she was used to. She recalled one time when Yukari set up something similar: she put together a special fighting ring together with the kappa in which danmaku and most magical abilities were entirely disabled, forcing physical combat between the two fighters. She even gave people ridiculous outfits to fight in, and the spectators copious amounts of alcohol. It was great fun, and a welcome break from the usual battles. Reimu also enjoyed watching sumo wrestling in the village for the same reason.

“I have a question,” she asked Dana. “What do you do with all those cash and prizes you win?”

“Glad you asked!” he answered. “You see, I come from a poor background, and spent most of my childhood without a roof over my head. As I grew older, I realized I didn’t want other people to go through what me and my family did, so I got a job at the homeless shelter in Hau’oli City. I do this as a side gig to support the shelter; I donate all my winnings to help them buy new equipment and such. Last year, me and Bonesaw actually won one of the grand circuits and won a gigantic cash prize. I donated it to the shelter, and they used it to help fund an in-house job training and certification program, so people can get skills and go out and find work!”

Reimu smiled and chuckled. “For ‘the bad guy,’ you sure do bend over backwards to help people. I admire you.”

“I think it’s more fun that way,” Dana replied. “After all, it’s only pretend.” Bonesaw smiled, then flexed and growled in agreement.

All of a sudden, Reimu felt Sasha’s Pokeball rustle around in her bag. “Hmm?” she wondered. “I guess Sasha wants to be let out somehow.” She decided to send him out, and as soon as he was free, he went up to Bonesaw and let out an uncharacteristic squeak. Then, Bonesaw knelt down, smiling, and started to pet him with one of his clawed hands while Sasha purred.

“What are they doing?” Reimu asked.

Dana thought for a second, then realized something. “I think they’re having some father-son time!”

Reimu was perplexed. “Father-son?”

“Yeah! I actually know Hala, and he told me that he would be giving one of the Littens from a litter that Bonesaw sired away as a starter. And I guess Sasha is that starter!”

“Hm! Is that so?” Reimu answered.

Dana turned back around to Reimu. “I think you’ve done a great job training him. I think he’ll be a really strong Incineroar. In fact, let me give you this!” He reached around, got a red-colored Z-Crystal, and presented it to Reimu.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“This is an Incinium-Z! I created it myself to give Bonesaw a flashy signature attack!”

“Amazing,” Reimu said.

“Yeah, it was a lotta work. Anyway, once Sasha evolves into Incineroar, then as long as it knows Darkest Lariat, you can give it this, and it can use the powerful Malicious Moonslaught Z-move!”

Reimu took the Z-Crystal, put it away in her bag, and thanked Dana for the gift.

“My pleasure,” he said.

As Reimu went to recall Sasha back into his ball, she waved goodbye to Bonesaw.

“Alright Sasha! It’s time to get going.” Sasha turned toward Bonesaw, gave a powerful, determined cry, and went back into its ball as Bonesaw waved goodbye to his son.

As Reimu left, Dana said behind her, “have great battles wherever you go!”

“Will do,” she said back as she left the Royal Dome.

 

Outside, Reimu looked around for Hau, Gladion and Selene, but didn’t see any of them. Must’ve gone off their own ways, she surmised. It was then that she looked back at the volcano, which towered above the town, gently letting off smoke. It was there that her next trial would occur.

With a determined look on her face, she summoned a ride Tauros, made her way through the crowd until she was at the edge of town, and took off to the north of town to the foot of the mountain to take the challenge head-on.

 

Watching from a secluded ledge, a spherical energy creature, the same one from Melemele, let out a cackle and flew toward the mountain summit to prepare for her arrival.

Chapter Text

It took until late afternoon for Reimu to arrive at the foot of the mountain. Stepping off of Tauros and just as it recalled itself back to HQ, Reimu took one good look up the basalt peak, and the smoke billowing out of the top.

It reminded her of the stories that people in the village would often tell of Mt. Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan as well as one of its most sacred spots. How Mt. Fuji still smoked to this day, because of the letter an emperor had burned in hopes it would reach the moon and get to Kaguya. Reimu had no idea why he would do this, since Kaguya was still on Earth, but the legend persisted.

Reimu had been told by Yukari that Youkai Mountain was volcanically much more active long ago than it was today, with murals depicting smoke and fire erupting from where Lake Suwa and the Moriya Shrine would be now. While she herself certainly did have experience with geysers, hotspots, and the literal flames of Hell, she had never caught sight of an actual, erupting volcano.

Thousands of feet high, she wondered how she was going to actually climb it. Now, normally, this would be as easy as her simply rising up in the air and just flying to the summit, but as she knew, that wasn’t possible here. It certainly seemed daunting, with rough, exposed cliffs precariously perched over sheer drops, sharp rocks and shards of obsidian littering the ground, toxic volcanic gases and hot spots, and of course, plenty of Pokemon in between itching to make her ascent all the more difficult.

But, as she knew, there was only one way forward, no matter how arduous. So she took her first, brave step toward ascending the peak.

 

“You must be Reimu, aren’t you?”

“Jah!” Reimu jolted around in surprise. “You spooked me!”

“Sorry about that,” a small woman said. Behind her was a rather large horse, held by the muzzle with a rope that the woman had in her hand.

Reimu collected herself before asking, “who are you?”

THe woman introduced herself, “my name is Hapu. And this is my Mudsdale.” The Mudsdale behind her brayed. “I assume you’re heading up the mountain to Kiawe’s trial?”

“Why else would I be here?” Reimu replied somewhat condescendingly. “And you?”

“I watched you at the Battle Royal dome and thought you fought impressively. I also figured you might be coming here, so I followed you.”

“Why, are you some kind of stalker fan?” Reimu said sarcastically.

“No, of course not,” Hapu chuckled. “I just know that this volcano can be dangerous to climb at times. So I thought I’d offer a little help.” She reached out her hand. “Can I see your ride pager for a moment?”

“Uh, sure,” Reimu said, digging into her bag and getting out the ride pager. Hapu fiddled around with it for a few moments before giving it back to Reimu.

“I just added Mudsdale to the list of Pokemon you can call with the Ride Pager."

"Mudsdale?" Reimu asked in curiosity. "Is that the Pokemon behind you?"

"Indeed it is," Hapu replied, stroking the horse Pokemon with her free hand. "Mudsdale is very strong. It can conquer rough rocks and terrain that other Pokemon can't cross, and haul very heavy loads. It's not the fastest or most nimble Pokemon around, but its strength and stamina more than makes up for it."

Reimu decided to try out her new addition to her pager by calling a Mudsdale. Almost instantly, one zapped into existence right in front of her, catching her off-guard with its enormous size.

Reimu got help from Hapu hoisting herself up onto the steed, and received some pointers on how to ride a horse, which she had never done before.

"...and to get it to slow down, you pull up on the reins, just like this," Hapu said as she motioned with her arms the pulling motion.

"Got it," Reimu said.

"Good. Now, let's let our trek up the mountain begin." She got up on her own Mudsdale, and led the way up the rough trail in front of them and up the peak.

 

"So, where you come from? Can you tell me a little more about it?" Hapu and Reimu engaged in some conversation as they worked their way up the mountainside, on the backs of two Mudsdales, as the sun began to lower in the horizon and dusk took over the sky.

"Well, it's... certainly different from here," Reimu explained. "It's actually locked off from the rest of the world by a magical barrier. Nothing can get in, and nothing can get out. It's like that because it's where things no one believes in anymore, or forgets about, or no longer fears or what have you, that's where they end up, mostly Japanese stuff because Japan is where it is, but more than a little stuff from other cultures finds their way there, too."

Hapu nodded, then asked, "now, Japan. What's that place like?"

"Well," Reimu answered, "I hear a lot about somewhere called Johto, and I get told a lot I look like someone from Johto, so I imagine it's like what that place is like."

"Ah yes, Johto," Hapu said. "I once visited there when I was young. It's a very beautiful place, full of old, traditional castles and towers. There's a pair of towers there, in one of the cities. They are the Bell Tower, and the Brass Tower. In the past, they were the roosting places of Lugia and Ho-Oh, respectively. Lugia is an emissary of the sea, and said to be the keeper of the three legendary birds of Kanto, whom it defeated long ago when those three nearly destroyed Kanto. Ho-Oh is an emissary of the sun, and the minder of the three legendary beasts. Legend says that long ago, Lugia, in a fit of rage, destroyed the Brass Tower; ashamed of the damage it had caused, it exiled itself to the sea. Inside the burning brass tower, a Jolteon, a Flareon and a Vaporeon were trapped, and ultimately succumbed to the flames and falling debris.

"However, they say Ho-Oh can resurrect spirits with is seven-colored wings, and that it can resurrect itself when it dies. So it used its power to bring back the three Pokemon, but each in a different form than before: the three legendary beasts, Raikou, Entei and Suicune. The beasts pledged allegiance to Ho-Oh after that, and roamed the land afterwards."

This got Reimu thinking about a similar legend she had heard. "That's funny that you say that, because at home, they tell of a bird like the one you're talking about that can also bring itself back to life, the phoenix. And I know someone who has the power of the phoenix as well."

"I see," Hapu replied. "I suppose our lands are more alike than we think."

Reimu spoke up again, "now, what became of the two birds after that?"

"Well," Hapu started, "both were involved in a couple incidents. I think it was about seven years ago that Team Rocket, a criminal organization that existed at the time, tried to hijack a radio tower in Goldenrod City in order to extort money from the government. One trainer, named Ethan, actually climbed up the Bell Tower and called upon the power of Ho-Oh to put a stop to the siege. He managed to capture Ho-Oh, and with the legendary guardian at his side he easily defeated Team Rocket. He still has Ho-Oh, and they make the rounds in world circuits."

"What about Lugia?" Reimu asked.

Hapu replied, "a couple years after that, Lugia was somehow scooped up by another organization, known as Cipher. Now, just some info on them: Cipher was a rogue scientific organization that stole Pokemon from unsuspecting trainers, then turned them into 'Shadow Pokemon,' who were little more than heartless battling and in some cases killing machines. They said they did this by 'closing the doors to their hearts' - no one really knows what that means, but there are rumors that dark magic of some sort might have been involved. Now, there had already been a time before where a man named Wes and a girl named Rui managed to round up a small collection of Shadow Pokemon, purify them, then shut down Cipher's Orre branch. To keep this from happening again, they created a process that allegedly made Pokemon impossible to purify, with Lugia, under the code name XD01, being their test subject. A boy named Micheal managed to discover their headquarters, storm it, capture Lugia and free all the Shadow Pokemon in the facility. The International Police moved in after that and completely took Cipher apart. Micheal's father had invented a machine that could purify Shadow Pokemon fast, and somehow they were able to purify Lugia this way. Micheal then wanted to release it, but Lugia wanted to stay with him, because it was grateful to him for freeing it. Like Ethan and Ho-Oh, Micheal and Lugia also make the rounds in tournaments these days."

Reimu was amazed. "You know so much about these stories. Where did you learn all that?"

"They're taught in school," Hapu said. "Also, all those stories were all over the news and social media back when they happened. A lot of that sort of stuff is common knowledge, actually."

"I see," Reimu said back. She thought about what she had told Hau earlier, about how the world they lived in had fewer challenges that back home. But, more and more as she dug into the dark underbelly of this world's history and lore, she realized that they did, in fact, face many challenges, albeit challenges with a much different context than the ones she was used to. In some cases, it was perhaps even more perilous, since this world had apparently almost been hit by an asteroid like the one the killed the dinosaurs, the International Police struggled to keep powerful crime syndicates down, and in the past there was also an impossibly destructive war that killed millions. What other dangers lay under the surface, she wondered?

 

As the two worked their way up the mountain, Reimu caught sight of a small object on the trail in front of them.

"What's that?" she asked Hapu.

"I don't know, we should take a closer look."

As the got closer, Rotom suddenly came out of Reimu's bag.

"Stop, zzt! Don't get any closer!" it warned.

"Why not?" Reimu asked.

"That'zz a baby Kangaskhan! If you mess with it, its momma will mess with you!"

Hapu looked at Reimu. "This is true. Kangaskhan mothers are very protective of their young, and it'd be best never to approach or touch them."

She looked around. "But, I don't see any other Kangaskhan near here. Babies don't usually wander this far from mom."

The baby Kangaskhan wandered about, calling out for its mother. "Perhaps it's lost its mom?" Reimu asked.

Reimu looked at the crying infant, wandering around on the ground. She wasn't at all comfortable with this. This little baby was dangerously exposed out here on its own, and she didn't want to just leave it hanging.

So she dismounted her Mudsdale, reached into her bag, grabbed a berry out of it, and walked up to the baby and knelt down to its level, offering the berry to it. The little baby went up to her slowly, and sniffed the berry in her hand. It stood there for a couple seconds, then, gradually began to nibble on the berry. Satisfied, Reimu gently let go of the berry, and let the baby take it into its own stubby little arms and chew on it some more.

"There you go," she said to the baby softly. "Something to eat."

They watched the baby for a few more minutes as it chewed through the berry, bit by bit, until eventually the berry was gone and pink mush was all over the baby's face and tummy.

"Well," Reimu said smiling, "what do you think?"

The baby stared at her for a few moments, and then burped. Reimu did a spit-take.

"I think she liked it," Hapu confided.

Reimu turned around. "Wait, how do you know it's a she?"

"All Kangaskhan are female," Hapu replied. "Everyone knows that."

All female, huh? Well, Reimu wasn't about to question it, especially if that thing they were talking about back at the ranch about "egg groups" was true.

 

Also, she still couldn't take her mind off of that Skitty.

 

The mother still wasn't around, and Reimu knew did not want to abandon the baby here on the mountainside. Unsure what else to do, she hoisted the little one up onto the back of the Mudsdale, then wrapped part of her miko outfit around it to keep it warm.

"What are you doing?" Hapu asked her.

"I just didn't want her to get cold up here, plus a little baby out here on its own with nowhere to hide? It'll get snatched up by other hungry Pokemon!"

As if on cue, a Mandibuzz with a Cubone in its talons flew past them from beneath the ledge.

"See?" Reimu pointed out. "This little baby could have easily been that bird's dinner!"

Rotom came out again and decided to voice its objections. "What if it'zzz mother sees you?"

"Worst-case scenario, Sasha or someone can deal with her briefly so I can return the baby, and then I'll revive her or something so the baby doesn't get scared." She kicked Mudsdale's side to get it going. "Hup!"

"You're so full of yourself, you cheeky little thing!" Rotom snickered before slinking back into Reimu's bag. Both Reimu and Hapu continued up the mountainside, baby Kangaskhan in tow.

The trail past where they found the baby was rough, with many tough sections too treacherous to cross with just hiking boots, and the sharpened basalt rocks and bits of obsidian could slice right through Reimu's sneakers. Fortunately, Mudsdale's hardened, mud-covered hooves crushed all of it with ease, and it was as if they had been crossing smooth terrain the whole time. There were few Pokemon in this section; just some Rhyhorn grazing on grass, and a nest of Fletchling on top of an erratic whose mother had brought a Caterpie. Smoky haze began to envelop the two as they made their way closer to the summit, and small, volcanic hotspots could be seen behind fences posted with warning signs to stay clear; obviously, the Cyndaquil Reimu saw lounging in one didn't quite get the message.

It was an impressive display of wildlife, and it continued to fascinate Reimu how diverse these islands really were. How many ecosystems existed, and how life could find a way no matter how harsh and inhospitable a location seemed.

 

About a half-hour after picking up the baby, and with the summit of the volcano almost within reach, the two finally came across a small group of Kangaskhan. Rotom, of course, was more than happy to provide a dex entry:

 

Kangaskhan, the Parent Pokemon. This odd, armored creature is fiercely protective of its young, and will stop at nothing to keep their young safe in its pouch. Its fists are tough enough to pulverize stone, so staying away is well-advised. It can be found in both mountainous and plains areas. Kangaskhan is a female-only species, and no male equivalent has ever been found.

 

Reimu could observe the various Kangaskhan wandering around, some playing with their kids (which all varied in age) and others foraging for food. She scanned the area, and eventually locked onto one who did not seem to have her child. She was clearly in distress, as she looked to and fro, but to no avail.

Reimu had to think of a good way to approach this: she wasn't interested in a fight, after all. She decided the best way would be to just let the baby return to her mother on her own. So, she unwrapped the baby, dismounted her ride, and carefully set the baby down onto the ground.

"There you go," Reimu said gingerly. "Now, go back to your mother." She stood back, and after a moment or two of looking around, the baby began to trundle back toward the pack. The lone Kangaskhan soon caught sight of the baby, and wasted no time rushing over to pick her up, love her, and place her back into her pouch.

"See?" Reimu said. "I told you it wouldn't be so bad." Smiling, she got back onto her ride, and they were just about to leave when Hapu pointed back toward the crowd.

"Er, Reimu?" she said hesitantly."

"What is it?" Reimu answered, before looking over her shoulder and realizing the mother was staring right at them. Did she realize they had her baby?

"Oh snap," Rotom said. "Told 'ya."

Reimu could practically feel the blood run cold from her face, especially since she knew Mudsdale wouldn't get her out of there fast enough.

"Okay, breathe," Hapu cautioned Reimu. "If you turn around and run away, that will just trigger Kangaskhan's pursuit instinct."

"Running isn't my plan at this point," Reimu said tensely as she gripped Sasha's Pokeball. The mother Kangaskhan walked over to them; she didn't seem particularly angry, but then, Reimu knew most animals chasing down their prey often held in their anger and rage, much like how a dog intending to bite doesn't usually bark at the target the whole way.

The two were soon face-to-face. Reimu showed no fear, of course, and given her extensive battling resume that included goddesses, demons, Lunarians and whatnot, a wild animal was nothing in comparison. But, she also did not have her normal powers, so even a wild animal seemed highly threatening, especially when said wild animal was an overprotective momma.

"Hah..." Reimu signed. "I, uh, am terribly sorry ma'am. I just wanted to- "

"Gaaao!" The mother raised her arms up and let out a short growl while her baby imitated her. This caused Reimu to jolt back slightly, and she prepared to send Sasha out.

But instead of attacking, the Kangaskhan reached into her pouch, pulled out a small stone, and put it on the back of the Mudsdale Reimu was riding before returning to her clan.

 

Reimu was confused. "What just happened?"

Hapu laughed, "I think she's thankful to you for returning her child to her."

Reimu slumped. "Heh. I guess." She put Sasha's ball back, then turned around to inspect the stone the Kangaskhan had given her. It was very... peculiar, to say the least. It was perfectly round and polished, like a pearl. It shimmered in all colors of the rainbow, and glassy to the touch. Its defining feature, however, was the distinctive marking within the center of the stone, which resembled a DNA double helix. Reimu spun the stone around in her hand a few times, getting a good look at all angles of it.

"This is a very odd stone," she commented. "I wonder what kind it is."

Hapu came closer to inspect the stone herself. "Hmm, I don't know. I've never seen anything like it before."

Reimu shrugged, and decided to put it in an empty space in her bag. She didn't want to turn down a gift, of course, and maybe she could find a use for it somewhere down the road. Then, both of them waved goodbye to the Kangaskhan pack before making the final push up the mountainside.

 

Soon, they were near the summit, which overlooked a massive caldera. At the base of the foot trail leading up to the summit was the distinctive Island Trial arch. Twilight fell across the sky, and the faint glow of the caldera gently lit up the near horizon.

Reimu dismounted her steed, which soon recalled itself back to base. Hapu, still high on her horse, looked over toward Reimu.

"Here we are," Reimu proclaimed. "The Fire trial. Gyarados might not know any actual Water-type moves, but hopefully that 4x resistance will come in handy." She looked up the slope, contemplating whatever may be waiting for her just beyond the arch.

"I can't follow you past that arch," Hapu told her. "Everything that happens up there on that trial site is yours to face alone."

Reimu turned to face her. "Thanks for leading me up here."

"You're welcome," Hapu replied. "I'm sure we'll meet again. Hup!" Hapu had her Mudsdale turn around, and head back down the same way they came.

Reimu watched Hapu ride off until she could no longer see her. To her, it was still rather strange, why a complete stranger would be so willing to help her out in this manner. It wasn't just her: quite a few people that she had met were very friendly and nice, with Team Skull grunts being the sole exceptions. She didn't know if it was just islanders here or if the people of this world in general were nice and helpful, but it certainly was a level of friendliness that was absent from her homeland, where it was more or less every man and woman for themselves. Did these people not know fear and hatred because they've never met it?

...unlikely, she thought. Considering all the stories and tales she'd been told, perhaps it was because they've learned to overcome all the darkness and hatred that plagued her world, and there was little left to fear. She wanted to learn how they did it, and if and when she did return home she wanted to take those lessons with her.

But, enough musing, she thought. The sun was setting, and there was a trial to scratch off her list right in front of her. After psyching herself up, she turned up the trail, under the arch, and up to the summit.

 


 

As she crested the last hill, a wide, flat stage with markings on it spread out in front of her. Just beyond, a ledge overlooking the caldera. Unlike the glowing, bare lava she had experienced in former Hell, the lava in the crater was cool and black, with cracks of red spread out like a web. Slabby pahoehoe magma seeped out of one side of the crater, where it trickled down the mountainside, cooled, and cracked forming caked, slabby basalts that Grass-types loved to suck nutrients from before being forced to retreat by more incoming hot magma. Fire-types also drew energy from the hot stuff to power their internal flames.

Standing to one side of the stage was a man, either an older teenager or young adult, standing expectantly. At his feet, three purple Pokemon with skulls over their heads that Reimu had never seen before. Of course, Rotom was more than willing to be "helpful" and spill everything there was to know about them:

 

Marowak, the evolved form of Cubone. It carries a bone that it uses as a club to defend itself against predators. This particular Marowak is a form native to Alola. It has learned to accept death as part of its legacy, and has gained the ability to channel spirits and harness their power to strengthen its body and soul. Alolan legend credits it as the inventor of limbo dancing.

 

Reimu stood just before the center, and the man spoke.

"Good evening. I am Kiawe, and I am the Fire-type trial captain."

Reimu retorted, "Then I suppose you already know who I am."

Kiawe nodded. "To be honest, if it weren't for that girl, what was her name, Lillie, coming here first and telling me about you, then I wouldn't have known who you are. I spend most of my time up here alone. But, I hear you've shaken up the islands quite a bit."

"Ah, yes, Lille," Reimu said. "How did her Pokemon do?"

Kiawe looked aside, trying to contain his stoic expression. "Well... let's just say I humbly request that you not use water for this fight. If that was your strategy, then I'll make sure my Pokemon go easier on you. They're suffering a bit of... trauma, shall we say, at the moment, and will try running off the cliff to get away from just a drop of water."

Reimu pondered if she should ask for more details, but recalling the fate of Hala's Crabrawler, which wasn't even weak to water, she decided that staying in the dark about whatever went down would probably be for the best. So she replied, "well, I don't have any water on me, so let's just get it over with."

"Excellent," Kiawe replied. "Then, let us begin the trial. Come, Marowak!" The three Marowak marched over to the stage, stopping right in front of Reimu.

"What's this?" she asked.

"These Marowak will dance for you twice. Watch the first dance carefully."

After a few seconds, the Marowak began to walk around in circles, twirling their bone clubs with green flames at their tips, before striking a pose. Then, they got back into position.

"Now, watch the second dance."

Again, the Marowak walked around in circles twirling their bone clubs and struck a pose. This time, the middle one held up its bone in the air with both hands like a Tusken Raider, rather than having one hand on the ground and raising the club with the other.

"Now, what difference do you see?" Kiawe asked.

This was too easy, Reimu thought. "Easy. The middle one. It's posing differently." The middle Marowak then became enraged, and suddenly attacked her.

"GAAH!" Reimu yelped as she reflexively sent out Gyarados to meet it. She was about to command it to attack, before she noticed that the Marowak was nowhere to be seen.

"Huh?" Reimu wondered. "Where did it go?"

Kiawe wondered as well, before realizing that the Marowak may have been scared off by a Water-type, not necessarily just water. "I think your Water-type might have scared it off. Perhaps if you used another Pokemon, then it will come back out."

Good idea, Reimu thought. If whatever Adele did was bad enough that the sight of any Water-type, much less Gyarados, would traumatize them, then using someone else would probably be wise. So she recalled Gyarados and sent out Sasha to replace it. It was another Fire-type, she surmised, and he did have Bite, so he could still fight the Ghost-type Marowak effectively.

It didn't take long for the Marowak to come out of hiding behind a rock and unleash its attack. Fortunately for Reimu, and unfortunately for the Marowak, Sasha was way too quick for the Marowak's comparatively sluggish fighting style, and a few Bites was all it too to force its surrender.

 

Reimu recalled Sasha, and twirled a stick around her finger while she whistled. "Piece-o'cake," she said.

Kiawe stood up. "Impressive," he commented. "That Marowak was so happy you answered right so quickly, it just had to battle you!"

...that was an odd twist of logic, she thought. It was almost as strange as Gensokyo logic. Almost.

"Now, for the second part of my trial," Kiawe announced. "The Marowak will dance for you, once again. This time, the difference may be harder to spot, so pay close attention."

The three Marowak got back into line, waited a few seconds, then did the same routine as before: walking around in circles twirling their clubs. This time, there was a brief, blinding flash that came from... somewhere. Reimu didn't know why a flash happened, it just did. When she looked back, the Marowak had each struck a pose, in a rough triangle around the center of the stage.

"Now, watch carefully a second time," Kiawe told Reimu. Once more, the Marowak danced in circles, there was a flash, and the three Marowak posed in a triangle around the center... and for some reason, there was a big, hairy hiker in the middle of it posing as well.

"Now, what difference do you see?" Kiawe asked.

Reimu decided to go with the obvious. "Well, that hiker wasn't there before..."

"DING DING DING! Correct!" said the hiker. "Now you gotta battle me!" He sent out his only Pokemon, a Magmar. And Reimu went to respond in kind, but decided to ask a question to Kiawe first.

"...is it okay if I use Gyarados for this one?" she asked. She wasn't too sure about the Magmar, it looked tough, and  she wanted to risk nothing.

Kiawe thought for a moment, then said, "sure. Just this one battle. I'll hide the Marowak."

"Thank you~" Reimu said in a prim tone before sending out Gyarados to go fight. As it turned out, Magmar put up even less of a fight; its attacks did barely anything, and Gyarados could win by literally just crushing it under the weight of its tail.

The hiker recalled his injured Pokemon, and Reimu recalled her (essentially healthy) Pokemon as well.

"Wow! They were right about you! You're a tough piece of work for someone new!" the hiker said.

"Hm, I suppose." Relatively new she may have been at Pokemon battling, but battling in general? Not so much. If this hiker knew of half her exploits, his mind would be blown out the back of his skull.

She then turned toward Kiawe, who had nothing but praise for her.

"Excellent! My friend David was so impressed by your answer, he just had to battle you!" He then directed his Marowak into the center of the stage one more time. "Now, the last dance. Please watch it closely."

Reimu had a feeling she knew where this was going: the Marowak would dance, and the second one would have the Totem Pokemon in it. That should be easy to spot, she felt, so she just barely paid any attention at all to the dance, which ended in one Marowak pantomiming holding a camera while the other two and the hiker did a pose.

"Now, watch one more time, and spot any differences." Yet again, the Marowak danced, there was a flash, and a pose. Kiawe asked Reimu, "now, what differences do you see in this dance?"

Reimu studied the pose, somehow missing the Totem Marowak, and came up with her answer. "Hmm, is it the two weird flying energy birds behind the Marowak?"

"Amazing! How did you- wait, what?" Kiawe looked, but not before one of the birds dive-bombed him. He was only saved by the Totem Marowak throwing its bone at it, knocking it aside.

Instantly, Reimu sent out Magneton to face the two assailants as well as Rotom to scan them. "Rotom! Can you tell me what these are?"

"Sure thing!" it said. Rotom was always happy to help. Reimu took a moment to study them herself: both were roughly orb-shaped with what appeared to be serrated mouths. One was purple and had two tail feathers, the other reddish-orange and had three tail feathers. Both were pulsating with energy and had shrill cackles and glowing eyes.

She wasted no time directing Magneton to Thunderbolt the two; she had no idea how strong they were, so going all-out and hopefully hitting for weakness would be her best bet. The first shot bulls-eyed the red one mid-dive, causing it to recoil back and charge another attack: shooting a flaming ball at her and Magneton.

Before she could order Magneton to dodge, the shot impacted and absolutely roasted it; if it weren't for Sturdy, it would have fainted right there. Thinking quickly, Reimu tossed a Potion at it, but just as she did, the purple one charged Magneton with enough force to knock it out completely, forcing her to recall it.

Dang, she thought, these things weren't messing around. She instantly sent out Gyarados to meet them; hopefully, the flame attacks from the red one wouldn't hurt as much. Then, realizing she was outmatched, she sent out Sasha as well as backup.

"Jump up there and attack them now!" she commanded Sasha. He instantly obliged, leaping up on top of the purple one and starting to claw it out. The purple one flailed about in midair trying to get Sasha off of it, eventually managing to shake him off and begin its assault.

As those two battled, Reimu directed Gyarados to attack the red one. It was then that Gyarados managed its first Water-type move: shooting a small stream out of its mouth to intercept the red one, again causing it to recoil and charge again.

Satisfied that she was starting to gain the upper-hand, she turned her attention back to Rotom and ask it what it had come up with.

"What's up?" she asked.

Rotom seemed unsure. "I... I'm not totally confident these are actually Pokemon," it confessed.

"Hmm?" Reimu asked.

"I checked by databases, these match no known Pokemon. All I managed to come up with are some working types: Normal/Flying for the purple one, Fire/Flying for the red one. I'm not sure how accurate those are, though."

Reimu was a bit annoyed in that moment. Running into unknown Pokemon was starting to become something of a pattern, she realized. Perhaps they came from beyond the wormhole as well.

She paid it no mind at that moment: all that mattered was swatting them out of her way however she could.

She scanned the area, looking at both of her Pokemon fighting. She decided that using that Max Revive on Magneton would likely be a good idea, and was about to administer it when she noticed something:

The energy creatures had objects inside their bodies, visible whenever their mouths were open.

She looked inside the red one: it possessed a large, red crystal rotating around inside it. The Firium-Z, no doubt, which it snatched for itself and now was using to power its attacks. Killing it would allow her to take it for herself.

Then, she looked inside the purple one. This was harder to do since Sasha had jumped on it again and was biting it, causing it to thrash around trying to shake him off. But, she still managed to catch sight of the inside of it. It looked to her as though there was some sort of round object... hold on, it had blue and black portions... and two appendages... and was making faint 'pew' noises...

 

The blood ran cold from her face.

 

"...Nebby???" she muttered.

The creature had managed to shake Sasha off a second time by this point, causing him to roll across the ground, but he steadied himself and was just about to unleash another attack.

"NO! SASHA! DON'T!" Reimu yelled with her arms out. "NEBBY'S IN THERE! YOU'LL HURT IT! STOP!"

Sasha, of course, was very confused: its master did not want it to continue attacking? Sasha wasn't too sure how to process this, but Reimu seemed very insistent that it not attack, so it shifted to more of a defensive-evasive strategy as the creature continued its onslaught, Nebby in tow.

She turned her attention to the fight between Gyarados and the red one. Gyarados was busy shooting twisters at it, but it kept evading its blows. Then, once it sensed Gyarados beginning to tire out, the red one made its move, flying up, wreathing itself in flames, then charging down at the weakened Gyarados hoping to get the last blow in.

Just as it was about to make contact, however, a huge bone struck it and slammed it into the ground. Reimu looked up: it was the Totem Marowak. It looked toward her, and made a gesture similar to a Z-move dance with its hand.

Reimu took a moment to process what this meant, before it hit her. "Right!" She dug into her bag and yanked out the Waterium-Z, then hastily slapped it into her Z-Ring. After quickly refreshing herself on the Water-type Z-dance with Rotom, she activated the ring, then performed the dance waving her arms like the waves of the ocean.

Almost instantly, Z-power flowed from the ring and right into Gyarados, who became absolutely showered in glowing, yellow energy. Gyarados first growled in a low voice, then rose up in the air and bellowed a mighty roar as it prepared to unleash its full-force Z-move.

 

This roar was loud enough to be heard almost everywhere else on the island, and was even loud enough to pull the attention of one, fluttery island guardian basking in the moonlight, if only for a brief moment.

 

Soon, Gyarados let loose its own Hydro Vortex; it spun its body around in circles, creating a maelstrom of water which gathered intensity until Gyarados suddenly stopped, and used its tail to throw the vortex right at the red energy creature, which was caught up in it and tossed up and down the waterspout, before it exploded and slammed the red creature into a nearby rock, causing it to go critical and unstable, shooting around wildly for several seconds before exploding in a brilliant confetti of fire and lightning. The Firium-Z it was holding dropped out of the air where it had been and onto the ground.

Instinctively, Reimu went to fetch it. However, just as she was about to claim it for herself, a whoosh of wind knocked her down onto the ground, mussing her up and opening up cuts on her arms and legs.

As Reimu got up and struggled to nurse her wounds, she looked up, and what she saw filled her with foreboding. The purple energy creature, with Nebby trapped inside, sought to take revenge for its fallen comrade. It had a determined look on its face, but so did she, especially as Sasha and Gyarados came to her side, ready to strike back.

The two stared each other down defiantly, Reimu from the ground, gritting her teeth as blood trickled down her leg, and the energy creature, flying through the air at mach speed.

Reimu managed a smirk. She could still control this situation, she realized. She steadied herself, and started to command the two Pokemon to attack.

Then, suddenly, she felt a rustling in her bag. She quickly tried to steady it, but to no avail. It grew more and more restless, and before long, her egg, that she had been carrying since yesterday and had nearly forgotten about, popped right out and bounced around like a demonically-possessed Superball.

"Ah!" she grunted reaching out to it, but the egg had other ideas. It bounded into the air, right into the purple creature's flight path, impacting it on the pointy side right on the creature's face. The impact sent the creature reeling backward in the air, and the egg back onto the ground. Reimu could see that it now had a crack on the pointy end.

After getting control of itself, the creature tried again to attack Reimu, but the egg was having none of it, so it jumped up again and smashed right into the creature's right wing, causing the creature to fall out of the air and crash into the ground. The egg showed further signs still of stress, and cracks formed all across it.

Reimu just sat back and watched the spectacle unfold in front of her. She didn't even have to command her Pokemon, this rambunctious egg was doing all the battling for her. And now it was about to deliver the finishing blow to the weakened energy monster.

The egg quickly bounded over to the creature, then flipped into the air just above it. And it was then, as it flipped in midair, that bright lights shone from inside the egg, shimmering through all the cracks that tore through it until...

 

"VEE~!"

As bits of eggshell shot everywhere, a newborn Eevee stretched its limbs out in the air, before falling down right down on top of the energy creature. And with one forceful tackle, the creature exploded in a flash of purple lightning, and Eevee flipped onto the ground, landing in a surprisingly graceful manner on all fours in front of the now-freed Nebby.

 

It took Reimu several seconds to process what she had just witnessed, before adrenaline kicked in and her parenting instincts acted up, causing her to rush to Nebby's aid.

"Nebby! Are you alright?!" she said exasperatedly. She knelt down to the puffball's side, helping it up and spraying it with a potion to try and get its energy back up.

It took Nebby a second to get itself back together, but once it looked up at its savior, it bounded around, shaking its pom-poms, and promptly lodged itself within Reimu's bag.

Satisfied that Nebby was safe, Reimu then turned around and took a good look at her little hero. Even though she was crouched down, the adorable and tiny Eevee looked up at her with a cat grin on its face, twitching its tail from left to right.

"Sooooo... you're what hatched from that egg," she said coolly.

The Eevee just continued to stare at it with its big, glistening eyes.

Reimu looked around, with a blush on her face, then reached her hand out. She let the newborn Eevee sniff it for a bit, before she rubbed between its ears and got an approving chirp from the little... rabbit... cat... dog thing. Eevee was a weird animal; Reimu didn't know what to call it.

 

A slow clap came from the left, along with the stomps of the Totem Pokemon.

"Well done," Kiawe commended, a certain level of shakiness still in his voice.

"What were those?" Reimu asked him.

Kiawe looked at her, and so did the Totem. "I have no clue. Whatever they were, they were clearly not good, and were definitely after something."

Reimu looked at her bag, where the little puffball was still rustling around. "They were after Nebby, at least."

Kiawe spoke again, "you were willing to give your life for that thing. Can you tell me what's so special about it?"

Reimu paused for a moment, then replied honestly, "well, its just looking for a way to get home. And so am I. If I keep it safe, then we might be able to find that way home together."

Kiawe crossed his arms. "I see." He paced around. "Truthfully, I have never seen anyone battle in quite the way that you do. I've seen people use their Pokemon as tools. Some people command their Pokemon like soldiers. But the way you battle, the way that you're willing to get into the fray yourself, it seemed as though you and your Pokemon all fought together as one. They acted to your will, but not necessarily your commands. And you faced those two strange creatures with no fear."

Reimu shrugged and smiled. "I suppose. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I've dealt with things you wouldn't imagine."

The Totem Pokemon stepped up to her, along with its smaller followers, who danced in step twirling their bone clubs while their leader firmly clutched the dropped Firium-Z in its free hand.

Reimu grasped a Pokeball and prepared to face it. "I suppose now that the circus is out of town, time for the real show to start," she said.

Instead, the Totem simply offered the Z-crystal without a fight, presenting it in front of her.

Reimu was perplexed. This was the second time today that another threat hijacked the trial, she had to put that threat down, and the Totem didn't want to fight after that.

"What is this?" she asked, still confused.

"Ah, simple," Kiawe responded. "Marowak was so thoroughly impressed with how you handled those two bird creatures, that it sees no doubt that you are worthy of the Firium-Z even without fighting it itself."

Reimu decided now was not the time to doubt Marowak's intentions. She reached out, carefully took the crystal from the Totem's hands, and placed it in her bag.

"Gaaooo!" The Totem let out a cry of approval as it and its followers stepped back and Kiawe stepped up front.

"It... might not have gone as intended, but congratulations. You have completed two of three trials on this island. And, you got a new partner as well doing it."

New partner? Oh, the Eevee, which was still looking up at her from down below. Reimu decided to fish out a spare Pokeball and put Eevee inside it. Having already imprinted herself as Eevee's trainer, it gave no resistance and went in as though it were already caught.

 


 

By now, it was almost completely dark, the glow of the caldera and the flare of the torches that ringed the stage being the only light the two of them had.

"Anything else?" Reimu asked.

"Yes, Kiawe said stepping forward. "Let me see your Ride Pager for just a second."

Why does everyone want my ride pager?, Reimu thought as she forked it over. She folded her arms as Kiawe messed around with it for a few seconds before handing it back.

"I just updated your pager so you can now summon a Charizard. It can fly you short distances, so you can get anywhere you need to much faster."

Fly? Did he just say... FLY???

Sure, it likely wouldn't be as effective as the kind of flight she was used to, especially since she had to ride on the back of an animal, but just the thought of being able to soar through the sky once again was enough to make her jump for joy!

She lunged forward and gave him a big ol' hug.

"THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! OMYGOHYOUWOULDNTBELIEVEHOWMUCHIWANTTOFLYAGAIN-"

Kiawe could barely breathe. "G-g-choking, not breathing!" He managed to push her off and catch his breath.

"Hah... hah... wow. Most people are happy for me to give them Charizard, but I've never met anyone THAT excited!"

Reimu put her hands to her side and chuckled. "At home, I can fly all the time. Actually, quite a few people can, but I can do more than that, like fly out of reality altogether."

Kiawe looked up, confused. "You mean... you can just float in the air?"

"Yup," Reimu boasted, "all I want..." She slumped. "...but not here, because I get all my powers from the god of my shrine, and since they're not here, in this world, then there's not much difference between me and a normal person."

