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TEEN: Shattered Daybreak

Created at
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Emelie finds herself the owner of a house on Hau'oli Outskirts. She learns she will be exploring Alola for a project she never signed up for. Unsure as to how she got here, she plays along with a narrative already constructed for her to see what happens.

When Melemele Island receives an unexpected guest who derails the annual festival held in honor of the Tapu and a young trial-goer's wish of battling his grandfather someday is called into question, Emelie must take an active role in protecting Alola's future.

(Ultra Sun AU, Isekai)
Chapter One: Hau Did This Happen?
Jun 5, 2022
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I groaned at the sunlight hitting me square in the face. Laying vertically, I wondered what possessed me to sleep in my little sister’s old bed. The former top bunker wasn’t comfortable to sleep on unless half a dozen sheets were piled over the spring in the mattress. I was simply too lazy to flip it over. To be honest, why was I in her bed when I had my own? Better yet, why could I move my limbs about without hitting the mounds of laundry Mom dumped some days before? We never put away her clothes. Daily arguments between a mother and grandma would do that to a bed.

“I shouldn’t have left the curtains open…” I groaned before shielding my eyes and sitting up. There was a green blanket covering my legs. Strange. My bed didn’t have any green sheets, nor did my sister’s. Hers was black. I draped a thin purple layer over mine after getting sick of my sheets jumping off the sides whenever I sat on them. Maybe Mom replaced it when I went out yesterday? Despite my sister having left to start a new life months ago and dumping everything she owned on us? Fixing her sheets when we used them for anything except sleeping didn’t make much sense.

Breathing the fresh air coming from the nearby window, I tossed my bare feet to the floor and relaxed. It was quiet today. Strange, though uncommon when it came to the people I lived with. Everyone must have decided to sleep in. Good. The less drama we had, the better today would be.

My toes scraped something soft. Pushing on it, it slightly gave way. I frowned at the smooth surface and pushed at it some more.

“Arf!” yelped a squeaky voice. The thing beneath me shifted.

I gasped. Uncovering my eyes, I found something rather peculiar at the foot of my bed.

The strange-looking blue critter yelped. “Pop!” This pink-nosed, white-collared…?! Right in front of me?

I yelped, withdrawing my leg. I tossed my back to the wall. The weight at which I threw myself came back to haunt me and stung like hell. My mind was quick to stop the pain from freezing me completely in place. I bunched my sheet into a makeshift shield.

The creature heaved itself from the floor. Its flippers rested on the edge of the bed. A frown emerged from under its big snout when it saw me hugging the bedsheet like it was my last possession in the world. “Pop?” it said, resting its chin on the bed.

“Who are you?!” I shouted.

It considered my question for what seemed like a long minute. “Popplio?” it answered, blinking.

No way. No. Freaking. Way. “Po…” I stopped to swallow and replenish my drying throat. “Popplio?”

I was always scared of being jumped by my fat old tabby cat in the morning. Likewise, I was frozen stiff by this new creature leaping onto my bed and right on me. Cats were athletic, sure. Mine would leave scratches if he jumped me when I wasn’t expecting him to. Thankfully, this out-of-element seal couldn’t do the same and had the smarts to avoid landing on me.

“Popplio!” the seal squeaked. Its tail dropped toward the bed first, balancing the rest of its weight as it landed, and it threw both front flippers out from its sides. As quickly as it celebrated getting on the bed did it settle into my lap. “Pop!”

All I could do was control my airflow. I held my breath, and when I no longer could, I released it and took another. Maybe when I had calmed down, I could search for answers. Right here and now, putting its meager weight on me, was a pokémon. From when I was four and starting in Hoenn to today at twenty-three years of age expecting to explore Paldea soon, I had been a fan of the Pokémon franchise. No matter what I was doing or what other fandoms I had been a part of, Pokémon dominated some facet of my life. It and I may have had our differences, what with its games now coming out every year and its fanbase constantly debating on the quality of the products. I still loved it for the joy it brought me whenever I played a gimmicky team through a region or mopped dungeon floors in search of a plot.

“Okay…” I said. “This is new...”

Popplio stopped hugging me. “Hrm?” it murmured, cocking its head. Its round little ears drooped.

“I’m in an unfamiliar bed, there’s a pokémon, it’s not a plushie…?” I stopped to place my hand on its head. Its skin slid under my fingers as if it were melted butter. “It’s real?”

I surveyed the room. To my left and in two corners of the wall behind me were windows with the curtains pulled apart. An unlit large light bulb with a pull switch took the last angle of the wall near me. Right across the room from the bed was a long desk and a chair on wheels, a mountain of papers piled beneath a trio of pencil boxes, and a laptop I assumed to be in sleep mode since both of its battery indicators were orange.

“Where are my glasses?” I said, relaxing my eyesight after having to squint to see the round shape and hands of a clock by the desk.

Popplio lifted a flipper. “Plio!”

Following its direction, I saw my old beat-up pair laying folded next to the single pillow I had been sleeping with. I slipped them over my face. “There we go. Um, mind getting off me? Please?”

The seal pokémon obliged and watched me rise from the unfamiliar bed.

“Thanks,” I said. Say this was a dream. Why did the sunlight hurt my eyes unless I squinted? Why had I felt weight when Popplio sat in my lap? Where were the bitter old women I lived with arguing about paying last month's electric bill? My few lucid dream experiences never got me feeling those senses or helped me fully escape from life. I would have been interrupted by now, maybe by Mom wanting to get the stuff she hid from Grandma from my room or Grandma coming to me to complain despite much of the house’s upkeep not being my problem. What was it about this dream that made it special?

Popplio vacated the bed to follow me to the desk. “Popp? Plio?”

When I got there, I saw the massive pile of lined paper and withheld a sigh. Writing was a great strength of mine, yet here were these pages without words on them. Years ago, I realized I would never survive in the market of writing and publishing. Inspiration for anything other than niche ideas was hard to come by. Deadlines were my arch-nemesis. Original fiction writers were super critical, I found. I dumped my relationships with them upon learning I was only interested in the fantasy genre to make something “better” than the “horrible” published authors the writing community loved to personally insult.

What if this new world wasn’t a fantasy? Was it possible for me to be something more than a failure who believed being a good writer meant everyone would love me as a person? Could I turn over a new leaf in a new life where nobody would judge me or know who I was?

I read the clock. 8:00 on the dot. Judging by the blinding light coming from the outdoors, it must have been morning.

“Pop!” Popplio shouted, gesturing at itself. “Pop lio!”

I drifted to the desk. At its dead center was a messenger bag having been laid flat. Its clasp was opened. Papers with small printed black text barely visible in the light spilled from its innards. Intrigued, I freed the packet and righted the bag so the rainbow of folders within wouldn’t spill across the desk.

“Plio pop?” Popplio called, reaching the door leading from the room.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m coming.”

It huffed before dragging its little body from the room. That seal-like creature… This pokémon must have been waiting for me to wake up and feed it breakfast. Great. Not even five minutes of existence in this world and I was already responsible for another’s well-being. If I wanted to be a serious trainer, I would have to care about my team.

Pressing the paper packet to my chest, I shouted, “I’ll be with you in a second!”

Somehow, this new life had a way of sorting itself out without my intervention. I sat at a dining table with Popplio eating from a bowl next to me and reread the front of the packet:

Name: Emelie S. Avenue

Age: 23 yrs.

Gender: Female

Main Reason for Requesting a Passport: Immigration to Alola from Unova – a passport between these regions cannot be denied unless the applicant has a criminal history or insufficient paperwork.

At the very bottom of the page:

PASSPORT APPROVED on account of sufficient paperwork and backing from the applicant’s college.

According to the rest of the packet, which I flipped through again in disbelief, I bought a house in Alola. Hell, forget getting my own place: I graduated college . College was a goal of mine I gave up on when it became clear I couldn’t get through without the support systems I had in high school. Upon further reading, my heart almost stopped seeing what the report had to say about my supposed time there:

Applicant graduated in early 2020 from Kanto University with a degree in pokémon and human relationships. Her reason for moving, besides taking residence in a property bought on the outskirts of Hau’oli City, is to learn from the world-renowned Professor Kukui at Professor Rowan’s recommendation.

Holy. Cow. Professor Kukui? Professor Rowan? My heart did an entire ten-mile marathon in seconds. Whatever this alternate version of me had been up to before today, she sure rubbed shoulders with some awesome people out there! Especially Rowan. No offense to Kukui; Rowan was pretty cool whenever he and his assistant, usually Dawn whenever I played through Platinum, appeared. His stubbornness when it came to Team Galactic's antics was fun to watch. Not to mention he was nice enough to let the player character and Barry keep the starters they defended themselves with in Diamond and Pearl.

This had to be a dream.
I loved Pokémon, don’t get me wrong. Since when did my love translate into a college degree? I’m a decent battler in the main series. I had some knowledge of what species were amazing in fights. Knowledge alone wasn’t good enough for the competitive scene. On the other hand, I was decent at recognizing pokémon species up until early generation nine without having to watch them fight or be themselves. Being invested in the series and a fanfiction writer pushed me to study them somewhat more than the average person.

I turned my attention to Popplio. If “I” had been to multiple regions, was Popplio my first partner or one of several? The report never mentioned me having any. Probably would have if I did.

“Popplio?” I said.

It stopped eating to look up at me. “Bwark!”

“Are you a boy or a girl? Uh… Bark once for guy, twice for-”

“Popple popp!”

“Female. Got it.” I braced myself for the next question. Depending on how I got her, this was going to sound weird. She might instantly know something was wrong with me and I would be put in an awkward position having to explain myself. “Who raised you? Kahuna Hala or Professor Kukui?” Weird as they were, what I asked had to do without blowing my cover.


Never mind. “I’m not asking where I got you from. I know where. I’m sorry. What I want to know is… Well, starters are usually taken care of by professors until they get their trainer. I know things in Alola can be different from other regions. You might have been with Hala instead of Kukui-”

“Right you are, cousin.”

As I whipped around, pieces of my curly hair got in my face. Upon brushing and spitting them away, I found a man in a white lab coat with large pockets at the opened front door of my new home. I wouldn’t mind him leaving his lab coat unbuttoned if he didn’t forgo wearing a shirt. The lack of one prominently showed his golden-toned skin, which distracted from the rest of his attire, including gray shorts, greenish slip-on shoes, a cap, and sunglasses. He had tied his dark hair in a man-bun. Going by him being unshaven besides the little patch of hair on his chin, he knew how to care for himself. So why didn’t he wear a shirt?

“Alola!” Professor Kukui, a real-life Professor Kukui, said, stepping inside the house.

Right. The region’s name was a greeting too. “Alola,” I replied. I always had a hard time keeping eye contact with other people, which rang true here with me gazing straight at the floor. Discovering what I had been wearing this whole time got them opening wide: a nightgown reaching right past my kneecaps and long pants. I was familiar with the nightgown’s grayish color and the scattered placement of its colorless owl illustrations; it was my favorite sleepwear back home for being way newer than grandma’s hand-me-downs. In this world, they turned into owlish pokémon such as Hoothoot and Rowlet. Rather appropriate, as well as shocking enough for me to pause.

“You okay?”

The professor’s comment broke my embarrassingly long bout of concentration. “I’m fine,” I said. “Kinda tired still.” The mere mention of feeling sleepy shaped a desperate yawn in me desperately wanting to escape, which I allowed. Tears formed in my eyes. I wiped them away. “Excuse me.”

“I understand,” he said. “I’ve been pulling some long nights myself.” Following this, he raised his arm and yawned too. “Now you’ve got me doing it.”

I might have snickered.

He smiled. “You’re still wondering about Popplio? Hala gives pokémon to new trainers on Melemele. All of the Kahunas do. He’s busy with the preparations for tomorrow’s festival, which is why you got her from me instead.”

“I see,” I said.

“Are you getting along?"

Popplio and I made eye contact.

“We’re good now we’ve eaten?” I asked.

“Popp!” she barked, her snout decorated in the crumbs from the brownish Pokéchow-branded food I found in our kitchenette’s cabinet.

I nodded. “Great.” Turning my attention to Kukui again, I pried him more about, “A festival?”

“Over in Iki Town, yeah.”

The fist I held at my side clenched. The generation seven games began with a festival too. What were the chances I was tossed to the beginning of their plot? “After the festival, what am I going to be doing here? I don’t think you’ve mentioned it. Or if you did, I guess I might’ve forgotten in the chaos of moving here. So-sorry.” The packet never explained why I came here other than to study under him. Finding what he wanted would go a long way toward relieving the anxiety building in my chest.

He fingered his goatee. “I never did tell you what I’m gonna have you do, yeah. We can sit and talk now if you want.”

“Now’s fine,” I said. “I’d rather not get jumped by your assignment at the last second.”

To my surprise, he chuckled. “Emelie,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re out of college. You’re supposed to have fun now!”

I frowned. “What fun is to be had, exactly?”

“An adventure through the Alola region, of course!”

Color me surprised.


“I told a white lie,” Professor Kukui said, lowering the coffee mug I gave him to drink from. “You’re to observe the relationship between pokémon moves and the bonds tying pokémon and humanity together and report your findings to me.”

Made sense. He researched moves. Z-moves, powered by special accessories to be worn by select trainers, were a part of battles in Alola. I wouldn’t mind doing what Kukui asked as long as he didn’t assign any sort of math homework, given it was my weakest subject. Were whatever threw me into this world needing a mathematician, maybe it would have gotten one instead of me.

“Where’s the adventure part come into play?” I asked.

“You’ll be exploring the four islands, maybe running into Hala’s grandson on occasion.”

Hala’s grandson? He was a hyperactive kid in the games. He matured later and got more of a spotlight in the Ultra universe by replacing Kukui as the player's final opponent before becoming Alola's first champion. “Isn’t he, like, eleven years old? I-I’m not the best with kids, you should know.”

Kukui chuckled. “I doubt Hau will get you into any trouble, Emelie. Hala reckoned it would be nice for him to know somebody while he's out traveling since…” He glanced over his shoulder at the door. His shoulders sagged.

I frowned. “Is something the matter?"

Professor Kukui turned back around, enabling me to get a proper close look at his face for the first time. What surprised me were the bags underneath his eyes. He mentioned staying up late. I didn’t think he was sleep-deprived. “You’re not the only one who's dealing with a kid,” he said. “I’ve been watching over the Aether Foundation President’s daughter for… Two months now?”

I knew the faces of Aether and their mission in Alola. Still, I feigned ignorance. “Isn’t the President’s name Lusamine? Her daughter is…?”

“Lillie,” Kukui confirmed. “President Lusamine and her children haven’t had the best relationship since Mohn, her husband, went missing some years ago. Lillie has been acting out. Her older brother, Gladion, stole a valuable pokémon and ran away.”

Interesting. Seemed more information about Aether was known to the public than what I recalled from the games. Or Lusamine simply filled Kukui in before sending Lillie over. The “valuable pokémon” tidbit interested me almost as much. Most likely it meant Lusamine was in her right, if overbearing, mind in this universe and was actively searching for her son to recapture her unethical science project.

“Lillie’s staying with you at her mother’s request,” I said.

Professor Kukui nodded. “She has been… A handful, to say the least.”

Strange. I would never describe Lillie as being a “handful”. She was a sheltered girl who wanted the best for Nebby and went to great lengths to ensure its safety. In the original games, after Lusamine was separated from Nihilego, Lillie traveled to Kanto to help her mother despite the abuse she had been put through. Lillie’s original portrayal got hate from some fans for being part of a story-heavy game. Others derided her character in the Ultra releases for not making much sense after the plot required her mother to be sane.

“What exactly makes her a “handful”?” I said.

The front door slammed open.

I balked. Why couldn’t whatever deity brought me here have locked the door to allow me some control of the foot traffic? “He-hello?”

Popplio made the tiniest squeak. When I checked on her, she ducked into her bowl despite there being nothing left except for crumbs.

In the doorway was a young girl dressed from head to toe in white. A massive sunhat cast a shadow over her blonde front braids and leaf-green irises. Her dress went as far as her torso, with its trim nearly reaching her knees. She clung with both hands to a bag featuring a poké ball design which sank halfway into a pocket. Having removed the obstacle in her way, she rushed to our table. Her skin was almost as pale as mine. Now was a time as good as any to admit I… Never got out much back home. Here was this girl who deliberately prevented the sun from burning her skin, meanwhile.

