Ash and Kukui made their way home in complete silence. Ash was likely just lost in his own thoughts. Too busy thinking about the new adventure that he had just begun to make casual small talk. As for Kukui, he too was just thinking as they walked, though he wasn’t nearly as excited as Ash was. Kukui’s thoughts were far more nervous and desperate.
What on Earth was he supposed to do with this kid?
Kukui wasn’t used to feeling unsure around children. He loved kids. Even though professionally he was a pokémon professor, he prefered to spend all of his time at the pokémon school. Kukui got a thrill out of discovering something new about pokémon, something that nobody else had known before, but that thrill was so much better when he had the opportunity to share his findings with his class.
Children were always so energetic and eager about everything. Most children had so much love for their pokémon partners, and so much excitement for discovering new things about the world around them. It was why he insisted that the children be allowed to have their pokémon with them during class. Their energy was so contagious, how could Kukui not enjoy being around children?
As fond as Kukui was of children, he had never been completely responsible for one. He could teach a class full of them without any problem. He could even watch over the kids for a few days if they went on an extended field trip somewhere, though he usually had another chaperone with him during those times.
Kukui had never had a child actually come and live with him though. It was a brand new experience, and Kukui didn’t know if he was ready for it.
But what else could he have done? If somebody was interested in going to the pokémon school, then Kukui did anything that he could to make it happen. When Kiawe had first shown interest in going to the pokémon school, it had taken a lot of work to make it happen. At the time, all of the students lived on Melemele island. The easiest solution was for them to find a host family on Melemele for Kiawe to live with while he went to school. The boy hadn’t been too keen on this idea.
Kukui had been the one to suggest that Kiawe make the journey from Akala Island to Melemele Island every day for school. He knew that Kiawe regularly made deliveries to other islands, so it wasn’t beyond his capabilities. It took some extra effort on the boy’s part, but Kukui knew that Kiawe didn’t mind it at all if it meant that he got to go to pokémon school on Melemele and stay with his family Akala Island.
Ash couldn’t do that though. His home was all the way in Kanto. He couldn’t exactly commute to Melemele Island every day the way that Kiawe did. For Ash to be able to go to the pokémon school, he had to be in Alola.
Kukui had immediately volunteered to take Ash in so he could go to school. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like for a kid as young as Ash was to be living away from his home and not know anybody. The very least that Kukui could do was to give Ash a place to stay so that the boy would at least know his guardian. Kukui had thought that it would help make Ash more comfortable staying so far away from home.
Kukui didn’t regret his decision, he just didn’t know where to go from this point. There were days where Kukui forgot to take care of himself, and now he had volunteered to take on a kid as well? What if he didn’t do a good enough job taking care of Ash? What if he went too far and started behaving more like a parent than he had any right to do? How was he supposed to do this?
“Hey, Professor Kukui?” Ash asked. The pokémon professor turned and looked down towards Ash. The boy was beaming eagerly at him, and Kukui found himself returning the smile. He had always found it hard to not grin when he saw a happy child. “Thanks for letting me stay with you. I’m so excited to go to pokémon school!”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Kukui grinned. His favorite students were always the ones who were the most eager to learn. “I don’t think I’ve met somebody as excited to go to school as you.” Even Kiawe, who had been eager to go to the pokémon school, had been more subdued in his excitement.
“It’s a pokémon school.” Ash specified. “Who wouldn’t be excited to learn about and play with pokémon every day?”
Kukui laughed. “My sentiments exactly.” All of Kukui’s students were fond of pokémon, but most of them had a specific type that really excited them. Maybe it was too early to tell, but Kukui thought that it was pretty safe to say that Ash was just excited about pokémon in general, no matter what type they were. “You really like pokémon, don’t you?”
“I love them.” Ash pumped his first, his eyes gleaming in excitement. “I want to meet all the pokémon. And someday, I’m going to become the pokémon master.”
“Go big or go home, right?” Kukui raised an amused eyebrow. Ash clearly had big dreams. They were somewhat vague, and Kukui didn’t know what Ash thought that he meant when he said ‘pokémon master’, but he obviously wasn’t thinking small.
“Right.” Ash nodded. “I figured out a long time ago that I won’t get very far if I just stayed in Kanto, so I’ve been going to all kinds of different regions. I’ve met so many amazing people and pokémon. Everywhere I go I find different ways that trainers and pokémon get stronger, and I want to master all of it.”
