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TEEN: Dreams That You Dreamed (Ch. 7)

shame personified
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WHAT'S UP MY DUDE

I liked this chapter. Pua being pissed about his weekend possibly being ruined is pretty relatable. Shame he doesn't seem to get two day weekends like normal kids. :p Anyway, then there's his relationship to his mom, which is also relatable to a certain extent for any teen. His disdain for his mom doesn't seem to be typical teenage angst or rebellion like that. Instead, it feels like a hatred that goes to the core of who she is, plus hatred of his upbringing, his hometown, pretty much everyone that isn't in his close circle of friends... To me, the prose is dripping with his bitterness and longing for something better at the same time. It makes for an interesting read.

I know I've not read too much of yours, but your dialogue in this fic also feels really more natural than usual in this chapter. It all rolls off the tongue easily - yes, even the swearing and insults, lmao - and I get a good, genuine picture of just how close Pua is to his friends, particularly Leilani. Even with her, though, you can tell he's got reservations about certain things (like certain aspects of his relationship with his mom).

And, there's Kukui! I don't see the physical appeal, but seems Pua and Leilani certainly do. ;P His role in the story certainly seems like it'll be important, unless Pua gets chewed out and screwed over by jumping the gun and asking for a job, etc. I can see it happening, tbh, given all the other negativity surrounding her character. Either way, though, something's got to change for Pua, and he's got the motivation to make it happen. Looking forward to the next chapter!
 
ERROR
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So, uh, I'm here for the review game, I guess. I think I had actually started reading this weeks ago, and then had to go take care of something offline and completely forgot what I was doing. My memory... ain't doing so well. Apologies. :(

I should also preface this by saying that I think your stories are part of some singular universe, but as this is the first one I've looked at, you'll have to forgive me if there is stuff referencing your other stories and it flies over my head.

Ch 1
Getting into it here, you start things off quietly enough. There are plenty of instances in media where protagonists are late for something and scrambling to get to their destination. I do like some of the things you do to mix it up, though. Namely, all the aches and pains Pua experiences. As someone who once tore his quads trail running in the mountains (yes, that's a thing), I definitely felt for the guy. I think losing track of time is something we all do, so it's relatable to me. Also, I'm not entirely sure if the Bagon bit was a jab at the obnoxious SOS encounter system or not. But if it is, I appreciate it... because I hate SOS encounters and hope they go away and never return.

Then we get to the church scene and I think it's very cool that these canon events are being addressed from a more religious point of view. The Alolan folks' fanatical devotion to the Tapus is on full display, especially with Anahera at the end. Also, a bit hypocritical of Kahuna Joshua to condemn the villains for their hubris while then turning around to say how great Alola is compared to the other regions. But I'm going to assume that was intentional, especially when we get Pua's and Leilani's reactions to it. They are clearly the types of friends not afraid to snark at each other. You make that very clear with just a few paragraphs. And I found it good for a few initial laughs. They also sound a lot like what I'd expect teenagers to sound like: a willingness to be crude and drop jokes some of us would consider 'immature.'

Last bit here is I like the frequent use of colors in descriptors. Given I'm somewhat colorblind and can get different shades confused often, I thought you made the different landscapes (and people) stick out.

Ch 2
Oh man, Pua, I know that feel of just wanting to fall asleep and using your last bits of strength to keep your eyelids open. I do continue to like the bits of lore from the other games seeping in here, even if they're essentially being used to try and convince the kids that a Pokémon League is a bad idea. It's definitely a very different take on that particular Gen VII plot idea. The games didn't talk about it too much but it seemed like most of the NPCs were down with that idea. This is, well, quite the opposite, from what it looks like. And I really do like the generational divide contributing to that. You could draw some real-to-life connotations there, for better or for worse.

Chase's introduction is brief, but I think there are enough little nuggets of information there (and in Leilani's teasing) to suggest he's the love interest in this scenario. There's a bit of clear racial disparity going on here. But, unlike when Joshua was talking, it seems less like a different in cultures and more like the kind of behind the back taunting that you'd expect a teenager to do. I'm not sure if you're going for a stark difference in racial views between the adults and the teens in this fic, but that's how I viewed it.

Also, gonna take a wild guess that Chase's dad's job is tied to Kukui/making the Pokémon League in some way.

Ch 3
Well, that's one way to start off a chapter. *cough*

In all seriousness, I liked the line about Pua's burden being "his to bare by himself." It brought to mind that whole concept of adolescent egocetrism ("no one can understand what I'm feeling right now"). It's always intriguing to see those ideas pop up, especially juxtaposed against some of Anahera's prejudices... which makes the conversation with Leilani fairly awkward. Actually, some of Leilani's exchanges with Pua in particular got a bit much for me this time around. I'm not saying they're bad, just more like leaving me scratching my head wondering, "Was I really like that when I was younger?" Curse you for trying to make me remember things! XP

Onto Kukui himself, I think you do a good job presenting him as the laid back, generally cheerful guy we know from the games. I was a bit thrown off by the couple of instances of British slang that he tosses around, but I realize that other characters have done that too. Some cursory glances showed that there were parts of Polynesia colonized by the UK, so I guess it'd make sense for some of that to seep in. Yes, I'm reading too far into this. Ignore me. More importantly, we see Pua making a rather impulsive decision. He's already made a few this story, but they've been small fries compared to this. The fact that he has to convince himself that everything's going to turn out okay convinces me that that will not be the case. I imagine it's going to set up a serious conflict with his mother. Potentially with this Kahuna Joshua guy, too. I suppose time will tell where this leads us. ^^
 
Off to Galar
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Been meaning to review this for a while. Had some time to do it!

Chapter 1
Solid introduction. We’re told so much about the characters and the society they live in almost immediately but not too fast. I love the description. I love Pua and Rocky's dynamic with each other. It's adorable! I wasn't really sure what to think of Leilani at first but I grew to like her and I like her and Pua's dynamic.

Chapter 2
First off, Pua and Leilani's dialogue in the classroom scene is a spot on depiction of what I hear regularly at my school. I think the dialogue is pretty good in this fic and it feels very realistic for the age of the characters.
I liked Chase's introduction, it was cute and awkward to read at the same time (which I think you were going for). It seems like there'll be racial tensions in this story. I'm interested in seeing where you take that and what you will do with Chase in the future.
Leilani through her bag against the roots of the pohutukawa tree that covered the northern corner of the field, the purple fabric kicking up the red flowers that sat in a heap atop the grass, and clambered onto the curved base of one of the trunks, resting her feet in the spot were all five spawned from the ground.
That last bit is a very interesting way to describe things. It's not something I see a lot and it works really well.
big and brown like two cups of coffee.
even though he knew those emerald pools in her eyes were locked onto him
So are her eyes a mix of these colors?

Chapter 3
Oh boy, it seems like this is the chapter where things really start kicking off. More establishment about Pua’s mom, meeting Professor Kukui, and Pua getting himself a job that may get him into serious trouble. I'm excited to see how Pua will try to pull this off.
Anahera said nothing, simply watching them from the doorway. "You need to put some meat on those bones, girl. No one wants to marry a skinny little girl."
Anahera's eyes narrowed. "No one wants to marry a cheeky girl either," she said stiffly.
You've done a very good job setting Anahera up as a character and her relationship with Pua. During this scene, you show her relationship with Leilani can be pretty tense as well (and possibly setting up something that could later influence Leilani's story arc) Also ouch.
Rocky leapt up, trying to copy her, and fell clumsily back to earth, landing on his face but carrying on as though it hadn't happened.
As I said before, Rocky's adorable. He might possibly be my favorite character so far.
"It was, until Professor Kukui brought it."
Did you mean 'bought'?
"Literally," Pua muttered.

Leilani's eyebrows rose threateningly. "Literally what?"

"A flying visit." Still processing the news, Pua could barely manage those three words. He simply raised a hand and pointed at the sky, unable to tear his eyes away.

A large Flying type was fast approaching, a feathery rocket coming into land
I laughed.

Overall, I really like the story and I can't wait to see what happens next. Looking forward to more.
 
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Walk Beneath the Stars
The acest of trainers
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Thanks @Gama @dp876 @TRNatalie @Ambyssin for the reviews, I appreciate them all! As I am travelling at the moment, I can't really comment on any individual points raised, but mostly everything looked fairly positive asides from one or two things, so thanks a lot for that! Issues around typos are noted, and I plan to go through and fix some of these errors when I get back.

Now though, let's enjoy a new chapter!

***

Walk Beneath the Stars

Pua should have asked her.

He had expected a reaction no matter what he had tried to tell himself. He'd expected anger, he'd expected fire, he'd expected something explosive, but what he had envisioned was something like fireworks; heat and noise for a little while that would fizzle out eventually. Instead what he got was fully nuclear, a wave of heat and volatility and destruction so overwhelming that Pua felt the force of it hit him in his chest, and after a few seconds he looked at his feet and was stunned to find he was still standing, half expecting to find his shadow simply burnt into the floor.

"WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?"

Pua often wondered why, for a woman so afraid of what people might think or say about her, his mother yelled about everything. In the confines of their living room, her voice was like a wrecking ball, inescapable and smashing through everything it touched. Pua was sure he could see the windows vibrate, though that might be from Anahera's furious pacing, her bare feet violently carrying her in circles around their furniture.

Rhydon's at it again, he thought, trying his best to remain composed, holding onto the breakfast bar for support. All he could do when she was like this was stand silent and stoic, waiting for the onslaught to wash over him, waiting for her to finish so he could put it away with the dozens, hundreds, of rants he'd endured during his years.

"You stupid, selfish, ignorant boy!" Anahera turned to him, her face red and bloated, twisted with anger. "How could you be such an IDIOT! That man, we don't know him, he is a stranger! He could be a paedophile for all you know; you've probably walked right into his some sick game!"

"I don't think they'd let a paedophile become a professor," Pua muttered.

"HOW WOULD YOU KNOW!" Anahera roared, pointing a thick finger at him. "You know nothing of this Kukui – what sort of man offers teenagers a job the first day he meets them?"

"We're not strangers, we know Helena, and he clearly needs the help, so –"

Anahera's vigorous tutting cut Pua off mid-sentence. "That family, what are they thinking letting their daughters work for a man like that?"

"They are probably willing to give him the benefit of the doubt," Pua said, unable to disguise his caustic tone.

Anahera's eyes somehow managed to narrow even further to the point that her lids were nearly slits and her eyebrows were close to merging as one. "That is a decision for that family to make. They are fools, but that is not for me to judge. Arceus Almighty will be the ultimate judge."

Too late Pua realised what was about to happen; his brain sent out the signals, telling his mouth to shut, telling his throat to constrict, urging for something to intervene. But it couldn't be stopped; the laugh slipped out. It was there only a second before Pua stopped himself, but the damage was already done. The solitary 'ha' lingered in the air, wafting through a room suddenly struck silent.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit. There was nowhere Pua could go to escape this. He had barely made it through the door before Anahera had questioned him about the day, and now he was trapped against the door, as alone and exposed as a Spewpa lost in the desert. He looked around frantically for Rocky, hoping against hope his companion could save him, but he could see only a dirty tail sticking out of the couch, visibly quivering.

"Do you think this is funny?" Anahera whispered, the change in volume as unsettlingly as her insatiable shouting. "You think the will of our lord is something to snigger at? What is wrong with you, Pua?"

Pua swallowed hard. He longed to shout back to her, to scream and see how she liked it, but that risk was more than his life was worth. Yet he couldn't stand here any longer and listen to all of this, to let her get the final word every single time. If he let her bowl him over, the job, the prospect of learning from a real professor, was gone.

Yet he still had to measure his words carefully. "Surely if Kukui was a paedophile or was dangerous in any way, Tapu Koko would have protected us from him?"

"It is not for Tapu Koko to intervene in every aspect of our lives!" Anahera hissed. "Tapu Koko protects the island, that is what we pray for. We do not pray for him to be judge, jury and executioner!"

"That's a weak excuse and you know it! If Kukui was in any way a threat, surely the gods would stop him."

"So suddenly you are an expert in religion, are you? The boy who can't even show up to church on time? You know Tapu Koko so well but you can't even wear a clean shirt for him?" Anahera laughed, a guttural, dismissive sound lacking any joy. "If you think you know so much, why don't you remind me what Joshua said last week, eh?"

"About the other regions? What does that have to do with anything?"

"This man is a PROFESSOR!" Anahera screamed, jabbing the air as she bellowed out the last word. "Do you learn nothing at your school? Kanto, Hoenn, Johto, Sinnoh – all regions ravaged by sinners, all regions that give too much power to people like him. They let their professors make laws, have a say over society. They listen to them more than their gods. Unova is probably next with that tramp they are always parading around on the television, and we will be close behind if we let this Kukui into our lives!"

Pua screamed. The sharp, violent noise came out of nowhere, startling even him as it exploded out of his mouth, yet immediately he felt better. He tensed slightly as he looked towards Anahera, but seeing her silently stare back at him, eyes bulged to the edge of their sockets, Pua felt a vicious sense of pride in finally shutting her up.

The only problem now was that he had to follow it up. "Alright… I'm leaving," he said, trying to sound determined as if this was a well-considered plan, anything that didn't betray the fact this was as impromptu as it got.

"Leaving?" Anahera grunted, finally snapping out of her stupor. "You're not going anywhere!"

"Yes, I am," Pua snapped back. He turned to the coat rack beside the door and grabbed the first jacket he could find, a thin blue one dirtied and frayed from years of overuse. "I'm not just going to stand here for the rest of the night listening to you yell and stomp about everything. You need a breather, I need some fresh air, so we'll talk about this later," he said and began to open the door.

"Don't even think about –"

"Come on Rocky!"

Anahera began to step forward, but froze as something shot out from the couch right beneath her feet; she looked down and watched Rocky scamper frantically towards the open door, sprinting off into the night, and simply stared as Pua followed after, slamming the door behind him.

The second the door was shut, Pua began running. He flung himself down the front steps, flailing as he slid his jacket on, and sprinted after Rocky towards the end of the street. He didn't dare look back in case Anahera had miraculously found the will to run and was coming after him, but aside from his own feet hitting the ground and his frantic breathing, the night was silent.

"Rocky, wait!" Pua spluttered once he was sure there was enough distance between himself and the house. He wasn't sure if the Rockruff would ignore him and simply carry on into the night, but the puppy stopped obediently and sat patiently as he waited for his master to catch up.

By the time Pua had caught him, he already had a stitch running up his side. "What do you think you're doing, running off like that?" He wheezed, wondering how he didn't die during his mad church dash last weekend. Fear must do funny things to the body, he thought wearily.

"Ruff." Rocky scuttled forward and buried his head between Pua's legs; his fur was rough and rubbed against his bare skin, but Pua bit his lip and endured the pain.

"What's wrong bud?" He said, crouching down and lifting the Rockruff's head up. Rocky's eyes were wide and deep with longing, and he cast them mournfully around the patch of land they'd found themselves in, where the houses had thinned out and the ferns and palm trees stood dominant.

"Ruff," he said, shaking his head at the world and drawing closer to his trainer. "Ruff!" He added forcefully, and turned sadly back the way they'd come, their house just visible at the far end of the street.

Pua was no expert in Pokémon behaviour, but he had had Rocky long enough to work out what he was saying. "Do you think we're going to live out here now?" He asked, and his heart sank with guilt as Rocky nodded glumly back. "You silly thing, we're not staying out here."

That only made Rocky looked more confused. "Ruff?" He asked, staring again at the house.

Pua sighed. "Yeah, we'll be going back. We just need a little walk, that's all," he explained, and pulled the Rockruff into his arms. It was painful to admit after only a few minutes, but Pua was well aware he'd be slinking home soon enough, head bowed and ready for forgiveness. A small part of his brain yelled at him, telling him what a great idea this was, but it was only a small part, dwarfed by the larger, louder, scarred part of his psyche; if he had stayed, Pua had no idea how ugly things would have gone, but even if this was the calmer way of handling things, the mess he would get back to could only get uglier.

"We're not going back yet, though," Pua said, putting Rocky down so he could wipe his eyes quickly. "You want to go for a walk? We could head up to the town square, see if there are any dancers out tonight?"

Rocky shook his head, and Pua fought back the urge to shout. "Come on buddy," he said, trying not to plead. "We can't just sit here doing nothing. We could have done that at home. Do you want to go for a race, or go hunt for Rattata? Hey, look!" Pua lunged towards a stick lying on the side of the road, and he clutched it as if it was the most exciting thing ever. "How about a game of fetch, eh? You love fetch!"

Rocky tilted his head, staring uncertainly at the bit of wood, his tiny tail quivering slightly. It was enough for Pua, who leapt up and held it high; Rocky sat up, suddenly intrigued. Thank the gods, Pua thought, smiling with relief, and he flung the stick towards the bushes. It hurtled through the air, darkening as it slipped out of the moon's glow until it was merely a shadow disappearing through the fronds.

Before Rocky could follow it in, a shout cut through the night and stopped both Pokémon and trainer in their tracks. "What the fuck!"

"Oh shit." Pua paused for a second, expecting someone to come bursting angrily through the bushes, but when no one appeared a cold sweat ran down his neck. He leapt over Rocky and pushed fronds out of the way, expecting to find someone lying bleeding on the ground, the stick embedded in their head.

Instead, a pearly white figure emerged from the dark green like a mirage, their skin shining angelically in the moonlight. "Oh, hey, it's you."

Pua froze. Somehow this was worse than causing grievous bodily harm; Chase, smiling with his movie star grin despite the obvious graze marking that unblemished forehead. He was wearing a blue singlet that hugged his slim body, revealing the tight, raised chest beneath and long arms with thick blue veins like rivers running from hand to shoulder.

"Hey," Pua said, drawing the word out into five syllables in his shock. He unconsciously raised his hand to his forehead in a mirror image of Chase, feeling for any bumps that Anahera might have inflicted on him, trying to find some clue that this was a dream as this could not possibly be real.

"You alright there?" Chase asked, smiling still even as his eyebrows shot up sceptically.

Pua realised what he was doing and retreated his hand immediately. "Yep, I'm fine, perfectly, one hundred percent fine! You? Stupid question, I just threw a stick at you."