“Professor!” she cried. “Professor, I-I…”

Kukui, surprisingly lacking his earlier enthusiasm, didn’t turn away from his coffee mug. In fact, he side-eyed the girl. “Yes, Lillie?”

She took her palms and slammed them into the table.

I jumped.

Kukui barely reacted.

“Nebby was attacked by Spearow on our way to the Ruins of Conflict to maybe meet the Tapu and I wanted to do something to ward off the Spearow like use repels but I couldn’t move and I screamed and then…” The girl took a deep breath, her expression frantic. “While I was screaming I heard someone climbing the trail and it happened to be-”


Lillie paused. She noticed me for the first time.

“Take a minute,” I said. “Breathe. Whatever happened to your Nebby may have been serious. We can’t have their caretaker running about like a Torchic with its head cut off. Understand?”

The entire room fell silent.

Professor Kukui blinked at me. Welp, I created this awkward moment. Time to live with it.

Lillie removed her hands from the table, clenched her bag’s strap, and closed her eyes. For a minute or two after her appearance, my home had some peace.

I had to get to the point. “Twenty words or less or we’re getting nowhere. Start with what happened.”

“Th-the Mahalo Trail,” Lillie said. “Nebby got away from me and some wild Spearow attacked it.”

“Spearow are territorial creatures who often attack indiscriminately,” I said. “They believed your pokémon was a threat. How did you save it?”

She moved her hand over the bag, which jumped at her touch. Her Nebby made a little, “Pew!”

“I-I didn’t...” she answered, shrinking. “I could’ve used repels on them, but I couldn’t move! I yelled for help...”

“Who helped you?”

“The Kahuna…”

“Hala told me he would be out of Iki Town today,” Kukui interjected. “Last minute festival preparations.”

Lillie shook her head hard enough for her braids to swing and whack her in the face. She didn’t seem to mind, however. “N-no, not the Kahuna!” she shouted. "Hau did!"

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on. I guess in this universe, either the protagonists of the games didn't exist or they never moved here from Kanto. Hala’s house was built close to the Mahalo Trail, which might have led Hau, now not having much of a reason to be hanging around Route One, to hear her plea. At least that was my theory. I didn’t want to assume everything after what I heard about this universe's Lillie.

"He went to rescue Nebby and it tried to teleport away," she said.

Deciding to play dumb, I queried, “Teleport? Is your Nebby a Ralts or another psychic type?”

She shrank. “I-I guess? What does its typing or species have to do with what happened?"

Yeah, she was right. So much for playing dumb. I came off dumber for asking. Revealing my awkward, if favorable, position in this world wouldn’t be a good idea. “I’m curious. Uh, sorry if I made you uncomfortable. Continue?”

“Nebby snapped the bridge in half when it used its power. I got scared Hau and Nebby would fall into the river all the way down there and then- Then the Tapu, it-it came out of nowhere and saved them both and dropped them with me and then the Tapu-”

“Lillie, please,” I said, biting my lip. “Let me get this straight. Hau and Nebby were in mortal danger?” I looked to Kukui, who had an eyebrow raised. “Good thing the island’s Tapu appeared. They don’t usually go out of their way to help the islanders who worship them.”

“Hau is a relative of Hala's,” Kukui said. Okay, great point. While the Tapu were hard to understand, there sure would be problems if a relative of their chosen Kahunas died in an avoidable accident. “Was that it, Lillie?”

“Ye-yes? Tapu Koko left after it saved them.”

The professor and I traded glances.

“If this is true, our Hau’s a hero,” he said, grinning for the first time since Lillie came inside. “Hala will be proud when he hears what happened.”

“You think so?”

Unexpected visitor number three arrived at my doorstep. Again, I asked whatever invisible deity might be watching why they couldn’t have locked the door before all of this went down. The kid who came inside the house was about the same age as Lillie, who beat him in the height department. She inherited her mother’s genes while, well, who knows who he got his infamous malasada addiction from?

“There you are!” Kukui exclaimed. “Lillie told us everything. You’ve had quite the adventure, yeah?”

A near-death experience being “quite the adventure”, my ass. How did I end up here? I couldn’t recall ever dying. Right there was a mystery I would have to investigate more of down the road.

“You’ve no idea,” the kid gasped, a smile on his face despite the circumstances. Unnatural hair colors were common in the Pokémon universe. Hau’s dark green tied-back hair was no exception to this genetic quirk, though it didn’t stop me from staring at him. Wasn’t every day you met someone with green hair. “My heart’s still racing.” He checked his heartbeat. “Uh, maybe it’s ‘cause I wanted to make sure Lillie got home safe.”

“You were pretty brave,” I said. “I probably would have had a full-blown panic attack if I were forced to go through what you have today.”

Everyone’s heads swiveled to me.

I swallowed the building bile in my throat. Then again, trainers got into difficult situations without their pocket monsters all the time. What was the point of going on an adventure if they weren’t willing to get into a little danger?

“Hau, this here’s Emelie," Kukui said to him. Then to me, "Emelie, that’s Hau.”

I did the first thing I could think of: raise a hand and wave it. “Alola?”

Hau trained his sights on me. I could almost see the gears turning in his head. Finally, something in there clicked. “You graduated from college?”

I snorted. “I don’t look twenty-three to you?”

His jaw fell. “You’re what now?”

I stood up. Crossing my arms, I asked him, “It’s because I’m short, isn’t it? I'm only five feet tall?”

“No!” said the now flustered eleven-year-old, raising his hands. Oh, dear. If this was how he reacted to me, wait until he met the woman who looked closer to her daughter’s age than her forties. “I guess I'll be seeing you around, Emelie?”

“I am here to do an assignment for the professor,” I said.

“And have fun doing it!" Kukui called suddenly.

“Yeah,” was all I could add to his statement. “We can talk more about what I’ll be up to at another time.” For the love of… The Tapu, I guess? Since this was my life now, I hoped I could take the professor’s word that this kid wouldn’t drag me into anything crazy serious. Though if Kului had to deal with a troubled Lillie on a day-to-day basis, I supposed the ever-energetic Hau wouldn't be so bad? He would probably be more like the annoying little brother I never got to have-

“I’m not going?”

Everyone’s attention went to Lillie.

“Your mother asked for you to stay here in Melemele,” Kukui said. “She doesn’t want you getting into any danger-”

“I still did!”

The professor was known to be a chill dude across the series. When he slammed his coffee cup onto the table, startling everyone, I thought that would be as far as he would go toward showing his displeasure. But glaring at Lillie with those tired eyes, his voice neared the verge of rising. “You almost got a boy and your pokémon killed because you keep risking your life for no reason!”

Okay, yep. Hau would never be as big of a problem as Lillie was. Professor Kukui’s shouting got the poor boy to flinch. Steeling myself, I got between him and the ensuing argument.

“I have to see Tapu Koko!” Lillie shouted.

“Just because anyone could go to the shrine doesn’t mean the Tapu would appear before them,” Kukui said. “I’ve been there many times, some of those visits accompanying Hala, and I’ve never been face to face with it. Even Hau has had limited contact with Tapu Koko. The last time they met before today was after he was born. What makes you think it will grant a personal audience with you?”

“It probably knows how Nebby could-”

“I don’t understand what your obsession is with Nebby!”

Having had Popplio rush to meet my open arms, I nodded at Hau. We made our exit from the house.

“Nebby needs to get stronger-”

I shut the door on them.

Alola’s morning atmosphere was pretty nice so long as I took care to avoid the heat. Sitting in the shade of a palm tree with Popplio in my lap, I scratched the back of her head and took in the view of a seemingly-endless sea sparkling in the morning sunlight. Waves crashed on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff far below. In the distance, the shapes of fish pokémon leaped out and back into the water like needles in the process of sewing. The world was at peace for the first time since my awakening.

While I was comfortable getting close to the edge, Hau understandably avoided it and leaned against the palm tree. A sleepy owl nested in his hair. One of the same owl pokémon to be found on my nightgown, actually. In another life and another region, I would have loved to have had Rowlet as my starter.

“Today’s been crazy,” Hau said.

“Tell me about it,” I said. “I wasn’t expecting Professor Kukui to have such a strained relationship with anybody.”

His gaze fell to his lap. “I didn’t think I’d almost…” Poor kid. He should have never had to go through what he did. In another life, maybe I would have been in his place. Tapu Koko could have recognized my "bravery", when in fact I would have known it was coming to my rescue. And were I to have no idea what would happen? Emotionally, I never saw myself as an adult. I would probably be as useless as Lillie and run to someone else for help.

I scratched Popplio behind her ear. “You did a good thing, Hau. I’m sure Nebby appreciates you stepping in to help.”

“...Wouldn’t be the first time I did.”

I turned to give Hau a direct look. “Really?” News to me, that's for sure! "What happened?"

He hung his head. “Lillie keeps putting Nebby in danger because she thinks it’ll evolve someday. But it can’t fight! She snuck it into Ten Carat Hill last time, ran away, and asked me to rescue it. Gramps gave me Rowlet after I told him I went there.” He gulped. I swore his hands were shaking. "There was this red Lycanroc…"

I winced at the word "Lycanroc”. Its midnight form was the most aggressive of the three Rockruff could evolve into. Imagining this poor boy scrambling for an exit as a red and white beast with glowing red pupils lumbered toward him sent a shiver through my spine. “Geez. I’m sorry Lillie's been such a bad friend to you and her pokémon. Lusamine shipping her off to the professor instead of getting help for whatever happened to her doesn’t sit right with me-"

"We barely escaped with our lives! She could've killed us! I didn't tell Tutu be-because…"

Dead silence.

I'm no good at comforting other folks. Easing their suffering, maybe. Being their therapist? I might as well be paid in pennies for the amount of issues I've had listen to and not lose my temper.

Hau was different. He was only a kid. Kids in Pokémon could do amazing things. They had the capability to be jerks too. There was a fine line between taunting a friend or family member and treating them like utter shit for existing.

"Because you wanted to be a great friend?" I said to Hau.

He sniffled.

“You wanna know why I came here?" I asked. "Other than because Professor Rowan from Sinnoh recommended I should?"

I snagged his curiosity. ”Why?”

Here came a white lie of my own. “Family. Living with them caused me heaping loads of anxiety. I tried to please everyone when, really, I wanted no part in their drama. I leaped at the chance to leave Unova so hard that I might as well have been hit by a truck."

Hau sank into the tree hugging his knees.

Rowlet snored.

“Did you feel you had to live up to them?” Hau said.

Live up to them? Or up to myself?

“Depends,” I said.

Grass rustled. The next thing I knew, the kid sat closer to me. “Why?” he asked.

“They had high standards,” I said, realizing quick I spoke without thought. Nevertheless, I elaborated. “They rarely appreciated whatever I did. In those rare moments I was acknowledged, I could tell their interest in me was superficial. I knew I had to leave when they ignored my anxiety to make me a punching bag.

"It hurts to leave everything I'm familiar with behind. I had to so I could retain my sanity. Me being here in Alola… It's to help me recover from what I've been put through."

Like a mirror, my thoughts reflected my words back. I have high standards. I've rarely appreciated what I did. Some interests were superficial? I knew I had to leave when…? I didn't choose this life. Someone or something decided for me. Whatever their idea was in doing this, they spirited me away from another life without my knowledge.

Was this their way of imploring me to forget the past? Because from what I knew, running away from my problems didn't usually solve them. Most social situations I got into ended with me awkwardly slipping away to recharge my already dying batteries. Schoolwork was my mortal enemy. I was a lazy bum who preferred to sit at home all day unless I had a purpose to leaving home.

Did this mysterious deity expect me to drop those consciously negative aspects on a dime? Say goodbye to any minor achievements made in my old life, watch me struggle with attaining new ones, and laugh at everyone who thought I already achieved much getting confused by my flailing? Let me not mourn all of the fanfiction plans I made before I foolishly allowed their stories to spiral out of my control?

Hau and I didn’t speak for a while. The palm tree leaves over our heads rustled in the wind. Part of me kicked myself for going as in-depth as I did in my past life. Chances were I trauma dumped and he stopped listening halfway through.

While I already knew the answer to my next question, I wanted to break the unbearable silence. “Why are you visiting each of Alola’s islands?”

“The Island Challenge. A lot of people do it here.”

“Any other reasons you’re going on this journey?”

“I wanna have a battle with my gramps at his full power.”

I almost chuckled at “full power”. Right. Maybe next he would tell me there were “power levels” and the three most powerful people in existence was a guy always looking to get stronger, a bald man whose punches drained his emotions, and a scaredy-cat who solved mysteries with his talking dog. “Stick with the Island Challenge and you’ll get there, kid. Don't forget to have fun along the way.”

Hau laughed. “I won’t!”

I smiled despite myself. Good to see his chipper attitude was still there despite everything.

“I was wondering why the Tapu was flying about!”

We looked up from our conversation.

Approaching us from the north, along the dirt path, was an old guy in a knee-high yellow robe. Some of his hair was tied back similarly to Hau's. Even with my glasses, I had a hard time seeing his dark eyes unless I squinted.

“Turns out it was out and about because of you, grandson?” the old man said.

“Tutu!” In a flash, Hau was up and running over to him. His sleeping Rowlet tumbled from his head when he moved, who I caught before it hit the ground. “Alola!”

“Alola to you too!” the old man said. “Are you well?”

“I-I’m doing great!” Hau said before spinning my way. "Emelie, this is my gramps.”

I ushered Popplio off of me, placed Rowlet beside her, and got to my feet. “You must be Kahuna Hala.”

“That I am,” Hala replied, looking me over. “Excuse me for asking, but what are you doing outside in a nightgown?”

Taken aback, yet remembering my attire, my face noticeably warmed. “Um, you see…”

“Alright, you two. Break it up!”

The instant Kahuna Hala pushed the front door aside, Professor Kukui’s head hit the dining table. His hat and glasses fell off. He groaned.

Lillie turned on Hala. “But-”

“You need to leave,” Hala said, shuffling into the house. “I’d like to speak with the professor.”


“No “but’s". Go.”

Huffing, Lillie rose from the table. She retrieved her bag from the floor. It swung about as she slid it onto her shoulder, causing the little creature inside to squeak another, “Pew!” She was gone in less than a minute, passing me by, and headed south toward the professor’s beachfront home.

I entered the house and closed the door. We had left Hau outside with the starters, including the Litten that Hala still had on hand. The kid needed a break after everything he got put through. What could make any day better than being surrounded by pokémon? I envied him for still being a kid discovering the magic of those cute little pocket monsters.

“Professor,” Hala said. “It’s not like you to argue with children.”

Kukui sighed. “...Yeah.”

“After what happened today, something must be done about Lillie,” said Hala. “She hasn’t improved since she came to stay with you. I’d say she’s gotten worse!”

“I haven’t been able to reach Lusamine.”

Hala and I traded glances.

“You’ve tried everything?” I said.

Kukui nodded and counted on his fingers. “Front desks, the Aether Houses, some of their higher-ups, Lusamine’s number… Nothing's worked. They’re too busy with whatever project it is they have right now to get back to me.”

“I’ll stop by our island’s Aether House and talk to the workers there if I can still make my daily rounds later,” Hala said. “They might get me in touch with her.”

“Good plan,” I said, crossing my arms. Aether would be more likely to listen if the Kahuna got involved. "What I’m more concerned about is the pokémon Lillie has. Cosmog is useless to the point of being rescued several times over, yet it’s strong enough to blow up a rope bridge.” Having garnered both mens’ attention, I quickly reinforced my previous statement. “Cosmog is, uh, what Hau called Nebby’s species. I’m not as versed on the whole situation as you guys are, but I don’t think it’s safe to let her keep Nebby if it can't really defend itself and she hasn't done anything to help.” I sat across from the professor. “Do you know where she got Nebby from?”

“She had it when she first came to Melemele,” Kukui replied.

How did she sneak Nebby outside of Aether in this timeline? Did anyone not do something as simple as a baggage check? Only one way to find out. “Hey, do… Do you think Lillie might’ve, I don’t know, taken Nebby from her mother?” I looked between both men. “I mean, think about it. None of us have ever seen a creature like it before two months ago. Lillie came straight here from Aether Paradise, where specialized workers treat heavily wounded or abused pokémon. Did they mention if she was bringing any pokémon with her?”