She looked up at Kiawe again. "You probably won't know what it's like when you have a bunch of power, only to have them taken away and now all of a sudden you're just a normal person. I've fought a lot of scary and powerful beings, but I probably wouldn't be able to beat them like how I am now."

Kiawe just stared for several seconds, and so did the Totem Marowak, who was still standing behind him.

"I disagree," he said.

Reimu was instantly curious. "Hmm?"

"I watched you fight those two creatures. I'm not sure I would have been able to, or most people for that matter. But you just stepped up to the plate as soon as the threat presented itself, even though you had no idea what you were fighting. And the way you commanded your Pokemon, flowed with them and directed them by instinct, is far past the level of other trainers who have been doing it for years, even though you've only been at it for a few days."

Reimu slumped again, "yeah, but I have to lean on these Pokemon to do most of the fighting for me."

Kiawe thought for a moment, then responded, "well, if what you say is true, then were you not already leaning on some sort of god?"

"Yeah?" Reimu said.

"Then, that would mean you were relying on teamwork in order to fight then, just as you are now. Just you command your Pokemon, you were commanding the power of that god in order to fight. So, not much has changed, other than whose power you wield."

Reimu shot him a stern look. "Are you saying that I can't my own battles??"

"No, no, not at all," Kiawe said shaking his hands. "What I meant was, your method that you have developed binds you and your partners to fight as a team, fight as one. You were able to fight and win your battles so easily, because your opponents were either trying to fight alone, or saw their allies as mere tools. You know better. You know how to bond with your partners, and bring out their full strength to crush the competition. If others did the same, then perhaps the playing field would be closer to even."

Reimu thought about these words. Was it all true, she thought? That her true power came from being able to fight and flow with others and bring out all their full power?

Being human, she was, of course, at a massive disadvantage already against youkai, Lunarians and goddesses. Up to that point, however, she just thought that her powers of being able to see and manipulate auras, as well as channel and weaponize the power of the shrine's god was her ticket to success. But what if what Kiawe said was true, and her true strength lie in being able to channel the strength of anything, fight alongside them and use that strength to empower not only herself but also that of her allies?

Yukari had told her, as a child, that the power of gods was directly proportional to the amount of faith they received. At the time, Reimu just thought, well, make sure they get enough faith from the people and keep them happy and strong. But, perhaps there was another dimension, hidden by Yukari's own playful tongue, at play that she wasn't aware of...

She looked back up at him. "I'll consider it."

"I'm sure you will. Nobody wants to see talent like that go to waste."

"Sure," Reimu replied. She turned around, and looked over the caldera just beneath her. The steam of the inner earth vented from the orange fissures between the plates of cooled magma, and the warm glow and heat gently kissed the front side of her body.

"Tell me," she asked Kiawe. "Were these islands born of fire?"

Kiawe stepped forward. "Now that's an interesting question to ask. There have been many myths and legends about how Alola came about. Now, the scientists all say that Alola is parked over some kind of 'hot spot' that pipes magma up to the surface, cools when it meets ocean water, and then when that happens enough an island is born. One legend, however, claims that the islands rose to the surface of the earth because of the influence of the continent Pokemon, Groudon. Either way, you could say that, yes, these islands are born of fire."

This intrigued Reimu, since many old Japanese legends claim that the Japanese islands were also the result of fire and fury from the underworld meeting the surface. Did all land originate from hell, she wondered?

"I see," she told him. "And yet, here the hotspot is, ceaselessly spewing forth blood from the earth, heated by the souls of the damned, the regrets of the forgotten, the fury of the gods, bringing the searing life nectar to the surface and creating a place where diverse life can take hold, growing, then falling back into these gifts from the under to start the cycle anew."

Kiawe looked at her somewhat awkwardly. "Actually... to be honest, this crater was a lot smaller before Lillie came here."

Reimu looked at him, then looked at the crater, and her eyes widened.

She then cleared her throat and looked back at him. "Anyway, it's getting dark, and I can now fly on a Charizard."

"Ah, yes," he said. "There's a very good inn down in Big Blue Harbor. It's on the island's north shore. If you're heading to Mallow's Trial next, that's a good way to get there."

"Alright, got it," she replied as she pressed the button on her Ride Pager, and within a few moments, the familiar roar of the big lizard emanated through the air. And mere moments after that, it was face-to-face with her.

Reimu wasted no time hopping onto the saddle as she waved goodbye to Kiawe. "I think Hau is your next opponent. Tell him I said hi."

"Oh, little Hau, Hala's grandson!" he beamed. "Yeah, I'll do that for you!"

"Alright. Hup!" Reimu kicked the side of the Charizard to get it going, and soon it took off into the air. Reimu looked back down at Kiawe, who was still waving goodbye along with the hiker and Marowak, then looked forward to the north. She scanned the ground, and saw a bunch of lights which lined the shore, which she could tell was the shore because of the abrupt, pitch blackness just beyond the lights. Curiously, she also noticed what appeared to be lights extending into the ocean, some moving at rather high speed, and others lined up like airport runway lights. She paid it no mind, and simply directed Charizard to swoop down the mountainside and toward the town.

 


 

It took just a few minutes, before she was down on the ground just in front of the entrance to the Anchor Inn. She sent Charizard back, then looked up at the sign, which depicted a girl in a sailor outfit sitting on a Dhelmise. It reminded her a lot of captain Murasa, and Reimu reckoned that Dhelmise would be the perfect Pokemon for her.

She went in, got checked in and shown a room without incident, then ate some dinner which consisted mostly of some convenience store sushi she had picked up back on Royal Avenue. As far as sushi went, it wasn't actually half bad. Then, she just screwed around with a while, watching public access TV and studying stuff with Rotom for a while before she brushed her teeth, cut the lights and went to bed, Nebby, Eevee and Sasha all resting at the foot of the bed.

 

Meanwhile, peering through the window of the room, the little Riolu simply stared at her long into the night before retreating into the bushes.

Chapter Text

He galloped up to the castle's entrance along with his knights. The castle, looming large on a hill in the center of Lumiose City, gave off an elegant, regal, but nonetheless intimidating flair that practically dared invaders to try breaking through its formidable defenses, and was so imposing it could be seen for miles around.

The man, however, was no foe. For he was a subject of the king of Kalos, Francois IV. And he had bad news to bear.

Approaching the moat, he halted his men, pulled out a horn, and blew into it to signal his presence. The guards, looking down from towers spaced along the castle parapet, looked down and, satisfied it was the king's special ambassador to the Novogradians, gave the order to lower the drawbridge and let him and his accompaniment in.

Stepping through the castle's grand hall, he approached the door to the king's throne room, guarded by two of the king's elite royal guards and their Aegislash partners.

"I am the king's special ambassador," he introduced himself.

One guard produced a piece of parchment from a side satchel. "Special ambassador... ah, lord Cloud. Of course. The king is expecting you." He and the other guard opened up the doors to let lord Cloud in. He went in alone, leaving his accompaniment behind; this was a matter between him and the king alone.

He walked up the luxurious velvet carpet of the throne room, the sides of which were lined with grand stained glass windows depicting past royal families, as well as Xerneas and Yveltal. At the far end, king Francois himself was at work at his desk, penning letters and orders to go out to his subjects, each of which was then meticulously sealed by his Floette.

Lord Cloud went up the steps and bowed. "My liege, I bring unfortunate news."

The king turned away from his work. "Ah, lord Cloud. I was beginning to wonder when you would return."

"Yes, of course, sorry for the delay. We had encountered a storm over the eastern mountains," lord Cloud said.

The king got up from his seat, in the process making his imposing two-meter build known. "What is the news from Novograd?"

"As I said, unfortunate." Lord Cloud adjusted his stance. "The negotiations over the disputed territories have broken down, and they offer no concessions. I fear that hostilities may begin soon."

"As I expected," the king replied. "My family has known the Novogradian tsars for a long time, they are not people to make any concessions." He paced around his desk. "I have already begun sending out orders to all armies to prepare for conflict. I advise you to rouse your own men and Pokemon for battle as well."

Lord Cloud had feared it might come to this. His wife had given birth to twin daughters prior to his leaving for Novograd, and he was concerned of their safety growing up in such an environment. The Novogradians were proud of their vast army, matched only by Kalos's own, and they possessed many allies, as did Kalos. Such a war would be one of the bloodiest the world had yet seen. He knew there would be countless many innocent people and Pokemon killed. And he feared his estate, in Anistar City close to Kalos's fringes, would fall under siege quickly in the event of an incursion.

But, now it seemed there was little choice: he must return home to his waiting wife and children, rouse his men, and stand by for the fateful order. Despite his warrior upbringing - he had assisted his father with subjugating barbarians as a boy - he still believed in the importance of diplomacy as a means of avoiding bloody conflict, and to have failed to stave off a conflict with Kalos's greatest rival was nothing short of a grievous disappointment for him. Therefore, he only sent his army into battle as a last resort. Despite this, he always ensured they were well-trained, making them perhaps Kalos's most formidable army in spite of their lack of service. And now, all that training, and many men for whom this would be their first conflict, would be put to the test.

He wasted no time leaving the castle with his men. By sunset, he was home, rallying his soldiers for war while his wife and mistresses cared for the little girls.

 

Within days, the Great War, the Pokemon World's biggest, bloodiest, and ultimately final conflict, would begin.

 


  

Reimu's phone buzzed on the bedside table, rousing her from her sleep. Outside, the sun had just begun to break over the horizon.

"What was THAT dream all about?" she wondered. Minutes before, she dreamed that her, Hau and Yuyuko were all engaged in a malasada-eating contest (which Hau still won, despite his opponent being Yuyuko). It was a strange dream, given that Reimu had eaten precisely one malasada during her whole time here.

She shook it off, shut off the alarm, showered and got dressed for the day, then went downstairs to the continental breakfast. The night before, she had received a text from Lillie, asking her to meet her in front of the Big Blue Harbor Pokemon Center at 8 A.M. for some reason. Reimu decided to use the opportunity to return Nebby to her, as well as catch up with her after having parted ways with her yesterday morning. In particular, she was interested in whether Lillie had many any progress in unlocking the secrets of the Zygarde cube.

The breakfast was okay. Reimu was still getting used to some of the food on offer, such as yogurt and buttered toast. She also swore she had put on a couple pounds since coming to Alola, due to how she was eating better compared to her rather threadbare diet as a shrine maiden back home. She hoped most of it was muscle rather than fat...

Looking around as she ate her food, she noticed something peculiar: she noticed how many of the pictures that decorated the breakfast room depicted people piloting bizarre hovercraft. She also saw parents with children wearing novelty helmets whose visors appeared to only have white spots for eyes that shifted with the wearer's facial expressions, and which had many different designs on them.

She thought about why these peculiarities existed, before she remembered the strange lights that went out into the ocean which she had seen the night before. Perhaps it had something to do with that, she surmised. Perhaps she would go take a look after meeting up with Lillie to see what they were.

 

After finishing her meal, Reimu checked out of the inn and walked over to the Pokemon Center. As she stepped outside, she found that the Inn, which was parked on top of a bluff overlooking the marina, had a view of what looked to her to be the most bizarre road, going out into the sea and then back, and featuring loop-the-loops, twists and corkscrews. There were even several sections where parts of the road seemed to hang in midair. Reimu wondered just what kind of strange road this was supposed to be. Perhaps some exotic roller-coaster, like the one at the Hau'oli Harbor amusement park, or the ones she had been shown in pictures from the Ouside by Kourin.

Reimu decided to pay it no mind and continue to the Pokemon Center, which was about another five minute walk down the main promenade from the Anchor Inn and the Marina entrance, close to the main road that ran alongside the island's north end. The town itself featured a few high-rise hotels with glassy facades (not surprising, given how almost every major settlement Reimu had been in so far besides Iki Town had them), several shorter buildings and storefronts, and houses and neighborhoods scattered around the southern and western edges of town. What struck her the most, however, was a tall tower, the city's tallest, with a metal globe perched on top with various holographic banners and images proclaiming Big Blue Harbor "the Alolan Home of the G-Zero Grand Prix."

Perhaps that's what the road was for, Reimu thought.

 

Reimu soon made it to the Pokemon Center, and as expected, Lillie was patiently waiting for her out front. She mostly looked the same as before, although Reimu saw that she had notably ditched her wide-brimmed hat and replaced it with a smaller sun-hat. Standing at her side was a man in a grey lab coat, punching away at a small device on his arm.

"Hey, Lillie," Reimu called out while waving.

Lillie turned around to her. "Well, good morning!" she beamed. "I got you some tea to drink!" She held out a small paper cup with a drinking lid, through which steam wistfully floated into the brisk morning air.

Reimu held out her hand to get it. "Thank you." She took the cup and began sipping on it.

Reimu then turned to the scientist. "Who are you?" she asked.

He turned around. "Oh! Sorry, I was focused on my work." He turned off the device on his arm. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am professor Colress."

Reimu tilted her head. "Another Pokemon professor?"

"Well," he said, "not necessarily. Not like what you're used to thinking of. You probably won't be seeing me give out starter Pokemon to new trainers any time soon," he joked. "Instead, I have devoted my research to finding ways to draw out the potential of Pokemon."

Lillie turned to Reimu. "He lives here in Big Blue Harbor. After you gave me that Zygarde Cube, I went to him to help me figure out out to use it." She reached into her bag, and gently pulled out the artifact and showed it to Reimu. It was glowing slightly.

"When I started walking around with it, I got spooked when a green light shot out of the bush and into my bag. And it just kept happening, so after I got through with Kiawe I came down here and had Colress look at it. And, well, Sina and Dexio were exactly right: Zygarde Cells are attracted to it, and just zip right into it! Colress thinks that if I just walk around some more, I might get enough cells to form a whole Zygarde!"

"Interesting," Reimu said. She decided to look up Zygarde on her Rotom-Dex. What she saw was most interesting:

 

 

It could only be described as an otherworldly cobra, constantly ready to strike, and whose entire body was covered in green, black and white hexigonal scales, including its eyes, and whose "hood" more closely resembled a stylized royal collar. And unlike most Legendary Pokemon, there was actually fairly decent data and lore on it. It was listed as Dragon/Ground, and was posited as a mediator between Xerneas and Yveltal - indeed, a few years prior, it intervened in an incident where Team Flare attempted to revive both to unleash the Ultimate Weapon, only to be crushed by the Order Pokemon and driven into the clutches of the International Police by someone named "Calem" before Zygarde split apart and disappeared, but not before leaving behind the Zygarde Cube, the very artifact that Lillie now held in her hands. It even had some moves listed, although the list was limited to what was seen during the incident, including Dragon Pulse and a unique move that was nicknamed "Land's Wrath." Reading through what it was capable of, Reimu had little doubt in her mind that Lillie had a strong partner in her hands.

She put Rotom down, then looked at Colress. "So, draw the power from Pokemon, can you explain what that means?"

Colress looked down for a moment. Personally, he wondered whether he should reveal his time with Team Plasma with Reimu. After all, given everything Ghetsis had done, Colress looked back on his association with him, which he did out of desperation to obtain funding to research Mega Stones and Z-Crystals, with shame, and from what he'd been told, Reimu was a very tough individual with no tolerance for injustice. So, how best could he phrase what he did?

"I'm sure you know now how the bonds between trainer and Pokemon work to bring out the potential of both. And you may also be familiar with how Z-Crystals and Mega Stones -"

Reimu interjected, "Mega Stones? I keep hearing about those, but no one's given me a good explanation."

"Ah, yes," Colress replied. "Mega Evolution. It's a phenomenon associated with Mega Stones as well as what are called Key Stones. It's a very rare occurrence, and only a few Pokemon species and even fewer trainers are capable of unlocking its power. Specifically, if the trainer holds a Key Stone, and their Pokemon holds a Mega Stone that corresponds with their species, and also if the bonds between that trainer and their Pokemon are strong, then similar to using a Z-Move, energy will flow into the Pokemon and cause them to transform into a hidden and much more powerful form. We call these 'Mega Pokemon.'"

Reimu paused and thought. "I see," she said.

Colress continued, "anyway, these artifacts draw out the hidden power of Pokemon, so I'm researching in what other ways a Pokemon's power can be drawn out even more."

Reimu decided to challenge him on this; after all, Kiawe's words to her yesterday were still resonating with her.

"What's your motivation?" she asked. "Why do you want to see how far a Pokemon's power can go?"

Colress but his hands in his pocket. "As a boy, I was always fascinated by how people and Pokemon battled alongside one another, and how that energy translated to fierce battles. As I learned more, I found all there was to know about Z-Crystals and Mega Stones. In particular, I've always wanted to answer an age-old mystery: where did they come from? Why do they affect Pokemon in the ways that they do? If I can answer those questions, then perhaps all that we know about the potential of Pokemon would be turned on its head."

Reimu thought to herself again. Colress had a good point: items that just power up Pokemon in strange ways? Surely, they all had to come from somewhere. But where exactly?

"You make good points," Reimu told him.

"I appreciate it," he replied.

Reimu then turned around to Lillie. There was another point she had to get through.

"Oh, yes, Lillie," she said. "I have something very important to show you." She opened up her bag, and out popped Nebby onto the ground. "I found Nebby yesterday after an... ah... incident." She was hesitant to let Lillie on about the energy creatures she faced yesterday. "It was in extreme danger, so I brought it back to you."

But instead of relieved elation, Lillie gave Reimu a very confused look.

"What is it?" Reimu asked.

"Well, it's nice that you saved it, but I never lost Nebby."

Reimu stepped back. "Wha?"

"Let me show you," Lillie replied. She let Nebby out of the Pokeball that she held it in, and the two puffballs stared at each other for a few moments before Reimu's bopped Nebby with its pom-poms and then laughed at Nebby's misfortune.

"It must be another Cosmog," she said.

Reimu was stunned. Another Cosmog? Was it perhaps brought here the same way she was?

Colress looked down at them, "oh? Cosmogs? I've read about these strange creatures, but I've never seen one in person, let alone two at once."

Reimu decided to pull away the second Cosmog from tormenting Nebby, and held it in her hand.

"You better behave yourself," she smirked. The little Cosmog just pouted. But then Reimu shifted to a more serious tone. "You must be very scared, especially after yesterday. And you must be looking for a way back home."

The Cosmog nodded.

"Well, truthfully, I'm searching for a way home, too. Perhaps if I find it, I can lead you home too."

The Cosmog gave her an approving smile.

"So, how would you like to come along with me?" Reimu offered in a motherly voice.

The Cosmog wiggled around in its arms, waving it's pom-poms around and going "Pew! Pew!"

Reimu smiled. "Great! But, we're gonna have to give you a name to tell you apart from Nebby." She pondered a good name for it for a few seconds, before glancing at it again and realizing all the sparkles that it gave off in the glistening tropical sunlight. It was almost as if it were made of stardust...

"I know!" Reimu said with a lightbulb over her head. "How about 'Stardust?' Do you like that name?"

It stared at her for a second, before smiling and going "PEW!" Reimu took it as a yes.

"Alright then, Stardust it is!" She went to pull a spare Pokeball out of her bag. Realizing Team Skull might come after Stardust as well, she used a plain Pokeball so that Stardust wouldn't stand out. Stardust then went into the Pokeball without a fight, and it clicked, indicating that it was happy with its new master.

Of course, Rotom just HAD to come out of her bag and analyze the new "catch." It added Cosmog's entry to its database, decided it was Psychic-type, and its only moves were Splash and Teleport. Still, Stardust did have a lot of spunk, willing to pick fights against its own well being, which was probably how it wound up getting captured by those two creatures. And the way it rebounded from that ordeal was impressive. Reimu knew she was going to keep it on a very short leash, but Reimu was a disciplinarian, and she was confidant that she could whip respect into it.

She looked at Lillie. "I guess that makes two of us keeping Nebby in the bag." Lillie stifled a laugh. It was then that Reimu noticed Colress interacting with her Rotom-Dex, and wanted to see what was up.

"Interesting," Colress said. "It seems your Pokedex with a Rotom in it is very good at identifying unknown Pokemon." He turned to Reimu. "I actually personally know the woman who came up with the idea. She told me she once had a dream, where her Pokedex as a child interacted with her, like a fairy companion from a fantasy tale. When she woke up, she wanted to make it real, and decided that designing a Pokedex that a Rotom could inhabit was the best way to make it a reality."

Reimu decided to cut in. "So, what is Rotom, exactly?"

Colress, of course, answered. "Rotom is one of the more peculiar Pokemon. Essentially, it's a Ghost Pokemon made entirely out of plasma who loves to possess machines and electronics. For some reason, they show a particular preference for ovens, washing machines, fans, refrigerators, and even lawn mowers. Of course, they can be something very disruptive and cause outages and failures, so a lot of effort is put into mitigating their impact. Most Rotoms you see owned by trainers have permanently possessed something to keep them from spontaneously possess nearby objects at will. But the Rotom-Dex was designed to be the perfect vessel for it, right down to having eyespots and arms. It even gives them the ability to communicate with humans, although all those abilities come at the cost of being able to battle."

"Oh, so that's why it doesn't try to help me with battling," Reimu said snidely.

"Indeed. Despite this, she still sunk several years of her life into perfecting it, and now many trainers enjoy having a fairy companion, of sorts."

Reimu was still uncomfortable with people referring to Rotom as a "fairy companion." After all, she'd seen real fairies, how dumb, weak and childish they were, and how unpleasant it was for humans in general to hang around them. Perhaps if people in the Pokemon world knew the truth, they might think twice, but they don't, so she was just going to have to live with it.

She looked toward the road. "Well, I think this is all interesting, Dr. Colress, but if you don't mind, me and Lillie would like to get going and continue our Island Challenge. Perhaps we can talk again later?"

Colress nodded. "I suppose I should let you go. I was going to ask you if you could help me with something, but I do understand that you are probably more interested in finding a way home."

Reimu nodded, but was struck with curiosity: he needed her help with something? As much as she wanted to continue her challenge and her search, many years of helping others drove her to ask specifically what sort of help he needed.

"Well, what did you want help with?" She asked.

Colress looked off into the distance. Reimu looked in the same direction, and realized he was looking at the over-ocean track.

"Does it have to do with that?" she said, somewhat unamused. "Because I don't think I'm completely interested."

Lillie, on the other hand, begged to differ. "Oh, I think you might. Hau told me all about how you crushed Manine surfing, so I told Colress you might get a kick out of G-Zero Racing!"

Reimu cocked a brow at her. "G-Zero Racing?"

"Yeah! It's a high-speed, high-stakes, high-adrenaline sport that's popular the world over. I just love watching it on the TV, and I've even been to a couple of live races! Cars that float off the ground and go at post-Mach speeds! I just can't get enough of it!"

Sounds more like something Marisa would try her luck with, much less be a fan of, Reimu thought. Heck, the way Lillie was squeeing over it was mostly unlike her timid, reserved character, and was closer to how Marisa often behaved.

Reimu put her hand on Lillie's head. "Settle down there, that will do."

Lillie collected herself. "Oh, right. That was improper, wasn't it?"

 

After some more hounding from Lillie, Reimu finally caved and had Colress show them to his seaside estate. It was a blocky, futuristic-looking monstrosity surrounded by glass gardens, holo-screens, a fountain and even drones doing all the gardening. Inside the house was no less high-tech, with screens everywhere, a trendy helix staircase, a virtual fireplace and deluxe leather couch set, a completely automated kitchen, and even more drones (and one Beheeyem) doing housekeeping. The whole scene was reminiscent of the way Alice used her dolls to maintain her house.

Reimu looked around, absolutely amazed at everything she saw, and so did Lillie.

"Do you like it?" Colress asked. "I built this house with my own money and inventions. Most of what you see here was designed by me." Reimu didn't know how much money Colress had spent on this place, but it was easily more than she had so far seen in her life. And that was counting the fact that half the money she had ever had so far she earned in just the past few days.

"It's quite the place," she said. Really, words could not do the house justice. "But, why did you bring us here to your house?"

Colress led them to a door on the far side of the front room. "Because I want to show you what I have in the garage." He opened it up, and led the two girls inside.

Unlike the rest of the house, the garage was actually fairly standard, with a bare cement floor, tools strewn about, and off-white overhead lights. Even so, it still had tons of technology in it, including an overhead automated arm that could switch between tools at a whim to work on a variety of projects. The centerpiece of the garage was a shining, slick-white car with blue streaks, tricked out with two external power units, an aerodynamic cockpit, and curiously, no tires.

"What's this thing?" Reimu asked Colress.

"This is my little side-project," he said. "My main field of study is the power of Pokemon, but ever since I was a boy, I've also had an interest in high-speed racing. Of course, my research pushed that to the wayside, but I still wanted to create the perfect racing machine." He waved his arm, and the turntable underneath the craft spun it around until it faced Reimu. "I call it the Plasma Freeze. I spent three years perfecting it. It's equipped with the latest safety and boosting technology. It's also much sturdier than it may seem, because it is made of a new super-tough polymer and comes equipped with Gardevoir-source gravity wells. It looks, feels and drives like a feather, but in fact weighs 2105 kg, heavy enough to knock almost everything else off the track. I designed it as the perfect machine, the first one rated by the G-Zero engineering committee as A-A-A."

Reimu looked around it, how it shined and glistened in the light just above it. Truly, it was a work of art. But, the lack of tires still bugged her.

"Why does it have no tires?" she asked him. "Don't tell me it just hovers in the air."

Colress looked over his glasses frames and smiled. He then pulled out a remote, popping open the windshield and stepping into it before turning the key and starting it.

Suddenly, a blast of heat and steam blew out from under the machine, causing Reimu and Lillie to recoil back while a blue glow emanated from the underside, before, amazingly, the engines flared to life and the machine levitated up into the air.

Reimu stood with her jaw agape, then looked at the scientist in the cockpit, who in turn, cocked his head to look at her.

"Would you like for me to drive you to the track?" he offered.

Reimu couldn't come to a coherent answer. Sure, floating through the air was nothing new to her, but she hadn't yet seen anything in this world quite like the bleeding-edge piece of technology in front of her.

"Uhm, sure," she sputtered. She walked over to the passenger-side seat and climbed in.

Lillie walked toward the door. "I'll meet you guys at the track," she said, closing the door behind her. Colress then closed the windshield, turned the machine around, opened the garage door, and drove out onto the street and toward the racing track.

 

The ride was short, but very smooth. Cruising down the road at a cool 60 kph, the hovercraft avoided all bumps, potholes, and stray Pyukumuku whose spines could pop tires. The soundproof glass cancelled out most of the hubbub and noise outside, but the closer they got to the raceway, the more that the roar of the crowd that had gathered in the stands just beyond the entrance to the raceway penetrated the cockpit.

They pulled up to the racer entrance, where Colress popped open the windshield in order to talk to the race attendant.

"Checking in for the 12:00 race," he said.

The attendant responded, "oh, yes, Mr. Colress. I'll get you registered straight away." He produced a tablet, spent a few moments punching in some information, then turned back toward him. "Alright, here you go," he said, handing Colress a chip about the size of a CD. "Number 7, pull up to the left."

"Thank you," Colress replied as he did as instructed.

 


 

"Alright Reimu, let's show the world your racing face."

Reimu's voice came through the door to the changing room, "this thing is kinda warm and sweaty..."

"The race starts soon, so we need to get moving."

Slowly, the door opened, and out of the changing room, Reimu stepped out, dressed head-to-toe in the machine's matching blue-and-white racing suit and helmet.

Reimu flipped the sun-visor to see Colress better. "How do I look?"

Colress replied, "well, I did design it for a man, so I apologize if it does not fit optimally."

That did not matter to Reimu too much, since she was kind of a big girl, about 1.7 meters, so it wasn't like it was bagging off of her. The fact that the suit's size could be adjusted at will by Colress helped the suit fit better. All that mattered to Reimu was that they could finally be shown to the track and get this episode over with.

 

Minutes later, the two were on the track, and Colress showed her all the machine's controls and how driving along the course would work.

"So, if I fall or get knocked off the track, what then?" she asked.

"I wouldn't worry about that," Colress said to her. "This machine is sturdy enough and has advanced course-correction systems that will allow you to stay on the track. But, in the event that you do fall off the track and retire, you will be safely captured and brought to a waiting area until the race has concluded."

Somehow, that was cold comfort for Reimu, who still didn't fully trust that this sport was as safe and fun as he claimed. She was also still wondering how Lillie managed to rope her into this. Speaking of which, Lillie was clearly visible in the stands waving around a foam finger with Reimu's name on it, misspelled of course. But, she was here now, and the fans were screaming at the top of their lungs.

She had to make them absolutely and positively lose their minds from adrenaline poisoning.

As Colress walked away, her attention turned towards the other racers who were beginning to arrive. She had been positioned in middle place as her starting position, so she could see most of the racers around her as the announcer called out their names.

"And now, pulling up to the starting line and hailing from Jubelife City, #21 Volkner in the Bolt Luxray!" It was a yellow car shaped like a lightning bolt. There were others as well: one shaped like a water droplet, another supposedly made entirely out of discarded Metagross husks. One of them even had two cockpits! How did THAT work, she wondered?

After a few minutes, most of the racers had made it to the starting line, although the space next to Reimu's was conspicuously still empty. Perhaps that racer was just running a little late, she thought. She paid it no mind, and just focused on the track ahead, psyching herself up for the high-octane race ahead. But just as she was, that was when all the race queens began pouring onto the track carrying their flags and banners. Reimu stared and winced: how were THOSE outfits even legal? Many had leotards that exposed absolute cleavage, some had short tops and nothing but very thin thongs on the bottom, and others were basically only wearing bikinis. At least hers was comparatively modest: it was just a girl wearing glasses and a stereotypical "hot scientist" getup. So at least Colress had standards, unlike all the other racers.

After the 29 race queens finished their parade across the track, the announcer called out, "all the racers are primed an in position... what's this? One more racer is driving up to the starting line!"

Reimu turned around. Was it the late racer? As their car came up, dark, foreboding-sounding music began playing through the speakers. The machine that was driving up was large, imposing, painted in black and red and covered in tusks and spikes, the number 30 displayed prominently on the sides and front. Its corresponding race queen also paraded across the track, carrying a flag much larger and more threatening than all the others and the queen herself being a dark-skinned, raven-haired woman with face paint wearing an outfit based on a Haxorus, with shoes that looked like Haxorus feet to complete the part.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the force of darkness has arrived! The Black Dragon! The Tusks of Power!!!" The crowd went wild upon the machine pulling up to the starting line, right next to Reimu's own. The cockpit was heavily tinted, but Reimu could make out a pilot whose helmet completely obscured their face. Apparently, they noticed her as well, because they looked over to her, before focusing on the track ahead.

Within moments, all the machines had revved their engines, including Reimu's. The announcer called out to the audience, "Are you ready for racing?" The crowed screamed and chanted their collective approval, at which point the countdown began.

"3..."

Reimu clutched the control column, her palms covered in sweat.

"2..."

She steadied her nerves, took in a breath of air, and steeled herself.

"1..."

Her foot rested on the accelerator as the machine switched into racing mode. Then...

"GO!!!"

All at once, the holding gears instantly unlocked, sending the machines barreling down the straightaway at hundreds of kilometers per hour. As Reimu caught herself and refocused on the track, all of a sudden it went straight up into the air. Despite this, the craft stuck to the surface of the track as if the gravity shifted along with it, creating the strange sensation of feeling right-side up, even though she was literally shooting straight up.

Wrangling the throttles, she drifted straight toward the nearest dash pad, rocketing her up the track and onto the next segment: a snake whose gravity was such that you could be on any side and not fall off. She looked up, only to realize she was actually looking down. Fortunately, this was not an alien sensation for her: she often got turned upside-down while flying. What WAS alien was the gravity not behaving like she was upside-down, which threw off her balance as her craft shifted from side-to-side, and in her attempt to steady herself inadvertently got her first KO. As she looked to the side, she saw the machine spinning out and smoking, before a drone teleported in and grabbed it, pulling it to safety down below.

She focused back on the track, hitting one more boosting pad to try and get forward. Unfortunately, she was all the way back in 29th place, which was last place now that that guy was knocked out. Undeterred, she got to the end of the snake, which shook her off and back onto the track now shooting down below onto the recharge pads. Her machine had gotten a little mussed up on the snake, but the shield gauge filled right back up. Back on the surface and on the straightaway, she wondered how she was going to get ahead now that she was in the back, when, as she crossed the line and began her second lap...

"You've got boost power! Booster OK!"

Now was her chance! She hit the booster button, and in a moment, rocketed forward to the next racer. It was then that she got a devious idea: Colress had said that the machine was sturdy and strong. She had accidentally knocked out that last racer the last lap. Now, she was going to do it intentionally. Call it dirty fighting, but it was completely within the rules, and she was used to crushing fairies left and right, so what was really stopping her from doing it?

So, she got right up against the other racer, performed a sideswipe, and knocked the car straight off the course. Excellent, that's one piece of competition down. She went up to the next racer, not much farther up, and did the same thing. And she just kept doing this right up to the snake, boosting as needed to catch up to the other racers and knock them off. She got five KO's this way before hitting the snake.

On the snake, getting KO's was harder, since all the racers were twisting all around it making it harder to see them. Nonetheless, she focused on each racer in front of her, knocking them out as she became able to. At one point, someone tried to knock off another racer but failed, she she finished the job for them. And then she knocked off THAT person as well.

Pretty soon, she was closing up on the lead, right where the Black Dragon was. When she caught sight of it, Reimu saw yet another car flying off the track; no doubt the driver had the same idea she did, and would refuse to go down so easily. So, she did what she always did with tough-looking opponents: hang back for a bit, observe their patterns, then punish any shortcomings in strategy that she could see.

Said shortcomings were not so obvious, until they hit the recharge pads and could start boosting again. At that point, Reimu figured out that the Black Dragon, while it had a higher cruising speed, had a weaker booster than her ship, effectively neutralizing the other’s advantage. So, this match was going to come down to a game of wits, and perhaps also serious guts.

At that point, there were no other racers left on the track, all of them having  been slammed off the course by either of them, so there was no fear of any competition trying to sneak up past them to claim victory. So Reimu confidently sped up, until she was roughly alongside the Black Dragon outside of sideswipe range, and the two barreled down to the line to begin the last lap.

Hanging in the catwalks above said finish line was the Riolu, which had watched the entire race from its vantage point. It figured out that the white-and-blue machine was Reimu’s and had been watching it closely. As the two vehicles neared the line, it could see a trapdoor opening up on top of the Black Dragon, out of which an Exploud crawled out. However, Reimu did not also notice this.

In G-Zero races, racers were allowed to bring along a Pokemon that could be used to try and disrupt the their rivals. Some examples of this included a Thunder Wave user to try and disrupt the vehicle’s electrics, or perhaps an Ice Beam user to create a hazardous wall of icicles on the track. The Black Dragon’s Exploud, in this case, was well-known for attempting to use Boomburst to disorient opponents and hopefully cause them to careen off the track.

The Riolu, however, was having none of it. It waited until the machines were close, then jumped off the catwalk, using its (still not fully developed) aura-sensing skills to time its drop onto the Plasma Freeze. It did so, just as the machines started the final lap, barely catching onto one of the Plasma Freeze’s back fins. It managed to pull itself up to the top, where from there the Exploud faced it from atop the Black Dragon.

Exploud realized it had a foe, one that would try to keep it from doing its job. Exploud were not particularly known for their deductive reasoning skills, but this one knew enough that a small, quick Pokemon such as Riolu could attack it too quickly for it to charge up and unleash Boomburst, and especially because Riolu was a Fighting-type, it wanted to risk nothing, even if Riolu wasn’t yet fully evolved. Fortunately for Exploud, it had the advantage of distance, something Riolu lacked, so all it needed to do was pelt Riolu with its ranged attacks and then, once it was clear, use Boomburst to seal the race for its trainer.

So it took to using Flamethrower to try and roast Riolu and perhaps overheat the other vehicle while it was at it, only to find that the flames simply blew off in the other direction due to the racer’s high speeds, forcing it to pause for a few seconds while it figured out a better way to try and get rid of its foe. This was difficult, as trained Pokemon rarely acted outside of the direct orders of their trainer and so many were often unsure what to do if their trainer wasn’t there to guide them. However, many of the more skilled ones were able to at least act on their trainer’s will, and that was what Exploud was trying to do right now. It eventually came to the conclusion that Ice Beam wouldn’t have the same problem, so it switched to using that move instead.

The first round of icy energy missed, going off into the ocean below. The second one grazed the Riolu, whose weak but innate aura sending ability enabled it to just barely avoid getting nailed by the attack, which struck the launchpad leading from the straight track to the snake. As the two vehicles hit it, their machines spun around wildly, almost causing their pilots to lose control before their course was corrected by one of the drones. The Plasma Freeze’s spinning threw Riolu into the air, where it locked onto the Black Dragon, then landed onto it, this time with more grace than when it had dropped onto the Plasma Freeze.

Now that Riolu was able to close the distance and take the fight to within close quarters, Exploud began to panic, since the only physical move it had other than haphazard kicks and slaps was Crunch, which of course Riolu resisted. Regardless, it tried to push its higher battle experience as much as it could to give Riolu a much harder time trying to hit it, parrying attacks and retaliating with its own. It was a fight neither side was able to win, as they just kept nullifying each other’s attacks.

By now, the Black Dragon’s pilot was wondering why Exploud hadn’t used Boomburst on the other racer yet, so they turned on the topside camera to get a good look above. Once they were able to see what Exploud’s distraction was, all it took was a quick flick of the controls to rock the machine enough to cause the lightweight Riolu to fall of the machine’s top.

Once Exploud was able to steady itself, it looked around and, satisfied that Riolu was no longer a threat, began to charge up the long-overdue winning Boomburst that would knock Reimu off the track. This happened just as they left the snake and entered the home stretch with the recharge pads, which both racers took full advantage off. All the Black Dragon had to do was use its high top speed to keep pace with the other racer, and that was all that needed to happen to clinch the race.

However, Riolu did not actually fall off the Black Dragon, but instead clung onto the side of the right engine. It hung there for several seconds before shimmying over to the other side, which had some handles it could use to climb up on top. Once it did, it found itself behind Exploud, who was charging up Boomburst, and the hatch to the cockpit off to the side. Moving faster than the eye could see, it used Feint to blow open the hatch, causing Exploud to turn to see what caused it.

It was the one opportunity Riolu needed to land a Force Palm on the unsuspecting Exploud from behind.

Immediately, Exploud recoiled from the super-effective attack, causing it to stumble and fall down the hatch into the cockpit, where it landed right in the pilot’s lap, causing them to freak out and steer the Black Dragon straight into a railing. This didn’t cause it to crash or retire, but it was a huge slowdown that it wasn’t going to recover from in time to cross the finish line before Reimu did. Reimu, who was entirely ignorant of the fight, used her sudden good fortune to use up the last bit of boost she had to zoom past the finish line and into the welcoming cheers of the loudest and rowdiest crowd there ever was.

 

The Black Dragon's pilot didn't even bother to cross the finish line, instead conceding to second place. The pilot, from the cockpit, witnessed Reimu hopping out of her machine, being lifted up by the crowd, and paraded across the mob chanting her name while lights shone and confetti scattered everywhere.

 

She could not have been any less proud.

 


 

 

"You've never raced before in your life, and yet you still managed to come out on top!" The interview lady was all over Reimu and her victory, which was giving Reimu some serious Aya vibes. The fact that said interview lady looked very similar to the crow tengu definitely helped that impression.

"Let's just say I've been cruising on wind ever since I was a little girl." On one hand, she wanted to just tell the whole truth, but somehow maintaining an air of mystique felt more fun, and since she was from another dimension she could play it all the way to the hilt.

"And your strategy, it's just as vicious as the Black Dragon's! What do you have to say to all the racers sitting in the safe area because of you?"

Reimu made a fist, then said, "you see this? I've beaten up gods with my bare hands. Those racers were target practice in comparison, just like my opponents in Pokemon battles." The crowd oooh'd and awe'd in response to this boast. Reimu normally wasn't this arrogant or boastful, but c'mon, it was television. She could do what she wanted.

