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Destruction In The Form of Love

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You were kept out of the loop while away at university from what's going on back at home in Hoenn, working hard to earning your degree through cheap coffee packets and tear-stained thesis papers. When your Mom had uploaded a series of photos on Pikachat of the annual Pokeblock making party the Berry Master hosts every month at the Pretty Petal flower shop near Rustboro city, you had spent a good ten minutes searching for your best friend’s smiling face in the crowd.

 

You see her parents, but you don’t see Sal.

 

Sal would never miss out on making the weirdest flavors and making her Zangoose eat them. It’s basically tradition.

 

You shoved your notes away and called up your Mom, asking her about the party, more specifically, why Sal hadn’t been there.

 

And that’s when you found out what happened a year ago. A few months after you had left for Kalos. Your best friend ran away without warning. Left behind her family. And you. No note. Nothing.

 

You didn’t believe them.

 

You didn’t want to believe them.

 

You hung up on your Mom and called Sal’s number so many times. You heard the same thing every time.

 

NUMBER NOT IN SERVICE.

 

NUMBER NOT IN SERVICE.

 

NUMBER NOT IN SERVICE.

 

NUMBER NOT IN SERVICE.

 

You cried so hard, you almost threw up.

 

You’re so horrible. When was the last time you called her for a long conversation? Why didn’t you come visit for the holidays? Why didn’t you ask her if anything was wrong?

 

Why didn’t you do this…? Why didn’t you do that...?

 

You wiped your tears away with the back of your sleeve and stared at your phone for the longest of times. Is she safe? Is she eating? Does she have a warm bed? A roof over her head? Why didn’t she leave a note?

 

Because you’re a horrible friend, that’s what.


But even so.

 

You didn’t bother attending your next class. You got on your laptop, and dropped out of all your classes, and called the lab you had been interning that you were leaving the university for an emergency. You tidied up and left a note, explaining that you needed to find Sal. Everyone didn’t have to understand. Her parents didn’t care enough to file a missing person report for her. You immediately wanted to call the police and report her missing but decided against it. She’s not kidnapped. She ran away.

 

And she ran away for a reason.

 

You folded a few outfits, essentials, laptop, passport, and your bank book into your sturdy backpack and ran off into the world.

 

.

.

.

 

You’ve traveled region to region, from Kanto to Johto to all the way to Unova, waving a glossy photo in the faces of strangers and trainers alike. It’s been probably a year or two, and your journey flashes before your eyes. You barely remember the people you met, the places you been to, and the battles that have been both won and lost.

 

Everything just flashes by. And sometimes you wonder if your endeavors hold any merit.

 

You’d hold back the tears, hold your head up high, and keep walking down the road to the next town.

 

Your search is nearly fruitless until one day as you’re sitting down to rest your weary legs somewhere in Sinnoh, and you receive a phone call from a number you don’t recognize.

 

It’s your missing friend, and you can barely hear her, but she doesn’t stay on the line for long. She apologizes. Wished she left a letter for you. There’s a lot of things she wants to say, but she’s pressed for time since the power would soon leave the town. You can barely get a word in until she tells you goodbye and hangs up on you.

 

And that would have been it...

 

...Until you looked up the number. A simple search on the internet from the phone number she called from gave you the location that you needed.

 

To your discovery, it turns out that the call came from Alola.

 

Specifically, from a place called Po Town.

 

Alola. Of course. The archipelago so far away that even Kanto, the nearest region, would take at least a good 14 hours to reach. You berate yourself for not thinking of searching there first. Heck, the next region you were planning to search in had been the Galar region.

 

So you bought a ticket immediately with the remainder of your dwindling funds and set off for your next destination.

 

Alola.

 

.

.

.

 

“Arriving at Hau’oli City of Melemele Island. Please remain seated until arrival.”

 

You nearly jumped out of your seat at the smooth voice of the woman from the intercom. You take a second to gather your bearings, wiping the drool from your mouth. Ugh, drool? Seriously?

 

There’s an unfinished bag of dry peanuts and water by the small table on the tray table in front of you. You don’t have an appetite to finish them now, but maybe later, so you’re shoving them into your bag.

 

You shift in your seat. Again. And then again. Slowly, you’re aware of how sore your behind is, from sitting for hours. The cheapest and fastest tickets had been a flight from Sinnoh to Kanto, then a layover where the passengers are transferred from the sky to the sea of this ship that didn’t even have beds provided as most ships had.

 

Quantity over quality. Speed over comfort. Best to get over it.

 

You rest your backpack on your lap, your bag has seen better days, and wait for the ship to arrive at Melemele’s dock. Twenty minutes pass, and you’re moving along with the small crowd of passengers to get off of the ship. There’s an old man who looks sick, and a young woman barely on her feet from exhaustion. There’s a little boy who filled the barf bag the ship provided with all the candy the stewardess gave him.

 

You kind of wished you were a child again, so you could get spoiled with candy.

 

The second you stepped through the door and into the terminal with the other passengers, the tourist agents swooped in like vultures. They waved fancy brochures and offering tour guide rates at affordable prices. Everyone seemed interested.

 

Everyone but you.

 

You shrugged on your backpack, stepping over to this huge map by the chairs. It had all four major islands of the Alola region. There’s a magazine rack nearby with a bunch of free maps. You take one, open it and tried searching for Po Town. You stare in concentration, a finger dangling over your upper lip.

 

There’s a tiny little red dot on Ula’ula island that said Po Town.

 

Bingo.

 

Snapping your fingers, you immediately spin on your heel and head towards the ferry ticket lady.

 

“Alola~,” she greets as she gives you a smile. You blink before awkwardly greeting her back in their Alolan customs.

 

“A...Alola,” you try to match her hand movements, and she seems to approve. Releasing the pent up breath that you didn’t realize you had, your focus your eyes on the price of the ferry.

 

Free for trial goers. Six dollars for regular patrons, you read on the sign. You’re not sure what a trial goer is, so that means you don’t qualify for it. You’re already reaching for your wallet and held out the six crisp dollars to the ticket lady.

 

“Could I get a ticket to the next ferry for Ula’ula,” you say as the lady holds out the money tray. You drop the money in there and she goes to cash it in.

 

“Of course. That will be six dollars. And you paid six dollars exactly,” she professionally punches in some numbers at the register and the little printer machine spits out a ticket. She places that paper on the now empty money tray, along with your receipt, and holds it out for you, “The next ferry arrives in half an hour. Please take a seat and we’ll have an announcement for Ula’ula island. Thank you for your patronage.”

 

So professional.

 

You thank her and get your ticket and receipt, already taking a seat at the chairs available. Your leg starts bouncing in anticipation as you keep your eyes on the clock.

 

You’re...antsy.

 

What if Sal isn’t there? What if she already moved on? She’s alive! You’re happy about that, of course. But what if -

 

What if Sal doesn’t want to see you? What if this was all for nothing and she hates you for tracking her down?

 

...I won’t know until I’m there, you think as you wait for the ferry. A few tourists and citizens are coming up to the ticket lady to buy theirs. You slouch in your seat, Even if I’m being selfish, I just want to know if she’s okay. If she’s happier here.

 

You just want her to know that you were always thinking of her. You just regret letting other things take priority. It will always haunt you.

 

When the announcement came for the boarding of the ferry to Ula’ula island, you stood up and trudged towards the gates.

 

.

.

.

 

The rain came out of nowhere.

 

It’s not windy, so you don’t have to worry about your umbrella flying away. But the rainfall is so heavy that you’re cursing to yourself for not buying rain boots as you carefully walk through the heavy mud. Low heeled boots aren’t made for walking in slippery muck.

 

You’re having a hard time holding both the umbrella and the map as you walk down the muddy road. According to this really wet map, following this path should take you straight to Po Town. You can even see the walls from where you’re at. You’re tempted to bring out your Vulpix to use its Drought hidden ability to change the weather, but the little guy might throw a tantrum at being exposed to the elements. It’s fine. You can deal with a little rain -

 

“Girl, what is wrong with you? It’s raining Meowth and Lillipup out here.”

 

You turn around, pinning the map to your chest to prevent any more of the rain soaking the damp papers, to see an older man with tired eyes and wearing sandals. He doesn’t have an umbrella with him, as if this heavy rain doesn’t bother him. Or if he even cares about it.


“What’s wrong with you? You’re going to catch a cold in this rain!” You snap as he shrugs and walks up to your side. He’s wearing sandals for Arceus sake!

 

“Forgot my umbrella,” he says before noticing your soggy map. This mystery man seemed to have a good idea of where you were going and sighed, “what a pain… Follow me.”

 

He continues toward up the path, the same direction you’re going, so you follow him. It’s when you’re only a good way’s to go toward Po Town that you come across a police station. He heads right for it, glancing back at you.

 

“Come on in. Watch where you sit.”

 

The man unlocks the door and goes in. You look at the police station, then towards the walls of Po Town. You’re tempted to just keep going, but you could take the chance to get rid of this rain with the help of Vulpix.

 

You go in, and you see many grey-furred Meowth lazily lounging around the work station. One is curled by the window and opens an eye to look at you, before going back to sleep. Only the Persian, and the only one with a beautiful grey coat, who had been curled beside the desk got up and approached you with mischievous curiosity. The old man is drying his head with a towel. You close up your umbrella and place it in the rack near the door.

 

“I wouldn’t have gone after you if you just walked on ahead. I’m not crazy enough to stop someone who wants to go into that town, guns a-blazing,” the old man grumbles as he reaches over and tosses a dry towel your way.  

 

“Thank you,” you said as you dry your face and hands. Persian slowly bumps into your legs, walking around you and purring for either pets or treats. You instinctively reach for the Poketreat bag you have, but the old man stops you.

 

“Unless you got enough for all these Meowth, then I’d suggest you don’t feed Princess.”

 

All ten heads of the Meowth look your way. You stand there awkwardly. You only had, like, four pieces left. So you don’t feet Princess. All the Meowth went back to their nap.

 

Persian grumbles at the old man’s interference, and bumps its forehead against your upper thigh. You reach out and gently curl your fingers against the top of Persian’s head. Gently scratching, you hear the grumbles turn into low purrs. Appeased, Persian nips at the towel in your hand and stalks away with it.

 

Rude, Princess.

 

The old man takes a seat and kicks off his wet sandals, already drying his feet off, “You got a death wish?”

 

“Death wish?” You repeat as the old man sighs.

 

“Listen girl, no one comes this way unless they got business with me or business in Po Town. And I know I’m not on your little errand list,” the old man huffs as he tosses the towel to the floor, “and your shoes aren't built for Alola. You’re not from around here, are you?”

 

“No. I just came here today, uh,” you look at the nameplate on his desk, “Officer Nanu…”

 

“Just Nanu is fine,” Nanu says as he drags his hand down his face, heavily sighing. He sits up in his chair and gives you this tired look, “do you even know about Team Skull, girl?”

 

Oh great, is there a Team Rocket equivalent here in Alola?

 

“I don’t, but judging from how you sound and look, it’s not good.”

 

You hate that you’re right.

 

“They’re a group of troublemaking misfits. Recently, they took over and trashed Po Town. A jungle of trash and graffiti in there. You go in there, you’re either going to become one of them or be eaten alive.”

 

Nanu did not spare any mercy. He just slapped you with the situation.

 

And you’re instantly thinking of Sal.

 

“I…”

 

Is she taken by this evil organization? Did they give her one last call and she chose you? Is she okay? Your shoulders shake, and you try to calm yourself.

 

You take a breath, shrugging off your backpack and reaching into it. You pulled out the slightly crinkled photo and held it out towards Nanu.

 

“I’m not here to fight or join anything. I’m here to find my friend. She went missing a few years ago. She called me several days ago with a number that was found in Alola. In Po Town.”

 

Nanu stares at the photo, before glancing up at you. He takes the photo and studies it. It’s you and Sal, holding ice cream bars high above your heads and grinning the world away. This was months before you left for university. You don’t have anything recent.

 

“If she went missing, then just let the police deal with it. Her family filed a missing person report, didn’t they?” Nanu asked, and you shook your head, “of course.”

 

He sounded bitter.

 

“I wanted to file a report myself, but I settled on just finding her myself.”

 

Nanu gives you a long, hard look. He sets the photo down and slides it towards you, and sits back against his chair, “sometimes, girl, things in life will always be out of our control. You either filed a report or not. That’s up to her family and you, and instead of letting the police deal with it, you just decided that looking for this missing person would be the best decision? What makes you think there isn’t a missing report on you?”

 

“I left a note.”

 

“Unless you personally gave it to them, they’ll disregard it.”

 

He’s not wrong. You didn’t make the most logical decision.

 

But it doesn’t matter anymore.

 

“...I-I know the reason she ran away. And I could have prevented it, but I was stupid and selfish. I don’t want her being dragged back to the very place she ran away from by reporting her missing to the police, but I want to know she’s safe and happy.”

 

You pointed to the window, with the walls of Po Town barely within sight.

 

“I’m so close. She’s right there.”

 

“And if she isn’t?”

 

Then it’s over.

 

You didn’t say it. You held your tongue. You sit down on the free chair in front of Nanu’s desk. Just from hanging your head, he knows you’re defeated. You know he’s right. Your last minute, reckless decisions. If you hadn’t ran off, your parents would have tried talking you out of it and doubting your thoughts like Nanu is.

 

Nanu takes a little pity on your pathetic self though.

 

“Everyone has their own reasons for doing things. I’ve got my own for doing what I do. I don’t understand yours. The Kahunas don’t understand mine. And that’s okay,” Nanu picks up the photo and holds it out to you. You lift your head and gingerly reached out to take it, “long as you don’t regret what you find inside, then I’m not gonna fight you. Go when the rain lets up a bit.”

 

You stare into the photo, the last precious piece of memory of when she smiled. Your fingers tremble as you place it into your backpack. You reach and pulled out a minimized Pokeball.

 

“Thank you,” you tell him.

 

If he’s right, and if it’s really over.

 

Then it’s really over.

 

You’ve chased after her long enough like an idiot, you supposed. As long as the people who last saw her told you that she was seen smiling.

 

That’s enough for you.

 

You clicked the button in the middle of the capsule ball, enlarging it, and sending out Vulpix. The red-furred Pokemon materialized from the red light, and once out, shook himself out and looked up at you. The Meowth and Persian don’t take any interest in Vulpix.