“I... Don’t believe so?” the professor said.

“I think she stole it,” I said. “Lusamine should be told.”

“If what you’re saying is true…” Hala stopped midthought to leave his seat. “Lillie may be in serious trouble. I’ll have to let the Foundation know immediately.” Headed for the door, he added, “Thanks for telling me…” He stopped, scratched his head, and turned back around. “Blast! With everything going on, I forgot your name. What was it again?”

“Emelie,” I said. “Hey, uh, one more thing?”

“Yeah?” went Professor Kukui.

“Next time you come over, knock and let me answer. I’m Unovan. We keep our doors locked because we’re kinda…" Antisocial? No, wrong word. "We're different. It’ll take me a bit to adjust to Alolan life, so please don’t barge in on me again.” I aimed a mock glare at Kukui. “You hear me? Walk in uninvited? I'll have Popplio will be ready with a water gun.”

Our morning ended in laughter. The strangeness of this alternate reality aside, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Chapter Two: However, I Disagree
I wandered through most of the rest of my first day in the pokémon world in a trance. Hala left after what I told him about Nebby. He was dead set on reporting the stolen pokémon. Professor Kukui stayed until Hau swung by to drop off Popplio and Litten. When everyone left me alone again with my little seal creature, I decided we would have to lay some ground rules. Namely, not scaring me again if breakfast was overdue. She had to let me get used to her companionship.

The sun fell on a September day according to a calendar in the kitchenette. All I could think of was dinner. I took Popplio outside after cooking us a standard meal of spaghetti and meatballs with tomato sauce. A boring dish by my standards. I was no good at diversifying what I ate. I'm the type of person who always bought the same things at the grocery store.

Spaghetti would have to do.

I discovered some dark, worn sneakers by a side door to a porch I hadn't noticed before. Frankly, I forgot existed it in the games. Too late to mention how similar this new place of mine was to the protagonist's home in Sun and Moon? Those sneakers I found reminded me a lot of the pair I wore back home. The orange grips on the insides had deteriorated like them. They might as well be the same pair I had before my awakening today.

Outfitted also in an orange floral shirt and blue shorts I found in a closet, I no longer felt embarrassed whenever strangers and their pokémon walked by and stared at me sitting on my porch. People let me be besides the occasional, "Alola, new neighbor!" Some of them included a two-handed gesture arching from their faces to their sides.

"Alola," I would answer. Sure, I could return a child's enthusiastic greeting… With a degree of embarrassment if this attracted others' attention. Elderly folks also weren't a problem. They simply smiled at me if I were to stutter and welcomed me to Melemele.

I kept to the porch no matter who came around. My muscles would tense if I heard people coming. They grew weaker the longer I stayed outside. There was a name for this: exposure. Back home, I had been in therapy. They told me this was something I needed. I rarely listened to that suggestion. I was afraid of embarrassing myself.

Here I was now in someplace new. There was no better time to try and change my attitude.

"Alola!" called an older woman with a cane trailing a tan-furred wolf-like pokémon.

"Alola," I said.

Her Lycanroc's ears swiveled. When it located Popplio, it paused its walk to bark at her.

"Lio lio!" Popplio shouted, waving at it.

Damn. Everyone back home was never this friendly. Perhaps if they had known kindness, I never would have fled into seclusion.

"Hey, Popplio," I said when the old woman and the midday Lycanroc finally left us. "Your final form looks a lot like a mermaid. Primarina is known for its beautiful singing. Is a nice voice something you want someday?"

Popplio chewed a small meatball I set aside for her and rolled her eyes.

"Figured I'd ask. Do you want a nickname?" I twirled spaghetti with my fork. "I like nicknames. But it's you who should have the final say. I don't want you to be forced to do anything you don't want to." I considered my plate. Normally I'd pick my food clean. Not today. "I think I've had enough. I've already eaten enough spaghetti to last me two lifetimes."

Popplio gasped when I placed my plate before her. She glanced at me with uncertainty.

"My blood might as well be tomato sauce," I said. "Go ahead."

She grinned the width of a croissant. "Plio!" She nudged a meatball at the top of the tiny mound of spaghetti.

I grinned back. "I'm glad you like this. All of those times I've made pasta have paid off."

Enormous clouds drifted over the waves not far from home. I barely remembered my early years. I remembered enough to know the last time I lived by a beach was when I was four. Mom would often drag me there against my will insisting us getting sand in our bathing suits and being sunburnt would be worth it. They were, to an extent. I blame the seagulls for making a lot of those trips difficult. I will always blame the seagulls. Those rats in bird form stole my sandwich.

"You must know Lillie more than I do," I said.

"Hm?" Popplio answered with a cheek full of food. Red spots were splattered all over her snout.

"Has she always been "difficult"? Aether is helping pokémon and Lillie brought a mostly harmless creature here with her. What would Aether do to them if Cosmog were found to have been with her all along?"

"I suspect Cosmog would not fare well if its path crossed with Lusamine again."

I jumped. As far as I could tell, there was no one else along the earthy path outside my home. I hadn't seen a passerby for ten minutes now.

Dirt shifted. Footsteps. Someone was nearby.

I bolted to my feet. "Wh-who's there? Where are you? What's your business here?"

"You're the woman who asked to speak with Aether?"

I found nothing around me except dirt, grass, palm trees, and the sea. "Answer my questions first, yo-you coward," I hissed.

Seriously, where were they? The voice must have belonged to a man if I believed its shallow drop in octaves.

"I wasn't expecting you to be hostile."

"Why are you hiding?" I said. "Are you with Aether? Why the secrecy?"

"I share associates with Aether. They told me about you. And you can never be too cautious."

I hoped the extra air in my lungs would soothe my tightening chest. "'Associates'?"

"You ask a lot of questions." Geez, Louise. He must have been trying to trigger my anxiety on purpose!

"What's it matter to you?" I asked.

"The Kahuna met with my associates. They decided against speaking with President Lusamine. She's gotten desperate, they say. She's made them uneasy. No one at Aether knows Cosmog is here on this very island still.

"However, I am."

I could have blinked. Wouldn't have changed how a man materialized right before me. Despite the threat I made this morning to ambush any unexpected visitors, I froze as still as a Deerling about to be struck by a speeding truck.

The man's golden irises traveled from my worn shoes to my uneven, curly hair. I wasn't who wore inappropriate clothing this time. The mere presence of his thick lab coat made me sweat. The thing seemed more equipped to handle northern Sinnoh's frigid climate than Alola's heat. This absurdity almost distracted from the swirling cowlick going from the left side of his face, behind his head, and stopping under his right eye.

"Your expression is curious," he said. He offered me the smallest of grins. "I suppose you know who I am?"

Heck yeah, I did. "I would have had to be hiding under a rock. You worked with the second iteration of Team Plasma."

"I've been exiled from my country of birth as a result of my naivete," he said. "Word around Melemele is that Professor Kukui has someone doing research for him. Is she you?"

I crossed my arms. "You can't say you got exiled, then move to a different topic. Why's an ex-criminal visiting me? What's Cosmog got to do with you?"

He pinched his glasses. "Back to questions, I see. I'm starting to wonder if they don't come from a place of curiosity."

Shoot. He pegged me. The longer we had this discussion, the better the chance I would need to call a moment to steady myself. "Um…"

"I understand if you need time to process."

Shoot again! He pretty much read my mind. "Yeah…"

"There's much I'd like to discuss of Cosmog and its evolutions," he said. "Particularly, how you know about them. Their species is relegated to legends. I thought they were solely known to my associates, the Tapu, Aether, irrational librarians, and myself." He whirled on his heel. "What do you say about some drinks at the pokémon center's café?" The man paused to study me again. "Ah, wait. I came all this way yet never caught your name. A mistake on my part. I heard "Cosmog" and took the next boat to Melemele."

"I haven't told you," I said. "I'm Emelie."

"I assume you know my name."

"You're Colress," I said. Otherwise known as Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge because of his ridiculous cowlick. "Um, alola?"

"Popplio!" I groused, taking another napkin to her face. "My half-decent cooking's no excuse to eat like you've been starved!" I rubbed her pink nose to finish the job.

She shook her head when I finished fussing over her.

Another, and hopefully the last, of our surprise guests today was seated across from a burly man at an aged wooden counter. The former fiddled with his arm. I could hear the mechanical beeps and boops from whatever the machine ln his arm was from my table across the room.

"Here you are, sir," the burly man said, placing two drinks on the counter. "Komala coffee and a tapu cocoa." He reached under the counter. "We're running a promotional campaign where we're giving away treats from other regions. Today's item is an old gateau from Sinnoh."

Colress stopped messing with those noisy buttons on his glove. "Thank you." He grabbed the tray the items were placed on.

I ducked my head. Would be weird to have those two know I'd been staring.

"You were staring," Colress said, sitting across from me. "Was it at me or the wall?"

Well, kill me gently with a chainsaw. Wasn't his mind, though brilliant, supposed to be a bit of a mess? I was obvious enough even for him! "Sorry."

"No need to apologize. I often do the same."

I bit my lip. "We were going to talk about Cosmog?"

He put a finger up. "Not yet. I spent most of my day on a boat. I need my coffee."

Oh boy. More waiting.

I did a mental review of the plots of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Colress had no real bearing on the plot until the Pokémon League, where he popped out of nowhere to give the player some devices to combine Necrozma and the box legendaries into one being. He appeared again in the postgame at Lusamine's mansion. The protagonist swept through the mansion defeating each of the evil leaders from generations one through six. Colress would then send them home to their original worlds. The only bad guy he didn't get to deal with was the leader of the thugs.

Some good news to have come from this was getting this autonomous scientist instead of Aether. Aether probably wouldn't be kind to some stranger raising their sentient test subject. More good news would be the Ultra Recon Squad, whichever two of the four were here in this universe, weren't harassing me.

"I understand you're a couple of years out of college?"

I took my cup of cocoa from the tray. "I thought you didn't want to talk."

"Small talk is more than fine until this coffee has got me energized," Colress said.

I ran a mental scan of the information I read from the packet I found this morning. "I'm a graduate of Kanto University. I majored in pokémon-human relationships. Professor Kukui is having me do field research here."

"What a strange man he is letting pokémon assault him."

"He's a trained professional. I'm more concerned with how he…"

"Doesn't wear a shirt?"

Damn straight. I get Alola's a hot region. Still, geez!

"I'd be found dead before doing the same," Colress said. Right. He donned a suit under his attire in Black 2 and White 2. Could that still be true here in Alola?

I wasn't about to pull a Silver to find out. "You must be sweating."

"I built a cooling mechanism into this lab coat."

I remembered now. Colress liked to make stuff. His inventions numbered over a thousand by the time of the Alola games. I don't think they ever made their way into anyone's hands aside from a machine to awaken sleeping Crustle. …Okay, well… There were the devices to fuse Necrozma and a box legendary. I came early enough into this timeline for him to have not completed those yet.

"Your inventions must be a hell of a lot better than whatever Dr. Kaminko over in Orre cooks up," I said.

"That bizarre inventor who lives in seclusion?" Colress took a moment to think. "I hear the people of Orre are never happy with what he sells them. Though I do believe the second hero of the region, Micheal, found a purpose for a robotic Kyogre?" He sighed. "I can't tell if Dr. Kaminko tortures those poor folks on purpose. A real scientist would never hand out defective products unless they had ulterior motives."

We went for a time not speaking.

I swiped at the steam coming from my cup. Trying to drink the cocoa right now would scald my insides.

Popplio chewed a piece of the old gateau.

I shifted in my seat. Eager to get the ball rolling again, I said, "There's a festival tomorrow. Not the kind I'm used to. I've been dragged to so many amusement parks I immediately think of rides when I hear "festival" or "carnival"... Or something."

Colress remained silent. His golden eyes stared straight ahead. He drank from his cup.

I pinched my nose. "Uh, sorry."

"What for?"

"Everyone on Melemele knows there's a festival tomorrow."

"I didn't."

Yeah, yeah. Sure. Reasonable. "Sorry. I'm no good at carrying on a conversation. People wouldn't want to talk to me if I said whatever the hell was on my mind. The only person willing to listen to me ramble is my little sister."

Colress lowered his cup. "Hold on a second."

I blinked. "What?"

"Don't take this the wrong way. I've dug into your domestic history. You belong to a prominent Unovan family, the Avenues, who are behind the creation of Join Avenue. Their interest in your success is what propelled you through college."

I tried to not let the realization show on my face. Join Avenue was a place I rarely made use of during generation five. I only started getting serious about the Unova titles after the official DS servers were closed, making Join Avenue pointless unless you visited it daily or connected to fan servers. Even then, the fanbase's fanaticism for Black, White, and their sequels deterred me from getting super invested.

"There's no record of you having siblings," Colress said. "Do you have a friend you consider a sister? Or am I correct when I say your prior history is, hm… Semi-false?"

Slapping the table, I shouted, "What?" I cringed at the sting spreading through my left hand. "You sound ridiculous."

Popplio squeaked. Another chunk of the gateau dropped from her mouth.

Colress' smile was the smile of someone who knew he won. Freaking bastard. "I know there was never an "Emelie" who was part of the Avenue family until this morning. I would be speaking with the authorities right now were it not for your already "extensive" history in this world. Wouldn't be a good look for me after all the mistakes I've made in the past. Thus I must ask how this happened. Do you have any clue?"

Good job, me. There went my masquerade. I might as well go to Professor Kukui and inform him my entire existence was a lie. "How should I know? I went to bed last night and woke up in another world. I got as far as I did today because of a paper packet I found while digging around my new home. I went along with what it told me to prevent having a mental breakdown."

"Fallers lose most of their memories upon entering another world. This wasn't the case for you?"

"I remember! Where I'm from, pokémon are fictional creatures based on animals, who have no magical powers and aren't as smart as humans-"

"Your point is you've always been aware of pokémon," Colress said.

"Pokémon is a franchise that started a couple of years before I was born. I was introduced to it around generation three, which gave us the Hoenn and Orre regions."

Colress took the time to think.

I sipped my cocoa to calm my nerves. Air conditioning did wonders for the drink's excess heat.

"The franchise made you privy to such things as Cosmog," he said.

"Pretty much," I said. "We got Alola, Cosmog, and everything else to do with them in generation seven. The franchise was drip-feeding information on Paldea, the ninth generation, when I left my world."


Our focus turned to the pokémon settled between us. The truth returned to slap me in the face. Colress wasn't the only soul privy to my past life. Gears were shifting and switches were being flicked somewhere in Popplio's head.

"I should've told you," I said. "I'm sorry. Finding myself in a whole new world and getting caught in a conflict between the professor and his assistant was a bit much for me.

"...Their argument hit close to home."

"She'd be better off learning this now than later," Colress said. "Trust is a vital component in drawing out the power of a pokémon."

"I'm aware," I mumbled.

Popplio nudged her old gateau.

I downed more of my cocoa.

Colress stared off into space.

"I'm all too damn aware," I said. "Just ask the overpowered affection bonuses in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl."

Awkward silence sucks.

"...Cosmog's final evolution depends on the universe it's in. You can tell which form it'll take by the name and symbol of Poni Island's altar."

"You mentioned the altars' names were Sunne and Moone," Colress said, stopping me with a hand. He surveyed a map he asked to borrow from the center's staff. "Poni Island has an Altar of the Sunne. Seems likely Cosmog's final evolution will be Solgaleo."

"Necrozma can't absorb the URS' Solgaleo and Lunala if they're kept inside their poké balls," I said. "I don't think it can hurt Nebby if it stays unevolved."

"Necrozma would still search for ways to return to its former self," Colress said. "Your foreign particles may attract its attention. Who knows what would transpire if it got you?" He squeezed his coffee cup. "Two years ago, I-"

"I've seen it happen!"

He pushed on his glasses. "A fusion?"

I gripped my kneecaps. There went my mouth moving before my brain. "In… In the "original" story of the generation seven games, President Lusamine was driven insane by a Nihilego's toxins around the same time her husband went missing. She fused with one of them at the game's climax."

