The night is too cold in the Alola region. After traveling for months in every weather and at any time of the day you’re used to it, but lying motionless in the grass covered in hoarfrost still isn’t enjoyable. Ignoring it, you watch silently the sky sprinkled with stars and you admire the shining moon, huge and bright, sometimes obscured by the shadow of your trustworthy Decidueye who oversees the surroundings to protect you from wild Pokemons. That funny, big owl is the only one who truly understands you, the only one who knows your doubts, your indecisions, your anxieties about your future. You’ve become the Alola champion and the islands of the region have no longer secrets for you, everything that happens is now part of an everyday life that you love and hate at the same time; you’ve lived extraordinary and unique adventures, you’ve grown as a person and as a trainer and you’ve done all this alone with only your Pokemons, without any other constant in your travelling from city to city apart from them.
Or rather, with only a constant apart from them, a person that you would like to erase from your memory and hug and never let him go at the same time. Because, even though admitting it is even more distressing, in every moment of your life, even when you were feeling most lonely, you never were. Wherever you set your feet this person was always there a step behind you, leading you toward your new adventures and discoveries, pretending to let you go on your own but then following you step by step, inaugurating your victory in the league with the best battle ever.
This person, Kukui, has never left you alone for a moment. He introduced you – in an absurd disguise – in the world of Battles Royale, he threw you like a sacrifice against the boss of the Skull Team, he led you in every new place and gradually, without you even noticing, he found himself a comfortable spot in your heart from which you can no longer send him away. And you really wish to send him away, you really want to; that grateful and uncertain feeling you had for him has slowly grown in your chest, covering all your other emotions and thoughts. You’ve fallen in love with him, you had no choice, and that’s why you’d love to run away and live new experiences that can make you forget him – because he belongs to another woman, because being forced to see his smile everyday can make you happy and distressed at the same time, because beyond what your feelings for him are, Kukui is a truly important person in your life and your biggest dream is to be able to stay in his company without the risk of bursting into tears every time.
A tear falls on your cheek and you don’t bother drying it. Over your head, your Decidueye stops his flight, looking at you as if he could understand even from that distance your anxiety and pain. You raise your arm and put your thumb up in his direction, smiling, pretending everything is fine, but your loyal mate has no reason nor will to believe you. He understands your desire of being alone though, and he flies away once again, going out of your sight with a flatter of his wings. Slowly you lower your arm resting it on the grass, closing your eyes and letting more tears out, tears that warm your frozen face.
“Sad night?”, a familiar voice asks. You immediately open your eyes wide and you see the professor who was populating your melancholic thoughts, turned over because of your position. You quickly sit down and wipe your tears with one arm. You try to stand up but Kukui stops you, placing a warm hand on your shoulder and sitting on the grass right next to you. “Stay there, cousin. I’m coming down”, he says.
You try to relax as the professor slowly stretches out on the grass in the same position you were in before, inviting you to do the same with a smile and a gesture of his hand. You hesitantly imitate him by lounging at his side. You stay there a few moments looking at the stars together, while his proximity makes you feel even more sad and confused than you were before. You cannot help but start weeping again, silently, hoping that the professor won’t notice it, but your hopes are crushed as Kukui sighs and put an arm under your neck and around your shoulders, briefly hugging you.
“I’ve been looking for you for a while before I found you”, he tells you, and you look at him in surprise. You thought he had met you by chance but, actually, there aren’t many reasons as to why a person should be around so late during the night. “Were you looking for me?”, you mutter. He nods. “Your mum called me to ask if I knew where you were… She feared you had left again without saying it. I told her I hadn’t heard from you for a while, then I looked out of the window and I saw your Decidueye flying around… I was worried about you so I decided to come, but I lost him at a certain point and I went a bit blind”.
