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Chapter Text

Kukui was standing over the simmering pot of rice porridge, waiting for breakfast to finish cooking. He had to admit he ate breakfast more regularly now that there was a hungry teen living with him. It was much too easy to skip it otherwise. He glanced at the ceiling. Ash would wake to the smell of breakfast on his own most days, but Kukui would check on him in a few minutes to make sure he would be ready in time for school. Burnet had left extra early today for a time-sensitive experiment at her lab.

He looked up from shredding up last night’s leftovers for the porridge when he heard Ash’s groan from the loft. There were a few thumps as Ash moved around faster than usual, followed by a canine yelp and a “Sorry, Lycanroc!”, and then there was Ash climbing down the ladder with Extreme Speed, fully dressed and his partner Pikachu on his shoulder.

“Good morning, Professor Kukui!”

“Good morning, Ash. Breakfast is in a few.”

Ash perked up at the mention of food. “It smells great!”

Pikachu flicked Ash’s ear with his tail, and Ash rubbed the back of his neck.

“Yeah, you’re right. Professor Kukui, do you mind if I use your phone really quick?”

Kukui nodded once. “Go ahead.”

“Great! Thank you!” And with that Ash ducked down into the basement lab where the video phone was.

Kukui could hear snippets of rapid-fire Kantonian as he finished preparing breakfast and dished it into bowls. There were bits about “Kukui-hakase,” “official league,” and a loud “How?” But Ash’s accent wasn’t the easiest for Kukui to understand considering that he learned the Kantonian variant more used in areas like Vermillion City and Saffron City and that he wasn’t trying to eavesdrop in the first place.

Kukui prepared bowls for Ash’s Pokémon as they came in, including a plastic dish of metal shavings for Meltan riding in on Rowlet’s head. His own team preferred to forage for themselves on Ten Karat Hill so long as the weather gave a Sunny Day.

The flow of Kantonian stopped, and then Ash came back up out of the basement. “Thanks, Professor Kukui!”

“Of course, Ash—”

But Ash was already out the front door.

Lycanroc whined at his trainer’s behavior, but before Kukui could decide what to do there was a knock at the door. He shook his head in Confusion and went to answer it. When he opened the door, there was Ash with better posture than he had seen from him, and Pikachu was standing tall next to him on the wooden stoop. Ash and Pikachu bowed, and Kukui blinked slowly as the image processed.

“Good morning, Professor Kukui. We are official representatives of the Orange League here to speak to you on their behalf.”

Kukui opened the door wider. “Come in?”

Ash and Pikachu bowed again. He wasn’t going to get used to that, was he? The pair entered the house and remained in the entryway.

Ash smiled. “The Orange League wants to sponsor Alola’s new league, after a recorded demonstration battle with one of their champions.”

Kukui’s mind whirled at the implications. An official sponsor would make Alola’s path to approval by the Pokémon League at least ten times easier, if not more so. The Orange League, what did he know about the Orange League? It was the oldest League not built around a central land mass, and it was one of the few officially recognized leagues without the classic eight gym format. Their sponsorship would be a boon for Alola, a real Helping Hand.


“The island leagues have to stick together.”

“When is it?”

Ash grinned. “We can decide whenever you’ve decided on your demonstration trainer!”

“What?” Normally Kukui wasn’t caught so wrong-footed, but normally his boarder didn’t approach him as an official representative either.

Ash grabbed the back of his neck and blushed. “Ettoo, didn’t I say? I’m the acting representative champion!”

Kukui was Thunder Shocked. He should really stop being surprised by his kid—this kid. “How about we talk about this over breakfast?”

Ash beamed. “Sounds great!”

They sat down, and Ash said a brief, “Thank you for the food!” before digging in. Kukui started to eat as he considered his questions.

“So, a demonstration battle?”

Ash looked up with a mouth full of food. He swallowed. “Yup! It’s supposed to demonstrate the power and skill of future league members, or at least what standard they’ll be held to. And the recording is so the Orange League can watch to make sure of their decision and to show other people to convince them it’s a good idea.”

“If you’re the representative champion,” which Kukui will unpack later, “why don’t you use one of the Grand Trials?”