"Yeah, you did," Chase laughed. "I guess that's what I get for wandering through the bushes like a fuckwit."

"Yeah, what are you doing in there?" Pua laughed. "Having a wank?"

Chase's smile faded immediately. "What?"

"Nothing," Pua said, his lips collapsing into his mouth. "That's something that, um, a friend always says. Helena!" He added loudly. "You've met her, right?"

"The sassy one at school?" Chase said, his smirk returning.

"Yep." Pua smiled and nodded, keeping his face calm as his mind desperately searched for a word, any word, to move this along and away from his stupidity. "So, what exactly are you doing in here?"

Chase smiled coyly, his cheeks flashing red. "You are going to think this is so stupid, but I got lost. I can't run during the day, it's too bloody hot here – I'm such a tourist, I know – but I took a wrong turn a few minutes ago and tried to find my way back to the right track. I thought it was through here, but, well, I guess not!"

"You're not a tourist; when I first had to walk home from school by myself, I nearly ended up on the other side of the island. I ran crying up to someone who had to lead me back to town."

"Aw no, that's so cute! Your parents must have been so worried."

"Yeah," Pua said, brushing the lie aside with a laugh. "Are you alright? I hope I didn't scar you or anything."

Chase shrugged and moved his hand away from the graze. "You barely broke the skin, don't worry about it. It was more of a shock than anything. I hope you don't come here often and throw sticks around – you guys do get SilphScreen out here, don't you?"

"Ha! No, it was for my Rockruff," Pua said.

"A Rockruff? Where?" Chase nearly pushed Pua aside as he hopped over the ferns with all the excitement of a kid running towards the ball pit. "Oh my god, look at you!" He cried when he finally made it free and found Rocky waiting patiently for them. "Aren't you just adorable!"

Rocky yelped with approval, his tail wagging furiously now, and he rolled onto his back and let the stranger rub his stomach.

"Oh wow, his fur's quite rough, isn't it?" Chase said. "You wouldn't think something so cute could be so tough!"

"Yeah, you wouldn't," Pua offered meekly, suddenly jealous of Rocky's big pooling eyes. "Where exactly where you running to? I can probably show you the way."

Chase looked up excitedly. "You sure? I don't want to be a pain."

"Oh no, it's my pleasure," Pua said, thankful Helena wasn't there to twist his words.

"Well, I was running along the Mahalo Trail, which I guess you know?"

Pua snorted instinctively, unable to stop himself. "Mahalo Trail? That's on the other side of town!"

"Is it?" Chase said, suddenly concerned. "I was on a wide track and then I came to a corner and it began to narrow out, I thought it was the way I was meant to go. I knew something was wrong, I didn't think there'd be houses near those ruins."

"Oooooh, okay, I see what's happened! A few years ago, one of the hotel operators in Hau'oli cut a track through the hills that led from Route Three straight to the trail. They said it was to save tourists time so they didn't have to trek up through the town, but the kahunas said it was defacing local heritage and they fought to have it closed. I thought they had boarded the whole thing off."

Chase shrugged nonchalantly. "If they did, someone's opened it up again. It just looked like part of the track to me."

A little alarm bell went off in Pua's head, but he didn't want to kill whatever mood this was by thinking about island politics. He might bring it up with his mother when he made it home, but again, the mere thought of anyone else right now made his bones shudder in disgust.

"Well, I know where it is, let me show you." Pua started walking before Chase could accept the offer, not wanting to give him any chance to turn him down. His heart pounded angrily against his chest for a few moments as he waited for Chase to follow, only calming when the newcomer stepped into line with him, holding a fawning Rocky in his arms.

"I can't believe I got so lost," Chase said, shaking his shaggy mane back and laughing. "I could pretend that this would never have happened during the day, but even when I can actually see things every palm tree looks the same."

"Why are you even running at night?"

"Have you ever been to Kanto?" Chase asked, smirking either at himself or Pua it wasn't clear. "It never gets as hot there as it does here. When we stepped off the ferry I thought I was going to die it was so fucking hot. Even now I'm melting and I can't even blame it on the sun. And don't laugh at me," he added with a roar of mock horror, shoving Pua towards the bushes.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but… just wow! I can't believe how much of a tourist you sound like right now." Pua snorted with laughter, struggling to stand as Chase again tried to push him aside but missed as Rocky was squirming excitedly in his arms at the action.

"You're sweating as well!" Chase huffed in his defence.

"I know I'm sweating, but I'm used to it. This is all I've ever known."

Chase's eyebrows shot up again. "Really? You've lived here all your life?"

"Yeah… is that weird?" Pua asked, suddenly defensive.

"I dunno," Chase shrugged. "My dad and I have moved around a lot, I've never stayed in most places longer than like three years."

"Well, I think that makes you the different one, not me." Pua smiled awkwardly, unsure if that had sounded mean or not.

"I guess so, though what's different to me is an entirely different different to you, if that makes sense?"

"Not really," Pua sniggered.

Chase smiled too. "That was a douchey way of putting it. What I mean is… this is my normal. I don't really know anything else. It wasn't a surprise when my dad said we were coming here cause I had expected it to happen soon enough. It will probably happen with this job eventually, but if it doesn't, I'd have to adjust to staying still."

The two walked in silence for a minute, broken only by the distant scuttle of Spinarak moving through the trees. Pua wanted to say something, but anything that came to mid felt immature and childish next to Chase; he had never considered things that way before. In fact, he doubted he had ever thought of anything quite so profound.

"I can't imagine what it would be like to live somewhere else," he offered finally. "I mean, I've thought about it a lot, but to actually move somewhere else… the idea is just so foreign." Pua realised what he had said too late, and he blushed as Chase began laughing, the throb of his Adam's apple moving vigorously up and down his neck. "I didn't mean it quite like that."

"I know, I know, don't worry," Chase said, resting a hand briefly on Pua's shoulder, retracting it before the goosebumps could form. "I can imagine it would be a shock. I mean, for one thing, back in Kanto nearly everyone is light skinned. No one's ever made as many white boy jokes to me as you lot have."

"Oh my god, really? We probably seem like horrible people."

"Not horrible, no. Small minded though, I guess."

It was Pua's turn to look stunned. "Small minded?"

"Yeah, a little bit." Chase looked guilty as he said but shrugged the comment aside. "I'm not talking about you here, but you are probably one of the only people to have never commented on my skin colour. It's a bit weird if I'm being honest."

"I can see that." Pua thought of Helena's comments at school the other day and felt a sudden wash of shame run across his body. "I'm sorry you've had to put up with that."

"It's fine, really. It's not keeping me awake at night or anything, so don't worry." Chase turned back and flashed his shining smile again.

"It's not fine though. Everyone here is so hostile to change you'd think there had never been any settlers. I don't know how it was before Hau'oli became so gentrified and developed, but your right, everyone in this stifling bloody town cannot get their heads around something so simple as change, it's… it's just… for fuck's sake, why can't I find the words."

"Pua, mate, calm down!" Chase stopped and turned; he shifted Rocky to one arm so he was cradled like a baby and used his free hand to grab onto Pua's shoulder.

Immediately blood began to flow where it shouldn't, and Pua thought he might collapse into the grip, as warm and firm as it was. Pua resisted the urge to grab that hand with his own and instead let his eyes move along Chase's arm, staring at the droplets of sweat that sparkled like diamonds under the moonlight, tracing the veins up to his shoulders and neck, before finally looking Chase in the eye. Those endless blue pools were suddenly so earnest, staring deeply into Pua's eyes with such urgency Pua wanted to lean forward and dive into them, and it took all his willpower to remain where he was.

"It's nothing, really. I get that people here are traditional. It's not great, it's certainly not fun, but it's the situation, nothing you can do about it." Chase smiled, his lips held close together and inclining slowly and sincerely towards his cheekbones. "Are you okay, though? Is there something you want to talk about?"

"No," Pua said quickly, gulping on air as he spat the word out. "I'm fine, really. I just… I hate seeing people get treated badly. You are such a cool guy, it would be nice if people saw beyond that."

Chase chuckled, finally letting go of Pua's shoulder and backing away. "I like to think so," he snorted, and kept laughing as he carried on up the path.

Pua waited into Chase was a few metres away before he breathed again. The world felt like it was spinning, and he had to brace himself before he tipped backwards and sank into the ground, leaving only a pool of raging hormones behind.

"Pua?"

"Coming!" Pua yelled. He brushed his hand across his crotch to make sure his joy wasn't noticeable and then ran forward, flashing Chase a grin. "Sorry, I thought my shoelaces were undone."

Chase looked down. "Aren't those slip-ons?"

"Are they?" Pua said, gazing briefly down. Stupid fucking brain, he thought, and he looked around, wondering where the nearest cliff was.

Before Chase could say anything, Rocky suddenly shifted in his arms, ears pricked and tail straight. "What is it, boy?"

"Ruff!" Rocky cried, pushing himself out of Chase's grip and scuttling to the edge of the trees.

"Do you think he's seen a Pikipek?" Chase said, smirking, but the smile quickly faded. "Hang on, can you hear that?"

"Hear what?" Pua asked nervously, very aware of his own heart trying to beat its way through his chest. But now that things were quiet, he could hear something nearby: angry shouts were coming through the trees, the cries nearly dwarfed by a sort of pained yelling.

Before Pua could say anything, Chase was sprinting through the trees, Rocky following close behind. "Bloody hell," Pua thought as he ran after them. He had to raise his hands to protect himself from the ferns that tried to slap him as he ran through, but the deeper they got, the louder the shouts became, and the clearer it became that it was a Pokémon that was in pain.

They had only been running a minute when Chase dropped to the ground, and Pua instinctively copied him, crouch-running the last few feet until he was beside him. The ferns had thinned out here, creating a curtain between them and the track beyond. It was darker here than it had been back on the path, the branches and leaves above blocking out most of the moonlight, but Pua didn't need light to tell what the biggest shape in front of them was.

"That's a Mudsdale," he hissed to Chase. "A fucking big one," he added without embellishment: he had seen a lot of them in his life, but the Mudsdale before them outshone them all. Its shadowed head was only a few feet below the highest branches, and its body looked to be longer than Pua's entire bedroom.

He couldn't stop and admire the creature's beauty though. The Mudsdale was thrashing about in circles, lashing out with its back legs in its desperation to get away from the two shouting people trying to contain it, both of whom were swift enough to avoid getting kicked.

"Remind me again why Guzma wants this fucking brute?" One of the shadowed figures shrieked.

"Because it's a fucking brute, you dingus!" The other roared back.

The two were both male, Pua assumed, and he could see that one of them was holding what looked like rope. "They are trying to tie that poor thing up!"

"Not if I can help it," Chase growled, lifting a Poké Ball into the feeble light. He pressed the button and pointed it behind the nearest tree, blocking out the burst of blue light as the energy pooled out.

Pua couldn't see what Pokémon it was, but he could smell it straight away; his eyes began watering, and he had to shove his face into his sleeve as he struggled to breathe.

Chase didn't seem to notice, his eyes locked on the track. He said nothing for a moment, watching as the Mudsdale kept spinning, pushing its attackers closer towards the trees, close enough that Pua could have reached out if he wanted to. "Poison Gas, go!"

"What the fuck?" One of the figures squawked and turned around. The squawk turned into a scream as something gooey leapt out from behind the tree, arms flailing madly and a noxious cloud pouring from its mouth. The second figure began to yell as well, and within seconds the two were coughing violently and running blindly back towards the Mudsdale as they tried to escape.

It was the opportunity the Ground-type was looking for. "MU-UU-UU-UD!" It whinnied and kicked out with both back legs. The thunk of the giant hooves connecting with bone echoed like a gunshot, and Pua ducked as the two lifeless bodies flew backwards, crashing into the trees. The ground began to shake before they had even slumped to the ground, and Pua watched as the Mudsdale galloped away, leaving only cracks in the earth behind him.

Chase ran towards the two and checked their pulses. "They're still alive, but they won't be awake for a while."

"We shouldn't hang around though," Pua said, spotting something on the ground; the impact seemed to have knocked one of their bandana's off, and even in the dark Pua could recognise the pale skull emblazoned across the front.

He showed it to Chase, who merely rolled his eyes. "Idiots. I thought Alola would mean getting away from all these gangs."

"Skull is nothing like Rocket or Magma."

"They didn't start off how they finished up," Chase said darkly, and he started walking up the path.

Pua went to follow, but something slimy brushed against his leg, and he paused, suddenly gagging again. The Pokémon stopped and looked up at him with two giant eyes brimming with outraged offence. "S-s-sorry," Pua spluttered, both disgusted and curious at the same time. He had never met a Grimer in the flesh before, though this one looked different to the pictures he had seen, it's dripping body about fifty shades of purple.

"Come on Frankie," Chase called. The affronted Grimer glowered at Pua a moment longer before sliding after her master.

Pua looked down at Rocky, pleased to see his face was scrunched up in discomfort as well, and followed after. "You didn't say you had a Pokémon."

"Doesn't everyone?" Chase retorted.

"I suppose. Rocky's more a pet though, I haven't really battled much with him."

"You might want to change that if these Team Skull people are going to hang about. I mean, I'm guessing they are the ones who re-opened this track. If they are sticking close to town, you are going to need some protection."

A thought hit Pua with such force that he nearly cried out in joy. He scooped Rocky up, ignoring his protests, and rushed forward so he could see Chase's face when he said it. "Why don't you train me?"

"Train you?" Chase said, eyebrow rising sceptically.

"Yeah! I mean, Rocky isn't going to get any stronger if we just attack wild Pokémon that can't do much. Just look at him, he's so tiny and weak!" Pua held his Pokémon forward as proof, and ignored the annoyed pout Rocky threw back at him.

Chase paused, pursing his lips and staring up at the trees. "What do you think?" He said, looking down at Frankie. The Grimer looked disdainfully at Pua but shrugged her drooping shoulders. "Well, if she's fine with it, so am I."

Pua's heart skipped a beat. "You sure?"

"Yeah, why not. I've got to stay on top of my game as well. Shall we meet after school this week?"

"Yep, yep, that sounds great!" Pua smiled and nodded with barely disguised enthusiasm, and Chase started laughing.

"I like you, Pua," he said, shaking his head, and he carried on up the track.

Pua stayed still and watched him go, unable to stop smiling. He likes me, he thought, blinking back tears. He watched Chase for as long as he could, admiring this body that still seemed to shine even in the dark. He really likes me.
 
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ready as i'll ever be
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funnest fact, I actually had this review for chapter 3 all typed up and inexplicably just... didn't. my bad.

chapter 3

Don't tell me Joshua's been right all along, he thought with grim shame.
I admit, I really appreciate Pua's angle of humor here. We've called each other out on our snarky teenage protagonists in the past, but this line really worked for me -- I think in part because it's less about hating the world and more about just making a joke. Good stuff.

I'm in two minds about some of your narration, though. It's very realistic. I feel that. We might disagree on how much snark and backtalk teenagers are supposed to give their parents, but you sell the concept well enough that I'll buy it. What I struggle more with is Pua's flip-flopping between being terrified of his mother (her "thunderous footsteps", "most Saturdays he was able to find [her] tolerable", etc) and all the times he... pisses her off even while knowing that'll piss her off? ("Why don't you ask Tapu Koko to electrocute them") This gets played off much better in chapter 4 when you talk about how he laughs at her involuntarily when she talks about Arceus, but when he does it here, it reads off as poking the dragon for plot's sake. Same with Leilani's sarcastic "What, I need to eat more?" jab at the end when she's clearly demonstrated 1) that she knows that Anahera has a short fuse/strong beliefs and 2) is very good at dancing around that short fuse/strong beliefs when she wants to (exemplified a few lines earlier when she plays off of Anahera's fear of Team Skull).

If the point here is to show that your characters are kinda dickish to other characters sometimes even potentially at the expense of being grounded/getting their friends in trouble/whatever (and I don't mean that rhetorically; that is a totally valid way to write a pair of teenagers), then I think you're doing that just fine. But if you're looking for more opportunities to show that Anahera is traditional/controlling of her son, or that Pua is unhappy with his place in life/the influence that religion has on him, or that Leilani is a cheeky shit sometimes, I don't think you strictly need these additions in there. You've done a really good job of establishing these characters on those traits already. Like, a really good job. You've made them feel like different, operating people whose dialogue I could pick out of a hat and attribute to a particular character, and that's really, really impressive. The way I'm reading these (which could be wrong), it feels like you've made a conscious effort to include these exchanges to show off character traits that you've already done a good job of establishing. And while you do show off the relevant traits, the actions that the characters take to get into this situation feels a bit contrived.

IDK. JUST MY TWO CENTS ON YOUR CHARACTERIZATION. I legit think that you established them very well in the first two chapters, and doing it here at the cost of logic is a bit overkill.