"'Her husband'?" Colress thought aloud. Made sense for a Unovan to not know the backstory of the Aether family- "Ah! You mean her first husband, Mohn."

I could have asked him to slow his roll. I couldn't while leaping to the conclusion, "She's remarried?"

"I assume she never found another spouse in either of your known universes?"

"She left for Kanto to be treated for poisoning in one universe and quit pursuing him in the other."


"Who's she married to now?"

I wasn't prepared for the stare the scientist threw my way. He did a good impression of the family cat whenever he thought of jumping someone and was waiting for an opening.

I crossed a leg over the other. They locked tight.

"Would you mind telling me some more about this fusion of a woman and beast?" Colress asked. "What ensued when she was confronted?"

Sure. Why don't you throw my question to the wind? "She… She didn't attack anyone in her new form. Her pokémon fought for her as any trainers' would. They also seemed to be affected by the ultra beast's toxins."

His shoulders drooped. "How disappointing," he said. "Reasonable, nonetheless. She must have not wanted for it or her to get hurt." He huffed. "In another life, I would've been ecstatic to study her with no respect for her safety. True scientists would never stoop to those lows. Conducting science means having a code of morals. I lacked…"

'In another life,' he said. Another life. Why did those words stick with me when I could've been asking him to phrase his rambling thoughts in the easier-to-digest twenty words or less? I ended up here for unknown reasons. People other than Colress would insist I always existed. Could it be I was brought here for a reason, like reincarnating?

No. If I reincarnated, I wouldn't be in the same short woman body I had always known. The phenomenon of being sent to another world even without reincarnation had a foreign word for it. Isekai.

This immediately brought another question: I got isekaied? Hold on, now. Had I died? Why couldn't I remember my death?

"Emelie, you seem unsettled. Is something the matter?" Colress' eyebrow was raised. His coffee got pushed to the side.

Popplio's head dipped sideways.

"I had a stray thought," I said. "Probably wouldn't matter to you."

Colress shook his head. "Oh, no. Tell me if you think it's important. The smallest ideas can blossom when given a voice, I find."

Here I went. "I had this funny feeling," I said. "We know I don't have a fallers' signature memory loss. Is it possible I could've been brought to this world another way?"

"Do you mind elaborating?"

"There's this sort of popular book and TV show genre back home called isekai. Some characters are reincarnated and either keep or regain their memories. Others are pulled to new worlds as they already are. What if that's what's happened to me?"

"You're still emitting ultra wormhole particles," he said, shoving his hand into a lab coat pocket. His arm was halfway out of the pocket when he came to a pause. His palm left the pocket and he scraped his face. "Searching for them again is what I should've done before I spoke to you. My curiosity overruled my common sense… So I suppose we could put your theory to the test now if you'd like."

"Go away!"

I startled.

"What's the matter, tough guy?" another voice chuckled. "You lost. Now you owe me money. Give it up."

"Ple-please! I have nothing! I'm sorry I bumped into you! All I wanted was to have my pokémon healed!"

"Where's my prize money?!"

Colress left his seat. "Excuse me for a moment."

I shook my head and fetched Popplio from the table.

He smiled. "Well then. Let's go."

We stepped outside to a largely empty street. Two dozen street lights were lit along the linear path to soon cover for the setting sun. Hau'oli City's blacktop roads were cut in half by a dashed yellow line I hadn't noticed before. The games never featured any of the cars on the road. What reason would they have to depict real-world traffic laws? For me, this served as yet another reminder of the whole new world I lived in.

Several people stood in the middle of the road despite the dotted line's presence. Two of them, standing right in front of us with their backs turned, were dressed in similar dark clothing broken by the occasional white stripe or the caps on their heads. Silver chains hung from their necks. The guy on the left leaned forward. The girl on the right hugged an arm and brushed her neon pink hair with the other.

"I'll remind you again," hissed the guy. "I won our battle. Give me your money."

"Couldn't you tell Emolga wasn't in any shape to-"

"Shut up, you little brat!" roared the girl. "Ugh! Why don't you just rob him? We've had enough trouble with me having to cover for your sorry hide when you smack-talked that hiker."

"You shut up!" the guy said. "He looked at me funny. And I won this battle fair and square! Pay up!"

Somebody coughed.

I gulped.

Popplio shifted in my arms.

"No way!" the kid said. "Siccing your Raticate on us wasn't cool!"

"Put a sock in it before I give you a wedgie," the guy growled.

"I hate you both," the girl groaned.

Somebody coughed louder.

The trio's conversation came to a prompt end to focus on the door to the pokémon center. The glow of the building illuminated the rest of the folks involved in this impromptu gathering. A.k.a. a scientist, a seal- Or was Popplio a sea lion, oh geez- And me.

"Who the hell are you?" spoke the guy through the mask over his mouth.

"What seems to be the problem here?" Colress asked.

Feet pounded the pavement towards us. "He-help!" whimpered the small dark-skinned child who came into the light beside me. "They attacked us outta nowhere!" He showed us the small white-and-black-colored squirrel he clutched to his chest.

Popplio leaned over my arms. "Popp?" she said. Her pink nose scrapped the squirrel's dark ear.

Its eyes opened. White pupils locked on us. "Molga…" it whimpered.

She needed nothing else to leap free of me. "Popplio!"

"Whoa!" I said, watching her land on the ground.

Popplio tossed her flippers in the air to steady herself after landing on her tail fins. Once she gained her balance, she fell forward and glanced at me to give her first battle command.

The guy laughed. "Your Popplio wouldn't put a dent in my pokémon!"

My muscles clenched tighter than a nail fastened by a wrench. "Oh, yeah?" I spat. "How'd you like me to prove you wrong?"

He got a standard poké ball from behind him and tossed it to the ground. What emerged in the resulting light was a chunky rat with puffed-up cheeks. A Raticate. To be more specific, this was its Alolan form.

Before I could call for Popplio to shoot a water gun at the ugly rat, an arm got between me and the scene.

"I admire your willingness to fight," Colress said. "Your involvement won't be necessary. Leave this troublemaker to me."

Popplio glared as he withdrew his own standard poké ball from under his coat. She let out a sharp bark.

"Aw, someone doesn't want another child to get wrecked for overstepping her bounds," the dark-dressed goon said. "Take your wonky hairdo and go back to the lab where you belong."

Colress stepped forward. "My companion here is around your age if my glasses' in-built scanner is correct." He lifted his poké ball to his face. "I must further disagree with your other hypotheses. How I look is none of your business. I'm a freelance researcher!" He threw his poké ball at the ground. From inside, emerging in white light, was a metallic creature. Four legs on spikes carried its wide diamond-shaped head.

"Gro!" it barked.

"Wh-what's that thing?!" the little boy asked, reminding me that he was still here hugging his Emolga.

I both did and didn't have an answer for him. My mouth ran dry.

The female thug's eyes went wide. "Are you sure you wanna fight, dude?" she shouted at her friend. Her arms flung about an inflatable tube man found outside a car wash. "This mad scientist is packing heat! Your pokémon stands no chance!"

"Raticate!" called the male thug. "Use crunch!"

The plump rat jumped on all fours and dashed toward Colress' behemoth of a pokémon by comparison. Its sharp teeth opened wide. Their edges glowed with dark-type energy.

Colress pushed on his glasses. "Xavier?" he said. "Let's end this quickly. Meteor mash!"

"Gross!" his pokémon roared, taking to the air to meet its approaching foe. Spikes on the end of its front left leg glowed gray. Its other legs retracted into its body.

The force propelling Raticate forward prevented it from dodging in time. Metagross' punch struck it head-on. The poor rat went flying in the direction it had come from before slamming into the ground.

"Raticate!" both of the thugs yelled.

The man rushed to his fallen partner's side. He lifted its poké ball. Raticate's body evaporated into a stream of white light and slipped inside the sphere.

"What did I tell you?" the girl said, hands on her hips. "He's too strong for us. We should've run away!"

"I'm not a coward, unlike a certain someone who could've battled with me!" the guy groused.

"I'm no coward. I'm a million times smarter than you are!"

"Nuh-uh! You're a billion times dumber!"

"Should we stop them?" I asked, creeping over to Colress.

"They'll sort themselves out," he said.

His Metagross hovered over us. When beside its trainer, its legs emerged from its body again and it landed beside him.

"Good job, Xavier," its trainer said, putting his hand on its head.

"Metagro!" Xavier hummed, squeezing its eyes shut in a manner I found an odd sort of cute.

"Thank you, mister!"

We found the poor youngster still clinging to his weak Emolga and standing beside the pokémon center. His sandy face glowed in the doorway's leaking light.

"Not a problem," Colress said before inspecting the scratched-up squirrel's body. "You better get inside."

The boy nodded. "See ya!"

We watched the center's sliding door close behind him.

The duo who dared to mess with an experienced trainer still argued. Whatever the hell they were yelling about had devolved into pure gibberish.

"I'm surprised that odd fellow who lost a vacation home in Po Town wasn't here," Colress said. "He's been a fixture on the regional news for his antics with Team Skull. He and his Ludicolo have been following them wherever they go to rain on their parade."

Yet another thing not from the games! I guess foreknowledge couldn't take me far here. All it did, on reflection, was risk me getting into a fight with Lusamine over Cosmog and bring an ex-criminal scientist into the equation.

Hold on a second. My eyes grew wide. That's it! This ex-criminal scientist! While it was true I didn't know everything about this universe, I learned its peace was still threatened by Necrozma. Instead of everyone doing their own thing and risking the region losing its light, what if we could all…


Attempting to negotiate for Cosmog with my prior history would be a no-go. I'm pretty sure I wasn't brought here to get involved in Lusamine's familial drama. The people I used to live with were crazy enough. Could I get Colress to talk with her instead? I already gave him all the information I could on Cosmog. He had ties to the Ultra Recon Squad, the extradimensional folks I was one hundred percent sure were who Hala met today. Colress was in a good position to advocate for Cosmog's safety.

Were he to deal with them, how would I handle the other side of the aisle? Something could be, or was, off about Lillie. Professor Kukui and Hau would know the most about this alternate version of her outside her immediate family. Maybe the best course of action was to talk to her more by myself. I might have been too quick to jump to conclusions.

"You there."

I hadn't noticed the newcomer until now. She must have just gotten… Oh. Yep. I knew this girl and her pink and yellow pigtails. Her eyelids were garnished with heavy makeup. Her top was almost non-existent. This woman wore what amounted to a sports bra with intersecting straps underneath.

"I don't appreciate you picking on my friends," the woman hissed, her golden irises burning into Colress' matching pair.

"Maybe they shouldn't have been antagonizing a five-year-old," he replied. I respected his restraint. Being confronted without preparation wasn't my style.

"If I hear you're bothering them again, I'll give you a bad time."

Colress smiled for reasons unrelated to the woman's dumb yet funny words.

"Yeah!" the guy thug shouted. "You better leave us alone!"

The woman nodded at her friends. "Meet me at the dock. We're going home."

The guy wheezed. His eyes spoke for him when his facial expressions could not. They were backed by a, "Why?"

"What do you mean "why"?" the younger girl thug spat. "You already forgot what happened to Raticate?"

"Aw, come on! Big Sis could take on that robot 'mon. Let me watch."

His friend grabbed his arm. "We're going." She yanked on him with surprising strength.

They were gone before long. His protests still filled the air on the next street over.

Their "Big Sis" turned her back on us. "What's your name, lab coat?"

"Colress," he said with no hesitation.

"No one messes with Team Skull," she said. "I'll have my full team to even the odds if we meet again, Colress."

"Sounds great!" he declared in a cheery tone. He waved after her despite her having not glanced at us since turning away. "Goodbye!"

She huffed. Yet unlike her younger friend, she willingly walked from the scene of the crime. She turned the corner and, after giving her a few more seconds, maybe out of earshot.

I released the hefty breath I held this entire time. I wandered over to the Metagross. A giant "X" went through the center of its face. Two eyes reminiscent of the creepy moon from Majora's Mask stared into mine.

"Emelie," Colress said. "Would you know who she is?" He fingered his chin. "I've seen her before. I never got her name."

"She's Team Skull's second-in-command," I said. "Plumeria."

"Grow!" the Metagross bellowed.

Colress patted it over the head. "This is Xavier, one of my long-standing partners. While Metagross doesn't have definitive genders, mine favors being referred to as male." Now he regarded Popplio. "Does she have a nickname?"

"I was trying to name her before you showed up," I said. "I'm letting her decide if she even wants one first."

Popplio bobbed her head. "Popp popp!"

"I believe that's a yes," Colress exclaimed. "What kind of nickname were you thinking?"

"Something to do with music," I said.

"Might I suggest Adagio? Maybe Aria? Or Sonata?"

I frowned. This, let me say, was a deep frown.

He watched me with curiosity. "Why the long face?"

I bit my lip. "Hey. If you're not careful, I might start thinking you know more about where I'm from than I let on."

Adagio. Adagio. Adagio. Adagio meant "slow tempo". Opera, the theme behind Primarina's specialized z-move, could be slow. Hell, even boring. I remember being impatient for the move's animation to finish whenever I used a Primarina in the games.

…Uh, no disrespect meant toward my starter. What I meant to say is Adagio was now Popplio's name.

After an evening as eventful as this morning, Colress and Xavier walked us home. I was standing at the steps to the porch when Colress spoke again.

"I'll be returning tomorrow evening." Seeing my confusion, he flicked his gloved pointer finger in the air. "For the festival, of course! I wish to see what it's all about."

"O-oh…" I guess my rambling earlier wasn't for nothing.

"You'll be there?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"Wonderful! I'll see you then!"

When I blinked, the blond scientist man and his Metagross had disappeared.

Adagio glanced about. "Hm?"

I sank onto the porch steps. "That happened, I guess." This new universe wasn't about to let me take a vacation just because I ended up in pseudo-Hawaii. The "canon" I knew both broke itself and snapped at my hands. Tomorrow was bound to be full of more surprises. I would have to be ready for them. "I'm sorry you were led to believe I was, you know…"

Adagio clambered into my lap before I could finish my sentence. Two blue flippers were pressed on either side of my neck. Her big round head settled on my right shoulder.

I wrapped my arm around her and returned the hug. "Thanks, Adagio." Watching the moon rise from behind the ocean waves extending for miles ahead, I could never be any more sure I would settle into this new life. Everything from now on would be just fine.
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Chapter Three: Hau I Met My...?
Nighttime. My family consisted of night owls. They loved watching television or playing video games until the sun rose on a new day. I never could tolerate their noise and tossed and turned before sleep mercifully claimed me.

That was then. This was now. The sound of silence was deafening. Adagio snoozed while I lay in bed watching moonlight stream through the windows and stretch along the ceiling. I used the laptop on my new desk for a while. I was disappointed with what I found. Almost everything everywhere on this world's internet involved pokémon. Articles about training difficult-to-catch types like ice or dragon. Personality quizzes involving Eevee's evolutions or Vivillon's patterns. Surprisingly dull politics regarding the distribution of poké balls within the United States' pokémon equivalent, the United Regions, which included Unova, Orre, and Alola.

Man, what I wouldn't give to have access to my world's websites. Regurgitated discourse about politicians or old farts with the collective charisma of a chunk of chalk dunking on the latest trends got a million times more appealing when pitted against strangers arguing over what regional form of Meowth was the best for over one hundred forum pages. Funnily enough, this reminded me of the Cat Scratch Girl, the alter ego of the Sun and Moon player character's mom. I did a browser search for her when a fan of hers kept mentioning her misadventures across the Kanto region. There wasn't word on where she was in Kanto or if she had a kid. She might as have disappeared from the face of the Earth. Yet another deviation from everything I knew. Great.

After this, I decided my mental well-being at midnight was more important than wandering the internet. Wandering to bed again, I didn't expect sleep to come quicker with a bit of my curiosity sated. Maybe I would find more underneath the surface with a clearer mind tomorrow. Or maybe I would wake from a dream. Time to find out.

I forgot to shut the curtains last night, didn't I? I strained my tired eyes against the excess daylight pouring into the bedroom. Why was this familiar? When had I last…?

I sprang from the mattress. Tossing my legs overboard, they weren't met by a rug needing a vacuum I didn't have. Both feet hit wooden floorboards. On the bed lay a green blanket. There were multiple windows in the walls by the desk and chair on the opposite side of the room. The desk was cluttered with all sorts of neglected writing utensils.