Ash tilted his head. “But those are important? And the private sort of important, so they shouldn’t be used for stuff like this.” He ate another spoonful. “Even if they would’ve been recorded, they shouldn’t.”

There was a Flame Burst of affection in Kukui’s chest. It's super effective. What a good kid. “So, we’ll pick a representative for our own league and then you’ll battle them?”

Ash nodded with another mouthful of porridge. His enthusiasm for Kukui’s cooking was flattering. “Mmhm!” He swallowed. “And Drake, he’s the Supreme Gym Leader, says I’ve gotta make whoever it is really give their all, so I’m supposed to call over some of my most experienced teammates.” He beamed at his team eating their breakfast. “I hope you guys learn a lot from meeting them!”

Ash’s team mirrored his enthusiasm, and Kukui couldn’t help his grin.

After breakfast, RotomDex floated down from the loft. “What did I miss that was so important? You two were being 23% louder than usual!—bzzrt!”

Chapter Text

Mallow tugged on her backpack straps on her way to the classroom. “What do you think we’re going to learn today?”


Mallow nodded. She had started paying extra attention to what sounds Tsareena made when she spoke. Ash always made it seem so easy to understand almost exactly what a pokémon he knew was trying to say, and so she was practicing! She already had understood the general idea of what Tsareena meant even as a bounsweet and a steenee, and tone was easy, so it shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Mallow stopped on her way into the classroom. She leaned towards Tsareena. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”


Ash was writing something down. Actually taking notes! Class hadn’t even started yet!

“Who do you think’ll wanna come?”

Pikachu tilted his ears up and back, stretched his snout forward, and slit his eyes into triangles. That was an impression of a charizard!

Ash nodded. “Yup!” Then he wrote something down.

Pikachu tilted his snout down and pulled his ears back and folded them down to make triangles. And was that a twig in his mouth? Who’s that pokémon?

Ash must’ve gotten the message anyway because he nodded again, went “Yup!” and wrote something else down.

Pikachu tilted his ears all the way back this time, one on top of the other, and he twirled his tail around.

“Oh yeah, him for sure.” Ash wrote yet another thing down, and really, what was up with that?

Well, it wasn’t that weird. Ash did think about things. Sometimes. She sidled over to where Lana was petting Primarina. Sandy tackled Tsareena to say hello part of the way over.

“Any idea what Ash is up to?”

Lana’s head tilted. “I don’t think he’ll be able to keep it from us as long as it isn’t supposed to be a secret.”

That was fair enough, but why wait?

Mallow slid over to Ash’s desk and glanced at the paper Ash was taking notes on. Ugh, Kantonian. She couldn’t even begin to try reading those characters.

Pikachu held his ears out to the side and curled the edges up to make horns, and then he pawed at the ground on all fours.

Ash watched his partner for a moment before blinking. “Tauros? Oh! If the herd leader’s interested, d’you think the beach would be a good place?”



This was as good of an opening as any. “Whatcha doin’?”

Ash startled and dropped his pencil. “Oh! Alola, Mallow!”

Pikachu hopped off the desk after the pencil and Mallow smiled. “Alola! So, what were you doing?”

Ash looked at his messy page of notes and then back at Mallow. “A friend of mine asked me to do a demonstration battle for him and said I’m supposed to use some of my older pokémon. I e-mailed Tracey—you know Tracey, right?”

Professor Oak’s assistant? Mallow nodded. She spotted Kiawe on the other side of the room doing a poor job of hiding his interest.

“Right! Well, I asked Tracey if he would ask around my pokémon at the ranch to see who would be interested!” He gestured to his notes. “Me an’ Pikachu were trying to guess who it'd be.”

Pikachu hopped back onto the desk and handed the recovered pencil over to Ash. “Pikachuu.”

“Thanks, buddy.” Ash scritched the side of Pikachu’s neck and Pikachu let out a satisfied “Chaa.”

“Your older pokémon?” Mallow asked. She wracked her memory. “Oh! You have a bulbasaur, right?” That bulbasaur was just the absolute cutest! And it was so happy to see Ash, too.

“Yeah!” Ash’s eyes lit up. “Bulbasaur’s awesome! Although I don’t think it’ll be too interested. It really likes assisting Professor Oak!”

“It assists the Pokémon Professor?”