 

“What’s your name, girl? If you get ripped apart in there and I don’t see you after three days, I’ll set up some missing posters.”

 

You really wanted to sass him, but you take a moment to take a deep breath.

 

“(Y/N).”

 

You pick up Vulpix and put the little one in your backpack. Putting it back on, you grab your umbrella. You nor Nanu bid each other goodbye. You both probably will if you both ever see each other again. Once you open the door, you have Vulpix cast a Sunny Day and step out, closing the door behind you. You wait under the little roof at the door, waiting for the dark clouds to stop weeping their tears.

 

In a few minutes, you could see the rain let up. It’s nothing more than a drizzle. You opened your umbrella and make sure that Vulpix is protected from the rain. The second that the rain stops and the sun peeks out, Vulpix’s Drought ability will keep the sun shining until its back in its Pokeball.

 

You’re already making a mental list of what you need to do once this is all over during your walk to Po Town.

 

You need to apologize to your parents for running off. You need to return to your studies. You need to find a job and save up again.

 

But is it okay to admit you don’t want to let go?

 

Is it really okay to give up?

 

Do you really have to put away childish thoughts?

 

This is the real world, (Y/N).

 

“Mn?” The rain trickled to a stop and you held a hand out to see if it truly is over with, peering up at the sky. Slowly, but surely, the dark clouds parted and the brilliant sky blue peeked out. “I should add ‘thanking the professor for such an amazing Vulpix’ to the list, right?”

 

Vulpix yawned in response.

 

“Ay yo!”

 

You glanced back, turning around to see a young man with blue dyed hair, wearing a facemask and some street thug get up. It doesn’t take a genius to know that this is a grunt from the infamous Team Skull you heard about several minutes ago.

 

“Hello,” you greet, throwing the grunt off for a second.

 

“Uh, hello? Wait, nah, man, it ain’t time for pleasantries! What business you got with our Po squad?!” The grunt demands as he’s wildly flailing his arms in some gangster manner, “don’t dwaddle! Say somethin’ instead o’ standing there like a numbskull!”

 

Ooh, bone puns. You like that.

 

“Not to take a rain on your parade, but I just happened to shine upon some information. I’m kind of mucking around, but hopefully, you’ll … yeah, I got no more puns,” you sheepishly admit as the skull grunt takes a moment to squint at you.

 

Then he shrugs.

 

“Naw, it’s cool. Most of us ain’t good with rhymin’, so you did way better. We a bunch o’ numbskulls,” the grunt casually admits as you tilt your head at him.

 

“You already said that pun.”

 

“See, what I tell ya, lady?”

 

“How... humerus .”

 

After sharing a chuckle, he suddenly holds a hand out and makes a ‘gimme’ motion, “awright, hand over your Pokemon. This is a holdup.” You close your umbrella and hold it up threateningly at him. He instantly cowers, before looking confused, “yo, you think some girly umbrella gonna scare me? I got me a Sandalit! A-An’ she can bite real hard, yo! Ah! Ay! Put that away!”

 

Tear you apart? You’re not afraid of no Grunt, Nanu. You’re only afraid of what they’ve done to Sal. You’ve picked fights with grunts twice this boy’s age. What is he? Sixteen? Why is he a grunt?

 

“Bring out that Whatchamacallit. I don’t care!” You smack your umbrella against his shielding hands. If he rushes you, you can just punch him, or smack him harder. You have some mace in your pocket, too. He can try you if he even has the galls.

 

“Ay! I’m a minor! A minor!”

 

“You’re a grunt! The law doesn’t apply to you!”

 

“You right, but stop!”

 

The grunt is trying to grab the umbrella, but you’re already swinging it out of his grasp and now poking him hard in the stomach with the tip of it. Vulpix is groaning, probably whining that he would have rather battled than listen to this ridiculous scuffle.

 

“What the h*** is going on?!”

 

Shoes splash through the puddles and you look behind, to look at the owner of that nostalgic voice and - you know those eyes. You hold a hand up to your mouth, finding yourself overwhelmed at the sudden sight of this grunt woman that came running in, and -

 

Is that a bus stop sign?

 

She can change her hair and her clothes, but you know those eyes. You know your friend -

 

But is that a bus stop sign?

 

There’s a group of four Team Skull grunts. Two girls and two guys. The one who catches your attention the most is the grunt girl with the white mask and pixie bob cut pink hair.

 

Her chestnut brown hair is gone, and you can’t see the mole in the right corner of her mouth, but those hazel eyes with the look of realization in it - it’s all you need to run towards her.

 

“SAL!”

 

Sal’s shaky finger lifts up to her mask and she pulls it down, not believing what she’s seeing.

 

“....(Y/N)?”

 

Sal lets out a sharp gasp as you throw your arms around her and hug her tightly. Instinctively, she also throws her arms around you and squeezes back. You don’t realize these fat tears rolling down freely down your face.

 

The male grunt, the one who was being smacked around, finds himself standing around awkwardly, unsure of what to do. He scoops up the umbrella and idly spins in, flicking off the remaining raindrops and puddle water from it. The other three grunts stare at him, before staring at the reunited friends, and shrugged.

 

They’ll start asking questions once the hugs and tears are over.

Chapter Text

Heavy footsteps trudged down the creaking wooden board path above the red flowers and long grass. The soft cries from the Oricorio echo through the foggy air, making it hard to pinpoint where the Pokemon hid. Cottonee and Petilil hobble through the flowers underneath the elevated walkway. Only the familiar cry of Ariados makes Guzma smirk for a second.


Behind him, following close, is Plumeria. Sauntering by, she would offer a lingering gaze to any trainer that had the misfortune of arriving just when the leader of Team Skull and second in command was returning. Better her cold gaze than a mean, predatory glare that hungered for a victory.

 

The walk through the Ula’ula meadow had been short, and soon the two prepared themselves for running makeup and soaked clothes. When they approached Route 17, all they were greeted with is the sun and the bright blue sky instead of the usual rain.

 

Off guard for a second, Guzma places his hands on his hips and tapped his foot as he thought for a second. The place is always raining, yet it’s dry as a bone out here. The muddy ground finally gets a chance to slowly dry up under the generous sun. A sign that the rest of the way back to their base would be an easy walk.

 

Guzma pulls his phone out, turning it on and tapping through it. Plumeria watches him in question before staring up at the sky. It had certainly been raining when they had left, and it wasn’t part of their imagination due to the puddles and mud still around. Drying, but still there.

 

“Plumes.”


The bubblegum popped and Plumeria slowly rolled it back into her mouth with her tongue, humming in lazy acknowledgment.

 

“Does this look like motherf**kin’ rain to you?”

 

Guzma waves his hands around, phone in hand with the weather app open, gesturing to the sunny sky. Not a single rain cloud in sight, but the puffy white clouds that were spotted seemed to mock him.

 

“Weatherman is wrong again, what else is new?” Plumes asked as she stood idly by, chewing on her gum in a lax manner.

 

They exchanged looks before continue making their way through Route 17. When they reached the familiar police station, Guzma sent a distasteful glare it's way. Plumeria saunters past Guzma, staring towards the direction of Po Town’s wall gates.

 

“Yo, Guz. Look.”

 

Guzma grumbles and follows Plumeria’s directed gaze, only to let out this annoyed groan, slapping his hand over his forehead before throwing it forward towards the gates.

 

“Ain’t no one at the gates,” Plumeria states.

 

“Ain’t no one at the f***in’ gates!” Guzma repeated, incredulous and irritated.

 

Guzma shoves his phone into his pocket and marches towards Po Town, grumbling swears under his breath. He gives his grunts one job. Guard the gate. Only one or two had to do it. It was that easy!

 

“That’s it, I’m revokin’ their video game privileges.”

 

“Ya sure you didn’t just want to play it all by yourself?” Plumeria asked with a slight smirk as Guzma gives her a sharp look.

 

“Whatever.”

 

.

.

.

 

The inside of the manor had been completely trashed. It looked abandoned, but there were Grunts who were found scattered around out in the open or in the most random of places. Dirty, moldy couches were occupied by lounging Grunts, some Grunts were crouched around a low table with a couple of crumpled but hastily flattened out poker cards. Some were sitting on the ground, some leaning against the wall, and one had their nose in a comic book.

 

When Sal brought you in with her little group, some of the Grunts sent a glance your way. They held curious gazes that were wondering why you were here and if you should be here. You wondered that yourself as well, and what Sal is planning.

 

You had to cover your nose at the musty stench inside the manor. It was a bit overwhelming, but you followed after Sal as she leads you to the second floor.

 

One Grunt that had been lazing around on the stairs takes notice of you and gets up, as if ready to try and intimidate the hostage, but Sal glares at him.

 

“She’s with me,” Sal says as she grabs your wrist and hurries up the steps. She steps over the debris of broken wood and rocks with ease, while you’re nearly stumbling and tripping over them. You try saying something, but the ability to speak leaves you as your eyes wandered up from your hand clasped in hers. Your gaze rests on the wrist bands she wore.

 

Sal never wore wristbands before. She hates wearing accessories on her wrists...

 

You lower your eyelids, glancing away and trying to throw out immediate thoughts that stab at you.

 

A bit perplexed, the intimidator takes a good look at the group hurrying to the top of the steps to move around the fallen furniture. He called after them, “Yo, Sal, you know the boss don’ like it when we bring guests when he out.”

 

“Er, yeah, fam, like, is she joinin’ the squad or what?” One of Sal’s team asked as they pointed at you.

 

Sal scrunched up her brows, looking back at you. You could only stare back and she takes a moment to think.

 

“Do...do ya got money?” Sal hesitantly asked.

 

You do. A couple of Alolan natives wouldn’t let you hurry past them without a battle, so you managed to collect some spare cash since Blastoise sensed your urgency and made quick work of the opponents’ Pokemon.

 

“Yes, I do, Sal,” you answered her.

 

“Boss man’ll be cool with it if she got money to fork over for the night. Jus’ shuddup and lemme talk with her, okay?” Sal announces as the intimidator backs off with his hands in the air. With a tug on your wrist, Sal continues to guide you to the room she stays in.

 

The guys in the group realize this - it’s a girls only room after all - and one of them says they’re going to drop off the sign in their room and get some food. The guys stumble off as Sal swings the door open and shoves you inside.

 

“Wait that guy took off with my umbrella-”

 

“Forget about yer umbrella.”

 

You stumble and catch yourself, turning around to glare at her, but the door is closed shut. You can faintly hear Sal and the other grunt talking. Faint, but you could make out what is essentially being said.

 

“...you good, Sal pal...?”

 

“Yeah, just ...a minute…”

 

Sal must have been bracing herself, and you just noticed how stiff your shoulders are to realize that you were also bracing yourself for the conversation that’s to come next.

 

Deep breaths, (Y/N). Deep breaths.

 

You take a moment to glance around the room. The wallpaper is old and ripping off the wall. There’s around five or six beds crammed and shoved up against each other. Some beds have fitting sheets and blankets, while some only had extra thick comforters. Wrinkled clothes and empty snack wrappers are shoved against the corners and under the bed. The wardrobe has a broken door that’s practically falling off, and both dirty and clean clothing is spilling out from it.

 

You frown, your spirits falling. The entire place is falling apart. If the rain stayed, would the ceiling be leaking? There’s mold growing in the corners of the walls. There’s a warped poster of an all boy band named Two Route and so many CDs around a boom box.

 

You’re busy silently judging the unknown grunt’s taste in music when you noticed a familiar hardshell guitar case resting against one of the beds. Wait, did she take that -?

 

Vulpix sticks his little head out, softly whining to be let down and distracting you from your thoughts. Must have gotten tired of being in the cramp backpack. You’re in the middle of sliding your backpack off your shoulders when Sal swings the door open.

 

Their eyes are on Vulpix and the grunt goes nuts for the little one.

 

“So cute!” The grunt cries as she’s already hurrying over to wag a finger at Vulpix’s nose. Vulpix blinks, staring at her curiously. Vulpix sticks his head out further and sniffs at her finger, and she lets out a babble of baby talk towards the fire fox.

 

You use one hand to hold onto your backpack and using your other hand to pick up Vulpix, glancing over at Sal. Sal takes a moment before nodding, and you hold Vulpix out towards the grunt.

 

“The little one loves back scratches.”

 

The grunt is sitting in one of the scattered mattresses, Vulpix on her lap, giving the little one all of her loving attention. Sal mentioned that this grunt had a soft spot for cute Pokemon. You couldn’t blame the grunt. You adore cute Pokemon as well.

 

The air smells of dust and mildew, but it was better than that harsh musty scent out in the parlor of the manor. You wanted to ask if they ever open the windows to air out the place, but all words died down as you and Sal sit side by side on one of the beds that must have been hers.

 

Neither of you said anything, and occasionally you’d hear the grunt girl coo at Vulpix and Vulpix barking softly at her attention. It sort of helped avoid the uncomfortable atmosphere, but it didn’t help distract you from your heart beating loud and fast.

 

You were nervous and wondered if Sal could sense that.

 

Sal’s shaking hand pulls at one of the many the frayed threads sticking out of the old, water stained mattress. She sucks in a deep breath, parting her lips, but no words came out. They were lodged in her throat, unable to force their way out to confront you being here.

 

Sal, your outgoing friend with so much to say, being unable to speak her mind with you. Sal, your bold friend who sent that grunt boy backing away with his arms in the air, too nervous to talk to you.

 

You place a hand over your heart, fingers gently pressing into your chest and you could faintly feel the speedy beats of your heart.

 

“S-Sal, I, uh…” You swallowed thickly, unable to stop the tremors of your heart affecting your words. The cooing stopped and soft barks were no longer heard as you shift in your spot to try and engage Sal with some sort of eye contact.

 

Not that it mattered, since Sal kept her eyes forward to avoid looking at you.

 

For a few seconds, you didn’t know where to start. There are so many things you wanted to say, but it all seemed like it didn’t suit the moment. Finally, finally, after shuffling through thought after thought, you arrive at a perfect starter for this long-awaited talk, but you never get to say what you wanted to say when Sal’s shoulders begin to shake.

 

“Wh...why are you here…? (Y/N), I… Here, of all places, and, and right now? Why? How?” Sal’s nails dig into the mattress, and you could hear the slight fear in her voice, “...did they ask you to find me? Do they want you to bring me back? I’m a f***in’ ADULT! They can’t make me go back, I know my rights! I’m still standin’! I’m doing fine!”