"I see," the reporter said. "Thank you for the interview." She turned toward the cameras. "That's it for today! Tune in tomorrow for more adrenaline-soaked racing action!"

Leaving the stage and making her way into the staging area, Lillie and Colress greeted her.

"You killed it out there!" Lillie squeed waving her foam finger around. "And that fight... you didn't tell me you had a Riolu! If it weren't for that..."

Reimu stopped her, saying "Riolu? What's that? I don't have a..."

"You there!" A voice came from behind, and all of them turned. It was the Black Dragon's pilot, still dressed head-to-toe in their racing suit.

Reimu put her arms to her sides and smirked. "Oh, hey. I guess you're here to congratulate me?"

"Of course!" they responded. They then removed their helmet, revealing a tan woman with bobbed, dark hair and red eyes.

Lillie's eyes widened. "Woah! Are you really?"

"Yup!" the other pilot responded.

Reimu was confused again. "Who are you?"

The woman chuckled. "Oh, sorry, I didn't introduce myself, did I? The name's Zinnia. And this is my partner, Aster." Exploud ran up to Zinnia's side, bellowing the whole entire way. "And it looks like I get the privilege of meeting the one and only Reimu." She reached out and shook Reimu's hand.

Reimu shrugged. "Pleased to meet you." She pulled back, then asked, "so, you're the G-Zero champ, huh?"

"That's right!" Zinnia replied. "But it looks like I've met my match. I've never seen that kind of skill and cavalier personality since I started racing oh so many years ago." She turned around, and began reminiscing. "You remind me of May back in the day, that day when she hopped on top of Rayquaza and took off into space..."

Reimu cut her off, remembering that story from the museum. "Wait, you were involved in that incident?!"

Zinnia turned around, "oh ho ho, yes, that was one hell of a day. See, I used to be the lorekeeper of the Draconid clan, who worshipped Rayquaza and how it brought peace and stability to Hoenn. My ancestors had long predicted a meteor would strike Hoenn, and when that day came to pass, I did all I could to revive and awaken Rayquaza's true power; however, May proved herself a more worthy partner, especially after she crushed both Team Magma and Team Aqua's plots and bagged Groudon and Kyogre for herself. So she took off into space, busted the meteor, and then as it turned out Deoxys was inside and she bagged that too! So that makes her the lorekeeper now. Having fulfilled my purpose, I went searching for something new to do with my life, and that something was G-Zero racing!" She closed her eyes, then opened them again. "What about you? What kind of stories are you packing?"

Reimu thought about what sort of story would most impress Zinnia, then remembered the recent Lunarian incident. "Well, I guess I do have one. So one day, these machines come down to the surface..."

 

"...That was amazing!" Zinnia said wide-eyed. "You all went up to the moon and faced off against all these people?!"

Reimu replied, "yeah, I did most of the work, but the others took all the credit. At least Reisen had the whole thing about wanting to return home to protect the only family she had, but Sanae and especially Marisa mostly just raided all the bars and wine cellars in the Lunar Captital while Reisen was left alone with Clownpiece, Junko AND Hecatia at the same time. I was glad after it was all over, because a trip to the Dream World is worse than any drug trip, lemme tell you."

Lillie chimed in, "the way you describe things, Marisa sounds like a really unpleasant slacker."

Reimu turned to her. "That's only because, well, she really is." Everyone laughed.

Zinnia continued congratulating Reimu. "Also, the way your Riolu made an entrance back there and took out Exploud, I don't think I could've scripted that one better myself."

Reimu replied, "Why does everyone keep thinking I have a Riol-"

"Rio!" Something up in the rafters chirped, then clambered its way down the steel beams and hopped just in front of Reimu, looking up at her and staring her right in the eyes.

Reimu looked down, then knelt down to Riolu's level. "Oh. So, you must be the little guy that's been following me around since I got to this island?" Riolu nodded its head.

"Intresting," Colress commented. "This Riolu must sense something in you if that is the case."

The Riolu reached out a paw, and Reimu poked it with a finger. Riolu drew back its paw, then took a stance while it generated blue energy within that paw.

Reimu turned back and asked, "what's it doing?"

Colress stepped forward. "That is no ordinary Pokemon. You see, Riolu, and especially its evolution Lucario, are Pokemon who are very sensitive to the aura of living things. They can sense emotions, and have a degree of extrasensory perception. This one seems to have taken a particular liking to you, so it must sense something within you aura that causes it to deem you a worthy trainer."

Reimu thought about all this for a second before having a eureka moment. She turned around, saying, "well, now that you mention it, one of my other abilities is very similar, sensing and manipulating auras. It's an ability I almost never use, since my flying and youkai extermination powers provided by the shrine are more important, but," she looked at the Riolu once again, focusing her mind so that she could pick up its aura. It was easy to read, and its will was clear: it wanted her to be its trainer. While doing this, blue energy similarly built up in her own hand, just like the Riolu.

"Reimu! Your hand!" Lillie pointed out the energy emanating from Reimu's hand, which Reimu just stared at, the blue energy flickering like a flame in her palm before dissipating.

Zinnia crossed her arms and smiled. "Heh, looks like Riolu sensed a fellow aura-reader! No wonder it wants to be with you!"

Reimu looked back over at the Riolu. "You saved me in the race back there even though I'm not even your trainer. And you've been following me across this island."

The Riolu looked aside and kicked a small pebble, before looking back at Reimu.

Reimu removed a Timer Ball from her back, and waved it around in her hand. "Would you like to make it official? Come journey with me and grow together with me and all my other Pokemon?"

Riolu just stared at her for several seconds. Part of it still wasn't so sure yet if it wanted to be with a person like Reimu since, even though it followed her around the island and saved her in the race, she still intimidated her. And, it also felt like cheating to not test such a capable trainer in battle. But on the other hand, it had already started building a bond with her; to not accept her offer seemed mad.

So it stood there, blank-eyed for a while, before stepping forward with its decision.

"Rio rio!" it chirped.

Reimu stepped back while saying, "I take that as a yes." She threw the Timer Ball at Riolu at full force, snagging it, and the ball bounced on the ground. It clicked instantly.

Reimu went to pick the ball up and put in her bag. "Well now," she said, "that makes a full team of six." She had some other Pokemon as well, but mostly left all of them in the PC just in case. But this team, she felt, was the one that would get her through this Island Challenge.

She looked through the staging area and at the road, then to Lillie. "Well, Lillie, what do you say we head down to that Grass trial?"

Lillie smiled. "Sure... but you'll have to beat me!" She whipped out the Ride Pager, called Tauros, smashed through all the equipment, and down the road.

"Oh you sly little brat," Reimu playfully hissed as she called Charizard to fly her there in an instant.

As the two took off, Zinnia looked toward Colress. "Looks like you found a good test subject. But next time," she flipped her helmet back on, "you're gonna have to beat me yourself."

Colress looked down. "Challenge accepted." He walked out of the staging area toward the Plasma Freeze, then drove back to his house. Zinnia, now alone, decided to go grab a post-race drink and some fried fish for Aster.

Chapter Text

Down beneath the surface of Gensokyo was a labyrinth of caves and catacombs known only as the Underground. It was location where youkai deemed too dangerous by surface residents, even other youkai, were banished to, and no surface youkai was allowed to venture down there. If one were foolish enough to drop down into this subsurface world, they would probably be brutally killed and eaten by the many deadly and hungry youkai that call this area home, all without being able to see a thing.

If you somehow managed to survive that, there was a fairly good chance that the cold and isolation of the dark, empty caverns would do you in just as well. However, if one were particularly fortunate, they would discover a bridge over an underground river guarded by one woman born of pure jealousy, and they managed to get past her, they would be (un)lucky enough to find themselves in the barren, deserted streets of what was once Hell, before it was moved. Here, vengeful spirits lurk the streets, ready to pounce on whatever mortals they encounter... that is, mortals that can't contain them, which were few and far between. And just beyond this location? A vast hellscape where magma from deep within the Earth coursed through Youkai Mountain's fiery heart, a place where jagged obsidian stalactites and massive olivine crystals threatened to chew up intruders and where no normal human could hope to survive.

Standing between here and former Hell was the tall, wide and imposing Palace of the Earth Spirits, which was once the center of Hell's civilization. Long since abandoned, nature began to retake the palace as species that went extinct in the Outside world roamed free within the mansion's empty halls, and the town's barren streets. Although no longer inhabited by Hell's ruling elite, one youkai took it upon herself to act as the mansion's caretaker. Ostracized from the surface world's society due to her ability to read minds, she found a home in a place where her only companions were animals who couldn't care less; indeed, her ability to read minds allowed her to live with them, interact with them, lead them, and create a family of her own choosing.

She was only known by her species name, and a chosen surname: Satori Komeiji.

Satori made her home in a couple of rooms in the corner of the mansion. Despite having the whole place at her fingertips, she lived a modest life, often spending days without ever leaving her room, a converted study with a makeshift kitchen and connected bathroom. Her room was stacked high with literature, some collected, others written by her own hand. When she wasn't busy staying on top of being former Hell's overseer, she made a living by writing texts, particularly romance and fantasy stories under a pen name. She sold her manuscripts to various human and youkai printers on the surface world by way of a courier, usually her most trusted pet, a kasha by the name of Rin Kaenbyou. A garden out back supplied all she needed to stay healthy, and it was tended constantly by her animal friends. In addition, she would occasionally receive visits from the yama checking up on the evil spirits that lingered and making sure they remained in check.

And check them she did, or at least her animals, all of whom subsisted on evil spirits collected by Rin, or Orin as she was affectionately known. And to sweeten the deal, those spirits were pressed through a machine created by Satori's other right-hand pet, a raven named Utsuho Reiuji, also affectionately named Okuu. Once pressed through, the spirits were shaped more like the food that the extinct animals were used to eating during their time as extant species, making eating them more pleasant. It was a stable relationship: she provided for them, they provided for her, and together they brought some spark of life to the desolate existence beneath the Earth.

 

Satori had only been vaguely aware of the incident going on above. Given how far down and away she was from the surface, only fleeting whispers of thoughts found their way down to her. This was purposeful, since as much as she was hated for being able to read minds, so she disliked being overwhelmed by stray thoughts, which led to frequent headaches, so the further away from those stray thoughts, the better. But the day the wormhole opened, a cascade of panic and fear made their way down the caverns and into her head, leading her to suspect something had gone very, very wrong. Since then, there had been talk of Reimu going missing, a thought that concerned Satori heavily. So heavily, she had sent Orin up to the surface to find out what exactly was going on.

And she should be back any time now, she thought, closing her book and exiting out the door to go check on her menagerie.

Strolling in between the Dodos and Tasmanian Tigers, and with a flock of Passenger Pigeons flying above, she casually probed their thoughts, just to get an idea of what they thought today. She knew animals were more sensitive to impending disasters than sapient individuals were, and she wondered if the strange activity on the surface had any effect on them at all.

 

"Yo, so did you hear about Parsee last week?"

"Yeah, dude, apparently she got, like, super hammered and started blabbing on about Yuugi and Yamame and how they were all over her."

"Yeah, like yo momma."

"Aw, dammit!"

"Eh, you know I'm just playing. Hey, you ever seen that movie The Birds?"

"The Birds? Yeah, I saw that movie, and I was like 'good s*** man, I'd love to break outta the Border someday and reenact that whole movie. Be nice revenge, right?"

"Yeah, but what if all the humans start coming at us with those pellet boomsticks like last time?"

"So? We toss around and dodge enough of that s*** on a daily basis, I think I could dodge lead pellets, what about you?"

"Naw, man, I'm gonna be all like Swiss cheese."

"Ah, you're just a pussy. I think those suns that Okuu tosses around are more dangerous than anything a human could-"

"Ah no, why we talkin' 'bout THAT bitch? She hardly counts as a bird! And in any case, there's a big difference between dodging her big 'ol slow-movin' suns and lead pellets. She dumb as all hell, too! I could probably sweep her in a game of Go and I don't even know how to play it!"

"Yeah, that's what I don't get 'bout her. She can recite every meaningless fact 'bout nuclear and theoretical physics there is, but wouldn't know what sex was if she was having it!"

"OOOOOHHH, SNAP!"

 

...perhaps it was a good thing animals could not talk, Satori thought.

There was a cave near the Hell of Blazing Fires that eventually led up to the surface; Orin typically went this way in order to head to the surface and back, both to collect corpses and bring them back down and act as Satori's courier. Hopefully, she wouldn't be long, given that she had left many hours prior. Of course, Okuu was occupied over at the nuclear reactors which powered the hot springs on the surface, including the one whose soils were now feeding Celesteela, to Okuu's ignorance.

Okuu casually approached Satori at one point.

"Whatcha doin'?" she asked.

Satori turned to her, "waiting on Rin. She's been gone a long time, hopefully she's alright."

"Sure she is!" Okuu replied folding her arms behind her back. "She can beat up anything!"

"...heh, yeah, she can." Okuu never ceased to amuse her. "Anyway, you should get back to work. We'll be having deviled eggs and salmon for dinner tonight."

Okuu's eyes widened like plates, "DEVILED EGGS?!? YUM!" Instantly she rushed back to the reactors, not wanting to disappoint her master.

Satori was smiling at her when she heard the familiar "MREOW" echo through the cave. Orin had returned at last. Satori turned toward the cave entrance and awaited her coming back down.

A few minutes later, the red-haired kasha floated down the cave with a freshly loaded carriage of corpses and spirits in tow, and a completely exhausted expression on her face.

"Welcome back, Rin," Satori said in a formal tone. "What did you manage to find out?"

"Gimme a second, I gotta put the corpses away first." She tossed aside the cart, which was instantly swarmed with animal helpers dragging it over to the compressor. When she returned, she took a moment to collect herself. "Lotta stuff has gone down on the surface. It might be a couple hours to tell ya everything."

Satori looked aside, and said, "I see. Why don't we discuss this in the banquet hall?"

"Sure thing," Orin said, not really caring about where she sat as long as she got to sit somewhere.

 

An hour and a half later, Orin had finished her story. Satori was completely horrified.

"Wow. Just, wow. So what you're telling me is that Reimu is missing, people are dead, mysterious beasts are appearing all over the place, and according to Yukari this might only be the beginning?"

"Yeah, that's what she and Okina were goin' on about," Orin replied. "And on my way back, I actually saw one of those beasts. It looked like a giant bamboo shoot, 'cept it was made outta metal and glowed. I also learned from askin' around what the others were like: Yuuka's got a super-buff mosquito-man, Banki's hooked up with a space-clown, Marisa and Alice's kid has a weird samurai paper thing... I also thought I saw a white blur at one point, but it could be my imagination. In any case, this is a very serious incident. Probably more than when Okuu tried to fry the surface, since Reimu was at least around to stop that."

Satori took a few seconds to collect her thought and take deep breaths, but no amount of meditation was going to calm her nerves. Reimu had been sucked out of Gensokyo, and beasts were appearing all over. The wormhole was what scared her the most: literally anything capable of ripping holes in the Border was a major threat, but when said threat could simultaneously punch holes in inter-dimensional space? She wasn't sure such a threat had ever faced Gensokyo before. And she wasn't sure what she could do to potentially help; Okuu might have been her trump card, but not even THAT level of power could compare to what they might be facing here.

She pounded the table, which made Orin jump. "I want to speak to Yukari personally. I want to know what is going on, and what, if anything, I can do to help. This is serious, because that shrine maiden holds Gensokyo, above and below ground, on her shoulders." She got up from the table, went to her room, threw a few decks of spells cards into her bag, then got herself ready to head up to the surface. Although she had been "banished" to the underground, she did have a special agreement with the surface youkai which enabled her to come to the surface during serious incidents, or incidents which her mind-reading skills would make easier to resolve. She hoped at least the first criterion was met, and with beasts running around, maybe she could use her telepathy skills to the fullest to find out what was going on.

She rushed out the door, with Orin closely tailing her.

"Nyaa, should we let Okuu know first?" Orin asked.

Satori turned around, and said, "I think it would be best for now if Okuu knew nothing about this incident. You know what she's like when she gets concerned. Then, if we need to bring her into the incident as a last resort, we can-"

 

"WARNING. WARNING. OVERLOAD DETECTED IN REACTORS NUMBER 3 AND 5. AUTOMATIC FAILSAFE SHUTDOWN INITIATING IN 60 SECONDS."

Suddenly, the nuclear reactor's automated control system blared all throughout the underground, and caught Satori off-guard.

"Sounds like there's a problem over in reactor control," Satori said. "Let's go check on Utsuho first and make sure she's doing alright."

 

It took several minutes to rush over to the nuclear power plant section of former Hell, which was lined with several reactors pumping heat, power and steam to the surface. Immediately, Satori could see there was a major problem, since the reactors described were emitting steam and clearly overworking. She looked around for Okuu, wondering what that bird was doing.

A couple minutes later, she managed to find the bird, who was frantically flying around trying to do damage control.

"Okuu!" Satori called out.

Okuu instantly noticed her, and turned to her. "Satori-sama! It's bad! Something's leeching all the power from the reactors!"

Satori ordered her, "shut down all the reactors right now and find the source of the leak. If anything goes critical, it could blow up the underground and sink the entire Youkai Mountain into a radioactive crater."

Okuu did as her master ordered, and slammed her control rod on her right arm into Reactor 1 while the automated failsafe shut down the others. Within moments, power production had stopped, and the situation stabilized.

Satori breathed a sigh of relief, but also understood that the reactors needed to return to work as soon as possible. She asked Okuu to investigate the entire power plant for abnormalities and leaks in the system.

"OKAY!~" she said in her typical stupid voice, as she spread her wings and scouted around.

Satori turned back to Orin. "Well, at least that episode is past us. I'm sure Okuu can handle whatever else comes up and get the reactors running again."

"But master," Orin piped, "what if Okuu accidentally blows something while we're away?"

Satori replied, "Okuu might be a birdbrain in every other way, but when it comes to those reactors, she's the smartest person on Earth. I'm sure she'll find the problem and eliminate it with no issue. Now hurry, we need to head to the surface."

Orin grudgingly nodded in agreement, and the two continued toward the cave exit up to the entrance... only to be pulled back again when a massive surge of electricity followed by a blood-curdling scream belonging to Okuu erupted behind them.

"...you were saying?" Orin snidely said.

 

As the two made their way back in Okuu's direction, they saw Okuu blasting rounds of danmaku suns at what looked like one of the power distribution nodes. This was highly unusual, Satori thought, given how critical many of these nodes were to the operation of the power plant.

"Utsuho Reiuji! What on Earth do you think you're doing?!?" Satori scolded.

"That thing attacked me!" Okuu complained. "I was just checkin' it and it attacked me!"

Satori decided to step into the confrontation, shooing Okuu aside as she went to examine it. If the node really did attack Okuu and she wasn't just being an overreactive idiot, perhaps it most likely had something hiding inside it, or it was possessed by a spirit, or something.

As she got closer, she was suddenly hit with something she wasn't expecting: thoughts.

They were difficult to parse, and had electrical noise contaminating it, but she could make out something: (...scary... scary...)

After pinpointing the source of the Psychic signal, she determined the source to be the "node." She didn't sense any evil spirits inside it, leading her to the conclusion that the node itself was alive and it wasn't a node.

"Okuu," Satori commanded, "stand down. I will handle this myself. I know what's going on."

Okuu did as she was told, dropping her readied shots, landing and folding her wings as Satori approached the "node."

She spoke up, "I'm sorry about my pet's behavior. She just got spooked, and acts like that whenever she gets scared. She didn't mean any harm. And I won't hurt you."

If the node understood her, it didn't show it at first. And then, the spiky white bulb on top of the five wires that were rooted into the ground flashed a few times, before it suddenly went "XURK XURK!" and uprooted itself. Then, it stood on two "legs," with a plug "tail" waving around behind it, standing four meters in the air.

Satori looked up in surprise: even by underground standards, this was a very bizarre creature, like nothing she had seen before. Then after a few moments of thinking, she came to a conclusion: this must be one of the "beasts" that were appearing in Gensokyo. So she just went straight to the point.

"You must be one of the beasts the people in the above world are talking about," she said to it.

She gave it a few moments for it to respond, before more thoughts came through: (...scary bird, scary lady, just wanted food, lots of food...)

"You just wanted lots of food?" Satori replied. The beast then jumped back. (...how did she know? I was just thinking!)

Satori smiled and giggled. "I can read your thoughts. But don't worry, I'm trying to help you."

The beast still recoiled. (...mind reader, scary mind reader lady...)

"I'm honest, I just want to help you! And more importantly, I can talk to you, I can help you out and make you comfortable." A few animals came to her. "All these animals can't talk, but I can hear their thoughts and help them. They trust me. Can you trust me?"

The beast mulled on this for a few moments, then responded to her. (...I'm scared. This place is scary. Fire everywhere. Like electricity. Like lightning. Comfortable with lightning. Lot's of lightning here, lots of food.)

"I see," Satori said. It was naturally frightened by the Hell of Blazing Fires (what wouldn't be?), and in wandering around, found the power plant and started absorbing power as food, hence the reactor overloads. "What brings you here?"

(...was just on top of rock, eating lightning from sky, from ground. Big hole open up, big scary black monster with big claws pulled me out of the ground and threw me into the hole. Hole dumped me here. Looking for way home.)

Satori instantly understood: these beasts were all essentially scared animals pulled from their home habitats by what this being described as a big, scary black monster with big claws. She felt certain it was describing the incident's perpetrator.

"Okay, that's all I needed to know. I'm afraid I can't help you find a way home, but perhaps we could help get you all the food you need without overloading the reactors." She turned to Okuu, still staring at the beast. "Does the solar-power generator still work?"

It took Okuu a few seconds to process this question, but once she realized what Satori was talking about, she replied, "that old thing? I think I put it in a side cavern 'cause it wasn't being used, but it should still work. Just gotta mess with it."

"Thank you," Satori replied.

 


 

 

Two hours later, the solar power generator was hooked up and a miniature sun inside powering it. The beast was doing THE most adorable wiggly happy dance imaginable.

(...thank you, thank you, much power.)

"I'm glad we could help... uh, what are you exactly?" Satori said.

(...what am I? I don't know, we only know us as eating electricity.) It did this while it slowly went "Xurk Xurk..."

Orin decided to chime in. "I know! It says 'Xurk,' it eats electricity, it looks like a tree, let's call it 'Xurkitree!'"

A few seconds passed, before Satori and Okuu both face-faulted. Then Satori got off the ground braying like a donkey.

"...dammit, Orin!" she choked out laughing. It took a full minute for her to stop her laughing fit, before she fixed herself up and regained her composure, then cleared her throat. "Okay, Xurkitree it is. Do you like that name?"

(...name, name, I have a name, I like name, name is Xurkitree.)

"That's good!" Satori replied. She turned to Okuu once more. "Now, Utsuho, can I trust you to look after Xurkitree and the underground while me and Orin go up to the surface to talk to Yukari and others as well to get to the bottom of this incident?"

Okuu looked at Xurkitree, then looked back at Satori, then looked at Xurkitree again. This thing had attacked her and she reacted violently to it, and now she was being asked to babysit it? And not only that, but also try and manage the Hell of Blazing Fires in Satori's absence, however briefly this would be?

She fluttered over to Satori and latched onto her.

"It's okay," Satori said patting her head, "we won't be long. But I am placing a responsibility on you. You are more in control of your emotions, much more in control, then you were years ago. You are also no longer a child, and I have enough trust in you that you can manage the underground briefly, and look after this lost creature. Can you do that for me, please? This incident really needs my attention."

Okuu groaned. Her little birdbrain still wasn't sure how to handle this kind of pressure. But despite this, there was one constant, and that was her undying desire to make Satori-sama happy. So, she swallowed her apprehension, got up, and made a dramatic pose in the air with her control-rod arm in the air and her wings spread completely out.

"I will control the situation, Satori-sama!"

There was silence for a moment, before Satori chuckled. Cute and simple as Okuu was, she did have a lot of spunk and determination, perhaps a little too much on occasion.

"Thank you. I'm sure you two will get along just fine." She waved goodbye to the two, before finally being able to take Orin, in her cat form, through the cave exit and up to the surface, the first time she had done so in countless years, with a grin and smug determination in her face.

 

...which mostly dissipated the moment her lungs met fresh air for the first time in a long time, causing her to choke and recoil for a few moments before she was able to gimp herself to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, since she sense Yukari's... unique aura there. But even then, she had little idea of the ordeal she would soon find herself facing only an hour later, where she, along with many others, would bear witness to history.

 

Chapter Text

Reimu and Lillie stared into the jade abyss just beyond the Island Trial arch.

“This is the place, huh?” Reimu remarked.

“Seems like it,” Lillie replied.

Dense forests, of course, were not a foreign concept to Reimu, but the lush jungle that she was now faced with was unlike any forest she had ever seen: palm leaves the size of a person. Strange, colorful plants lining the floor and understory. Light filtering through the leaves, which glistened from all the rainfall and moisture on them. It was hot, it was humid. And, of course, it was also home to some truly unique Pokemon.

Eevee certainly was impressed; she (Reimu had found out it was a girl) had taken to sitting on top of Reimu’s head rather than staying in her Pokeball. It let out occasional murmurs as its tail twitched back and forth in anticipation.

"...vee vee..."

Reimu reached up and petted her. "It's okay, I'm sure there's nothing too crazy in there. I'm sure you could handle it, you did great yesterday!" Eevee responded to her by giving out a joyful yet confident cry. For something that only hatched yesterday, it did have quite a bit of spunk.

The two girls then walked under the arch, and wandered along the path through the jungle. It was quite an experience for Reimu, who was used to walking through the dark, mysterious, and often cold forests of Gensokyo. The air was humid, the calls of Toucannon and Talonflame echoed through the forest canopy, and to one side, a troop of Passimian were on the hunt for food. Rotom happily filled Reimu in on information regarding all these different species.

Reimu's eyes wandered about, taking in all the jungle's strange and colorful sights. At one point, they drifted upward into the trees, where she saw a Pokemon sitting in the trees, staring right back at her. It looked like a large, bulky monkey of some sort, with white and purple hair and holding a fan...

 

Oranguru, the Sage Pokemon. This Pokemon spends most of its time in the trees meditating. Occasionally, it will matchs wits with others of its own kind, or its rival Slowking, to determine who is superior. It has the ability to instruct other Pokemon as it wishes, but will also tend to weakened Pokemon.

 

"...thank you, Rotom," Reimu said rolling her eyes. It was really starting to get on her nerves, even if all it was trying to do was help. Then again, Rotom were known for being huge jerks, a fact that Reimu suspected but never had confirmed for her.

As they walked through the forest, at one point, Reimu could sense that Eevee was getting restless, murmuring more and wagging her tail.

"Hm? What's wrong?" Reimu asked. "Are you nervous? Hungry? What's going on?"

At that point, Eevee jumped off of Reimu's head, ran toward a leafy bush, and barked at it, trying to get Reimu's attention. Reimu realized that Eevee was trying to show her something, so she went over to the bush, examined it, and pulled out a Nugget, much to Eevee's joy.

Reimu held the Nugget in front of her, turning it around in her fingers and letting the light hit different angles of it.

"This is pure gold, isn't it?" Reimu commented.

Lillie went over to her and also took a look. "Goodness! It's actually a Nugget!" She looked down at the smiling Eevee. "Your Eevee has a good nose for treasure, doesn't it?"

"That's for sure," Reimu replied. "You don't just find gold lying around like this every day. I wonder if someone dropped it?"

"I don't think so," Lillie said. "For some reason, you can find random valuable things like Nuggets and Pearls lying around on the ground all over the world."

Reimu continued fiddling around with the gold Nugget while she talked. "Back at home, if you ever found a piece of gold like this, there would be like half a dozen youkai all over you in an instant trying to claim it for themselves. I've had to chase Shou off with my broom a few times because a speck of gold showed up in the creek running behind the shrine." She stuck the gold Nugget inside her bag, put her arm down to allow Eevee to jump back on top of her head, and they continued down the rough path into the jungle.

 


 

 

A few minutes later, after the two stopped briefly to pick berries (Reimu in particular stocked up on Lum Berries, since she was told those were good for remedying all sorts of conditions Pokemon get), they arrived at a beautiful, tall, and cascading waterfall. The two were instantly taken by its clarity and coolness. Reimu approached it, in the process being gently sprayed by the haze in the air, and the water splashing off of the pot-marked volcanic rock stripped bare behind the crystal-clear water and lining the sides of the pool at the cascade's base. In it, small fish could be seen frolicking around. The sight was mesmerizing, as she reached out one hand...

"Pretty, isn't it?"

Reimu jolted around. "Gaah! Where'd you come from?!"

Mallow stepped forward wagging a finger. "Didn't your momma tell you not to get too close to a waterfall, otherwise you'll slip and fall in?"

Reimu shrugged it off and walked up to meet Mallow. "So, this is your trial, huh?" She looked around some more. "And you picked a really good spot, too."

"I only wanted someplace with the best ingredients!" Mallow told her.

"Ingredients?" Reimu asked, puzzled.

Mallow paced around, then whipped out a ladle from one hand and a bottle of Venom Hot Sauce from the other. "As much as I love Pokemon, being a chef has always been my dream! And this jungle provides endless chances for cooking up something new!" Upon saying this, she popped the cap off the bottle of hot sauce and - much to Lillie's disgust - took a big swig out of it.

"Ahh, that hit the spot," Mallow said. "Just the right level of spiciness and flavor! Wanna try some?" She held the bottle toward Reimu.

"Uh, you're gonna have to give me a fresh bottle, 'cause I'm not drinking that," Reimu replied waving her hands at Mallow.

"No problem!" Mallow beamed as she produced another bottle of the Venom Hot Sauce from seemingly nowhere. Reimu grabbed the bottle and tried some of it.

"And?" Mallow asked impatiently.

Reimu answered earnestly, "it's certainly got some kick to it, but otherwise I thought it was a little bland. It's got nothing on wasabi, alright."

Mallow cocked her head to the right. "Huh. Guess I'll have to find something that'll challenge you."

"Good luck with that, I've eaten the results of Marisa's gruesome mushroom experiments, raw bugs, dirt, and oh yeah, did I mention I can eat hyper-poisonous mushrooms without falling sick? On my kind of food budget, I've had to make do with whatever I can get my grubby little hands on."

Both Mallow and Lillie stared at her, unsure whether to take her boasts seriously or not.

Mallow cleared her throat, and offered her bottle to Lillie. "How about you? Would you like to try some?"

Lillie blushed in fear, and turned away while waving her hands at Mallow. "Uh, no thank you, I'm fine."

"Oh c'mon," Mallow egged while waving the bottle in Lillie's face. "Just a little bit ain't gonna hurt!"

Lillie continued to face away, but eventually decided to be polite, even if it meant having to face the roaring flames of Hell inside of her mouth.

"...okay," she said timidly.

"YAY!" Mallow popped open the cap, then just to make the sauce a little more palatable for Lillie, decided to drizzle it on top of a Mago berry before presenting it to her.

"Here you go! Try it!" Mallow exclaimed.

Carefully, Lillie took the hot sauce-covered berry into her hands, then, took a couple of minutes to collect her thoughts and taking deep breaths, before finally resolving to do the deed.

"(gulp)... well, bottoms up," she grimaced as she opened her mouth and popped the berry right in. She chewed on it for a couple of seconds, all while Mallow and Reimu watched on.

"Well?" Mallow then asked. "What do you think?"

Lillie turned at her, then hacked up the berry and sputtered.

"GACK, HACK, BRAAA-HAAA!" she choked out as bits of the berry hit the ground, before pulling a leaf off of a nearby tree and using it to wipe off her mouth. Once she was done, she looked back up at the other two girls, blushed, and tossed the leaf aside while awkwardly smiling. "Oh, uh, sorry! That wasn't at all lady-like, was it?"

Mallow stifled a laugh while she replied to Lillie, "I see, little too spicy for you?"

"No, it wasn't that at all - I actually quite liked the sauce, believe it or not - but I really dislike overly sweet flavors like that berry! It's why you don't see me eating cakes too often! I prefer savory food and vegetables!"

Mallow was stunned. She held up the Venom hot sauce bottle again, and looked over its ingredients. Something wasn't right: these two girls weren't affected by the spicy flavor, and one even loved it! This stuff was supposed to have over 100,000 Scoville units per serving, unless a serving was like 50 bottles.

She just slumped, tossed the bottle aside, then fixed her posture before deciding to just get to the point: the Trial.

"Um... alright! Let's just get on with the trial then! Oh, but before we do, did I remember to update your ride pagers with Stoutland back in Heahea city?"

Lillie checked her pager quickly before telling Mallow, "it doesn't look like it."

"Ah, I guess it must have slipped my mind," Mallow smiled. Lillie handed Mallow her pager first, which Mallow punched in the auth codes for Stoutland into before handing it back to her. She then did the same for Reimu.

"What's this?" Reimu asked.

"Stoutland!" Mallow answered. "It has a powerful nose that can sniff out all sorts of tasty ingredients, and it can sniff out treasures lying around on the ground as well!"

At this point, Eevee began wagging her tail, and Reimu recalled how Eevee sniffed out the Nugget for her. She then told Mallow, "uh, that's nice, I suppose, but it looks like my little friend here is plenty good at doing that, too. Am I right?"

Eevee called out, then hopped off of Reimu's head again, dove into the bush, and came out moments later with a very pure stick of cassia.

Mallow grabbed the stick from Eevee's mouth. "A stick of rare Alaka Island cinnamon!" She held the stick right up to her nose, took a big whiff to fill her nose with the stick's unique, earthy flavor, and let out a sigh.

She looked at Reimu and Eevee. "You're right! Your Eevee has a really good nose! I haven't seen a stick of wild cinnamon in, well, it's got to have been at least a few months!"

"Good," Reimu replied. "So, what's the trial?"

"The trial," Mallow told her, "has you looking for three ingredients for a stew to lure out the Totem Pokemon. The Totem, you see, is very timid and usually hides deep in the jungle, far away from people and, well, everything else, but it has a good nose for food. Good food, not the Styrofoam crap they serve up at the fast-food burger joints in town, but high-class, gourmet fare that can only be made from ingredients found right here in this jungle." She reached into her pockets, pulled out two folded messages, then handed each of them to Reimu and Lillie, then reached over to a rock and handed them two small burlap sacks. "These are all the ingredients I want you to track down for me, put in the sack, and then bring back so I can cook them in this pot," she said as she tapped a large, stoneware cooking pot over a fire pit.

Reimu read over the list. It called for a Mago Berry, a Tiny Mushroom, a Big Root and a Revival Herb. She decided to start by putting in one of the Mago Berries that she had on her person from berry-picking earlier, then had Rotom pull up an identification guide for each of the others before going off into the forest to go looking for each of the others. As a precaution, she let Sasha out of his Pokeball and walk behind her, just so he could swiftly respond to anything that came up trying to pick a fight.

 

Reimu's first stop was a small grove surrounding a mossy, volcanic erratic. Tall grass and jungle wildflowers shined in the sunlight, which shined through the clearing in the trees right above.

She looked around for each of the things the list had. The information that Rotom had pulled up told her that Revival Herbs tended to be found in grassy patches in the jungle such as this one, and that they had a rich, dark green hue that stuck out from the generic grasses of the forest floor.

She walked around carefully, gently sifting through the grasses to look for that one revival herb, when she felt Eevee vigorously wagging her tail. She sensed something, alright. She jumped right off Reimu's head, ran over to one side, and began barking right at her. Reimu went over to where Eevee was barking, got a hold of the plant, pulled it right up and, boom, there was the Revival Herb... with a freeloader Fomantis clutching right onto it.

It hopped right off and started attacking her, but was scared off by Sasha before it had a chance to do anything. So, without further ado, she put the herb inside her forage bag, and went off in search of the other two ingredients.

 

In another area of the forest, it was notably darker and more humid. If she knew anything about those times Marisa had dragged her out on mushroom hunts, it was that mushrooms preferred dark, humid places such as this. According to Marisa, her identification was miserable given the amount of apparently deadly toxic mushrooms she had ingested during their hunts, but again, Reimu's gut was pretty much made out of adamantium, so she didn't really know the difference.

She looked at her guide, and looked up the Tiny Mushroom. It looked similar to the fly agarics that Marisa would often warn her about, but according to the guide, these mushrooms had a rich, umami flavor that was often ground up and added to soups, and that it was sought out by mushroom collectors as a result.

After a few minutes of eyeballing around (and swatting off another Fomanis; geez, those things were all over the place), she found a patch of mushrooms, got on her knees, and began picking through to find the Tiny Mushroom that the list called for. After she thought she found it, she picked it, only to be met by a very miffed Paras, who instantly tried to attack her with her pincers before Sasha gave it the business. She kept searching, and after she was certain she had found it, she put the Big Mushroom into her bag and moved on to find the last ingredient.

 

She walked through the jungle for a few more minutes. At one point, she noticed another troop of Passimian practicing their combat maneuvers. One of them had emptied out a hard berry rind and was tossing it around like a rugby ball, and the others passed it around each other, with each one throwing the ball in a more complicated manner than the one before it, and the others adjusting their catches accordingly. It really was great fun to watch. At one point, one of them bungled up their catch and was chastised by the leader of the troop. The individual, under duress, ran out and away into the bush.

Guess it couldn't handle their training regimen, she thought. The Rotom Dex did say, after all, that this occasionally happened. It was also said that what happened to lone Passimian after that wasn't 100% known. Interestingly, it also said that Oranguru didn't breed, so how their numbers were replenished was also a mystery. She stood there, thinking for a few moments, and then wondered if there was a connection between the two. After all, she had seen stranger things, even in Gensokyo, so it wasn't entirely inconceivable.

 

After whacking through the underbrush, she came to another clearing, and was surprised to discover Mallow standing there, looking at a bunch of small trees.

She turned around. "Oh, Reimu! There you are! How's your collection going?"

Reimu shrugged, "alright, I guess."

"You guess???" Mallow giggled. "I can see your bag already has three of the four things you need! And I'm guessing you're here for the big root?"

Reimu looked at her list, on which she had been crossing out items as she collected them. As Mallow said, only the Big Root was left to find. "Uh, yeah," she answered.

"Okay, then, here's what you're going to do." Mallow swept her arm over the grove of small trees. "Each of these trees has a Big Root on it. All you have to do is collect one of them and you'll have everything you need for the stew!"

Reimu looked at the trees. Part of her would have rushed to grab the root and be done with this, but in years of dealing with trickster youkai such as Yukari, her intuition was going off like a Christmas tree. She somehow didn't believe that it wasn't going to be so easy. She had been fooled too many times to know that when someone was simply offering you something with seemingly no consequence, they secretly had something up their sleeve.

"This can't be right," Reimu said shaking her head. "There's gotta be a trick."

Mallow smiled, "oh, but there is! Only one of these trees is real, the others are all Sudowoodo who just look like trees! They'll probably get really angry if you just snatch the Big Root right off of them."

"Is there a way to tell the difference?" Reimu asked.

"When they're impersonating trees," Mallow answered, "it's very hard to tell. But if you feel them, you'll notice that they're not made out of wood, but rock, 'cause they're actually Rock-types! That's why they call them 'sudo' woodo!"

...a rock impersonating a tree. Another one for the book, Reimu supposed.

Reimu took a good look around, and saw eight saplings. Only one of them was actually a tree, the rest were all Sudowoodo, and it was up to her to figure out which was which. She first checked the closest one, and had Eevee check it out. The Big Root was right there on the branch. But just as she was about to feel the wood, the tree wiggled around.

"Sudo!"

Apparently, this one was a little touchy. Fortunately for Reimu, that just made her job a little easier, since she had crossed off one that could be the tree.