“It sure does! It helps keep things running smoothly at the ranch, and it helps with experiments sometimes, too!”


“Yeah! I haven’t been able to find a lab coat that’ll fit it yet, but I got Bulbasaur its own clipboard! It picked the color out an’ everything!”

By the Guardians, could that bulbasaur get any cuter?

But before Mallow could ask any more questions, Professor Kukui came in and they all had to hurry to their desks to start class.




Hala let out a sigh as he sat down on his couch, his old student across from him. He recognized that particular set in his posture. Kukui had come for more than one reason. He may as well get comfortable. “What can I do for you today, Kukui?”

“You know about my plans to start an Alolan Pokémon League?”

Hala nodded. It had come up more than once. “Yes, but from when we last spoke about it, I thought it would still be a long way off.” He eyed Kukui. “Has that changed?”

Kukui shifted in his seat. That boy, always so restless. “Maybe.”

Hala waited.

“The Orange League wants to sponsor Alola’s petition to be an official league. I found out this morning.”

“Is that so? The one with the Orange Islands?”

Kukui nodded. “Their representative champion will battle someone, or honestly, at least one someone, and record it for the Orange League to finalize their decision and use as evidence with the other Leagues.”

“What good fortune.” And yet Kukui did not seem entirely pleased. Hala leaned forward. “But I must admit, I do not understand why you came to me about this so swiftly.”

Kukui avoided making eye contact. “Ah, I thought you and the other kahunas would want a say in who would be representing Alola for this.”

“I will speak with the others. And when will we be receiving their champion?”

Kukui shook his head. “He’s already here.”

Hala paused as the pieces aligned in his mind’s eye. “Young Ash?”

Kukui nodded.

“Hmm. I could tell he was an experienced battle trainer. You can’t command even a veteran pokémon like that pikachu so well otherwise.”

Kukui shifted in his seat, and Hala watched him carefully. In his youth, Kukui’s feelings would frequently knot up into a tangled mass when he tried to ignore them, and it would take him much guidance to work through them later when confronted with them. Let’s see if we can isolate the first big knot for him to work through on his own, hm?

“I find it interesting that while here in Alola, he has only trained and battled with his pikachu and other Alolan pokémon.”

In fact, Ash as a trainer reminded Hala much of himself as a martial artist. Never content for too long with all that he had learned. Always eager to learn more and more and more about different styles and different ways of learning those styles. Ash in particular loved to learn new ways to work together with pokémon. Alolan battling seemed to suit Ash well.

Kukui stared at him for a moment. “You’re not surprised.”

“Tell me, Kukui. Why do you think that I should be surprised the boy is an Orange League Champion?”

Kukui leaned into his snark. “For his trial his first solution was to battle the entire swarm of rattata and ratticate at once.”

“So, he’s young and eager to battle. I was much the same at his age. You can’t fault the young for their youth. All that will accomplish is irritating the youths!” And that bad habit was a particularly difficult one to unlearn.

Kukui sighed and didn’t say anything more. Kukui was a thoughtful teacher and friend, and he didn’t indulge in petulance often, so Hala let him have his moment.

But after long enough he asked, “And why do you think that you should be surprised? Do you think him unskilled?”

Kukui jolted in his seat. “I don’t! Ash is a great trainer. His bonds with his pokémon are amazing, and it’s a joy to see him and his pokémon improve every day. ”

Hala waited.

Kukui ran a hand through his hair. “I just—I never even knew he was the champion of any League! I don’t think I could even guess how many Leagues he’s been in.”

“Do you want to know these things about Ash?”

Kukui’s shoulders dropped in a rough sketch of a shrug. “I don’t know.”

“Do you want Ash to tell you these things?”

Kukui’s brow twitched. “He’s not even my kid! So, it shouldn’t matter, right?”

There it was.

Ever since Ash had come to live with him, Kukui had asked him for guidance on multiple occasions to help take care of his ward, for all that he claimed to be no father. If Hala knew his former student at all, young Kukui would own up to that title soon enough.

“But you care for him,” Hala said.

Kukui nodded. “Yes. Of course.”

“And yet, do you think you don’t know him well enough?”