 

“Sal-,” Your eyes widen when she grips the arm that wears the wristband and all you can feel is pain.

 

It confirms your suspicions.

 

You’re never going to forgive yourself.

 

Sal’s eyes, those brown eyes that you grew up with, stare at you in realization. She’s shaking because she’s landed on one of the possibilities of why you’re here. Sal grabs your shoulders because no matter how far apart you two are from each other, you both have a great influence on each other.

“Please don’t make me go back…!”

 

You had wondered if it would have been difficult to have a conversation with someone else in the room, but all worries are tossed aside as Sal is swept into your arms and you hold her tight, the sound of her sobs breaking your heart.

 

“No, no, Sal, no…” You rub circles on her back, doing your best to comfort the shaking young woman in your arms. Each sob that escapes her mouth drives a knife deeper into your heart. “No. No, that’s not why I’m here.”

 

“Then whhyyy…?” Sal sobs into your shoulder, holding onto you.

 

You barely registered the fact that the grunt girl had almost leaped off her bed when Sal began crying but backed off reluctantly when the situation didn’t turn out the way she thought it would have. Still, the grunt girl kept her eyes on you. And Vulpix kept his eyes on the grunt girl.

 

“Because I wanted to make sure you were okay, Salana. Wherever you went.”

 

Thank the stars you finally found her.

 

It took a while for Sal to calm down and finally she slowly sits back down next to you. Shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand. You give her hand a squeeze. She squeezes back.

 

“It’s been how long since I saw you?” Sal asks as you think about it for a second.

 

“Arceus… it’s been so long. The last time I saw you, I was going to Kalos,” you heave a sigh as you mentally tallied up the years of school and the years on the road, “get me a calendar and I’ll give you a proper answer.”

 

“Nah. Tired,” Sal snorts as she earns a grumble from you. She chuckles softly, and you smile.

 

“Suuure.”

 

“I am! Ya got no idea what you put me through when you just showed up outta nowhere, (Y/N)!” Sal huffs as she sits up to glare down at ya, “how the hell did ya find me-?”

 

“Phone call. Search it up and if it’s public, it’ll be associated with an address or a business online,” you explained as you slowly sat up, feeling a bit embarrassed at the way both Sal and the grunt stared at you weirdly, “it’s common knowledge! I’m not a stalker, okay?”

 

Sal snorts, “well geez, you certainly didn’t let college go to waste, you nerd.”

 

(You’re not going to respond to that.)

 

You didn’t laugh or smile at her affection use of the word. It made your stomach feel like a pit of Wurmples. She didn’t mean it that way, but you just felt so guilty that college had been the highest priority.

 

It doesn’t matter if you only partook in classes and exams all year round in hopes to try and graduate early.

 

It didn’t matter if you never let yourself have fun with making lifelong friends and letting go at frat parties to have more time to study.

 

It didn’t matter, because Sal felt alone and helpless back then while you were too busy focused on yourself. Fully aware of her pain, but ignored it. And for what? A walk across the stage and a handshake from the dean?

 

A degree matters. But Sal matters, too.

 

Did it even matter in the end, when you ran out that door instead of finishing the semester off? Could it have all been avoided if you were just more careful with your priorities?

 

“(Y/N)?” Sal calls out to you, wondering why you didn’t laugh it off and shove her like the good ol’ days.

 

She felt you let go of her hand. She immediately reached for your hand again when she saw you pull it away to wipe away at your eyes.

 

Stars… I’m so sorry, Sal. I never meant to leave you alone to just… have to go through all that so long ago. I should have been there for you.”

 

The worried smile on Sal’s face had been wiped off and she looks down at the dirty wooden floorboards.

 

“I didn’t want to get in the way of your dreams, (Y/N).”

 

Dreams be damned. “That didn’t mean you couldn’t rely on me. I should have done more for you. I’m so sorry, Sal.”

 

The ideas of ‘could have’ and ‘would have’ are tossed around back and forth, but it’ll never change the past. It’s already happened and the future is uncertain for both of you. It feels a little more secure because, with this conversation, it’s proof that the friendship between Trainer and Grunt is still there.

 

“I felt like I was leechin’ the life outta ya with my problems! You done hella a lot for me my entire life, and I knew that if I continued to go to ya with my sh*tty problems, you would just throw your dreams away to help me. I didn’t want that,” Sal turns to rest on her knees and press a finger to your collarbone, “I didn’t want that. I woulda skinned my own hide than to ruin your life.”

 

(If you can help it, you’re not going to tell her you just dropped out.)

 

“I should be skinning your hide for even thinking that way,” you grumbled before flashing the tiniest of smiles towards Sal, “you know I’d always be there for you, through thick and thin.”

 

“I know. That’s why you’re here, you crazy f*ck.”

 

You frown and Sal burst out laughing. You let out a sigh and settled with a smile. Your heart is still heavy, but not as before. There are still so many things to talk about, but for now, that can be set aside for now.

 

Hopefully, there will be more time so that when the time comes, you’ll leave Alola with a heart heavy with love instead of agony.

 

It seems that Sal is happy in Alola. In Team Skull.

 

But you promised you’d be satisfied with whatever Sal did as long as she is safe, living under a roof, and happy.

 

Deep inside, you wondered if Sal is actually safe. This is the real world, after all.

 

.

.

.

 

The door to Shady House swings open as Guzma hustles in, immediately looking for the two faces that he specifically tasked with guarding the front gates. Plumeria follows after him but goes straight to the kitchen to get herself some Roserade tea.

 

It’ll help with the incoming mayhem that would soon happen. Plumeria could see it coming.

 

“Hey, hey! Where the h*ll is Cal and Marc? They were supposed ta guard the gate and patrol, an’ I didn’t see none o’ y’alls mugs outside!” Guzma shouts as he’s darting his gaze everywhere before he notices a new addition of a bus stop sign by the stairs, “OI! I said no more of those hunks of junk! Sal! Monny! Dave? Frank?! Somebody, answer me!”

 

The nearby grunts glance at their newly arrived boss, watching him throw a fit about the bus stop sign. One grunt waves at Guzma excitedly, an umbrella in his hands.

 

“Hi, Boss!”

 

“Yeah, thanks for answerin’, Dan,” Guzma says before he takes a second to calm himself down. They’re probably in their rooms or waiting by his room. He should have asked Plumeria to fix himself a drink, too.

 

Did Jerry come back with a new supply of it yet, or is he still out?

 

“Boss.”

 

Guzma looks back to see a stern looking grunt standing at the top of the first flight of stairs. One of the older and more serious grunts in the organization.

 

“Kirby, whatcha got for me?” Guzma asked, jutting a thumb towards the open door to bring attention to the sunny weather outside, “does it got something to do with the fact that I can see the sun?”

 

“It’s not rainin’ no more!”

 

“Woohoo!”

 

A couple of the younger grunts cheered and hooted as they stampeded through the door. Guzma stiffly clenched his jaw as he tried to stop himself from rubbing his temples. These kids are gonna be the death of him, for sure.

 

“I’m not sure, Boss, but I think it gotta do with that lady Sal brought in,” Kirby steps to the side, letting Guzma walk up the stairs past him.

 

Guzma stopped and turned his head towards Kirby.

 

“Unless this lady is gonna join us, then Sal knows full well I don’t want any of y’all bringin’ outsiders in here. Not after that Kyle incident,” Guzma hissed under his breath, giving Kirby a stare down, before looking forward and sighing as he shook his head, “I’ll go give em an earful and kick that outsider outta here.”

 

“Sure, Boss.”

 

.

.

.

 

Joining you, the grunt sat on Sal’s bed with her legs crossed and Vulpix lazily sitting there with her. Her name is Monny, and she liked to gently squeeze Vulpix’s two front paws. Every time she held them, Vulpix looked like he’s stretching upwards. Vulpix is not amused in the slightest and would slowly blink every now and again as if planning Monny’s demise.

 

You were hugging your knees, listening to Sal and Monny telling their mishap adventure of stealing their third bus stop sign from Route 10.

 

“You shoulda seen the Ranger runnin’ at us from the bushes. The guy was takin’ a p*ss or somethin’ an’ when he saw us taking down the sign, he came runnin’ with his shorts ‘round his ankles. Fell on his face!” Sal cackles loudly as Monny snickered. Vulpix grumbles as you hummed.

 

“Why did you guys steal a third bus stop sign?” You asked as Sal crossed her arms. She’s giving you this expecting look that’s quickly replaced with a proud and cocky glint in her eyes.

 

“It’s bad a**!”

 

“Yeah!”

 

A quick knock comes from the door and a grunt sticks his head in.

 

“Sal pal, the Boss is comin’ for ya and he ain’t happy one bit about ya guest. I don’ think he up for negotiations,” the grunt said as he peeks to the hall and quickly closes it. You could hear him call out, “ Good luck, fam! ” Followed by frantic footsteps.

 

“SH*T!” Sal jumps off the bed and pulls you off from the bed. You’re stumbling and flinching, as your legs were just about falling asleep. “He’s p*ssed, ain’t he? Musta been Kirby that made him so mad. Or the bus stop.”

 

“It was funny though,” Monny whimpers, upset that their Boss hadn’t been pleased by their trophy.

 

You’re about to say something when Sal is literally shoving you into this wardrobe with a dislodged door. Your bag falls to the ground as you weren’t quick enough to grab it.

 

“Sal-!”

 

“Shh! Quiet! Just stay in there until he ain’t so angry, okay? It’s like, impossible, to calm him down and Jerry ain’t back with another supply o’ Tapu Cocoa. The Boss is going through a weird mood without his hot chocolate. Stress, I think,” Sal is frantically trying to fix the door and the second the door swung open, she successfully hid you from view and spun around, acting natural, “heya boss!”

 

From the small cracks of light that bleed through into the darkness, you shift around the stench-ridden clothes inside to get a better look of the outside world. You momentarily hold your hand over your nose, almost grunting at the foul smell. Do they even do laundry?

 

You try to get a good look of the Boss person who came in, and all you could see is a fluffy mop of white hair and a black under shade. A man wearing a white and black baggy short sleeved jacket. You tried to see more, but Sal blocked your way.

 

“I ain’t playin’ no games, Sal. Kirby told me you had someone over. Didn’t I tell you the rules or do I gotta remind ya of that Kyle guy?” The new voice asked sternly.

 

It’s deep and there’s a rumble that reminded you of vibrato of bass in an orchestra. A definite presence that backs the many violins, violas, and cellos to create a chaotic symphony.

 

Team Skull’s boss.

 

“I know, I know, shouldn’ta brought her in, Guzma boss but I wanted to talk to ya if she could stay for the night. She got rent money! Ya said it would be okay if the people we bring over got money,” Sal tried reasoning as Boss narrowed his eyes.

 

“Ya should’ve stolen one of them rule signs they got at those beaches. At the very top, it’d say Don’t drink the Boss’s Tapu Cocoa . And then second, no guests over, even if they got cash. Unless they joinin’ , followed by all the other rules we got here,” the Boss, Guzma, says as he’s holding his hands out and smoothing out the air as if presenting an amazing idea, “now give it up and tell me where the girl is so I can kick her outta here.”

 

Brutal. Now you’re wondering what this Kyle did to invoke that rule.

 

“Is she in there? Monny keeps on looking there,” Guzma steps forward towards the wardrobe as Sal offers a glare towards Monny. He even looks to your backpack that’s on the ground, “includin’ that. I ain’t stupid, stupid.”

 

“Boss, can’t we talk about it when you got your Tapu Cocoa fix-?”

 

Vulpix jumps out of Monny’s arms and dashes towards Guzma’s legs, biting into the pant leg and tugging back as hard as he could, growling the entire time. Guzma pulls his hand back from the handle, glancing down at the Vulpix.

 

Stars…! Vulpix, don’t do that! You nearly screamed as your attention is on your Vulpix dangling from the Boss’s hand. Your heartbeat picks up and you’re terrified of what’s to come next, judging from Sal’s incredibly worried expression.

 

“Well, f*ck,” Guzma reaches down and picks up the Pokemon by the scruff of its neck. Vulpix wildly tries scratching and hissing embers at Guzma, “ay, ay, oi, calm down. I don’t want this place burned down.”

 

Vulpix growled and refrain himself from using any Fire moves, but still tried swinging claws at his direction. Guzma looks back to Monny, “did you steal this little ankle biter from one of them annoying tourists?”

 

“I-”

 

Guzma thinks for a second, rubbing his chin before his eyes subtly glance to the wardrobe. Then his eyes roll past Monny and Sal’s faces, landing on a bag he’s never seen before that’s settled beside one of the beds. He noticed the Pokeballs in there. A smirk broke out as he holds the Vulpix up to eye level.

 

“Gotta be a Kantonian Vulpix ya brought in. Good job, Monny. I’ll just go bring this in for a quick buck-,” Guzma turns and your eyes bulge out. Your hand is shoved into your pocket, gripping the mace spray.

 

Vulpix- !” You shove your hands forward, breaking out of your prison and with shaking legs, you’re practically leaping forward with an outstretched hand to save Vulpix from the boss’s hand.

 

“HA! GOT YOU, YA -!” Guzma jeered in mid-sentence, with Vulpix nearly out of your reach, when your face is up close to his. His words are caught in his throat as he’s staring into your eyes, getting a good look of those wide eyes. You’re staring into his cloudy gray eyes, and everything seems to move so slowly as if swimming through thick syrup. Your left hand is hovering above his shoulder, clumsily pointing the mace right at his face, right foot standing between his, and your right arm outstretched to reach towards Vulpix that he’s holding a bit above his head.

 

He’s taller than you, irritatingly enough.

 

And he’s definitely younger than most villain bosses you’ve seen on the TV. And either he has insomnia from those dark circles, or he’s using eyeshadow to get this look.

 

Lips hold together in a tight line as he’s staring into you, and you find it hard to break eye contact until Vulpix lets out this angry howl. You snap out of this spell and lean forward to jump for Vulpix.

 

F*ck, Kirby. Ya never said this intruder o’ ours was this cute. Sh*t.

 

Guzma, too, breaks out of his trance and immediately uses his free hand to grab the wrist with the mace and shove you back down to the flat part of your boots. Your heels meet the ground and you stare up at Vulpix with worry.

 

The mace spray clatters against the ground and he kicks it away. It hits the wall and he’s leering down at you.