Overall, this chapter is neat. We get more hints of Pua's appreciation for the male form, Kukui's a perfectly reasonable adult who transported his entire lab to a foreign nation for super good reasons with lots of planning, and some general neat plot things.
"You?" Kukui asked curiously.
"You?" Helena scoffed.
"We?" Leilani said casuistically, her tone threatening.
lmao. you pull these exchanges off really well.

typos 'n stuff
Why did it have to be today?It would be just Pua's luck
dropped a space in "today?It"
burden he felt was his to bare by himself
I think you want "bear" (to be borne/endured), unless this is actually about him laying bare the burden (which is also possible, but I don't think that's what you meant)
"Rocky!" He hissed
The way you have it is that Pua says "Rocky" and then hisses; if you want him hissing the word Rocky, it should be
"Rocky!" he hissed
before leaping onto the bed and stared expectantly at his master.
should be "and staring"
"You'll see!" She yelled.
This is a recurring typo, I think. When a quote ends in a exclamation/question mark and you're following it with a dialogue tag (a word like he said/yelled/shouted), the next after the quote should be lowercased unless it's a proper noun. So you want:
"You'll see!" she yelled.

chapter 4
Pua should have asked her.
lol. this is especially funny when bingeing because it means you can read the two chapters back to back.
He had expected a reaction no matter what he had tried to tell himself. He'd expected anger, he'd expected fire, he'd expected something explosive, but what he had envisioned was something like fireworks; heat and noise for a little while that would fizzle out eventually. Instead what he got was fully nuclear, a wave of heat and volatility and destruction so overwhelming that Pua felt the force of it hit him in his chest, and after a few seconds he looked at his feet and was stunned to find he was still standing, half expecting to find his shadow simply burnt into the floor.
I remember you asking if this was too much description, and it toes the line, but I really think it works here. It's a bit overdramatic, which suits Pua just fine, and it paints a vivid picture of how absolutely destructive he sees his mother's wrath. Nice work.
"So suddenly you are an expert in religion, are you? The boy who can't even show up to church on time? You know Tapu Koko so well but you can't even wear a clean shirt for him?" Anahera laughed, a guttural, dismissive sound lacking any joy. "If you think you know so much, why don't you remind me what Joshua said last week, eh?"
"This man is a PROFESSOR!" Anahera screamed, jabbing the air as she bellowed out the last word. "Do you learn nothing at your school? Kanto, Hoenn, Johto, Sinnoh – all regions ravaged by sinners, all regions that give too much power to people like him. They let their professors make laws, have a say over society.
I know Anahera is supposed to be the bastion of whatever Pua dislikes here, but... I think she kind of has a point. The way that Pua and the overall plot of S/M approaches this idea of a stranger coming in trying to peddle a huge systematic change over what's effectively an entire country is incredibly naive, and while there's no specific right answer for colonialism/isolationism/whatever else you're touching on, Pua certainly isn't taking a comprehensive look at it either. Which is incredibly logical for a teenage dreaming of dreams that he dreamed, so again, good shit with how your characterize him here + good shit for having an opposing viewpoint in the room, even if she's treated as a little off for it.
"Yeah," Pua said, brushing the lie aside with a laugh.
Following up on my comments on characterization in chapter 3 -- lines like these are really, really good. They say so much about who Pua is trying to be. I think you could easily build a character off of lines like this alone (and you mostly do).
he rolled onto his back and let the stranger rub his stomach.
"Oh wow, his fur's quite rough, isn't it?"
forgive me I've been reading too much of The Alola Pokedex If Rockruff have rough fur on their bellies, they presumably wouldn't have many nerves there (as the rough fur is probably for protection from the elements/opposing rockruff), which means they wouldn't like belly rubs because there's not much sensation there (akin to petting a turtle on its shell). Or if they're like hedgehogs in the sense that they have soft underbellies, this comment wouldn't make sense. I DUNNO LOGIC.

The overall flow of this chapter is really smooth. You manage to juggle a lot of topics here in a really clean way, and it's an almost seamless transition between Pua's fight with his mother to running into Chase to encountering Team Skull, into future Chase/Pua talking points, all with no scene breaks. I was personally very impressed with how this played out. You also manage to sneak in some exposition about the history of Hau'oli while describing Chase's jogging route, which I thought was managed pretty well. Nice stuff.
The Grimer
I swear to god if you start making muk backwards jokes when this thing evolves
you are going to need some protection."
mother of god man you gotta tag this stuff think of the kids.

Anyway, innuendo aside, the plot really thickens here. This is an ambitious chapter in terms of scope, but it worked. Which is really cool. Looking back on what you've establishing in the first four chapters, there's plenty of conflict brewing, and it's all somewhat related? Which I assume means that when shit hits the fan, it's all gonna hit. I'm excited.

typos 'n stuff
"Come on Rocky!"
you want a comma before Rocky since he's being addressed, ala "let's eat grandma"/"let's eat, grandma"
You barely broke the skin, don't worry about it.
you do this periodically -- this is two separate independent sentences joined by a comma. You'll either want two separate sentences, a comma and a conjunction (i.e. "you barely broke the skin, so don't worry about it"), or a semicolon. This does happen with some frequency, so I'd advise combing through for it.
"Oh my god, look at you!" He cried
this glitch again.
I don't know how it was before Hau'oli became so gentrified and developed, but your right,
"your"
I know grammar nitpicks aren't your most favoritest thing in the world (and ngl I usually don't put them in reviews), but I figure we'd bother rather this happen now than during the Awards :') Your two big recurring mistakes are the punctuating dialogue that ends in exclamation marks ("What?" he asked) and comma splices (joining two independent clauses with a comma). The latter happens more frequently in your dialogue/quotes, so that's something to look out for.

predictions??
bear with me I've never done this before; feel free to utterly ignore this.

There were a couple of lines this chapter (namely Anahera's comments on Kukui) that made me think that this is going in a completely different direction than you'd intially led me to believe, mostly because it frames around the idea that Kukui is actually corrupting the youth (intentionally or not). There's a weird underlying current of "native traditions bad, foreign traditions good" that doesn't really get addressed in S/M, but I could see a really sinister interpretation of Kukui's insistence on establishing a league here. Like maybe, just maybe, the people who have lived on this island (presumably) for centuries have a good idea of how things should be run, and when this stranger comes in with his whole "why don't you try [this idea that you're all clearly aware of and haven't bothered implementing]" schtick, he actually might be in the wrong! But Leilani and Pua, being headstrong teenagers who really wanna stick it to the system, would rather romanticize (heh) the idea of change for change's sake. As such, Pua would have a warped viewpoint on things -- the group of people capturing Pokemon with ropes (which, let's be real, is somehow more of a red flag to Pua than all of the people who capture Pokemon with Pokemon) in order to lead a surrogate resistance against incoming foreigners become a group of uninformed thugs; Anahera reasonably wanting to protect her child from a crazy outsider who literally wants to replace their government becomes and overprotective, stuck-in-her-ways bastion of opposing the modern.

And, idk, in the end, Kukui/Pua/Leilani band together and overcome those staunch isolationists, establish a league, and either open themselves up to all the shitshows that Anahera references happening to the other regions, or awaken Solgaleo/Lunala and get deathed to death because the whole worshipping thing was happening for an entirely valid reason.

DUNNO. That's probably how I'd write the ending of this with the setup you've given, but (especially from how you portrayed the church in chapter 1), I doubt this is the story you'd want to write. This brief headcanon was inspired by how you pulled off the "my dumb teenage protagonist was actually fucking things up for everyone the whole time" from Dawn of Darkness, and the fact that I'm still flipping back and forth between "some of these lines are brilliantly foreshadowing Pua being an unwitting pawn" and "calm down he's just describing trees, bruh" means you've written a damn engaging story in itself regardless of how badly I've probably just interpreted your entire fic.
 
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That is a heck of an extended pyrmoaniac's wet dream metaphor to kick off this chapter. I'm not sure if you were going for serious or comedic, because I kind of read it comedically and envisioned Anahera yelling at Pua with one of those comically swollen anime heads that the Sun & Moon anime decided to bring back and use liberally. Onto more serious comments, here, I think the argument had a few different elements. Pua staying silent and sort of shutting down is a method I employed quite frequently when my parents got mad at me and felt very relatable. Usually you don't find your voice in that scenario, but Pua's attempt to use religious logic also felt (sadly and scarily) accurate. And then the random screaming outburst to end things off. A psychological regression into an earlier state of childhood as a defense mechanism? Sure, let's go with that. :V

And another Chase encounter. That was an awkward start in all senses of the word. But I like that, with Leilani as pretty much his only friend (to the best of my knowledge), his kneejerk reaction is to go with her rather perverse sense of humor... only for it to fall hilariously flat. Normally being that brash about something like that rubs me the wrong way, but it works here, I suppose. There's this back and forth going on, too. There's Chase and Pua reflecting on their different situations and the isloationist values of the islanders. But you also have those sort of cheesy, foot in mouth moments courtesy of Pua that would not feel entirely out of place in a romantic comedy. It's a bit strange to see, if I'm honest... mostly because I don't watch or read a lot of that stuff. Or maybe because I'm just a bitter, cynical guy who feels like that stuff doesn't happen in real relationships.

And, oh, hey, Team Skull really is here. Completely with a Guzma name-drop and everything. This appearance is much darker and less comedic than their in-game interpretation... and given this story's tone so far, I expect that to carry through things, from here. Somehow, Kantonian Grimer is not the 'mon I pictured Chase having. With the way Pua described him, I was expecting something fabulous like milotic but that's hoenn so i'll shut up.

Now, for some random speculation because wynaut. If I'm assuming that Chase is sorta like an analogue to the SM protagonist and Kukui's relatively new to the region, I get the feeling that there's going to be focus on attempts at making a League and trying to tie it into the Island Challenge, somehow. Which will no doubt rile up the traditionalists. But maybe, just maybe, they get approval for some sort of test pilot. And initially that brings trouble in the form of Team Skull... leading everyone to think that Kukui's ideas are awful. But Pua (and maybe Leilani and/or Chase) won't have none of that and keep persisting anyway. Which leads to an even bigger problem and the source of a "divine punishment" or something like what Anahera's warning about: Ultra Beasts descending on the island. Maybe that's a bit far-fetched, but I could see it. Especially if Lusamine were somehow worked into this, since "these foreigners come from regions full of sin" is a big deal so far... and I strongly doubt Lusamine would fit as an Alolan native in your narrative.

That's all I got. Time will tell how wrong I am in this department. :p
 
The Vulture Queen
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I don't think I've reviewed this yet, properly.

I'm not sure I bought the church service. I get what you were going for, really, but it felt like a mix of a Billy Graham revival and Catholic mass. Especially with it being on Sunday. If you intended to make it Christian that'd be fine. But they worship the Tapus and hate everything foreign. I might look more into Polynesian and Hawaiian religious services. It'd make the scene more interesting than "gay guy with evangelical mother BUT IN ALOLA." Also maybe look into what actual Hawaiian attitudes on homosexuality and what not were. It would help sell the idea that this is a fiercely independent civilization that didn't just import it's morality and religion from elsewhere and then want to guard it against the outsiders they already let in?

Until I read this I hadn't quite thought it through, but replacing the Island Challenge with a league is sort of a bad idea. Culturally speaking. There wasn't really much wrong with the challenge.

I'm confused by the significance of A Professor in universe. Does Alola not have universities? Does no one there study Pokemon? Or are Professors different than professors?

Team Skull as generic evil guys is meh. I think you could tell an interesting story where they're either pissed at the gradual gentrification of the island or youth very much into western things with some delinquency problems, putting Team Skull on the side of modernism in a sense and providing a foil to the protagonists.

I do like the protagonists. And I think awkward gay flirting being salvaged by one side having a dog is the most realistic thing in all of your stories. And I think we've talked about my beliefs that journey fics and the games' plots necessarily imply abuse or neglect. This sells it well. And friends knowing about but not truly understanding emotional abuse rings painfully true.

There's a good outline for a story here. I think that given the themes you would do well with more time spent on research and worldbuilding.
 
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The acest of trainers
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Thanks for reviews, everyone. Keeping a bit more on top of them than I did last time. If I don't respond to your review specifically, please note it is because I have nothing to directly address but I appreciate any and all reviews - saying thanks for positivity I've always found cringey XD

I was a bit thrown off by the couple of instances of British slang that he tosses around, but I realize that other characters have done that too. Some cursory glances showed that there were parts of Polynesia colonized by the UK, so I guess it'd make sense for some of that to seep in.
The characters speak the slang I know rather than it being divided by region or anything XD If I was a significantly better writer, I'd probably be more mindful of those sorts of things, but I am far too lazy to stop and reconsider my words :p Thanks for your nice comments about Chapter 4!

So are her eyes a mix of these colors?
Thanks for pointing this out - I totally had not noticed! Will be fixing this up ASAP....

IDK. JUST MY TWO CENTS ON YOUR CHARACTERIZATION.
RE your two cents: I totally get what you mean and appreciate the comment. It wasn't necessarily for me about reiteration or anything, it was more showing a different interaction that was a bit dictated by the plot. I didn't really want to have Pua and Leilani already on their way to the lab so needed something before it, and it felt natural to show Pua's home environment and layout before the argument in the next chapter. The conversation came from that. Some of the cockiness is intentional, but it's not just there for the sake of being there. We hadn't had Leilani showing off to Anahera before, and I wanted that in there for future reference. I totally get what you mean though, and I hope that the eight-chapter arcs will limit the need for lots of scenes like this.

The overall flow of this chapter is really smooth. You manage to juggle a lot of topics here in a really clean way, and it's an almost seamless transition between Pua's fight with his mother to running into Chase to encountering Team Skull, into future Chase/Pua talking points, all with no scene breaks. I was personally very impressed with how this played out.
Just want to say a big thanks for this. My biggest fear was that too much was happening, so it means a lot to know it worked - especially coming from you.

Your two big recurring mistakes are the punctuating dialogue that ends in exclamation marks ("What?" he asked) and comma splices (joining two independent clauses with a comma). The latter happens more frequently in your dialogue/quotes, so that's something to look out for.
Thanks for this, they are appreciated. Grammar wasn't really taught at my schools for whatever reason so I've had to learn a lot of things on the fly, and clearly I am still learning but am glad to know what needs fixing.

predictions??
Interesting thoughts. I don't really want to comment on your accuracy either way, but it is an interesting theory - and your comments did spark one little idea in me that I'd been struggling to put my finger on.

I'm not sure I bought the church service.
I might look more into Polynesian and Hawaiian religious services.
The service is inspired by Polynesian religious services in New Zealand. I am not going for a complete copy/paste version of Hawaii as I have never been there and all the research in the world would still be a bit appropriating without actually going there and experiencing it for myself. I write what I know as much as possible. There are more traditional elements that come up at the end of this arc and will appear later on in the story but have no reason being present yet. We only have scratched the surface of the religion in the town, and Pua's interpretation of it is not necessarily accurate.

Team Skull as generic evil guys is meh.
It's a good thing they won't be then!

And friends knowing about but not truly understanding emotional abuse rings painfully true.
Glad to know it rings true.

I'm confused by the significance of A Professor in universe.
Pokemon Professor is separate from a university professor and is more of a national/community role which I envision as being akin to the NZ government's chief science advisor. The significance in this community (not necessarily the wider world) is because of their isolationist beliefs and their fear of what has happened around the world.
 
Off to Galar
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Back for a short review of Chapter 4.

For a moment, I thought Pua was actually going to run away. Instead we get a really nice chapter with Pua, Chase, and Rocky. The chapter flows so naturally and there's so many cute and sweet interactions between all of them. PuaxChase for life!! Can't wait to see how training goes.

Also hello Team Skull. I'm interested to see how you use them in the future.

Minor notes:
"It's not fine though. Everyone here is so hostile to change you'd think there had never been any settlers. I don't know how it was before Hau'oli became so gentrified and developed, but your right, everyone in this stifling bloody town cannot get their heads around something so simple as change, it's… it's just… for fuck's sake, why can't I find the words."

"Pua, mate, calm down!" Chase stopped and turned; he shifted Rocky to one arm so he was cradled like a baby and used his free hand to grab onto Pua's shoulder.
Pua's characterization has been consistently strong throughout the story but it especially shines here where a single thought of the island's static way infuriates him within a few seconds only to be brought back by a touch from Chase.
Pua ducked as the two lifeless bodies flew backwards, crashing into the trees.
Chase ran towards the two and checked their pulses. "They're still alive, but they won't be awake for a while."
I feel as if you could have gone without "lifeless". It feels kind of contradictory after you read Chase say they are alive.

Looking forward to the next chapter!
 
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The Lesser Routine
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Thanks for the review @TRNatalie! I see your point, I will change that to motionless.

A short break between chapters this time, aren't you all lucky!


The Lesser Routine

The bells had barely settled before the singing began. Of course, few of the parishioners waited until they were inside to break into song. For hours before the service began, as early as the break of dawn, Iki Town swelled with the sound of choir song and traditional hymns. It was said you could hear the singing from Hau'oli City; it was assumed that had begun as some kind of boast or insult aimed at their unwanted neighbours, no one seemed to agree, but most took it as a challenge to be loud enough so the whole region could hear them.

Today, the church's choir had begun the service with Aue te Okatai. There was a songbook in the back of every seat, but every copy that day sat untouched quivering with the rhythmic vibrations in the air; the lyrics were as much a part of the congregation as their flesh and blood, and the music poured from their mouths as easily as any other word. Even with a song as deep and intense as this, people sang with a smile, grinning at their friends and family, arms around their neighbours as they subconsciously fought to be the loudest, to make their voice heard above the boisterous percussion that filled the ceiling, as if Tapu Koko was listening from his temple and would reward whoever he could hear the clearest.

That was unlikely to be Pua. He and his mother sang and clapped with everyone else, but they were the only pairing in the entire church whose smiles did not reach their eyes. Whereas others were turning to their neighbours and inviting them into their private liturgy, Pua and Anahera stared directly forward, making such a palpable effort not to meet the other's eyes that a quieter room would have easily noticed.

The two had exchanged only a few words over the last twelve hours. Pua had arrived home in such a giddy, gleeful state, high on lust and hormones, that part of him had been prepared to confront her the moment he stepped through the door. When he stepped into an empty, darkened living room, the other part of him was glad he could simply sneak into his room and finish what he had begun earlier.

Despite the rebellion brewing in his chest, Pua spent most of the day in his room. He came down for breakfast only when he knew she was out in the garden, and then lay silently on his bed with his thoughts until it was nearly time to go. Anahera was waiting when he came downstairs, a late lunch of laulau sitting on the bench. "You aren't eating as we walk," she said to the room when his feet creaked on the bottom step.

Pua ate quietly while staring out the window, wondering if Chase would be there today, wondering how soon until they could start training. He basked in the warm glow of his memories until he felt the floor shake and knew it was time to leave. "Thanks," he offered meekly as he put the dish in the sink.

"Mmmhmmm," was all he got in response, and Anahera led the way out the front door.

As the song ended in a series of whoops and applause and everyone retook their seats, Pua felt his mother's presence shifting next to him, as though her meaty arms were trying to envelop him. He had been trying not to think about last night, but he knew that the only reason they had not fought yet was because of church. If it had been any other day of the week, Anahera would have been unable to contain herself, but the night before church was a different story. She would seek solace in the glass murals above them, she would look for guidance in Joshua's words, she would search for answers in the tattered book falling away from its leather in the pouch in front of her. Only once she was given the story she wanted would she turn her anger back to him and let her vitriol and rage pour out from her gaping, yellow-toothed mouth, the rant she'd been writing in her head all night suddenly justified no matter what was delivered to her today.