“I think… I think I know him very well. We’ve lived together for months and I’ve been teaching him and learning from him and even though I know who Ash is, I feel I know hardly anything about him outside of Alola.”

Hmm. Hala may need to contemplate this further with Oranguru.

Chapter Text

Ash was an Orange League Champion, which was objectively good, and he had never made any mention of it to Kukui before, which was fine. Really. Kukui, Burnet, and Ash were all eating dinner together, which was great, and it was Burnet’s cooking, which was even better.

Ash was inhaling the stir fry at a rate that made RotomDex loop around the table collecting data, and Burnet watched with an expression between scientific curiosity and concern.

After a particularly large mouthful, her concern won out. “Please don’t choke, Ash. There’s plenty left no matter how fast you eat.”

Ash set down his bowl with a blush. “Sorry, it’s just so good!”

She smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. What’s got your appetite so worked up?”

“Me and Pikachu were scouting!”

She leaned forward. “Oh?”

Kukui hid his smile at the textbook application of the Engage in Conversation technique to make Ash pace himself.

Ash nodded. “We were trying to pick a good spot for the demonstration battle!”

RotomDex flew in between them over the table. “And I helped by taking photo documentation of each location! I estimate I improved the efficiency of the total operation by 31 percent!” They then proceeded to flip though photos of open spaces that Kukui knew were all over Melemele.

“Did you run around the whole island?” he asked.

Ash shook his head as he finished his current mouthful. “Nah. We figured there wouldn’t be any good places in Hau’oli or anything. We wanted to make sure that it’s far enough out of the way, y’know?”

Burnet made a circular gesture with her fork. “Are there any specific requirements from the Orange League you need to follow?”

Ash rocked his head from side to side. “Not really? The Orange League knows I know how to battle wherever and to avoid damaging anything important, but the Crew says there’s rules and stuff for how the cameras get set up depending on the surroundings?” He shrugged. “And I gotta say ahead of time what the rules are for natural boundaries and if we’re doing ring outs or not. That sorta thing.”

RotomDex crossed their arms. “I still don’t think you need any additional cameras if I’m going to be there—zzzrt.”

“You don’t want Ash to not satisfy his requirements, right?” Burnet asked.

RotomDex buzzed their indignation.

Ash ginned. “Besides, RotomDex! You’re way more awesome than some camera that’s gotta stay in one place the whole time! I’m sure you’d be able to get all sorts of move data for Professor Kukui.”

RotomDex’s screen brightened. “Hmm, I suppose this is true.”

Burnet glanced to the clock on the wall. “Isn’t that Laki rerun starting soon?”

They gasped. “You are 100 percent correct! I need to get ready—bzzrt!” And then they zipped up to the loft to put on their official Detective Laki wig.

She let out a small sigh at RotomDex’s departure, and then she nudged Kukui under the table before continuing to eat her dinner.

Kukui bit back his groan. He already told her that he’d heard back from the Kahuna earlier today. Kahuna Hala was endlessly helpful, really, but talking to him outside of his official role as Pokémon Professor or as a teacher at the Pokémon School always left him feeling like a keiki who hadn’t grown into his hands and feet yet.

The memory of his teenage haircut alone hit Kukui like an Ominous Wind, and he Disabled his shudder. Burnet can never know.

He leaned forward. “By the way, Ash.” He waited until he had Ash’s attention. “Kahuna Hala got back to me today about the representative trainer.”

Ash perked up. “Really?”

Kukui nodded. “And, ah, he and Kahuna Olivia were wondering if you’d be interested in any additional exhibition battles?”

It was a wonder Ash didn’t jump on top of his seat, how fast he Bounced up. “Really? That would be awesome!”

There was a Dazzling Gleam in his eyes, and Kukui wanted to ruffle the kid’s hair, so he reached over and did exactly that. And if Ash leaning into the affectionate contact was like a Heal Pulse to his frazzled nerves, that was no one’s business but his own.

Burnet leaned against the table and gave him a fond but knowing look—so maybe not only his business. “Does that mean Ash is going to battle the Kahunas again?”

Kukui waved hand in a so-so motion. “Kahunas Hala and Olivia were the ones interested in having a rematch. Those would be the exhibition battles.” He looked to Ash again. “They’re fine with those being recorded as well.”