 

“So yer the lady that Sal snuck in behind my back, huh? Gotta say…”

 

Your eyes are too invested on Vulpix to notice Guzma eyeing you up and down.

 

“Ya just had to hide in the one place that anyone coulda hide? Not the smartest.”

 

“It was Sal’s idea!” Monny cries as Sal gasps, offended.

 

“I panicked!”

 

“Quiet!” Guzma snaps as he returns his gaze on you. He follows your gaze to the growling Vulpix. You sure are fixated on this one. He coughs and reaches out, grabbing your chin and forcefully making you meet his gaze again.

 

Look at me .”

 

You’re furious and frantic, glaring daggers into his menacing eyes. Angry, determined eyes meeting hungry, turbulent ones.

 

“I like that look in yer eyes, doll,” Guzma smirked down at you as your eyes narrowed in return. He holds Vulpix just out of reach as if teasing you, “If ya want yer lil’ ankle biter back, then maybe I’ll hand em back to ya if you battle with ya boy. Whaddya say, little lady?”

 

You reached up and shoved his hand away, stumbling back from him. Sal and Monny watch you worriedly as you subtly reach a fist up to wipe away a sweat that threatened to fall. He stared you down like a Purugly watching a Rattata being backed into a corner.

 

Vulpix snarled at your direction as if demanding you to tell him to spit a Flamethrower in this guy’s face already.

 

You step back, never breaking eye contact with Guzma as you kneeled down to grab your backpack. You had another idea in mind.

 

“Whaddya say, doll face? Outside. Me and you battle for this Vulpix of yours,” Guzma repeats as he nods towards the Vulpix, “last chance.”

 

You reach into your bag, breaking eye contact once again with Guzma to look in Sal’s direction.

 

“I’ll be sticking around the archipelago for a while, so come find me when you wanna catch up properly . We should really start using our heads.”

 

Your hand curls around the correct Pokeball - with ridges belonging to a Nest Ball’s model.

 

“(Y/N)-”

 

“Hey, girly-”

 

You pull out Vulpix’s Pokeball and zap your Pokemon. Vulpix gets hit by the red beam of light, turning him into the very color and disappeared from Guzma’s grasp. His fingers flex into the air as he’s taken aback by the sudden action. You shove the ball into the bag and pin it to your chest as you zip past Guzma, making it through the door.

 

“Ah, HEY!” Guzma rushes out the door, immediately spotting you literally sliding down the railing of the stairs. He gives chase, only to stumble to a stop at the top of the stairs as he watches you run right out the front door that’s still opened for a quick getaway. “She’s gettin’ away! Get her!”

 

Grunts who were engrossed in an intense game of poker tossed their cards away and ran right through the door after you. Heels were a really bad decision. You regret not buying proper shoes when your running sneakers were worn out.

 

You didn’t think you’d be running from a group of grunts again, after all!

 

“I’ll beat you with this umbrella!” One of the grunts shouts after you and you reached into your backpack. So the boy did have the balls to fight back...when grouped with others.

 

You really liked that umbrella.

 

Fight or flight , you think as you reach into your bag and pull out one of your Pokeballs. In this case, you’re literally choosing flight. Your hand clenched around the correct capsule ball and you threw it into the air in your wake, sending out Altaria.

 

Altaria breaks out of the red beam, letting out a cry and stretched her fluffy wings out. She spots you and flies around, eyes on your running form.

 

The Pokeball is sent right back into your hand as you run as fast as you can to get a head start. You’re shoving the Pokeball into your backpack, zipping it closed and tossing it onto your shoulder.

 

“Get us out of here, NOW!” You shout as you sprint forward as fast as you could and jumped with your arms stretched out. Altaria swoops down and you landed on her back, arms secured around her neck. Burying your face into her cottony feathers, she takes off into the rain clouds that creeps in. The curtains to indicate the end of a performance.

 

The grunts watch in amazement at the getaway. Some continued looking at the retreating figure of an Altaria flying away with her Trainer on her back, and others turned around to see their Boss standing at the open door of the Shady House.

 

He, too, had his eyes on the disappearing figure of the Trainer and her Pokemon.

 

There’s an evident array of emotions in his eyes, storming and forming like the rain clouds in the sky. Anger, humiliation, disappointment, and -

 

Anticipated excitement.

 

“You think you’re hot sh*t, huh, girl,” Guzma muttered to himself as the rain started to come in. He finally tears his eyes away from the sky, watching some of the grunts hurry past him to seek shelter from the rain.

 

He, too, wondered if the sun would come back if that woman returned.

 

“Sal! Monny! Yer cleanin’ the bathrooms for a whole month!” Guzma announces in his booming voice as Monny and Sal were scrambling down the stairs.

 

“D*mn!” Monny moans in distaste as Sal groans, slouching over. Gross, dirty encrusted shower tiles and filthy toilets awaiting their laborious scrubbing.

 

“Come on, boss man, we’re sorry! Like for reals!” Sal tries to reason with him. If she’s busy with her patrols, jobs, AND cleaning the toilets, then she might not have enough time to go looking for you. Or maybe she could see if she can find a Pokemon Center willing enough to let her in and use those pay phones.

 

Sal freezes, realizing that while she had been in thought, Guzma loomed over to her.

 

“That friend o’ yours made a fool outta ya boy, Sal. If ya real sorry, then I think you know what you need to do.”

 

Sal gulped.

 

“Can I...Can I just clean the bathrooms…?”

 

“Changed my mind. That ain’t no option no more, Sal.”

 

(Y/N) is right. They both need to use their heads more.

 

Guzma left, leaving Sal with an arduous task on her hands. Monny watches in worry as Sal is struggling to do the mental math of how many tourists she’d need to pickpocket to buy enough cake and coffee to make up for what’s to come.

 

“I got it!”

 

Jerry slides in through the door, holding the plastic bag above his head that contained a few brown boxes of the beloved Tapu Cocoa powder. Jerry notices the angry dark clouds looming above Sal’s head.

 

“Uh, you good?”

 

“Jerry, you slow mo-fo!”

 

Sal lunges for him and they’re rolling around on the ground, and instantly a crowd forms around them, with fellow grunts cheering either person on. There are money and snack cakes being betted on who would win. Someone reached out and snatched the Tapu Cocoa box for themselves.

 

Plumeria finally steps out of the kitchen, holding her mug of tea, and leans against the doorframe to watch the ridiculousness occurring in the parlor of the Shady House. She takes a sip and stares.

 

“If y’all break somethin’-”

 

CRASH

 

“That’s it - BREAK IT UP!”

 

The grunts scatter, and both Jerry and Sal stumble and trip over their legs as they scurry off for safety from their big sis’s outburst. Plumeria rolls her eyes and takes a big gulp from her mug.

 

Today’s been an eventful day, hasn’t it?

 

"AY, PLUMES. GET ME A CUPPA!"

 

Plumeria twitched and finished her own drink. One of the grunts ran off with the cocoa powder mix. Lil' sh*ts. 

Chapter Text

I wonder if Sal and Monny’s okay after that fiasco.

 

You yawned and stretched your arms as far as you could above your head, attracting the attention of people around you on their morning walk. Spending a whole night on a park bench in Malie Garden hadn’t been too bad with the help of Altaria’s fluffy body and wings. Kept you nice and warm and cushioned. No one’s come up to you and kicked you out the entire night, so you wondered if it was okay to just be a bum out in some beautiful park. Or maybe you had been lucky.

 

There had been a Pokemon Center in the town, but the rooms designated for weary travelers were full and so were the hotels littered around the place. All packed with not a single spare room in sight. Only the considerably more expensive hotels had some free rooms, and you weren’t willing to spend 300 dollars for a single night.

 

You trudge past some stores and catch your reflection in the window. You stop to take a good look at yourself and cringe.

 

“I look like a bum,” you groan as you fuss over your frizzy bangs. With your muddy boots and musty clothes that stuck to you from the Shady House, you were in desperate need of a shower and new clothes. Specifically new shoes. Your legs are sore and your feet hurt from running in these heels.

 

If Vulpix had been out of his Pokeball, he’d laugh and howl in your face.

 

Making your way to the Pokemon Center, enter through the sliding doors and take a moment to wipe your feet on the mat they have laid out. Mornings in the Pokemon Center usually consist of Trainers coming from the sleeping quarters to head out and continue their journeys, the Pokemart clerks setting up shop, the Nurse Joy going around the counter to start her shift, and -

 

The scent of robust coffee beans being roasted and grinded. Yes. Coffee. You’re looking forward to trying the coffee beans locally grown in Alola.

 

Nurse Joy notices you approaching the counter and she gives you a gentle smile.

 

“Good morning. Welcome to the Pokemon Center. What would you like to do today?” Nurse Joy asked as her fingers fly across the keyboard at the computer in her station. She stops and waits for you to continue.

 

“Is there a room available? I really need a shower.”

 

“Yes, of course. We just got some card keys turned in a while ago at the office.”

 

Nurse Joy types something into the computer before, as usual when it comes to reserving a free room at the Centers, asking for your Trainer Card. You fish it out of your things and hand it to her. The process is quick as she swipes it through the reader and hands it back, along with a card key.

 

“Return it to the front desk at any time. Have a lovely rest of your day.”

 

You thank her, and just before you went to the rooms upstairs, you just had to make a quick stop by the cafe.

 

“Yeah, hi, can I buy some of the grounded coffee beans and Moomoo Milk?”

 

.

.

.

 

The shower felt heavenly. Plenty of hot water, a nice change from the thirty seconds of lukewarm shower water in cheap motels found all over the different regions you traveled in. A nice fluffy robe and your hair wrapped in a towel. The disposable sandals they provide feels nice and freeing, as those once mud-caked sweaty boots (now cleaned) are drying by the radiator in the room. Along with your once dirty clothes - also cleaned and now drying.

 

You’re lotioning yourself up with lotion when the coffee maker beeps with the scent of strong coffee coming from the incredibly tiny kitchen area.

 

You pour it into one of the mugs provided and take in the smell of the Komala coffee. Strong and bold made from the local beans grown in volcanic soil, with a slightly sweet scent. Definitely, from the brown sugar the barista added to the blend.

 

A sip and you could pick up the flavors of faint sweetness and rich boldness of bitterness that washes the sugar in seconds.. It’s strong and wakes you up better than the shower ever could. You drink it up and shake your head as you hissed at how strong it is.

 

Of course, you poured yourself another cup and pour some milk to weaken it.

 

Three cups of coffee later and you’re now going through your bag, looking for something to wear. You have a sweater, a ratty shirt, and jeans. Socks. Underwear.

 

Singling out the shirt and jeans, you stuff everything else back into the backpack. Some new clothes might do you some good, but as you open your wallet and pull out the remaining bills, you could only really invest in some new shoes.

 

Heels in Alola? No, thank you!

 

You’ll have to make do with the disposable sandals for now.


Changing into the shirt and jeans, you leave the robe hanging from the hook behind the bathroom door and begin brushing your hair out to avoid it reaching its ultimate frizziness in this Alolan heat. Tying up the ends to hide the holes at the bottom of your shirt, you struggle to make a decent looking tie. And then you sew it to remain that way permanently right then and there with the sewing kit you got from a dollar store a long while back.

 

Honestly, you’re tempted to ask for scissors and cut the jeans into shorts, but these pants were very expensive. Rolling up the cuffs a few times will have to do.

 

The coffee maker beeps, indicating that coffee batch number two is done. The thermos in the side pocket gets snatched away and you’re rinsing it out at the sink. The dark bitter liquid is poured in, and you add some of the milk, capping it closed. You finish off the rest of the milk as you go back to the bed, stuffing the thermos back into its rightful spot.

 

Once the clothes and boots are dried, you’ll be on your way.

 

And…

 

What’s next?

 

Can’t go back to Po Town. You’re aware of how you ticked off the Boss of Team Skull with your little performance. He literally had a mob of grunts running after you, and you still had no idea how you managed to get away for the most part in those boots.

 

So going back would be the definition of a bad idea .

 

But you need to stick around long enough for Sal to find you, so you both can catch up a bit more and come to a complete understanding. You’re sure she wants you to hear her side of the story of how she came to Alola and join Team Skull. And you’re sure Sal also wants to hear how and why you’re out on the road instead of being in a hospital looking into the ears of Growlithes.

 

Only then could you return to Hoenn with a free state of mind.

 

The reality stacks its weight onto your head, and you run your hand through your now dried and curly hair.

 

Going home to see your parents. You’d have to explain your state of mind as to why you would abandon your education to spend the next two years or so looking for your best friend instead of being in school. Your mom and dad would be so harsh with their choice of words towards you.

 

And then they’d demand to know if I found her. What would I say? No?

 

They’d be livid that your impromptu journey had been all for nothing.

 

And if I say yes?

 

They’d demand to know where Sal ran off to. Why you didn’t bring her back. Then they’d tell her parents and who knows what they would do with that information if you did end up telling them.

 

“Please don’t make me go back…!”

 

You close your eyes and squeeze them extra tight to keep the tears from forming. Oh, the things you’d tell your two years younger self if you could.

 

Decisions lead to actions.

 

Actions have consequences.

 

Oh, do be so careful of the consequences.

 

A bitter laugh, and then a defeated sigh.

 

 

You’ll burn that bridge when you reach it. For now, you just want to have the chance to finally enjoy the last remaining days of your journey as a Pokemon Trainer. There had been not much room for fun in your search for your beloved friend.

 

“I’m literally retiring in my twenties.”

 

Wonder how Dad’ll react if he heard you say that.

 

Clothes dried, folded, and shoved into your backpack. You get an extension time for the room with Nurse Joy and head out to enjoy what Malie city had to offer. The garden is beautiful and amazing, and you feel like it’s only a fraction of what it has to offer.

 

The Johto-inspired architects of the buildings and street lights had been more than enough for you to pull out your phone and start snapping photos. Knowing your Dad, once he gets over his frustrations and disappointment in you, he’ll want to see all the places you’ve come across in your journey.

 

Your mom would probably want some souvenirs and jewelry.

 

You’re definitely going to have to make some money to afford that and the ticket back home. Again, those are things you want to worry about later.

 

Just enjoy the moment.

 

The community center had been nice. Lots of good people more than willing to tell you directions to the apparel shop and the bakery. A malasada, a jolly man insisted, is something you needed to try at least once in Alola. A plump woman wearing a loud and bright muumuu turned up her nose and argued that the fashion in Alola is more desirable than a deep fried donut.