She moved on to the next tree, same thing, it was a Sudowoodo. Then the next one. And the next one. Pretty soon, she was down to choosing between two trees that looked almost identical. She felt the bark of both of them, but they felt really similar, cold and gritty. Each had a Big Root sitting right there on top of their branches. One tree was legit, the other a Sudowoodo, and she had to figure out which was the faker.

This was difficult, she thought. One false move and she'd have a really grumpy Pokemon try to swat her with its branch-fists. This looked like another job for Eevee, this time to determine which was a tree, and which was a Pokemon.

Eevee leaped off of Reimu's head, and began sniffing around both of the trees. She sniffed the bases, the branches. She climbed and crawled all over both of the trees trying to get a sign.

Reimu looked at her. "Any luck?"

Eevee shook her head. "...vee vee..." Her ears lowered and she frowned.

Hmm, this was going to be difficult, Reimu thought. Was there any other way she could tell the difference?

She decided to search her bag. Maybe she had a Repel or something that she could spray and it would scare the Pokemon off. So she put her bag down on the ground and began taking stuff out to try and find one. She sorted out her Great Balls, a couple of Ultra Balls, some potions, berries, Paralyze Heals, the TM case and ray gun, the whole nine yards. She took out her Z-Crystals, lying them on the ground carefully to make sure they didn't roll off. This included the Waterium-Z, which she put down on the ground right next to the foot of one of the trees.

"WOODO!" The Sudo jolted, then ran away into the brush.

Reimu's head snapped up from the ground, as she saw the Pokemon run away. She didn't know what she had done to spook it, but that didn't matter now. All that mattered was that the real tree with the Big Root was now right there in front of her. She hurriedly stuffed everything back into her bag, swiped the Big Root off of the sapling, and made her way back to the waterfall to throw everything into the pot and hopefully meet and square off against the Totem Pokemon.

 


 

 

Once she returned, she was surprised to be met with a crowd.

"Welcome back, Reimu!" Mallow said. Standing beside her were Lana, Hau, Kiawe and Lillie. All were waiting with anticipation for Reimu.

"Lana! Kiawe! Hau! What are you all doing here?!" Reimu was taken aback.

"I just wanted to see you after I got through with Lana," Hau told her.

"Mallow invited us all here," Kiawe said to Reimu.

Lana stepped up awkwardly. "Uh, I came here with Hau after his trial after Mallow called me and asked to come."

Reimu turned to Mallow. "Why'd you call the crowd over?"

Mallow grinned and put her arms to her sides. "You can consider it a cooking show! I wanted everyone to be here to witness the creation of my new, Totem-summoning stew!" She then, from out of nowhere, pulled out what could only be described as a mini flamethrower, and blasted the bottom of the pot while everyone else jumped back in. Seconds later, the fire was on, the water was getting ready to boil, and in front of her, Reimu was presented with a rather large mortar and pestle set.

"Go ahead and throw everything in your forage bag in there," Mallow instructed. Reimu pulled out the bag and did as told.

Mallow then turned to Lillie. "Lillie, go ahead and empty your forage bag." Lillie walked over and dumped hers out.

"Now, Kiawe, Lana, you said each of you had something special to add to the pot?"

Lana came forward first, and in her hand was a sack. "I've been collecting Crabrawler pincers for the past few weeks. I'm sure the meat they contain-"

"Good, throw it in!" Mallow chirped. Lana poured the claws into the mortar.

Kiawe came up next, with a bone. "This is a Rare Bone. One of my Marowaks brought it to me the other day."

"Excellent! Toss it right in!" Kiawe chucked the bone right into the mortar.

At this point, Mallow came up with her own ingredient, a small glass jar of Angry Charizard brand chili powder. "This chili powder is very expensive, and very powerful. It's so strong, you could actually feel it on your skin if you put some there, so it's normally only ever handled with gloves. Very potent stuff!" She then threw off the lid and dumped the whole thing into the bowl.

"Now, go ahead and pound those babies!" Mallow instructed Reimu. And so, Reimu began pounding the ingredients as though she were a moon rabbit pounding mochi. She had picked up a technique or two from Reisen on how to pound stuff in a bowl, even if she wasn't quite the pounding master like the inaba was. After some minutes of relentless pounding, the mix was crushed and powdered to Mallow's satisfaction.

"Wonderful! Now, I think the water should be boiling right about now..." Mallow went to check the pot. "Yup, it is!" She reached over to one side, grabbed a 20 kilo bag of stew mix she had put together that morning containing stock, various bits of stew meat, cut-up chili peppers, random berries, one copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special ("it adds a unique aftertaste" so she claimed), and so on, and emptied it right into the pot before grabbing the bowl from Reimu.

"This mix you've made contains all the essential herbs and spices we'll need to add tons of flavor to this stew!" Mallow enthusiastically tossed the mix in and began stirring it with an enormous bamboo pole, which reminded Reimu of those times when she was invited over to Eientei for their outdoor cookouts, in which they would do essentially the same thing.

Within moments, the stew's sharp, pungent scent began wafting all throughout the jungle, in between the trees and up into the forest emergents. It was so strong, Pokemon with sensitive noses such as Lillipup were sent running the other direction, while Alolan Rattata keen on bringing back tasty quarry to their Raticate masters tried to get near the pot, but were collectively fended off by Sasha, Adele and Mallow's Steenee.

However, the Rattata soon stopped trying to get at the pot. An oppressive atmosphere overtook the jungle. Reimu could feel goosebumps on her skin as something huge maneuvered in between the trees. She heard a snap; a banana tree in the forest getting cut down by something large.

"Uh... guys," Kiawe stuttered. Actually, everyone other than Mallow, who was obliviously still stirring away at the stew, started looking around nervously, even Hau who had already done this trial.

Reimu looked at the pot, then felt her backside shudder and chill as something, something huge, loomed over her. As she looked around left and right, she could see everyone's eyes were as big as dinner plates, and they were all pointing behind her.

"R-R-Reimu..." Lillie sputtered. Slowly, Reimu turned around and...

 

The Totem Lurantis stood in place shaking for a couple seconds, before collapsing to the ground face first with its arm blades spread on either side.

Reimu jumped back, shouting "what the heck?!"

Mallow turned around, and was shocked at the sight of Lurantis on the ground. Immediately, she panicked.

"OH NO! LURANTIS!" She stopped stirring the pot and rushed over to Lurantis's aid. There, she could see the problem front and center: three gashes on its back, each one purple with poison. Something had slashed it with poisonous claws, and now, not only was it not able to battle, but being a Grass-type Pokemon, there was a very real chance it could die from its injury.

Mallow's face was an expression of pure terror. "Oh no, no no no nonononono! Quick, does anyone have any Full Heals or Antidotes or anything?!?"

Reimu, remembering the Lum Berries she had picked, instantly leaped into action. She yanked one of the green berries out of her bag, and also prepared a Hyper Potion to get ready to heal the Pokemon.

"Here! It's a Lum Berry!" she told Mallow.

Mallow took the Lum Berry out of Reimu's hands and instructed Reimu to spray the Hyper Potion on the wound while she administered the berry to Lurantis by gently tilting its head and coaxing the berry into its mouth, then getting it to swallow. They had to be fast; one false move, and Lurantis would be completely incapacitated.

After Reimu sprayed the potion and Mallow fed Lurantis the berry, the two of them flipped it over and attempted to resuscitate it. Reimu, of course, wasn't familiar with Pokemon CPR; thankfully, Kiawe was, and so took over for Reimu in trying to restart Lurantis's heart rhythm while Mallow tried to open its airway.

Reimu inspected the gashes, and it became obvious to her that these gashes were inflicted by another Pokemon; because of the presence of poison, most likely a Poison-type of some sort. She pulled out the Rotom Dex, and searched up and down the entries for Poison-type Pokemon that lived in Alola that possessed claws.

"What kind of Poison-type would be able to inflict this?" Reimu asked everyone.

Mallow turned to her, "I'm not sure. I'm a Grass-type expert, I don't know much about Poison-types that aren't also Grass..."

"I'll bet I could help you," Kiawe said to Reimu. "I studied Poison-types back in the day."

"Okay," Reimu replied. She flipped through the entries some more. "Okay, um, Salazzle maybe? They live on the volcano over there."

Kiawe shook his head. "I don't think so. Sure, Salazzle might live around here and they have claws, but they can't deliver poison through them; they usually emit poison gas from their backs backs and mouth instead. I know because I train one. Their claws are also small and thin, and these gashes are too large and too deep."

"Okay..." Reimu looked some more. "What about Muk? Alolan Muk, that is?"

Kiawe was still iffy about it. "Eh, I don't know. Grimer and Muk aren't known to live in the jungle, and Muk's claws still are not able to produce gashes as deep as these. Maybe something else in the jungle that has a Poison-type-"

 

Suddenly, there was rustling in the bushes just behind them.

Reimu whipped around with a Pokeball in her hand. "Who goes there?"

A figure emerged from the bush. It was the Medicine lookalike. Somehow, that wasn't a surprise to her. Everyone else, however, turned their attention to her and were struck with foreboding.

"Who is THAT?" Mallow asked.

Reimu rolled up her sleeves and walked right over to the lookalike while answering Mallow, "something that looks like someone I know. And I really think she's behind our Totem Pokemon being in trouble. Stand back, let me deal with this."

Eevee wasn't too sure how to deal with the fake Medicine. Her intuition told it that this figure was much more threatening than anything she had seen so far in her short life. She could just sense the miasma permeating the figure, and couldn't help but growl to try and intimidate her.

"Back so soon?" Reimu asked the figure. "I thought we made it clear that you have no business being here in this world, and that-"

There was another rustle in the bush, right behind the fake Medicine. As this figure emerged, Reimu looked at it, then was immediately silence as she took a step back.

 

Because this new figure looked strikingly like her.

 

This fake Reimu was wearing a miko outfit, much like her own, with grey sections replacing red, and possessing pale skin just like the fake Medicine. Unlike her, though, she did not appear to have any partially crystalline sections, instead appearing for all intents and purposes fully organic. Also unlike the fake Medicine, she wasn't wearing a visor or any other sort of eyewear, which revealed expressionless, lemon-yellow eyes. In her right hand was a replica gohei, and a single Pokeball occupied a pocket on her left side.

Everyone behind Reimu was confused and frightened, especially Hau. "W-wh-what's going on?? She, she looks like you, Reimu!"

Reimu didn't even register him. Instead, she focused straight ahead toward her doppelganger. The fake Reimu put her hand on the fake Medicine to steady her nerves; Reimu wondered if this meant she was her keeper or master. This struck her as interesting, since she and the real Medicine never had any sort of relationship. Then, the faker turned her gaze to her. Her expressionless eyes reminded Reimu of Kokoro and her poker face, which never ceased to creep her out.

Reimu stood her ground, and refused to show any fear. She held out her hand, which had Riolu's Pokeball. To her side, Sasha clawed the ground and hissed at the fake Reimu, while Eevee growled as menacingly as it could.

"Who are you?" she asked coldly.

The doppelganger did not immediately respond, instead clenching her left fist and looking aloofly down at the ground, before looking back up at Reimu.

"...I..." She managed to get out a syllable. "...I...am..." She clenched her eyes and teeth. Reimu could tell she was having trouble speaking for some reason. She continued to glare at the faker while she and her Pokemon continued to stare her down.

"Who ARE you, and what is your purpose?!" Reimu asked more forcefully.

"...I...am...perfect..."

Reimu tilted her head. "Perfect? You think you're perfect?"

"...creation. I...am...the perfect...creation..."

The fake Reimu put her hand against her forehead while clenching her left hand. To Reimu and the others, it looked like she was in intense pain, somehow. But another thing, Reimu wondered. What did she mean when she claimed to be the perfect creation? Perfect creation of WHAT? The thing that caused this incident?

The fake Reimu then grabbed her sole Pokeball, which was a bizarre design that Reimu had never seen: it was chiefly a blue net-patterned ball with four yellow crests protruding from it. The faker then tossed the ball, which opened to reveal an even more bizarre Pokemon. It looked like a cross between a wyvern and wasp, purple in color with purple, lilac and pink accents, a pair of glowing eyespots, spikes protruding from its shoulders and the sides of its thorax, and a massive stinger tail. This, this must be the Pokemon that injured the Totem Pokemon.

Reimu wasted no time responding in kind to the challenge. "Oh? So we're gonna play this game now? You really should have asked first, Sasha go slash its brains out!"

Sasha did as his master commanded, pouncing on top of the strange Pokemon and clawing at it. However, it did a quick roll to shake Sasha off. So, Sasha decided to use its newly mastered Flamethrower to try and burn it from a distance, but it barely felt an effect. Reimu guessed this meant the Pokemon resisted the attack. So, she inferred it must be Poison/Dragon, given its poison abilities, plus resisting fire and resemblance to a dragon.

If this was the case, then she needed something that could hit it for weakness. Unfortunately, she did some quick brainstorming, and realized it resisted a good chunk of her team: Sasha's Fire, Gyarados's Water, Magneton's Electric and Riolu's Fighting. She could use Gyarados's Dragon Breath to try and hit it, but that was risky since this thing might also be packing a Dragon move.

So she took a chance and recalled Sasha, sending out Gyarados and immediately instructing the use of Dragon Breath. Gyarados then carried out this order, spewing acrid breath onto the mystery Pokemon. It was a direct, effective hit, and the Pokemon recoiled backwards. So Reimu readied Gyarados for another attack.

It was at this point, however, that the other Pokemon positioned its stinger like a cannon, while the fake Reimu commanded it. At the end of the stinger, a royal blue-and-red energy ball charged up, then fired at Gyarados, hitting it square in the face extremely hard - Dragon Pulse, Rotom identified the move as.

"Dammit!" Reimu clenched her fist. Sure, the other Reimu was clearly inexperienced at battling, and this Pokemon was slow to react as a result - Reimu could infer that it was capable of acting far more quickly and tactfully if it wanted to. Even so, she was at a loss for how to get past it, just because its typing and strategy was just so plain weird and, once again, Rotom had no data on the moves it could learn. All she knew so far for sure was that it was packing Dragon Pulse.

Thinking things over, she decided that Magneton would be her best bet against this thing, just like with the previous strange purple creature, which Rotom had since named Poipole for some reason. Actually, this creature before her looked very similar to that one, having similar coloring and its thorax even looked like Poipole's head. An evolution, perhaps?

So she got out Magneton's Pokeball, recalled Gyarados, and began to send it out when she felt another one of her Pokeball's shaking. She picked it out, and realized it was Riolu's. Then she recalled it had Ice Punch, since Rotom analyzed it after she caught it and revealed it having Force Palm, Feint, and Blaze Kick as well. Sure, it was unevolved, but it was quick and maneuverable, so it had that advantage going for it. Sending it out in lieu of Magneton, Riolu hit the ground, looked back at its trainer, and gave a determined nod while Reimu commanded it to attack.

Which it did, wasting no time leaping up to its opponent's face and Ice Punching it as hard as it could. The Pokemon reeled back holding its face trying to ease the pain, before moving to retaliate by attempting to spear it with its stinger. Riolu, of course, easily dodged it, using the opportunity to land another Ice Punch while it was stuck in the ground and trying to get itself back out, which caused it to roll across the ground and rest against a tree.

Riolu landed back on the ground, and prepared to land the final attack on its weakened foe. But instead of using another Ice Punch, as Reimu commanded, it instead began gathering large amounts of aura on its two paws. Reimu's old aura-sensing ability hit her once again, and when she was able to refocus, realized Riolu was amassing gigantic amounts of the stuff and concentrating it between its two paws in some fashion. Said fashion ended up being a maneuver to concentrate the aura between its arms into a ball; this was weak and dilute at first, but soon Riolu condensed it further into a much smoother energy ball.

Then, halfway through this, Riolu's entire body began glowing a brilliant white. Reimu knew what this meant: it was evolving. Riolu's silhouette grew taller, and when it faded seconds later, its form was replaced with that of what resembled a bipedal jackal, who finished amassing the Aura Sphere and launched it right in the mystery Pokemon's direction.

The mystery Pokemon only had a second to look up before Aura Sphere smashed into it, creating a blue explosion that sent it flying up wards. The imposter Reimu recalled it mid-air, knowing she had lost the fight.

 

Both Reimus stared at each other for several moments before the real one spoke to the other.

"Nice try, doppelganger, but you can't top the real me. That fight was barely a warm-up. Now, tell me, what is your purpose???"

The other Reimu took a moment to respond, before gripping her face and making an annoyed, pained expression, then looked back up instantly regaining her neutral expression.

"...strong. Master was right. Must... train further..." She raised her gohei into the air, summoning an Ultra Wormhole which the fake Medicine traveled through before it closed. The fake Reimu then wandered off out of the forest without saying anything further.

Reimu stared blankly for a few seconds, wondering who or what that mysterious figure was. The fact that she summoned an Ultra Wormhole and mentioned a "master" meant that she was very likely directly connected to the incident's perpetrator. And that said perpetrator had a fake Reimu as its minion opened up some grave implications regarding what its plan was, but exactly what that plan was, was for now unknown.

She then felt a poke, and looked down at her newly evolved Lucario. He looked back at her, his red eyes staring right into her own.

Reimu heard clapping behind her. "Well done!" It was Mallow, congratulating her. "Your Riolu - well, Lucatio - handled that battle like a beast!"

Reimu reached her hand behind her back. "Um, thanks." She looked over to Lucario. "I guess it really wanted to win and it evolved?"

"Unlikely," Kiawe said stepping forward. "When I was in Trainer School, we learned that Riolu are highly sensitive to trainer's auras, and will only befriend those that they feel are strong with a type of force called 'aura.' If that bond between them and their trainer becomes strong enough, they learn a move called Aura Sphere, and the first time they try to use it they evolve into Lucario." He looked at Lucario some more. "But for it to evolve the same day it joined you... it must think you're something else."

Reimu thought back, and realized from the time she caught a glimpse of Riolu at Brooklet Hill that it must have been following her from the time she arrived on the island. Clearly, there was something about her that drew him to join her team and then evolve soon after. Perhaps it was her own underused aura-sensing ability that drew him to her like a magnet. Maybe he sensed that she was a strong trainer and wanted to train alongside her.

Or maybe he saw something else in her that she wasn't even aware of.

"Well, it's something alright," Reimu replied, unsure what else to say.

She walked over to the Totem Lurantis, who was now healed but still on the ground. Reimu worked with Mallow to help it back up onto its feet, then Mallow gave it a sip of her stew to revitalize it.

"There we go," Mallow said. "Lurantis is much better now." The Totem Pokemon was in much better shape now than when it had first presented itself, although it was still obviously tired.

"So, does that mean I get to fight it now?" Reimu asked her. Eevee, who was still on top of her head, began twitching her tail in anticipation of a scuffle.

But Mallow answered, "I think it would be best if it we let it rest for a while before it tries challenging any more trial-goers. That poison looked pretty mean; even with super-medicine in its body, it wouldn't be able to provide the kind of fight that would at all challenge yours and Lillie's Pokemon." She looked at it, and it looked at Reimu. "Besides, you helped save it, and it thought you did well beating that strange figure and their -"

"Bzzrt!" Rotom cut itself into the conversation. "I came up with a name for it! And you're not gonna believe what else I found!" It projected a hologram which showed the strange Pokemon, labeled 'Naganadel', and Poipole on the same page, something that was only done if, most commonly, one Pokemon evolved into the other.

"So you found it was an evolution after all?" Reimu asked it.

"Sure looks like it!" Rotom said. "I looked over their data, and realized there were enough similarities that they must be related!"

Reimu replied to it, "funny you say that, because I figured it was somehow similar to that... Poipole, I suppose, because it was colored the same, and its thorax kinda looked like its head, too."

Rotom explained further, "I'm gonna pipe this information to the one and only Professor Oak in Kanto! He'd looooove to see this!"

 

After Reimu and Lillie accepted their Grassium-Z's, Mallow guided the Totem Lurantis to a safe place in the jungle to help it recover. By the time everything had more or less settled down, it was 6 P.M., and starting to get dark. So, Mallow decided to cook everyone dinner.

Spread out in front of everyone, atop a large, wood picnic table, was an assortment of goodies including a bowl of the stew cooked up for the trial earlier, fruit and shrimp skewers, Basculin fillets, berry displays, assorted butters and sauces, grilled and glazed peppers and onions, and some other odds and ends as well. Even the salt and pepper shakers had special seasoned salt and a custom peppercorn mix, respectively. Mallow was even kind enough to offer chopsticks as well as the usual forks and knives, so Reimu went with those to eat her food.

After everyone passed around the food and filled up their plates, Mallow led a quick prayer to the Island Guardians for the meal, before everyone started digging in.

Reimu decided to start a conversation in between bites. "So, can you tell me some more about the Island Guardians?"

Mallow said, "oh, sure. So, I'm sure you know by now that each island has a guardian on it. It's been that way for as long as humans have lived here. Now, the tricky thing is, they guard the islands, but they're very... odd when it comes to their behavior, and act in ways that humans and even other Pokemon just can't understand. They're also very strong, so wild Pokemon avoid them unless they think they can take them on. Each one has a shrine on their island, called the 'Ruins of X,' where X is Conflict for Melemele, Life for this island, Abundance for Ula'Ula, and Hope for Poni."

Reimu took a sip of the stew with her spoon. The delightfully spicy but flavorful taste tickled the tongue and cleared her sinuses, and definitely left a sensation as it went down her throat. She then asked, "can you tell me about Tapu Lele?"

"Mallow replied, "of course. Tapu Lele usually sleeps during the day, but comes out at night to flutter around, especially on nights with full moons. It drops scales which can heal wounds and sickness if applied to skin, but getting too many of them can also cause people and Pokemon to become aggressive. One story tells of Tapu Lele flying above a battlefield, dropping scales to essentially dope them up and cause them to brawl with each other even more, then it heals them more, seemingly for its own enjoyment."

"Sounds like something a youkai would do where I'm from," Reimu said, taking another sip of stew.

Lillie decided to ask Reimu, "I'm curious, what are these 'youkai' that you keep mentioning?"

"Oh, of course," Reimu answered. "So, this might be a little hard to explain to you guys, only because there's a lot of religion involved. But youkai are things that live in Gensokyo that pop up in religions in Japan, mostly the one that I practice, Shinto. They're kind of like fairies or demons, although Gensokyo has fairies as well and they're considered separate, but they can become full-fledged youkai under certain circumstances. Mostly, they're born from human fears and misunderstandings, and more often than not are born from wild animals who gain power from these fears. They include two-tailed cats, nine-tailed foxes, snow-women, forlorn objects who gain consciousness, river monsters, and there are literally hundreds of kinds. Some of them eat humans, others are simply content to play tricks on them. My job as Hakurei Shrine Maiden is to ensure that the balance between human and youkai is kept in check."

Hau grimaced. "Wait, they eat humans? Then why not just get rid of them entirely?"

Reimu answered, "well, I easily could. But there's a big reason I don't: the reason Gensokyo exists to begin with is because youkai, along with many other myths and legends across the world, are as whole an endangered species as the world in general becomes more cynical, scientific explanations for stuff are found, religion slowly dies, and overall just aren't as scared of magic and the supernatural as they used to be. So a barrier was put up which separates Gensokyo from points outside. Nothing can get in or out most of the time, but things and people often drift in for many reasons. For example, there's a youkai that creates echos, but when echos were given another explanation by humans, they literally began poofing out of existence. If every last youkai were to die and all sources of fairies destroyed, the barrier would most likely come crashing down, killing everyone inside and creating huge damage outside as well, plus any youkai ouside of the border would most likely die as well. So as you can probably imagine, border incursions are a big deal, and maintaining THAT is my other job; it was me investigating one such incursion that led me here."

She took a sip of fruit juice before continuing. "One thing I noticed when I came here is how youkai-like a lot of Pokemon are. In fact, they'd probably be mistaken for youkai if they were to appear there. I've already seen Pokemon that look like every example of youkai that I've given, and then some. I've even been told they used to be feared by humans just as well. But the way people and Pokemon live together in this world and legends are not only still embraced, but not even questioned, in spite of all the technology and science that I've seen, is just amazing."

 

As she was telling her story, her eyes happened to train toward Kiawe, who was staring at his bowl of stew with trepidation.

"Alright, I'm gonna do it," he said. Reluctantly, he took his spoon, scooped up a spoonful, and quickly put it to his mouth and downed it before putting the spoon back down.

Everyone stared at him. "Ya okay?" Hau asked him. Kiawe nodded his head.

Then he belched a stream of fire from his mouth, which lit up the table and came within inches of Hau's hair, causing him to duck. Once finished, he covered his mouth.

"KIAWE!" Mallow exclaimed with a scowl. "Where are your table manners, mister?!" Everyone at the table, Kiawe included, laughed at his inability to take Mallow's stew, as well as his sheer rudeness at the table.

 


 

 

After dinner, everyone did their part in cleaning up, with Reimu's task being to wash all the dishes. After everything was said and done, Mallow excused herself for a couple of minutes, diving into the jungle greenery and producing rustling noises. She emerged with a wagon full of greasy paper bags, each with a malasada inside.

"Hau," she asked, "how about if you and Kiawe have a malasada-eating contest over there by that log?" She pointed at a mossy fallen log next to a brook.

Hau looked at the pile of malasadas, then at the log, then Kiawe, then at the pile of malasadas again, gazing at them the same way Fred Flintstone would stare at a plate of ribs.

His Pikachu certainly agreed. "PIKA!"

Hau whipped over to Kiawe. "Yeah, let's have an eating contest! Woohoo!"

"Uh, Hau, I-" but it was too late. Kiawe was already being dragged over by Hau, and he was surprised by how strong the little boy was, since in the other hand he was also dragging along the wagon full of malasadas, which Pikachu had park itself atop of.

Reimu looked at the two going off into the woods, then looked back at Mallow. "Um, what was that for?"

Mallow giggled, then answered, "I had to shoo them off somehow. After all, it would be  kind of awkward if boys were around while we relaxed at the hot spring after a rough day!"

Hot spring? Yes please, Reimu thought. She'd had a rough week so far, and the chance to chill at a hot spring was something she could absolutely get behind.

Mallow led her, Lillie and Lana through a thicket of ferns, eventually cutting through to the breathtaking sight of a volcanically-fueled hot spring, surrounded by heavy steam, moss-covered basalt rocks, and colorful plants. The one Pokemon there at the time, a foraging Passimian, sensed their presence and moved on to another site.

"What do you think?" Mallow asked. Of course, all three of her guests were amazed by the sight, even Lana, who had lived her whole life on Akala Island and who had become close friends with Mallow and even then had not seen the hot spring.

"I think it looks like I could just hop right in and melt away!" Lillie commented.

"Excellent!" Mallow said.

 

After they had removed their clothes and got situated, they wasted no time starting to tell each other stories, which soon led to Reimu recounting another one of her stories.

"...so, Lillie, have I mentioned the religious war yet?"

Lillie said, "no, I don't think you've told me or us anything like that."

"Okay, so it's honestly one of the more pathetic incidents, and even now nobody's quite sure what all happened. Basically, what happened was one youkai who is an embodiment of 66 masks lost one of them, the Mask of Hope, causing the entire Human Village to become depressed. Now, we didn't know this at the time, so we all started a contest which was supposed to bring religion to the Village as a way to give them hope, either Shinto, Taoism or Buddhism. Well, that's what it started as, then it just devolved into a blind spellcard tournament, and then even later a drunken slugfest which this youkai wandered into the middle of. She explained the situation to us, after which Mamizou took her in to help her develop her emotions, which more or less fixed the incident. Like I said, one of the more pathetic incidents. The night that happened, I invited some people over for tea and Mahjong, then later it was just me and Marisa playing Go until I eventually managed to get her to leave."

Lillie took a sip of some berry juice. "Why do most of your stories involve alcohol?" she asked.

"Because... that's honestly how at least half of incidents start and end. Also there's no 'legal drinking age' in Gensokyo, unlike here."

Lillie looked around for a second, then replied, "well, I guess I'm glad I have one. I can't imagine how the Team Flare Incident would have ended, for example, if either side was drunk." Everyone laughed at this.

There was a rustling in the bushes, which caused all four girls to jolt their heads to make sure it wasn't an intruder. Instead, the figure that emerged turned out to be none other than the Totem Lurantis, revitalized from its meal and wanting to spend some time with its handler.

"Oh! Lurantis! We were just relaxing after a long day. Wanna join?"

The tall Totem Bloom Sickle Pokemon sauntered over to the hot spring, tested the water, then slowly slipped in between Mallow and Lana and rested its scythes on the banks as if to say "how you doin'?"

"See, Pokemon like hot springs too!" Mallow told everyone. Reimu and Lillie snickered, while Lana slowly backed away from the Pokemon sitting right next to her. After all, if you were a short girl sitting next to a 2-meter-tall walking plant, you'd probably do the same. Mallow continued, "and it looks like Lurantis is getting better; in fact, it might be up for doing trials again tomorrow! I tell ya, Pokemon. You knock 'em down, they'll get right back up and start swinging again!"

Through this time, Lillie had set her egg on the side of the spring behind her, hoping the heat radiating from the spring would make it hatch faster. She gently patted the egg with her hand, before turning her attention back to the group.

"I have a story," Lana chimed in. "Reimu, remember when I mentioned that prince story that I said was for another time? I think now's a good time to tell it."

Reimu reclined back. "Okay, shoot."

Lana cleared her throat, then introduced the story to Reimu. "This story is new to you, but everyone here learns it in school. Centuries ago, Melemele Island had a powerful king, who was loved by the people as a strong leader. But, even more loved than the king was his son, Prince Kamehameha. The prince was the man of the people: a master surfer, hunter, and battler. No one could match him. Yet he was also kind, compassionate and charismatic, which was why everyone loved him.

"Now, the Islands were not unified, as they are today. The Prince was the one who unified the islands under the Melemele monarchy. This happened when, on a pilgrimage to Poni Island, he climbed the island's tallest mountain, which was when he witnessed a distortion of space, that opened into the first ever Ultra Wormhole seen by humans. Out of this wormhole came Solgaleo and Lunala, which the Prince thought to be deities, and started to praise them.

"But the two beasts had a message for him. They claimed that a great threat would soon consume the land, and that the only way Alola had a chance was for each of the four islands to be unified. The Prince thought that the best way to do this was to capture all four Island Guardians - something no one had ever done before. So, he battled the two beasts, using his most powerful Pokemon, a red Gyarados just like yours. He almost lost to their awesome power, but somehow, he prevailed, and commanded the two beasts as his own.

"After this, he toured each island, approaching each Island Guardian, and used Solgaleo, Lunala and the Guardians he had previously captured to tame them one by one, finishing with his own island's guardian, Tapu Koko. His triumph earned the respect not only of each of the Island Guardians, but of all the kings and queens of Alola, who hailed him as a champion and rallied behind his claim of the coming threat. His quest to capture each of the Island Guardians is said to be the first ever Island Challenge."

Reimu took all this in, this legend of a great prince. Of course, every place has their own creation legend or whatever. There was Japan's own Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, which was part of Kaguya's backstory. There was also the story of Houyi, who shot down nine of the ten suns, one of which was Apollo, and the other killed Junko's son, explaining Junko and Hecatia's grudge against his wife, Chang'e. She had heard of other legends from other lands too: one that intrigued her greatly was one told by a youkai who claimed to be from the other side of the ocean from Japan. His story told of a war between two tribes, which angered the mountain storm king, who removed part of his head and threw it down at the lake the battles took place on, killing the warriors and splitting the lake in two. Settlers referred to the split lakes as Crescent Lake and Lake Sutherland, and the mountain which was part of the god's head still loomed over the valley to this day.

She cleared her head and returned to the present. She asked Lana, "and then what?"

Lana simply said, "well, it wouldn't be fun if the whole story were told in just one day. We didn't learn it all in one day. Perhaps tomorrow you can ask Lillie or someone to finish the story for you."

Reimu slumped back and replied, "...oh, all right." As she finished saying that, there was movement from Lillie's egg.

Lillie turned back. "Oh?" Then, everyone's attention was on the wiggling egg. It wiggled and bounced a few times, then a crack began to form around the middle of the egg which made its way around and back again until..."

"Prew!"

The egg popped open, and a small, snowy Alolan Vulpix shook the top half of the shell off of its head, before staring at its trainer, who it considered its momma.

"It hatched!" Lillie got a hold of the newborn Vulpix and began gently caressing it. "It's sooooo cute!" The Vulpix began licking her face like a dog, and she laughed and giggled as she splashed around in the water, much to Reimu's slight annoyance.

"I'll name you Snowy!" Lillie told Vulpix, who seemed to approve of the name. Then again, it seemed to approve of everything she said right now.

Everyone clapped. "Congratulations!" Mallow said to Lillie. "I'm sure you two will make a wonderful team."

It was agreed that everyone would get out of the spa and get ready for bed, which they did (Lurantis stayed for a few more minutes before getting out and melding back into the deeper jungle). Mallow threw up a couple of tents, laid down sleeping bags, and put down a water basin so everyone could brush their teeth.

After Lillie showed Vulpix to its Ultra Ball, she let it back out again so it could sleep with her that night. So she lay down, Vulpix curled up at the foot of the bag, and she dozed off.

Reimu took a few more minutes to get ready, but once she did, she climbed in and went to sleep, Eevee sleeping next to her and Sasha sprawled out at the foot of the bag.

Above, the evening stars painted the sky visible through the palm leaves, entire galaxies able to be seen in the absence of light pollution. A small meteor broke up in the upper atmosphere, creating chunks that shot spectacularly across the horizon before landing in the ocean an unknown distance from shore.

 

A sacred darkness had laced the land. And the natives were sure it was all Lunala's doing.

Chapter Text

The group rose bright and early the next morning, again as a result of Mallow's cooking, this time biscuits with sausage gravy and hash. Compared to Mallow's breakfast just a couple of days prior, it wasn't as overwhelming with sugar, which was fine with Reimu since she wasn't much of a sweet tooth anyway. She sipped on a cup of tea in between bites, while Lillie and Mallow idly chatted about various things like school, gossip and a movie that was coming out that day, while Lana sat quietly in the corner cleaning and cooking a fish.

While breakfast was still on, Hau caught up with them, no doubt lured by the smell of thick, rich sausage gravy. "Morning!" he said smiling and waving.

"Morning Hau!" Mallow turned around and answered. "How was the eating contest!"

"Won it!" he exclaimed. Mallow smiled back, knowing that Hau just couldn't resist a pile of malasadas, before catching sight of a clearly disheveled Kiawe stumbling out of the forest greenery and toward the group. Hau gave an aside glance and said, "I'm fine, but... can't say Kiawe is."

"Urk..." Kiawe groaned. "Stomach... hurts... too much... malasada... never... eat... malasada... again..." He suddenly retched and held his hand to his mouth.

"Hey hey hey!" Hau said. "Not when people are eating!" He forcibly turned Kiawe around and marched him into the jungle to, well, do the deed. Despite his best efforts, the sound of hurling could still be heard from the campsite.

Reimu looked at her remaining breakfast, and decided to feed the rest of it to Eevee and Sasha rather than try and finish it herself.

Stumbling back to the group, Kiawe recollected his composure - barely - and said good morning to everyone.

"Uh... um, sorry. Good morning. I'm so sorry about that."

Mallow grinned, and so did Lillie. "I saw that pile," Lillie said. "There were at least 100 malasadas in there. And a big boy like you couldn't handle it like the kid did~" she teased.

Hau scowled, "I'm not a kid."

Lillie laughed, of course. As much as Hau thought he was hot stuff (and surprisingly strong for his size), the fact was, he was still just a little boy among a group of teenage girls, of course he was going to find himself at the receiving end of no small amount of teasing. By now, though, he had learned to just roll with it; if dealing with this was what it took to become a trainer, then that was the price he was willing to pay.

"Rai rai!" An electric squeak could be heard coming from the jungle.

Hau turned around, and saw Raichu surfing in on its tail.

"Hey buddy!" Hau said, kneeling down and giving the electric mouse a hug.

Reimu looked over at them. "Huh? Is that..."

"It evolved last night!" Hau said. "But, uh, I didn't give it a Thunder Stone. You see, Pikachu decided it also wanted to be in the eating contest, and it ate a whole bunch, which caused it to evolve for some reason."

Since this was a new Pokemon, Reimu could predict what happened next: Rotom came out and furnished her with a definition:

 

Raichu, the Mouse Pokemon. The evolved form of Pikachu. This form is one which has so far only been documented in the Alola region. It is said that a high-sugar diet which includes pancakes of a special Alolan recipe triggers this evolution as opposed to the standard one. It uses Psychic power to move around while standing on its tail in a manner resembling surfing. Another word for this Pokemon is "hodad."

 

"...I see," she said simply.

But Hau went back to smiling. "But I guess that just means it'll be even more awesome in battle!"

Reimu just nodded and smiled, while Sasha enjoyed the rest of her breakfast.

 

After cleaning up, the group walked out of the jungle, and Kiawe decided to hop on his Charizard and part ways with them. After he was gone, Mallow turned around and asked Reimu, "I suppose you all are headed to Konikoni City next to challenge Olivia?"

Reimu replied with, "uh, sure I guess?"

"You guess??? C'mon, she's the Kahuna and you've beaten all this island's trials, and Hau and Lillie too! Besides, me and Lana both live in Konikoni too, and we were talking about heading home to visit family today before we went back to maintaining our trials, so we were wondering if you wanted to come along with us!"

Reimu saw no reason why not, if that was the case and Olivia was there. "Uh, yeah, sure, we can do that."

"Awesome!"

They went down to the nearest bus stop, and as soon as the next bus arrived to take them down to Konikoni, Mallow paid everyone's fares and they got right into the back of the bus.

The trip to Konikoni took about an hour and a half, as the bus passed through Heahea City and along a cliffside road that bypassed the Diglett's Tunnel that pedestrian trainers often used to travel in between the two cities. The drive offered amazing views of the bay, and Reimu looked out the window where she could see Sharpedo jumping out of the water to try and snap up the Wingull flying above, while Talonflame skimmed the water's surface trying to snare a Wishiwashi in between its talons while dodging Sharpedo at the same time.

Then, that was when something odd happened. Reimu saw a dark shadow move across the surface of the ocean just beyond the bay, but couldn't see anything in the air that could explain the shadow. It also moved too swiftly for it to be a Wailord or other large Pokemon swimming around just beneath the surface.

Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, it vanished.

Reimu shrugged, must be an aircraft or something.

The bus continued to trudge along the road, and in no time, Konikoni City soon came into view.

 


 

Passing through the town gates, Reimu took another look around the city which they just rolled into. And one thing immediately came to mind: Chinatown. While Reimu herself had never actually been to China, she heard tales of China from Meiling, who described all sorts of traditional East Asian architecture, paper lanterns, paper dragons, paper cranes, paper EVERYTHING. All over the place, deep colors imprinted against open-air stands, bridges and arches stood over streets and canals, even the hotels and office buildings had hints of this sort of thing. Sure, people in this world probably don't know what China is, but they clearly had some sort of equivalent.

It was no Human Village, but it certainly gave off some vibes of that, as well. So Reimu felt she could be able to at least somewhat settle in.

The bus pulled up in front of the Pokemon Center, and the group disembarked.

"What do you think?" Mallow said sweeping her arms in a grandiose way. "This is me and Mallow's home!"

Reimu looked around. "It's lovely." Hau thought the place was really cool, as well. Neither had been here before, and Lillie had only come here a couple times before as a small child.

"So... what do ya wanna do first?" Mallow asked everyone.

Lillie spoke up, "I think it would be nice if I got to meet your family."

"Cool!" she smiled. "Well then, just follow me. It's right this way!"