It meant that, for once, Pua straightened up as Joshua walked to the lectern. Whatever was said over the next few minutes would be creatively repeated in their living room tonight, and Pua wanted to know what he was going to be dealt. He could see Leilani shifting in her chair a few rows ahead, looking around for him so they could exchange eye rolls, but Pua knew that even with their current statuesque staring, Anahera was watching his every move.

At the front of the room, Joshua paused for a moment, his head bowed and face solemn as if in prayer, but when he raised it, his smile was as wide as ever. "I want to start today with a little story. Some of you that have come into my office before may have heard this one, so bear with – not everyone is so lucky to get private time with me!"

From the back of the room, a distinctive voice rang out. "He's talking about you, Shayna!"

Ripples of laughter spread through the pews like a wave; strong at first as it spread to the middle, but thinning out and receding quickly as it neared the front. Joshua's laugh was louder than most as he pointed to Kasanita, one of the school's canteen staff, but the more traditional members bristled at the interruption; Pua heard Anahera tut with barely disguised contempt, and he silently clenched his teeth together.

"I'm not going to be the one to name names," Joshua said as the laughter died down. He waited until the last few sniggers had petered out before making one final chortle that, in the same breath, turned into the first line of the day's speech.

"Every morning when I wake up, my routine for the day begins. Immediately, as soon as I wake up. I get up from the right side of my bed so that I start my day staring across the bountiful ocean Tapu Fini blessed us with. I go to the bathroom to do what must be done, I stretch, I get dressed, and then I run. I put on a pair of socks and the blue running shoes I keep next to the dresser, and as soon as they are on, I run out the door and start my day with a two-kilometre run. I go around the town, up along the Mahalo Trail, pay my respects to Tapu Koko, and head home and cool down over breakfast before coming here, to this beautiful place.

"So that's how I start my day. Now you all know where to find me for those early morning crises," Joshua added with his twinkling smile to another round of laughter. "That may be what I do, but I know I am not alone when it comes to routine. Many of us do the same things every day. Some of us might stop for an iced coffee on the way to work. Some of us swap running for swimming at the beach, or go hiking along Route Three. Some of us might be more particular – we have to feed the Pikipek outside our windows before we get dressed, or maybe have to flick the light switch on and off twelve times before leaving the room. We all need to do our own thing that helps prepare ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the day ahead whether we consider them routine or not."

Joshua paused for a moment and smiled with the serene sternness of a teacher reaching their next point. "It's funny, when you stop and think about it. You may have had your morning walk before you came here, or assembled your fruit salad by colour, or whatever else it is you do any other day, but do you ever notice that this is the one thing that unites us? Every Sunday, every other part of our routine is put aside for a few hours and we join together as one to celebrate our gods above. That's something really special, isn't it? This church, the gods, this region; they are the one thing that unites all our daily routines, and every time I think of that I feel so happy."

For someone apparently filled with joy, it was at this moment that Joshua's face filled with sorrow. Time for a lesson, Pua thought grimly.

"Here's the thing with routines," Joshua said, stepping out from behind his lectern and letting the crowd admire his long purple and yellow kiehe. "Routines are special. They mean something to each of us. The light switches, the coffee, the running; these are the little moments that keep us sane, keep us happy, keep us connected with the gods. Some people may not understand your routine or what makes you happy, but your routine is not about someone else. The gods have gifted us the blessing that is this world and allowed us the freedom to enjoy it, and it is only right that we accept that gift.

"In the face of that gift, though, it is important not to become so connected to our routines. Being alive means having to make sacrifices from time to time. One day you might have to forget about your night time swim in order to mind the kids for your partner. Some mornings, the light switch might have to be left alone if it means getting your household to the bus on time. Routines are special, but we have to know when it is right to enjoy them and when we have to let things slide.

"But there is one routine you cannot sacrifice. There is one routine that goes above all else, that goes above your fellow man. In fact, to call it a routine, to compare it to light switches and exercise is an insult. It's an insult because I am talking about the gods. I am talking about your church. I am talking about this right here." Joshua stamped his foot on the last three words and caused an earthquake of cheers to rise from the pews.

"When we come here on Sundays, we come here to give ourselves over to the gods. For one morning a week, they demand we give them our time, and it is the very least we can give them after all that they have done for us. But it is not just for them. We need this time together. We need this time to reflect on ourselves and to reflect as a community, to find the answers that we so desperately need so that we can return to our homes and loved ones and carry out our routines with the peace and well-being needed to withstand any interruptions and complications that might try to push us from our path.

"Just as there are people out there who might not understand your personal routines, there are people outside these walls who seek to disrupt this collective routine. You may let them disrupt your morning run; you may let them disrupt your iced coffee; but you can NOT let them disrupt your spiritual quest. This is the one thing that we all share, and should anyone try and take that away from us, may the gods have mercy on their souls!"

It was hard to tell if Joshua had finished speaking; his sentences so often became so passionately loud and defiant that a dramatic pause could be mistaken for the end. Yet if he had more to say, the people were not going to let him say it. Like the collective they were meant to be, the entire church rose to their feet, and the cavernous space above them was filled with the sound of vigorous, loyal applause punctuated with cheers and prideful weeping.

Maybe Pua was in a dream. Maybe Anahera had hit him last night after all and that magical walk under the stars had all been in his head. Because, as his looked around at the sea of bronze, ochre faces, he could not believe that any of this was real. The cheers, the applause, the wave of people rising around him; surely this was some sort of twisted nightmare?

Unfortunately, Pua was alive and conscious, and the entire town was indeed swallowing the tripe they were being fed. Is this one of those movies where everyone turns out to have been in a cult all along? The smiling, nodding, agreeable parishioners, people he had known all his life and had once considered clever and wise, certainly looked very cultish right now. He wanted to stand up and tell they were being duped, but no matter how loud he screamed, the applause would simply drown him out.

Instead, Pua said nothing as he rose to his feet. His movements felt foreign, his body struggling to comprehend what was happening. He looked down at his own hands slamming pathetically together and didn't recognise the motion. What the fuck are you doing, a distant voice lost in the depths of his mind called out, not loud enough to stop a false, appeasing smile crossing his face.

Yet even with angry bile boiling the back of his throat, Pua knew this was his only option. Slow, sarcastic applause was defiant as he could be. If Pua remained seated, he might as well run naked down the aisles with Kukui's face tattooed on his back. Conformity meant survival, and Pua had no intention of giving his life up so easily.

Still, the sight of the sheep blindly accepting the wolf's lesson made him cringe, and Pua turned his eyes towards the ceiling. The sun was shining perfectly through the stained glass behind him, imprinting a bright, jagged circle of light a few metres above Joshua's head. Gods give me strength.

His eyes fell back to the crowd, and Pua was stunned to find his prayers answered. In this sea of hair that, no matter the shape or length or attempts at recolouring, was as black and thick as oil, Chase's shaggy, golden blond mane stood out like a lighthouse in the dark, a siren calling Pua towards the shore.

Well, I'll be damned. Pua clapped with sudden enthusiasm, his smile widening and rising past his cheekbones. All these years he had been coming to church and saying his prayers, making his little wishes in amongst the muttered platitudes, but never once had any of them been answered; certainly not with such haste. Yet, as memories from last night rushed back to him and his heartbeat ecstatically, Pua had to wonder if he had been wrong all this time.

***

When the service ended an hour later, the sun had slipped out of the sky, only an orange smear at the edge of the horizon, spread out like a slowly sinking 'V'. The moon had already risen on the other side of the island, a spotlight slowly coming into focus, and the mere sight of it gave Pua a rush of happy memories.

He clung to them as he scouted out a place amongst the crowd. He longed to go home and savour the last few hours of freedom before the week began again, but he couldn't leave while his mother was still here. The two had thankfully parted ways as they filed out of the church, but Pua could see her hulking frame in the middle of the square, the blood red kiekie sticking out in this ocean of colours like a Rhydon amongst Mareep.

Shuddering slightly, Pua walked in the opposite direction. He pushed through throngs of people as he searched around for Leilani, sidestepping grown men standing sullenly together in the way middle-aged men do, passing a trio of elderly ladies smoking near the church doors, cackling without a care in the Melemele tongue. He nearly got lost in the cloud hanging around their heads, the smoke seeping into his lungs and burning his eyes, until a firm hand tugged him into the shadows.

"I can't believe he still has any energy left," Leilani growled as a way of greeting.

"What?" Pua was too busy blinking the ash from his eyes to know what she meant and had to follow her steely gaze. It may have been hard to tell just who in the crowd she was glowering at, but there was no missing the rich purple of Joshua's kiehe, the fabric shinier and brighter than that of his congregation. "Why? He wasn't as worked up as he normally is."

"I meant the fact he walked all that way just to reach his fucking point." Leilani slouched against the church, firmly crossing her arms as some form of protest. "Can you believe he is being so brazen about this?"

Pua knew exactly what she meant. In a way, he had to admire Joshua. That speech may have been contrived, but his point had been clear, hidden away amongst all the foreplay. It was obvious enough that most people would leave church today thinking about Kukui and his plans, but had a slight subtleness that gave the Kahuna plausible deniability. It was a thin tightrope to walk, but Joshua seemed to have his balance down pat.

"I thought he was being subtler than he could of. He never once said Kukui's name," Pua said, watching Joshua mingle like a king strolling through his masses. "He didn't say anything about the League."

Leilani scoffed. "He doesn't need to. Everyone knows what he was talking about, even fucking Kasanita could work that one out."

"What was she thinking making that joke? The Aunties are all going –"

"And Kukui wasn't even here to defend himself," Leilani interrupted. "I mean, he will find out about it, Helena will tell him, but he can't see all these people standing about whispering about him. He still thinks he has a chance to make this League happen." She trailed off there, her voice breaking slightly and shame flashing across her eyes.

Pua knew her well enough not to mention it, even if he felt the same way. "He still might, we don't know what the other islands will make of it." It has to happen, please let it happen. You can't dangle this carrot in front of us and then take it away before we can even taste it.

Leilani nodded at this, though her face remained twisted with sour sorrow. "That's true. Hala talks a big talk, but the other islands are much bigger than we are. It would be easier if he had his hometown's support, but if they like the idea enough, Kukui should be able to get over that."

Pua was doubtful - the islands tiptoed around each other as much as possible least centuries old tensions were stirred up - but he was simply glad to see her eyes twinkling. "See, we just need to focus on the positives!" He edged towards Leilani and wrapped his arm around her, hugging her with pretend enthusiasm.

"Ew, get off me," Leilani shrieked, laughing as she slapped him away. "Save your loving for your lover boy."

Pua's chest went cold. "Lover boy?"

"Voices carry in the dead of night around these parts," Leilani said, eyes shining malevolently. "I could hear you gagging for his albino eggplant. What the hell happened there?"

"Nothing," Pua said defensively. "I just ran into him and then helped him find the right way home. He's going to help me train Rocky."

"I see. And did this walk take a little detour down town?"

"No!" Pua tried to look indignant but he could feel his face reddening. "I don't even know if he's gay."

"He probably isn't," Leilani said, shrugging. "Not with that hair."

"What's wrong with his hair?"

"It makes him look like a Staraptor." Leilani pulled her ponytail around and draped it over her forehead so it made a jagged fringe. "It's ridiculous! You could lay an egg in that and never find it again. It's such a white boy haircut."

Pua was offended on Chase's behalf, but he couldn't help laughing. The men standing nearby turned and glared at them irately, but that only made the pair laugh even harder. Pua gripped the church walls to stop himself falling and cackled, feeling the lightest he had all day, and shut his eyes against the crowds. He imagined no one was there, that it was just him and the stars again, back when the world had been his and his alone. He could see himself skipping home across the moonlit path, holding Rocky in his arms, ignoring his grumbles about being swung around and only focusing on that reluctant smile. If only it could be like that forever.

"FI-NA-LY! I have been looking for you losers everywhere."

Pua opened his eyes to find Ikky standing in front of them; they had only been out of church a few minutes but already the boy was stuffing his face with handfuls of hot chips, tomato sauce that matched his outfit smeared over his lips and chin.

"Your mother is going to kill you if you get anything on your kiehe," Leilani said, her laugh drying up quickly.

Ikky shrugged. "She's the one who brought me these," he said, spraying tiny flakes of potato over them. "What are you two talking about?"

"The service," Pua said.

"Oh, right. Joshua really doesn't like that professor guy, does he?"

"Told you," Leilani muttered.

"Yeah, well, who cares what Joshua thinks. He probably hasn't even spoken to Kukui for more than five minutes." Pua crossed his arms and stared huffily at the back of the Kahuna's head, annoyed his memories were already distant dreams.

"I heard you guys know him now though," Ikky said, smiling mischievously. "Someone said you are working with now."

"Says who?" Leilani asked with a face like thunder.

"Not sure," Ikky said, shrugging again. "A few people were talking about it, can't remember who. Susannah maybe, or Tanisha?"

"Great. Great!" Leilani slumped back against the church, teeth audibly clenched. "The whole fucking town will know by now."

"Who cares? What are they going to do about it?"

Leilani looked at Pua like a five-year-old who'd just asked how to use the toilet. "Do you think I want that kind of scrutiny from a bunch of middle-aged biddies who haven't done anything with their lives? I already get pitying looks every time I order a salad when we go out for dinner, I don't need this on top of that."

"That doesn't sound that bad," Ikky said.

Oh, you foolish boy. Pua stepped a face places to his right as a precaution, but even from this distance, he could feel the heat Leilani's laser-focused glare was emitting.

"Ikaika, if you ever say something like that to me again, I will take whatever disgusting food you are eating and will shove it so far up your fat, shit stained arse you will still be able to taste it." She stormed off without a backwards glance, the violent 'it' barely out of her mouth, pushing past the men who were now chuckling knowingly to themselves.

"What the fuck was that?" Ikky shrieked, staring incredulously between Pua and Leilani's retreating figure.

"I'm not sure," Pua offered simply. "I'll go check on her," he added, and left Ikky on his own in the church's shadow. He tried to see where Leilani had gone, but the crowd was thick with too familiar faces, many of whom were staring at him as if they knew a dark secret, that it was impossible to tell. Pua was taller than most people his age but not tall enough to stare over the many giant men who loomed over him and had to make do with simply spinning in circles like a crazy person.

"You alright there?"

A lone, decipherable voice emerged from the babble, and Pua clung to it eagerly, smiling even before he'd turned around. Chase's hair did not shine as brightly in the dying light, but his egg white skin still seemed to glow, and his frayed suit fitted him snugly, despite the clear signs it was a hand me down.

"Hey," Pua said breathlessly.

"Hey," Chase replied, laughing softly. "You looking for someone?"

Yes, you. "Leilani disappeared on me. I was just checking she was alright."

Chase nodded as if he knew the situation. "I see. Well, I wish I could say where she went, but everyone kind of looks the same right now."

"Um, excuse me?" Pua asked, trying not to smirk.

Chase raised an eyebrow for a moment before realisation struck. "Oh crap, I didn't mean it like that!" he spluttered. "The outfits, they all kind of look the same. You know, with the colours and the patterns and the…"

"The clothing-like shapes?" Pua suggested, and the two sniggered. "It's fine, I get what you mean. Though clearly, you didn't get the memo."

"Yeah…." Chase lifted his blazer up and frowned at his pale green shirt. "I wasn't sure if I'd be allowed in wearing this, but no one's commented on it yet."

Maybe not to your face, Pua thought, but kept that to himself. "Why did you even come? Don't you have your own Kantonese church-thing to do?"

"Nah, religion isn't that big over there. It seems pretty big here though, so I thought I'd get a feel for it. Especially as I heard there's some sort of festival coming up - the Summer Solstice, right? I don't want to be a complete noob when that happens."

"Oh, yeah." Pua's heart sank, suddenly heavy with dread.

Dread that was clearly noticeable. "Something wrong?" Chase asked, eyebrow raised.

Pua was tempted to just stop the conversation and walk away, but Chase's smooth face looked so innocent when he was confused that he couldn't possibly look away from it. "It's just that… well…. it's my birthday, the solstice." The thought had been at the back of his mind for weeks, even though he tried not to think about it. Part of him had forgotten about it over the last week, so caught up in this conflicting mix of rage and lust, but now that it was spoken all Pua could see were the hand-drawn posters pasted around the church doors.

"Is that a bad thing?" Chase asked uncertainly.

Pua nodded grimly. "Every year I've got to wake up early so we can go to the church service, and then join the masses walking up to Tapu Koko's shrine, and then hang out with the entire town all night long. Such a fun birthday, right?"

"Oh yeah, I can imagine that being a pain. My birthday's right around the holidays, so I know what's like to feel second best, though at least mine isn't on any festivals. Well, it might be now – do you guys do stuff for the Winter Solstice?"

"Yeah, that's the other big – wait, is your birthday December 21?"

Chase laughed and nodded. "Yep! I guess that means we're opposites."

For a second, Pua thought he might faint. He had stopped breathing, he knew that for certain – or rather, had simply taken a pause, a dramatic one at that, the excitement and shock of this revelation so overwhelming his body had simply seized up in response. This truly was fate of some kind, and Pua wondered if he should skip the festival entirely and head to Tapu Koko's shrine now – Joshua had never mentioned matching soul mates as being within the jurisdiction of the gods, but what other explanation was there for this golden-haired gift that kept on giving arriving in his life like this?

Pua was so high on this indescribable joy that he didn't realise the world had gone quiet. He thought it was simply the blood rushing to his ears, but when Chase turned around, Pua realised the whole square was looking in one direction, every single person struck silent.

And there was only one person who would have such an effect. His joy quickly fading, he pushed past Chase and forced his way closer to the point of impact that had drawn everyone else in.