 

You couldn’t believe the gasps that echoed through the community center. You swore you could have heard a mug falling and crashing onto the floor. A baby’s cried filled in the silence.

 

A book is held up to you from a freckled boy. He excitedly recommended the library and babbles directions you nod to. Make a right at the gate and keep going all the way until you reach the end of town. A big building with colorful stained glass windows will stand out. Can’t miss it.

 

You would thank them all and set off for all the places they recommended, starting with the bakery.

 

Three dollars and fifty cents for a fried donut bigger than your head? You were down for that. Iced coffee and a malasada for you, and a big bowl of Pokemon food for your entire team. You can be cheap with yourself, but not for your Pokemon. They deserve a big breakfast, of course.

 

Next came the apparel shop, and the man working there listened to your specifications of what you wanted for your new footwear. Durable enough to last a long time, good for long tracks, and no heels. In the end, he recommended hiking boots.

 

“You can run in them. Walk in them. Climb in them. And they’re waterproof.”

 

“Can I run away from my problems in them?”

 

“You’ll look fashionable as you try.”

 

Sold.

 

Somehow he talked you into buying summer jeans. He failed in trying to get you to picking up a new top. You get changed in the fitting room and you’re on your way out, fully prepared for the summer weather of Alola, freshed to deck in your new jeans and footwear.

 

Finally, you arrived at the library.

 

Historical and beautiful, its architecture is almost on par with the library back in Lumiose City. You’re feeling sort of excited as you go inside and stop to take in the sight of all the books.

 

“Alola,” the librarian at the counter greets when she sees you at the front.

 

You greet back and go up to the counter to ask her about where you could possibly find the science section.


“Science, as in science references and journals, or science fiction?” The librarian elaborates.

 

“References, please.”

 

“Second floor,” she immediately says as you’re looking over the little pamphlets and fliers that’s on the counter.

 

This little leaflet talked about the Hokulani Observatory located on in the summit of Mt. Hokulani that could only be reached by a bus on Route 10. You couldn’t help but grin, thinking about Sal and Monny.

 

“Say, you seem to like books. Would you like to sign up for a library card?” The librarian asked with a glint in her eyes. “You look like it would benefit you a lot. You look so natural among these books.”

 

“Uh, I’m not a...I’m not from here. I’m a tourist.” You thought it was obvious you were from another region.

 

“It’s only a two dollar fee. It would also be a lovely piece of memory to take home, don’t you think?” The librarian pressed as you’re wondering if it would be alright to just walk away.

 

“I’m just gonna go…”

 

“If you sign up for a library card here, we’ll give you … a bookmark!” The librarian excitedly offers as you tried your best not to snort.

 

A bookmark? Really? There are free ones right on the counter.

 

“No thanks. Are Pokemon allowed in here?” You asked as she shows you one of the bookmarks. It’s a gradient of orange to fuschia, the color of a evening sky, with black silhouettes of palm trees. A brown string is tied at the top of it. An incredibly nice bookmark. “Dang, nevermind, that’s an awesome bookmark. Sign me up.”

 

She already slides a form and a pen towards you. You’re already signing your life away.

 

“As long as they’re not big like Onix and antsy like Tauros, then you may have them out in the approved zones found around the library,” the librarian informs as you pull your wallet out for the two dollar fee and your Trainer card. She takes them all, and types up a storm, before giving you a shiny new library card and your Trainer card.

 

You stare at it. Then you stared at the lady.

 

Slowly, she slides the bookmark next to the cards and you immediately grab them all.

 

“Books with a yellow sticker and references are not allowed to be checked out. Have a lovely day.”

 

When you reach the second floor and find the science literature section, you felt like a child standing in front of all the sweet options in the candy store. You’re already grabbing anything you find interesting, and quickly make your way to a rug area with a Pokemon sign. You set your pile of books down and leave to go find the children section.

 

You return momentarily with a pile of picture books and set it down next to your pile. Backpack gets set down and your shoulders are free. You take a second to roll your shoulders to relieve the constant ache and pull out Altaria’s Pokeball.

 

She chirps happily at you when she takes form and takes a second to look at her new surrounding. You’re already sitting down and leaning into her fluffiness as she’s realizing what all these books mean. Altaria eyes the colorful picture books and waits for you to choose one for her to look at.

 

You chose Winnie the Cubchoo. You open it to the soft colors and drawings. Altaria presses her beak against your cheek in appreciation before she peers into the pages, chirping curiously. You grin and grab your first book, opening it to the first page.

 

Altaria cooed, and without tearing your eyes from your book, you reach over and turn to the next page for her. She giddily fluffs her cotton feathers and admires the colorful pictures. You sink into the fluff, turning page after page after page.

 

Altaria’s stack of picture books are long completed, and she’s taking a nap. You’re already on your fifth journal about the journal entries of Alolan history of developing Berry medicine, not even noticing a girl with purple hair and ragdoll dress crawling over to you with this cat smile.

 

“What are we reading?” The girl asked as she takes the opportunity to nestle against Altaria’s fluffiness. She snuggles into the heavenly softness and Altaria continues to sleep.

 

Does no one understand not to bother someone who’s reading?

 

Whatever, maybe she’ll go away if you bore her.

 

“The library has a whole collection about developing medicine and practices over the course of Alolan history,” you answer without a beat, your eyes never leaving the pages, “can you believe they’d have something so precious here on these very shelves? According to these records, before Full Restores made it to the shelves of the pharmaceuticals in Alola, they’d make these berry pellets made from dried Sitrus and Oran berries mixed with an excipient or honey, sometimes glycerin. Depending on the quality of the ingredients, a good sized pellet would be more effective and nutritious than the Full Restore itself. The sales for the spray medicine were almost nonexistent due to how readily available the berries and honey are.”

 

“Mm-hmm~.”

 

Seriously?

 

“Then, because making these Berry pellets would be considered practicing medicine according to the global government, they were asked to stop making it. Though they took that unfair ruling away since herbalism in Alola is considered cultural use and would be more classified as a home remedy. For some reason, the usage of this home remedy stopped being so common. I suppose it’s because it took so much time to gather the ingredients, prepare them, and then store them for later usage. And spray medicine are always in stock, made in large quantities, and quicker to use.”

 

“Go on.”

 

Go big or go home, (Y/N).

 

“The practice of herbal medicine and berry medicine dates back to thousands of years ago.The use of such medicine is common, but they aren’t subjected to close inspection like most medicine on the shelves, so the usage of such medicine is controversial when it comes to herbs with medicinal properties. That reminds me, did you know herbalism is considered practicing medicine in some regions? You need a license in order to practice it if you call yourself a doctor in Kalos.”

 

It’s quiet. And you feel shuffling. You smile, thinking that the girl just got up and left.

 

Boy you were wrong.

 

“Are you a neeerd?” The girl teased in a sweet voice as you finally tear your eyes away from the yellowed and frayed pages to finally look at the girl. You sputter, placing the bookmark inside and closing the book.

 

“I am not!” Your face is growing a deep shade of red. Did that seriously not get rid of her with that long lecture about Berries and herbalism?

 

“Hehe~! I’m only teasing you.”

 

You scoff and set the book on top of the pile. It’s only then that you realize how much of a headache you had. How long have you been reading? You check the time and suddenly you’re now aware of how many hours have gone by. You must have missed lunch. You check your bag and realized that your bag of Poketreats and small bag of Pokemon food is empty from Altaria’s snacking.

 

Well at least she fed herself. You wondered if she could feed you too.

 

“You sounded like you knew what you were talking about. Are you a doctor?” The girl asked as she’s leaning her head into Altaria’s fluffy feathers. Seems to you that this stranger is enchanted by Altaria.

 

The question throws you off, even though you know the answer already.

 

“...I’m studying to be one,” you answered, “interned at Professor Sycamore’s laboratory during my university days in Lumiose city, researching on more ways to bring nutrition to the Vivillon when they migrate through routes that do not commonly grow the flowers they feed on.”

 

“Oh wow~!”

 

Some facts about the Bug pokemon spills from your mouth. If this girl is willing to listen, then you’re just gonna throw facts at her and see if she gets bored.

 

...deep down, you honestly liked that someone’s listening.

 

“Did you know that the scales, the powdery substance, from Vivillon’s wings are used in fireworks and explosives? Many places banned the move, Powder, when hospitals and clinics reported an increase of severe burns on both Trainers and Pokemon from results of battles with Vivillon and fire Pokemon participating.”

 

“What? That sounds so painful. I think I read in a magazine that there’s a special spray for the wings to reduce the amount of the scales from falling on the ground?” The girl hums in thought as you nod.

 

“I found them so fascinating that I had to get one for myself. And then the professor and dorm master scolded me for hours because I almost exploded my room into oblivion.”

 

The girl laughs.

 

“You’re pretty weird. I think I’ll like you,” the girl crosses her arms, nodding as if she decided to adopt you.

 

“I think the weird person here is you. You listened to me ramble for so long…” You stretch your arms above your head and groaned, sighing when you let your arms fall to your lap, “I think it isn’t such a good idea to approach people in the library when they’re reading.”

 

The girl gives you another cat smile, “aww, but you looked so happy when you were reading my father’s books. I just had to come over.”

 

You reach out and place a hand on the pile of books, looking at her in disbelief, “these are your dad’s?”

 

The girl nods as she reaches for one of the books and runs her fingers across the old cover. “They’re better here than collecting dust in the Aether House. I think my father would have been so happy if he saw you reading these old books so eagerly. I just found myself approaching you...”

 

The happy smile grows somber, and you pull your hand away from the books. Oh… You want to ask if that meant he passed on, but you don’t want to be rude. That’s territory you’re just not comfortable with getting into with a stranger.

 

The girl catches herself and sends you a brighter smile, “I should probably go. It’s getting late. Enjoy the books, alright?”

 

She’s shifting her legs to stand up, and pauses when you turn to face her and hold your hand out towards her.

 

“My name’s (Y/N).”

 

The girl looks at your hand and then your eyes, and you swore you could see her eyes light up. Eagerly, she grabs your hand and shakes it with a happy grin.

 

“I’m Acerola!”

 

.

.

.

 

Zangoose looked at Sal with an expression of concentrated skepticism. Sal sat on the porch steps of one of the abandoned houses, bouncing her leg as she’s deep in thought.

 

“I’m tellin’ you, her Swablu became an Altaria. Strong enough to fly her outta town.”

 

Zangoose rolled his eyes, letting out a croon as he stares at one of the purple Pokeblocks Sal presented him for his midday snack. He sniffed it before setting it down.

 

“Hey! That Belue Berry was free and your fav Pamtre Berry is mad expensive. Think I’m made outta money? I don’t care if you think it has a weird smell. Eat it, or wait for dinner.”

 

Zangoose never broke eye contact with Sal, picking one up and suddenly shoving it into Sal’s mouth. An explosion of extreme sourness filled her mouth, so strong that tears broke out.

 

“MRRRRRRRRMPH!” Her lips puckered as she’s coughing and choking on the sour flavor. Water! Water! Argh! She runs out into the open, opening her mouth for the raindrops to fall into her mouth, only for it to raise the sour burn in the back of her throat.

 

Zangoose rummages through Sal’s little rucksack and pulls out some tutti frutti gum, holding it out for his Trainer. Sal immediately grabs it and frantically tears into it, popping at least four or five pieces of gum into her mouth.

 

She frantically chewed until the flavor seeps through her numb mouth and down her throat. Eventually, after a few minutes, she could finally break free from the painful prison in her mouth.

 

“Never do that again.”

 

Sal groans as she sits back down next to Zangoose. Zangoose is rummaging through her rucksack, pulling out one of the swiss roll cakes and crinkling open the wrapper. Sal and Zangoose share one, and they stare at the falling rain.

 

Spitting out the gum and sticking it onto the side of the porch, Sal took a small bite of the snack cake. She stares at the rainfall, splashing into the stone path that trails through the town. The rows of run down houses and the broken down Pokemon Center.

 

She wants to look at everything but the Shady House.

 

“Can’t even stand bein’ in there right now, ya feel me, Zanny?” Sal asks as she heaves a sigh, coughing a bit from the lingering sour pinch in her throat.

 

Ever since (Y/N) flew off into the night, literally, Sal had been hounded constantly by the boss, her fellow grunts, and even by Zanny. Everyone in Shady House is talking about the events from last night. The second they mentioned Altaria, Sal’s Zangoose looked at her and glared for not sending him out to have a reunion with his old Pokepal.

 

Another thing that didn’t stop bothering her had been her own thoughts.

 

That little stunt with the Altaria. (Y/N) would never do that. As horrible of Sal is for even thinking such a thing about her childhood friend, she knows that the old (Y/N) would have bowed her head and let Guzma have his battle.

 

Her friend changed.

 

Sal runs her fingers through her short hair.

 

So did she.

 

The years apart from each other felt like a lifetime.

 

I don’t know what she was doin’ while lookin’ for me. Or when she noticed I was gone , Sal thought as she stares at the last bite of her snack cake. She looks over to Zangoose and holds it out for him. Zangoose immediately gobbles it up.

 

The possibility to have run into you again had been far from Sal’s mind. There had still been a chance, of course, but she had been anticipating for it once you finished university and maybe medical school. That should have given Sal a good eight years to mentally and physically prepare herself for a tearful reunion.

 

You found her way too fast. The years didn’t add up.

 

Which meant that -

 

Sal hung her head, feeling so frustrated in both you and herself. She may not be as smart as you are, but she knew how to piece together the full picture.

 

You dropped out to go look for her.

 

“You f*ckin’ idiot, yer supposed ta be smarter than that…!” Sal hissed under her breath as she leaned against Zangoose, nearly burying her face into his warm fur.

 

No, she knew that sometimes, you had tendencies to just ignore all logical reasoning to act out on your emotions. The camping trip where you convinced her to travel all the way to Route 114 to look for a Swablu had been a spur in the moment decision on your behalf. You emptied your piggy bank and bought so many Pokeballs for the two of you to share on this trip.

 

You both got into so much trouble, but it had been worth it as you caught your Swablu, and Sal caught her Zangoose.

 

Yeah… Sal should have known better. But she already made the decision to never regret leaving Hoenn behind. She only regrets not contacting you sooner, but it couldn’t be helped.