You silently nod. You feel sorry for worrying him and feel bad about getting him out that late, but you don’t know what to say and you don’t trust your voice. Kukui doesn’t seem to appreciate your silence, though, and he wants to find a way to make you speak at any cost. “So, what’s wrong, cousin?” He asks. You just shake your head. “Sad night” you say, using his same words. He sighs and frees you from his comforting hug and you suddenly feel even lonelier than you felt before. He elegantly put his hands behind his head and only then you notice his clothing, which is quite normal for him but unusual considering the time of the day. As usual his chest is bare under the unbuttoned white coat and you don’t understand how he cannot be freezing.
“Professor, aren’t you cold?” You ask. “I am, and I wear a sweater and a jacket!”
You shouldn’t have said that. Kukui quickly takes his lab coat off, using it as a blanket to cover you. “I’m sorry, I should have imagined you were cold. I haven’t thought about that”, he apologizes, and you softly laugh as you try to give it back to him, even though he refuses to take it. “Professor, what are you doing? You’ll get cold!”
“I’m never cold, cousin. I’m always hot”, he answers, and you blush at that sentence, wrapping yourself better in the coat. You start feeling warm now, surrounded by his wonderful smell of which you’d never get enough – you’re having a hard time trying not to think of the fact that he’s half-naked next to you though.
You shyly smile at him, your face still wet, and he smiles you back, fondly. “Why were you crying?” He asks then, and you know he’ll insist until he gets an answer – he cares too much about everything and everyone to just let it go. You decide to give him a half-truth. “I’m just confused”, you say. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should stay here or go visit another region, I don’t know if I should keep training my Pokemons or stop with fights… I know nothing”.
He probably expected that answer and he nods with a sad smile. “I can’t help you with this”, he whispers looking at the sky, “That’s a decision you have to make on your own. What I can tell you is that everyone here will support you whatever decision you take”.
“You too?” You can’t help but ask, anxiously. “Yeah, me too”, he answers seriously. “Especially me. You’re important to me, you know, and wherever you go there will be something that will never change. When you come back, I’ll always have a place you can call home”.
You blush and nod, feeling a bit better, trying to stand up from your comfortable position. “Thank you, professor. I think I’ll go home now. I don’t want to worry my mum”.
“Not so fast, cousin”, he stops you, catching your arm. “It doesn’t make sense to me. You’re a strong girl… You’ve reached incredible goals in only seven months, none could have done the same. You’ve become the first League champion after the Rite of Island Challenges and you’ve come back laughing despite all the difficulties. You never doubted yourself, you never gave in and, above all, you never cried. Do you really think that I could believe you were crying just because you’re confused?”
You keep silent, looking at him in the eyes. He lets your arm go and sighs. “If you don’t want to confide in me, that’s fine. Just, please, remember that if you need anything, I’m here for you”.
“Thank you”, you whisper. You are hoping to end that difficult conversation and you welcome with a smile the landing of you Decidueye. He hoots in happiness – he enjoys so much night flights.
You smile at him. “Shall we go home?” You ask and he nods. You look at Kukui again. “Thank you, professor, thank you for your help and your words. Thank you for everything”. He smiles, and in front of his face full of affection you truly understand that staying in Alola isn’t a possible choice. If you stay where you can see him, you won’t be able to forget him and forgetting him is the only way you can be happy. If you stay on the island you’d inevitably end up searching his smile every moment, you’d live only to see him and you’d break your heart everyday, until there would be nothing else to break. You’re too young and you don’t know how to face your feelings, so the only thing left to do is leaving. You are running away, but it’s necessary and now that you’ve realized it you are looking forward to it, so you can start living again.
When you’re in front of your doorstep, after Kukui silently walked you back, you tell him your decision without thinking twice about it. “I’ll go to Kalos”, you say. “I’ll fight, I’ll try winning the Pokemon League… Then I’ll come back or I’ll move on and go to another region… I’ll see”.
He nods, looking sad. You throw him his lab coat and try getting into your house, but his voice stops you again. “That’s because of me, isn’t it?”.