The crowd had condensed near the east side of the square. Pua could not breach the inner circle of people, but spotted Leilani finally, standing on a fence post glowering over the townspeople, and rushed to join her. She acknowledged him simply with a finger to her lips, her eyes not moving from the scene below; down there amongst the throngs of people, Kukui and Joshua stood on their own, standing such a distance apart they might be preparing for battle. There were no Poké Balls in sight though – Pua had no idea if Joshua even had any Pokémon – signalling that this was a very different fight.

Pua grunted as he heaved himself up the fence and missed what something Joshua said. "– you had been on time, you might have found my sermon today particularly enlightening." The Kahuna spoke with the same serious tone he used when he was standing before his congregation, but there was a harder edge this time, a force behind each word Pua had never heard him use before.

"Again, I am very sorry for being late, things got away from me down at the lab. Unpacking everything, arranging it all, you know how it is, bro," Kukui explained, smiling with that cocky grin of his.

"You must be incredibly lucky then to have hired two new assistants then," Joshua replied coldly. A few people on the opposite side of the circle looked up at Pua and Leilani at that, but most were too engaged to pay them any heed.

"Very lucky. I am sure they will be very diligent workers. I have heard great things about the Alolan people, I know what hard work –"

"We do not need your pleasantries, just as we do not need your grand ideas for our region." Joshua's words dripped with ice, and it was clear Kukui was taken aback by such a public display of animosity. "If you have come here to try and win us over, you are out of luck. No one here wants your League, so you'd only be wasting your breath."

"Go back to Kanto!" a woman screamed from deep in the crowd, conjuring up a thunderous burst of applause.

Kukui winced as he gazed around the people celebrating his failure, and coughed to try and recompose himself. "Hey man, I mean you no harm whatsoever. I simply believe a League would be of a benefit to this region. I am not here to try and reshape you to the ways of a different culture. I am Seviian, we have natural ancestors, I would only create a League that works for –"

"Don't you dare talk as if we are the same!" Joshua roared. The spit flying from his mouth was visible from metres away, and the shout deafened any lingering applause. "Our ancestors may be the same, but your people went down a far darker path than we have. If the Sevii Islands had believed as we do, they would have never allowed such a darkness to grow within them, they would never have been touched by fire and war. A League will bring only death and destruction, and we want no part of it."

The words hung like the smoke after an explosion, and Kukui stood stock still, jaw hanging open. "Fire? War?" he said finally, voice shaking. "Are you really saying that Sevii brought Team Rocket upon themselves?" Kukui looked revolted, and actually backed away, fists clenched. "What a vile, disgusting thing to say. I was a child in Sevii when that war happened, I watched innocent, god-fearing people I'd grown up with lost everything to Team Rocket. I saw elderly and vulnerable people get used as pawns in one sick man's twisted game. You call yourself a man of god but say that we brought that on ourselves? Only a sick little man would say something so despicable and then have the gall to spread such slander as fact!"

The air, already thick with humidity, suddenly became denser. Pua felt Leilani quivering with rage beside him, and he could see many in the crowd below were doing the same, but few would be of the same thoughts as her. One man behind Joshua actually stepped forward, but the Kahuna calmly raised a hand, stopping him in his tracks.

"You can call me a liar if you must, I stand by what I saw. The gods only punish those who defy them, and Sevii must have defied them a lot in order to suffer as they did. The gods saved you in the end, and how did you repay them, hmm? Did you build any temples, did you honour them in any way? I don't believe so, unless you had a chapel somewhere inside the Pokémon Tower."

Kukui simply shook his head. "You are so wrong on so many levels, man, you have no idea. I was going to talk with you in private, but I might as well tell you now; I have spoken with the Hau'oli City Council, and they are arranging for me to meet with their counterparts in Heahea and Maile. They all support my idea and want to know the logistics of implementing it. Sorry, bro, but you and the old man are swimming against the tide, and you are only going to end up drowning."

With one final flash of his perfect smile, Kukui turned, pushing his way between the crowd. Silence lingered as all eyes turned to watch him walk down the main street, but the second he was out of sight, the whispers began. The sound was like an out of tune television, a low hum that rose in volume but remained indistinguishable, the entire town descending into a twittering, gossiping mass.

Pua expected Joshua to say something, but the Kahuna was silent; he remained where he was for a moment, ignoring all those trying to talk with him, only moving when Hala's huge frame appeared alongside. The crowd parted to let them through, everyone watching them storm their way towards the church.

"Why's he not defending himself?" an old woman nearby shrieked to the group she was with, though they all shushed her and carried on their hushed discussion.

"This is madness." Leilani had been so quiet, a rarity for her, that Pua had nearly forgotten she was there; he turned to her and was stunned to see she had tears in her eyes. "They aren't going to see sense, are they? Joshua's right about there being war, he just doesn't see that it's going to be his fault."

"Don't say that. Once the cities get involved, Joshua will have to come around, you'll see."

Leilani finally looked at him, wearing that saying dismissive, exasperated look she always wore when he had annoyed her, the look that always made his heart shrivel up inside his chest. "You know what your problem has always been, Pua? You're too fucking nice. You always think everything's going to work out, even when it's screaming in your face telling you otherwise."

She jumped off the fence and shoved her way through the townspeople. Pua, too taken aback to say anything, watched her break through the mass and follow Kukui's footsteps down the street. A moment later a woman he assumed was Helena ran after her, calling out her name, quickly becoming lost in the din.

Pua did not move for some time. Leilani's words rested on him heavily, literally dragging his head down towards his neck until he sat slumped on the post. Was that an insult or compliment? Heat of the moment or actual anger? He tried writing counter-arguments in his head, but nothing was strong enough; even his inner monologue was too nice.

He didn't move until Anahera appeared before him, a silent order that said it was time to leave. Even though Pua knew what would await them back home, he followed meekly in her step, barely even noticing Chase as he waved goodbye. At least he was used to the things was going to shout.

The walk home from church was usually sad and full of hurt and regret, but never like this. Pua naturally walked ahead of his mother but the paths were long and he felt her eyes on him the whole time. If he didn't think of Leilani, he could only think of Kukui and Joshua, of threatened routines and unwanted birthdays. He wanted to focus on Chase, but now his mother's face hung over those memories. Does she think him too nice as well? Is that why she walks over him the way she does? If he had snapped at her earlier in his life, would they be where they were now?

Pua had no idea. The only thing he did know was that he certainly wasn't dreaming. His subconscious was rarely on his side, but he didn't hate himself enough to imagine a day this undeniably shit.
 
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I sure hope you were going for creepy with Church's enthusiasm at the song, because that was my takeaway from it. Something about everyone smiling from ear to ear just made me think of a cult... or a group of people that had been lobotomized or something. Granted, I go to services and sing, too. But it's not usually like this. I suppose it does provide a cool backdrop for a nice awkward silence between Pua and Anahera. Versus just an awkward silence at home, which would be pretty pedestrian. Also, oh god the Shayna quip could not have been any more "friendly ribbing in a small town public setting" even if you tried.

Is this one of those movies where everyone turns out to have been in a cult all along? The smiling, nodding, agreeable parishioners, people he had known all his life and had once considered clever and wise, certainly looked very cultish right now.
Oh, hey, look at that. It was totally what you were going for. That last paragraph was my genuine take on it and not an after-the-fact thing from seeing Pua's reaction. So, looks like you successfully creeped me out. Mission accomplished?

As for the sermon itself, I'll admit I'm not familiar with church sermons, being of a different faith. However, the personal anecdote about routines was a very natural way to start off the sermon and establish the theme of "routine" and "breaking routine in acceptable/unacceptable ways." It felt inclusive to the church community and then it's used to build up to Joshua's main point of, again, not letting outsiders interfere with cultural values. I think it's a good, charged speech. Y'know, in that cultish sort of manner, I guess. Bonus points in the semi-hypocrtical ending to the scene where Pua says a half-hearted prayer that gets answered.

Conformity meant survival, and Pua had no intention of giving his life up so easily.
Exactly, man! The system's got it in for us, but we have to play along... otherwise they'll see what we're doing and send their spy drones to gun us down! Finally, someone gets it!

Not much to say about the part with Leilani and Ikky. It was similar to the stuff in school. Leilani throwing the usual innueno-laden barbs, getting hot-headed, and then stomping off somewhere. The solstice birthday revelation was... interesting. It plays off the whole "star-crossed lovers" thing and getting strangled by the red tape, I suppose. On a semi-related note, my birthday is New Year's Eve and I 200% sympathize with Pua here. Like, my birthday consists of a couple of cards and maybe a New Year's party. Friends are typically too busy celebrating, getting drunk, or watching football to remember. And this is all assuming my family's not travelling for the holidays and I don't have to get my chemo or anything. Pua, I feel for ya, man. *pats*

Much to my surprise, Kukui does show up... showing off some significant differences compared to canon. I don't know why I didn't expect it, seeing as your Team Skull is more like a street gang than their goofy canon counterparts. But Kukui's sharp swerve into serious stuff relating to Team Rocket (interesting twist with Sevii Islands, by the way) caught me off guard. Looks like things are getting set up for a future confrontation of sorts. Also, not sure if intentional, but the juxtaposition of Kukui verbally standing up to Joshua vs Pua wishing nothing bad could happen and then getting called too nice was interesting.
 
Plays too much Yu-Gi-Oh!
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Awards Review time!


- Plot

There isn’t too much of a plot yet, seeing as the story seems to still be in its early stages, but there’s definitely a lot of potential with a few different ideas developing into a cohesive story. Pua’s relationship with his mother, Chase, Leilani, and Kukui are all promising stories, as well as Kukui’s struggles to develop a Pokemon League in Alola.

- Setting


The setting is clearly MeleMele Island in the Alola region, mostly focusing on Iki town, it appears. The locations and environments are described well, and stand out in a good way. Something in particular I loved was the description of the sunset on route 3 at the very beginning of the story.


- Characterization

Characterization is where this fic really shines at the moment. Every character feels unique and vibrant, and they all serve their purposes excellently. The way the characters are written makes you really connect with characters like Pua and Chase and Leilani, and really makes you despise character’s like Pua’s mother and Joshua. Each character is entertaining to read as well, with Pua’s angsty(ish) worldview and Leilani’s snarky, sassy demeanor standing out in particular.

- Writing Style

The writing style is beautiful. The world is painted perfectly in my head as I read and the characters bounce off of each other like they’re real people who have been friends for years. The dialogue is consistently natural and easy to read, (Not to mention entertaining) and the story flows smoothly from scene to scene.

- Technical

There were no technical errors that I could catch. A well written story.


A solid story, (As expected of Ace :p) and a very enjoyable read. Most of the story’s issues come from it still being relatively new, and I can only hope that future chapters will flesh out the way this story portrays Alola and its citizens fully. I can’t wait to read more.
 
shame personified
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Lol sup it's me again. I also judged this for awards. o: Congrats on the wins, particularly best protag!

Plot

Alola's an extremely religious region that looks down on other regions for not respecting the gods, who have caused wars for said other regions in retaliation. One day, Professor Kukui shows on up out of nowhere and wants to establish a Pokémon League. Alola's residents want nothing to do with it, but Professor Kukui's determined to try anyway.

That's all so far! IIRC you've taken a lot of inspiration from the games, but I love the original twists with the regions being at odds with each other and watching how a Pokémon League is actually built from the ground up. It's also interesting seeing resistance against the Pokémon League being established and the use of religious themes defining Alola's culture to the extent it does.

Setting


Somehow, I get a good sense not only for Melemele Island, but also for Alola as a whole and other regions. I can envision the world as a whole in the story, basically, rather than just the setting the story takes place in, and that's impressive to me. That said, I'd really like to see more little details that bring the setting to life more from paragraph to paragraph, scene to scene... if that makes sense.

Characterization

It seems everyone on Alola's got a temper, but for everyone except Pua, it's flared by their religious beliefs and wanting to defend them, plus not being accepting of those who think or look differently from them. Pua's angry because people don't like change, and you can definitely see how learning about his surroundings and wanting to break free from them affects him. He's witty and stubborn, but not assertive. He'd rather avoid confrontation whenever possible, despite how strong his opinions are.

The other characters have more unique traits to them. His mother is extremely stubborn and strict; Leilani's sassy; Chase is carefree and sympathetic; Joshua's a persuasive leader. They've not got a lot of depth individually, but taken collectively, they're written vividly enough that they feel distinct and vital to Pua's little coming-of-age journey.

Writing Style

It flows extremely well. There's a perfect balance of description and dialogue. Each character's dialogue is distinct and entertaining as hell. My only complaint is that the description feels sort of bland at times when it comes to physical surroundings. As for Pua's monologue/emotions descriptions, they can be extremely melodramatic at times, such as when there's about 3-4 paragraphs of Pua freaking out when the door knocks. The description is reminiscent of someone having a heart attack, and while there's justification for him to be anxious/scared/whatever a lot of the time these descriptions go overboard, there's little reason to spend so long with the description or to use such fierce wording.

Technical

There weren't many errors... if any. :p I can tell you proofread and/or fix errors pointed out immediately, woo!

***

Pua-specific comments!

Depth

I couldn't name too many traits about Pua, but what you've got here is written so well that he comes off as a well rounded character to me anyway. He's not religious by any means, unlike everyone else around him, and he absolutely hates how Melemele Island's residents try to push their beliefs off on him and others. He's stubborn and extremely opinionated, yet he'll avoid confrontation when possible... especially with his mother, who appears to have abused him in the past or at least caused a lot of emotional grief for him. He longs for a different life, different surroundings, and he's very much looking forward to the new Pokémon League because of that. Also, he kinda melts around his crush, Chase, which is adorable. Despite everything, he has a soft spot for those he loves. That's not to say he's sympathetic, I guess, but more that he's not afraid to be more of himself around them.

Development


I'd say Pua's already changed a bit for what little of the story is here, which is impressive. It mostly has to do with Chase, his crush. Like I said, Pua's got a soft spot for those he loves, and when Chase comes around, I see Pua starting to consider things he never considered before almost immediately. Seeing things from another's perspective seems to be a thing that's difficult for him, but he tries so that he can understand Chase better.

Originality


I guess stubborn teenagers who don't like what the adults are doing aren't really original, but Pua's unique in the lack of assertiveness department as well as because of the increasing open mindedness he's exhibiting with Chase. It's hard to try to break from conformity when you've been surrounded by the same beliefs and people all your life, but Pua is determined more than most to keep at it.

Entertainment Value


I enjoy reading his monologue a lot. It gets melodramatic at times, like I mentioned above, more so than I'd expect even from a teenage character prone to anger, but it's fascinating getting into his head and hearing his thought process on things. It helps I'm on the same side as him, I guess (ie., not liking it when people are averse to change). Also, the exchanges with his friends are hilarious.

Role


He's the protagonist, all right. I suppose that without him, the story would continue as it is now... since much of the plot is due to forces outside of Pua's control. But Pua will be damned if he doesn't try to take it all under his own control in an attempt to change his life for the better.

***

Pua and Leilani-specific character interaction comments ayeee

Depth

Pua and Leilani have been friends for a long time, way before the story's events. I'm not sure if I'd call them best friends, and that's because of the very subtle "I don't actually trust you to tell you everything in 100% detail" vibe I get from Pua. Not sure if that was intentional on your part? As an example, he's very quiet around Leilani about his life at home and how his mother treats him, but the two are very open with each other about how they disagree with the adults and all the religious stuff consuming the region.

Development


What's there so far is subtle. Pua's acting a bit distant with Leilani, or at least paying slightly attention to her and not caring if he doesn't see her as much. I'd chalk this up to Pua being preoccupied with his new found crush, Chase.

Originality


These two strike me as most original for the way they're open with each other. I mean, that's common with friends, sure, but they're not afraid of being assertive with each other about their opinions and disagreements. And they actually seem distant in the "I'll lend a sympathetic ear" department, as well as not being that much of a comforting presence to each other when they're upset.

Entertainment Value


These two bounce off of each other perfectly. :p They have the best quips to whatever the other's saying, all the time. It makes me want to know what secrets they're hiding when they become reserved and aren't making those quips anymore. They're the kind of friends where you can immediately tell if something's wrong because they rile each other up so much.

Role


In a setting where Pua, the protagonist, doesn't feel comfortable being assertive with most people and disagrees with most people, Leilani seems to be the one like minded person around for him to interact with. To me, she seems to be a rock of sorts for his, or at least, the closest thing he has to one.
 
Working Classless
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Wow, it's been a while. The joys of working of a job you detest in hours that leave you incredibly drained! My goodness, I am sounding a bit melodramatic and spiteful here - I'm taking after my lead. Or is my lead taking after me? Given that this chapter is set at work, I suppose we'll wait to see.

Thanks all for the reviews, much appreciated. Not really anything to reply to individually, especially as it has been a while, but all comments noted! And thanks to the judges for the two awards - was not expecting either one so early in the story's run, particularly not Best Protagonist. It am hugely gratified for the honours and will endeavour to keep the quality up to that level.

On with the show!

***

Working Classless


The town always felt bigger once school had ended for the day. At three every afternoon, the normally placid, vacant streets suddenly swelled with a surge of students escaping their daily prison once again. A tidal wave of white linen shirts spread across the paths and blocked the roads from palm tree to fern. Pua wasn't surprised today to see a Tauros rider angrily shouting at some of his classmates, having misjudged the right time to rise past undeterred.

Pua always welcomed the sight of furious gestures clashing with mocking children, but today he wasn't interested in what his fellow students were up to. There was only one person he was looking for in this sea of youth, but with the identical uniforms topped with similarly bushy hair, trying to find Leilani amongst it all was utterly impossible.

"Who are you looking for?"

Pua nearly jumped; he had forgotten Ikky had followed him out from maths class. He hopefully craned his neck one last time, but nothing changed the fact he couldn't see above the heads of people much taller than himself, and he slunk to normal height with a sigh. "Who do you think?"

"Ah." Pua had not told Ikky about the events after church, but even with his terrible social awareness, the larger boy could work out that something was up. "Do you have any idea what she's busy with?"

"Not a clue," Pua muttered glumly. Leilani had been strangely absent for much of the week. She only seemed to appear for one class a day before disappearing once again, and hadn't shown up for the first day of work. Helena said nothing was wrong, but even she had no idea what was going on.