 

It’s the way it is. It’s the way things gotta be.

 

“There ya are.”

 

Sal looks up and sees Guzma towering over her. His hair and shoulders are damp from the rain. Guzma has his hands on his waist, waiting for Sal to get up.

 

Sal reaches out and smooths her hand on the back of Zangoose’s head. She could faintly hear him purr.

 

Sorry, (Y/N). Boss’s orders. I’ll make it up to you somehow.

 

.

.

.

 

Because you had missed out on lunch, you had to feed your team a big dinner before taking the chance to get something for yourself. Thank goodness the Pokemon Center always have a consistent supply of Pokemon food to buy. Acerola seemed amused that you were trying your best to soothe the terrible mood half of your team had been in when you sent them out to feed them.

 

“Don’t look at me like that, you know how I get when I find a library.”

 

Vivillon actually smacked you in the face with his wing. Luxray glares at you intensely before turning his nose upright when you tried to hand feed him at him. He only gives in when you scratch his chin. Vulpix grumbled as Audino tried to give you this gentle understanding look. Altaria didn’t care since she helped herself to the food in your bag, and Blastoise is wondering when soup’s on. You feed them all successfully, at least.

 

“I swear, Vulpix, if you Ember me in the face RIGHT after Vivillon just did that, I am going to make you regret it. Try me.”

 

Vulpix slowly wags his tails, eyeing you up.

 

“Alright, that’s it!”

 

You return them all as quickly as you could, stuffing the Pokeballs into your bag and hurrying over to the waiting area in the Pokemon Center. She giggles as you’re wiping off the translucent powder from your face.

 

“If you keep forgetting to feed them on time, then you should probably set an alarm on your phone,” Acerola says helpfully as you’re both leaving the Pokemon Center.

 

“I did . It’s just that some of them get angry if I’m even a minute late,” you groan as she guides you to the restaurant the both of you plan to have an early dinner in.                      

 

“Do you mind if I call my Uncle to join us? I don’t think he’s had dinner yet either.”

 

“Sure,” you say absentmindedly as you’re flipping through the menu they had outside. Wow, this place is kind of pricey. The food looked really good, but raw fish? You glance back at Acerola, and she’s already on the phone with her uncle.

 

It seems that her Uncle didn’t seem to want to come, but the phone call ends and she grins at you, giving you the peace sign.

 

“He’s coming in ten minutes.”

 

“You must be great at negotiations.”

 

To pass the time, you’re showing Acerola all the photos you took during your internship at Professor Sycamore’s laboratory. You’re swiping through all the many man-made ecosystems that had been built into the lab for the Pokemon when you accidentally landed on a photo taken of the professor drinking coffee from behind.

 

“Wow, he’s so handsome.”

 

“I know. He has no business being that gorgeous.”

 

That’s enough photos for now. You’re putting your phone away when Acerola waves as she looks right past you.

 

“Uncle~!”

 

You turn around and almost guffawed at the sight of Nanu slowly striding towards you two.

 

“You’re alive. Well done,” Nanu states, “I suppose that means you’re more capable than you let on. Or that you’re that d*mn lucky.”

 

“Geez, thanks. You didn’t start making those missing posters, did you?” You asked as Acerola is curiously looking at the two of you.

 

“Do you guys know each other?” Acerola asks as she stares intently at the both of you, as if wondering what kind of mystery case Nanu and yourself had gotten into behind the scene.

 

“Stuff happened, and Nanu thought I was gonna die. But I proved him wrong,” you smirk victoriously as Nanu shrugged. His never ending stone face didn’t change once, but at least it might seem that Nanu appreciated you avoiding the serious details of the story.

 

Acerola, however, knows that there had been more to the story than you let on.

 

Nanu easily changes the direction of the conversation, “It’s a good time to celebrate your survival. I’ll pay as long as you choose the Ronin set.”

 

“Ronin set. Free meal. Got it, thanks,” you give a nod as Acerola’s looking at the plastic menu available outside of the restaurant.

 

“What if I want something else, Uncle?”

 

“Then pay your own meal.”

 

“Wah, you’re so mean.”

 

You’ve never had sushi or nigiri before, and seeing all the delicately sliced raw fish on rice intimidated you. The sushi had been accompanied by a light brown soup, an array of pickled vegetables, and other side dishes. Nanu just pulls apart his chopsticks, taps the tips onto the table skillfully so that he has a better hold on them, and just shovels rice into his mouth. Acerola sips right from the bowl of the soup. You haven’t touched your meal yet, so you reached out to pick up your chopsticks and pulled them apart as Nanu had done.

 

Snap

 

Nanu looked up from his soup bowl, seeing that you didn’t pull the chopsticks apart cleanly, “that’s bad luck right there.”

 

“What?”

 

“If you don’t pull them apart cleanly like I did, then you’re gonna have bad luck. Ask for another pair and try again.”

 

“I don’t really believe in superstitions,” you say as Acerola tears her chopsticks apart, and they come out clean. You give her a sharp look, and she just smiles. You’re not going to bother the waiter over some old notion.

 

“Suit yourself,” Nanu says as he goes back to eating his nigiri.

 

Lunch goes by rather peacefully. You finally admitted to them that you never had nigiri or sushi rolls before and they were quick to pick out their favorites.

 

“The sweet shrimp is my favorite.”

 

“Tuna’s best. Save it for last.”

 

It had been an interesting meal, eating nigiri for the first time. The texture of raw fish didn’t settle with you at first, but the way the fatty tuna melted in your mouth that you nearly fell in love. You liked the sushi rolls as well, but for the most things that you could eat had tasted amazing.

 

As you’re holding a conversation with Acerola, you feel a vibration in your pocket. You pull it out, excusing yourself from the conversation. Turning away, you look at the phone screen to see who had messaged you.

 

It’s from an unknown number. Of course. Who else would message you? Your parents? Your siblings? No, they wouldn’t think to use a different number.

 

But who else could it be other than someone you knew?


Someone who used really short words to message?

 

Sal? Maybe?

 

Unknown number:

Whr r u (Y/N)

 

You sip your drink and set it down before picking it back up to type properly. Acerola is annoying Nanu with endless questions on purpose. You feel slight pity for the police man.

 

Me:

Who is this?

 

Unknown number:

Its Sal

Usin some1 else phone

Whr r u

 

You’re happy that you were right. With a smile, your thumbs fly over the keyboard.

 

Me:

Malie City

They had a library

 

Unknown number:

Ok

Im gonna swing by

You no whr the garden is

Be thr tonite

 

Me:

Why tonight?

Sal?

Sal?

 

Sal didn’t respond after that, and you put your phone away silently. You turn back to the table, only to have both pair of eyes on you. Dead ones and lively ones.

 

“Was that your boooooyfriend?” Acerola drawls in a teasing tone, grinning up at you as she’s scooting closer to nudge you.

 

“Okay, little miss nosey face, I leave you alone to bug your uncle for like, what, a minute and now you’re all up in my business?” You playfully huff as you reach for your napkin and wiped you lips with it. Nanu gives you this fatigued look. “If you must know, I was only texting my friend.”

 

Nanu doesn’t say anything as Acerola is demanding to look at the texts. He just finishes the rest of his food and flags for the check. Acerola glances away from you, giving him this huffy look.

 

“Hey, I didn’t finish my food!”

 

“But I did. I need to go back and feed the cats,” Nanu said without missing a beat, and silence returns as Acerola begins eating the rest of her dinner. “So… You did find that friend of yours. Well, congrats. That’s the end of that. Isn’t it?”

 

You pause, taking a moment to think about it. You already know the answer, but there’s still a lot to consider.

 

“I don’t think we’re anywhere near done, to be honest. Once she’s ready to talk for real, I think we can both come out smiling,” you honestly say. You both held back since Monny had been there, but you both at least were able to get a good amount of doubt away.

 

“Hn.” Nanu didn’t seem to have anything to respond to that.

 

“We’re going to talk face to face in a little bit. I’m sure once we meet, we’ll get everything out of the way,” you reassured him.

 

“I wasn’t worried. If you hadn’t died by then, you certainly won’t die now.”

 

Wow.

 

“In my opinion, I think you’re getting yourself into a lot of trouble. That friend of yours is,” Nanu watches his choice of words to keep a curious Acerola out of the loop. Either he had been waiting for you to reveal Sal’s new profession to Acerola, or he doesn’t really want to talk about Team Skull in public.

 

Nanu sighs, reaching for the wet towels provided by the restaurant, and began scrubbing his hands clean, “you know well what I mean, girl. If you’re running with the dogs, then be prepared for the consequences.”

 

“I’m not - It’s not like that,” you try to keep your voice low, but it’s hard to stop yourself from getting angry, “fine, alright. I don’t agree with it either. But I told you, I can’t just drag her from Alola.”

 

“I’m aware,” Nanu said as the waiter comes around with a black book. Nanu opens it and stuffs money into it without a second thought, “but I think you know what I mean.”

 

“I’m still in my twenties. I don’t have your monotone wisdom.”

 

“Practice,” Nanu says as he gets up. Was that supposed to be his sense of humor, “also, I saw you flying out on your Altaria without any equipment last night. I almost thought that Tapu Bulu himself had shown up to finish what he started. You certainly are something interesting.”

 

“It’s literally normal to do that in every other region,” you argue back smoothly as Nanu cracks a grin.

 

“I should be arresting you for reckless flying. Welp,” Nanu makes his way to leave the table, heading for the door, “next time, have dinner at a normal time, alright? I’ll see you later.”

 

“Thanks for dinner!”

 

“Bye bye!” Acerola barely calls out through rice. She takes a minute to drink the rest of her tea and sets it down on the table, “So what was that about? Does he know about your friend, too? Don’t leave me out of the loop!”

 

You chuckle at this overly friendly girl pouting at you.

 

“We should start heading out. You should go home before it gets dark, Acerola,” you get up and pick up your backpack. Acerola gets up and follows after you.

 

“Do I have to?”

 

“Of course. I’d walk you back to wherever you lived myself, but I have to meet my friend at the garden. I’m sure she wouldn’t like it if I kept her waiting,” you explained to her as Acerola thinks about something for a second.

 

“Let’s exchange numbers, okay? I had so much fun today, more than normal. It’d make me super happy if we hang out again.”

 

Ugh, this precious sweet girl.

 

“Of course, I’d love to. We’ll do whatever you like that’s reasonable ,” You’re reaching into your pocket for your phone, “as an apology for leaving you out in most of the conversations.”

 

“How reasonable are we talking?” Acerola asks mischievously as she’s already taking your phone to input her phone number.

 

“I take back my offer.”

 

Acerola gives you this fake hurt look, before laughing as if she knows that you just were playing. Honestly, you’re serious about the reasonable part, but it’s fine.  

 

Though, as Acerola happily hands you back your phone, there had been another question bothering you about the girl.

 

“So, about Nanu, is he really your Uncle?” You asked as you send Acerola a test text message. There’s no way someone so happy and friendly like Acerola is related to such a cryptic, stick in the mud.

 

“Nope! We’re not related at all, but I call him Uncle since he helps me out a lot,” Acerola smiles as she shows you her phone screen, to show off your little message of a cat emoji. “I’ll text you when I get back home.”

 

“Of course, Acerola. Be careful on your way back, alright?” You’re waving as Acerola is happily waving back, running off to the direction of her home.

 

“Bye! Good luck on your date with your friend !”

 

“It’s not like that!” You shout back, as Acerola laughs and leaves. You could only let out an amused huff while looking at your phone screen one last time. Putting it away, you make your way to Malie Garden.

 

There are still some people there in the garden doing their own thing, and you spend the rest of your time texting Acerola and spending some time at the tea house past the bridge. You’re enjoying your cold coffee with some pastries from the tea house and sitting at the chairs. You fed your Pokemon a quick snack, and had to spend quite a bit of time giving Luxray some attention before sending him back to his Pokeball.

 

Eventually, the evening turned to night, and you were finished with both your snack and chat with Acerola. No you’re just waiting for Sal to come show up.

 

The visitors of the garden leaves eventually at their own time. The tea house owner closes up and asks if you were going to be alright by yourself. You give her a smile and assure her that your friend would be coming soon. The owner gives you a smile back, eventually leaving as well.

 

The garden is silent, and you’re messing with your phone’s old phone case. You’re not worried about where you’d be sleeping tonight. The key card in your backpack is a lovely reminder that you get to sleep in a bed tonight.

 

One hour becomes two. Two becomes three. Your phone is low on battery. It’s almost ten at night. A group of Ledian flies by, and you’re distracting yourself by watching them and going through your things to make sure everything is in there. The boots are taking up a lot of room, and you’re wondering if you should get rid of them or rent a locker for the time being.

 

Then your phone rings. It’s the unknown number. You answer it quickly.

 

“(Y/N)?”

 

“Sal!” You happily say as you’re quickly putting everything back into your backpack, zipping it closed, and getting up. You’re glancing around the dark area, only the light of the street lamps illuminating the path to leave the garden.

 

“Are you in the garden?”

 

“Of course I am. Are you in the garden? I can’t see you,” you say as you’re slowly walking away from the tea house benches. “Are you at the entrance?”

 

Sal doesn’t say anything over the line as you’re crossing the bridge. You stop at the middle of it, straining your eyes to see if you could spot Sal by the entrance. No one.

 

You turn around, wondering if she had accidentally passed you. This park needs more lights.

 

“Sal? Where...are you?”

 

Is she not here?

 

You’re too invested in trying to get Sal to talk to you to really notice the tall figure slowly approaching you.

 

“Sorry … (Y/N)...”

 

The call ended and you’re staring at the phone in confusion. A hand grips your shoulder and violently turns you around.

 

Stormy, grey eyes that shone brighter than the darkness of the night.

 

“Finally found ya, ya little Weedle.”

 

Guzma looms above you, and in the lack of light from the nearby streetlights, you could faintly make out the sneer he has for you. Arrogant and proud. He has you in his webs.

 

And you really could only think of one thing.

 

You’re never going to eat with chopsticks ever again.

 

“Ffffff***ckin’ chopsticks.”

Chapter Text

Guzma gave you a hard shove, backing you into a dead end way in the back of the garden. You stumble, frantically trying to keep yourself from being acquainted with the ground. You don’t know where you are or how far the nearest exit is. Is there even a back exit?