You turn to him and stare blankly. He waves a hand in the air, trying to explain himself. “You're leaving. It’s because of me, isn’t it? You’re running away from me”.
You look at him carefully. You look at his darkened, serious eyes, you look at his lips, that aren’t smiling anymore but are not, therefore, less beautiful. You can see a sort of hardness in his face that you have never seen before, a regret that you did not believe he had any reason to feel. Maybe he feels guilty because he feels he is the reason that is making you leave, maybe he just feels sad because, after all, he loves you, just not in the way you would like him to do though. You answer sincerely, maybe hoping that one last confession could change things.
"Yes", you say. Simple, concise. There is no need to say anything else, he understands.
While he walks away giving you his back, you cannot help but start crying again. He turns to face you, a few meters ahead, and he smiles at you, trying to give you strength.
Hardly, you smile, too. After all, when you say goodbye to someone you love, you have to show them one last smile.
* * *
You stay up almost all night. You lay in the bed without getting sleep for hours, overwhelmed by the memories of your painful meeting, full of love and sadness.
When you came home, despite the hour, your worried mum was still up waiting. She saw your tears and without saying a word she hugged you; you didn’t wonder if she didn’t ask anything because she already knew the reason of your pain or because she didn’t care – it wasn’t important. You hugged her back, you tried to take all the consolation you could from those arms that once upon a time, in your too far away childhood, were able to get rid of any problem you had. Unfortunately, growing up, your mind has made them lose that wonderful magic and yesterday night all you could do was to wait for your tears to stop dropping and wetting her pajamas.
You went to bed soon after. Alone, lying on the duvet, you were no longer able to cry. You kept silent, as if you were emptied, thinking of your professor and still smelling around you the wonderful scent of his coat.
When you fall asleep, the sun has already risen.
You wake up after only a few hours of sleep and after getting dressed you wearily go downstairs. In the kitchen, you find your mother waiting for you; as soon as she sees you she smiles and hands you an envelope. “Professor Kukui was here", she tells you, and you wince to the name. "He left this for you."
Curious and frightened by its possible content you grab the letter and go back to your room, where you impatiently open it.
Forgive me for my letter, but I couldn’t sleep tonight and I was able to think about our conversation.
I care about you, you know. I tried to show you how much I do during this months. I did my best to assist you, even though I see that the message hasn’t been really understood despite all I did.
I’ll simply go straight to the point. You told me I was right, you’re running away from me, and saying that, well, you didn’t literally break my heart – that would be an exaggeration – but it was not enjoyable nonetheless. I spend my life and my time encouraging the love of young people toward the world of Pokemons and I always try to be as likable as possible... What have I done wrong to be so obnoxious to you?
You can’t believe what you’re reading. Love is blind, but you would have never thought that professor Kukui could be that stupid! You thought that the night before he had realized that saying that you were running away from him you implicitly meant to confess your love... And instead of this, he had understood something totally different! You keep reading, feeling, somehow, terribly guilty.
Well, as you probably guessed last night, I already suspected you didn’t like me. I had figured it as I saw your behavior with me and with others: every time you did not see me you were happy, you laughed and joked with everyone, but whenever I arrived you would just stop talking, as if you were a different person. I tried to ignore it, I told myself so many times that I had not done anything wrong to you and that it was not possible for you to hate me. I tried to make you understand how important you were to me and how significant your approval was by supporting you more than I’ve ever done with anyone else... And yet you never opened up with me as all of your friends did, you always refused the help that I offered you, you’ve become more and more independent. I have admired you by far and I’ve waited for months for any clue that could give me a glimpse of your affection.
The battle against you at the league gave me hope. It was the best fight I've had in many years, perhaps in my entire life. And you smiled, you were having fun, and I thought I had created a contact between us... Boy, was I mistaken! But what have I done wrong?