I rubbed my eyes before reaching for the folded pair of glasses on the mattress. They got half-buried by my pillow. After putting them on, I got a better reading of the clock on the wall. 8:38. What surprised me way more was-

I'm still here. Yesterday hadn't been a dream. I'll admit I pulled a dumb move in trying to contact the Aether Foundation. As a result of my stupidity, the wrong, yet right, person visited the island. Colress was as friendly as he was in the video games. I would have to hope he stayed true to their portrayal of him.

I smoothed the wrinkles from my nightgown. Later today would be the festival. Battles were the main attraction based on the games and manga. Tapu Koko loved to fight. Adagio and I would have to be ready in case we were asked to participate.

I opened the bedroom door. Not fighting the yawn between my teeth and going for the kitchenette, I called, "Morning, Adagio."

"Good morning, Emelie."

I stopped in my tracks, recognizing its casual tone faster than I thought possible. I swerved for the table at the center of the room.

Somebody sat there. I would make a joke about his wrap-around hairstyle any time other than now. What was more important was his lack of a lab coat. Hidden underneath had been a slim man in a dark suit with thick ruddy blue trim.

What do you know? Speak of the devil and he doth appear.

Adagio sat on the table with her snout in a bowl. She hummed as she ate her pokéchow.

I crossed my arms. Yet again I got caught wearing pajamas! "I thought you left the island."

"In my haste to meet with you, I neglected to read the ferry schedule," Colress replied, pinching his glasses. "Quite unlike me to make such amateur mistakes. Nevertheless, the pokémon center's staff by the marina allowed me to stay for the night. Did you know their selection of drinks-"

"The reason you're in my house is…?"

He seemed unphased with me interrupting his blathering. Or if I did bother him, he refused to show emotion.

I shot my pokémon a glare for letting this happen. What this accomplished was leaving a twinge in my chest when she shrank. Now, I'm no morning person. Even I could tell I was being harsh. Redirecting my annoyance at the house guest, I said, "Are you saying you broke into my home?"

"No, no!" Colress said. "Adagio invited me inside."

"Let me get this straight," I said. "This cute sea lion." I motioned at her. "You know, who has these things." I mimicked her flippers with my palms. "Unlocked the front door."

He nodded.

" Okay, how?"

"Have you considered your new partner isn't less intelligent than you?"

"Why would she let you in?"

"To be fed."

"You gave my pokémon food."

"I have."

"You're in my house."


"Why have you come back?"

Colress pressed his fingers to his glasses again. I could tell he hid a facepalm. "I hoped to hold off on saying anything since you went through so much yesterday. After much consideration, I've decided it would be awful of me to wait to tell you."

If humans could use moves on each other, his words would have hit me like a confuse ray. "What do you mean?"

His golden irises seared through me like flames to a page. "What I told you about the ferries is a lie. Why don't we have a proper chat, niece?"

I snatched one last deep breath. "Let…" Damn it. All this air and I still couldn't speak a full sentence! "Let me get this straight. My father, this new guy I've never met, is your biological brother."

"Our family, the Avenues, are behind the creation of Unova's Join Avenue," Colress added. "It's thrived ever since a young lady from southwestern Unova became the manager."

Oh, great. A feature in the Black 2 and White 2 games I never used and didn't care about. "This means your name is Colress Avenue. You're my freaking uncle."

"Your uncle who is no longer formally associated with the Avenues for threatening lives in his pursuit of science."

I rested my chin in my arms. Holy. Shit. Should I compile a list of everything I found different at this point? I might need to. These surprises would never end, would they?

"I don't believe my- Our family knows I've been in Alola. Your stature amongst them is safe if you care for stature at all."

"Fuck 'em."

Colress cocked his head. "How undignified of you."

My cheeks warmed. "If I had dignity, we wouldn't be talking right now."

"At any rate, whoever has sent you to this world has made you related to me. I don't understand their reason for this. I'm not about to question them if this means Colton and Gwen succeeded in having a child in this timeline. I remember how they failed to conceive a child for months before my father gave up on them passing on the family name."

Colton and Gwen. My new parents. Where would I even begin dissecting this new information?

"I never gave them having children much thought," Colress said. "Our father, your grandfather, pushed us to "continue the bloodline" despite such things not being as important in this day and age."

Shoot. Sounded like my new grandfather must be a lot to deal with. Here I was thinking I'd be safe from unsound relatives!

"I hope these revelations aren't too big of a shock for you."

To tell the truth, they left me numb. I didn't move. I didn't speak. Dinner tables never seemed more appealing.

"These are strange times," said my new uncle. "I do look forward to learning more about you."

"How could you be so calm about us being related?" I asked.

"When am I not calm?" He got me there. I never saw him get truly upset over anything. The furthest he went was tranquil fury while dealing with Ghetsis in the Ultra titles. "I was as shocked by this revelation as you are now."

"What am I supposed to call you? Colress? Uncle Colress?"

"Whatever you feel fits, Emelie."

I rose from my seat and started for the bedroom. "I'm gonna take a walk."

"Mind if I tag along? Unless you need some time alone?"

"Arf!" Adagio barked.

I felt relieved the two of them couldn't see my face. I couldn't help smiling. Everyone I met here was super friendly. Other Pokémon fans would probably protest not already having a rival or villain they could punch in the face. They should follow my lead and get their own universes if they wanted such things.

Wait, no, I think what I said came out wrong-

"I guess," I said. "I'll be ready in five."

Closing the bedroom door, my mind swarmed with familiar questions. You know, like, again, how did I die in the first place? I wandered to a closet in the corner of the room knowing I couldn't sit here all day pondering. Life would move on long before I got an answer.

Having Colress for a relative would be cool, I guess? Maybe he would make up for the people I used to live with. 'Cause trust me, I've been associated with folks way worse than an eccentric who turned an entire town into an ice skating rink.

I grabbed a t-shirt. I sat there staring into its highlighted green leaves and golden bark.

My sister, the one bastion of sanity I turned to whenever life got me stressed, left the family apartment months ago to live with her friends and their cats. We kept near-daily contact over text messages. She, for sure, would notice me not throwing her a text or two after a couple of more days. I hoped she would be alright. Me too, having again noticed the odd quiet having no one to quarrel with brought to my home. Maybe I would find my way home to her someday. Or maybe I wouldn't. I only wished I could've said goodbye to her before, well, whatever the hell happened for me to get here.

A little while later, I left my room in the palm tree t-shirt and long pants. I had just closed the bedroom door when I noticed the empty dining table.

Adagio sat by the television watching a rectangular shape zip through the air. She barked at the thing as it generated teal sparks and giggled in a robotic tone.

"Turbo," called a voice from the other end of the room. "Stop bothering her."

The new pokémon pivoted to its trainer. On its stomach- If you could call the part on the machine it possessed a stomach- There was a circular door with a latch. An orange wire connected to the machine's rear swung about.

"Oh, hey," I said. "A Wash Rotom."

Turbo drifted over to me. Thankfully, it kept enough distance to not zap me by accident.

Relieved, Adagio left her spot.

"You took three minutes, Emelie," Colress said. "Impressive. Are you sure you're not forgetting anything?" He finished fixing the last button in his lab coat. Seeing him wear that heavy fabric again disheartened me. Why not wear the awesome suit without the stupid lab coat in public for once?

"We're going for a walk," I said, patting the pocket where I put them. "I'm sure all I'll need are my house keys and Adagio's poké ball."

Colress underhand-tossed something at me. "Here, catch!"

I snagged the item by a strap and felt it gently whack me in the knee. My other set of fingers stabilized my glasses before they were what ended up on the ground.

"I believe that belongs to you," he said.

I gave the bag a once over. In an exaggerated cartoon, my jaw could have reached the floor.

He strolled over. "I've never seen anything like the equine attached to the zipper. Is it familiar to you?"

The mentioned equine found its way into the palm of my hand. For the most part, she was purple. Purple wings, purple horn, purple torso, purple stripes in her mane and tail, and purple eyes. Additional streaks of pink in her denim blue mane and tail helped her stand out. A star-like mark surrounded by sparkles could be found on her flank.

"Yeah," I replied. "She's in a cartoon back where I'm from. The same thing you accidentally referenced yesterday."

"What about the bag?"

I flipped its red-and-black checkered pattern front to face me. "Guess this came from the other world too," I said. I unzipped the top compartment. The first thing I felt when sticking my arm inside might have been the size of my palm. I removed the smooth flexible item and held it up. "Hey."


This is where it hit me: I didn't have a decent punchline for the joke connected to the card sealed in the plastic. Would it still apply with how long it had been since I needed the thing to go anywhere back home? "Uh…"

Colress inspected the item. "Should I be concerned you're carrying a year-old vaccination card?"

I thrust the card into the bag where it belonged alongside a hastily unattached purple pony plush. "Nevermind!" I shouted. "Wrong thing!"

Kill me.


Kill me.

Ocean waves crashed against Melemele's cliffside. There weren't any clouds. Only blue skies and sunshine with a cool breeze blowing through a path shaded by palm trees. I walked through this trying my best to ignore the noise of kids howling in the background and the beeps and boops of the guy fiddling with his power glove knockoffs maybe fifteen or twenty paces behind me. My old bag dangled from my shoulder. Adagio's poké ball hugged my knee from inside my pants pocket.

I came to a halt at the top of the hill. The sea stretched for untold miles, seeming to meet with the sky along the horizon.

Colress quit playing with his gloves when he got into earshot. This man, I swear. He knew I hated the electronic noises. Not only were they constant, but I also didn't know what they were for!

"Is something the matter?"

I'd allowed my uncle- Geez, I would have to get used to thinking of him that way- To catch up to me. He sure read me like a book. Guess being over-analytical came with being a man of science or a freelance researcher or whatever the heck he wanted to call himself.

"You must've been doing tons of research lately," I said to him. "So you know, don't you? Um, about my… And the other stuff?"

Colress remained silent.

"I can't mask any of the symptoms. Sorry if I've been acting weird because I'm terrible at hiding-"

"I dare say what you're describing explains quite a bit." He put a finger to his temples. "Is a lot going on here?"

"Yeah, I guess," I said. I did speedrun jumping to conclusions with Lillie yesterday.

"Were you receiving help for anything where you came from?"

"I was in… In therapy. They knew all about what I've been dealing with…" I drifted from the path to the wooden fence keeping us from a fatal drop. I gripped the fence and tried not to peek right over the side. "I told them about me being, you know…."

I let him finish the sentence. For better or worse, he gave the right, and dreaded, answer. "Neurodivergent? Otherwise known as autism?"

Yes. Yep. Oh, yeah. There was the word. This man probably knew everything about me.

Slight pressure, like the weight of a feather, found my shoulder.

My back straightened at the touch. I didn't shrug it off.

"There's nothing to be ashamed of, Emelie."

"This is a whole new world to me," I said. "I'm worried about being ostracized even if everybody's been super nice. Like, what if I say or do the wrong thing and others find it super offensive?"

"Neurodivergence isn't a crime. They'll have to learn you're not on their wavelength and treat you with the same respect you've shown them."

"Alola, cousin!"

I turned around.

Another person climbed the hill while waving at us.

Colress readjusted his glasses. "I'd say you're already getting your long-overdue respect."

Professor Kukui joined the party. The first thing he did upon reaching us was look me over.

"Alola, professor," I said. "Everything okay with you?"

"I'm doing swell. I'm happy to see you enjoying some fresh air." The professor smiled today. Hallelujah, some semblance of normalcy from the people living here!

"You could use more vitamin d," Colress said.

There went the "normalcy". His comment got me glaring at him. Jokingly, of course! "You're one to talk with your darn coat. Don't you need vitamin d?"

He blinked. "I get sunburned easily."

"Aren't you sweating?" Kukui added. The sun wasn't hitting us directly and Kukui wore his hat, yet he squinted at the other man.

"My lab coat has a built-in cooling system," Colress replied, lifting a finger. "The water enclosed two layers beneath the surface is pumped throughout like human blood…"


I turned an ear toward the whispering professor. "Yeah?"

Kukui leaned toward me. "I didn't know he was in the region!" he murmured. "How'd he find you?"

"His associates," I said. "Hala spoke with them, not Aether."

The professor's stare hardened. There went the illusion of anything going right again. He seemed legitimately mad at me! Like, it's not my fault no Aether employees were around. It's not by my hand I ended up being related to freaking Colress!

But still… I couldn't bare to meet Kukui in the eye. "I-I'm sorry! Me talking with my estranged uncle may sound like a bad idea to you-"

"You two should work on your whispering. Just because I got going on a tangent doesn't mean I can't hear you loud and clear." Colress stood between us bowing his head at Kukui. "I understand you have your reservations, Professor. I thought unlocking a pokémon's true potential would mean abandoning my moral code. Unova as a whole proved me wrong.

"The Unovan League retaliated by forbidding me from returning to my homeland. My family has stripped me of everything except for my last name. Is what they've done not enough of a punishment? I'm to keep away from my only niece now?"

Kukui opened his mouth to speak.

Colress glanced at me. "Emelie, does it bother you I've reached out despite our differences?"

Way to put me on the spot! I hugged my arm, unable to bear meeting anyone's gaze. "You surprised me. When we went for drinks and you wiped the floor with those Team Skull grunts…"

"Team Skull was here?" Kukui said.

"I let them know I wouldn't tolerate their tomfoolery," Colress answered. "Your region has suffered enough between Aether's questionable choices in recent years, Ula'ula's poor conditions, and Poni Island's Tapu having not chosen its next Kahuna. Many of today's youths are disillusioned with the island challenge as a result."

I swore Kukui's eyebrow twitched. He kept a smile on his face.


"Nebby, please!"

His smile inverted.

This was when fluff brushed my ankle. Considering my background, maybe I should have recognized the feel of animal furs. Not the case here. I involuntarily jumped at the touch, feeling a sensation creep about like a spider decided I would be perfect for climbing. Heart pounding, I lifted my leg and yelled, "What the fu-"

"Pew!" again cried the living nebula clinging to me by its ear tufts.

"Nebby!" yelled the girl who dashed after it.

"Lillie?" Kukui called.

His assistant gaped at him, out of breath. "Professor!" She took in the rest of the scene and spotted me balancing on a foot staring right at her. "Emelie?"

"Pew ew!" Nebby shouted.

"Cosmog?" Colress said.

"Help-" My face? Met grass. Ow.

There was movement behind me. Gentle rustling of the grass. A small fluffball crawling to my chin. Ordinary golden eyes located mine. Finally, "Mog cos?"

I clasped the ancient pair of glasses that somehow didn't fall off my face or misplace the loose right-handed glass.

Lillie settled on her knees beside me. "I'm sorry! Are you alright?"

Hearing her concern... Aw, boy… If she was the same as ever, except for being much more interested in helping Nebby, what terrible things would have happened if my questions reached Lusamine?

"I'm fine," I reassured her, settling on my butt.

"I concur from what my radars can tell," Colress said, approaching.

Lillie gasped. "Wh-who are you?"

The rogue scientist put a palm to his heart. I half-expected him to launch into an Unovan mockery of the United States' allegiance to the flag. "My name is Colress. You must be President Lusamine's daughter."

Her eyes grew wider than discs. "You're not here to take Nebby away, are you?"

He shook his head. "There's no need to fret, Miss Lillie." He motioned to me. "I'm ninety-nine point five percent sure you've been acquainted with Emelie? She informed me of your situation. I'm here for any data your Cosmog could provide my research."

Lillie's expression seemed to ask, 'Are you sure this is a good idea?'

Professor Kukui shared her look.

Even Nebby seemed uncertain.

"Hey, Uncle Colress?" I said. "You're not winning them over. Do you mind elaborating?"

Colress' nostrils flared. "Ah, certainly!" he exclaimed, however. "Are you familiar with the Ultra Recon Squad? They are who asked me to develop technology capable of-"

"They don't care about Nebby's well-being," Lillie cried. "Neither does Mother!"

"On the contrary, it's the Squad who came to me regarding you two."

"What about Lusamine's husband?" Kukui mumbled.

"I can assure you they don't approve him either," Colress said. "He's even less trustworthy, I hear."