 

There’s a certain fear in the back of your mind that wonders what he’s even trying to do. What he plans to do. To you. It makes your body tense and your hands shake, and you try to glare at him as if daring him to make a wrong move.

 

You remember the mace.

 

Reaching to your pocket, your face falls when finally noticing the missing weight. Right. The can of mace fell back in that run down mansion because of him.

 

Guzma seems to sneer down at you, possibly aware of what you had been reaching for.

 

“You think ya were a badass, huh? Ya thought you were so cute makin’ me look like a damn fool in front of the grunts.”

 

You take a step back when he slowly stalks towards you. He has this dangerous grin on his face, shoulders squared, and his hands tightened into fists. His slouching posture offers no remedy to the intimidation he's successfully directed at you.

 

“I took it too easy on ya, lettin’ you get the best of me,” Guzma reasons with himself out loud, as if saying some excuses out loud would make the situation seem plausible, “yeah, just cuz yer Sal’s lil’ friend, I took it easy on ya.”

 

Buddy, whatever it takes for you to sleep at night, but leave me alone already…! You grumble in thought as you’re trying to look past Guzma.

 

Could you get away…?

 

You stare at the space between you and Guzma. He has you literally backed into an open space with just vegetation. There are trees and bamboo stalks. If you take a step to the side, you can see the bridges and the faint view of the exit out of the garden. Thank goodness.

 

It might take a bit of work with a distraction, but you might be able to get away -

 

“What are you thinkin’ in that pretty lil’ head of yers?”

 

You nearly cried out when Guzma grabs your face and forcibly turns you to look him in the eyes. He looks bloodthirsty for something only you could offer him. You feel your knees buckle.

 

“Battle me.”

 

“I, I… huh?”

 

That’s...all he wants?

 

(You hope that’s all he wants.)

 

Did he seriously track you down, use Sal as bait, just to get a battle you turned down? To be honest, you don’t actually like battling. You want to say it. Spit it out at him. Slap it in his face. You don’t like to battle. If you could avoid it, you would. But there’d be times where you couldn’t avoid it, like those trainers on the way to Po Town.

 

...you doubt handing money over to him in exchange for a chance to walk away is on the table.

 

You apparently take too long to answer him, as Guzma grabs your shoulders, getting all up in your face.

 

“Oh, you too good ta square up? Huh? Am I not good enough for ya?”

 

You flinch when his fingers tightened their grasp on your shoulders. Guzma’s nearly shaking you.

 

“No one is f*cking BETTER than me.”

 

A brute.

 

He’s a brute. You stumble back when he shoves you away, turning around and taking a few steps back. He faces you again and holds up an Ultra Ball.

 

“Let’s do this.”

 

It doesn’t seem like there’s much of a choice right now. There’s not enough time for Altaria to take off into the sky without Guzma throwing himself at you two. That’s honestly a scuffle you don’t want to deal with it.

 

Though, you wish you didn’t have to deal with this scuffle in the first place.

 

“What? Don’t wanna? That’s okay, doll, I got somethin’ else in mind if you really don’t want to,” Guzma licks his bottom lip before laughing when you give him this disgusted look, “ha! Don’t look at me like that, yer breakin’ my heart.”

 

If you had one , you think as you’re sliding your backpack down your arms to get your Pokeballs out. The flap is flipped over and you’re peering into it. Who would be a good choice to take on Guzma and his mystery Pokemon.

 

Blastoise.

 

Once he had been an endearing little Squirtle with more energy than he knew what to do with. He’d run around, grinning his little face off, while all of Professor Sycamore’s aides struggled to catch the little one. You remember walking into the lab as a bright-eyed freshman for an interview regarding the intern position when the Water Pokemon ran into your legs and fell on his shell, unable to get back up.

 

Not only did you get the position, but you also got a Squirtle to join your team thanks to Professor Sycamore’s kindness. So your days of interning at the lab consisted of coffee runs, document handling, and letting Squirtle frolic with the other Pokemon at the lab.

 

The red and white Pokeball soars through the air in an arch, the basics of basic throws, and Blastoise comes out with a heavy landing on the ground.

 

Once a little Squirtle, now a hardy, fully grown Blastoise through both you and Professor’s Sycamore’s help and the journey on the road.

 

There’s a grin that spreads across Guzma’s face.

 

“I’m gonna enjoy watching Golisopod beating down on your Blastoise.”

 

His Ultra Ball gets tossed onto the field and this large, intimidating Arthropod Pokemon appears from the capsule’s light. It hunches over, glaring at Blastoise, and lets out this screech meant to intimidate his foe. Blastoise hunches forward, glaring right back.

 

You don’t know what kind of Pokemon a Golisopod is. Since arriving in Alola, you haven’t really done any research on the Pokemon here. From what you’ve learned in university, you can make an educated guess based on certain traits on the Pokemon. It’s nearly impossible to judge what type Golisopod is from its body style alone, so it’s a no go. Color can be a good indicator, but sometimes that tactic doesn’t work.

 

It looks like a Water Pokemon, but it also looks like a Bug Pokemon. Or even a Rock Pokemon, as it sort of reminds you of a Kabuto if it could stand upright -

 

“What are ya doin’, daydreamin’? Focus on me! First Impressions!”

 

Your eyes snap wide when Golisopod charges at Blastoise, landing a heavy blow with those large claws of his. Blastoise let out a painful growl, latching onto the very arm that Golisopod attacked him with. Blastoise glances back at you, and you nodded.

 

“Toss him into the air and Hydro Pump!”

 

Scooting a heavy leg back, Blastoise hoisted the opponent. Cannons ready, Blastoise summoned all his strength to chuck Golisopod upward and hit it directly with a double geyser of pressured water.

 

Golisopod’s shoved into the air by the Hydro Pump, and when Blastoise stepped back, the water ceased to continue being sprayed out. No longer carried by the water, Golisopod is sent spiraling to the ground, crashing on its back.

 

“Oi, what kinda tricks are ya playin’?!” Guzma demanded from where he stood, well, squatted.

 

Golisopod is getting up, and to your shock, it doesn’t seem to sustain much damage. So it’s probably either resistant or immune to water damage. You would think that the fall to the ground would be able to earn you some damage to it, but it got up just fine. Could it be that its outer shell is protective and durable like Blastoise’s?

 

“Blas,” Blastoise grunts to you, and you break out of your train of thoughts.

 

“I don’t think we’re gonna be able to rely on water, big guy. Watch out for the shell. Aim for the inner part,” you inform your partner, and he nods to you before glaring down Golisopod. It chitters and brandishes its claws threateningly.

 

“You’re pretty quick to think with ya head, but bein’ a brainiac ain’t everything when it comes to battlin’ - Bug Bite!” Guzma commanded as Golisopod charges at Blastoise.

 

“Parry! And use Headbutt!”

 

Blastoise doesn’t move out of the way in time and Golisopod easily sinks its teeth into his arm. Flinching, Blastoise tenses up and shakingly raise his free arm to shove his opponent off. Staggering back, Golisopod is knocked into the ground with a Headbutt to its stomach. Blastoise stands above, heaving and glaring.

 

In a flash of light, Golisopod becomes a mass of red light, returning to the Ultra Ball in Guzma’s pocket. You’re taken aback. But he didn’t even recall Golisopod? Did he use an item? No, no he didn’t. Did his Pokemon even had an item?

 

Was it an...ability?

 

Guzma reaches in and pulls out another Ultra Ball, sending out a Masquerain. Masquerain flares out its wings, and Blastoise steps back from the intimidating patterns its wings make. Guzma could only grin with a smug look as he utters a command from his Pokemon.  

 

“Air Cutter.”

 

“Blastoise, dodge-!” Your eyes widen when you see Blastoise’s heaving form. He’s tired, he’s not going to make it, “Blastoise turn around and shield yourself-!”

 

Training and battling are entirely two different things.

 

You watched, helpless, as Blastoise staggers before falling face first towards the ground.

 

See, the thing about Air Cutter, is that it has a chance to flinch the target, and it seems your luck had gone bad to downright terrible as Guzma’s Masquerain went in for another Air Cutter on its Trainer’s command.

 

Shakily, you return Blastoise to his Pokeball. The sting that defeat leaves on you hurts, and you hate that. There’s always another chance at victory, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s painful to watch your Pokemon go down like that.

 

Especially seeing that sneer on Guzma face, a kind of satisfied, lecherous grin that brings salt to the wound. It terrifies you in many ways.

 

Reaching into your backpack, your hand gently grazing over the capsule balls. The back of your hand feels the gentle fabric of your wallet. Then you realize, you could just...pretend you've left your Pokemon in your room. Just give him money and run away back to the Pokemon Center.

 

Participating and losing in a battle is fine, but getting beat down until you’re left crying because of some sadist’s messed up desire is something you have no interest in.

 

You’re quick to get your wallet out and struggled to hold both while trying to slip out two tens. You drop your wallet back in and prepare to walk over and give him his prize money, but he hisses for you to stay where you are.

 

“Ya tryna end this so quickly, sweetheart? I’m hurt. I know you still got two more in your team. Pull them out. I’m not done.”

 

He’s referring to Vulpix and Altaria. You know he is. And no matter what, you have no plans to even let Altaria be in a fight. Never.

 

A plan is already formulating in your head.

 

“You’re wrong, you know.”

 

Pulling out Vivillon’s Net Ball, you send out the Bug Pokemon to face Golisopod. Vivillon burst out from the red light, flapping his powdery wings with a determined shrill. Your eyes follow the sheer powder falling to the ground and only look back up when Guzma lets out this whistle.

 

“Damn, you got a Bug on your team? That almost makes me wanna forgive an’ forget what you did,” Guzma rubs his hands together, looking rather excited to see both butterfly and moth duke it out.

 

You bite down on your lower lip, glaring at the situation. So he likes Bug Pokemon… Not that it matters, you chastise yourself for that thought. Though if you had known earlier, you would have second-guessed your choice of sending Vivillon out.

 

But then again, you needed to figure out a way to beat that Golisopod of his. And Vivillon is your best Pokemon when it comes to using the surroundings to your advantage.

 

Especially when you have a certain ankle biter waiting for his turn.

 

Masquerain flares out its wings again, but earned an angry screech from Vivillon. He’s not taking any of that nonsense from his opponent. Guzma scowls, but there’s a hint of amusement in his eyes.

 

You’re not waiting any longer, and you throw your hand out as Vivillon soars backward to prepare for his move. He’s already caught up to what you’re planning.

 

“Vivi, use Supersonic!”

 

“Don’t give ‘em the chance!” Guzma yells as Masquerain takes off into the sky to escape the range of the impending Supersonic.

 

Vivillon shot towards the fleeing Masquerain. The two fluttered about in such speed, with Vivillon determined to catch his opponent.

 

“Go!” You nearly jumped, nerves bouncing around as you’re watching the two racing about.

 

Gaining on Masquerain, Vivillon screeches a mind-rattling sound wave within range and watched as Masquerain squeaks in a dizzying manner. Practically zig-zagging in flight, Masquerain comes to a complete halt, unaware of Vivillon flying right towards him.

 

There’s a clash of attacks, with Masquerain barely able to hold on with its confused state. Vivillon smacks his opponent around, and you watched as the translucent scales scatter down from his wings. Good.

 

“Psybeam, then another Supersonic!” You yell up to Vivillon as he’s knocked around Masquerain again before inflicting a Supersonic at point blank.

 

“Snap out of it!” Guzma shouts in frustration while you find yourself grinning.

 

Yes, yes, yes!

 

“Gust, let’s go-!”

 

With a powerful flap of his wings, Vivillon sent a surge of wind towards Masquerain, hitting dead center.

 

(In a moment, you wondered if you should teach Vivillon a stronger Flying move.)

 

Masquerain lets out a pitiful cry as its knocked down towards the ground, and Guzma’s yelling for it to snap out of its confused state and fly before it’s too late.

 

“Gust!” You repeat, and Vivillon flies down, sending another strong surge of wind at Masquerain, knocking it into the ground. You wait with bated breath, wondering if that had been enough to knock Guzma’s Pokemon out.

 

And it is.

 

Guzma’s returning Masquerain to its ball with an infuriated expression, already pulling Golisopod’s ball out and tossing him out.

 

“Yer pretty good with that Bug, huh? That’s pretty hot.”

 

“It’s going to get hot in a little bit,” you snapped back, and Guzma’s eyes widen a bit.

 

“Oh damn.” Guzma’s grinning as he’s rubbing his chin, and you take a second to go over the exchange of words and immediately burned up. You could just bury yourself in a hole right now-!

 

“That’s not what I meant! Powder!” you call out as Vivillon shakes itself, the powder dancing to the ground. Guzma raises an eyebrow, not thinking much of it.

 

“What’s that supposed to do? Did you waste a turn to show me a lil’ dance?” Guzma jeers as you try your best to ignore him. Vivillon finishes up and dodges being charged at by Golisopod. Not getting a reaction from you, because you were trying so hard not to let him get to you, Guzma smirks.

 

“Maybe I’ll get you to shake that ass for me after this.”

 

You couldn’t help but sputter, flustered and disgusted at his crude words.

 

“Stop!” You managed to spat at him, glaring him with your heated face. “Gust, Vivi!”

 

“Slash it down,” Guzma orders, laughing with conceited aggression all over his face.

 

Vivillon flapped his wings, picking up the fallen scales, and sent it right at Golisopod. Golisopod’s claws extended and crossed itself over its body, enduring the surge of wind smacking into it.

 

“Vivi, watch out!”

 

Vivillon flew back as Golisopod uncrossed its arms and took after him, swinging long claws at the Butterfly Pokemon. Vivillon narrowly dodged at each swing Golisopod took at it, and you immediately called out another move for Vivillon to use when you realized he won’t be able to dodge for much longer.

 

“Supersonic!”

 

“Don’t even let it get the chance!”

 

Vivillon’s hit by a Slash, and hits the ground with a small tumble. You cover your mouth, gasping sharply as Vivillon is struggling to get back up into the air.

 

“Razor shell.”

 

There’s a dark look of satisfaction in Guzma’s eyes as you screamed out to your Vivillon to get out of the way, and he does fly off to escape Golisopod’s range. You didn’t take into account that Golisopod can be so much faster.

 

With a competitive glint in those beady eyes, Golisopod overtakes Vivillon. Vivillon screeches, trying to swerve and flee the other way, but is hit with a sharp claw.