"She'll tell us eventually," Ikky said with uninformed enthusiasm. "Want a chip?" he added, passing Pua a purple foil bag that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

Pua stared at it with bemused contempt. "Where did you get that from?"

"My bag?" Ikky replied sarcastically.

"I mean… just… how?" Pua spluttered, struggling not to laugh. "You have like four bags a day!"

"I like to have variety."

"You are going to be home in five minutes, can't you wait until then?"

"I get hungry on the way. Besides, I need the energy."

Pua snorted derisively. "Maybe if you ate some vegetables or something instead you wouldn't need an extra energy boost."

Ikky waved a large crinkled chip dusted in red seasoning under Pua's nose. "What the fuck do you think chips are made from, idiot!" He pointed up ahead, where the road split and spread out in two directions. "You might want to ask your scientist friend about what the classification of potatoes!"

"Good thinking, Ikaikia, I'm sure he'll be very enlightened!" Pua shouted as his friend heading down the left side path. "Have a carrot when you get home!"

"I'll bring it to school and you can shove it up your bum!" Ikky roared back, chip flakes flying from his mouth. He waved his greasy hands in goodbye and soldiered on ahead, completely unaware that a group of boys behind him were sniggering, their manic, malicious eyes flickering between Ikky and Pua.

Pua turned his head and marched down his path, hurrying away before anyone caught his reddening cheeks. He knew it was cowardice to flee this quickly, but the last thing he needed on top of everything else was their mocking drawls.

That was all it took for him to realise the walls he'd built around himself were made of cellophane. Pua liked to think that no one paid him enough attention to bother speculating about his private life, but he could not deny the years spent avoiding competitive sports, nor how obvious his quiet, unassuming demeanour seemed compared to the typically rowdy, hormonal members of his species.

Who cares what they think? The rational part of his brain yelled. They think anyone who walks around a puddle gay.

Pua wished he could agree with his own thoughts for once, but once again the two of them were at odds. Casting them aside and taking the higher ground was the sort of moral lesson reserved for after-school television. Pua had been through this enough to know the specific cruelty in that laughter was reserved just for him. There was a difference between joking with friends and laughing at strangers.

"Bloody hell." Pua finally stopped, pausing under the welcome shade of a sweeping palm tree. There was no one around now; the shortcut he had taken to the beach was crumbling and overgrown, one of the town's ways of keeping the tourists to their allotted areas. It meant no one saw him wipe his eye against the hem of his shirt. He was alone at last, only the faint echoes of the laughter lingering in his head.

"This is stupid, you're being stupid," Pua muttered to himself. He checked his watch and started off, moving with unneeded vigour but the thud of his own feet helped take his mind off things. He hated them for making him feel this way, but right then, Pua resented Leilani for not being there with him. It would be easy to forget about stupid schoolboys with her to shout something smart at their retreating backs, or to bitch about something else to keep Pua distracted. Where the fuck is she?

The lab's shabby roof appeared in front of him in no time. Pua's rage dissipated as he realised he was going to be early. Are people supposed to be early to work? Would Kukui mind, or was he going to barge in right in the middle of him plotting some groundbreaking theorem? Pua hesitated at the edge of the untamed garden, considering hanging around a few more minutes, but he could see a bag and towel lying near the surf. The thought of someone emerging from the waves to find some gangly teen gawking at them made Pua flush further, and he scampered towards the front door.

"Is that you Pua? Thank the gods you're here!"

Pua froze in the doorway. There was no telling where the voice had come from as the lab resembled a moving truck that had been caught up in a hurricane. The towers of cardboard boxes had tumbled over, replaced by piles of bubble wrap and newspaper that seemed to reach towards the roof. Every surface was covered with an assortment of items with no obvious sign of order; microscopes sitting on a toaster sitting on aged encyclopaedias between old clothes and beakers wrapped in cling film. Pua's eyes drifted in slow motion across every item as though he was examining a crash site, slowly filling with regret for ever taking up this job.

"Why are you just standing there?"

Pua jumped backwards onto the deck and shrieked. "Fuck!" he wheezed, clutching at his chest.

Helena smirked briefly but made no comment, disappearing back behind the tower of boxes she had appeared from. "Put your bag down and come with me. You and Leilani won't get your little league dream if the professor doesn't look like a professional."

"Mess is professional!" Kukui's deep voice bellowed from the back of the room. "It shows free thinking, unhindered by societal pressures of cleanliness!"

Pua didn't need to see Helena's face to imagine the contemptable rage plastered across it. "It shows you don't have your life in order, dickhead!" She emerged eyes-rolling with a pile of newspaper. "Move this to that corner and then start grabbing every bit you can see and add it there."

"Isn't that the fridge?"

"Yes, but there's no food in it because SOMEONE hasn't gone shopping!"

"And when would I have time to go shopping?" Kukui roared back, his casual cheer disappearing momentarily. Pua had never heard the professor raise his voice, and he had to wonder if there was more than just unpacking getting on his nerves.

Helena muttered something unintelligible under her breath as she stomped away. She grabbed a box without looking and emptied the contents onto the floor; an assortment of shirts, jackets and jeans cascaded onto the floor, landing in a dishevelled heap with no sign of order. "Alright, since we can't get to the wardrobe yet, I am going to put all the clothes here for now and organise them later," she muttered.

"Won't that make more of a mess?" Pua asked. He looked up expectantly when he didn't get a response, only to look away quickly when he caught a glimpse of the withering glare Helena was firing his way.

Pua kept his head down as he moved swiftly through the room. He found as much loose newspaper as he could and brought it back to his corner of the kitchen, like a Pikipek scourging for berries. The only sound that filled the workroom were distant crashes and clangs, occasionally punctuated by swearing, as Kukui dealt with his section, noises deafened by Helena's furious unpacking as she tore through her pile of boxes like some barely considerate tornado.

"Where's that ta'e sister of mine?"

"I'm not sure." Pua thought it was safe to look around now, and he jumped obediently to attention. Helena had dismantled at least a dozen boxes while he had been working – some with the flaps half-torn from the rest of the cardboard cube – creating a pile of miscellanea around her that had little purpose being in a lab.

"I'm really sick of the boxes," Helena explained in answer to his quizzical face. "Anyway – Lani, where the fuck is she?"

"Ummm…" How much was Pua meant to reveal? Did Helena know that Leilani had barely been in class that week? How much trouble would he be getting his friend in if he opened his mouth? Sure, he was still annoyed with her, but Pua doubted they would ever make up if he dropped her in it with her sister.

"She's right fucking here."

The room got a little messier as Leilani stormed in; her school bag went flying as she tossed it towards the kitchen, unaware that it was about to topple over a small tower of boxes. She paused only when she heard the soft, cardboard thunk, her wide eyes watching the pile as it wobbled. When nothing fell, Leilani carried on as if nothing had happened, swivelling around to face her sister. "I –"

"You're late." Helena punctuated her anger by the tearing open of another box, her eyes suggesting she'd rather the tape was ripping in half was her sister.

However, Leilani didn't seem to notice or care. "Guilty!" she called, raising her hands meekly. It was only then that Pua noticed she was holding a thick, tightly rolled ream of paper.

Helena saw it too. Her eyes narrowed. "What exactly is that?"

"This?" Leilani said, looking at the paper in mock surprise. "This? Why, this is just a petition I've been putting together over the last few days. I'm sure you won't be interested…"

"What petition?" Pua asked. Leilani turned to him as he spoke, and in that movement did not notice her sister leaping across a wall of boxes until she had snatched the paper out of her hands.

"Hey, that's mine!" Leilani squawked, but Helena put her back to her sister and ignored her, eyes furtively scanning the pages.

She was silent for a minute, a sign that always left Pua worried, and then Helena turned and smacked her sister with the ream of paper. "You idiot, what the fuck are you thinking!"

"I'm trying to support you and your boss!" Leilani snapped back.

"Do you want to get ostracized in the process? Do you know what Joshua and Hala will do if they find out about this?"

"They won't. I haven't been getting signatures from around here – well, at least not from locals."

If it was possible for Helena's face to become angrier, somehow she managed it. "Who has been signing it then?" she whispered coldly.

"Tourists, mostly," Leilani replied. If she was intimidated, she didn't let it show; she kept her back straight and her head high. "I've headed down to the beach houses and hostels, told them it was for a school project. You would be amazed at just how many of them think it's a great idea."

"And when exactly have you been doing this?"

"After school," Leilani answered quickly. As she spoke, Pua noticed sweat rolling down the back of her neck, and her hands, clutched behind her back, were trembling.

Helena could not see what Pua could, but she seemed to sense the lie in the air. "Is this true, Pua?" she asked, turning her narrowed eyes on him.

Shit. Pua had only a second to answer, but he had no idea what to say. He avoided looking at Leilani for guidance, not that he wanted to anyway. She had hurt him, she had ignored him, she had gone off and done this petition without telling him. Pua wanted her to know the turmoil she had caused him, but the idea of getting revenge like this made him sick.

"Of course," he said finally. He was unsure how much time had passed but hoped he sounded confident and convincing enough to avoid a scene. "Why wouldn't she be there?"

Pua walked past Helena with his head held high, grabbing more handfuls of newspaper and bubble wrap and moving them towards the pile with utter nonchalance. He could feel her watching him though, and he tensed up, afraid the sweat from his armpits would suddenly form an incriminating pool around him.

"We'll talk about this later," Helena said, her tone barely masking her scepticism. Pua sighed into the newspaper and glanced up as Helena tossed the petition onto the bench. "You can start by taking these boxes to the bin outside," she said to Leilani, tapping three tatty boxes near the front door.

"Pua can do that, he's stronger than me."

Helena scoffed impulsively and quickly rearranged her features. "Do whatever you want. You clearly already have."

Leilani smirked and waved sarcastically at her sister as she walked away. Only once Helena was out of earshot did Leilani turn to Pua and forced the box of clothes into his hands. "You can thank me later," she whispered, winking as she pushed him out the door.

"Thank you for what?" Pua muttered back, but Leilani simply waved him away as she disappeared into the boxes. "You're welcome, by the way," he added, low enough that she wouldn't hear him, and he slunk towards the bins.

What was she on about? Why on earth should I be thanking her for anything? If I had told Helena it'd be her ass I was dragging out to the trash now. Pua was suddenly angry, a rage he had never felt for Leilani before. He threw the box into the small skip around the side of the house and took pleasure in how it spiralled briefly through the air, causing the contents to spill out and fill the space. Pua stared into the empty space with his fists clenched, wondering if anyone inside would hear him if he screamed. He had to do something though because if he went back inside right now, he had no idea what he was going to say to her.

"Hey, Pua."

Pua jumped so quickly his knees banged into the skip. This was the last thing he had expected; for a second, he was unsure if Chase's voice was coming from inside his own head, but then his firm but gentle grip appeared on his shoulders. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Pua lied. He bit his lip to stop himself crying out and turned with what he hoped was a relaxed air. Yet it took all his willpower to keep himself smiling and his eyes forwards once he realised that Chase was shirtless and soaking wet, his normally erratic hair hanging in limp, brunette lumps over his eyes. It made his face seem younger, and that's what Pua focused on despite every instinct in his body urging him to look down.

"Are you sure?" Chase asked, his own oceanic blue eyes flickering towards Pua's knees. "That sounded nasty."

"Oh, I'll be alright, you just startled me is all," Pua laughed, well aware how high and unnatural the sound was. "What are you even doing here?" he added in a deeper voice.

Chase shrugged his bare, pale shoulders. "I felt like going for a swim. Is it just me, or is it really hot today?"

"Just you – this is typical for me."

"How can it possibly be? Look, I'm evaporating!"

Chase laughed and stared down at his chest, and Pua could not resist any longer. He looked down and seized up, clenching his jaw hard to stop the moan brewing in his throat from breaking through. It was like staring at a marble statue, so smooth and white yet jagged and chiselled. Shirtless, muscular men were a common sight around the beaches, but none had ever looked so unblemished and perfect as Chase did now; the slightly raised pecs, the hard 'v' on either side of his stomach, with a fine line of pale hair creeping up from the top of his tight board shorts.

Pua looked away then, not trusting his body to cope with whatever lay below his hips. Instead, he stared at the fine droplets of water as they rolled down Chase's chest. He breathed in and could smell a hint of sweat beneath the sharp twang of sea salt, a musk he wanted to soak up all day.

Oh fuck. Pua briefly gazed down at his own shorts and he cursed his own hormonal instincts. It was like having some parasite he had no control over, a creature that fed on his own excitement and shame. "What's that over there?" he cried.

Chase turned obediently like an eager puppy. "What's what?"

Without hesitating, Pua shoved his hands into his pants, quickly rearranging himself so the waistband of his briefs held himself in place. It wouldn't hide the bulge, but Pua had found from many years of changing rooms and beach side summers that a vertical bulge was less obvious than a horizontal one.

"Oh, nothing, I thought I saw a Gyarados."

Chase turned back with one of his sodden eyebrows raised. "I didn't think Gyarados were common around here?"

"No… they aren't. That's why I got excited." Pua smiled to show it was all a laugh, while internally cursing himself and his fixation on all things phallic. "Well, it was nice running into you. We should meet here again some time." Pua started laughing before he realised it wasn't funny, but his heart swooned as Chase offered him a pitying smirk.

"Maybe not here, but we should meet up soon."

Pua nearly swallowed his tongue in shock. "Really?" he wheezed.

"Yeah. Weren't we going to train?"

"Oh, yeah, of course."

"Frankie's been a bit restless lately, I think it would be good to get her out and about a bit more," Chase said. "Some of the guys at school – Tevita and Darren and Arnie – keep offering to battle with me, but their Pokémon seem to be just pets."

"Well, don't get your hopes up. I don't think Rocky would be that much of a challenge," Pua laughed.

"Oh, I don't know about that. He's fast and has a lot more energy than most domestic Pokémon. That usually means there is some untapped potential. He may surprise you."

Oh, I could do with some good surprises. "I guess we'll find out. How about tomorrow night?"

"Sounds good to me. It's a pity you don't have him here with you, this would be an awesome spot to train."

"Oh, well… I'm actually not a fan of the beach," Pua muttered awkwardly.

He knew the reaction before it came. Chase was already smiling, but the kindness in his eyes disappeared as his pupils widened, his eyebrows shooting up towards his sopping fringe. "You… you don't like the beach? And you live here?"

"Yep…"

"Wow, that's… that's something." Chase was clearly trying to keep a straight face, but his lips kept twitching upwards as though desperate to start to laughing. "Is there, like, a reason?"

No, I just fucking felt like making myself more of an outcast, thanks for asking. "There is… I'd rather not get into that now." Pua could feel his body deflating, figuratively and literally. He had endured this reaction for years, people sniggering or outright laughing right in his face every time it came up. Yet this reaction hurt the most.

"Totally cool, no drama. I just… wow!" Chase shook his head to emphasise his shock. "It's like living in Fortree and being afraid of heights!"

"I guess. I should probably get back to work," Pua said and stepped around Chase.

"Did I say something wrong?"

"No, I just should really get back. It was nice seeing –"

"Pua, wait." Chase grabbed his arm and Pua froze in his grip. His hands were warm despite the lingering water, and even with his current contempt for him, Pua was ready to sink into his grasp and let him hold him forever. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have laughed. I was just shocked, I guess, but that's not really an excuse, is it?"

Pua had a sudden urge to cry. Fuck me, he's sensitive as well. "It's fine, honestly. I mean, I get it a lot and it can be annoying, but I'm used to it. I genuinely should be working though."

"Of course, totally! I should probably get some clothes on, shouldn't I?"

"Only if you have to," Pua said. Chase turned back to him, confused, and Pua forced a laugh and quickly moved away. "See you tomorrow!"

"See you then." Chase waved before jogging back to his belongings. Pua lingered on the deck watching him go, biting his lips at the two perfect spheres being hugged by the waterlogged shorts.

"You pervert, I can see you're stiffy from here."

Pua glanced over his shoulder at Leilani and winked. "You know what they say about brown boys."

"Oh god, you're disgusting!" Leilani groaned, pointing her index finger into her open mouth.

"I get it from you, sweetie."

"Aww, thanks, babe." Leilani made a soppy face as she stomped past with one of the boxes. "So, you two booked a wedding date yet?"

"Not quite, but we will be training together tomorrow night."

Leilani turned as she threw the box into the skip; half the contents spilt out onto the grass, but she was already rushing back towards her friend. "What the hell is this? Are you planning on corrupting our pale invader?"

"Maybe," Pua said, shrugging. "First you have to tell me about this petition – what the actual fuck are you up to?"

"Oh, that," Leilani said, waving her hand dismissively. "I've been trying to get signatures to prove there is demand for a Pokémon League."

Pua's jaw dropped so quickly he felt his muscles strain. "What the fuck! Are you trying to get run out of town?"

"That's the issue, I'm having to find people who aren't caught up in Joshua and Hala's orbit. It's meant going a bit further afield – heading north across the bridge, tracking down tourist hotspots. I've only managed about sixty signatures so far."

"That's pretty good, actually. Why didn't you just put it online?"

"Please!" Leilani scoffed. "If I came in with some printed out petition Hala would call it the devil's work and Joshua would pull it apart, try and make out that it's all some Kantonese scam to corrupt young minds. No, it has to be pen and paper, it's the only chance anyone would pay it any attention."

Pua nodded, understanding her logic all too well. "You must have been really riled up after Sunday."

"Your damn right. I swear to god, if I had any Pokémon, I would have set them on Joshua right there and then. I just can't believe how short-sighted and arrogant these bastards are, to think this one ideology is the only way forward. They are so stuck in the past they don't realise the damage they are causing."

Pua nodded supportively, all the while biting his tongue. He loved Leilani and wanted to support her, but she wasn't the one being shouted at by schoolboys, she still had the confidence to do something as insane as ditch school to get signatures for her petition. His rage engulfed hers, even if he never said anything, but that was only because he couldn't. What benefit would it do either of them for Pua to snap at her now? She was not the enemy here, and even if Pua wanted to call her out on this, on her comments the other night, he knew better than that. Always the therapist, never the patient; his thoughts would forever be his alone.