Kukui surprised me by tightening his posture. His eye bags didn't seem as bad when shielded by his cap. "Hearing this is a massive weight off my shoulders, yeah. I'm not convinced I…"

"I trust Colress." I got everyone's attention with those words. To my detriment, my cheeks warmed from even Nebby staring at me, its mouth in the shape of an "o". "He could help with my assignment. I mean, he's wanted to uncover the potential of pokémon and my assignment is finding how moves play into that sort of thing, like return and frustration. I think he's changed for the better ever since what happened back home-"

"Slow down, Emelie," Kukui said. "What happened to your old friend's "twenty words or less" rule?"

"You can't blame her," Colress said, nodding at me. "It's not every day you find a long-lost relative."

"...Yep," I added. "If the rest of the family disapproves of us working together, so be it. Besides, who's recommended for me to move here?" Why did I grin? "Oh, you know, Professor Rowan? Not them." Why did I sound excited?

Pure unadulterated laughter.

I shrank. Damn it, Emelie! This is what happened when you didn't pay attention to your voice! "Um… Sorry."

"Look at you with the confidence boost!" the professor said.

My face must have gone beet red. I scrambled to my feet.

"Confidence is nothing to be ashamed of," Colress said. "Why, it's what we all should have."

Let me make a slight correction. I went tomato red. "You guys… You all are crazy nice, you know?"

"That's Alola for you," the professor said.

I jabbed a thumb at Colress. "Uh, he's Unovan."

"If I may, could I make a more accurate statement?" Colress asked. He didn't wait for any of us to let him continue. "How about… 'Compassion makes the world go 'round'?"

"Uh, no? Love does."

Me and my dumb mouth did a great job of making me look stupid. Imagine my surprise, or lack thereof, when Colress got his fingers, pushed them to his glasses, and left them there covering his eyes.

"Ex-excuse me, Mister Colress?"

He stopped facepalming. "Yes?"

Lillie vacated her spot on the ground. Hugging her pokémon, she made a beeline for the scientist. "This…" She hesitated.

"Cos?" her pokémon wondered aloud, flickering to her in concern.

Lillie patted the small creature. She then held it out for Colress to see. "Th-this is Nebby. I rescued it from my mother."

"What do you mean you "rescued" this specimen?" Colress asked, frowning. "You stole a component from-"

"Nebby's not a "specimen" or a "component"! It's a sentient being like you and me!"

He blinked, otherwise unphased by her outburst. "Ah, sorry. I'm… In my old mindset again. Why would you take this from your mother?" Right there, he gave me a better question: why ask when he already knew the answer? To get Lillie's point of view, I suppose?

"Mother tortured Nebby!" Lillie said. "She wants to cross the multiverse with powers none of us understands! I was there when she last tried to open a wormhole with Nebby's powers. It could die if she tried again! I've been trying to help it get stronger so it could…"

"You've been going about this wrong. Nebby can't get tougher on its own." Oh, classic. There went me saying dumb stuff and getting the whole group's attention again.

"What do you mean?" Lillie asked.

Uh, random bullshit, go! "You've been taking Nebby places in the hopes it can defend itself against the local wildlife, right? Cosmog, based on what I've been told, has no means of fighting other than struggling or running away.

"There are tons of different ways of raising a pokémon who can't fight. Take Magikarp, for example. Most you find only can splash about doing nothing unless you train them alongside other pokémon species or a Magikarp that can defend itself. Your weak Magikarp will then learn to tackle opponents on its own and get going towards becoming a Gyarados."

"To summarize, Nebby could watch and learn from more capable pokémon," Colress said to Lillie's bewildered expression. "Better than putting it in the line of fire, wouldn't you say?"

"Peew!" In an unexpected turn of events, Nebby bounced from Lillie's arms and into the air. We all watched as it zoomed on over to Colress.

"Nebby?" Lillie gasped.

I blinked for a bit. Cosmog could fly, right? Or float, I guess? Weren't those the same thing? Kind of, maybe? …Oh, whatever. Thinking that through wasn't worth the energy.

Nebby hovered by Colress' head. He followed its path until it got behind him.

"Cosm!" Saying this, Nebby poked at the blue strands in his hair.

"Nebby, stop!" Lillie shouted.

"No, no," Colress said. "It's quite alright." He plucked Nebby from the air wearing a bright smile. "Why, hello there!"

Lillie held her breath.

Nebby chirped, its ear tufts wiggling.

He nodded. "I look forward to working with you, Nebby."

It gestured with a tuft at his head. "Hm?"

He reached for his cowlick. "Oh, this? We all have ways we express ourselves, don't we?"

"To help Nebby, I should expose it to battles without either of us getting involved?" Lillie squeezed her hands. "I can't stand watching any pokémon get hurt."

"Wasn't it you who left Nebby in Ten Carat Hill with a hostile Lycanroc?" I said. "You've put Hau in danger like twice by being irresponsible. Nebby and he could've died either time. You're lucky nobody was seriously hurt by your recklessness-"

"Emelie," Colress said, his voice rising. "Enough."

Huh…? His words succeeded in returning me to the present, where I found Lillie's chin buried in her chest. She sniffled.

Crap. I gripped my sleeves. In the silence did I then hear my previous words.

"I'm sorry!" the young girl whimpered. "I never meant to hurt Hau or the professor or anybody!" She squeezed her eyes tight. "I'm… Not cut out to be a trainer."

Oh, Emelie. You absolute dumbass. First, you chanced summoning Lusamine and causing a shitstorm. Now you made a child cry. Good going, girl. You're pulling real surrogate big sister hours here. Alice would be so proud of you, wouldn't she?

I glimpsed a set of slanted eyebrows. While the man next to me didn't speak, I knew what he could have put with words. Why did I stick my nose in business I got second-hand accounts of? What was wrong with me, telling off someone who had many years left of growing up to do?

Lillie sniffled again.

As everybody's focus returned to her and Professor Kukui went over to speak with her, I just… Turned away. I had my fill of social interaction for the day. Look where it got me.

Due north of Hau'oli Outskirts would be Iki Town, home of Kahuna Hala and his family. Maybe they would let me help with their festival preparations? I'd do anything to leave this moment behind.

One of the others yelled. I didn't bother listening to what they were saying. I spent most of my time here so far either around others or sleeping. Why didn't I ask Colress to leave me alone? I would have only needed Popplio in case a wild pokémon attacked me.

Ocean wind assaulted my heated face. I could feel my hair waft like a mound of serpents. I crammed my lungs with fresh air. Weirdly enough, there was pressure on my left shoulder. I brought my opposite hand over to scratch at the annoyance.

How could I have known the annoyance wasn't an itch and instead a foreign entity? By the time I figured this out, they wrapped their funny-feeling fingers over mine.

"I'm afraid I'm not letting you leave yet," Colress announced. His tall figure blocked the sun from shining on my backside. He dropped my hand, leaving me free to make my next move.

…Steel-toed shoes worn by a steel-type expert. Fitting.

"You won't be going anywhere if you don't acknowledge I'm speaking to you," he said. How would he stop me from leaving? By pulling an invention of his out of his ass?

"I'd rather shut up," I said. "I upset Lillie by being stupid. Keep me around any longer and I might drop an f-bomb."

"This isn't about Lillie. I do sincerely hope you don't curse at me for what I'm about to ask of you... Do you react like this whenever you're chastised for your behavior? Is this your fleeting solution to a continual problem?"

"Why do you care?" I spat. "You want to tell me, 'Emelie, you need to learn how to handle objections better. Oh, you have an objection? I disagree with your disagreement!'" I began walking again. "We have nothing to discuss. What I've gotta learn is to keep to myself. Sorry for the outburst."

Walls of golden light flared from the ground. They were wide enough to reach the sides of the hill and long enough to trap the both of us inside. The wind died upon hitting the front barrier.

Darn. He did pull stuff out of his ass.

"You're having quite the strong reaction to being reprimanded," Colress said. "As a researcher, it's my duty to uncover the "why" behind my subject's behavior." He considered me to be a science project. Great going, Uncle.

I put my back to the barrier. The makeshift wall felt like a glass pane.

"This is a newer invention of mine," the man announced. "I call it Colress Machine No. 1189, the Reflector. Most anything to hit this barrier bounces off. Most anything kept within these walls stays until the device is deactivated."

I slid to the ground. There would be no point in raging against a well-built machine or whatever else Colress hid within his literal sleeves.

"I have no intention of freeing you until I understand your train of thought," he said. "We established earlier that you are neurodivergent. I assume this played into your overreaction?"

"It's been five minutes. You still won't talk? Fine by me. I'll revise my earlier statement. You won't be leaving until this conversation is a two-way street. I believe I merely told you to stop. That's all I heard it as. What did the warning sound like to you?

"Did you feel I directed anger towards you? Upsetting you wasn't my intention. I meant to out you for being unnecessarily irate."

"Lillie got somebody and Nebby into danger," I said. "I can't overlook what she did."

God damn it. When I countered the statement, Colress smiled. "You forget she's a child. She may have made mistakes, but it's clear Nebby means much to her." His back met the wall by me. "I assume you aren't accustomed to being made the "bad guy". There is no such thing as true black and white viewpoints. We are much more than two colors."

"Says you. You're two letters short of being called Colorless."

"I do persist along a gray spectrum, don't I? Same goes for you, Lillie, Professor Kukui, and everyone else who lives in this world. We are neither black nor white, but hues of gray and grey. You are not the scum of the Earth for one little slip-up. The fact you assumed I thought you're an awful human being for a single slip-up says a lot about who you are."

I huddled against the barrier. "I don't want you thinking I'm disrespectful. I guess- I guess my thoughts came out all wrong. I'm not equipped to deal with someone else's problems. Back home…"

A long silence ensued.

Colress broke the lull. "I imagine this dramatic change in setting has been nothing but whiplash. Would you say it's what has made you respond in kind?"

"I don't know."

"You must've been snatched from your world at a tumultuous point in your life. Seems you haven't gotten a proper break from the action. I'm quite sorry the professor and I haven't taken into account your need to process these unwelcome changes."

I wouldn't say all of these recent changes were "unwelcome". Some of them seemed great! I got given a purpose other than listening to shrill infants and foreign languages on a loud living room television and people complaining about someone else when not engaged in a Skyrimesque shouting match. I could transition to a new stage in life as Alice did months ago.

Hell, Alice's up-and-leaving intensified all of the problems our house suffered. Risqué clothing she never took with her yet wanted us to keep robbed us of valuable closet space. I kept being badgered about the extra bed in my room. People got mad at me for Alice choosing to never speak to them. Their abhorrent behavior towards us drove her to flee in the first place. I could only imagine the turmoil caused by my disappearance.

They could take care of themselves. Probably. I'm no longer Emelie the Apartment Hermit. I'm Emelie Avenue, the daughter of Unovan elite and niece of a dude with a silly hairdo. Time for me to move on and embrace what a world of pokémon had to offer.

"Could I ask you to go into detail about your old life at a later date?" Colress inquired.

"'Later?'" I echoed.

"When you're more comfortable with this life. I don't want to rush you into anything. My associate- Another associate of mine, my apologies. I have many of them. It's been years since I've last spoken to her. I have no doubt she will be interested in learning about this alternate dimension where pokémon are fictional. You may know her as Professor Burnet, Kukui's wife.

"Ah, well, I believe we've sat here long enough. I'm overdue for a cup of coffee." He unveiled a television remote-like device from behind his back. The barrier disintegrated with the press of a button. "What say you to another excursion to the café by your new home?"

"Emelie!" Right about then, a boy came racing towards us waving a red-and-white sphere in the air. "Alola!"

Colress' curious eyes flickered between us.

"I met him yesterday," I said.

"Funny I found you out here!" the green-haired boy shouted. "I was gonna ask if you wanted to- Oof!" He tripped on what seemed to be nothing.

I shook my head.

He picked himself off the ground and lifted his poké ball back in the air. "I'm okay!"

"I'd wager this is the boy Lillie has been depending on?" Colress commented. "He doesn't seem like the hero type." His head did a bit of a tilt. "Wait a second. Isn't he…?"

"The Kahuna's grandson?" I said. "Yep."

And that's Hau how- Erm, how Hau joined us for breakfast at the pokémon center on the eve of Melemele's festival.
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Chapter Four: Hau the Mighty Fell
Just a little over a half-hour to go before the start of the festival. To my surprise, the streets were quiet when I chose to wander the straight-lined streets of Hau'oli City. Most of the folks living in the high-risers and beach-front homes here must have been preparing for tonight. Hau went elsewhere hours ago after deciding what he wanted to tell me could wait until tonight. Colress told me there were "private matters” for him to attend to before likewise disappearing. This meant I would be alone. I didn't mind one bit. These people had to let me have "me time". Or should I call it "me and Adagio" time since the only other soul around was my pokémon? I needed her in case the local wildlife picked a fight.

This city consisted of straight roads leading to three different exits. After a quick check of my bag, I found I had the funds to throw at stuff. Or, you know, I'm pretty sure I did. Currency in Pokémon, or pokédollars, differed from the American dollar by also being based on the Japanese yen. I could go almost anywhere or do almost anything I wanted to within Hau'oli with the medium-sized wad of bills I found in a fabric wallet with a coconut design. That's how I ended up at the marina watching the waves lap its concrete shore. Sightseeing didn't cost money. Better to save what I had for an emergency if I couldn't spend what little I found on stuff I wanted.

All I could have ever wanted came from my old life. I'd been having to mourn the internet culture I’d always known. I lost much more than social media, group chats, and virtual therapy sessions. This world wouldn't have my favorite video games. All the amazing music I listened to would haunt me for the rest of my days. No one I knew came here with me from my previous life. I failed to realize I had been truly alone until now.

I hearkened to the waves. Their crashing and splashing against the port left little room for silence. Towering clouds drifted like ships through the sky. Fading sunlight grazed the ocean. Distant cries of bird pokémon could be heard in the distance circling areas of interest.

"Pli lio?" called Adagio.

I hoisted my partner from the ground. I brought her to the railing protecting us from taking a plunge into the sea. Above us, marmalade skies darkened to denim shades of blue high above the sinking Sun. Ocean waves splashed the sides of the marina, their pull influenced by a rocky body yet to have risen to replace the Sun.

I savored the salty winds. "Feels weird saying this… I kinda miss home."

She made a questioning noise and dropped her flippers over the metal bars.

I sighed. "I miss its familiarity. The counterparts of the things I knew back home feel like shoddy knock-offs. Like, an open-world game with skill trees where you play one of a few nationalities with historically aristocratic blood and a great destiny? Is it Pokéquest Ages V: Unova? Or is it The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? Common folks who pick fights with uppity nobles for imposing strict taxes with the addition of pokémon don't enthrall me. Being a bloodthirsty warrior delving into dangerous ruins and getting into shouting matches with power-hungry lizards? Hell yeah! All Pokéquest is, is a reenactment of stuff I learned about in history class. I'm done with school.

"You know, everything's about pokémon here. Most problems can be solved with the help of a partner. Doesn't it seem weird we depend on you guys so much?" I looked to Adagio for an answer.

Her eyes rolled.

"Us humans are way more independent back home. Animals aren't one hundred percent necessary to function in normal society. We don't pit them against each other in battles. That'd be abuse! Animals aren't intelligent like you. They're frailer, which means they bleed easier-"

"Arf, arf!" my partner cried.

Yep. You're crossing the line. Stop rambling so much. It's about time for you to shut up and learn how to soak in the environment.

…Ugh. Damn it, Emelie. Why were you being hard on yourself?

We dwelled at the marina. Nature's melodies continued all around us. The seas crashed against the obstructing pier. Gusts of wind wailed through my hair. The occasional splash came from the water. I swore I heard the 'Aye, aye, aye,' whines of a Psyduck mixed with the cacophony of red and black birds searching for dinner. Shadowed fish shapes lunged to and fro to evade the hungry birds. Several Pikipek would succeed in catching slim cyan fish and speed over to the island with their catch. The other birds and their Trumbeak elders were content to fly about with stuffed beaks until they found suitable prey. Then they aimed and fired a load of something into the water.

The Sun departed, finally. Dusk dimmed the oranges and blues of the sky while adding tinges of purple. The ceremonial battle would be underway judging by this. Sneaking into town while the battle distracted the islanders would be a good idea. I could settle in and learn what they offered other than fights and dancing.