Ash nodded. Actually, no, he was still bouncing in his seat. “Cool! Then who’s the demonstration trainer?”

Kukui didn’t squirm in his seat. At all. He was an adult. Maybe if he kept reminding himself of the fact it would do something. “The Kahunas have elected me as the demonstration trainer.”

Thanks, Kahuna Hala. He definitely wanted even more feelings to unpack. How did you know?

“Wow! That’s so awesome!” Ash turned to Pikachu. “Don’t you think so, buddy?”

Pikachu, who had definitely been focused on getting the last molecules of his granted dollop of ketchup, looked up and chirruped his agreement with Ash anyway.

Burnet grinned at him, which certainly didn’t help the embarrassment boiling up in his gut and collecting in the space between his lungs. He decided to focus on Ash instead.

The kid was practically vibrating with excitement. “Can I use your phone early tomorrow to call Professor Oak? And maybe bring some of my teammates over? Can they stay here, or should I find somewhere else? Can I train—”

Kukui laughed. “Let’s slow down a bit, yeah? Yes, you can call Professor Oak in the morning, and yes, your pokémon can stay here. But remember you need to sleep before any of that happens.”

Ash nodded as he kept shifting in his seat and drumming out a rhythm with his fingers against his thigh. “I can do the dishes first?”

“Sure thing.” It would help him settle down, if nothing else. “And I’ll help.”

Ash stood, picked up his dishes and walked towards the sink, only to Speed Swap into a powerwalk. He wasn’t allowed to run with dishes. “Meltan! Put down Professor Burnet’s pan! We don’t eat other people’s things without getting permission first!”

Kukui and Burnet looked at each other for a second before they both lost the Vice Grip on their laughter. He then gathered up the remaining dishes at the table and started consolidating them to a single stack.

Burnet gave him her dishes and her thanks, and he waggled his eyebrows at her.

“What, no Sweet Kiss?”

Burnet huffed a laugh and then kissed him lightly on the lips, and then once more on the cheek before ducking away to change into her sleep clothes.

Kukui grinned. How’d he get to be so lucky?

Chapter Text

Kiawe basked in the rush of sea air as Charizard used a thermal to boost the rest of his glide into Melemele. The deliveries for the day were done, so he and Charizard were enjoying the rest of their morning commute. He didn’t think he would ever grow tired of the beautiful Alolan skies.

But, today, it was not meant to last.

The shriek reached him before the diving blue blur, and Kiawe braced with his knees when Charizard barrel rolled out of the way.

He looked up to see a blue bird pokémon with a red crown, and it seemed shocked. It called out once before flitting back towards Melemele. Kiawe checked he was still secure in his harness before telling Charizard, “After them!”

They wouldn’t take this lying down.

But, instead of returning to its roost or some thug of a trainer, the bird led Kiawe and Charizard to a stretch of beach with Ash and entirely too many other pokémon.

Charizard landed on with a small puff of sand, and Kiawe dismounted before approaching his friend. He crossed his arms. “Ash. Why am I not surprised?”

Ash looked up from where he was sitting on the sand petting Torracat and shot Kiawe a bright grin. “Kiawe! Alola!”

“Alola. So, do you mind explaining what that was about?”

Ash blinked. “What what was about?”

The bird pokémon screeched from further down the beach, and Ash whipped his head in its direction.

“What did you do?”

A squawk this time.

Ash shook his head and then looked to Kiawe. “Sorry about Swellow, she says she had the wrong charizard.”

Kiawe jolted. “The wrong charizard?”

Ash nodded. “Yep! Must have been.” He stood up and brushed the sand off of his shorts, and then he tilted his head back and cupped his hands in front of his mouth. “Hey! Charizard!”

Charizard snapped to attention next to Kiawe, and a thundering roar came from above the early morning clouds. Another charizard dove down, down, down and twisted up to land neatly behind Ash. The charizard—male, Kiawe could tell—roared again.

Kiawe’s Charizard roared back, and then the two dragons locked eyes on one another.

Kiawe held his breath. Grandfather told him never to get between rival charizards.

A tense moment passed where the two fire dragons sized each other up, but they both must have been old and scarred enough to pass muster because they didn’t immediately start a dominance fight.