 

Vivillon falls forward and you immediately dive to catch him in your arms. You let out a shaky breath, checking him for any intense damage. Vivillon painfully croons at you, looking up at you sadly. It breaks your heart, but...

 

Smoothing your hand from the top of his head, you leave a small kiss on Vivillon.

 

“You did so well,” you whispered as you returned Vivillon. You stand up, watching Guzma tapping his foot impatiently.

 

“I know you ain’t done. Send out that Altaria. That Vulpix’s o’ yours got a lotta energy. Nearly ripped a hole in my pants. Send that ankle biter out so I can beat him down, too.”

 

Guzma watches as you stand up tall, giving him this cold look.

 

“It’s like you read my mind,” you hissed through clenched teeth as you hold up the Nest ball for him to see.

 

Vulpix is sent out onto the field, and he shakes himself out before taking a stance. Because of Drought, the air grows more hot and humid. If it had been day time, the sun would mercilessly shine down on everything.

 

With a growl, he’s face to face with Golisopod, who trills at him with a curious turn of its head. Vulpix growls in response, and Golisopod huffs.

 

The best bet is to always make the first move.

 

“Vulpix, Evade no matter what.”

 

“That’s real cute. Razor Claw, Golisopod!”

 

The claws are extended and Golisopod sweeps them at Vulpix. The range is astronomical, but Vulpix is quick to run and jump, dashing across Golisopod’s arms as its leaving deep claw marks into the ground. Vulpix jumps, and you see your chance.

 

“Ember at the ground!”

 

Vulpix opened his mouth, and fire shoots towards the ground behind Golisopod. Barely making contact, the explosive Powder is quick to react and the ground explodes, knocking Golisopod into the air.

 

“Oh DAMN-!” Guzma shouts as he’s ducking out of the way of flying rocks. You hold your arms up in front of your face, trying to shield yourself from the specks and pieces of the ground that flies your way.

 

“Vulpix, Ember!!”

 

Vulpix is falling through the air, and as he turns, he finds himself above the falling Golisopod. Throwing his head back, Vulpix expels a ball of Ember towards Golisopod’s inner body. It hits, and the rest is history.

 

Golisopod falls, and Vulpix stands alone. The dust cloud finally disappears and you lower your arms, taking in the fact that the battle is over. Vulpix is panting, and so are you. The adrenaline’s left you exhausted in so many ways, but you find yourself feeling … contented? Or is it satisfaction?

 

Or maybe you’re happy the battle is finally over and you won.

 

Vulpix runs over to you, turning around and snarling at Guzma in a protective manner. If only he acted this way outside of battles with creeps.

 

Guzma’s staring with his jaw dropped as if he never saw any of that coming. Honestly, you’re glad he didn’t. If that didn’t work, then Vulpix would have lost. By now, you know Golisopod is capable of both Bug and Water-Type moves, which meant it may be a Bug Water Type Pokemon.

 

If Vulpix had been knocked out, Luxray would have been the next Pokemon you’d send out despite your reluctance.

 

“Guzma, what is WRONG with you?!”

 

You nearly jumped and Vulpix almost charged at Guzma from his outburst. He’s wildly running his fingers through his hair, almost yanking at his roots. It looks painful from how tight he’s clutching at his hair.

 

It’s that awkward unsure moment where you don’t really know what to do at such a reaction. Do you say something or leave? Not that you could, since that meant you’d have to walk past him, and you really aren’t sure what he’d do to you.

 

You do find yourself looking past him, hoping to find a chance to make a run for it.

 

Guzma returns Golisopod to his Ultra Ball and takes a step toward you. You wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been for Vulpix snarling angrily at him.

 

“Hey, hey… I come in peace. Chill.” Guzma’s waving his hands down, trying to appease Vulpix that he had no ulterior motives in approaching you.

 

When Vulpix doesn’t back down, Guzma’s digging through his pockets and pulls out a few crumpled up bills. “Look, your trainer won, so I gotta pay her. Unless ya want me to pay her another way?”

 

Again-?

 

“Keep your money!” You snapped immediately, wishing he’d cut out that perverted talk. Is it flirting? Or is this some kind of mind game? He’s been doing this practically since you literally jumped out of the closet.

 

“So ya do want what I got in mind, huh?”

 

“That’s not what I said!” You step around with Vulpix at your side. You keep your eyes on Guzma as you do your best to walk past him. He watches, almost amused by your red face and cautious steps.

 

“You already leavin’?”

 

If he made another quip at you, you ignored him. Vulpix does a good job at keeping Guzma at bay. You’re halfway to the bridge. You pass by the tea shop that you had been waiting at for hours prior to this setup.

 

“Hey, just curious.”

 

Just keep walking. You’re almost to the bridge.

 

The sound of shoes walking through the dirt. He’s walking after you. You pick up the pace, and Vulpix is on alert.

 

“How important is yer friend to ya?”

 

You find yourself coming to a stop, feeling your heartbeat thrum in your ears. You dryly swallow, finding yourself afraid… For Sal and for you. Even if you won, this guy is still controlling the situation.

 

No.

 

Wait.

 

Keep walking.

 

You move a step forward, hoping that it didn’t look like you had stopped. You can pretend you didn’t hear him. He just wants a reaction from you. He won’t actually do it -

 

...would...he?

 

“I saw you stop. Don’t pretend you didn’t hear me.”

 

You stop walking completely, too afraid to turn around. You hear Vulpix growl, and Guzma also stops walking. You hold a hand out, motioning for Vulpix to stop growling. Hesitantly, Vulpix snarls slowly becomes a soft whimper, his ears flattening down. Vulpix glances to you, darting his eyes between his trainer and aggressive human.

 

“You...You won’t do anything to her, will you?”

 

You’re hesitant with your words. Spoken so softly, as if unsure it even mattered if said normally. Guzma still heard you, and it had been difficult for him to hold back a smirk.

 

“Seems like that’s the only thing you care about,” Guzma crosses his arms, his eyes practically pinned on you since he doesn’t have to worry about the ankle biter, “but nah, I wasn’t plannin’ on doing anything to your friend. Just wanted to see if you’d fall for it.”

 

“You…!”

 

That’s playing dirty!

 

You scowled as Guzma shrugs, and suddenly he’s standing so close. He leans down, his lips near your ears. He took in a deep breath before blowing heated air. His hot breath tickles your ear, and you try not to squirm. He doesn’t say anything for several seconds until you could practically hear a grin forming on his face.

 

Your skin tingles. It’s difficult to think straight when he’s so close. For once, you finally notice just how much taller and bigger he is compared to you. If you even had the strength and speed to turn and run, how much faster would he be to just reach out and grab you?

 

There’s a feeling of uneasiness that pools in your stomach as Guzma whispers to you,

 

“That does it. I want ya.”

 

His hand slowly goes up, and his fingers tangles themselves into your hair. He’s probably satisfied that you’re quiet and just letting him talk. Letting him take control again, because you’re at a loss for words.

 

He...

 

Want...you?

 

“Hm... fuck . Yer makin’ this pretty hard for me. I just wanna beat ya down even harder just for how this battle turned out-,”

 

It’s hard to focus, and you’re almost happy you can’t see him. Your legs are trembling, almost imagining the predatory glare he might have in his raging eyes.

 

It scares you.

 

But, in a deeper part inside of you, it also excites you.

 

And that scares you even more.

 

“-I also wanna take you back to my place. Make you mine .”

 

Guzma chuckles deeply, and you close your eyes, trying to lean away from him. It only evokes him to use his free hand to place it on your shoulder, holding you in position.

 

“Been thinkin’ that the second I saw ya up real close.”

 

The second you open your eyes, you see him looking down at you. That shaggy white hair. Those ridiculous glasses. His grey eyes that’s staring you down. That strong nose. Those lips that are curved into an arrogant smirk.

 

Even studying his face, you feel utterly ridiculous for letting him get to you for just a second. How much did Sal talk about you for Guzma to come up with such a manipulative strategy to approach you in such a way? In an almost flirtatious, dangerously lustful way?

 

This is just a trick. You’re able to grab your bearings and make the first move, just as he licked his lips.

 

“...you should probably get away from me right now.”

 

You said it so suddenly, holding a hand out towards Vulpix. In attention, Vulpix waits for a command with his brown eyes glaring at Guzma. Guzma tears his eyes away from you, looking down at the suddenly growling Vulpix.

 

“When Vivillon used his Gust to sweep his Powder across the ground, there may have been a chance that the near translucent scales got on your clothes.”

 

You reach up to gently grab at his wrist, pulling his hand away from your hair. It felt strange to feel those long fingers of his run through your hair until it’s finally free.

 

Don’t think about it-

 

“And Vulpix is more than ready to let you have a taste of his Ember.”

 

Guzma freezes, wrinkling his nose as he takes a second to put the pieces together. The chains of events link together, and he could only let out a scoff.

 

“Yer bullshittin’ me.”

 

“Try me.”

 

You threatened as you place a hand on his chest, shoving him back as hard as you could. A gentle breeze can barely move a heavy boulder. It’s Guzma who willingly steps back, holding his hands up with a straight face. It’s a successful poker face, to hide perhaps his anger towards loss and disappointment in being rejected.

 

You call to your Vulpix, turning away to finally leave. And hopefully for real. All you look forward to is your bed to calm down these nerves that are on fire.

 

As you leave Malie Garden, Guzma stands there as he slowly lowers his arms. His eyes flicker to the retreating figure’s rear, before returning is gaze on the back of your head. There’s no need to wonder if this would be the last time he’d see you. He has what you hold dear on his side as a bargaining chip. With that, he can most definitely arrange to see you again at any time he could want.

 

It’s hilarious to see someone who had been so flustered at a simple catcall from him threaten to have him explode. He lets out a laugh, dusting off the Powder from the front of his jacket.

 

Definitely. He definitely knows what he likes and what he wants.

 

“I definitely want ya.”

 

He always gets what he wants, no matter how much destruction he needs to bring to Alola.

 

.

.

.

 

It’s around one in the morning when you return to the Pokemon Center. There’s the night shift Nurse Joy at the counter, the Pokemart is still open, and the cafe is closed. There are a few Trainers sitting at the couches in the waiting area with blankets around their shoulders, trying to sleep. Must have been too late to occupy a room. There’s barely any space left anywhere. Those who didn’t have any luck, like you the other night, might have had to find another place to sleep for the night.

 

You’re already hurrying up the stairs to go to your room.

 

Once in the room with all the locks used, you’re spraying down Vivillon and Blastoise with some Potion after a dose of Revive. There are some treats spilled from a plastic bag, with Vulpix is chewing on a Leppa Berry treat. Blastoise and Vivillon had their share already.

 

As much as you wanted to go down and have Nurse Joy properly heal your Pokemon, you don’t want Guzma or the grunts finding you in the lobby. Who knows if he has his grunts running around trying to find you?

 

“I’m so sorry, guys. Stars , I am so sorry.”

 

You could apologize a million times, but it will never make you feel any better.

 

Blastoise lies on his stomach with Vivillon on his back as they watch you pace around in the room. Blastoise doesn’t seem too pleased losing, and Vivillon is even more upset. They’re holding their own conversation through soft growls and rumbles as you’re muttering to yourself.

 

They aren’t angry at you, especially when Blastoise glances to you with affection in his eyes. Still, you can’t help but feel guilty. And you can’t help but feel it. The battle would have ended much sooner if you had done research earlier.

 

With an angry huff, you toss yourself onto your bed, just as your thoughts moved to why this battle even had to happen in the first place.

 

“What was Sal thinking? Did she set me up?” You nearly drown yourself in a muffled distressed scream from this betrayal into a pillow. You don’t want to get kicked out for disturbing the next door Trainer.

 

You never thought you’d be faced with the fact that Salana, your best friend turned Team Skull grunt, literally set you up to be cornered by her boss.

 

You’re incredibly upset, naturally. Thoughts about how she had betrayed you to face that awful bully. How she must have wanted to get back at you. It’s those intrusive thoughts that ate away at common sense.

 

However… once you take a second to calm down and think, it actually made sense as to why this happened.

 

This is her boss. The guy who took her in and gave her shelter, a bed, and food to eat. Necessities she must have been desperate for when she was on the road, far from home. He must have ordered her to do it and she couldn’t turn him down.

 

Realizing that, you find your frustrations slowly leaving your mood. You’re still terribly unsettled and disconcerted, naturally, but you really can’t blame her. She’s doing what she has to do, to stay on Guzma and her team’s good side. What was she supposed to do? Say no and get kicked out by betraying them?

 

There’s a part of you that wishes she did, but you knew that if she did, then where would she go?

 

Money is hard to make when you’re on the road. You know that very well, of course.

 

With a mumble, you reach into your pocket, pulling out your phone and checking the time. It’s almost a quarter until two. If you want to wake up at a decent time, you’d have to sleep now.

 

Reaching down, you tug at the shoelace of your boots. Sliding them off, you kicked them over the bed and shifted under the sheets. There’s a dip in the bed. Most likely Vulpix, with Vivillon flying over to shut the lights off.

 

There’s a click and the lights go out. You wish your Pokemon a good night and turn on your side, closing your eyes.

 

It’s hard to keep your thoughts at bay. Guzma bantering, teasing, and mocking you. It’s burned into your mind and still lingering in the dark.

 

You’re terrified of him, because of how straightforward and bold he made himself to be when he threw such teasing words at you. No matter how this is a simple act to one up you through what Sal possibly told him, it’s sad to say that this may very well be the first time you’ve had such an experience with a man.

 

You shift and bury your hot face into your cool pillow. You feel stupid for feeling such a way. You wished you could have reacted better by ignoring him, and not feeling so frantic and embarrassed.

 

Studying and experience are two entirely different things.

 

No amount of romance novels and daydreams can prepare you against a man actually approaching and making advances on you.

 

How close could it have gone where Guzma would actually kiss you. That perverted, wicked, sadistic deviant. If you had not finally summoned up the courage to feign a threat against him, would you have let him get away with kissing you?

 

You turn your head, resting the side of your head against the pillow. These thoughts, the more you think about them, are making your body heat up more and more.

 

I wonder what it would have felt like…?

 

That’s enough thinking.

 

It’s difficult, with such thoughts creeping towards you like hands that want to shake you awake. The minutes becomes an hour, but finally, you relax enough to let yourself drift to sleep without relying on Altaria or Audino.