"We should head for Iki Town," I said. I withdrew Adagio's poké ball. "You're ready to go?"

"Oh-ho-ho! This is where you've been hiding?"

I jumped.

Lampposts lined the ledge above this abrupt gathering. The old guy who joined us stood beside the middle post's glow. Arms hidden by an oversized robe laid folded. I swore his gaze trained on me and me alone.

"Kahuna Hala?" I gasped, pushing at my crooked glasses. "Shouldn't you be in Iki Town?"

"I would be if it weren't for you pulling a disappearing act," he said. "We're about to run behind schedule."

"Which has to do with me, how?" I said, blinking. "I'd rather go on my own time."

Hala rubbed the back of his neck. "About that. I've wanted to ask you about partaking in the ceremonial battle."

I blinked. There's no way I could have heard him wrong. My hearing was leagues better than the rest of my senses.

"Your grandfather's projects have benefitted trainers and common folks alike across the United Regions," he said. "I reckoned I'd ask you to lend me your family's star power. You could bring more attention to the Island Challenge by battling Hau."

Hold up. Me? Get in front of a crowd to fight a kid? I opened my mouth. I zipped it shut right before I could speak. I swallowed the irate words I wanted to hurl at Hala for disrupting the plans I'd already made for this evening. Getting upset over a simple request wouldn't do me favors.

I returned to watching the birds gliding above the sea.

"Poppi!" my pokémon exclaimed. She leaped from my arms to approach Hala.

He laughed at this, followed by a grunt when he bent at the waist to pluck the small sea lion from the ground. "You're in good spirits, Popplio."

"Her name's Adagio," I said.

"Hmm, I see. I quite like it!"

I half-shrugged. "Me too. Though it wasn't my idea. I got her name from…" No, Emelie. You're swimming in unfamiliar waters. Don't mention him. "A passerby. Sort of just happened.

"You're serious about this? You know, wanting me to take part in the ceremony and all? Is Tapu Koko okay with me having no ties to the Island Challenge? How many people are gonna be watching? I don't think I could-"

"The entire island's focused on Iki tonight," Hala said. "All of Alola will see the battle by tomorrow."

I gulped. Didn't anyone tell this man I wasn't a people person? Deep down, I wanted to say, 'Kahuna, I don't know if you know this, but I've got no social skills. You expect me to put my awkward self in front of an entire island and figure out how pokémon battles work at the same time?'

My mouth didn't get ahead of my brain, for better or worse. I've never been famous even by association. I opposed putting in the work unless it were for an on-the-spot and poorly thought-out idea. Popularity would be an additional stressor on top of the daily craziness I stumbled into. Wouldn't it lead to more scrutiny and, were I to make the tiniest of errors, bullying?

Come on, Emelie. You needed to say something before he dragged you anywhere. "I'm sorry. I'm not sure about this idea of yours. Cameras and I aren't a good combo. I'd rather run and hide than be subjected to scrutiny."

Hala watched me. His expression blanked.

I couldn't bear to stare back. If he was mad, it would be best to keep my head down and let him vent those frustrations. Wouldn't be the first time I’d been used as a punching bag.

He exhaled. "Hanini."

"Hm?" Adagio squeaked at the kahuna.

Hanini? What the hell did "Hanini" mean? I swear if he cursed at me in Hawaiian or something…

"Emelie?" Hala said. "Would you allow this old man to ramble? The folks in Iki can wait. We've kicked off the festival at stranger times than right after nightfall."

I clung to the railing. This was not what I had in mind when I thought of punching bags. "Um, sure? What's up?"

For Hala, speaking his thoughts took time. Enough time for us to leave the marina and return to the streets of Hau'oli City. We kept to the flat gray path at the side of the main road. Or, you know, the sidewalk. Sure didn't remind me of a sidewalk other than it keeping us from being bowled over by a stray traveler and their Tauros.

I brought my palm to my pocket. Though I had always been a Pokémon fan and loved carrying tiny figurines in plastic poké balls as a kid, having a sentient creature who could fit within a ball felt weird. I could whip it out and she'd leap from its innards in a flash of light. Maybe my family would have taken our cat to the vet more often if my world had Pokémon 's technology. He fell way behind on check-ups because we couldn't store a carrier in our cramped household.

Putting my musings aside, Hala stopped beside a brick wall and waited for me to catch up to him. This guy proved quick on his feet for his age. I couldn't say this surprised me. He did represent fighting-types in the Island Challenge.

"Eleven years ago, the Ka'uhane household welcomed a new family member," Hala said. "Aolani's pregnancy went extraordinarily well. I should have taken this as a sign of the things to come. But I got distracted by a recent falling out with a student of mine and failed to dive below the surface. Life became tense in the months after Hau’s birth. His parents got restless. Hau's father spurned his family when he could… More so than his youth, where I'd constantly find him hiding from crowds and failing to make public appearances with the rest of his family during special occasions and the like."

"I understand," I said. "I'm always doing the same."

"As my hunt for you proved," Hala replied. "My son has always struggled with interacting with others. I know I cast a broad shadow as the island's Kahuna. My family is scrutinized for the actions they take in their day-to-day lives. Hanini suffered great anxiety from being under a constant spotlight and feeling as if he had to maintain the image of flawlessness."

Funny. This guy seemed a bit like me. I often got anxious if I got ultra-invested in being the "perfect writer". There's no such thing as a "perfect writer" yet I kept obsessing over the tiniest flaws and details. Hence why I hadn't made a dent in the lined papers on my desk I figured to have followed me from my old life.

"Along came the night he fled for another region entirely," Hala said. "Hanini didn't tell us where he was or what he was doing until he settled into a new life. Our conversations were terse, if not heated. His boy would grow up without a father unless I stepped in to help raise him.

"Never paying attention to Hanini's chronic anxiety haunts me to this day. I often fear I've lost my touch as a parent and a Kahuna when Hau makes mistakes and I have to correct him. If I'm harsh, the boy may burst into tears instead of listening to me. All I can see when it happens is Hanini and his struggle to make a name for himself."

Man, did he make parenthood sound awful. Good thing I never planned to have kids. I'm way happy taking care of pokémon. They usually seemed to start with child-level intelligence.

"Are you here for a science project, Emelie?" Hala asked. "Or is this an attempt to escape relatives you wish to disassociate from?"

Gah! How could I answer him? It's true I've had problems with my folks. Those particular folks came from another life. I knew nothing about my new family other than what the paper packet and Colress told me. "Hon-honestly, Kahuna Hala. The fact I've got famous connections doesn't factor into my relationship with them as much as my emotions do. My grandm- Grandpa is… A bit much. I've been waiting my whole life to get away from him because…"

"Us old folks don't know when to step aside and let the younger generations live their lives?" Hala finished. "I never encouraged Hanini to be himself and put him before a region that holds a lot of respect for their leaders."

"Ex-exactly," I gasped. "I'm in a constant struggle to understand who I am while others ask me to play parts in a play I can't memorize. I need the space to be me after years of being demeaned as a person."

Hala thought. “I…” After he was given a moment, he bowed his head. "I understand. Though you fled for different reasons, you and my son have suffered much. I apologize for not asking your feelings on the matter. You won't have to use your "star power" if you don't want to."

I dismissed the breath stuck in my throat. Thank. The. Tapu.

"Now I wonder who'll be Hau's opponent in your place. Who might stir as much excitement from the denizens of Alola as a noted foreigner?"

I smiled. You see, I got a brilliant idea the second a figure in white emerged into the city lights from the distant darkness of Route One. "Why don't you ask the Professor? I'm sure he knows a cool guy or two who could fill my shoes."

Crowds swarmed the dirt roads of Iki. Most stuck to the center of town. Food and craft stalls representing local businesses distributed free samples and or entertained children while their parents busied themselves at makeshift bars. Other folks played loud, obnoxious carnival games like Pyukumuku Toss or Wack-A… White Diglett?

Hau called them Wiglett. No, they weren't Diglett despite their similar appearances. Nor were they native to Alola, which already had regional variants of Diglett and Dugtrio. I watched a gang of teenagers grow frustrated with the elongated, automated creatures and figured Wiglett must have come from Paldea. Funny how I got stolen away before I got to properly know the newest region. What could I be surprised by next? Would a Paldean starter's final evolution walk on four legs instead of two?

This wasn't the time to ponder such things. I should be enjoying this moment. Seeing the sights, trying new things, and maybe getting to know the residents. Where could I start? What was the point of doing anything now when the battle would begin once tonight's special guest arrived?

The Kahuna's home could be found in the westernmost corner of the loftiest part in town. At the center of a nearby patch of sand sat a wooden platform with stairs on either side. The crowd, sizing around a small army, jostled for front-row seats. I'd fail to describe the surge of happiness I felt knowing I wouldn't be shoved in front of these people. The battle would instead be between two well-known Alolans.

This year's featured trainers would be a child with famous connections and a mysterious man who worked his way to stardom with the help of his pokémon at Akala Island's Battle Royal Dome. This mysterious man was available when I asked Professor Kukui. Lucky for me, he knew a guy. A friend of his would love to promote the Dome at the festival. What better way to get attention than satisfying Tapu Koko's hunger for battle?

Hau waited for me beside the arena. Rowlet perched on his shoulder while he hugged a flaxen-colored mouse. I'd known about his new buddy since this morning. He wanted to surprise his grandfather by bringing her into his first trainer battle.

"Are you excited?" he asked me. "I'm excited."

"Yeah," I said.

He wobbled on his toes. "You don't seem excited."

"Would I have to whoop and holler while bouncing like a Spoink to tell you I am?" I asked.

"What a tremendous waste of energy." Right as this was spoken, gray flashed in the corner of my eye. Turned out a certain guy with a funky cowlick had been hanging by the entrance to the path leading to the Tapu's shrine.

I shrank. 'Cause geez, "Where'd you come from?"

He greeted me with a dissonant smile. "I've been standing here this entire time." He followed those words with a sip from one of those fast-food cups lacking a top or a straw.

"Mr. Colress!" Hau shouted.

Colress lowered his drink. "You don't have to refer to me as 'mister' "

"Professor Colress?" Hau said.

"No," he answered. "I lack the credentials to become a professor."

"Doctor Colress?"

"Correct! I'd prefer it if you simply called me Colress."

There was a jab to my shoulder. Startling with a straightened spine, I almost reprimanded the kid who scared me. I held my tongue on the verge of unleashing a curse. You know, not the fun kind where you get turned into a pokémon after messing with a Ninetails.

"He's a doctor?" Hau mumbled.

"Doctor means two different things," I mumbled right back at him. "In his case, it means he's highly educated."

"Correct again!" Colress declared, flinging his pointer finger at the sky. "I spent years in college learning all I could about science. I graduated at the top of my class with the highest marks." He moved his finger to his cheek. "Except for debate. Funny how when I hear about her now, she's unable to sway voters to give her the spot on the Board of Unovan League Event Coordinators she's always wanted. Goes to show we can't always predict what the future holds."

Hau glanced toward the entrance of town halfway through Colress' rambling speech. Rowlet's head dipped whereas Pichu's ears and limbs drooped.

"Hey, kid?" I said.

"Yeah?" Hau answered.

"I'm gonna hang for a bit. I'll swing by to watch you fight later."

Six sets of eyeballs descended upon me.

"We're not battling?" Hau asked.

"Did Hala tell you I would?" I wondered aloud. "I-I can't, I'm sorry. I'm not confident I'd keep my cool. Popplio hasn't seen her first fight yet, so she was to start by going against two pokémon with type advantages over her…" Seriously. What a terrible way to begin your trainer career.

"It's okay!" Hau said. "Who's gonna battle me instead?"

"Somebody super cool," I said. "He wants to promote his battle facility here."

"Speaking of which," Colress interjected. "Is this mysterious person masked? My sensors indicate such an individual has just entered town."

Hau gasped. "'Ma-masked'?!"

Some woman screamed.

"There's your answer," Colress said. He took a sip of his coffee.

The town filled with chatter in seconds.

"It's him?"

"No way!"

"What's he doing here instead of Akala?"

"Oh my gosh! This was so worth the wait!"

"I saw him fight Battlefield Beast at the Dome last week!"

Hau raced forward. Before I knew it, he and his pokémon had abandoned us to ogle the stranger.

"Uh, good luck!" I called after him.

"Thanks!" he yelled before disappearing behind a tall and ugly-looking bear.

"This should be interesting," Colress said. "They say no one knows who he is under the mask."

I brushed my messy curls until they congregated over my shoulder. "Oh, I know. Want me to tell you?"

"Why spoil the surprise? Or should I say the lack thereof? The sensors I've built into my glasses are seldom incorrect."

"Okay, Doctor. Tell me what your sensors say about this man."

Colress pushed his glasses to the bridge of his nose. He held them there.

I waited.

"Hmm, let's see," he muttered. "To begin with, he's got an above-average height. His cellular structures indicate he is in his early thirties. Interestingly, he has a similar build to someone I've recently met. I can't get a good reading of him aside from his mouth and facial hair. I've seen a similar patch-"

"OH YEAH! Party time!"

My joints locked.

Colress didn't budge a muscle.

Holy hell, it took five seconds. Five seconds of us being distracted for the guest of honor to jog across town.

"Hello," Colress said. "Your devotion to remaining fit is commendable."

I took this opportunity to slip from the other man's sight. Being in the proximity of Colress' coat always felt strange. Cool air stuck to it like metal attracted by a magnet. Any of it which managed to escape blasted me when I got behind him.

"Whatcha doing staring at me like you'll be penning an essay paper?" a deep, serious voice inquired of the researcher. "There's a time and place for everything. Not now!"

"I apologize, Masked Royal," Colress said. "When you're devoted to science like I am, the crusade for answers to the questions stuck in your head is neverending."

"Why's she hiding?" said the Masked Royal.

"My niece? I propose the hypothesis that she has a crush on you."

"Colress!" I groaned.

He sported a serene smile. "I'd best grab a front-row seat before his legion of fangirls swarm the arena. I'll be sure to save you a spot, Emelie." Leaving those words to saturate the drying atmosphere, he and his refrigerator for a coat stepped into the growing crowd. The guy straight-up abandoned me!

"The professor informed me you're the young woman who should've gone on stage tonight," the Masked Royal said.

I fixed upon the yellow lightning bolt at the center of his mask. "You and Kukui must be good buds, huh? Good enough, I haven't seen him since I got here."

"The professor is occupied," Royal said. "He won't make it tonight."

"Is he busy?" I said. "I get the feeling he, or rather you, are lying. Who wouldn't miss the festival?"

His boisterous laughter attracted the attention of bystanders- Oh God, no! Bystanders? They gathered in a ring around us. My cheeks warmed faster than a Rapidash reaching its top speed within seconds.

"I sure hope the real reason why you asked for me to fill your shoes isn't to accuse me of being your awesome professor." Royal chortled. "Who'd believe you?"

Voices filled my head with nonsense. Their words lost meaning despite most of them being spoken in English. My heart pounded. Let's say my inner emotions were personified. Fear slammed the panic button and begged for their life. Their panic prevented the rest of the emotions from rubbing their brain cells together. Their absence left me numb with dread.

"Since you're confident you know who I am, why not screw your courage to the sticking place?" Royal said, slapping a hand to his chest. "Fight me.”

Are you kidding me? What's the big idea? I asked Hala and Kukui not to let my first trainer battle take place here! Did they forget? Or did the Masked Royal not get the message?

"Sorry, I'm gonna have to refuse," I said. "I'm not about to do something I’m going to hate to get an answer I already know."

"You won't battle the Royal?!" Hau darted from the crowd, bewilderment written all over his face. His Pichu barely managed to cling to his shoulder. Rowlet flared his wings while clenching his trainer's dark green hair in his talons.

"Royal's your opponent, kid," I told him.

He shook his head. "You've gotta fight him! I'd be cool with you taking my place."

"I've got no horse in this race," I said.

"Come on!" Hau whined, clasping his hands. "Please?"

I sighed. "No."

"Please?" he pleaded again.


His pupils seemed to sparkle. "Please, please, please, please, please?" He stooped towards me.

I scowled. Didn't anyone teach him to not invade personal space. "No."

"Please, please, please?"