Instead, the foreign charizard turned his sharp gaze to Kiawe.

Kiawe let out a carefully controlled breath and glanced to Ash. “Why is your charizard glaring at me?”

Ash laughed nervously. “Ah, he doesn’t really trust my judgement of other trainers with charizards anymore.”

“What?” And Kiawe didn’t know whether he was offended or not.

Ash continued on, as ever. “Which I think is totally unfair! It only happened the one time, and Alain and I are good now.”

What did Alain even do? Steal Ash’s lunch one time?

Charizard opened fire directly at Ash’s face, and Kiawe jumped. “Ash!”

But when the Flamethrower stopped, Ash was covered in soot but otherwise unharmed. “C’mon, you didn’t have to scare him like that, Charizard.”

Ash’s Charizard grumbled something that Kiawe took to mean, ‘I really did.’

Kiawe wondered briefly if Ash would find a person stealing his lunch less forgivable than whatever it is that Alain did to make this charizard so suspicious.

Ash wiped most of the soot from his face and then perked up. “Oh! But I haven’t introduced anybody yet!” He looked to his partner. “Pikachu?”

Pikachu chirruped and then braced himself before jumping into the air. He released a quick series of short and long thunderbolts.

A moment passed before the pokémon on the beach gathered close and more came from the woods. There was that dive bomber perched on a tauros’ horns. RotomDex floated around, taking pictures of the different pokémon and babbling about their statistics.

A sudden, loud squealing noise got louder and higher pitched, and Ash’s legs widened to a more stable stance. A large, dark dragon swooped in and scrabbled at the sand before tackling Ash into a hug.

Ash just laughed and scritched the dragon under the chin. “Bruyverne! Quoi de beau?”

The dragon screeched delightedly.

“Où est ton tonton?”

Since when did Ash speak Kalosais?

The dragon wriggled and then gestured towards the tree line it had come from, where a colorful bird pokémon was flying in. The bird landed in front of them and immediately started scolding the dragon pokémon.

Ash took one look at Kiawe’s expression and rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah, sorry. Noivern is still the most comfortable with Kalosais. But he’s gotten a lot better at Kantonian!” He petted Noivern’s ruff. “Tu es si habile!”

Noivern preened under the attention, and the probably-also-Kalosais bird pokémon switched its aggrieved look from dragon to trainer.

Ash, unbothered, looked around the gathered pokémon and nodded once. “Right! Introduction time! So, you’ve already met Charizard. I met him in Kanto and he’s really strong!” He went over and rubbed the base of Charizard’s horns. “He even spent time in the Charicifc Valley because he wanted to learn all he could! I respect him a lot.”

Charizard licked a stripe up Ash’s face and he laughed brightly.

“And Tauros is the leader of his herd back at the ranch!” Ash patted his flank and Tauros lowed. “He’s really clever and he likes showin’ off to the other Tauros how good he is at moving around on sand.”

Tauros bumped him.

“You do!”

Then there was Swellow, that fiend, who came from Hoenn. Ash finger combed the feathers above her shoulder joint and claimed she was as “solid as a solrock” and loved a challenge.

Ash gave Torracat another scritch to make the feline pokémon melt. “You already know how strong Torracat is, of course,” he said with a smile. Torracat purred.

Then there was Sceptile, also from Hoenn, who was “always cool under pressure.” He received a dignified hand clasp to the shoulder.

Then Buizel, from Sinnoh, who was full of resolve, received rubs to the back of his head.

And Kingler, from Kanto, never gave up. Ash gently tapped a soft rhythm on her carapace with his fingertips.

Kiawe did his best to stay focused, but there were so many different pokémon and Ash had plenty to say about each of them. He could feel his mind slip into the half-aware state that normally only happened during lectures, and he was overly aware of the sand stuck in his sandals and the sun on his back.

Ash used both hands to scratch Lycanroc behind the ears. Lycanroc barked when Ash said he was awesome.

Hawlucha, from Kalos, was honorable. He offered Ash a fist bump, which Ash happily returned.

Noivern, from Kalos, was “always getting better,” Ash said as he petted his ruff again.

Glalie, from Hoenn, was a bit of a prankster and, Ash leaned forwards for this, “really cool.”