I do not really expect you to answer – I doubt in any case that you have a logical answer. I just want to tell you that after all, given the circumstances, I understand your desire to leave. The contacts with the professor of the region are important for a Pokemon Trainer, especially for a trainer as good and skilled as you are. There are the reports on the completion of the Pokedex, the management of the Pokemons in the boxes, there are too much reasons that would force you to see me too often if you stayed here in Alola. And, as I understood, that’s the only reason for your leaving.
You have your family here, your friends. You're young, and you should stay next to them. I will do anything possible to make you stay: I was offered a job in Sinnoh a few months ago, with plenty of time to accept it, which I decided I will. I want to give you the opportunity to stay, if that's what you want, no matter what. That’s perhaps the only way to make you understand how much I care about you.
I’m leaving in a few weeks. You may come and say goodbye when the time comes. That would mean a lot to me.
Thank you anyway for the great experience that we shared together.
Wish you best.
When you leave your home, slamming the door behind you, your mum does not even try to stop you. She’s used to these sudden escapes and probably she merely hopes that this time you will be back before night.
For the first time since the beginning of your unrequited love, you’re happy that the laboratory where Kukui lives is so close to your home. The run takes you only half a minute, so you soon arrive in front of his door, breathless and with your shoes covered in sand. You’ve always thought the beach was a strange place to build a house, but you must admit that waking up in the morning and immediately enjoying the sea breeze has to be magnificent. Not dwelling too much on your thoughts, you knock on the professor's door and just as you wait for him to open you realize that you have not even decided what to tell him. You just want to clear up the misunderstanding and to let him know that you don’t want him to leave because of you. You want him to know how important he is to you and if, in the end, he’ll understand the truth and decide to leave anyway, at least it will be for a real reason.
When Kukui opens the door you almost burst out laughing in his face. Despite the hour, it is pretty clear that he was sleeping: he doesn’t wear his usual hat with rainbow nor his garish glasses, his hair is loose and tousled and his look is sleepy. He’s so different from the last time you saw him, although it has been only a few hours. What calls your attention is the fact that he’s wearing only his pants, the same he was wearing earlier in the night, and you cannot help but ask yourself if he didn’t change them because he was too tired after bringing you the letter or if he wore them before opening the door just because he’s used to sleep without. You blush at the thought but you don’t look down, in fact, you fix your eyes on his while you wait for him to focus and recognize you.
"Oh, it’s you", he mutters after a while. He steps aside with a yawn and invites you to come in, which you do without any embarrassment – Kukui uses his laboratory as a meeting place for all the local trainers, so you’ve already been there a number of times. You see him going to the bathroom, and you sit at the table patiently waiting; you would like to think about what to say, but you're too nervous and you cannot put order in your mind.
After a few minutes he’s out of the bathroom and, apart from the still missing coat, he’s the same as always. He approaches you and sits in front of you, with his torso leaning forward in your direction and his legs slightly apart. "I'm leaving in a couple of weeks. It was not necessary to come and say goodbye right now. " His voice sounds a little sarcastic, but you can hear the sadness in it and it makes you feel even more guilty than before.
"You don’t have to leave", you mutter. Kukui opens his mouth but you stop him holding up a hand in front of his face; now that you've started talking you do not want to be stopped or you’ll be too embarrassed to continue. "Let me speak, please. You don’t have to leave, first of all because even if you were obnoxious to me, that would be my problem, not yours. In addiction, you’re not obnoxious. Not at all. I recognize and appreciate everything you did for me and please, believe me, you’re anything but unpleasant or unwelcome or any of those negative adjectives you used in that letter. What I mean is that yes, I'm leaving, but I’ll come back when the time comes, and then I will be more than happy to see you again. I really want to see you again".
You almost haven’t breathed during your short and rapid speech. Kukui looks puzzled. "But... You said that you were running away from me."
You nod. "Yes, but not because I don’t like you".
The professor looks at you and leans even more forward, making you wince. "I don’t understand".