So Mallow led the group through town, past all the shops, including a place that offered massages to Pokemon (...okay? Reimu thought), another that made and sold paper Skarmorys, a cafe and bookstore, a videogame store (which proudly displayed Super Smash Bros. Ultimate preorder banners), and other odds and ends. Walking along the streets were people in Slowpoke costumes, children with balloons with their parents, and also Pokemon walking along with their trainers outside their Pokeballs. She also caught sight of two or three Rattata raiding a dumpster behind a five-star restaurant, hoping to find and bring back something that would please their Raticate master. Along the rooftops, Pikipek looked down at the streets below. At one point, she saw a power line where a bunch of Fletchling were sitting, only to be intruded upon by a Pelipper that tried to sit right in the middle of them, causing the power line to bow down and the Fletchling to yell at it trying to get it to leave.

 

Fifteen minutes later, the group came up to a place in the restaurant district, with a sign proclaiming it as Aina's Kitchen. Reimu looked at her phone's clock: it was only nine-thirty in the morning. They'd just eaten breakfast. Why were they here at a restaurant?

Mallow turned around to the group. "This is where I live! I help my dad run the restaurant when I'm doing doing trials or at school."

Reimu was confused. "You live in a restaurant?"

"Well, on the second floor, we do."

Reimu thought about that, and then realized that living where you worked wasn't at all unusual: not only did she do so herself, but many of the shops in the village had small apartments just above them where the shop owners and their families lived. She just hadn't really seen that so far in Alola, which was why it probably surprised her.

 

As the group made their way inside, there were a few people at the tables who were finishing up their breakfast. Mallow led them around back to the kitchen entrance, where she was sure her dad was working. All throughout, the smell of pancakes permeated the air; it didn't affect Reimu much, having just eaten, although the ever-hungry Hau was starting to get tempted.

As they went through the swinging door, Reimu could see steam rising from all the boiling pots and cooking elements that were being used, and line cooks were running back and forth tending to everything. Toward the front, a man in a chef's outfit was busy wiping off some glasses.

"Hey daddy!" Mallow waved. Her dad, the head chef, turned around to face the group.

"I'm back! These are my friends! And this is Reimu, that girl that's been all over the news!"

He just continued to stare at them blankly.

"...you okay, dad?" Mallow asked, concerned.

"Is he always like this?" Reimu asked.

"Not at all..." Mallow remarked.

Then, the man's expression slowly changed to beady, black eyes and a wide, blank grin.

"Uhm................" Reimu was getting uncomfortable, and so was everyone else.

Then, Mallow's "dad" spoke. "...di.....di.....Ditto!" Quickly, it melted down from the shape of a man down to a small, amorphous purple blob.

"GAAH!" Reimu jumped back, instinctively grabbing a Pokeball and tossing it at the blob, not knowing it was empty. The ball hit the blob, called it in, and after three clicks the capture was sealed.

Reimu just left the Ultra Ball on the ground while everyone in the group stood back, shocked and confused at whatever just happened.

"What was THAT?!?" Reimu exclaimed.

Lana answered, "well, it was a Ditto, that's obvious."

"Reimu turned around. "Ditto?"

"Ditto is a Pokemon that can take on the appearance of other living things. They usually mimic Pokemon, but they can sometimes try to copy humans. But it's easy to tell if it's a Ditto or not, since it still has that blank, creepy smile."

Reimu looked back at the Ultra Ball, and watched as it warped itself to the PC on account of Reimu already having six Pokemon. And she thought about how, as weird as some of the stuff she had seen so far was, there was much weirder stuff hiding just under the surface.

Just then, the kitchen doors burst open, and a man in a chef's outfit came rushing in.

"What the hell was THAT?" the man exclaimed. "I keep trying to tell people, no battling Pokemon in the restaurant!"

Mallow turned around. "It was us, dad! There was a Ditto that looked like you, and it tried to attack us!"

One of the line cooks corroborated Mallow's story. "That's right, chef. We all thought you were down here, right there washing dishes, so we just kept working. We didn't know it was a Ditto!"

Abe heard these claims, then turned to Mallow. "Hm, that's strange. A Ditto impersonating me... where is it?"

Reimu stepped forward. "Well, I threw an empty ball at it and caught it, and it went to the PC and..."

Abe stopped her for a moment, then said "...wait. Are you that girl I keep seeing on the news? The one who came from that wormhole? You crush trainers, and won that race?"

...she wasn't even trying to hide it at this point. "Yes, that's me. I am Reimu Hakurei."

Abe put his hands on her shoulder and shook her. "I can't believe it! I actually get to meet you! Mallow, you didn't tell me you picked up Reimu!"

Mallow said to him, "well, I suppose she just kind of landed in my lap!"

"Awesome! Hey, why don't we go upstairs so we can let the cooks do their job?" So Abe led the group out the kitchen and up the stairs to the apartment where he and Mallow lived.

 

When they came up the stairs to the modest apartment, Abe let the group pull up seats for themselves at the table, while Mallow started pots of coffee and tea for everyone. Abe wanted to catch up with his daughter about her trials and exploits, of course, but he was also keenly interested in hearing all the tales that Reimu had in store. So she related the first incident she was involved in, the Scarlet Mist incident, to him.

"No way, real vampires?!" He exclaimed.

"Yup, real vampires, and not only that, but an immature vampire mistress and her completely psycho younger sister who can destroy almost anything. Marisa was tied up in the library stealing books, so it was up to me to barge up to Remilia's balcony and show her the business. After that, I went back home to the shrine, only for her to show up at my door a few days later wanting tea. So after I made her a pot, she explained that she had been out for a walk, but came back to see a torrential rainstorm surrounding the mansion, which was odd because the night was clear. Now obviously vampires can't cross running water, so she asked me to go look at it so she could go home. Well, I learn that Flandre broke loose and the rainstorm was Patchouli trying to keep her from escaping the mansion, and when I turn around after hitting a dead end, there she is, yellow hair, red eyes, red-and-white dress. She wanted to play. So I played with her, and by that I mean there was a blizzard of lasers and bullets and I nearly died three times before she was happy and went back to her room in the basement."

"Sounds like that time with the Basculin Cannon," Lana remarked.

Lillie turned to her. "What about Basculins?"

Lana shook her head, "it's a long story, and I've been trying to forget everything that happened since then."

The group visited for about another hour, before Lana got up and told everyone she needed to leave. Reimu, wanting to get along with the day and get to the Grand Trial, convinced her, Lillie and Hau to come along with Lana to her house, and she agreed. They waved goodbye to Mallow, leaving them to have some father-daughter time.

 


  

Out on the street, Lana directed the group down the street and toward the waterfront. Like most waterfronts, Konikoni had an expansive marina, filled to the brim with million dollar yachts from all over the world, private fishing and Krabbying boats as well as commercial ones, and some coast guard vessels tied to one of the piers. Reimu could see a Mareanie trying to climb up one of the boats, only to be whacked off by a sailor with an oar. Just after that, she also noticed glimmering pink lights just beneath the surface: a Bruxish that the Mareanie had been trying to escape, and which no doubt became that Bruxish's meal. Again, life and death in an unfamiliar world.

They soon came to a two-story seaside house overlooking the marina and the bay from atop a small bluff.

"This is my family's house," Lana said to the three. "My dad manages the marina down there. He's probably at work, but mom and my sisters should be home." They walked up to the door, which had a painting of a Gyarados arched over it, and Lana led them inside.

Inside, there were no immediate signs of life, but a female voice called out from the hallway.

"Lana, honey, is that you?"

"Yes, mom, and I brought guests." Her mother stepped out of the hallway with an empty laundry basket to meet the group.

"Oh, hi there! You must be friends of Lana's?"

"You could say that," Reimu said. As soon as she spoke, Lana's mother dropped the basket onto the floor, and she simply stared at Reimu.

She couldn't believe it! She actually got to meet Ms. Wormhole herself!

"Oh, my gosh! Reimu! I've heard all about you! Lana was telling me about you on the phone yesterday! She tells me you caught a Red Gyarados!"

"I did," Reimu replied. "Would you like to see it?"

Lana's face turned red as she cut in, "...let's not bring Gyarados out in the house, shall we?"

"Oh, right." Reimu put the Pokeball down while Lana's mom chuckled lightly.

"Where are Harper and Sarah?" Lana asked her mom.

"I think they're still upstairs playing in their room," she replied, when she heard the sliding glass door out back. Everyone turned around to see what it was, when two, small twin girls who looked very much like Lana walked down the hallway holding hands.

"Harper! Sarah!" their mother exclaimed. "Why didn't you two tell me you were out back? You know you're not supposed to be outback unless I'm watching you!"

The two small girls didn't answer, instead just looking up at them with a somber, but unnerving expression.

"...this doesn't seem right," Lana remarked. "They don't act like creepy twins like this at all."

Reimu thought for a second, then realized, recalling what happened back at the restaurant, what must be happening.

So she grabbed two Pokeballs and threw them. "Go, Lucario and Magneton!" The two Pokemon popped out on the floor in front of the girls, ready for a fight.

"What do you think you're doing?!" Lana's mother shouted.

Reimu smirked. "Those aren't little girls." And sure enough, each of their faces changed to beady eyes and long smiles.

"Di...di...Ditto!" They melted down into purple blobs, before one of them transformed again into Magneton, who tried to use Thunderbolt before Lucario intercepted it with an Aura Sphere, knocking it across the room and onto  the ground stunned. Reimu then grabbed two empty Pokeballs, and twirled around as she threw them at the two Dittos. Each one captured and clicked one Ditto, before being sent to the PC.

As Reimu recalled her two Pokemon, the others stood completely confused, wondering what it was that just happened.

"...again?" Hau said flatly.

Soon, the sound of stomping feet could be heard bounding down the stairs as the real Harper and Sarah rushed down to see what the ruckus was.

"Mom, what was that?" Harper said.

"Yeah, what just happened?" Sarah parroted.

Lana looked at them and said, "oh, we were just moving something and knocked something over, nothing big."

"I thought I heard a Pokemon battle going down here! I thought we weren't allowed to have Pokemon in the house!" Clearly, there was no fooling these girls.

"I thought I heard a Lucario down here! We don't have a Lucario!"

The mom steadied the two girls. She didn't want to freak them out by telling them that two Ditto had just broken into the house disguised as them. They were each only seven, if they heard about that, there was no stopping them from blabbing about it everywhere.

"Girls, I want you to meet Reimu," she said to them. "She and her friends are our guests. I want you to treat them with respect, and -"

The girls were all over Reimu in an instant, jumping up and down.

"Mom told us about you! You came from a big hole in the sky! Are you an alien?"

"Your Eevee is sooooooo cute!" When Eevee heard this, she jumped down and let the girls pet her, and what's more, she was purring.

Reimu turned to look at Lillie. "Eevee can purr?"

Lillie nodded. Reimu looked back down, and could barely contain her squee as the two girls fluffed the rabbit-eared animal right up.

 

After they straightened the room back up from the scuffle, the girls' mother sat everyone down at the table, wishing to hear from the group all about their exploits and adventures, but like Abe before, she was particularly interested in the kind of tales Reimu offered. Not wanting to retread the same story around Lillie and Hau, she decided to tell the Moriya incident to her.

"So, actual goddesses exist where you're from"

"Yup, real goddesses, and not only that, but they were trying to set up a plot to get all of Gensokyo's faith, since without it they eventually weaken and fade from assistance. I matched up there, had a few words with Sanae, Kanako and Suwako, and that evening we were down in the village watching a sumo match. But that's not all: Kanako then fed the corpse of the Yatagarisu to a random hell raven so she could jump-start a nuclear reactor to power Gensokyo, but the thing is, she told the hell raven she wanted to make a perfect world. Now, hell ravens are about as sharp as a floor, so having lived in a burning hellscape her whole life, she tried to turn the surface into a burning hellscape. Seven spell cards and a fifty-kilo sack of birdseed later, and we managed to pin her down and return her home."

Lana's mother didn't know what to think: nuclear hell ravens, capitalistic goddesses, and Reimu talking about squashing a sun-hurling living nuclear reactor about as casually as one might mention buying milk. Having been a trial captain herself back in the day, she thought she'd seen a lot, but clearly, she hadn't seen nothin' compared to this girl, who was twenty years younger than her to boot!

"Sounds like you've been through quite a bit!"

"Yeah... but, this is easily my biggest incident yet," Reimu said a little more softly. "At first, I was just trying to find a way home, because I'm sure everyone's freaking out about me being gone. But, as I went along and learned more about Ultra Wormholes and the legendary beasts that these island's legends talk about, I've also been trying to search for clues as to what might be behind this incident to begin with, and this 'Island Challenge' has been a good opportunity

for me to go around and do that. Because, you know, even if I did find a way back home, if I don't also find the thing responsible, then it might just happen again, or worse."

The girls' mother didn't really know much about Ultra Wormholes: the only thing she remembered was two sentences from a lecture back when she was a senior in high school history, as well as trips to the museum in Hau'oli City. All she recalled was that Solgaleo and Lunala came through them five centuries ago and stopped some threat that brought darkness to the land. She never thought it would ever be relevant to her life, but now here was someone who got chucked out of one and wanted to get back home the same way.

All she could say was, "well, let's just hope that you can find a way home safely, and whatever caused this is stopped. I'm sure you must have been terrified."

Reimu answered, "well, yeah, I was, and very confused and disoriented too. I mean, I got pulled through a hole, and now I'm very far from home. And even though I know that I'll need to find another one of those wormholes to get back, where am I gonna find one, you know? It's not like one's just going to pop up right now in front of us at random. Something tore open that wormhole, and they wanted me here on purpose. And now I need to find that thing and get them to make a way home for me."

Reimu slumped on the table, once again coming to grips about the hard reality of the situation. She was far from home. Everyone back in Gensokyo was surely scared and trying to figure out just what happened. She had just met shadowy copies of herself and Medicine with apparent ties to the incident's perpetrator. She had no idea how much more serious this incident was going to get. And worst of all, she didn't have the ability to use her familiar spell cards. How was she supposed to put an end to all of this?

She felt a paw on her cheek. "Vee?" Reimu looked over. Eevee wanted to know what was up with her.

"Looks like Eevee's worried about you," Lana said.

"How do you know?" Reimu replied.

"Pokemon can grow very close to their trainers. They can sense when their trainer is down, just by reading them. Eevee can tell you're not feeling so well about being so far from home. She wants you to know that she's at your side, no matter how hard things get for you."

Hau got up. "Yeah, and I'm there for you too!"

Lillie looked, then got up herself. "I'm with you as well."

Reimu looked around at all the support she had, from human and Pokemon alike. And it made her remember part of what made her great in the first place: her ability to leave impressions in people, her ability to lead and fight as a team to resolve incidents. In the past, it turned foes into friends, or at the very worst, somewhat decent people. And it also made her realize all the support she had from even people she didn't know.

It made her just a little bit warmer inside. She smiled.

Reimu decided to get up from the table. "Thank you. You really don't know how much this all means for me. Looking back, I just remember all the seemingly impossible things I've managed to do, just because of how well I can work with people even if I think I'm alone. People like you. And, well," she let Eevee hop back on top of her head, and it barked, "my Pokemon as well. We can do this. Ain't nothing gonna stop me from getting to the bottom of this."

"That's the spirit!" Hau exclaimed jumping up and down. "Now, why don't we go crash Olivia's place and do our Grand Trial?"

Reimu smirked. With all the energy he had, she figured Hau could probably throw down with someone like Mokou with only his bare hands and win. "That sounds like a great idea!"

"Then let's blow this pop stand!"

Lillie pouted. "Hau! Where are your manners?!"

Hau settled down. "Oh, alright, mom," he said sarcastically.

They waved goodbye to Lana's family and made their way out the front door.

"Hey! Don't forget to come back and battle sometime!" Lana hollered to Reimu.

"I won't," Reimu said back.

 


 

Now back down to a trio, Hau, Lillie and Reimu made their way down the cobblestone promenade, with each of their Pokemon following close behind.

"So what's that little dog walking next to you?" Reimu asked Hau.

Hau looked down, and Growlithe barked back at him. "Oh, this is Growlithe. He hatched from my egg last night. You wouldn't believe how much he licked me after he hatched and jumped on my face!"

Oh, they could so believe it, Reimu and Lillie both thought. You get an animal like that riled up, they will love you to death if you let them. That was the truth about dogs. They weren't called Man's Best Friend for no reason.

The three chatted and laughed with each other for a while, while they walked to the shop where Olivia supposedly was. It took about half an hour to reach it by walking from Lana's house.

When they got to the place, Rotom came out to let them know of this fact.

"Bzzrt! Here's the place! Treasures of the Earth Jewelry!"

The place certainly looked impressive: it had a walk up lined with rare stones and cobbled with pure slate, and planted alongside was an exotic garden that reminded her of one that one of the Human Village's residents had in front of their place.

They opened the door to the place, and spread out before them were shelves upon shelves of diamonds, earrings, birthstones, souvenir rocks, and even fossils.

"Welcome to our store!" A woman behind the counter said to them.

Hau jumped forward. "Hi! We're trial-goers. Is Kahuna Olivia here?"

The woman answered, "I think I saw her upstairs. You can go look if you want. Be sure to knock on her door!"

"Thanks!" Hau ran up the stairs while Lillie and Reimu caught up with him.

Once they were up, the woman thought to herself, "...which is odd, since Olivia said she wasn't going to be back until lunch."

 

At the top of the stairs, the trio turned a corner, and there, at the end of the hallway, was Olivia, her back turned toward them.

"Olivia!" Hau called out. "We're here to-"

Lillie slapped her hand on Hau's mouth to shush him.

"Manners, again!" she said.

Reimu decided to walk up and greet the Kahuna instead. "Sorry to disturb you. It's us again. We finished all our trials on this island, and we were wondering if you..."

"Olivia" turned around, and had beady eyes and a flat smile on her face.

Reimu didn't waste a second reacting. "...could be a dear and hold still while I nab 'ya." She whipped an Ultra Ball straight out of her bag, so fast that the Ditto didn't even have enough time to melt back down before the ball snagged it, clicked, and sent itself to the PC.

"What's with these things today???" Reimu wondered aloud. "I didn't even know they existed until today, and now I own four of them!"

"I don't know," Lillie wondered as well. "It's very strange. They seem to be all over the place impersonating people today."

Just then, they heard the sound of the front door opening downstairs. They decided to go down and see who it was, and just like before, the real Olivia showed up with a sack of food from a nearby food stall.

"Sorry I'm late!" she told the counter lady. "There was a long line at the salad bar, and..." She looked over at the trio, and put her food down.

"Well, if it isn't our three trial-goers! I knew you would all clear your trials in record time!"

"It wasn't hard," Reimu said, leaving out the fact that none of her three trials went as they should have. As far as she was concerned, Olivia didn't need to know about the doppelganger or the two energy birds. All that mattered was the three shiny new Z-Crystals that were in her possession. "Right, Lillie?"

Lillie also nodded, leaving out the fact that Adele left a crater in the volcano that wasn't there a couple days ago, or that she managed to completely blew apart the school of Totem Wishiwashi literally just after Lana had gotten it back together; Lana actually said to Lillie that she was going to look for another Totem Pokemon since Wishiwashi just wasn't cutting it at this rate. All that mattered was that she (and Hau) had their Z-Crystals and could challenge Olivia for her stamp.

"Um, yes, that's right," she said.

Olivia smiled. "That's great. You three have already built up quite a reputation for yourselves." She turned around, facing the rest of her store. "Feel free to look around my store. Then, I will take you to the trial site when you are ready."

Hau didn't really have much taste in jewelry, so he decided to just sit down, flip open his 3DS and continue with Team Kirby Clash. The other two looked around the store, eyeing all the expensive stones, pendants and necklaces on display.

Reimu perused the glass cases, and immediately took note of a pretty aquamarine necklace. Aquamarine was her birthstone, so she thought it would be nice if she could wear a pretty necklace with her birthstone on it. 12,000 Pokedollars later, and it was around her neck, resting on her breast. She also decided to pick up a carved piece of obsidian as a souvenir, something she could show everyone back home once she was able to get back. Meanwhile, Lillie was drawn to an Ice Stone, which she was told could evolve Vulpix into a graceful Alolan Ninetales, although she knew she didn't want to use it just yet; generally, Pokemon that evolved using stones couldn't learn moves once that happened unless they were Vaporeon, Jolteon or Flareon. So she wanted Vulpix to pick up some strong moves before using a stone on it, and even then she would still respect Vulpix's wish if it did not want to evolve yet.

While browsing still, Reimu came into some fossils. They were lined up neatly, propped up on red felt pillows with descriptive tags telling where they were originally recovered, such as one that was dug up from Mt. Moon, and another that came from Glittering Cave.

"What are these?" Reimu asked the counter person, who looked over to her from a newspaper.

"Oh, why these are fossils of Pokemon that went extinct a long time ago. People like to collect them, and it's even possible, if you take them to special labs that can do it, to revive them into living, breathing and fully trainable Pokemon."

Rotom came out and scanned each of the fossils, which filled in a corresponding Dex entry for each. Reimu got a good look at each of the entries, which included a strange cephalopod, an insect-like crab creature, a pterodactyl, a clawed insect with many spines on its back, a bizarre plant-like creature, a small dinosaur-like animal, a quadruped with a shield-like head, a sea turtle, a colorful bird, a small Apatosaurus and a baby T-Rex. Despite their various quirks and differences, she noticed that all of them shared a Rock-type. Rotom even provided an article which told how scientists debated why this was. Some thought that each of these Pokemon were part Rock-type in the past and their typing was what allowed them to leave behind more complete remains, while others argued that the revival process itself caused them to become Rock-type where they weren't before. In either case, Reimu thought it was amazing that Pokemon from the past could be brought back to life in the present - she had been told by Yukari that there were species of youkai that once existed, and in some cases were even downright common, before they became extinct, and unlike regular animals and plants, their bodies dissolved to dust upon death, meaning they did not leave behind remains and could never come back. But these creatures could.

However, none interested her enough to consider adding them to her team, so she decided to pass up each of the fossils, satisfied with her aquamarine necklace, and instead headed toward the entrance where the others were waiting for her.

"Done shopping?" Olivia asked. Hau had already put away his 3DS and was eagerly waiting to leave.

"Yeah, I guess so," Reimu answered.

Olivia turned toward the door. "Splendid. Then let's head to the trial site." She decided to open the door for the three, with Reimu stepping out the door first. She said to Olivia, "why, thank you - "

 

There was a copy of her standing right outside the door with the Ditto expression on her face.

Reimu facepalmed. "You've GOT to be kidding me..."

The Ditto melted back down to its true appearance, only this one was blue as opposed to purple.

"Oh, this one's a shiny," Lillie commented. "Maybe it's the leader?"

"Honestly, I don't really care," Reimu said reaching for Sasha's Pokeball and sending the cat out to attack and weaken the opposing Ditto. "I just want to stop running into these things and get on with it." She wasted no time ordering Sasha to pin it down and Bite it before it had the chance to transfrom, then once it was incapacitated she tossed an Ultra Ball yet again to capture it and send it to the PC.

Recalling Sasha, Reimu sighed, "holy hell, how long is this gag going to keep up?" Before Lillie could answer, there was a whistle coming from down the street. It was a policeman.

"Ma'am, were you the one that just captured that Ditto?"

Reimu looked at him awkwardly. She had seen officers before, but had never really dealt with them other than observing Hau get pulled over for that bull chip on the road. Now she was seemingly in the hot seat. But she wasn't concerned: she'd rather a fat officer than have to deal with Seija again, for instance. Speaking of which, she wondered if Seija had ever been apprehended following that incident, since she lost track after Sukuna left the shrine.

She cleared her head and came back to the present. "Uh, yeah. It freaked me out, so I just dealt with it."

"I see," the officer said. "Would you mind coming with me back to the station. I would like to talk to you."

Hau elbowed Reimu's side. "Oooooooh, busted!" he whispered.

Reimu summoned a Tauros, as did everyone else, and followed the officer's squad car back to the police station near the entrance of the town. Once there, he led Reimu inside. Inside the station was a front reception desk, a processing area for the attached drunk tank, and behind all that, a mess of cubicles with computers, donuts and coffee all over the place while white-collars pounded away at their keyboards.

He led them to the police chief's office. On the door was the emblem for the Konikoni police department.

The officer knocked on the door, and after a few moments the police chief opened the door for them.

"Officer Brown," he said, "who do we have here?"

"This here's Reimu. Reimu Hakurei. I caught her catching one of the Ditto Five."

The chief's eyes widened. He had heard of Reimu, but he didn't think he'd meet her in person.

"Oh, of course! Come right in!" So the officer led Reimu, then Hau and Lillie inside the office while Olivia waited out in the station reception.

Reimu sat down in front of the chief, while Hau and Lillie sat down on the side. The officer offered his hand to shake.

"My name is Chief Bahr. I run this police station."

Reimu shook his hand. "Um, hi, I'm -"

"Oh, no need, I already know about you. Everyone in Alola does."

Reimu sat on her hands. "Uh, this might be a weird question, but am I in trouble?"

Chief Bahr responded, "no, but I do want to ask you some questions and disclose some information."

Reimu shifted around in her seat. "Okay go ahead."

Bahr reached into his desk, and got out some file photos. "Let's just get straight to it. Other than that one Ditto, did you run into any others when you came here to town?"

Reimu, as always decided to tell the full truth. "Yes, of course. We came into town with two trial captains. When we went to the first one's house, there was one impersonating her father. When we went to the other one's house, there were two impersonating her sisters. When we went to Olivia's shop, there was one impersonating her. And then when we stepped out to leave, there was that one disguised as me. In each case, I captured them in order to restrain them."

Chief Bahr said, "I see. Well, it's obvious you just caught each of the Ditto Five."

Reimu was curious. "The Ditto Five?"

Bahr responded, "as you probably now know, Ditto is a Pokemon that can take the appearance of other things. Those five Ditto in particular are known for impersonating people, for no reason than to perhaps cause mischief. They used to be owned by a local prankster, but after he was arrested for property damage he broke their Pokeballs rather than let them be seized in order to free them. Since then, they've been causing all sorts of trouble across town, and they've been evading even our best rangers. And yet here you come in and scoop them up like they were nothing. And for that, I congratulate you."

Reimu took this compliment in, while Lillie and Hau gave her a thumbs-up, glad that she wasn't in any trouble but rather being commended by the police.

She then turned back to the chief, and asked him, "so, what would you like me to do with them?"

Bahr responded, "well, we did have a reward out for their capture, and normally I would give you this reward in exchange for handing them over for processing, like we do with all other rogue Pokemon." He cleared his throat, before continuing. "But, I've heard all about you and your battling prowess. And seeing you in person, you seem to be very humble and responsible. So I'm going to give you the reward, but you can also keep the Ditto, unless you don't want them, of course. We'll have to find them new owners anyway, since they're obviously not safe to release back into the wild."

Reimu pondered this. Sure, she might not need them immediately. But having five shapeshifting Pokemon at her disposal could certainly have its uses. If nothing else, they might be interesting to use in battle down the line. Heck, maybe she could take them back with her to Gensokyo and use them in a combo-clone attack like what Flandre did back when she fought her, or "scarecrows" for the shrine or whatever.

"Sure, I'll keep them," she said.

"That's excellent!" Chief Bahr exclaimed. He handed her the 100,000 Pokedollar check and put down some notes. He excused Reimu, but just before she left, she asked him one last thing.

"Hey, could I ask you something quickly?"

"Sure, Reimu," Chief Bahr told her.

She turned around to him. "Yesterday, I ran into a person that looks almost exactly like me, except she has pale blue skin, wears a mostly grey shrine maiden outfit, and yellow eyes. You might see her alongside a pale little girl, except she has black claws instead of fingers on one hand. Both have Pokemon that are poisonous, the one that looks like me has one that looks like a big wasp-dragon. She might still be on this island, and she's very dangerous and prone to violent outbursts. If you see her, I want you to call me." She handed him her phone so that he could take down her number.

"Hmm, I haven't gotten any reports of suspicious persons with that description. But if you're concerned about her, I can certainly put down a description, and if we see anything like her we'll contact you right away. I'll let the island sheriff and other police chiefs across the island know as well."

"Thank you," Reimu said, taking back her phone, and leading both Hau and Lillie out of the police station, where Olivia guided them out of town toward her chosen trial site.

 

Unbeknownst to them, they had been watched the whole time by an electrical energy bird, who cackled before flying southeast in the direction of Ula'Ula Island.

Chapter Text

Remilia hit the buzzer on her chair, and within a split-second her faithful maid, Sakuya, was before her.

"Yes, m'lady?" Sakuya bowed.

Remilia produced a velvet wallet with money in it. "I would like for you to go do some shopping today. While you are there, I want you to also visit Kourin an pick up any interesting Outside artifacts he might have."

"How come?" Sakuya questioned.

Remilia adjusted her seat. "It was a... special request from Patchouli."

"I see," Sakuya questioned.

"I also included a little extra, so that you may purchase something small for yourself. For all the hard work you do around the mansion, it is only fair that I do so."

Sakuya bowed again. "Thank you, m'lady." The maid quietly walked out of her mistress's room, then down out the mansion's front door, then up and over the front gate.

 

The overall mood of the mansion had tensed ever since the Ultra Wormhole appeared in the sky just above it. Sakuya, of course, knew the importance of remaining focused on her main task, which was being the tireless head maid of the mansion, cleaning this and that and serving tea and meals to her lady and her coworkers. Even so, she couldn't help but feel a severe apprehension that, with the shrine maiden gone at the hand of something that can rip open inter-dimensional holes, that something ominous would make itself known to Gensokyo. She couldn't even know if Reimu was still alive, much less safe.

And she was perhaps the least concerned of the bunch; Remilia was hardly sleeping, and her lack of sleep was beginning to affect her health. Patchouli was busy in her library, frantically sifting through every book she owned trying to find an explanation for the wormhole and a way to discover where Reimu potentially was, but to no avail. Even Flandre, who was holed up in the bottom of the mansion's cellars due to her destructive tendencies, who even with her childish mannerisms, could still sense that something horrible had happened, and that not even she might be able to defeat the incident's perpetrator if they ever showed their face.

The person whose well-being concerned her the most, however, was Meiling. She was always a vigilant, if easy-going guard, but for several days straight she had been militantly pacing the mansion's outer perimeter with spiked brass knuckles, and even going so far as to neglect watering the garden (that that they needed watering anyway, what with the recent rains). Sakuya just so happened to catch her passing along the front gate, looking around nervously with her fists clenched so tightly they could punch a hole through solid metal.

"You know brass knuckles aren't going to scare whatever tore open that wormhole, right?" Sakuya said crossing her arms.

Meiling stopped and answered her. "I know, I know. It's just that, I..." she looked behind her for a second, before turning back to Sakuya. "I just can't help but try anything that would... would make me feel more comfortable, even if they wouldn't actually work."

"You're letting this situation get to your head," Sakuya told her. "You know there's nothing you can do right now that would make Reimu come back. And even if you could, the perpetrator is still on the loose, and we don't know what they might do next."

"That's what scares me," Meiling replied. "I always feel like," she turned around again to see behind her, then turned back. "I feel like that whatever's out there is gonna snatch me right up and do who knows what!"

"Sounds like anxiety to me," Sakuya said flatly. "And I think you should go get some help." She reached into the wallet and got out the small amount of money Remilia had given her for herself, then handed it over to Meiling. "Right now. Go to Eirin's. She can help you."

Meiling stepped back. Was Sakuya really offering her money to go see the doctor? Part of her was saying it would be impolite and wrong to take it, but Sakuya was being very sincere, and Meiling rationalized that if she practically raised Sakuya then it would be proper for her to return the favor in a time of need.

So, reluctantly, Meiling accepted the money from Sakuya's hand. "Thank you." She then took off in the direction of the bamboo forest. Sakuya did not mind; she didn't feel she really needed or wanted anything for herself, but she couldn't stand to see her good friend and fellow worker suffer from crippling fear. That peace of mind counted as something for herself, she supposed.

She used her watch once again to stop time and travel to the Human Village in a flash. In front of her, two guards at the town gate, put into place to keep unauthorized persons out. But as a member of the Border Patrol, Sakuya was allowed in for business and investigation.

"Sakuya Izayoi," she said to one guard, who pulled out a list of names.

"Sakuya... ah, yes, Ms. Izayoi. You may pass." He opened the gate to let her inside.

 


 

Sakuya looked around as she made her way to Kourindou, her first stop. And all over the village, there was dread an apprehension. Evidence of the stampede from a few days earlier was abundant, as people were still mourning the dead, and the injured were still being nursed. Most people stayed inside their homes, and there was hardly anything out on the street, even animals. And it didn't help that most people kept a fair distance from Sakuya herself, due to her cold, imposing appearance, visible knives on her person, and her status as the chief maid of the vampire's mansion. Sakuya was used to this, of course. What she was not used to was the amount of fear that was present in the air for reasons other than herself.

The only real sign of activity that she could see was off to one side, where various girls were being vetted as potential stand-ins, or worse, replacements, for the errant shrine maiden. All this was being done by one of Yukari's human representatives. Yukari herself never really appeared in the village due to her status and reputation. Instead, she had a number of trusted human allies who did business within the village on her behalf, then reported back to her. Normally, she also had youkai spies doing work as well, but with the newly imposed curfew, she was forced to lean much more heavily on her human allies.

Sakuya continued until she reached a building near the town's edge, hugging the boundary of the Forest of Magic: Rinnosuke's shop, known locally as Kourindou.

 

Kourin himself was busy rearranging some things on the shelves when he heard the bell over the door ring. He put down his work and went to the counter to see who it was, and was surprised to see none other than Sakuya Izayoi facing him.

"Sakuya! What a surprise! I... wasn't expecting to see you here at a time like this!"

"It's a special request," she answered.

"For the mistress?" He asked.

"For the librarian," she said, "but Remilia sent me here to the village to pick up other things as well. Apparently, Patchouli was interested in studying any new gadgets you might have picked up."

Kourin got up from his chair and walked over to the shelf he was just working on. "Well, I haven't been able to leave the village to visit the Road of Reconsideration to pick up anything that might have fallen there. And I'm sure you're too busy to head out there and try and find anything for yourself. But before then, I did manage to collect a couple things." He pushed aside toys, dolls and knick-knacks, before pulling out an old but still functioning Sony video camera.

"This is an interesting device I picked up about a week before the wormhole appeared. I've collected items like this before; I even sold one to Aya for her to use in her news reports. Basically, it captures moving images and sound, and saves them on this tape." He popped open the side of the camera and pulled out the tape, before popping it into another one of his curiosities, a television circa 1978. Sakuya watched with intrigue as he booted up the tube and inserted the tape. It took a few moments for Rinnosuke to adjust the picture quality, and even then it was still fairly grainy.

"I used this on that day to capture the wormhole in action," he said. Sakuya drew herself in and watched the footage intently. At the beginning, all she could see was the ground shaking as a result of Kourin running with the camera while dodging the mob, before he pointed it up at the sky to get a prominent view of the wormhole. Seeing the wormhole in action once again gave Sakuya chills: while not great, the sound quality was just enough to pick up the electronic hum that the wormhole gave off, while the wormhole itself beamed white light bordered by blue-and-purple fishnet patterns, with lightning crackling within. Above this was the chaotic screams of townsfolk running about, while Kourin struggled to stay in place as he tried to avoid the bedlam in the streets.

The tape was only about three minutes, but to Sakuya it might as well have been three hours, as she relived those still-fresh memories of seeing the wormhole through the baroque windows of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. As the tape ended, she looked up at him.

"Is it possible for me to have this tape?" she asked. "This is exactly the sort of thing Patchouli would love to have for her research."

He thought for a second about whether or not to simply hand the tape over to Sakuya. Sure, she and most of the mansion's staff were rabidly investigating this affair at Yukari's request, but at the same time he didn't want to just give more stuff away as he had done in the past; he would go broke if he did.

"I'll make you a deal," he said. "You can give me 1,000 yen now, and if you return the tape within a day, I'll give you all the money back."

"Deal," Sakuya said. She didn't really mind the cost if she wouldn't end up being able to return it, since by her estimate Remilia had budgeted at least ten times this much for this purpose. So she handed over a 1,000 yen note, and took the tape out of Rinnosuke's hands.

"Are you sure you don't need a way to play that tape?" Kourin asked Sakuya.

"I'm sure she'll be alright. She's a magician, she can figure out a way to watch this without Outside devices."

"Fair point," Kourin replied.

Sakuya bowed toward Kourin and made her way to the door, but just as she was about to leave another person came in through the door. He was portly, and wearing a straw hat and ascot.

Sakuya recognized this person as Marisa's father.

"Good morning, Kourin!" he said.

"Morning," Kourin replied. "What's going on today?"

"I just wanted to talk to you about a couple things about your store, y'know, make sure everything's going good!"

"Of course! In fact, I just made a sale... sort of." He looked to Sakuya, who had moved to the side to give the man room.

"Well, if it isn't the mansion maid herself!" He went over and gave her a big ol' bear hug. This was unusual among Gensokyo residents, but nowhere near unusual for Marisa's father, who was just a friendly lug by nature, and most of the town's residents had just gotten used to it.

"Urg, choking, not breathing!" Sakuya spurted out as she struggled to push him away. Eventually, the man backed off, giving Sakuya the ability to move and catch her breath.

"Huff! Uh, hey there, Mohn, how's it going!"

Mohn replied, "I'm doing just fine myself! And you know, right now I'm happy just to see other people safe and sane, like you!"

Sakuya couldn't help but smile. If there was one person who could break through her general icy demeanor, it almost certainly had to be Mohn.

"It's nice to hear that," Sakuya replied as she went out the door. "I need to continue my shopping for the mansion, but we can catch up over tea another time if that's alright with you."

"Oh, no, go right ahead! I don't mean a mean to be a bother!" he said.

"Of course not," Sakuya said smiling again, before leaving the two men to discuss business. As she walked out, she thought some more about man, and Marisa as well. As well-known and loved as they were in the village, Sakuya was never quite able to pump out much in the way of details regarding their past; as far as she could tell, both of them just kind of appeared one day. Mohn (and Marisa as well) had no apparent connections to anyone else in the village, and they always dodged details regarding their life further back than about fourteen years prior. Marisa at least had the excuse of being a child and not remembering much, but Mohn was a little more suspicious in that regard. Despite that, she had grown to appreciate the old man in ways that made her wish that his daughter wasn't the sticky-fingered irritant that she was.

 

Fortunately, the main market in town was still open, allowing her to pick up essentials such as fruit, vegetables, tea leaves, rice, sugar, spices, and other assorted foodstuffs. She also kept her eyes peeled for healthy individuals from whom she could potentially draw blood to satisfy her mistress as well as Flandre. She had developed a technique, aided by the use of a special ointment created and used by Kamaitachi that she waylaid to obtain it, which involved stopping time, using one of her silver knives to cut open a wound and collect blood, then using the ointment to patch it up as if nothing happened, before returning to the spot she had been and continuing her business. Her victims usually noticed nothing, aside from a certain weakness and lightheartedness associated with blood loss. Doing this during her trips to the village usually netted enough blood to satisfy her mistress for quite a while.

Once she finished her shopping, she piled her goods against the town gate. She usually purchased more than she could carry back in one trip, so what she typically did was grab a load, stop time, ferry it back to the mansion before going back to the village to get the next load. The blood was almost always in the first load to avoid suspicion, before being followed up by the more innocuous loads. The first couple of loads went off without incident. However, on her way back from the third load, she took a slightly different route she thought would be faster, when she caught sight of a tall, stationary object standing in the middle of a grassy field. She passed closer to it on subsequent trips, and began to make out what looked like the shape of a humanoid cat of some sort. At first, she just thought it was a nekomata or other cat-youkai, but this one seemed different, since it was larger than every nekomata she knew.

Struck by curiosity, and out of a sense of duty for the Border Patrol, she deposited her last load and then lied to the fairy maid on duty about another, special load that she could not safely transport back by stopping time, thus giving her an excuse to go check out the strange figure more closely.

 

Sakuya arrived with a full deck of high-power spell cards to match any threat the figure was capable of mustering. Even with her power time-space manipulation and skill with knives, she was wise enough to know that you always tread cautiously when dealing with characters you were unfamiliar with.