Kiawe face-faulted. “Really—”

But he was cut off by Glalie’s gleeful snickering.

Rowlet, asleep, got a gentle pat, and Ash softly cooed about how strong he was.

Meltan, tucked firmly against Rowlet’s side, received a shiny metal washer from Ash’s pocket.

Krookodile, from Unova, who was wearing sunglasses for some reason, was apparently a “real sweetheart.” Ash gave him a side-hug, and Krookodile rubbed his lower jaw into his hair.

Noctowl, perched on Krookodile’s opposite shoulder, was from Johto and tricksy and really smart. He cooed as Ash stroked his breast feathers.

Infernape was from Sinnoh, and Kiawe would admit that the fire type piqued his interest again. Ash grabbed Infernape’s hand and didn’t let go. “And he is one of the bravest pokémon I know.”

Infernape started to look misty eyed, and Pikachu hopped over to pat him on the shin.

“I also have Snorlax with me.” Ash gestured with his free hand to the one unopened pokéball at his belt and grinned. “But I’ll let her out once I have a snack ready for her!”

Pikachu protested, and Ash laughed. “Of course I didn’t!”

Pikachu hopped up onto Ash’s shoulder, and he smiled so big his eyes shut. “And Pikachu is my best buddy!”

Kiawe wasn’t surprised that that was all Ash thought there was to say about Pikachu.

Pikachu chirruped teasingly and flicked his tail into Ash’s head.

Ash made an affronted noise. “That was the short version!”

Kiawe looked at Ash and all of his teammates who clearly adored him. It was moments like this that Kiawe found it odd Ash was favored by the Guardian of Conflict over any of the other Tapu.

Then Ash turned towards his pokémon, Infernape staying close to his side. He swung his free hand out. “And this is Kiawe! He’s really cool and strong and he specializes in fire types! Like Charizard and Turtonator and Marowak!”

His pokémon all looked at him strangely and Swellow changed perches from Tauros to Ash’s shoulder to gently poke at his head.

Ash laughed and nudged her back. “Alolan marowak are ghost and fire types!”

Most of the gathered pokémon were visibly relieved. Glalie snickered again.

Ash started up again as if he had never stopped in the first place. “He and Marowak are really good at fire dancing, like wow! And he’s awesome at Z-moves!”

Kiawe shifted uncomfortably at Ash’s gushing. Did he really think so highly of him? How did his pokémon withstand such direct affection? Was there special training? There probably was.

Ash gasped and turned to face Kiawe. “Do you wanna help us train later?”

Kiawe blinked and demonstrated his eloquence and experience as a trainer with a “What.”

“Will you train with us, Kiawe? Please? At least for a little bit?”

Ash’s eyes were shining and, really, how was Kiawe supposed to say no when he didn’t have family obligations to back himself up? He had wanted to find a good place to practice fire dancing that Mimo wouldn’t be able to stumble across today, but he could feel his will-power draining away.

“Yeah. Sure.” Charizard nudged at him. “But we have school first.”

“Huh? Oh! RotomDex! Are we running late?”

RotomDex displayed a blinking countdown on their screen. “We are four minutes and twenty-seven seconds before your average time of departure!”

“Oh, phew.” Ash turned to the gathered pokémon. “So! You guys are welcome to stay at Professor Kukui’s house, or if you promise not to be disruptive you’re welcome to come along to the Pokémon School, too. Or you guys can explore Melemele! But remember that we’re guests and so we shouldn’t cause any trouble.”

While it was hilarious to hear Ash ever tell anyone not to cause trouble, something in Kiawe’s gut twisted funny to hear Ash refer to himself as a guest. Kiawe did not know when he stopped mentally labeling Ash as “foreigner.” It felt like he had been living in Alola for much longer than was the case.

Some of the pokémon started to disperse. Kingler made some cheerful hissing, clicking noises and shuffled down the strand towards the Professor’s place. Glalie giggled madly before zooming off into the woods. Kiawe shivered, and not because Glalie was an ice type.

“Be back here by four, okay!” Ash called out. Pikachu hopped onto Infernape. Ash turned to Kiawe with a cheeky grin, and he dove for his charizard. “Race ya!”

Kiawe squawked and got himself into Charizard’s harness. “Let’s go!”