Safe in the knowledge that you won’t see him for a long time, you decide to put your cards on the table and to confide him your most guarded secret. You do it because you'll have time to be alone and cry on his probably unfeeling reaction, you do it because you hope for a sweet smile just for you, you do it to surprise him, or maybe you do it just because in that way you will be sure that despite all the young people who will come, he will always remember you as special.
"I'm in love with you, Professor." He suddenly draws back opening his eyes wide and, surprised, you see him blushing in embarrassment – you have never thought it possible.
He opens his mouth and after a while he starts to stutter. "But... But... I'm m-married..."
His reaction makes you giggle and you're surprised at how well you feel without that on your conscience. "I know, Professor. That's why I'm leaving", you reassure him and you see the understanding on his face as he begins to merge your various statements and to give them sense. "You’re running away from me because it hurts you to be next to me every day", he murmurs, and he seems even sadder than before. He shakes his head slowly. "I see. Thanks for telling me, but that doesn’t change things. You should stay".
"Professor", you say as you try to reason with him, "If you leave, when will you come back to Alola?"
"When I retire, or when I get fired", he replies without hesitation. "In any case, given the type of contract I was offered, not before ten years have passed."
"Well, I’ll be back in a couple of years", you say with a smile. "And in a couple of years I probably will not be in love with you anymore, but you will still be one of the most important people in my life. I’ll probably want to see you, and how could I see you if you were that far away? Who will I trust? I may not have been good at showing it to you in these months, but to me your help was crucial and without you constantly behind me, ready to support me, I would have never been able not to fall. I knew you would have always been there, and this allowed me not to be afraid. When I come back I will need you in the same way".
"If that's what you think, then I’ll never go anywhere", he mutters. His voice is deep, hoarse and passionate and you cannot restrain yourself: you get up from the table, walk around it until you get in front of him and hug him. He immediately hugs you back, placing his hands on your hips and holding you fondly. That’s probably just the clumsy and awkward hug of a fourteen-year-old girl to him, but to you it’s a wonderful moment, for sure the best in your life ever since when you moved in that region that you would have never thought you'd come to love that much. You deeply inhale his scent, stronger on his bare skin.
When you reluctantly let him go, Kukui’s eyes are shining. "Promise me you'll come back", he murmurs. You nod. "I promise. This is my home".
You hesitate for a moment, but, after all, he asked you a promise and you are entitled to ask him one in exchange. "Could… Could you promise me you won’t forget me?"
He looks amused. "How could I forget anything about you? You are so special and wonderful. The first Alola champion. The one who has received the approval of all Tapus and who completed the tour of the islands without ever being defeated. Do you think there is another in the world with so many titles? You’ll be unforgettable, for me as for anyone else".
"I don’t care about my titles, nor about anyone else. I just want you to remember me, and not for what I got, but for who I am".
He nods. "I get it. So it will be. I will not forget you". He pauses briefly, then looks at you heartbroken. "Is this really necessary? You’ll meet someone, your feelings will change…"
"Professor, in recent months I have met many people and none was able to get me to change my mind. I'm afraid not seeing you for a while is the only way".
"But will you be able to survive all alone?"
"I will not be alone”, you remind him. "There will be Decidueye with me. Who can protect me better than him?”
He nods and finally it seems there is nothing left to say. You alternate your gaze between Kukui and the door, conscious of having to go but wanting to stop for a bit more. He hugs you once again and leaves you a kiss on the forehead. After a few minutes during which you let yourself being pampered like a child, you take a step back. "Then I'll go", you mutter. "I leave you the league. Please, defend my title".
"What an honor", he whispers. You don’t know the reason why you’re both talking in a low voice, but raising the tone would probably ruin the atmosphere. "I'll give you back the title, I promise. No one will steal it". You nod.
Without looking back, you leave the house. Kukui chases you at the door. "I'll come to see you when you leave!" He says.
You look at him one last time, before answering. "Don’t. If you do, I won’t be able to leave".