Coming out of her time-stop outside of where the figure would be able to sense her, she slowly approached it, making note of its physical characteristics. The closer she got, the more she could make out its features: standing about two meters, and primarily off-white in color, except for a large, purple tail slowly twitching back and forth. It stood steadfastly, staring off in the direction of where the river left the Hakurei Border; Sakuya was not sure if this was significant or not.

Sakuya stopped several meters short of the figure, and for a few moments, the only movement was her skirt gently blowing in the wind as she stared it down.

Hesitantly but without fear in her voice, she spoke up:

"Who are you?"

The figure's tail stopped twitching, and it turned around to meet Sakuya's gaze with its piercing, violet eyes and blank expression.

Sakuya did not have a name for the being that now faced her. To anyone else, though, the figure scarcely needed introduction, as its name, which struck fear into the hearts of men, was introduction enough:

 

Mewtwo.

 

A being who only knew violence, who only knew how to fight mercilessly. That was, after all, the purpose it was created for, was to fight. And it proved itself effective, by way of killing all the scientists and burning the lab down to the ground. Now it found itself face-to-face with the Scarlet Devil Mansion's head maid, who wielded the power of endless silver knives and manipulation of time.

 

By surrounding itself in telekinetic energy, it floated in midair, then swept its left hand in a threatening manner.

Sakuya knew what this meant: this figure wanted to fight. And it was unlikely it would let her go until it had that fight.

So she hopped into the air, surrounded herself in knives, and responded, "so you want to fight? I see. Challenge accepted."

She wasted no time firing endless volleys of knives at her opponent, then repeating the volleys with her time manipulation. Each time, Mewtwo was able to deflect the volleys with its psychic power, weaving in and out between the various laser bullets scattered throughout. Once it felt it had an opening, it launched an attack of its own, although it seemed no attack had actually been launched at first.

Sakuya, suspecting a trap, stopped and looked at near-future timelines, and saw one where she was being assaulted by numerous white orbs. A time-delayed attack, it seemed. She eliminated the orbs, then continued attacking her opponent.

Mewtwo sensed that its opponent had nullified Future Sight, once the time it should have struck had come and gone. This combined with Sakuya's ability to dodge its other attacks, including its own laser bullets and spell cards it had created, made it realize that its conventional tactics would not work against her, as it became obvious to it that she possessed time manipulating powers that allowed her to dodge attacks and then bolster her own.

So it shifted tactics by throwing up a barrier to stop some attacks, then using Recover to heal off the damage that Sakuya was doing with her spam of knives and spell cards.

"Illusion Existance 'Clock Corpse!'" "Perfect Square!" "Illusion World!" All around Mewtwo, Sakuya danced around tossing massive amounts of lasers and knives, stopping, accelerating and reorienting time to make them hit with deadly efficiency. Each time, Mewtwo either nullified the attack, or heal the damage. The entire time, it studied her attack pattern and strategy. Each time, she somehow messed with the flow of time in order to dodge and land attacks, and even though she had to stop each time, she still left too little time for it to be able to do meaningful damage. However, it could weather her attacks for quite some time.

So it realized the best way to beat her was to try weaken her, then stall her out until she could no longer effectively fight.

While Sakuya was still attacking, it silently summoned a cloud of Toxic gas, which it held in the places where Sakuya was shifting around. Then, it continued its strategy of just stalling her out.

There was no noticeable effect at first. But as time wore on, it could sense Sakuya's attacks slowing down and becoming increasingly inaccurate and less potent. After a few more minutes of stalling, the gaps between attacks were greatly widened, as the poison began coursing though Sakuya's veins and affected her ability to fight, giving it the one opportunity it needed to further tip the fight in its favor.

By quickly using Psychic, it held Sakuya in place, then stripped her of her watch and knives, which it tossed aside and onto the ground while she struggled to break free of the telekinesis, but to no avail.

Sakuya, normally a calm and cold person, was now panicking, and stopped struggling against it to preserve her strength, realizing that she had been poisoned by the Toxic gas which it had summoned and that struggling more would jeopardize her chances of getting out of this ordeal.

Mewtwo slammed her into the ground, creating cuts and bruises. As Sakuya wrenched herself off of the ground, covered in dust and still reeling from the poison, she saw Mewtwo above her, and realized she was powerless to stop whatever it had in store. And sure enough, it was charging up its signature Psystrike, ready to finish the maid off.

 

Then, a flash, as Mewtwo was knocked back a ways, making it lose its concentration and causing it to drop the attack.

 

After recoiling, it sprang back and searched for its attacker. Sakuya too was looking for what may have attacked Mewtwo, before a slim figure suddenly landed in front of her.

She looked up at it, and saw a most peculiar sight: a tall, slim figure resembling a cross between a pretty woman with a veil and a cockroach. Its body resembled a dress, its antennae were long and reached all the way down to the ground, a cape veil, which were actually its wings, drooped down toward the ground behind it, and it had half-circle blue and purple eyes and what looked like a crown on top of its head.

It stared down at Sakuya, then gestured her with its eyes to leave the scene. Sakuya agreed - she mustered the strength to reach her knives and watch, get a hold of them, then use her time manipulation to escape the scene. Immediately after, the fight continued as the cockroach challenged Mewtwo with its superior speed and agility versus Mewtwo's sheer psychic power and extrasensory perception.

 


  

Sakuya re-materialized in one of the bathrooms, where she reached toward an antitoxin medicine kept in one of the drawers (made by Eirin of course), and popped and downed it with water. Within minutes, the medicine took effect, and the poison was cleansed from her system. She then used some of the ointment on her person to patch up her own scrapes.

Afterward, she went downstairs and put away the groceries, then went down to the library with the tape she had obtained from Rinnosuke. Making her way down to the basement level where the library was located, she arrived in front of the heavy oak doors which sealed it off from the rest of the mansion.

She used the special knocker which was loud enough to capture the attention of anyone anywhere in the library. She then waited a few moments, before the door creaked open with Koakuma's face peering from inside.

"Ah, miss Sakuya," she said. "What is it?"

Sakuya handed her the tape. "Tell Patchouli that this tape has very important information regarding this incident," she said to the library devil.

Koakuma took the tape, bowed, then closed the library doors, after which Sakuya went back up stairs to retire until later that evening to attend to her mistress.

 

It took Koakuma several minutes to navigate the library and locate Patchouli at her study, reading yet another book in her search for clues as to Reimu's disappearance.

"Patchouli-sama," she bowed while presenting the tape. "From Sakuya. She says it's very important."

Patchy took the tape from her hand and looked at it. "Ah, an Outside videotape. I will examine it. You may get back to your work." She excused the library devil, who took off to other parts to the library to sort books. She got to work immediately, translating the information on the tape into a hologram that she could watch though the use of various enchanted artifacts. It took about an hour given the complexity of the tape compared to the texts she was used to doing this on, but eventually managed to project the tape's contents, which provided her first sighting of the wormhole. What she saw stunned her: in all her years of studying magic, she had never come across anything quite like this. Because it was a hologram rather than the real thing, she had no way of being able to "feel" the nature of the wormhole. Regardless, it was clear from looking at the footage that it was no mere border incursion, but rather a rip in the fabric of time and space that transcended the nature of the Hakurei Border.

The normally astute and well-studied librarian slumped back in her seat as she took in the reality of the situation. The more she thought, the more she realized that, as scary as the wormhole and Reimu's disappearance was, the prospect of the thing that was actually responsible for creating it and starting this incident in the first place being on the loose terrified her even more, simply because whatever created that wormhole was easily bigger than any threat that had faced Gensokyo in the time she had been here. For once in her life, she was terrified.

As she stared at the playback, another library devil came by, holding a book between her two arms.

"Patchouli-sama?" she said meekly.

Patchouli snapped out of her trance and looked over at the library devil. "What is it?"

The library devil presented the book to her, which featured a stylized sun and moon on the cover, along with a title in an unknown language. "I discovered this in the far side of the library. I was organizing books, and discovered it where a necronomicon is usually kept. I know because I usually sort that particular shelf often."

Patchy took the book from the library devil. "Then, I will examine it and determine its properties." Again, she excused the library devil, who returned to her work.

She brushed aside her other work and cracked open the book, skimming through it to try and discover its secrets. But she was stymied by the unusual script, which was unlike virtually any writing and cipher system she had knowledge of. There were pictographs on some of the pages, but they provided little context to the unreadable text. After looking at several hundred pages, she was just about to cast it aside, when she turned one final page...

 

"...mother of God," she muttered, wide-eyed, as her finger drew to the pictograph on that page.

Chapter Text

The sky was orange, orange as the berries that hung low on the branches of trees lining the trail to the Ruins of Life. The sun was setting over the horizon, the sea breeze gentle as the tide revealed the Krabbys over which the Wingull fought over and picked apart with their beaks. Above in the trees, Crabrawlers standing on the tops of them would throw berries at the other until one was splatted.

And then a certain Eevee jumped into the air, intercepted the berry, and came back down on top of Reimu’s head, clenching it squarely in her mouth while wagging her tail.

“That’s one skilled little Eevee you’ve got there,” Olivia told Reimu.

“Oh, well, uh, yes,” Reimu replied, reaching up to pet her. “She’s definitely something else. I can’t quite explain it.”

Of course, small beings who had no right to be strong and yet were was no foreign concept for Reimu. But all of them had the benefit of magic, infinite regeneration, flight and in some cases literal divine intervention. Eevee, on the other hand, was just an anomalously powerful animal with no apparent magic or energy attacks in a place filled with creatures who wield all those, including each of her other Pokemon except Stardust. Again, it continued to amaze her how many surprises lurked around each corner, once she thought she had seen it all.

The group, which consisted of Reimu, Hau, Lillie and the Kahuna Olivia, walked along a trail following sea bluffs toward the Ruins of Life, said to be the haunt of Tapu Lele. Along the way was a graveyard. After feeling her Pokeball jiggle, Lillie let Haunter out to play with some of the other ghost Pokemon who lurked between the graves.

Reimu watched, seeing the Haunter scare a bunch of Misdreavus before being scared itself by a Trevenant.

“Do they always do this?” Reimu confided to Lillie.

“Well, I did learn in school that Ghost Pokemon like to scare each other just to see who can out-scare the others.”

Reimu nodded. Ghosts and phantoms in Gensokyo did something similar, and of course there was the half-phantom gardener who was scared of ghosts despite her mistress being one. And being in another realm did not change that fact, it seemed.

They continued on, with Haunter catching up with them a short while later and Lillie recalling her. The walk was uneventful aside from Reimu telling some more about herself and where she came from, all of which of course was very interesting for the young kahuna.

“So, what is your job, exactly?” Olivia asked her.

“I am the maiden and keeper of the Hakurei Shrine,” Reimu replied. “I have a lot of duties, but my main ones are maintaining the balance of humans and youkai in Gensokyo, and resolving incidents that threaten Gensokyo in general. It’s a job that’s been in my family for a thousand years.”

Olivia’s eyes widened in surprise. “Your family goes back a thousand years?”

“That’s correct. One thousand years, ever since Yukari and other elders and sages made my ancestor Kasumi Hakurei the first maiden of the shrine for that purpose. Specifically, they declared that each successive maiden would always have at least once child, a girl who could take over the duty from her mother usually around the age of twelve, although I took up the reins at only eight since…” Reimu trailed off, not wanting to elaborate on her mother’s death. “...reasons.”

“I see,” Olivia mused. “You obviously come from a long and powerful line. Which is funny, because we have very long family lines ourselves, including one that is much, much older than yours.”

Reimu looked up. “Wait, even longer than mine?”

“Yes. They are a powerful family, and very long lived, more than three thousand years, and you are standing right next to one of them.” Olivia looked over at Lillie, who took a moment to realize what was going on before stepping back in shock.

Reimu looked over to her, somewhat surprised herself. “Lillie? That’s true?”

Lillie staggered, “uh, yeah, it is!” She took a moment to regain her composure before going further. “Yes, so, my family is one of the oldest and most influential on the planet because of how far we go back. In fact, my ancestors, who come from Kalos, made up one of the most important manors during the Great War and were involved in many battles. According to legend, my family in particular is descended from one of the princes of the house and a girl rescued from near a castle that was destroyed around the time the Ultimate Weapon was fired. Since then, it’s been said, the good men of my family have worked to keep another war from sparking, among other things.”

Reimu stepped back in awe. “You never told me your family was that powerful and important!”

“It is,” Lillie nodded. “I came from a very rich household, but ran away after my mother went... crazy. That’s why I live with the professor: the court doesn’t think my mom is stable enough to have custody of me, but of course she disagrees.”

Reimu looked down and said softly, “sorry to hear that,” while touching Lillie’s shoulder. In just a couple minutes, they realized they were more alike than they thought, coming from long and old lineages and having mothers who couldn’t care for them.

Hau walked up to comfort the two of them as well. “Hey, don’t be so sad. Even if your family can’t be there, we can still pick and be with our friends, right?”

Lillie looked at him, smiling slightly. “I suppose. This quest has made me realize the value of good friends, and I’m sure Reimu agrees.” Reimu nodded, realizing how much she leaned on her friends to be the family she didn’t have. And it wasn’t like Hau was unsympathetic, given his own experiences with his father, a “bad boy” who constantly fought with Hala and who eventually moved away to start a new life and family. And Hau wasn’t even sure who his mother was, since she left his father just after he was born. So he was essentially raised by Hala as Hala’s own child, a fact that Hau did not mind much since his father never really cared for him. Even so, Hau quickly came to know the value of good friends, which was why he was swift to befriend Lillie despite the age and gender difference. And now, an odd trio had formed between them: a young, energetic boy, a runaway, and a cross-dimensional castaway on the same quest for different outcomes.

 


 

 

It was some time more before the group eventually walked up to the pair of stone pillars that marked the Ruins of Life being near… as well as a couple Team Skull grunts squatting on top of some rocks to one side.

Reimu rolled her eyes and addressed them. “Lookout duty, I’m assuming?”

One of them looked over to see the Red-an-White death staring straight at them and nearly fell backwards off the rock in shock.

“Whoa! Don’t sneak up like that!” They clambered off the rock to get a better look. Yep, Red-and-White death, and she brought the squad, too.

“This is bad, yo!” one said to the other.

“Yo, I heard she can rip a mountain apart with her bare hands, yo!”

Well, Suika could, Reimu thought…

Both grunts danced at each other trying to figure out what to do, before coming to the most logical conclusion: getting the hell outta Dodge.

“Let’s bolt, bro!”

“Yo!”

So the two pushed past the group and ran up the hill above them.

“Oof,” Reimu grunted straightening herself back up. “For cowards, you’d think they’d be just a tad more considerate…”

“They do this a lot,” Olivia told her. “They try to scare trial-goers and act all tough, but usually run once they’re outmatched. Sometimes they just dance and do absolutely nothing. But I’ve never seen them run away that quickly. Looks like you’ve built up quite the reputation for yourself already,” she said with a haughty laugh.

Everyone got a good chuckle out of that one. Then, however, a figure came around the corner, apparently talking to someone over her phone.

“...no, you don’t get what I’m saying, Guzma. They’re all scared of her, worried she’ll rip out their skulls or something. It’s making our search for the-”

She glanced over at the group and took sight of Reimu almost immediately.

“...I’ll call you back.” She hung up and put the phone away.

 

The lady, who looked like a big-time goth with her overall appearance, over exaggerated twintails, and black eyeliner, looked at Reimu with a strong sense of anticipation.

“Well, look what fate put in front of me,” she said blankly.

Reimu studied her appearance and saw the various Team Skull emblems on her clothes and body. She figured this person was some sort of big-time in the gang.

“You must be part of Team Skull,” she said.

“Hmph, well, there’s no fooling you, that’s for sure,” the lady replied sarcastically. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name’s Plumeria. You could say I’m the ‘mom’ of Team Skull, because I take care of all these guys so they don’t get into too much trouble.”

Reimu stood unfazed. “The ‘mom’ huh? Well, if you say so, then why do they get into trouble so much that I have to punish them?” Her voice shifted toward more of a mocking, playful tone.

“Because you know how kids are,” Plumeria snarked back, playing Reimu’s game. “You ask them to do one thing like stand and watch and as soon as you turn your back they start dancing and making a fool of themselves. I’m here to make sure they don’t do that.”

“So an enforcer?” Reimu said adjusting her shades.

“No, that’s Gladion’s job,” Plumeria answered, “and they don’t take him seriously because he can’t respect them either.”

Gladion. That name struck sudden realization into Lillie, but she didn’t show it there and then, not wanting to give herself away more than she likely was already.

“No respect,” Reimu smirked tossing a Pokeball up and down. “And you wonder why I’ve had to discipline such naughty children like the good nanny I am.”

If Plumeria had a reaction to this, she wasn’t showing it. Instead, she swiftly reached into her bag, grabbed a Pokeball, and threw it out to summon the Salazzle that was kept inside.

Reimu caught her ball containing Magneton and smiled, “well. Now that’s very rude. A Poison-type that can also burn up any Steels thrown at it.”

Plumeria didn’t even change her emotion. “So you know this one?”

“Well, when you have this irritant,” Reimu said pointing at an unamused Rotom, “talking in your ear all day, you pick up all sorts of things. I’ll make you a deal: I don’t feel like stirring up a storm right here and now with Gyarados, so why don’t we settle this with competitive ladies’ rules?” As she said that, she tossed out another ball and out came Sasha, tail twitching and raring for a fight. “Fight fire with fire?”

Plumeria slumped. “A fire fight it is then.”

As soon as they said that, each gave out their respective commands. Salazzle opened with a stream of poisonous gas, which Sasha dodged and responded to in kind by headbutting the cliff to send rocks down on top of the lizard’s head.

For a moment, it seemed the battle would end there, before the rocks began to smoke, char, and melt, before exploding into fire and fury like a volcano, spewing steam and toxic fumes everywhere. This salacious salamander wasn’t about to go down that easily.

Salazzle then let loose a cloud of pheromones, which drew every Salandit within smelling distance toward the fight. Sasha, finding himself outmatched by the horde of horny minions, acted quickly to fend them off by first dashing along a drop-off, which caused a couple of them to fall into the sea, but the others continued their pursuit at the command of their master, belching flames and sludge the whole way. Soon they backed him against a rock wall, closing in and threatening to poison him to death. But Sasha was not about to be defeated: he kicked the wall with his hind feet, which caused more rocks to tumble down onto the minions; more importantly, though, it caused a Gible to be dislodged from its hiding spot underground.

In Alola, Gible and its evolved forms were natural predators of Salandit. As soon as it recovered and got a good look at the smorgasbord in front of it, it dove right into them, succeeding in eating one and driving the rest off. Sasha and Salazzle actually stopped for a moment to watch the baby Pokemon rip the Salandit apart and chomp it up the way Gomorrah would eat something from Paradiso, before tunneling back into the rock face.

Sasha was still watching this when Salazzle decided to sucker-punch him with a Sludge Bomb, which not only knocked him back a few meters but also poisoned him. The fire cat struggled to stand back up, using all of his willpower to fight off the toxins.

“C’mon, Sasha!” Reimu cheered, reaching for a lum berry and tossing it to him. Although Sasha was crippled, he managed to jump up and catch the berry in his mouth. Within moments, he shook off the poison, and jumped back into the action. Only this time, he began running on his hind legs as he barreled straight toward Salazzle, an amusing sight to behold, before being engulfed in white light and changing shape. Salazzle tried to get out of Dodge, but was soon in the iron grip (by the neck) of the newly evolved Incineroar.

The two stared at each other for a few moments. On one side, a smooth, salacious lizard, and on the other, a bara kitty with the glare of a snake and the fangs of a wild animal.

Sasha then punched the ground with his other hand, which caused a segment of wrestling rope to erupt from the ground, much to Reimu’s confusion. Sasha then hurled Salazzle right at them, which caused her to rebound and prompted Sasha to strike her with a powerful lariat, sending Salazzle sky-high. The whole time, Salazzle smiled with her tongue out as if she were enjoying the beatdown. Salazzle’s Pokeball automatically recalled her before she even hit the ground.

Plumeria stood there for a moment, before remarking, “...well then.”

Incineroar slammed his together and flexed as Reimu came up to him and congratulated him, which caused him to recoil away as if to say “not right now mom, I’m having a moment.” Reimu giggled lightly before turning to Plumeria again.

“Well then ,” Reimu answered with the same haughty, upturned tone from before. “Looks like I had to punish Salazzle the same way as the others. Also, a real shame what happened to that Salandit, I’m sure Gible enjoyed his meal.”

Plumeria huffed, before responding, “I guess you actually are everything they say.” She walked past them back toward town, leaving the path to the ruins unimpeded.

Reimu turned toward the rest of the group. Lillie was silent, Hau was fiddling with his 3DS before realizing Reimu was looking at him and hastily put it in his pocket. Olivia, of course, was impressed.

“Well, I’m sure that was a good warm-up,” she smiled.

Reimu flipped her hair. “I’m sure Sasha thought so.” She turned to Sasha, who immediately looked away crossing his arms and huffed. But internally, he was proud of his trainer for getting him this far so quickly compared to other Littens. He was just hugely conflicted on how to show this admiration and affection for her in front of other people without dropping his kayfabe. Reimu understood, though: Sasha was far from the only person she knew with that type of personality. She recalled him back to his Pokeball, before the group continued to the Ruins of Life.

 


 

 

As they approached the Ruins, the air grew silent and oppressive. Winds blew quietly, the waves gently splashed against the shore, no birds or other animals could be heard. And Reimu could swear an eerie hum was being emitted from the entrance. Which was surrounded in religious tribal paint.

Olivia walked up to just in front of the entrance, before turning to the group with a more determined smile on her face and crossing her arms.

“Welcome, trial-goers,” she said in an intimidating tone and with an intimidating look. “I, Kahuna Olivia, swore to Tapu Lele that I would uphold the tradition of the Island Challenge on Akala Island. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a rock-hard personality - my parents did not name me after Olivine for nothing. That’s why I chose to train Rock-type Pokemon - their bodies are literally rock-hard, and so are their personalities and desire for battle. And I can assure you: they will grind your Pokemon to dust. So, with that in mind, who shall challenge me first?”

It was mutually agreed among the group that if Lillie went first, there would be no Grand Trial for the other two. Hau decided to step up to the plate on Reimu’s and Lillie’s encouragement: the little boy had a reputation to build, determination to prove, strength and skill to show off. For once, he was taking this trial dead-seriously, with no hint of his laid-back persona to be seen.

For the girls, it was a first, and the first real evidence to Reimu that Hau was committed to becoming a strong trainer. And strong trainer he proved to be: despite a type weakness, Hedwig’s onslaught of leaves, Crabrawler’s endless flurry of punches and Raichu’s intense lightning proved too much for Olivia’s Rock-types to handle, and they folded without even managing to knock any of Hau’s Pokemon out.

And that was perhaps the least embarrassing performance on Olivia’s part: Reimu’s Pokemon proved even more brutal, what with Sasha shoving Lycanroc’s head into the ground and Lucario’s Aura Sphere launching Cradily into the entrance to the ruins. As if to pity Olivia, Reimu sent Eevee out against Boldore just to try and make the battle more even, but even then, all it took was a couple of well-placed Digs before Boldore crumbled to the tiny mammal.

Finally, Lillie tried to limit herself by using Bagon and Haunter against Lycanroc, but this time it managed to defeat them with only some trouble, and she wasn’t willing to put Snowy on the line, forcing her to resort to Adele. All it took was one look at Adele before Lycanroc ran running the other direction yelping like a puppy, and each of Olivia’s other Pokemon refused to fight her, forcing Olivia to concede the match.

 

“Haaahh,” Olivia puffed using her last Revive on her Pokemon. “I knew you were all tough but,” she regained her posture, “I never thought I’d get so thoroughly thrashed.”

“That’s the problem with Rock-types,” Reimu smirked. “They look tough, but they’re brought down in so many different ways.”

“This is true,” Olivia told her. “And I’m sure you know, each trial involves a certain type, but most trainers also know that you need a diverse team to meet diverse threats. And unfortunately for Rock pokemon, they have enough different weaknesses that they often fail in battle even under seasoned trainers.”

“Then why even bother with just one type?” Reimu asked. “Why not mix it up?”

Olivia smiled. “Because, we want to show trainers that they can’t rely on only one strategy to win. Rock may have many weaknesses, but they also resist moves a new trainer’s Pokemon might come to rely on. You can’t easily break my friends by just hitting them, their rock-hard bodies will just laugh it off!” She strutted around. “It’s only when they mix up their teams and strategies that they learn that Rock pokemon are much easier to break than they seem and stop being ground to dust by them. And not even just their weaknesses: Rocks may laugh at physical attacks, but most fall prey to energy and magic attacks, for example. An Alakazam can shatter a boulder with its mind just as well as a Machamp can break it with its fists, or a Venusaur can tear it apart with its vines. And then you meet the Steel trainer whose Pokemon withstand most attacks but are melted by flames, or the bird Pokemon who fly over your Earthquakes but whose wings are clipped with electricity or by cold. And even if you don’t have the correct moves or types, all it takes is a bit of quick thinking and a willingness to improvise to turn the tide. And all three of you have demonstrated these principles in one way or another.”

With that, she reached into her pink fanny pack, and pulled out three, brown crystals with a telltale rock symbol on them. “And for that, not only have each of you earned the Rockium-Z, but also the seal of Akala Island.” She tossed the crystals, and each of the three caught it flawlessly, although in Reimu’s case that was because Eevee was all too willing to catch it in her mouth like a dog catching a bone.

Reimu looked at her on the ground, wagging her tail and giving her adorable puppy eyes. Reimu couldn’t hold it in and did a spit-take, to Lillie, Hau and Olivia’s silent amusement.

“It’s not funny!” Reimu stammered while blushing. “It’s just… she’s a good girl! She’s a good girl like Sanae is a good -”

She realized what she was saying right then, and tried to walk it back, but failed.

“Well then, why don’t scratch Sanae behind the ears like a good girl?” Lillie suggested.

 

“...”

 

So Reimu scratched Sanae behind the ears.

 


 

 

“I think you’ve got a very spunky little Eevee,” Lillie told Reimu. Behind them, Sanae and Snowy were playing with a discarded Krabby shell, the two pawing at and jumping back from the shell as it twitched around. Sanae went up to it, sniffed it, and began to lick it, trying to get at whatever meat was inside.

Reimu looked over her shoulder, and replied back, “certainly looks like it. I mean, she knocked out a demon, basically, literally seconds after she was born. She’s no Adele, but she keeps me on my toes like my rival back home does.”

It was late at night, long after the grand trial back in front of the ruins. Mallow had agreed to host them for the night, and the two excused themselves after dinner to go take a walk. “Girl talk,” Lillie told a pouting Hau, but Mallow was able to allay him with homemade malasadas. Lillie led Reimu to a spot, next to the lighthouse and on top of a fifty-foot cliff, with a sweeping view of the bay, illuminated by the bright full moon shimmering on the calm, rippling waters of Konikonki Bay.

Reimu looked up at the moon. “You know, it’s big and bright tonight.”

“Yes,” Lillie nodded. “They say on nights like this, the Island Guardians come out and call to the moon, pledging their allegiance to Lunala. At least, that’s what they taught us in school.”

Reimu acknowledged her, then gave her own anecdote. “When I was small, Yukari told me all about how the first youkai were born from the fears of men, given life and physical form by the moon’s light. She also told me about how other monsters got their power from the moon, such as the vampires of Europe.”

Lillie chimed into this, “That’s funny you say that, because there are also Pokemon who come out on nights like this and, well, there’s Pokemon like Clefairy who dance around in circles and sing to the moon.”

“Oh, so just like fairy rings,” Reimu said.

“Exactly,” Lillie answered. “And not just Clefairy: there are others like Nidoran who call out to the moon as well. In fact, there’s a place in Kanto called Mt. Moon which is chock full of moon stones, which causes them and other Pokemon to evolve. There’s a legend there that claims that the whole mountain fell to earth a long time ago, full of the first of those Pokemon, and that it was actually a spaceship, and those inside were residents of the moon escaping a war there, and so they call out to the moon on full moon nights in hopes of going home one day.”

“That sounds a lot like the Lunarian story I told a couple nights back,” Reimu remarked.

“Yeah, I know, and I still think that’s weird. A whole city of space people on the moon hidden from everything else. How does that work?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Reimu said to her, “but Yukari got the idea for the Hakurei Border from the magical barrier that the Lunarians set up to hide themselves.”

Lillie was about to say something, but then she heard a distant fluttery cry off in the distance.

“Did you hear that?” she asked.

Reimu focused for a second. “No, not really. Did you hear something?”

“I thought I did. I thought I heard…” Lillie looked around for a bit, then noticed a small figure in the sky, against the moon.

Lillie focused her ears and tried to listen again for a sound.

“...lelele…”

Her eyes widened, and a smile stretched across her face.

“Reimu! Look! It’s Tapu Lele!” She tugged on Reimu’s sleeve while pointing, trying to get her to see it.

“Where? Wait, I don’t see - “ Then she saw it. The Island Guardian, just fluttering around, casting off dust into the sky.

Various things criss-crossed Reimu’s mind in that moment, as she sat there, staring blankly at the Guardian Deity. She thought about Yuyuko, whom Tapu Lele reminded her heavily of. Two beings, with long, pink hair and butterfly motifs. Both known for being trolling tricksters, Reimu almost wondered if Tapu Lele was some sort of analogue of Yuyuko in this realm. Jokingly, she also wondered if it had a friend who was like Yukari. If that were the case, then Reimu wouldn’t know what to think.

“Reimu?” Lillie asked, waving a hand in front of Reimu’s face.

“Mmh? Oh, sorry, I was just lost in thought,” Reimu said looking at Lillie.

Lillie giggled slightly. “That’s alright. You do that a lot, it seems.”

“Yeah,” Reimu said blankly. “Sorry, I was just thinking about another person from Gensokyo. The one from the cherry blossom incident, Yuyuko. Tapu Lele reminded me of her.”

Lillie smiled. “Heh, seems like there’s a lot of people from your home that are like Pokemon, aren’t there?”

Reimu shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe I’m just drawing comparisons to make this place feel more like home. If you were far from home, you’d do the same thing, right?”

“I suppose,” Lillie conceded. “We’ve gone to Kanto a couple times, but other than that, I haven’t really ever left Alola so far in my life. And I’ve certainly never been lost, although then again I did leave home because mother was becoming irrational.”

“Yeah, how DID that come about?” asked Reimu. “You mention it here and there, but…”

She could see Lillie getting very mum.

“Oh, uh, yeah, if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine.”

“Thank you,” Lillie answered. “It’s just… well, not something I like to talk about.”

Reimu understood. Her mother died, but perhaps what happened to Lillie’s mother was worse, since Lillie implied that she had spent a long time watching her mother slowly go insane for some unknown reason. Reimu had seen others slip in sanity, but she couldn’t imagine living with someone and watch it happen in real-time.

 

So she huffed and turned back around… and got a face full of Tapu.

“GYAAH!” Reimu flailed her arms and fell back to the ground. Tapu Lele laughed to itself, clearly taking some amusement from Reimu’s surprise. Lillie was surprised too, just because of how suddenly Tapu Lele had swooped down.

Reimu got herself back up, holding her head since she had hit it on the ground.

“Owww… what was that for?!” she groaned.

“I told you,” Lillie said, “they’re… kind of jerks.”

“I can see that,” Reimu snarked.

Once Tapu Lele had had its fun, it tilted its head off to the side and pointed toward the lighthouse, then moved in that direction.

“Ok,” Reimu mused, “it must want to show us something.” The two got up and followed Lele around to a point past the lighthouse near what looked like a shack up against the side of the mountain. Then, it just kind of floated there, as if waiting for someone or something to arrive.

“What’s in the shack?” Reimu asked Lillie.

“I don’t know,” Lillie replied. Neither one of them knew, but Tapu Lele was apparently very adamant about showing them something.

“Looks like Tapu Lele’s taken an interest in you two,” a voice called out from behind.

Reimu turned around and saw a spiky-haired woman walking up to them.

“I’m sorry, you are?” she asked.

The lady stood there, pleasantly surprised. “Well, if it isn’t Reimu Hakurei, the girl in the wormhole. No wonder Tapu Lele was interested in you.” She crossed her arms and smiled. “You can call me Bridgette. And that’s my house over there.”

Reimu turned around, and could see Lele open the door for them, before turning around.

“You’re house, huh? Then why would a Guardian Deity lead us here, of all places?”

Bridgette then walked up to Lele and gave it a fist-bump. “You could say we have sort of a unique relationship. Maybe it’s because I moved here from far away, or maybe it’s what I do, but it certainly took notice in me, and now you could say we’re sort of friends.”

“What do you do?” asked Reimu.

“Why don’t you follow me in and let me show you?” Bridgette said to her, leading the two girls inside the modest bungalow and down a set of stairs.

 

At the bottom of the flight, there was only a dark room. One flip of the switch, however, was all it took to reveal a disorganized basement full of computer mainframes, discarded fast-food wrappers, and dot-matrix sheets scattered about.

“Very clean place,” Reimu snarked, as she was want to do a lot lately.

Bridgette shifted various bits of junk out of the way on the way to a plush armchair in front of a plasma screen with several windows open on it. “This is my office. I help manage the Pokemon Storage System, or PSS for short.”

She clicked on an icon, which brought up a database full of usernames and a search bar. “I can see what kinds of Pokemon are being moved around in people’s boxes, and I do this to make sure everything is running smoothly.” She then punched in Reimu’s name, which pulled up the two boxes of Pokemon she was currently using. “For instance, I can see each of the five Ditto’s you caught earlier today. I can see when they were deposited, and if I dig a little deeper…” she right-clicked one of the Ditto’s, which brought up a side window full of blue-and-red complicated code. “I can also see the circumstances under which the Pokemon was caught. I see that you caught this one with an Ultra Ball at full vitality.”

Reimu was impressed, but also justifiably concerned about how her activities were being monitored in this way.

“Oh, that’s perfectly normal,” Bridgette reassured her. “We never release this information to anyone, except the authorities if we need to. People do try to store drugs and weapons with their Pokemon on the PSS. Besides, the main reason we tinker around with this info is to fix bugs in the system, since I’m sure the last thing you want to happen to your companions is for them to be hit with a data corruption.”

Reimu, glossing over this rare sentence, responded, “well, sure, but it’s just… I didn’t realize there were so many ways I was being… watched . I mean, Yukari eavesdrops on me all the time back home, but it’s not like everything I’m doing is being logged by some guy eating a burger looking at a screen.”

Bridgette thought for a moment, about how she was explaining technology to someone from essentially a medieval society, then said to her, “well, I suppose it would be a shock for someone not used to it. It would be a shock if I were thrown to wherever you’re from and not have all this.”

Point taken, Reimu thought.

She filed it in the back of her mind, then moved onto her next question. “Alright, so I heard that Pokemon in Pokeballs are kept in, like, environments that their species is native to. I don’t know how that works, but I guess I’ve seen weirder. But what about this? Pokemon up on a machine?”

“Good question,” Bridgette answered. “There are two versions. The first one, is the same as when they’re in their Pokeballs, except the Pokeballs they are in are converted into data. Functionally, a Pokemon will notice nothing different. But recently, something new is being tried for people concerned about their Pokemon’s well-being. People can now opt to send their Pokemon off to Pokeparks and daycares straight from the PC. It costs money, of course, but trainers swear it makes their Pokemon stronger and happier.”

Reimu had noticed only a single Pokepark her whole time in the islands. It was a place which had play structures, ropes, a pond, a training range and a shooting range for special attacks just up the hill from Haou’oli City. Lillie explained to her that Pokeparks weren’t really a big thing in Alola, since the relaxed nature of the region and the great weather it got meant that trainers more commonly just let their Pokemon out to roam freely in the sand, sea and sky and interact with other trainer’s Pokemon. Of course, obviously it was impossible to let every Pokemon you own out all at once given the six Pokemon limit, so this still seemed a good alternative for anyone who cared.

But these were all just random thoughts running around in her head, her way of wrapping her mind around such an unfamiliar place.

She looked around at all the machines, stacked up on racks lining the walls of the basement. All around, colored switches, flashing buttons and the constant whir of cooling fans composed the ambience of the basement. It was a large amount of technology in one place for someone from a medieval society that ran on magic more than anything else, and reminded her of Nitori’s similarly cluttered cave. Heck, the only things missing were a half-finished toaster oven mecha in the corner of the room with wrenches scattered about and cucumber bits on the floor.

 

After Bridgette finished explaining the Storage System to the two, she led them both upstairs and got a pot of tea going, while they chatted long into the night about Reimu’s experiences. The whole time, Tapu Lele was outside, watching the conversation and paying particular attention to Reimu. Reimu felt uneasy about this, but Brigette assured her that this sort of thing was normal for the Island Guardian, and they all went back to conversing.

Eventually, around midnight, Tapu Lele left, while the girls inside started getting drowsy in spite of the caffeine.

Chapter Text

As the sun rose, light shone through the expansive windows, gently illuminating the intricate quilts and blankets on the bed, where two girls slept peacefully.

The light, straight as a beam and with dusty bits dancing about within it, crept up the bed, until it eventually tickled one of the girl’s faces. Mumbling and murmuring, she rolled around, before eventually rising up with a stretch and a light groan, her cloudy eyes fluttering until they adjusted to the brightness of the room.

Her first thought, once fully awake, was to look over to her sister and get her up as well.

“Hey, hey,” she whispered, shaking her sister. “Merry, it’s time to wake up.”

“Hm… uhng… huh?” Merry said to her sister, waking from her peaceful sleep and barely conscious.

“It’s light out, Merry.”

“Uh… ah… ah!” Merry fully snapped up then, and looked out at the brilliant sunrise just outside the manor.

Just then, the door to their room opened, and a maid came in. “It’s time to get up, girls!” She said, clapping her hands. And just as they had been taught by their mother, the two slipped out of bed, and followed the maid into the washroom in order to get cleaned up, dressed up and presentable. They were both only about eight, but their manners were still top-notch, and an example that other royal children and subjects were held to.

Within an hour of waking up they were led down to the dining room for breakfast. There, their mother was busy, helping the cooks with making and serving breakfast. When she saw the two little girls come down the stairs, she couldn’t help to meet them and help them get ready for their schooling.

“Morning momma!”

Their mother smiled. “Now, now, Violet, is that anyway for a lady to greet her mother in the morning?”

Violet blushed, and covered her mouth. “Good morning, mother.”

“That’s more like it!” The girl’s mom sat down at the table, and so did the girls, after the servants pulled up their chairs for them. At the same time, Sigilyph carrying bowls of porridge and fruit came out of the kitchen, serving the food to the girls, while another came out with cups and saucers filled with sweet tea. Like all mornings, mom was on hand to remind the girls on how to handle a teacup, eat properly from a bowl, and not to messily bite into the fruit which was cut up and use silverware. But the girls were so disciplined already, that she barely had to do so.

Once done with breakfast and cleaned up, their mother came up to them as they were to be led to the school room elsewhere in the manor. “I have a very special surprise for you today,” she said to them. The girls, curious as to what this surprise might be, looked on with curiosity as she opened the door. On the other side, was their father, Lord Cloud, back from a long, arduous campaign on the eastern front.

The girl’s eyes lit up like candles, and eagerly ran up to him to glomp him.

“Daddy!” they cried out, hugging him on both sides.

“Whoa, hey!” he exclaimed, picking both of them up with each arm and twirling them around as each girl screamed and giggled, before putting them back down. “How are my little princesses today?”

“You’re gone too much!” Merry pouted, albeit lovingly with a taut smile.

“You’re always away!” Violet parroted.

“Well, I’m here now, just for you!” He smiled. “We’ll be having dinner together tonight, and we’ll be having just the most scrumptious baked bread and fish. And,” he said, raising a finger, “I made sure that, for your good behavior and manners, that the cooks whipped up your favorite strawberry cake - “

He did not have to say more. Both girls had wide, open smiles and stars in their eyes.