He was an eager child, that was for sure. “You’ve been to other regions?” Kukui was a little caught off guard by that. He had heard that Ash’s mother rarely ever left her home in Pallet Town, which meant that if Ash had explored other regions, he had done it without her. Ash was still just a child, but he had already been on a number of adventures on his own. Kukui knew that this was a fairly common occurrence in Kanto and the other regions on the mainland, but it was just so different from the way that things were done in Alola.
On the islands, children could still get a pokémon partner when they turned ten, but it was extremely uncommon for a child to begin their actual journey away from home at their age. Most children stayed close to their family and home for at least a few more years before they went to explore other parts of the world. Kiawe was probably the only one of Kukui’s students who was anywhere near the age that a child usually felt comfortable going off on their own, and as far as Kukui had heard, Kiawe had no such plans. The boy was content training on his own while he went to pokémon school and assisted his family on their farm.
“Yeah, a whole bunch of them.” Ash said it as though it was completely normal for a child to explore various different regions. From what Kukui had heard, many people, even adults, didn’t venture far from their home region. Ash was definitely going the extra mile. “I’ve competed in all of the gym challenges and pokémon leagues. I haven’t beaten a league yet, but I’ve gotten so close.”
Kukui frowned. “You know that Alola doesn’t have a pokémon league, right?”
“I know.” Ash nodded, and he seemed perfectly content with the knowledge.
“So why did you want to stay here?” Kukui asked. He would have thought that Ash would want to take on another league.
“Because Alola is incredible!” Ash said enthusiastically. “There are so many pokémon that I’ve never seen before. And everybody seems so nice.”
“That’s the Alola spirit.” Kukui explained with a grin. “Everybody here tries to treat each other like family.”
“That’s awesome.” Ash looked out towards the ocean where they could see the sun beginning to set in the horizon. The sky and the ocean, which seemed to go on forever, glowed in an orange light from the sun’s final rays. It was really a beautiful sight. “This place is amazing.” Ash’s voice was quieter, and full of awe.
“Yes,” Kukui smiled contently. “It really is.” The two of them watched the sun set as they walked. They didn’t talk. They just took in the view. A few minutes later, when the sun was just barely peeking over the horizon, they got to Kukui’s house.
Ash turned his eyes away from the ocean to look towards Kukui’s beach house. “Whoa, you live right next to the ocean.”
“Yep,” Kukui nodded. “It’s a little far from the town, but the views just can’t be beat.” And Kukui liked his solitude. He didn’t live so far from the town that he didn’t feel like he was a part of it, but he was able to get some peace and quiet. It came in handy when he wanted to work on his personal studies on pokémon.
Kukui lead the way onto the porch. “Welcome to your temporary home.” He opened the door. Rockruff came bounding out the door, barking excitedly. Rockruff ran around Kukui’s legs for a few moments before he caught sight of Ash and decided to introduce himself to his new friend.
Ash laughed and crouched down so he could pet Rockruff. Not that Rockruff was willing to hold still long enough to be pet properly, but Ash didn’t seem to mind at all. “He’s so friendly.”
“Rockruff likes making new friends.” Kukui said. Rockruff actually got excited about everything, but especially when it was somebody else that he could play with. “I hope you don’t mind my housemate.” Kukui seriously doubted that the excited boy would be all that bothered by the excited pokémon, but he just wanted to be sure.
“I don’t mind.” Ash said. He somehow got a grip on Rockruff before he could run circles around him again and was able to pick him up. Rockruff, who really liked to be held, calmed down when he was in Ash’s arms. Rockruff licked at Ash’s face and barked happily. Ash smiled and ruffled his fur. The two of them really seemed to be getting along well.
“Why don’t you two come play inside?” Kukui suggested. “It’s getting dark out, and I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry.”
“I could eat!” Ash said quickly as he dashed inside. He was excited for food. Kukui remembered how he had been much the same when he had been that age. It seemed that he had always been hungry. Kukui made a mental note to keep a better eye on how much food he had. Ash was still a growing boy, and it wouldn’t be very good for him if there wasn’t food around when he needed it.
There was actually a number of things that Kukui would have to be more on top of now that Ash was staying with him. No more losing track of time and staying up all night, because that certainly wouldn’t set a very good example for Ash. No more putting off chores until the very last minute. Kukui had a kid that he needed to keep an eye on now. He had to be more responsible.
It would take some time for him to adjust to having somebody else around. And now that Kukui thought about it, Ash would have to make some adjustments of his own, considering he’d been traveling around, without stable living conditions for awhile now.
It wasn’t anything that the two of them couldn’t handle though. It would be a new experience, but as far as Kukui was concerned, another word for’ new experience’ was ‘adventure’. Kukui had never been the kind of person who shied away from adventure, and he knew that Ash wasn’t either.