Helena's roar echoed from inside. "Are you two still working for us, or should I get some Pyukumuku in here instead?"

"Calm your tits!" Leilani screamed back. She rolled her eyes at Pua and gestured towards the door. "After you, my love."

"Why thank you, my dear." Pua bowed mockingly and the two laughed as they headed back inside. Pua paused in the doorway and glanced back to the beach; Chase could not see him, but even from here Pua could make out every inch of that perfect figure. He smiled at the thought of a night spent training tomorrow, and he held onto that as he turned back towards Leilani and the impossible chores that lay ahead.
 
Training Pains
The acest of trainers
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Training Pains

What could someone wear when going to meet a crush under the pretext of training Pokémon but the meeting was also a sort of date that said crush wasn't entirely aware of?

Pua had reached the point where he was tempted to put that into a search engine and see what disturbed results the internet threw back. Over the last twelve hours, he had discovered he owned very little that could be considered casual yet stylish, eye catching but not obviously so, something that would make Chase think he knew how to dress himself without thinking he was hitting on him.

"Why is this so hard?" Pua grabbed two shirts from the pile that had gathered on his bed and held them either side of his bare chest, only realising when he looked in the mirror that he had compared the two a minute earlier. "GAAAH!"

"Ruff!"

"Not helpful!" Pua tossed the shirts on top of Rocky, who had decided to make a bed out of the increasingly large pile. At least he's having fun, Pua thought, watching his dog roll about on the discarded clothes.

Sadly, amusing Rocky was all they were good for. After tonight, Pua knew his first pay from Kukui was going towards resuscitating his wardrobe. He had never realised how many of his clothes had been bought for him, namely the collared shirts his mother had purchased for church events and were too formal for anything else. There was his collection of t-shirts that looked about five years out of date. There were some loose fitting singlets that had potential, but after the beach, Pua had no desire to show off his body.

He turned to the mirror at that and sighed at his own skinny torso. Leilani had once described him as resembling a malnourished tree. Pua's body was so flat and unremarkable you could take him to building sites and use his spine to level foundations.

"Come on Pua, pull yourself together." He stared at the pile, looking for anything that didn't seem too childish, too old, too lame, too gay, too anything extraordinary. Pua wanted something plain, simple, and unremarkable, something that simply had come into being and had no fuss attached to it whatsoever.

Suddenly, he heard it. The sound he'd both dreamed of and dreaded all of last night. A powerful, echoing knock.

"Fuckballs!" Pua hissed. He wanted to curse Chase for arriving early, but could see from the neon lights of his alarm clock that the boy of his dreams was exactly on time. So he's punctual as well. What the fuck isn't he good at?

Pua lunged towards his clothes, but was stopped as Rocky, finally freed from the clothes, leapt off the bed and directly into his trainer's stomach. "Tapu Koko have mercy," Pua wheezed, again annoyed there was no fat or muscle to soften the blow. He staggered back against his mirror and nearly slid to the floor. "Watch where you're going!"

"Ruff!" Rocky barked as if in defiance, ignoring Pua's pain as he tried to claw the door open.

"Stop that! Can't you behave for once?" Pua slapped his hands together, causing Rocky to scarper backwards in fright. Normally he'd feel guilty, but Pua could already see a mark forming from the point of impact and figured they were even.

He flung himself towards the bed and searched through the pile, prepared to wear anything that wasn't covered in scratchy dog fur. Seeing nothing, Pua flicked his sheets, half tempted to wear them. That was when he saw it: something red in a heap at the back of his bed. Pua lunged for it and unfurled it, dirt and fur floating off onto the rest of his clothes.

"Rocky, were you sitting on this the whole time?" The tie-dye shirt, a swirling, splotchy mess of crimsons, maroons and scarlets, looked perfect when held against Pua's jeans. He had forgotten he owned it; it was possibly a gift from one of his mother's relatives, some rarely worn Christmas present from several years ago.

Pua hastily pulled it on and scooped up Rocky. "Sometimes I don't know whether to hit you or kiss you," he cooed, pulling the Pokémon close as a compromise. Rocky squirmed and jumped away the second Pua opened the door, forcing his trainer to leap down the stairs after him.

"Rocky, stop it, come here, Rock – oh, hey."

Of course the door was wide open. Of course Chase was standing right there, staring at Pua, standing beside his mother, in his doorway, as if it was no big deal. Pua knew he looked flustered and scruffy, but he tried to conceal it all with a broad grin and a confident-seeming lean against the bannister.

"Don't lean on that," Anahera barked, "you'll bend it."

Pua's ears burnt with embarrassment. Twenty years you've been using it and it hasn't bent yet. He straightened up regardless and turned his smile to Chase. "How are you?"

"I'm all good, yourself?"

"Yep, I'm good." Pua had spent so long focused on his clothes he hadn't even thought of what to say or how to act once he had got dressed. He certainly didn't know what to say in front of his mother. Pua had told Anahera that he was showing Chase around and helping him get acquainted. The seemingly selfless, religious act of charity had sweetened her up, but Pua knew she was suspicious, and her hefty presence between him and Chase meant she was not willing to let her son leave without her final judgement.

"Your friend was just telling me what his father does," Anahera said, her voice low, drawling and all knowing. "Construction, was it?" she asked, turning back to Chase.

"Yeah, he's a project manager," Chase said, nodding. "He makes sure the site is in order and everything runs on time."

"I see." Anahera drew the two syllables out as if mulling them over. "Did you do this rurally or….?"

"Oh, no, we lived in a city. Celadon, have you heard of it?"

Anahera's eyes flickered warningly at the question. "Yes, of course. And what was that like?"

"Nothing exciting, I guess," Chase said with a shrug. "Typical big city life, I suppose. Celadon was a bit grubby though. Lots of rubbish and manhole covers everywhere. I actually lived pretty close to a sewage outflow."

Anahera's lips curled in a stilted simper. "Of course you did," she murmured, and glanced at Pua, a knowingly triumphant gleam in her eyes.

"It wasn't bad or anything, it was only really a swamp because the Grimer and Muk congregated there. That's how I caught Frankie. Do you want to meet her?"

Oh Tapu Koko, take me now. Pua tried to say something but words failed him. Chase already had his Poké Ball in hand, his long fingers were moving towards the button. Pua averted his eyes as red light filled the room, Chase entirely unaware of the bomb he had just set off. If Rhydon doesn't kill him the moment Frankie's formed, she will just kill me twice once she's kicked him out.

The light only lasted a few seconds but to Pua, it felt like a lifetime. He tentatively opened his eyes and cautiously looked back to the front door. No one was saying anything; Chase was optimistically watching Anahera, while Anahera was looking at her front mat with the look of someone who had just had rubbish dumped on their doorstep. Which, in a way, she had. "Is that a Grimer?"

"Grimeeeeer!" Frankie slurped in affirmation. Sludge oozed from her droopy mouth, and her huge, piercing eyes were fixated on Anahera as though she'd found her next meal.

"I… I don't think I have ever seen one up close before." Anahera's right eyebrow twitched violently as she spoke, and she glanced pointedly in Pua's direction.

Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god.

"Frankie has been mine for about three years now. We've been through quite a lot together, haven't we girl?" Chase bent down as he spoke and rubbed his hands on Frankie's head. She shuddered with pleasure the same way Rocky did when he was patted, but the sight of a drooping pool of slime being shown affection was one of the most baffling things Pua had ever seen.

Anahera, on the other hand, looked like she was about to be sick. "I read somewhere once that Grimer came to life due to chemicals getting into the sewage systems in Kanto. Is that correct?"

Frankie's face sank into a scowl, but Chase's smile only seemed to grow. "I have no idea, sorry. All I know is that Grimer are probably the handiest Pokémon there are. Watch this."

He disappeared behind their doorway, causing Anahera's face to darken, suddenly afraid of what he might produce. It turned out to simply be some empty bottles from the recycling bin, but Anahera remained scandalised as Chase passed them towards his waiting Pokémon.

Pua had no idea what was about to happen. His virginal eyes watched in horror as Frankie greedily grabbed the bottles and shoved them into her enormous mouth. No crunching, no chewing, no attempt at breaking it down; she simply swallowed them whole and emitted a belch so powerful Rocky's fur stood on end.

A deep silence followed the plangent noise. For the first time in possibly his entire life, Pua could see his mother was at a loss for words, her heavy face slack with shock.

Chase could sense the tension, and with an air of awkwardness, he slowly raised his hands and gave them a little shake. "Ta da…" he said, flashing that effortless smile, but for once there was something obviously pitiable about him, something that only made him more endearing.

"That… that was impressive," Anahera said finally. "I saw that happen once in a documentary, but never before in the flesh."

"Yeah, it's pretty strange. Frankie doesn't normally eat rubbish, so she can't break the food up yet, but I think her body will start to adapt to it more the longer we're here. By the time she evolves, she should be a full Alolan native!"

"I must admit, I do find the colours on those Muk quite spectacular," Anahera chuckled, slapping Chase's arm as she did.

What the actual fuck. Pua rose a hand to his neck and felt for his pulse. He felt his heartbeat pounding beneath his fingers, his body trying to send an SOS message to whoever would listen. Oh good, still alive then. This is actually happening. Had Anahera ever laughed at anything Ikky or Leilani had done? Had she ever shown such interest in a Pokémon before? She endured Rocky and put up with Pua's friends, but she never tried to make them feel welcome, instead going to lengths to point out how they were intruding on her home and her hospitality. The fact she was not only laughing at a friend, but a white boy Pua had a crush on, was more unnerving than if she had simply stabbed Chase the moment he stepped through the door.

I have to get out of here before they start singing Kumbaya. "We should probably head off soon, before it gets too dark to see anything."

Chase looked at his watch. "Shit, you're right. Come on, Frankie," he said, and tapped the ball against her head.

"You must bring her around when she has evolved," Anahera said, watching as the Grimer vanished inside the capsule. "It was lovely to meet you, Chase."

"You as well, Mrs Kealoha."

"It's just Miss," Anahera said, and for a moment it seemed like she was giggling.

Fucking hell, just kill me now. Pua smiled at his mother as he rushed to the door, Rocky hot on his heels. "See you later."

"Don't be too late," she said, her tone suddenly stern, but as Pua and Chase walked down the deck, Anahera stood smiling watching them go.

"Are you always this nice to your friend's mums?" Pua mumbled under his breath.

Chase laughed quietly. "That wasn't being nice, it was a defence mechanism. Everyone's so quick to slam the very idea of a Grimer I can't help but fight back," he explained.

Pua nodded. "Makes sense," he said, silently relieved his worry was for nothing.

"So, we're friends now, are we?" Chase asked with his trademark grin.

"Oh… yeah… I guess so, right?" Pua looked away as he spluttered out the sentence, feeling his cheeks reddening as he spoke.

"Of course we are," Chase replied, and he nudged Pua with his shoulder.

Pua felt his blood rush through his body, giving his feet a weightless feel as they strolled through the street. The moment would have been perfect had Anahera not chosen that second to slam the door shut. The sound echoed explosively through the dark, and Pua, in his nervous state, jumped.

Unfortunately, Chase noticed. "Does it not do that often?" he asked, smirking.

Pua forced himself to laugh. "Sorry, my mind's elsewhere."

"Well, you better find where it is. I can't help you train if you're away in the stars."

"Oh, but there are so pretty!" Pua spun around and raised his arms wide towards the sky. "Look at them – I bet they don't shine like this back in Celadon!"

Chase followed after Pua with his neck craned back. "They certainly don't. All our stars are at the casino."

Pua laughed. He led the way, their heads both turned to the skies, and laughed all the way down the street. It was only when they had passed the last house and the trees had begun to obscure their gaze that Pua realised he should say something. Nothing came to mind, so he simply kept laughing.

Shitshitshitshitshit. Their conversation had flowed so naturally only a few days ago, but then Pua hadn't felt this overwhelming pressure to seem so many things at once; relaxed, intelligent, spontaneous, witty, casual, charming, lovable, sexual, desirable, more states of being than he had ever achieved in his life. Most nights were spent in a state of laziness, resentment and regret; to have hope was a rarity Pua didn't know what to do with.

"Alright, my neck's getting sore," Chase said, interrupting Pua's chain of irrational thought. "I concede defeat, you're stars really are much nicer. But I bet you can't beat Celadon when it comes to contaminated waterways, can you?"

Pua sniggered but stopped himself from sparking another inane laughing fit. "You made home sound so enviable back there."

Chase shrugged. "I guess I was just showing off. Most people here think I'm some dirty city boy, so I've been a little on the defensive. Really, if you asked me that question like two months ago, I probably would have said it was a shithole myself."

"Welcome to my world."

"Seriously? How can you hate living here?"

"Oh Chase, how long are you expecting this night to last?" Oh my god, are we bantering? I think we are honest to god bantering! Pua felt an urge to wink and gave into it without thought; Chase smirked and then let out his deep, enchanting laugh. Pua felt safe to giggle again, but mostly he just watched Chase, admiring the way his face crinkled when he laughed, while his Adam's apple seemed more prominent and masculine as he bared his throat to the world.

"Ruff!"

"What is it?" Pua asked, biting back his resentment at this beautiful moment being interrupted.

"Rock Ruff Ruff!" Rocky sounded and looked impatient, his tiny tail wagging as if trying to take flight. When neither of the boys made any motion towards satisfying his impatience, Rocky turned and sprinted down the path.

"OI!" Pua yelled, and started running after him.

Chase appeared by his side, his arms moving swiftly through the air as he ran. "Where's he going?"

"How am I supposed to know? What do I look like, his trainer?"

Chase laughed again, and Pua felt as light as the wind. Positives outweighing the negatives so far. He clutched to that thought for support and pushed himself onwards, practically leaping with glee after Rocky without a care where they ended up, as long as it was with Chase.

Alright, this is less than ideal.

Pua sank onto a post outside the church, wheezing desperately for air. While both Rocky and Chase looked unfazed by the jog, Pua had had to guzzle nearly a litre of water from the nearby fountain, while a profuse amount of sweat had stained his shirt several new shades of red.

"Are you feeling alright?" Chase leaned over him looking concerned, his face slick with sweat but his breath steady and relaxed as though it had been a stroll through the flowers.

"I… will… be… fine…" Pua wheezed pathetically. He knew how this would look; he was so skinny and unfit that he could barely run up a hill he walked most days. If there had been any attraction or admiration or whatever it was that Pua wanted from Chase, that had likely vanished after seeing what a pathetic sight he was.

"You should have said you were getting tired. I might have slowed down. Might," Chase stressed, flashing his smile again.

Pua was momentarily glad of how red and sweaty his face was. "Now, it's fine. Look, I can stand again!" He rose ungracefully to his feet and presented his arms, grinning as though that would hide the fact his legs were shaking and his brain was swaying.

Chase looked unconvinced but clearly didn't want to argue. "If you say so. Now, are we going to train or what?"

"Yes, yes, of course. There's a stage we can use over there."

Rocky's ear perked up at the mention of the stage. "Ruff!" he yelped, and set off into the night again, his shadow dancing across the square as he danced through the street lamps.

"That way," Pua laughed, and launched himself forwards. He could barely stand and he was sure Chase could notice, but Pua didn't care if it meant getting away from the church. He spent enough time within its shadows as it was, and Pua preferred not to hand over more of his free time. There were lights on inside, and Pua could imagine Joshua lounging about in there, writing his next sermon and practising it in front of the mirror, searching for the perfect lie to trick the masses.

Yet their destination did not lie far. Asides from the church, the only thing of note in Iki Town was a wooden platform that sat in the middle of the town square. It didn't look like much: to many of the tourists that came through on their way to the Mahalo Trail, the platform looked old and ratty, the sort of thing that should be condemned. Yet it served multiple purposes – performance stage, podium for town gatherings and meetings, and, most significantly, battlefield.

During the day, Hala was normally found skulking around as he trained his Pokémon and prepared for Island Challenges that rarely came. At night, it looked more worn than ever, the torches illuminating it from all four corners highlighting every broken crack and shadow. "Can that thing actually hold up any Pokémon?" Chase asked as they got closer.

"Well, if it can hold up Hala, it can hold up anyone."

"Ouch," Chase scoffed, shaking his head. "I thought you had to respect your elders around here?"

"Do they not back in Celadon?"

"Not as reverently as you lot seem to. It's hard to admire your elders when they are mostly drunk and stuck in the casino."

Pua laughed. "You know, I think that's half the reason people like Hala are afraid of the city. They know if they ever let the townspeople know about the casinos, the population would drop overnight."

"Gambling is a religion of its own, that's what my mother used to…" Chase's smile vanished. The stage fell silent for only a few seconds, but it seemed to drag on for days as Chase coughed awkwardly and looked away. "So, shall we train then?"

"Yep," Pua said quickly. It only occurred to him now that he had never stopped to ask about Chase's mother and why he was only here with one parent, but from the look on Chase's face, there was clearly a reason why. No harm there. I mean, I haven't told him about my dad yet… huh, maybe that's why he hasn't asked.

"Rock Ruff Rock Rock!"

"Be quiet, would you?" Pua hissed. "You'll wake the whole town!" Admittedly, it was only early, a smudge of orange still hanging on to the horizon, but Pua was weary of being here when things were so empty. Hala's house was only a few metres away, and many of the other town elders lived in the neighbouring streets. He wasn't sure if you had to book the stage for training or not, and he hoped not to find out.

At any rate, Chase had already whipped out his Poké Ball, and the empty town briefly glowed red like the pits of hell.

"Ruff!" Rocky snapped, bearing down on his hind legs and staring aggressively at his sudden rival.

"Grimeeeeer!" Frankie wobbled more than usual, her gloopy hands reaching and waving about like an inflatable tube man.

Chase watched the two wistfully, his smile slowly returning. "It's amazing how quickly they revert to their primal instincts, isn't it? I watched a documentary once where they talked about how Pokémon have evolved and changed so much over the centuries, but their first reactions when encountering a foe is to try and intimidate them into backing away."

"Is that dance supposed to be intimidating?" Pua quipped as he eyed Frankie's queasy swaying.