“Well, alright then! Now, be good in your lessons today!” He walked out of the room, delighted that his girls still loved him so, and were growing into wonderful young ladies indeed.

Of course, he was probably more glad to see them than they were. This break was well-deserved, but would only be a few days before invariably having to go back to the front, directing his men against the Novogradians. After ten years of war, he and others were beginning to wonder if it would ever end. The number of death notices he had to write to grieving families, and the number of Gyarados’ eating soldiers alive, only for the same Gyarados to be spreared through the heart and left to die on the battlefield, their hysterical owners mourning their loss as if their child had been killed. As well as other losses on the battlefield, and the sheer viciousness of the quagmire. It occurred to him that his daughters never knew peace; shielded as they were, there was no way to hide at least some of the reality of war from them.

He hung his head low as he entered his war room. There, at least, he was greeted by Sir Robin, a longtime friend from Galar and a crackerjack tactician and strategist, known for his mastery with fire and electric Pokemon. It was with his guidance that Cloud was able to tip the balance toward the coalition against the Novogradians.

Immediately, Sir Robin rolled out a map of the battlefield, which he had drawn from atop his Charizard during several risky reconnaissance missions. His Pikachu sat at the edge of the table, eyeing the map with curiosity.

“So,” Cloud asked, “what should our next move be?”

Sir Robin looked up at him briefly. “I’ve managed to secure more reinforcements from Galar, which include a number of Dragonite, Salamence and other powerful Pokemon to help reinforce our offensive pushes, and keep our gains within the disputed region.”

“Excellent,” Cloud remarked.

Sir Robin drew on the map with a quill. “Our most recent six-month campaign  successfully beat the imperial forces back to their borders, and their allies have been subjugated. We also successfully managed to cut off most of their supply lines, and there are no mountains or other natural barriers between the frontlines and their capital. I estimate it should be at most six months before the Kalosian flag is planted atop Tsar Vladamir’s palace.”

Sir Robin then drew Cloud’s attention to a point on the map between where they were in Anistar City and Terminus Cave. “However, when I was poring over possible routes of attack, I did find a danger in the form of Andalou Pass, which is currently under-guarded by coalition forces. The Novogradians may decide to send a small, covert force through the upper Bo valley should they manage to dislodge forts stationed along that route at the southern end of the disputed lands, a campaign they could potentially launch by diverting south through the mountains around our front lines. Should they do that, they could cross the pass and launch an attack on Lumiose, the easiest route to which would go through Anistar. I’m going to insist to King Francois, or as I like to call him AZ, that he designate more forces to this region.”

Cloud rubbed his chin. “The last I spoke to him, he said he was working on a ‘superweapon’ of some description that could supposedly end the war, but he’s not letting else on anything about it. Personally, I think it’s rubbish. There’s no such thing as a weapon so powerful it could just end a war. I don’t think even Gyarados’s Hyper Beam is strong enough to decimate an entire battalion, much less a whole army. To do that would take something along the lines of trying to summon Yveltal to wipe out the opposing army, and of course no one is demented or desperate enough to try that .”

Sir Robin looked back at his map. “Well, superweapon or no, this area does need to be guarded. And I cannot re-designate any forces to do so in a way that would not compromise the main push. I am aware that lord Kirisame’s army is due to return from a naval campaign within the next few days, so I could suggest that they be sent to guard the area during our assault.”

Lord Kirisame. Cloud never really thought highly of the man, or the rest of the House of Kirisame for that matter. Although well-regarded for their various exploits, to Cloud they came off as cocky, reckless and driven by glory and fortune more than anything else. That he managed to come this far into the war and not get killed seemed a miracle. It certainly didn’t help that Kirisame was his arch-rival for the king’s favor, or that Kirisame made suggestions at meetings that his son marry one of Cloud’s daughters while giving him endless grief about not having a male heir. Cloud did not care so much about a lack of a son, but he knew that under no circumstances would he ever willingly let one of his girls be tainted by that name. But if Sir Robin could get Kirisame’s forces to hold a relatively meanial position while he stormed the capital, that was the sweetest punishment that he could ever hope to dole out.

He looked at Sir Robin’s Pikachu. “Well, now, what do you think of your master’s plan?”

It stared back blankly at him for a moment.

“... pika-pika!” it squeaked.

“I agree,” Cloud remarked.

 

Cloud and Sir Robin worked on battle plans for most of the rest of the day, and before long Cloud was absolutely wiped, wondering how sitting at a desk could somehow be more draining than commanding his forces out on the field.

He came down the steps toward the dining hall, and to his delight, his nose met the smell of meat cooking.

“Smells like the cook and the swamps outdid themselves,” he said to his wife.

“Certainly did! I saw him take out a whole section of Tauros from the salt and dunked it in brine for most of the day.”

That was music to Cloud’s ears, a luxurious dinner after several months of eating tasteless gruel while stray Ice Beams and Shadow Balls flew over his tent. And he got to eat it with his whole family and best friend, to boot.

It wasn’t long before everything was being served, and the girl’s mom called them down from their room, banging a pot with a spoon.

“Violet! Maribel! Dinner is ready!”

Freight trains wouldn’t be invented for more than two and a half millenia, but the sound of the girls bounding down the steps at the sound of food being ready certainly sounded like one. Of course they were stopped and made to wash their hands before sitting down at the table like the proper little ladies they were.

But it was difficult to act proper when the girls were so excited to see their dad after so many long months of him being away. Over dinner, he told them all sorts of stories about his adventures, how he and his men managed to secure enormous victory while leaving out the scary, depressing parts that come with war. Dinner itself was also good, particular since Sir Robin, who had become something of a godfather for the girls and had a daughter of his own back home, was eating with the family. Both his Pikachu and his Scarbunny were on the floor eating scraps, completing the scene of a true family dinner while the servants worked tirelessly in the background.

Eventually, it was time for dessert, and just as promised, a Machoke from the back did the honors of bringing out the most decidant strawberry cake ever made. But Violet was still feeling a bit famished; she never was a big meat-eater, compared to Maribel who could suck down a whole rack of ribs if you let her. And she really, really wanted some of that cake, the whole pink, glistening mass of bread and fruit if she could.

As it came down to the last two slices, she imagined a line going down the middle of the remaining cake where the knife was likely to bear down. Then she imagined that line moving slightly to the left, until it was more ⅓-⅔ rather than truly half.

 

Dilligently, Machoke cut the cake down that imaginary line, then served it to the girls.

 

“Um, mother,” Maribel said. “I think Violet got more cake than I did.”

Their mother looked over at them and said, “it looks like you each got your half to me.”

Maribel pouted, “but look at it! Violet has so much cake, and I got - “

“It’s. Half,” Cloud said. “Don’t try to guilt Violet out of her fair share. We’ve already been over this.”

Maribel couldn’t help but stew as she was left with a tiny slice compared to Violet’s huge slice, which the latter happily enjoyed.

 

Soon, it was time to retire to bed. As the girls were tucked in, their mother told them fairy tales of knights saving princesses from dragons, before kissing them lightly goodnight and heading down the hall to sleep with her beloved husband.

Once she left, Maribel turned her head over to Violet.

“I really wish you would stop doing that,” she said earnestly and annoyed.

Violet stuck her tongue out. “Well, maybe you should get your own special power, then we’ll call it even!”

Maribel couldn’t help but shake her head as both of them drifted off into dreamland.

On this night, a family was reunited, and they enjoyed great times. The war nearing its hard-fought end, the family had a bright future to look forward to as the girls grew up into their own, and their father could finally rest easy, knowing the worst was all behind him.

 

A shame that the sentry at Andalou Pass was killed by a rogue force of Novogradian terrorists bent on revenge.

 


 

*pppft*

“Mph…”

Reimu woke up to the sound of something landing in her lap. When she looked around, she was at first confused as to why she was outside resting against the lighthouse, before remembering that she and Lillie and Brigette had gone out to look at the stars and…

...huh, she didn’t recall ever going back inside after that. Looking around some more, she saw the sun almost fully up, and when she looked at her phone, she saw that it was about 7:30 in the morning, around breakfast, she felt.

She then looked down at the object in her lap, which turned out to be a coconut. She wasn’t near a tree, so a bird of some sort was the only thing that could have dropped it there. Looking out at the sky, the only bird she saw was a Swellow. Still hazy from not being fully up, she mused as to how something as lightly built as a Swellow could haul a coconut any distance, or why it would have a coconut in the first place. Perhaps it thought it was a prey Pokemon, but dropped it after realizing its mistake.

A mistake that turned out to be good fortune for her. After finding a large rock, Reimu jammed the coconut onto the pointy end several times before cracking and removing the husk in order to get at the fruit inside. Cracking the fruit yielded the meat as well as milky coconut juice, which she slurped up, using the half of the coconut as a makeshift drinking dish.

As she drank up, she looked over and saw a piece of paper next to her. Picking it up revealed it was a hand-written note from Lillie, which read:

 

Hey Reimu,

I had to go with the professor to Ula’Ula Island this morning to help him with his research. Hau called me and said he was waiting for you at the Hano Grand Resort. He really wants you to come as soon as you can. I wrote you this note because I didn’t want to wake up up, we had a long night last night and we fell asleep right here looking at stars. I trust I will see you on Ula’Ula so we can continue our adventure together.

 

<3 Lillie”

 

Hano Grand Resort, huh? She looked on the map where that was, and saw it north of the mountain outside Koni’Koni. After finishing her impromptu breakfast, she summoned a Charizard to fly her around the mountain and toward the resort.

From the sky, it was hard to miss: far from a mere hotel or inn, it was a massive complex, with several large, sprawling buildings with glass facades, a massive swimming pool, long sandy beach with umbrellas propped up all over, and its crowning feature, an expansive 18-hole golf course.

Pulling up just in front of the resort’s front archway and sending the Charizard back to base, she whistled. Walking under it and looking at the main resort building, she instantly realized that the place reeked of money. This was no family vacation spot: this was the kind of place where honeymooners hoping to burn through their gift money, or those who were rich and famous, came to forget about life and melt their stresses away separate from the masses with fanny packs and ridiculous novelty leis. Given her increasingly massive battle winnings and the fact that her face was all over the islands by now, Reimu supposed she was welcome, but still felt more than a little intimidated; after all, this place would make Remilia jealous.

Walking alongside the beach toward the main building, there wasn’t much activity on the beach yet, but she could still see early-morning jet-skiers out on the glistening waters as well as attendants chucking Pyukumukus back into the sea before the sunbathers flocked there later that day. Because Sandygasts and Palossands had a habit of hiding on beaches such as this one, there were also attendants going through with trained Cacturne who could use Seed Bomb and Dark Pulse to scare them off.

Passing the beach, Reimu walked up to the grand entrance to the main building, from which she could hear a sizable crowd inside. At that point, she was faced with one of the most confusing aspects of this world: a revolving door. The device utterly flummoxed the shrine maiden, who had to stand there for a few moments while a couple other people came in and out of it for her to figure out how it worked. Even then, she got pressed against the glass by the automated door once.

Once she managed to get inside, she saw a huge crowd spread out across a grand main hall, furnished with polished, glowing hardwood floors and main staircase, crystal chandeliers, glass tables and elevators, traditional Alolan art pieces rising all the way up to the ceiling, and grandiose windows providing sweeping views of the island and beach.

Checking the place out, she realized that there was a breakfast buffet going on, with people crowding around food trolleys and hot stations being rolled out of the kitchens. And a few moments after that, she glanced over at the eating area, where Hau had already noticed her and was waving her over.

“Hey!”

Of course Reimu had to walk over. “Hi, Hau! How was your night?”

“Awesome! My team was stoked after that battle, and look at this!” He let Hedwig out of her ball, revealing a very tall owl that resembled an archer. “Hedwig evolved after that battle! How awesome is that?!”

After letting Rotom “helpfully” fill her in on Decidueye, Reimu congratulated Hau on evolving his starter into her final form, just as Sasha had last night. Her eyes then turned to the two empty plates stacked up next to Hau, and a third filled with Kalosian toast, bacon and fruit, while Raichu was on the floor nomming away at pancakes.

“So, how’d you end up here?” Reimu asked him.

“Oh, yeah,” Hau said, a bit sheepishly. “So, actually, Gramps heard about my grand trial victory last night, and paid for a room here for me overnight as a reward. Which is kinda crazy, because this place has a waiting list a mile long, but they said there was a cancellation or something. Anyway, so we conked out like royalty last night, and then they gave me a buffet ticket ‘cause they were doing all-you-can-eat breakfast! So I thought I’d call you over!”

Reimu was feeling a bit flattered. “Oh, uh, thanks, but I don’t think I can afford this place…”

“Don’t worry about it! Elio already got you a ticket!”

Elio? Wait, that mail boy was here too?


“Hey there!” Reimu looked around, and saw Elio with a plate of food walking toward their table.

“Oh, hi, wasn’t expecting to see you here!” Reimu exclaimed.

“I know, right? Small world! Although I suppose with your name everywhere, and you going everywhere, I’d probably see you again at some point!” He sat down and handed her a buffet ticket. “I got the day off so I came to have breakfast here, then Hau found me and told me about you and how you were coming so I thought I’d get another ticket for you.”

Reimu accepted the ticket, still a little surprised about how she ran into a person she thought she’d only see once again in such an unexpected place. So after being shown the various food choices, she loaded up mostly on some fruit and bread, then headed back to the table, where Elio was eager to hear some stories from her.

Elio had apparently recalled Reimu talking about someone who was a much better than his sister, and asked her to elaborate. So she told him all about Eirin, the Lunarians in general, and the endless night incident where she first met her, Kaguya and the moon rabbits.

 

“Ok, ok, wait. She can make a drug for anything?” Elio asked.

“Yup,” Reimu bragged. “Love potions, gender-switchers, immortality elixirs, hangover cures, you name it, and if you have enough money she’ll make it.”

Elio scratched his head. “Heh, maybe she could make like a rare candy-zilla or something. I know some diehard trainers that would want some of those,” he joked.

“Well, she has made instant-growth drugs before, so she could probably do something like that. I mean, she managed to hide the Earth from the Moon, and she could probably hit the emperor’s head with her longbow from ground level. I’m sure a rare candy-zilla would be well within her talent. And yet I can never get her to make a drug for keeping reporters away or getting more donations.” Both of them laughed.

They talked for about another hour or so, with Reimu going back about her history and where she came from while Elio listened intently. Hau, having heard this story before, was playing Just Shapes & Beats on his Switch while Raichu watched. The staff was starting to get the food out of the middle of the floor, and an announcement came on over the intercom.

“Good morning, resort guests! We hope you enjoyed breakfast with us, it’s looking like it will be a beautiful day outside! And whether you’ll be out hitting the waves, the golf course, exploring the island or just relaxing on the beach, we’d like to help get you revved up! In a few minutes, we’ll be starting a twist competition, with this wonderful trophy on the line!” The announcer held up a gold trophy with Hand Grand Resort inscriptions on the side. “And for anyone on their Island Challenge, we have a special participation prize!”

Reimu heard this over their conversation and cocked her head in the direction of the announcer, who was spinning a Flyinium-Z on her finger. “Now, who’s ‘fly’ enough to come up to the stage and go first?”

A few moments later, Selene came out of the crowd, with a grudging Gladion being practically dragged up by her. This surprised even Elio, who was unaware that his sister was also here; she must have come later, he thought. Reimu could see Gladion grumbling something, but she couldn’t tell what he was saying over the crowd. Given her previous interaction with the two of them together, though, he was probably objecting to being in front of a crowd or something.

“Now, can you tell us your names?” The announcer held up a microphone to them.

“I’m Selene!” Selene chirped.

“And you, young man?” the announcer asked Gladion.

“...Gladion,” he grumbled.

“Ohoho, a little stage fright?” the announcer teased. Gladion, of course, wasn’t amused, while the audience chuckled briefly. “I’m sure you two will blow everyone out of the water!” She looked out at the audience again. “Who else wants to come up and challenge this fine couple?”

Elio tugged on Reimu’s arm. “I have an idea,” he said. “Wanna help me beat my sister?”

“Er…” Reimu hesitated. She didn’t know what a twist even was, and she didn’t feel comfortable doing it with a guy she barely knew, but he seemed pretty adamant about grabbing that trophy from his sister. And given how famous she had become… it seemed intimidating to risk making a fool of herself in front of this crowd.

“Oh, c’mon, it’ll be fun, I promise! Plus, I’m sure you want that Z-Crystal, right?”

“Well, yeah,” Reimu said, “but… there must be another way to get it…”

“You can get it right here, you don’t even need to win!” he smiled. “Now come on, let’s do this!”

“Yeah, Reimu!” Hau parroted. “Do it! I wanna see you bust a move!”

Well, ok, now her hands were tied if Hau was insisting that she do it. So, reluctantly, she walked up with Elio to face Selene and Gladion. As she did, the crowd was first silent, then some muttering between people occured before she was finally met with roaring raves and applause.

On one hand, it seemed daunting. On the other hand, she wished that she and her shrine got even half of the praise and recognition she was getting now. She didn’t show it, but she was somehow happy.

“Well, well, well,” the announcer smirked, “if it isn’t wormhole girl herself, gracing us with her otherworldly presence on this nice day, and she even brought a boy along!” Everyone laughed, while Reimu blushed like a tomato.

“I’ll have you know,” Elio said grabbing the mike, “that her and I are getting that trophy, and there’s nothing she,” pointing at Selene, “can do about it!”

Selene snatched the mike from him. “Oh, PLEASE, you dance like a Team Skull grunt!” she taunted.

“You say that like that’s a bad thing,” Elio said back. “I’ve seen some pretty sick dance moves from them.”

“Yeah, sure,” she snarked. “Sick as in they were dancing in their hospital rooms after getting a Dynamic Punch from my Machamp right in their faces!” The crowd ooo’d this comment. All Gladion could do was silently brood about how true this was, perhaps not true enough.

“Ahahaha, sibling trash-talk! Never gets old!” the announcer laughed. “Now, anyone else?”


Cricketots.

 

“Well then, let’s see who the winner of this sibling rivalry is. Will the girl from the wormhole make a difference? Can her battling AND racing skill translate to dance ? Let’s find out!”

Reimu was apprehensive at this point, since her only real experience with dancing was done while under the influence of copious amounts of booze and mushrooms, and while she had frequently gone to watch traditional dances in the village, that probably wasn’t going to be helpful here. But, she had to throw on a confident face for the audience, and after taking a deep breath, faced Elio just as Gladion faced Selene.

 

A few moments after the crowd quieted down, the music kicked up into a catchy ditty, and Elio began swinging his arms and body, while Reimu copied as best she could.

 

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well

You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle… ♪

 

Elio was then twisting his feet left-to-right, while Reimu observed and then copied it. She tried harder to get into the beat of the tune.

 

♪ And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell

"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell ♪

 

♪ They furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale

The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale ♪

 

Reimu got into the movements and rhythm of the song, and once she felt she had the hang of it, started banging her head back-and-forth, side-to-side slightly. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Gladion already struggling while Selene shot disapproving looks at him.

 

♪ But when Pierre found work, the little money comin' worked out well

"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell ♪

 

Now the song was in full swing, and without even thinking about it, she was twisting and banging and rockin’, to the knockout cheers of the audience. Elio was as well; he’d been doing this for a couple years, so he knew a thing or two, and he was determined to get that trophy for himself. All the while, Gladion was flubbing and hesitating, forcing Selene to have to physically get him to move his arms up and down. And now even Hau was getting in on it from the sidelines, with Raichu as his “dance partner.” And let’s admit: it’s one thing for a human to twist, but seeing a Raichu do so with its stubby little arms and rat feet was as cute as it was funny and absurd.

 

The song went on for a couple more minutes, and as everyone wound down the crowd cheered and clapped and whistled. And of course Elio was very sure of his victory, given Gladion’s lackluster performance.

“Guess I got the good partner today, huh?” he taunted.

Selene huffed and crossed her arms. “Don’t get so sure. They haven’t called the winner yet.”

“Nah, I’m totally sure,” Elio smirked. “We got it, you don’t. And that trophy is mine.”

“Alright ladies and gents!” the announcer called out. “It’s clear! The winner is…” she paused, and then pointed. “...that Raichu!”

 

What.

 

“How does a Raichu win a twist dance?” Selene asked, flabbergasted.

“Iunno,” Hau said. “Guess they thought he was cute.” Meanwhile, Raichu was hefting the trophy with its arms, before giving up and just using Psychic to do it instead.

“I didn’t want to be up there anyway,” Gladion groaned.

“Oh, don’t be like that, Glady,” she said grabbing his shoulder. “We just gotta work on your technique, and then we’ll be right back here next week! And then I’ll have that trophy before by brother does!”

Elio nodded, “you’re gonna have to try a little harder that THAT, though. Just be glad that Raichu won and not us, but it’s not going to be here next week. And that means I’ll have the trophy before you.”

“How do you know wormhole girl’s still gonna be here next week, though?” she quipped.

“...fair comment,” he said rolling his eyes.

Selene and Gladion went off out the side exit toward the beach, while Professor Burnet, who had been watching, came up to greet them.

“Well, that was certainly unexpected,” she told them. “But I have to admit: that was really cute the way that Raichu danced to the music.” She crouched down to scratch behind its ears, getting a slight shock from doing it causing her to recoil back a bit. “Ah! Ah...haha!” She scratched her head. “And full of energy too… literally!”

“Rai?” Raichu was confused.

“Yeah… I wasn’t expecting to be beat by a Pokemon,” Elio confided.

“Although,” Reimu commented, “given that its Hau’s, and we all know how much Hau likes dancing and doing other crazy things,” she said sarcastically while Hedwig rotated her head Exorcist-style, “was there any doubt Raichu would win?”

Hau had no comment.

“Also,” Reimu asked him playfully, “if Raichu won, does that mean that shiny new Flyinium-Z you got there actually belongs to it? Maybe we should make Raichu a Z-Ring and send it on its own Island Challenge. I think it would make a great trainer, since it’s also a Poke-”

“Stop,” Hau said flatly, and wishing at this moment that he didn’t have to put up with teenage girls and just do the Island Challenge his own way.

“Now now,” Burnet smiled, “don’t go teasing Hau like that. He’s a great trainer, and we all know it.” She turned to Reimu. “By the way, the reason I came up here was because I wanted to ask you if you were still interested in seeing the Dimensional Research Lab. It’s just down the road from here.”

Reimu drew a blank for a moment, before remembering what she was talking about. “Oh, yes, of course!” At last, a chance to learn more about the wormhole that brought her here! Sure, it probably wouldn’t mean that much, but she hoped she could at least glean some information that she could use to find a way back to Gensokyo, and perhaps more importantly, learn more about who or what the incident’s perpetrator could be.

 


 

Interestingly, Elio decided to join the group rather than head off to the beach, claiming that he didn’t have much else going on that day, and he had never visited the research lab before and was also curious about Ultra Wormholes, which he enjoyed reading about ever since he swore to seeing one as a child, and he only grew more interested after Reimu entered the picture. Of course Hau was obligated to be with the group, and just a short while later they were in front of the lab, a white building whose roof was crammed with satellite dishes and antennae.

“Well gang, this is it,” Burnet said. “This is the Dimensional Research Lab.”

Walking toward the structure, Reimu marvelled at the amount of technology that was in one place, but was even more anxious to see what sort of information on the wormholes would lay within. Elio and Hau were similarly impressed by it, eyeing its beautiful glass facade and seeming otherworldly presence.

After clearing security, Burnet showed the three up to the main research floor. This was the first time Reimu had used an elevator, and it seemed strange to her how you step into a box which closes, hums, then opens up a few moments later to present a floor completely different from the one which you entered the elevator car from.

Nevertheless, the room on the other side of the elevator door was one which evoked memories of a control room she toured while in the Lunar Capital, and drew oohs and aahs from everyone: massive computer screens, stretching wall-to-wall, plastered with complicated code comprised of archaic and abstract symbols and 0 and 1 strings. People in white lab coats scuttling about with clipboards, furiously writing down notes. Labs where Gardevoirs were being used in controlled black hole experiments. And the centerpiece of it all: an absolute monstrosity of a machine which resembled a nuclear reactor.

“This is the dimensional field manipulator,” Burnet explained. “This is what feeds all those equations you see on the screen over there. We use this to analyze fluctuations in spacetime, from Ultra Wormholes or otherwise, in order to better understand how they operate and, perhaps, replicate the mechanism by which the wormholes are created.”

“Question,” Reimu said raising her hand. “Did this thing pick up when I was brought here?”

“Good question,” Burnet replied. “On that day, there was a massive surge in data which nearly overloaded the mainframes, with the timestamps corresponding to those on the home video footage of the wormhole that appeared on the news.” She opened up a nearby terminal and fetched the data from eight days prior when it happened. “We’ve been analysing the data like crazy since then, no less because it was the first major Ultra Wormhole since the Delta Swarm fourteen years ago.”

Delta Swarm? , Reimu wondered. Did that mean there were a lot of wormholes that opened up at once? Also, the fact that it happened fourteen years prior seemed… interesting. That was Lillie’s age, and the incident involving Groudon, Kyogre and Rayquaza happened then as well. In Gensokyo, fourteen years ago was when Okina orchestrated an incident which messed with the seasons, and caused certain low-level youkai to become very powerful due to her power over backdoors. Reimu’s mother, Katsura Hakurei, dealt with that incident, then died soon after due to circumstances which Yukari never clearly explained to her due to her own lack of knowledge of what went down, other than that it was unrelated to Okina’s incident, which Reimu believed, but was still unsatisfied since she wanted to know how her mother died, and the mysterious circumstances and unanswered questions haunted her to this day. Maybe it was all just coincidence, of course: the Scarlet Devil Mansion blowing up and the resurrection of Byakuren Hijiri did, after all, happen on the same day and were not in the least bit connected to the other. But it was so much fun to wonder…

After a few moments, Burnet had up on the monitor a pictogram of the wormhole, alongside some code in a sidebar. “One researcher here worked day and night to come up with some more info on the wormhole. It’s complicated to explain, since there are lots of technical details that you probably won’t care to know. But basically, we have the wormhole here,” she pointed at the screen, “and we can try to figure out where things are being ejected from based on the radiation output. We don’t know too much about what lies beyond, but we do know it leads to alternate realms based on evidence. This wormhole was open for about five minutes, and based on the acceleration of energy observed, we could calculate about how far objects could have been flung from in that time. Being the only large physical object to be ejected in this case… no offense, I trust… would you mind telling me how long it was before you were sucked in?”

Reimu thought for a second, before answering, “I don’t know… about a minute or so?”

“Okay, let’s go with that.” Burnet summoned a complex mathematical formula in which she plugged in some numbers, including time spent in the wormhole (four minutes, since the wormhole had closed right behind Reimu), her assumed weight in kilograms, etc. After a minute or so, Burnet came up with a result: “okay, so based on these variables, you actually didn’t get flung all that far: 108 light-years, it seems. So if you could find a way to open a wormhole - for instance, finding either Solgaleo or Lunala - it would not be that difficult to locate your home realm.”

“That’s not my biggest concern right now,” Reimu quipped. “I already thought about that, but then I thought about how whatever’s opening up these wormholes might have some sort of malicious intent. Now, that might seem a bizarre conclusion to jump to, but again, I have dealt with people who could open up portals before, and I’ve seen my fair share of weirdness, so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch.”

She took a breath before going to her next point. “At the museum, they talked about something else alongside Solgaleo and Lunala, something named Necrozma. Ever since coming here, I’ve heard lots of people talk about Solgaleo and Lunala, but almost no one brings up Necrozma.”

Burnet hummed. “Weeeeeeeellllll… that’s because we know next to nothing about Necrozma. The story of the Alolan Prince is about all we have to go off of. I’m sure you’ve been told the first part, about how he tamed the two beasts and the four Island Guardians, so I can add on to that. See, before that, while travelling the islands, he came across a fair maiden on a small, deserted islet and rescued her. When he brought her back, she awoke, and he was immediately lovestruck. The two got to know one another, and increasingly fell in love before he asked her to be his bride, which she accepted.”

Elio and Hau knew what was next. Reimu didn’t, but she saw the twist coming from a mile away. “So, wedding day comes, and just as they are about to officiate the marriage, the two beasts recognized her for who she really was and attacked, causing her to reveal her true form in a flash of light: a hideous mass of black, crystalline structures with huge, sharp claws, whose appearance coincided with a solar eclipse and who immediately began draining light from the land. The prince fought alongside the Guardians and Beasts in order to defeat Necrozma, but just before he could sink his sword into Necrozma’s weak spot, it tore open a wormhole which the prince disappeared into. After that, they took the battle to the sky, where they ultimately managed to banish Necrozma. And that’s as far as Necrozma’s story goes; it has never reappeared, and neither have Solgaleo or Lunala officially. There have been claims here and there of those two being seen by certain people, but no one claims to have ever seen Necrozma even once. We’re not even totally sure what it looks like, since few eyewitness accounts from the time exist.”

After taking this all in, Reimu added on some more to her questioning. “So, my understanding is that Solgaleo and Lunala are protectors. That might not make them innocent in this case, but if Necrozma is, I’m assuming, evil? Then perhaps it’s making a return. That’s just my guess anyway. It doesn’t sound like either of those two would do something like this on a whim. What do you think?”

Burnet replied, “well, that’s interesting that you bring up that point, since there was a prophecy that was made by the Malie oracles shortly after the prince’s disappearance. They claimed that Necrozma would indeed return, and that its presence would be matched by the prince leading a legion into battle, including a legendary being of equal power. But of course, it’s just a story, a legend. The prince would have long since passed, assuming he wasn’t killed in the wormhole or on the other side, and according to legend it took the power of both Solgaleo and Lunala combined with the Tapu to match Necrozma, so it wouldn’t be one of them if it were to come true somehow. So it drifted into legend, and for the most part people consider the story to have ended there.”

Well, that doesn’t answer too much, Reimu thought to herself, but considering that it sounded like Patchouli’s workout record was longer than Necrozma’s fact sheet, it would have to do for now. Perhaps Burnet, being a scientist with no real experience with magic or religion, probably discarded myth and hearsay in favor of more “logical” explanations, which clashed with Reimu’s own experience in a land where those two governed practically everything. Perhaps she would need to take her investigation elsewhere, but where exactly?

Reimu felt reluctant to reveal Stardust’s existence to Burnet and the other scientists, since they would likely want to probe and prod it. So she instead asked one last question.

“Thank you. I never thought I’d say this, but would there be another place I could check out?”

Burnet took a deep breath. “I’m not sure. I guess if you’re headed to Ula’Ula Island next, you might want to check out the Lake of the Moone. Native Alolans claimed that one could contact Lunala there on full moons. Then if you’re headed to Poni Island, the Altar of the Sunne is just beyond one of the trials that you have to do there. Other than that, there might not be much more that you can do except perhaps accept that… you might be stuck here.”

“I doubt it,” Reimu retorted. “Something’s making these wormholes, the one that brought me here is probably not going to be the only one. I know from years of dealing with incidents that there are no isolated incidents, and it’s clear something is up. And I’m going to search these islands top to bottom until I get answers.”

“You go girl!” Hau shouted.

Reimu blushed. “Er, ah… yeah. Thank you, Hau.”

Elio laughed. “Oh, Hau. I remember a long time ago when I was going around doing my Island Challenge, and when I was battling your grandpa you were trying to wrestle my Machamp.”

“An I won!” Hau smiled.

Machamp let you win, Elio wanted to say, but he decided to just humor the kid.

After the professor’s spiel, Reimu decided to wander around a bit, admiring the futuristic tech that was all over the place. At one point, she got to the lab’s own library. It was surprisingly cozy, with leather seats and a coffee bar - when you spend hours each day studying ultra-dimensional phenomena, you going to want a lotta “cuppas.” Reimu browsed around the shelves. There was a wide range of literature available, from peer-reviewed journals, to a small collection of novels for employees to enjoy on break, to books on legends from all across the world (up to and including the Sinnohvian creation myths) to…

...a book that seemed badly out of place compared to the others. Reimu approached it, and once she saw the Japanese text along the spine, she knew it couldn’t have come from anywhere near here. Pulling it from the shelf, she looked at the cover, and realized it wasn’t just any book: it was a necronomicon, of the sort that Patchouli kept in her stores, and which could be used to open a communication channel to the dead… something of a useless skill in Gensokyo, anyway. Her suspicions were only reinforced when she flipped it over and saw the telltale purple-inked katakana near the bottom: Patchouli’s signature, meaning she wrote the book.

Holding the book closely, Reimu wondered to itself: how did it get here? Did it also come through a wormhole? Or was it swapped here some other way? And why this book in particular? What book did it replace, if it was shelved so neatly?

There were a lot of questions running through her head, but one thing was certain: such an arcane text, left here, might cause unpredictable and dangerous consequences even if the scientists couldn’t understand its text, only because a stray Pokemon might find and decipher it and use it to cause trouble. So after making sure no one was looking, she slipped the book into her bag, doubtlessly musing the irony of her stealing a book owned by Patchy as opposed to Marisa, even if it was displaced and she was going to give it back if and when she did return home.

Returning to the professor, she saw her talking to a woman in a sweater with large hair and glasses. Ugh, though Reimu. A sweater, in this weather? She felt a little too warm just thinking about it.

“Oh, Reimu!” Burnet said in surprise. “This is Wicke.”

Wicke smiled. “I’ve heard all about you!”

“Who hasn’t?” Reimu said sarcastically rolling her eyes. Everyone else chuckled, including Hau and Elio, who were still there on the side.

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Wicke told Reimu. “I just came by to visit, but I wasn’t expecting you to be here as well!” She looked over to Hau and Elio. “And you even brought Hala’s grandson and the mail boy with you!”

Elio stepped forward. “Oh! Ms. Wicke! Yeah, I remember, I see you sometimes when I bring mail out to the Foundation!”

“Foundation?” Reimu asked quizzically.

Wicke turned back to Reimu. “I work at the Aether Foundation. Do you know about us?”

Aether Foundation, Aether Foundation… Reimu heard those words before. “Here and there,” she responded.

“We work hard to protect and conserve Pokemon. Our main facility is located out on Aether Isle, southwest of here, but we also work all over the islands.” She thought for a minute, then had an idea. “I know! How would you like to come back with me and I can give you a tour of the place?”

Reimu was unsure of this offer. She wanted to get to Ula’Ula Island to continue her Island Challenge and check out the Lake of the Moone, plus the prospect of being taken out to an island in the middle of the ocean seemed… shady, to say the least. She was about to say no, but was reassured and encouraged by both Burnet and Elio that it was safe and totally worth it. This, combined with her confidence in her Pokemon should something go wrong, ultimately led to her agreeing to the trip.

“Sure, I’ll go,” Reimu finally said, agreeing to the visit.

“Splendid!” Wicke smiled again. And what a cute smile, Reimu thought. It could give Kosuzu a run for her money.

 

As it turned out, Wicke had come on a floatplane which was docked at the resort’s seaport. On its side, it was emblazoned with the Aether Foundation symbol.

Wicke led Reimu and Hau along the dock to where it was parked (Elio said he needed to return home to check on his mother, but was looking forward to the next time that they would meet). As they did, an Aether employee who was flying the plane climbed out to meet them.

“Back already?” he said.

“Well, I did say I needed to run that book the professor was lending to me back to her quickly because she needed it,” Wicke responded. “And look who I brought!” she said pointing to Reimu.

The employee’s eyes widened. “Reimu? Wow, I can’t believe it! I actually get to meet you! Are you coming with us back to Aether Paradise?”

“Seems like it,” Reimu said snidely.

“Well then come on board! I just refueled, so we can get going right away!”

And so Wicke, Reimu and Hau boarded the plane. And within minutes, the plane’s engines had revved up, and in no time at all, the plane was in the air, bound for Aether Paradise.

The plane was flying high enough that, for the first time, Reimu could see the islands from the air. She looked out the plane window, marvelling at the azure abyss that was the ocean going off seemingly forever into the horizon. She could see Akala, the island she was just on, and its still smoking volcano, as well as Melemele; the tall, sleek buildings of Hau’oli City seemed like tiny stubs from where they were. There was also one other island, too far away for Reimu to be able to make anything out, so she turned to the last island next to Akala, the biggest of the bunch. Interestingly, it had a pair of peaks which were covered in snow, and… so was most of the rest of the island, actually, and it seemed shrouded in clouds. This stuck her as odd: the climate seemed too hot and muggy for anywhere to have snow.

So she pointed it out. “Professor, what’s that island over there?”

“That? That’s Ula’Ula Island, which is the island you’re going to next on your challenge.”

“Why is it snowy?” Reimu pressed her again.

“It’s been like that for a while. Actually, the snowstorm started a couple days before you arrived. No one’s sure why it’s happening. Except for the mountains, Ula’Ula should be much too hot for snow, but it’s snow-covered now. Not only that, but they’ve been dealing with outages, so everyone’s cold and cranky.”

An incident?, Reimu thought. It had to be. Tropical islands don’t get snow, and given her own extraordinary circumstances plus her encounters with the two energy beings (which Rotom had since creatively dubbed “Sphere Doomers”) and how they were causing the volcanic activity at Wela Volcano Park, it didn’t seem too far-fetched for Sphere Doomers to be behind this as well. So she made a mental note to investigate as soon as she arrived there.

But first, she needed to get through Wicke’s tour of Aether Paradise, whose white facade soon came into view and became larger as they came in to land.

Chapter Text

The downtown area of the Human Village was filled with shops of all kinds: food-mongers, fortune-tellers, cafés, toy stores, and various other things. The Hieda House, the largest and wealthiest house in the village, overlooked all these, its vast, imposing facade trumped only by the various youkai-infested mansions and temples outside the village's boundaries, making it a definite local landmark, especially as it was the place where Akyuu recorded history from; even though she had a shortened lifespan, she reincarnated indefinitely and kept her memories from previous lives, making her a deceptively long-lived and noted historian of all things Gensokyo.

Near the house was Suzunaan, a large library which, among other things, housed books that fell in from Outside, books written by various locals, Akyuu's history scrolls, copies of Aya's Bunbunmaru newspaper, and even so-called “youma books” written by Youkai which were all kept in Kosuzu Mootori's personal collection away from the other books. Most books were only loaned out, but some were sold and the library even had its own printing service.

Kosuzu was an interesting character: a sweet, lighthearted girl who nonetheless was conflicted by her stance on the youkai vs. human conflict, even after she was let in on the “secret”. This was due to her collection of youma books, itself spurred on by her own special ability: she could, by just touching text, decipher any language in a book, as well as tell real scriptures from fakes. This ability allowed her to collect and study the youma books and learn their secrets, as well as read and translate just about every book kept there, which included scriptures not only in Japanese, Chinese and Korean, but also books and scripts written in English, French, German, Russian, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Swahili and so many others. This made her quite knowledgeable in historical subjects from Outside; her collection even included oddities like scrapped American war plans for Operation Downfall in World War II (she did not, however, know what the replacement plan was, only that there was one since she could tell by reading the text's aura that the plan was never passed onto orders). These days, Kosuzu kept her collection of youma books locked away in a safe given the danger they could pose, but that didn’t stop her search for knowledge elsewhere.

Kosuzu had taken an interest in the recent incident involving Reimu getting sucked into the wormhole in the sky; she knew Reimu, since the latter often came by to study history books and tell stories. Unfortunately, she was not allowed to leave the village to find information, not that she did anyway since she knew she probably didn't stand a chance against most of the youkai lurking outside the town limits. So she made up by studying whatever books in the library she could that could help explain the recent events; however, none could furnish the answers she was looking for. It seemed an unsolvable case with no historical basis, and this frustrated her to no end. Not even her good friend Akyuu could adequately explain what was going on, the best she could do being to simply put down a rough chronology of events so far in her record backed up with detailed descriptions of them based on testimony from villagers, who generally were not reliable sources of unbiased information.

 

The day was like most other summer days at the library. Kosuzu had recently taken a full-time position, which she took in order to try and further her quest for knowledge. When she showed up for work, she saw a bundle dropped off by the side of the building containing the day's newspapers. She opened the bundle, made her way to the newsstand, and arranged the papers to display their headlines, which all read the same:

 

Ultradimensional Beasts Sighted in Gensokyo: Link to Hakurei Disappearance? Ft. Bunbunmaru-exclusive photos!

 

Kosuzu was among the villagers who had witnessed the Celesteela flying over the town the previous day, and these photos were mostly different angles of the beast as it overflew the town, eventually ending in a photo of it rooted into the ground of a hot spring. It seemed even in strange incidents, Aya was always on the front lines taking photos, a quality that earned her a spot on the Border Patrol, which also meant she could continue paper deliveries to the village.

After organizing the papers, Kosuzu took a few minutes to put everything into place – books dropped off overnight were reshelved, chairs put back at tables, making sure the printing presses were on and working properly, and removing trash and any knickknacks left around, her only assistance doing this being one other employee while Kosuzu’s father was working on paperwork in his office. Finally, at 9:00, she flipped the sign on the door, opening the place for the day.

For the most part, Kosuzu sat at her desk for most of the day as part of her new position, cataloging books and documents. When she wasn't renting out books to people, she was busy looking through the archives trying to see if she could find something to help her figure out this incident, but she was only drawing blanks. If only she had access to that huge library under the Scarlet Devil Mansion, she thought. That place is bound to have what she was looking for, she felt.

The morning went by uneventfully, and after her lunch break she returned to her desk, fully expecting the afternoon until she clocked off to be much the same. However, about fifteen minutes after returning to work, she noticed a hooded figure walk through the doors of the library, carrying a satchel. She approached Kosuzu's desk, prompting her to speak up.

“Hello there,” she said to the woman. “Is there anything I can help you with today?”

The woman looked up at her. “Yes, I do need some help. You are Kosuzu Mootori, the girl who can read any text?”

“That would be me!” Kosuzu smiled.

“Then I was wondering if you could help me decipher this tome? I cannot understand what is in it.” This sort of request was normal for her, maybe a once or twice per week occurrence.

“I sure can,” Kosuzu replied. “Right this way.” She led the woman to a study room near the back of the library. There was only one window and it was a little cloudy out, so when they entered she lit an oil lamp to give them some light to see the book with better.

 


 

The woman set the book out in front of them. On the cover were two symbols, resembling a stylized sun and moon, as well as a title in a language Kosuzu did not recognize.

“Strange,” she said. “I can't say I've ever seen this language before.”

The woman looked up. “That is why I'm here. I felt you were the only one who could help me.” She removed her hood, revealing long, purple hair underneath.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” she said. “My name is Patchouli Knowledge. I am the librarian of the Scarlet Devil Mansion.”

Kosuzu looked in astonishment. THE Patchouli Knowledge, like from the stories Marisa would always tell, here in the village?

“Miss Knowledge!” she exclaimed. “It's a pleasure to meet you! I've heard all about you!”

“Let us save the pleasantries for later,” Patchouli said. “I'm here for business.”

“Oh, right,” Kosuzu said. “For sure. So, what is this book?”

“One of my library devils found it last night while organizing a shelf on the far side of the library. She said she always organizes that section and it had seemed to replace a necronomicon that was normally kept there. She brought it to me and I began to study it. Now, normally this would be easy for me, since I'm knowledgeable in nearly all known writing and cipher systems, but the writing system of this book bears no similarities to any known language, leading me to believe it may be extraterrestrial in origin.”

She flipped through the book's pages. “What is interesting, however, is that there are illustrations in here bearing resemblance to the wormhole that appeared on the day of Reimu's disappearance, leading me to suspect that it may have some information on them. Since you can decipher any text, I chose to travel here to elicit your help in uncovering any secrets it may have.”

Kosuzu thought for a moment. “Well, I'm not so sure about if I can read alien languages, but I can try.” She touched the cover of the book to try and read its title. This took her a few moments, and the whole time she thought about who might have written it.

“So, is it extraterrestrial?” Patchouli asked her.

“No, it was definitely written by humans,” Kosuzu commented, “but not necessarily humans in our reality.”

“Interesting,” Patchy noted.

After some time, Kosuzu absorbed the language, which allowed her to read the title fluently. “It seems to read 'The Chronicle of Sunne and Moone.'”

She flipped to a random page and began reading a passage from it:

 

And so the Beast who Steals the Light, Necrozma, shadowed the land, and cast the prince into the void. The Guardians of Alola, joined with the Beast who Devours the Sunne, Solgaleo, and the Beast who Calls the Moone, Lunala, rose to the sky, and through their combined power banished Necrozma, showering Alola in light.”

 

Kosuzu looked at the text for a moment, confused. “What do you suppose this means?” she asked.

Patchouli corrected her glasses before commenting “it tells of a legend, that much is obvious. As for which one, that I'm not sure. Almost every culture has their own story regarding the sun and moon, but I've never come across a legend quite like this one, and I've never heard of anywhere called 'Alola,' even in antiquity.”

Kosuzu slumped in her chair. “If only there was a way to make heads or tails of what this thing is saying without speculating.”

“There is,” Patchy said. She reached into her bag and pulled out what looked like a polished amethyst. “This is a small trinket I created long ago to aid in my research. When placed upon text, it creates a projection that portrays what the text is telling. I mostly use it for visualizing ritual instructions when I am conducting my studies, but it can be used to tell stories just as well.” She placed it upon the pages of the book. “However, it only recognizes certain languages, and as you can see, there is no reaction at all with the alien text here.”

Kosuzu sat back up. “I can fix that.” She touched the page again, this time concentrating even harder. As she did, the mysterious script on the pages rearranged itself into readable Japanese characters.

Patchouli was amazed. “I only guessed that you could do that, but now that I see it, I am most impressed.”

“Nothing stops the biggest book nerd in Gensokyo,” Kosuzu boasted, flipping her glasses onto her nose.

“...yes, of course,” Patchy said in an aside.

As the text was translated, the stone began to glow, and a faint projection appeared in the air above the musty tome. A scene began to draw, showing a rocky cliff overlooking the sea. Dark clouds blanketed the sky, but through the haze a solar eclipse was clearly visible.

“This must be what the text meant by the land being shadowed,” Kosuzu commented.

From the side, what looked to them like a large, white lion came onto the scene. It let out a mighty roar, then dashed off the cliff as a lighted road materialized under its feet, allowing it to run straight up into the sky. A subtitle gave its identity as “Solgaleo.”

“And that must be the 'Beast who Devours the Sunne,” Patchouli noted. “It's interesting, as the main symbol of alchemy is a lion eating the sun.”

The scene continued to show Solgaleo running up the lighted road, until eventually it reached a thunderstorm in the clouds. The scene then panned in, revealing the thunderstorm to actually be a fierce battle between four figures and a large crystalline mass. The yellow figure, resembling a cock, was named Tapu Koko; the pink figure, resembling a butterfly, Tapu Lele; the red figure, resembling a bull, Tapu Bulu; and the purple figure, resembling a marlin or siren, Tapu Fini. The mass was identified as Necrozma.

It was obvious to both Patchouli and Kosuzu that the four guardians must have been these figures, and that Necrozma was a threat to the land as they were fighting it. It seemed a losing battle for the guardians, as the scene showed Necrozma absorbing Tapu Koko's electrical attacks and blasting them back, before firing lights at them which briefly stunned them long enough for it to slash them with its enormous, sharp claws.

Patchouli adjusted her seat, watching the scene unfold in front of them. Distant cries could be heard, one of which was Solgaleo's, and the other was new. The guardians regrouped in a rough square, with Solgaleo arriving in the center of it, and another figure, which resembled a large, crescent-shaped bat, named Lunala, appearing above it. All of them cried out at once, attempted to intimidate Necrozma.

The scene continued, showing Necrozma begin to absorb light, materializing a light ball in front of it. Tapu Bulu, sensing danger, used its magic to conjure up a tree, which it held in order to intercept the attack that was coming. Soon enough, Necrozma launched the fully-charged ball at the group, causing them to scatter, Solgaleo to the left, Lunala to the right. Bulu, however, defiantly stood its ground, tossing the mighty tree right at the ball. As soon as the two touched, a massive explosion enveloped and completely vaporized the tree, creating a blinding column of light and forcing the Land Spirit Pokémon to look away as the pillar of light struck the ground and pierced the heavens.

“Hold it,” Patchouli said. She touched the page, causing the scene to pause. “I need to go back a bit.”

Kosuzu looked on as Patchy rewound the scene until it replayed Necrozma charging up and firing the ball of light, then pausing just as it was launched.

“What's so special about this part?” Kosuzu asked.

“This attack...” Patchy pondered. “I've seen this attack before.”

“Come again?” Kosuzu asked, her ears perked up in curiosity.

“I'm sure you're aware of Sunshine, Marisa and Alice's daughter?” Patchy asked.

Kosuzu thought for a moment, then said “oh yeah, that doll kid? Yeah, I know her. She comes in here sometimes with them. She's curious about everything! She wants to read every book in here!”

Patchouli continued. “Recently, she... developed some abilities, which I was tasked with evaluating. One of those abilities was an attack that was virtually identical to the one Necrozma uses in this scene.”

“Hmm?” Kosuzu was curious.

“The attack's charge-up was the same, the launch and light-shadow it left behind was the same, the pillar of light was the same... the attack was far more powerful than almost anything I have witnessed. I informed Alice and Marisa that it was on par with the power wielded by higher gods.”

Kosuzu was surprised. “You really think so?”

“I've studied magic for over a millennia,” Patchouli stated, “this is not simple magic. This is divine power. What we are witnessing here is a battle among deities.”

She continued to let the scene play out. After the attack subsided, two cries, a mighty roar and a frightful shriek, could be heard from either side of Necrozma. The four Tapu looked around, before Solgaleo and Lunala appeared before them. From their bodies, some form of power flowed into the Tapu, enveloping them with a yellow-orange aura which supplied them untold amounts of power. Then, Bulu, Lele and Fini formed a triangular shape together, and around them the aura grew into an enormous, humanoid form with powerful arms and feet, but missing a head. Tapu Koko then assumed the head position, closing its shell in such a way as to resemble a chicken's head. The combined being then veered over Necrozma, much larger and more imposing than the crystalline mass in front of it.

Solgaleo then roared again, creating a ripple in space-time – identical to the one seen in the sky above Gensokyo the day of Reimu's disappearance. It then rushed forward toward it, Lunala flying close behind, before crashing into it and disappearing into the resulting wormhole, with Lunala flying into it just moments later.

Patchouli stopped the scene and looked up at Kosuzu. “This is it,” she said sharply. “This has to be it.”

“What? The lion caused the incident?” Kosuzu asked.

“Perhaps not necessarily,” Patchouli told her, “but we now have vital context for this incident. These beings can open up these wormholes. Any of these three could be the incident’s perpetrator.”

Kosuzu leaned forward. “Well, I certainly hope it isn't Necrozma. That thing looks scary.”

“I don’t think it matters at this point which of these three caused it,” Patchouli said, “all that’s important is that our perpetrator now has a face, even if we do not know which of these three faces it has.” She let the rest of the scene play out: after the beasts escaped via the wormhole, Tapu Koko, bound to the energy being, reeled back and then unleashed a mighty punch, which was forceful enough to send Necrozma straight through the wormhole, which closed right behind it. Afterward, the darkness dissipated and the eclipse ended, and the four Tapu scattered back down to their respective islands.

The two looked at each other for several moments, before Kosuzu spoke. “So… what happens now?”

“Now?” Patchouli answered. “I need to study this text more now that you’ve translated it for me. Then, I need to present this to the sages; they need to know every single bit if information that is in here. This is a major breakthrough for the investigation.”

  Patchouli then got up from her seat, placing the book back into her satchel. "Thank you for all your help," she said. "I will return to my library at once, so that you may get back to your job."

"My pleasure," Kosuzu smiled.

Before Patchouli left, she reached into her bag, and pulled out a large, gold nugget.

"This is a piece of gold I grew during some alchemy experiments. You won't find more pure gold anywhere else. This is your payment, for helping me discover possibly this mystery's biggest breakthrough so far."

Kosuzu took the gold nugget from Patchouli’s hand, then marvelled it for a second. “This is… wow, I can’t believe it! Imagine all the money I could get from it, thank you!”

Patchy gave the girl a soft smile, before donning her hood once more, and leaving Suzuunan and the village.

 


 

Arriving at the gate of the mansion, Patchouli took a moment to catch her breath, since the trip to the village had taken a lot of effort for her ailing body.

“Miss Knowledge,” Meiling said coming around a corner. “Do you need help?”

“Haff… no, I’m alright,” Patchy said, wheezing. Meiling wasn’t convinced, though, so she helped the librarian up to the front door, then down the stairs to the basement library’s front doors, after which she returned up to resume her duty as the mansion’s gatekeeper. However, she bumped into Sakuya on the way up.

“What are you doing away from the gate?” Sakuya asked, somewhat sternly.

“What? Oh, Miss Knowledge just returned, so I was helping her back down to her library,” Meiling responded. “I’m on my way back out.”

Figures , Sakuya thought. Patchouli could probably be run over by a squirrel if she didn’t have powerful magic at her disposal, so it didn’t surprise the maid that she needed to be helped back down by Meiling. Which was another nice quality of Meiling’s, her willingness to look out for and help others even if she had to step away from her job.

“I’m assuming the counseling helped?” Sakuya asked; she hadn’t seen Meiling since her grocery run turned strange encounter, since she hadn’t left the mansion since then.

“I think so, definitely,” Meiling said. “I’m not quite as on-edge as I was, although I’m still not taking any naps.”

“I don’t think anyone in this mansion is sleeping anyway,” Sakuya confided. “Glad to hear you’re doing better.”

“Absolutely,” Meiling smiled. “In fact…” she put her fists together. “I haven’t had a fight in a while. Would you like to help me refresh, in case the monster shows up?”

This was strage, Sakuya thought. Meiling wasn’t usually this willing to start a spell card duel, given her generally under-par performance in them, but hey, if she wanted it, there wasn’t much that needed doing around the mansion at the moment, and after that encounter the other day, she was still on her toes.”

“Alright,” Sakuya said before brandishing some knives. “But I hope you’re ready to lose,” she smirked menacingly.

 

They decided to move the action outside the mansion’s gates, and faced each other in midair.

“Standard rules?” Sakuya asked.

“Let’s,” Meiling answered. And in a flash, the sky erupted in laser bullets, with Sakuya’s knives meeting Meiling’s colorful array of projectiles.

Meiling was the first to use a spell card. “Colorful Sign ‘Dazzling Colorful Typhoon!’” A wave of rainbow bullets flew toward Sakuya. Ah, big guns already? she thought. No matter, she just weaved in and out of the predictable pattern and struck her first hit out of three needed to win.

Meiling, of course, wasn’t willing to back down just yet, even if she was super rusty. So she tried another attack. “Star Chi ‘Earth-Moving Star Pulse Shot!’” she called, as shar shaped bullets flew out in front of her while she charged and unleashed a hadouken that homed in on Sakuya. But homing abilities didn’t matter if Sakuya could activate her time manipulation powers to evade it and close the distance, allowing her to land the second shot, leaving her 3-1 in a seemingly one-sided fight.

Sakuya smiled. “I think you’re just a tad outmatched,” she boasted while balancing three knives on her fingers. “Want to try one last trick?”

Meiling got back up and shot a determined look. “Sure. I didn’t want to use it just yet, but I have a new attack. It’s impossible to avoid, and hits super-hard,” she claimed.

“Go ahead and try it,” Sakuya taunted.

“Alright,” Meiling replied before creating a symbol in front of her, resembling the Latin Delta. “Delta Sign ‘Dragon Ascent!’” And with that, she shot up into the air, disappearing into a twinkle.

Sakuya looked up and was confused. No bullets? Then, blue and emerald lines shot down from where Meiling disappeared, trapping Sakuya while a single light-blue shockwave with a black figure in it barreled down toward her. No fear, Sakuya thought. She could just halt time and sidestep it. So she did.

...and was hit with all the force of a hypersonic missile, slamming her into the ground with enough force to leave a 3-foot crater. The attack completely ignored her ability to stop time.

Sakuya lie there, in pain, before wrenching herself back up, dusting herself off and coughing, all the while a proud Meiling stood in front of her grinning.

“What the hell!” Sakuya yelled. “How did it… why did it-”

“It ignores abilities,” Meiling boasted. “The only way to dodge it is to get outta Dodge.”

“That’s not fair!” Sakuya objected. She tried to throw a knife, but fell over instead, which meant Meiling won the fight. “You can’t have a one-hit kill attack that ignores abilities!”

“Oh, I think I can,” Meiling said triumphantly. “Other people have one-hit kill attacks.”

Sakuya managed to stand up. “Anyway, how did you come up with that attack? It doesn’t fit the theme of your other attacks that well.”

“I figured it out,” Meiling claimed. “Going to Eirin’s made me really confident, so I came up with a new attack. I just needed a good excuse to test it. Now that I know it works perfectly, I’m ready to take on anything!”

Sakuya was stunned. “You…”

“Mmm-hmm?”

“... did a good job,” she said hugging Meiling. “I’m proud of you.” Meiling returned the hug, then Sakuya backed away. “You might just be a gatekeeper, but if being confident makes you that strong, then perhaps you can take on the perpetrator yourself.”

“Heh… maybe,” Meiling commented.

Sakuya dusted herself off some more, before showing herself inside the mansion and shooting her second round of medicine in two days. Meanwhile, Meiling looked up at the sky.

She clenched her fist, and shot a determined look at a cloud.

Seems the time for revenge has come, she thought briefly, before going back to watering flowers.

Chapter Text

There were tall, porcelain Swanna fountains lining the entrance just up the steps from the dock. There were hedges, carefully trimmed into the shape of long Serperiors surrounding the plaza. Employees, scientists and tourists alike crisscrossed the plaza, and there were Pokemon everywhere, both with their trainers and being handled by the Aether employees.

But mostly, there was white. Lots and lots of white. So much white, in fact, that Reimu found herself squinting even with sunglasses on.

“Ach, it’s too bright,” she complained. “Do you need the place to be so white?”

Wicke chuckled to herself. “Believe me, I keep telling the president the same thing, that guests think its too bright. But she thinks it’s beautiful, and that it was the way her father had it, so I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon, I’m afraid.”

“Ehhhh,” Reimu groaned as she and Hau were led by Wicke around the facility’s exterior. Despite her objections to the brightness of the place, the facility was diverse and well put together.

Wicke explained some of Aether Paradise’s history to the two. Aether Paradise, she explained, was first built as a colonial fort on a shallow shoal, but was abandoned for a long time before it was purchased by Claudius Aether, a multi-billionaire pan-disciplinary scientist and business owner who converted the place into the ultimate Pokemon conservation and rescue habitat. The shoal the fort was built on was, in fact, a premier habitat for several endangered marine species such as Corsola, which influenced his decision to build a habitat in such a strange and remote place. The finished facility, which came complete with both land and sea habitats, intake, care and release for injured Pokemon, and a grand mansion overlooking it all was dubbed “Aether Paradise.” Since then, the facility became a major tourist attraction in Alola, even being included on several tours and recommended as a must-hit on travel sites. It even had scheduled ferry service to all the other islands except Poni.

Their tour took them through the mansion’s grand gardens, which included a spacious, verdant field of grass, a hedge maze, and a marble Dewgong fountain in front of the mansion’s front steps. They could not actually enter the mansion, since it was an active residence. Instead, Wicke simply described what was inside, but even that was still enough to impress Reimu, since it included four bedrooms, four baths, a ballroom, a fully-staffed kitchen and a grand dining room. It couldn’t hold a candle to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, but it was still nothing to sneeze at, particularly since it was just one part of a very large place in the middle of the ocean.

“Now that I have showed you the mansion and gardens, I’ll take you up to the conservation habitat,” Wicke told the two. She led them back toward the main building, onto an elevator, and up into the glass-domed terrarium.

As they arrived up to the floor, Reimu looked around, and whistled. The glass ceiling above was so clear, it was almost as if it weren’t there. But even more striking than that was what amounted to a full zoo, something Sanae had described to her once. Animals confined to cages for people to gawk at? The concept seemed strange and cruel. But here she was, looking out at pens crisscrossed with walkways and bridges, housing Pokemon in miniature habitats designed to mimic where they could be found wild: for example, Gumshoos in tall grass, or Alolan Geodude in areas surrounded by magnetic rock.

“This is our conservation garden,” Wicke explained. “This is where we house injured or abused Pokemon until they are well enough to be given to a new trainer or released back into the wild.” She peeked over her glasses. “Now, before you get any ideas, this facility has a special signal broadcast through it that jams empty Poke Balls, so you can’t catch any Pokemon that you see here. But you are free to observe them.” She looked over to the far side of the garden. “The president is currently over there. I’m sure she would love to speak with you, Reimu.” With that, Wicke turned to walk over to where Lusamine was.

Hau wandered off to look at all the different Pokemon that were there. Reimu, on the other hand, was unsure what to think. She really wasn’t sure why she was here; she would much rather head off to find more clues on how to get back home, or even just press on with her Island Challenge. Still, she knew it would be rude to just leave here after being invited, so she decided to hang around and check out the conservation area herself.

Of course, the place was crawling with tourists, many with their Pokemon out, so it was quite crowded and difficult to move around. So she diverted to less crowded walkways near the edges, while still making her way to the president that Wicke mentioned.

Rotom popped out of her bag. “Bzzrt! There’s lotz of Pokemon here that I need to record! Don’t mind if I do?”

“...sure,” Reimu answered.

“Thankz, Roto-R!” it chirped. Rotom had come up with all sorts of wacky nicknames for her. She had been told that Rotom often do this, but that didn’t make it less annoying given her prior experiences with annoying freeloaders. So Rotom hovered behind her, analyzing every other Pokemon that she passed and recording entries. Reimu herself checked out some of the Pokemon in their habitats. Most of them were native to Alola, but some were non-native Pokemon brought in by the authorities, all confiscated from abusers and criminals. It was a stark reminder that even with this world’s squeaky-clean appearance, there was still a dark underbelly of seediness and crime. At the same time, though, seeing all these Aether employees gently taking care of them, feeding them, singing to them and checking for health reminded her that even with that underbelly, there were still plenty of good people doing good things. That said, it did seem odd seeing creatures like Muk, which was a literal pile of sludge, receiving the same level of TLC that “cute” critters like Pichu and Fennekin all got. As for Pokemon like Gardevoir or Machamp getting that treatment… she shrugged and shook her head before moving on.

 

And she still could not get over that Skitty and Wailord.

 

As she was walking along, one Aether employee caring for a Miltank noticed her and waved her down.

“Oy!” she called out. “You’re Reimu, aren’t you?”

“Uh, yeah?” Reimu said.

The Aether employee climbed out of the pen and got out to meet her face-to-face. “Nice to meet you! I’m Matilda. Obviously, I work here, and I take care of injured Pokemon.”

“Mil-mil!” Miltank cried.

Reimu bowed and then gave the Alolan greeting. “Well, Alola, I guess!” she said sheepishly. She then knelt over to pat the Miltank on the head.

“I see Miltank likes you,” Matilda commented.

“I get that a lot,” Reimu said. “They all seem to like me.”

“That must mean you’re a good person at heart,” Matilda smiled. “Pokemon can always tell when a person is good. Your Pokemon must be fortunate to be trained by you.”

Reimu looked aside. “Well, I mean Sasha gave me noogies last night, and I have this Eevee-”

In a flash, Sanae popped out on top of Reimu’s cap.

“Vee-vee?”

Reimu blushed. “Well, I suppose I don’t have to say much more, do I?”

Matilda had stars in her eyes. “She’s soooooo cute! Can I pet her?!”

“Sure, go ahead,” Reimu told her. So Matilda scratched Sanae behind the ears, much to her delight.

“Careful, she might tear your hand off,” Reimu snarked. “She’s pretty feisty.” But that didn’t stop Matilda from fluffing up Sanae’s cheeks and tail.

“Sorry,” Matilda said backing away. “I just love Eevees. I used to have the sweetest one in the world, but then he evolved into an edgy Umbreon. Still love him, though.”

“I’ve heard Eevee evolve into many things,” Reimu said.

“They sure do,” Matilda replied, “all colors of the rainbow. And what they evolve into depends on how you care for them. You can give them special stones to evolve them into Flareon, Vaporeon, Jolteon, Leafeon or Glaceon. Or, if you love them enough, they evolve into Espeon or Umbreon. And if you really love them, they evolve into Sylveon.”

“Seems like a lot,” Reimu remarked. “Any other?”

“There’s a few oddball ones that they recently found out about,” Matilda replied, “and I don’t agree with all of them. Someone figured out that trading one with a Metal Coat causes them to evolve into a soulless robot, Metallion. Put them under heat and pressure, and the poor thing evolves into Litheon, which is like a rock-shaped Eevee covered in diamonds. Others are a little better, though: they can also evolve into a flying Aerilion, although no one really knows what causes that. It could also evolve into a Vespion, although again no one really knows what causes that and they look really creepy, in my opinion.”

Reimu was intrigued. “That’s interesting. Are there any here that I can see?”

Matilda shook her head. “Sadly, not right now. We don’t have any, although I guess that’s a good thing. All the Pokemon here were either found or brought in, all sick or hurt. Some are wild Pokemon that got away from predators by the skin of their teeth, and some are endangered so we breed them here. But many were abused by their trainers, and so were taken away and given to us.” She looked over to the Miltank, who turned around; you could clearly see bruises and scars from whipping.

Seeing that broke Reimu’s heart.

“...I see,” Reimu said in partial disbelief, her jaw agape.

“I started working here after I brought in a Bounsweet left in a mailbox. Poor thing was near death, but I worked hard to give her strength back and watch her grow. After she eventually grew into a Tsareena, a trainer came by and adopted her. Last I heard, that trainer beat Iris in Unova with her.” She paused for a moment. “So yeah, she went from almost dying too young to becoming a Hall of Famer, all because of our hard work.”

All of a sudden, Miltank came up to Reimu with a bottle of milk, and offered it to her.

“Oh?” Matilda remarked. “I guess Miltank wants to give you something!”

After insisting that Reimu take it, Reimu relented and took the bottle of milk from her, and put it in her bag.

“Miltank are always producing milk, so you have to keep bottles around to hold it all. But that’s okay, because it’s so good and sells very well.” Reimu could tell, because it seemed she couldn’t pass a Miltank without having to accept a bottle from them, not that Sasha minded it at all since he absolutely loved the stuff.

“Well, keep up the good work, I suppose,” Reimu smiled.

“Thanks,” Matilda said back. And with that, Reimu waved and continued to make her way to the president.

 


 

She found the president at the far side of the area, talking to a man with white hair and lime green glasses. As she stepped up, Sanae ran up to the president’s legs and began sniffing them.

“Ah!” She turned around, startled by the Eevee at her feet. It was then that she also noticed Reimu, who rushed over to pick Sanae up.

“I’m so sorry, ma’am!” she exclaimed. “She’s a bit of a handful.” She picked up Sanae, who just melded into her arms.

The president laughed. “She’s certainly full of energy.” She then fixed her posture. “I assume you must be Reimu?”

“That would be me,” Reimu replied.

The president smiled. “Nice to meet you. My name is Lusamine Aether, and I’m the president of the Aether Foundation.”

You’re the president? Reimu thought. She had a very outlandish appearance, with the first thing catching Reimu’s attention was her large, long platinum hair conditioned into a dome, almost reaching the floor. But she was also taken by her breathtaking beauty, her piercing emerald eyes, and the large and sharp cut gem brooch on her chest.

“I… you seem young for being the president,” Reimu blurted out without thinking.

Lusamine chuckled. “Ohoho, I get that a lot. I’m actually 43!”

Reimu face-faulted. 43?! She looked really good for 43, to the point where she could mistake her for a non-aging youkai like Yukari.

Getting back up, Reimu apologized. “I’m sorry, I’m not acting properly, am I?”

“Oh no, you’re fine,” Lusamine smiled. “If I fell through a wormhole, I’d probably be a bit mixed-up too.”

The man behind Lusamine stepped up. “Honor to meet you,” he said, introducing himself. “I am Faba. I’m the branch chief here at the Foundation.”

“Nice glasses,” Reimu snarked. Faba didn’t respond to that.

It was then that Wicke and Hau walked up to them, Hau having finished his tour of the conservation floor. “Ah,” Wicke remarked, “I see our guest has met the president herself.”

“I suppose I should be honored to meet her, not the other way around,” Lusamine commented. “It’s not every day you see someone fall out of an Ultra Wormhole. And I trust you take very good care of your Pokemon?”

Reimu glanced at her. “Well, you saw Sanae, right? And I guess everyone else on my team thinks I’m all that and a bag of chips, especially Sasha.” Speaking of Sasha, she let him out of his ball, and he announced his presence by beating his chest, roaring, and then chewing the scenery.

“Impressive,” Lusamine remarked. “You only got your starter a little over a week ago and he’s already a mighty Incineroar.”

“Well, I do expect a lot from them,” Reimu told her. “Where I’m from, I’m an accomplished battler myself, and have to put down a lot of incidents. But I guess they expect a lot from me too, and I give them the care and attention they need.”

“They know you’re a strong and responsible trainer,” Lusamine said praising her. “I wish I could say the same of all trainers.” She paced around a bit. “When I was a little girl, my father let me wander this conservation floor, and I saw all the examples of Pokemon being brutalized by uncaring and callous people. You may not know them, but there are many evil organizations that abuse Pokemon for profit, such as Team Rocket and… Cipher,” she said hesitantly. “Some of the Pokemon you see here used to be Shadow Pokemon, which were all twisted by cruel scientists into mindless killing machines, but the efforts of a few good people shut them down and freed them all. Now, however, we at the Foundation focus on that gang, Team Skull. I’m sure you know them?”

“Team Skull?” Reimu asked. “I thought all they did was dance badly and makes fools of themselves.”

“Well, their dancing does suck,” Faba snidely confided.

Lusamine shook her head. “You must not have ever run into them harassing Pokemon.”

“I heard they tried to dance on the Mantines, does that count?” Reimu asked.

This isn’t getting us anywhere, Lusamine thought. “I suppose,” Lusamine conceded. “But they also routinely harass Slowpokes for their tails. Slowpoke tails are a delicacy, and they try to chop them off and sell them for drug money. They might grow back, but it’s still inhumane, won’t you agree?”

I guess, Reimu thought, even though poaching Slowpoke tails was a misdemeanor compared to trying to invert the barrier (Seija) or levelling the shrine (Tenshi).

“I guess we can’t be having that,” Reimu replied.

“I’m glad you agree,” Lusamine said. “That’s why we helped set up a Slowpoke reserve next to the Ula’Ula beach spot, and that’s why we help spot their activities across the islands to make sure they’re not bothering any Pokemon.”

“Slow?”

Everyone turned around to face Faba, who had, on cue, sent out his Slowpoke. The Dopey Pokemon just stared blankly forward, probably unaware of where it was or even who its trainer was.

“She’s a beaut, isn’t she?” Faba said petting Slowpoke. “I saved her from some Team Skull grunts the other day. Absolutely beautiful.”

Reimu wasn’t sure she would describe it as “beautiful” given its wide eyes, empty smile, and if it weren’t breathing she could swear it wasn’t even moving. She crouched down to its level and looked it in the eyes, although she was unsure what she was trying to accomplish by doing so, since it was like she was staring into an abyss, and the abyss was staring back… and it was stupid as hell, too. It took a few moments for Slowpoke to register that Reimu was even there, at which point she held out a Poke Bean for it to eat. Except it just started at the bean, absolutely bewildered as to what this sweet-smelling thing in front of it was or what it was supposed to do with it. It took a minute for it to register the bean as food, after which it gently took it from Reimu’s hand and begun to chew on it. How this thing managed to evolve and survive was a mystery to Reimu, since with an intellect with that it was lucky a Sharpedo or something didn’t try to -

 

*flicker*

 

Suddenly, there was a flicker in reality, and Reimu jolted up from the Slowpoke.

“What the heck was that?!” Hau exclaimed while tense. Everyone looked around, their arms tensed up and nervous. Sasha’s first instinct was to get in front of his trainer and try to protect her with his arm while doing his best to look intimidating.

The flicker came again, this one longer than the first. Everything fell deathly silent, as apprehension gripped everyone. Then, the silence was slowly broken as an electronic hum began to fill the air.

A hum just like the one that preceded the wormhole above Gensokyo ripping itself open, Reimu realized.

And just like that, an Ultra Wormhole blew itself open, causing everyone to stagger back before looking at it with absolute dread. Employees stopped what they were doing and stared at it with a mixture of confusion and horror, while Reimu stayed absolutely silent.

And it just floated in the air for many moments, seemingly doing nothing while Reimu, Hau and everyone else stood there staring it down. Only after moments had passed did someone say something.

“Look!” Hau said pointing at the wormhole. “Something’s coming out!” At first, Reimu didn’t see anything, but she soon made out an outline that was refracting the light inside the wormhole. As it emerged, it revealed itself as a glassy creature resembling a jellyfish - just like the one Reimu had seen while travelling through the wormhole.

The creature emerged from the wormhole, and everyone was frozen in place. No one dared to speak, afraid that they might agitate it. Reimu, the closest person to it, stepped back slightly, wide-eyed. What was this thing? she wondered. Up to this point, she was convinced that what she saw in the wormhole was some sort of hallucination or dream, given the dreamlike feel of the experience, but being faced with the creature again made it clear: this was real.

The creature began to drift around slightly, seemingly without caring about anyone or anything around it, flickering occasionally as well. That was when it vocalized for the first time.

“Venonihl…” It made the same haunting cry it made in the wormhole. A sense of dread built up in Reimu’s stomach. Then, it flickered and suddenly drifted forward quickly, toward Reimu.

 


 

“Mama…”

“Your mother can’t take care of you anymore, little Reimu.”

“Mama… (sniffle)”

“I will take care of you as best I can.”

 

“Master?”

“Yes, Ran?”

“I haven’t been able to locate the figure that mortally injured Katsura.”

“That’s not important right now. We need to look after this little one, and raise her into a strong shrine maiden.”

“But she is too young. And can we really take care of a human child?”

“She is the only Hakurei Shrine Maiden now. We must look after her as best we can.”

“Mama…”

 

“GAH!” Reimu gasped. She looked up, and saw the creature in the air above them. She wasn’t too sure what had just happened… this situation was getting weird.

For some reason, she felt compelled to reach up to it… but her arm felt stiff, as if it were moving in slow motion, and she barely had feeling in it. Running forward had the same effect. She wanted to speak, but found herself unable to. She could also sense Sasha was not there, and upon looking around, saw numerous shadow figures standing around her, and she became very afraid. What was going on? She didn’t understand.

She saw all the figures converge right in front of her, before forming into a solid black mass of prisms with huge, black claws… Necrozma. When it called out, it sounded like a mangled banshee, a haunting cry that even turned the sky blood-red. Necrozma reached up, grabbed the strange creature, and shattered it into glass shards between its claws. It then cried out again, before winding up and punching Reimu right into the wide open wormhole behind her, all while Reimu screamed in slow-motion.

 


 

“Reimu… REIMU!!!!” Hau shook Reimu awake.

“...mmmh?” Reimu opened her eyes. She hadn’t realized she had collapsed onto the floor and passed out. Aching, she got up, rubbed the back of her head, and fixed herself up.

“What happened?” Reimu asked.

“It seems that that creature somehow knocked you out when it lunged at you,” Lusamine said. “Your Incineroar then instantly grabbed it and pummeled it, and flung it back through the wormhole, after which it closed.”

Reimu looked behind her, and indeed, the wormhole was gone.

“How long was I out?” she asked.

“Just a few minutes,” Hau said, “but man, they felt like forever! You alright?!”

Reimu shook her head, then shook her arms. A chill ran up her spine, but after that, she said, “yeah, I’m fine. I just need a cup of tea.”

“Certainly,” Wicke bowed. “We have our own tea bar down on the first floor.” So she led the two downstairs.

 

Lusamine looked at where the wormhole had been, before Faba came up to her.

“So, what do you think?” he asked.

It took Lusamine a while to respond. “It’s possible.”

“What’s possible?” Faba asked peeking over his glasses.

“I know they’re out there. They just have to be. My lost daughter, my beloved husband. And those creatures, those Nihilego… it was just as the research indicated. My proof that they’re out there, if these creatures also come from beyond the wormhole.” She clenched her fist. “I WILL bring my family back together, and nothing is going to stop me.”

“That Reimu girl… she’s shielding Lillie.”

“Don’t tell me what I already know,” Lusamine hissed, as Faba recoiled. “She ran off with Cosmog without even thinking what all that research means for our family. And Gladion… running off with the Type: Null that we designed to defend against the Ultra Beasts, the tools we need to find them again. How could they be so callous? Especially Gladion, he saw it happen, even if he was just a child.”

“But the visitor scan showed Reimu had a Cosmog as well. Why didn’t we seize it?” Faba asked.

“Forget it,” Lusamine quipped. “Reimu might be new to Pokemon battling, but it’s clear she has years of fighting experience and blood on her fists. And she’s empowering Lillie, too; we wouldn’t be able to tear Cosmogs off either of them by force.”

“So, what should we do?”

Lusamine looked down, then up at Faba again. “We have to seperate Cosmog from them some other way.” She thought for a moment, before a wicked grin spread across her face. “I have the perfect idea. Lillie is getting stronger, but I’m sure she’s still insecure around Team Skull.” She whispered something in Faba’s ear.

“You think that will work?” he asked.

“I’m certain of it.”

Faba hesitated for a bit, before saying, “...alright. I’ll tell them immediately, Ms. President.” He nervously walked away toward the elevator.

Meanwhile, his Slowpoke was still unaware of what all had happened.

 


 

Reimu was still recovering from her experience when Wicke walked her and Hau down to the ferry dock. There, a boat bound for Ula’Ula Island was waiting, happily accepting passengers.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” she asked tenderly. “That looked very traumatic.”

“I’m fine,” Reimu insisted. In reality, she was still trying to wrap her head around the hallucinations, the bad memories of her mother’s death, and Necrozma falcon-punching her into the wormhole, and what it was all supposed to mean, but she tried her hardest to bury it. Sanae, of course, could tell her master was unwell, but couldn’t do much except brood and wag her tail low from her perch atop Reimu’s head.

“...well, alright, but before you go, I would like to give you both something.” She reached into her bag, and gave a stack of malasadas to Hau.

“Wow, thanks!” he exclaimed. Wicke bowed, and then she gave Reimu a CD case, which turned out to be TM29 Psychic.

“I have one more thing,” she said. She produced a pair of Aether Foundation sweatshirts. “It’s a bit… cold on Ula’Ula, so you’ll probably want these.” Neither was sure how to take wearing sweatshirts in a tropical paradise, but they accepted them anyway. Afterward, they boarded the ferry bound for Malie City, and Wicke waved them off with a smile.

After the boat left, she walked back toward the main building, except she walked over to a little-used alcove near one of the desalination pumps, and after making sure no one was near, pulled out a radio and turned to a specific frequency.

“Three. Five. Nine. Three. Five. Nine. Seven. Two. Four,” she recited.

“Yes?” another voice responded.

“Keter.”

“...copy that. Will dispatch them immediately.”

“Roger.” She put the radio away, and went about her normal business.

Chapter Text

The view from the ferry was not as breathtaking as the view from the sky, or as exhilarating as the one from the back of a Mantine, but it was beautiful nonetheless. From her seat, Reimu could see the islands rise above the cerulean, shining waters of the ocean, each blanketed in the green of trees and whose peaks rose into the heavens like monoliths.

But the island they were heade