"Oh really? Says the boy with a puppy that can fit in a handbag."

"Wow, I didn't know you were such a bitch," Pua fired back, and Chase cackled.

"You haven't seen nothing yet – Shadow Punch!"

Pua was taken aback as Frankie slid backwards and melted away into the darkness. "No fair!" he protested, aware how petulant he sounded.

Chase shrugged. "We didn't agree to official league rules. Besides, there aren't any in Alola, are there?"

Damn him. Pua's ire burned at that, and he knew he had to win now. "Tackle, go!"

Rocky, so eager for this a few moments ago, turned to Pua in confusion. How was he meant to tackle an opponent that wasn't even there?

Yet as he stared in the wrong direction, Frankie appeared on his right, sliding dramatically out from the darkness.

"WATCH OUT!"

"GRIIIIIMMME!" Frankie ploughed into Rocky, hitting him square in the chest. The Rockruff howled as he took to the air and landed roughly on the edge of the platform.

"Lesson one: you can never take your eyes off the battle," Chase said. "That goes for both Pokémon and trainer."

Pua muttered darkly in his head even though he knew Chase was right. "Come on Rocky, get up and use Tackle again!"

"Sludge Bomb!" Chase bellowed with noticeably more confidence.

"Dodge it!" Pua watched fearfully as Rocky pushed himself back up, already looking dazed. Frankie wasn't hesitating, her mouth shut tight as she held her attack in there, and Pua could see this battle barely lasting another minute.

"Ruff!" Rocky started running towards her, his paws echoing thunderously on the wood. Frankie watched him near and leant back, ready to fire.

At the last moment, an idea struck Pua. "Jump!"

Mercifully, for once in his life Rocky listened. As Frankie spat the toxic ball towards him, Rocky sprung up, soaring above slime and charging straight for the Grimer. The Sludge Bomb burst against the wood at the same moment Rocky dived into Frankie's stomach.

Pua started to cheer, but his glee caught in his throat; Rocky was now half-buried in Frankie's body, only his tail and back legs visible as he wiggled violently, trying to get himself free. Worse of all, Frankie looked entirely unfazed, as if every night she wound up with some domesticized pet caught in her midriff.

"Lesson two: you have to attack for the Pokémon itself, not just its type. Grimer and Muk are somewhere between liquid and solid, and anything that touches them risks getting trapped in all that free-moving slime. And what gets caught becomes hers," Chase added with a devious wink. "Fling!"

"Griiiiii!" Frankie pulled Rocky loose with a disgusting squelching noise. Pua could see his fur was slick with ooze as if he'd had swum in the sewers. Rocky looked at his trainer and gave Pua the most unimpressed look he could manage, the grumpy glower the exact opposite of his usual overpowering excitement.

"What exactly does Fling do?" Pua asked.

Chase smirked. "It's kind of in the name."

"What do you – no, wait!" he shouted, but it was too late; Frankie had already swung her arm back, and before Pua could get to her, she spun around and let go.

"ROOOOOOOOO!" Rocky's howl could probably be heard across the whole island. Pua watched in stunned silence as his pet spun through the air, rising so high only the moon could illuminate him. He seemed to hover up there for a minute, and then there was a second, sadder cry as he sank back to Earth.

"What the hell were you thinking?" Pua shouted. He leapt off the platform and sprinted towards the edge of the square, his neck craned back as he tried to work out where Rocky would land. He paused, thinking he'd found the spot, but Rocky was wriggling violently and he began to spin off course, heading towards the houses.

"ROCKY!"

"ROOOO –"

Rocky's yells were replaced by a muffled thud, and then – nothing. Pua looked around for any sign of him but saw nothing. He tried to move, but his legs threatened to give way if he did. His whole body was shaking; his knees, his arms, his chest, even his ears. Pua gulped for air as a wave of anguish and fear took hold of him, and the more he blinked the more tears seemed to rise to the surface. No, not Rocky, he can't…

"Pua Kealoha, what is the meaning of this?"

Pua jumped and nearly screamed. A meaty hand gripped onto his shoulder, and Pua shuddered as he was turned around. Hala stood in front of him, Rocky clutched to his broad chest like a baby to a teat. The Rockruff seemed unharmed, but it was hard to tell if his shaking was because of his ordeal or because of who had caught him.

"Well?" Hala boomed, his voice as deep and voluminous as his gut. "What do you have to say for yourself?"

Pua tried to say something but no words could come out. He felt an urge to cry, so thankful to have Rocky back in one piece, but he would not cry in front of the totem leader. As such, his throat simply constricted, and the only sound Pua could muster was a stifled gurgle.

"Sorry, Hala." Pua and Hala both turned as Chase ran up to join them, Frankie sliding after him. "It was my idea. Pua wanted to train and I suggested we come here and –"

"And throw an innocent Pokémon into the dark?" Hala's eyes narrowed as his thick moustache bristled with rage. "Why could you not do this during the day, with someone experienced to keep the match fair and in order?"

"I think we both wanted to do it when there was no one around," Chase said.

"Really? What is so secret about your battling that you couldn't do it in public?" Hala raised a bushy eyebrow at them, but even Chase fell silent, his blue eyes staring at his shoes. "I thought so," Hala snorted, and he roughly pushed Rocky into Pua's chest. "I am happy to keep this incident between us, but if I catch you boys doing this again, I will have to tell Joshua and the rest of the town officials. You aren't in Kanto anymore, Chase; in Alola, we play fair and treat Pokémon with respect, not like soft toys we can bash about."

"Yes, sir."

Hala nodded. "Go home, the pair of you, and be thankful I hadn't been asleep or I might not have been so lenient." He cast a disparaging eye over them both before turning and stomping back into the night.

Pua noticed only as the totem walked away that he was wearing a dressing gown, a fainter shade of yellow than the shirt he normally wore. The sight may have made him laugh at any other time, but as he felt Rocky shivering against his chest, slime oozing down his shirt, Pua didn't feel much like laughing.

"Pua, I'm sorry. I didn't realise Rocky was that inexperienced. I should have asked."

Pua turned on his heel. For a second, he noted how sweet and innocent Chase looked, his blue eyes swimming with despair, his smooth, thin lips hanging in a frown, but the attraction faded fast. Pua instead stared down at Frankie, who looked equally as ashamed but without the beauty to confuse his head.

"You still threw him into the air. How was he meant to survive that?"

Chase looked lost for words. "I mean, he is a Pokémon, and they can –"

"They can what?" Pua snapped.

Chase fell silent, his face rapidly losing colour. "I'm sorry, I swear I am."

Pua longed to believe him. In his heart, he knew Chase was genuine. Yet it had still happened, and those few seconds where Pua had thought he'd lost Rocky he knew would stay with him for a long time. "I'm sorry as well," he muttered finally, and he turned.

"Pua, wait!"

Pua didn't stop. He heard Chase run after him, but that only made him start jogging himself, and after a minute the echoing footsteps disappeared. Thank god, Pua thought, as he didn't think he could keep his crying silent much longer.

"Rrr?"

"I'm fine, Rocky, I'm fine," Pua mumbled, but if even his Rockruff could see it, what was the point of pretending? He looked back and saw Chase standing alone under one of the streetlights, Frankie holding his left hand, and the sight alone was enough to push Pua over the edge.

He wept loudly, losing all sense of self-consciousness he normally felt around the church. Pua longed to be standing beside Chase, he wished that this had never happened. Yet it had, and he couldn't pretend otherwise, he couldn't pretend he'd endangered his Pokémon just to spend time with his crush.

Pua could feel Rocky wriggling, struggling to get free or to comfort him, he couldn't quite tell. It was enough to stop his sobbing, though the tears of dreams crushed and hope lost still cascading down his cheeks. "You'll be alright, Rocky. Let's get you home and get this slime off you, and everything will be alright by morning, okay? I'll never let anything hurt you," he added, and hugged Rocky tight. Even if it hurts me to do so, Pua thought, and he strolled slowly home, dreading on top of everyone else what his mother would say when she saw him.
 
Thesaurus rex
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Guess who is your second Secret Santa? First of all, my apologies, I haven't managed to get through all of this - time has had a way of getting away from me this year. But I have managed to read four chapters, so I should be able to say something worthwhile. First, a few assorted nitpicks:

Pua struggled to stifle his snigger at Leilani's sister, Helena, slapped her across the shoulder.
Should that be 'as Leilani's sister, Helena'?

through her bag
Threw, I think.

close of trees
Copse?

Helena!" He added loudly. "You've met her, right?"

"The sassy one at school?" Chase said, his smirk returning.
Should that be Leilani, rather than Helena?

Some preliminary context: this story wasn't quite my cup of tea, overall. But having said that, it wasn't a trial to read. It struck me a little bit like an updated Dawn of Darkness, being smaller in scope, focusing heavily on teenage sort of problems. As far as the worldbuilding goes, I think it' decent. I personally have less of an issue with the whole ecclesiastical overtones - maybe your Alola was colonised, maybe it wasn't. On the whole from a worldbuilding perspective I don't think it really matters. I think you make good use of Melemele Island - I particularly enjoyed the backstory behind Kukui's new lab, giving a sense that the island isn't just a setting.

If there's a criticism in there, I'd say that the idea of the church was kind of on the nose. I do think it makes a bigger impression on the reader than you intended. I'm hedging a bit here because, as I think about it, I'm not sure whether it really needs changing. I suppose it depends on if/how it plays into Pua's sexuality.

"I'm not talking about you here, but you are probably one of the only people to have never commented on my skin colour
I did like how you weren't afraid to put that line in, because it's the sort of thing that does happen but can be bloody controversial to write.

Moving on to characters. I seem to recall saying something similar back in Dawn of Darkness, that teenagers like this are something of a double-edged sword. They ring true, but seeing the story through their perspective can be annoying. And they are twerps, especially Leilani. It does justify a lot of the black-and-white attitudes in the story, the railing against small-minded adults, the instant fixation on anything different. Which brings me on to my next point - that Anahera does feel like a cartoon. To an extent I see the point. As the parent she's also going to be seen as completely and utterly unreasonable by a 15yr old ... and not without reason. But I think this misses an opportunity to show her as not being completely wrong. kintsugi touched on this as well, I think. It would be completely appropriate for your teenage characters to (erroneously) think they know everything, especially thinking they know better than their parents.

I'd like to finish off on my favourite bit of the characterisation - Pua's twerpy crush. It rings, really, painfully true. You've managed to take all the hormonal stupidity of first crushes and throw it right there on the screen. Most of us have been there, much as I bet we'd also like to forget it. I really like that you haven't tried to pretend to the reader that it's anything meaningful. I really like that you haven't put it on a pedestal because Pua's gay - it almost doesn't matter that he is, and that makes it grounded and relatable.
 
The acest of trainers
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@Beth Pavell: Thanks for the review and your comments. I am terrible at proof reading, so will get on to fixing those errors!

I think this misses an opportunity to show her as not being completely wrong. kintsugi touched on this as well, I think. It would be completely appropriate for your teenage characters to (erroneously) think they know everything, especially thinking they know better than their parents.
We will see sides to Anahera as the story progresses. It is purposefully skewered in these early chapters, but, hopefully, as the story and Pua develops the other sides of Anahera and her story will come through. The last chapter I tried to show a softer side that went against Pua's presumptions about his mother, so if you do carry on, hopefully that comes through.
 
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Finally here for that Word Wars review. It covers the chapters "Working Classless" and "Training Pains".

The town always felt bigger once school had ended for the day. At three every afternoon, the normally placid, vacant streets suddenly swelled with a surge of students escaping their daily prison once again. A tidal wave of white linen shirts spread across the paths and blocked the roads from palm tree to fern. Pua wasn't surprised today to see a Tauros rider angrily shouting at some of his classmates, having misjudged the right time to rise past undeterred.
This is an interesting take on the Alola setting. There's been some implications that tourists do come to Alola (e.g., Chase is referred to as some "shabby tourist" at some point), so why wouldn't they be out and about while the kids are at school? AKA, why are the streets normally vacant? I bring this up because I think there was a missed opportunity for worldbuilding there. At any rate, the Tauros rider image is greatly amusing and a nice homage to the riding feature in the games.

Ikky waved a large crinkled chip dusted in red seasoning under Pua's nose. "What the fuck do you think chips are made from, idiot!" He pointed up ahead, where the road split and spread out in two directions. "You might want to ask your scientist friend about what the classification of potatoes!"
Ikky shows up a fair amount, but I don't see the purpose of his character besides for comedy relief, and to show Pua has some friends beyond Leilani. I guess that's fine, if that's all his role is supposed to be, but I don't feel he adds anything to the story even then. It could be a personal thing because I don't find the constant references to food and fatness funny.

Pua's rage dissipated as he realised he was going to be early. Are people supposed to be early to work? Would Kukui mind, or was he going to barge in right in the middle of him plotting some groundbreaking theorem? Pua hesitated at the edge of the untamed garden, considering hanging around a few more minutes, but he could see a bag and towel lying near the surf. The thought of someone emerging from the waves to find some gangly teen gawking at them made Pua flush further, and he scampered towards the front door.
Pua's self-consciousness and lack of worldly experience shines through well here. He might put on a tough exterior most of the time, but inside, he seems to qestion himself a lot and wants to make at least a decent impression. It seems likely that's caused by his mom scrutinizing and criticizing everything he does, no matter how insignificant. :p

"Pua, wait." Chase grabbed his arm and Pua froze in his grip. His hands were warm despite the lingering water, and even with his current contempt for him, Pua was ready to sink into his grasp and let him hold him forever. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have laughed. I was just shocked, I guess, but that's not really an excuse, is it?"

Pua had a sudden urge to cry. Fuck me, he's sensitive as well. "It's fine, honestly. I mean, I get it a lot and it can be annoying, but I'm used to it. I genuinely should be working though."
Yeah, Pua's sensitivity shines through well here, too. I mean, Chase didn't word himself too badly, but just badly enough that an outcast like Pua would take offense to. The laugh was just the icing on the cake, methinks. More importantly, though, I think this chapter in general does well to show Chase's personality better. Up until now, he's just been painted in a lovely light from Pua's perspective, but in this chapter, we get to see him from a more objective perspective. He's sensitive indeed (e.g., this scene), seems to to be able to read the room well and get along with people (e.g., actually impressing Pua's mom), and he likes to be helpful to others and be friendly (e.g., helping Pua and Rocky train). His major flaw seems to be not thinking things through and getting in trouble as a result (e.g., the Rocky incident).

Pua had reached the point where he was tempted to put that into a search engine and see what disturbed results the internet threw back. Over the last twelve hours, he had discovered he owned very little that could be considered casual yet stylish, eye catching but not obviously so, something that would make Chase think he knew how to dress himself without thinking he was hitting on him.
Sorry, Pua, but you're adorable here. :V You can tell how badly he wants to impress Chase without going too far. That seems to be the main difference between them so far - Pua thinks too much, and Chase just kinda goes with the flow and/or acts a bit recklessly without realizing it.

This is actually happening. Had Anahera ever laughed at anything Ikky or Leilani had done? Had she ever shown such interest in a Pokémon before?
Ugh, I really feel for Pua here. I mean, it's not a super emotional scene or anything, but... there's something inherently sad about a boy Pua's age being super impressed by his mom having a positive reaction to something/someone he's associated with. You'd expect parents of all people to be accepting of, or at least interested in learning all about, their kid's life.

Their conversation had flowed so naturally only a few days ago, but then Pua hadn't felt this overwhelming pressure to seem so many things at once; relaxed, intelligent, spontaneous, witty, casual, charming, lovable, sexual, desirable, more states of being than he had ever achieved in his life. Most nights were spent in a state of laziness, resentment and regret; to have hope was a rarity Pua didn't know what to do with.
That's a lot of pressure you're putting on yourself, Pua, especially if you're just not naturally some of those things. But this section is definitely relatable, too, like much of the fic is. This in particular is probably one of my favorite passages you wrote!

"Lesson two: you have to attack for the Pokémon itself, not just its type. Grimer and Muk are somewhere between liquid and solid, and anything that touches them risks getting trapped in all that free-moving slime. And what gets caught becomes hers," Chase added with a devious wink. "Fling!"
Good advice, Chase. :p But yeah, with how idiosyncratic a Pokémon's anatomy can be, I think it's realistic to have to pay more attention to just type advantages. I'm glad this fic does.

"Really? What is so secret about your battling that you couldn't do it in public?" Hala raised a bushy eyebrow at them, but even Chase fell silent, his blue eyes staring at his shoes. "I thought so," Hala snorted, and he roughly pushed Rocky into Pua's chest. "I am happy to keep this incident between us, but if I catch you boys doing this again, I will have to tell Joshua and the rest of the town officials. You aren't in Kanto anymore, Chase; in Alola, we play fair and treat Pokémon with respect, not like soft toys we can bash about."

"Yes, sir."
Geez, Pua can't catch a break, can he? It seems like every time he's met with Chase, something big's gone wrong... with the one exception maybe being with Pua's mom. Anyway, I like the idea of having battling rules set in place in Alola to protect the Pokémon. A strict and religious place like Alola, as it's kind of depicted in this fic, seems likely to set boundaries like the ones Hala confronted Pua and Chase about.

"Pua, I'm sorry. I didn't realise Rocky was that inexperienced. I should have asked."
I buy this sequence a little less. In a training session, especially the first one between people, wouldn't it be standard to gauge each other's strengths and weaknesses instead of going all out, or just treating it like a serious battle? I mean, what Chase did fits his character from what I've seen so far, but... I dunno, I feel like there's been a lot of extremely dramatic scenes in these couple chapters without much breather room between them. I think this Rocky incident could've been avoided in this way. But they're all intertwined with the same subplots, at least (e.g., Chase romance, League plot, Mom and home issues) that it can work. There's just the risk of things getting out of hand and feeling melodramatic at best. You write emotion and dialogue really well enough for it to make the maximum impact on readers, and as usual, your writing style has a captivating air to it. So, like I said, with those strengths of yours, it can work with care. Especially at the end of this chapter, you do a good job showing just how much the incident impacted Pua. ;_;
 
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