I shut my eyes. He would have to leave me alone if I ignored him for long enough.

"Come on!"

"You can't refuse a trainer battle!"

"Do it! Just do it!"

"You better win and unmask him!"

Right. How did I forget about the crowd? These absolute strangers stuck their noses where they didn't belong.

"Please?" Hau said.

With him adding his plea on top of the crowd's squealing, I trembled like a shivering wet dog. Why this? Why me? This could have been avoided had I bailed when Colress made his escape.

"Emelie's your name, yeah?"

"Ye-yes, sir," I answered the Royal. I'd be crazy to flee now. "I guess I could try…"

The Masked Royal gazed into the faces of those who surrounded us. He thrust an arm upwards. "Everyone!" he shouted in his low voice. "I appreciate your excitement for the upcoming match. I must ask for you to leave Emelie be. You won't get the awesome battle you've been waiting for if you're breathing down her neck."

The crowd's reaction was immediate. Their attention went from me to themselves. They split into little groups or played with their electronics. I could hear faint beeps and boops coming from across the battle stage.

"Hey," Hau called to his gramps, who returned from a brief stop at his home. "Where's Kukui?"

How could anyone be this oblivious? I could be the only one here who knew the truth within five seconds of meeting the Royal. "Thanks for getting them to back off," I said to him. "I could've…" I didn't want to think of what would have happened next. Who would treat me differently if they knew I couldn't cope with the abrupt onset of stress?

"Not a problem!" Royal rumbled. "Could I ask you a favor in return?"

"Ye-yes, sir?" Why did I get the feeling…? Right. I wouldn’t have needed another four years of failing college to have guessed how he would’ve responded.

“You’ve gotta fight me!” he cried, a fist pounding his chest.

See? No doctorate needed. Why this? Why anything? I could have been hiding in the safety of my home learning more about the new internet culture I would have to adapt to. Surely not all of it had to do with pokémon. We as a species couldn’t have grown co-dependant on them.

“Why me?” I said. “Why?”

“‘You’re an Avenue. People already know who you are.”

Kukui, you’re an asshole. I thought I’d be in the clear after my talk with Hala. Did he run this by the Kahuna? I should’ve known I would hate being part of a famous family. People may only want me for my “star power”. Exactly what “star power”? Could I be famous for being a walking embarrassment? I couldn’t think of how else I’d be notable outside my forsaken relations. “I’m pretty sure they don’t know me.”

“You don’t know them it seems,” Royal countered.

Why would knowing strangers be important? Strangers were impossible to work with. I already spent day-in and day-out trying to appear “normal” to them.

“Your parents must have sheltered you more than we all realized. You’re unaware the world knows and accepts you’re different. You won’t be mocked for taking the stage and showing us more of who you are.”

He couldn’t be right. Nobody cared about people like me. We were weirdos they could mock because we didn’t vibe along the same wavelength. They found it easy to overwhelm our senses and mocked us whenever the chance arose. We deserved nothing except to rot out of sight and mind being an anonymous, well-adjusted human being on the internet while they enjoyed a wonderous world tailored to them from birth.

“What if you’re wrong?” I said. “What if who I am here is too different from who I am back home?”
Royal flexed a muscle. “You shouldn’t be masking who you are. Besides, masking’s my job. I’m not letting you take it from me!”

“Ma-masking?” I’d heard the term before. Meant you’re hiding your true self for whatever reason. But…

“Somebody has a problem with you being yourself and you’re hurting no one? Not your problem. They’re the problem.”

“Problems sure don't know when to take their issues elsewhere,” I said.

“Not your problem!” Royal shouted. “You’ve gotta be you or you’re never gonna be happy, yeah.”

I slipped my fingers into my pocket and let the red-and-white object inside roll about my palm. I’d been pretty sure I already knew who I was. I liked being alone and did my own thing most of the time. Except something changed recently. I let myself be vulnerable yesterday. I finally did the thing my therapists always asked me to. I sat outdoors and interacted with passersby and settled into returning greetings after a short while. Nobody made fun of me if I messed up. Not one of them laughed. They treated me with respect without expecting me to return it. Did they know who I was? Did my status protect me? They let me be me nonetheless, I guess.

“What’d you say, Emelie?” Royal said. “You’re gonna spurn those negative thoughts trying to protect you from nothing and fight me?”

I squeezed my partner’s pokéball. Feeling it swell felt strangely comforting. I rotated the enlarged sphere until I located the button at its front. Once I accomplished this, I yanked it free of my pocket, held it to my face, and found my reflection in its shiny exterior.
Adagio must have heard our conversation. Most pokéballs were meant to carry her kind, not contain them. She could have left its safety at any point to give us her opinion on the matter. Since she didn’t, she must have known what I’d say or do next. She agreed with my decision.

I could do this. I could go onstage. I’m not alone as long as I have pokémon by my side. We could do this together. Was this why this world was obsessed over them? ‘Cause I thought I could understand their obsession. I, too, loved pokémon. What I didn’t see until now was how they were the perfect friends to take with you wherever you went. Find yourself at a disadvantage anyway? Befriend more of them!

“Fine,” I said. “I’ll get on stage with you, Masked Royal.”

“Yeah!” he bellowed, fist pumping. “That’s what I like to hear!”

I somehow kept from flinching at his increased volume. “How exactly are we doing this? All I have with me is a Popplio.”

He nodded. “We’ll make it a fair fight, yeah? I’ll rely on my trusty Rockruff.”


Royal shouted over the hubbub of the festival-goers. “Hey, Kahuna! We better get this party started! She’s up for doing it after all!”

“Is she now?” Hala boomed from somewhere in the background. “Best I get onstage and kick us off!”

Geez, Emelie. This sure would be a big leap for you. Did you know what you were getting into?

“Really?!” yelled Hau, who seemed to materialize beside me carrying a box. Logos featuring puffy pink Slurpuff who replaced the cherry-like sphere at the top of its head with a half-eaten treat emblazoned its sides.

“Ye-yeah,” I replied. “I’ll be fighting the Masked Royal.”

“Awesome! I wonder if he’ll remove his mask if he loses to you. His Rockruff’s a rock-type and your Popplio’s a water-type. This should be easy if you-”

“He probably won’t take his mask off,” I said, slinking from Hau and his crazy burst of enthusiasm. “This isn’t gonna be a Battle Royal Dome match.”

Hau deflated like a balloon losing its helium. “Oh, okay.” He presented the box to me. “Hey, before you go. You wanna malasada?” He flipped the top to show me a line of flat pastries sprinkled in sugar. “They’re fresh!”

“Don’t mind if I do,’ another voice spoke. Fingers in a gray glove snatched the furthest pastry wrapped in a paper sheet to the right.

Hau stared at the empty spot with me. “Uh…”

Colress was right behind us with the taken malasada. “This is a sweet-flavored malasada?” he said. “Doesn’t seem much different from the sour and dry-flavored kinds they sell on Akala Island. However, when I take a bite of this, I should be assaulted by a-”


The scientist smiled despite me yelling and pointing at him. “What?” he chuckled scornfully. “He offered.”

“Alola, good people of Melemele! Tonight, here at the Full Power Festival, we celebrate the founding of our island under the watchful eye of Tapu Koko. We usually have two trainers about to embark on their Island Challenge here to show us what they’re made of. While it would delight me to watch my grandson Hau battle anyone willing to fill the void of the missing trial-goer, he has stepped aside to allow another to take his place.

“This year, the battle will be between more experienced trainers! I’m glad I’m able to introduce them to you all. They weren't hard for us to get a hold of considering our circumstances…” Hala kept talking and talking, delving into the topic of “today’s amazing trainers”. He mainly spoke about the Masked Royal, who I knew waited on the opposite side of Hau and him.

Whatever Hala might’ve told us after mentioning the long win streak at the Battle Royal Dome which made the Royal a household name didn’t stick with me for long. I stayed by my set of stairs and folded my arms tight. When was this speech gonna be over? Why would he delay the inevitable?

“If you’d like my opinion on the matter,” Colress said, walking over to stand by me. “You’ll do fine.”

“Think I’m having a hard time trusting those words of yours,” I said.

“I haven’t been wrong thus far, have I?”

“Guess not.”

“If you cannot trust me, although I don’t see why you wouldn’t, trust yourself and your pokémon. You’ll be fine.”

“I ask you to now welcome the Masked Royal to the stage!” Hala hollered.

Cheers erupted from the crowd.

The Masked Royal waved at them. He scaled the steps to the stage with the agility of a Regieleki.
When the cheers died moments later, Hala continued. “Our other trainer hails from another land.”

I drew breath.

“Her family, the Avenues, have funded dozens of projects across the United Regions. The most famous of these ventures lies within their home region of Unova. I understand there are those of you who may distrust them after what one of their number did in the service of Team Plasma.”

Colress swallowed a piece of his malasada. “Never will live it down, will I?” he sighed.

“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with Coltere Avenue’s granddaughter twice before this moment,” Hala said. “She has been nothing but considerate to those around her.”

Not true. What about Lillie? I wouldn’t be surprised if she lacked confidence in me. I could be a source of information on Nebby. No, things in life couldn’t ever be simple. I went and told her off when she tried whatever she could to help it.

“Because of her manners and her years of studying pokémon, I’m of the belief our other participant has the makings of a great trainer. This is why I have given her a partner and she has been put against the Masked Royal.”

Yeah, “studying pokémon”. I did so much “studying” to get to where I was now. It’s not like I got almost twenty years to “prepare”, got inserted into this world, and was now expected to live like I always belonged here.

“Now, please join me in welcoming Ms. Emelie Avenue to the stage!”

It was time. I climbed the stairs before me, not even sparing a glance for my uncle. I took note of each step. I couldn’t rush and risk getting a concussion by tripping over them. Worst I could do otherwise was act like a child with three brain cells dedicated to stray thoughts having nothing to do with this moment. Why yes, Emelie. Why not roleplay a Skyrim bandit about to croak from being struck by the flat end of a warhammer? You could lose a simple battle against a shirtless man and his dog while alienating Alolans for not making an iota of sense.

“Hey, isn’t she the girl who…”

“She’s his granddaughter?”

“I could’ve sworn the Avenues carried themselves with more…”

No, Emelie. What were you doing? Don’t listen to them. Nothing mattered more than the fight you were about to get into. You could do this. You could survive having your first battle against a trainer here. You’ve gone through worse than public scrutiny, haven’t you? Didn’t the scrutiny of one person or a small group of friends or family matter more than an entire island?

Once I saw the pokéball held by my opponent, I lifted my own. I caught my likeness on its surface again. Her eyebrows sloped in such a way even I could tell she felt apprehensive. Her pupils, right behind a pair of glasses with black and blue frames, darted about seeking whatever her sensitive ears latched onto. Whispers of her name accompanied the yearnings of the wind and the crackles of torches scattered about the area.

I slapped my partner’s tiny home into my other palm. Though its weight wasn’t much, I felt comforted having it with me. We could do

this. Me and my partner. We were going to kick the Masked Royal’s ass. Just one thing stood in our way: a pokémon which advertised

its typing in its name. Piece of cake.

“Without further ado…” Hala called.

The Masked Royal took a wide stance.

“Let the battle…”

I copied him and drew back a pokéball the size of my fist.

Hala tossed an arm up. “Begi-”


Adagio’s capsule slipped from my grasp. “Wh-what the…?!” I stammered.

“Up there!” a woman yelled. “In the sky!”

The… Sky? Sure enough, trailing the eyes and outstretched necks of the masses, I found the strange hole suspended right underneath an incoming patch of altostratus clouds. Cracks brimming with light poured from it together with a net-like pattern.

“An ultra wormhole?!” I said. Ignoring the minor changes until this point, this universe was similar to what I knew. What in the world would cause a…

My side of the stage bounced. Adagio and I were met with a swift-moving older man. “Emelie!”

“Colress?!” I gasped.

“You?!” shouted somebody in the crowd. “You’ve got something to do with this, you no-good scientist?”

Colress didn’t react to the deprecating comment. “You’re not going to like what I’m about to tell you,” he told me. “Neither am I since it means the loss of valuable research materials. It’s got to be done!”

“The wormhole,” I said. “It’s an ultra beast, right?”

He clamped a hand on my shoulder.

“...Right?” I said.

“I wish it were,” he said.


Members of the audience were backing from the unfamiliar entity hovering in the heavens. More joined the growing second crowd as the hole dimmed from the jet black humanoid being floating in its center. Its coloration seemed as dark as the blackest of pits. The part where a face should have been, if there was one, showed markings of nine different pigments.

I got the strongest urge to go with the crowd. Run, my instincts said. Do not tussle with the freaky alien!

“Darn it,” Colress said, clutching his fists. “What’ve I done? I should’ve destroyed it when I had the chance.”

“‘Destroyed’ what?” I asked. “What do you mean?”

He shook his head. “Give me your bag. Now!”


I still couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. The various mediums Pokémon used to tell its stories never agreed on if this creature was an ultra beast. I couldn’t remember off the top of my head which did and which didn’t. Why would it matter at a time like this? The only thing that did matter was its name.

“Necrozma!” I said, flinging my arm free of a bag strap. …Wait. Something didn’t make sense. When people went through ultra wormholes, they radiated its particles. Except Colress asked for my stuff. How could they be shedding the particles instead of me?

“Emelie, he may know what he’s doing!” the Masked Royal bellowed. “Give him the bag.” He sent a pokéball flying at the stage. “I’ll distract this creature to the best of my ability!”

Out came a tall red-and-black-furred bipedal feline. It flexed its muscles and hissed at the unfamiliar pokémon.

“Hoku and I will help!” Hala said, throwing another ball into the ring. “Hau, get out of the way!”

“Go-got it!” his grandson yelped, leaping from the stage.

Hala’s partner shouted an ardent, “Yama!” as the light faded from its girthy body.

I’d pressed my bag into Colress’ arms when he said, “Kahuna, your Hariyama won’t do much to Necrozma. It’s a-”

“Larry, go at it with a flare blitz!”

Royal’s Incineroar leaped at the intruder. Stunning orange flames surrounded its body until it reached the arc of its jump.

Necrozma swooped out of its way and lifted its left claw, which glowed a malicious purple. The claw swiped at Larry and managed to strike it on its side, sending it tumbling for the stage.

Colress yanked me towards him right when Larry landed on its feet and claws in front of us. His other glove returned from my bag with a small, dark slab glowing gold from the picture of a Pikachu on its home screen. I recognized the various apps in folders labeled after their primary functions. I’d thought I’d never be so relieved to see the miniscule static image of an orb with a fox wrapped along its bottom half.

“My phone?” I cried.

“We have to destroy the one device which binds you to your old life,” he said, eyes hardening.

“Bu-but!” My phone?! I’d spent ages curating a music playlist. All of my hard work down the drain because of a…

“I’m sorry.” Without much else in the way of fanfare, he dropped the phone. It made a dull thump against the stage. Transfixed, I could do nothing except watch him lift his iron-toed boot and smash it against the phone’s fragile screen. One strike with the foot and some of the chalk white cracks I’d hoped to never see on its screen appeared. At two strikes, the cracks advanced from the center in a spider web-like pattern. Three strikes?

I couldn’t bear to watch.

“Flare blitz!” Royal called. “Again!”

“Incin!” Larry replied, leaping back into the battle beside Hala’s Hariyama.

Their trainers rushed behind them, effectively putting themselves between us and Necrozma.

Royal’s Incineroar surrounded itself with flames and jumped after the cosmic parasite.

Necrozma darted from Larry’s reach. The world around it distorted like a morning fog settling into a valley.

Colress’ foot came down on my phone once more. He mushed the broken pieces and made them scatter. “It’s summoning another portal!” he announced.

No sooner after he had spoken, a second ultra wormhole opened near where Larry landed. This spat boulders of varying sizes into the arena, aimed at the fire-type trying to get on its feet. The speed at which the boulders were launched struck it head-on. To its trainer’s surprise, this tossed it into the forest beyond Iki Town.

“Larry!” Royal yelled after his companion.

“Emelie! Mr. Colress! Watch out!”

Hau’s warning didn’t come soon enough. By the time we’d spotted the danger, the crystalline shape of Necrozma floated inches above our heads.

Colress plucked a poké ball from his lab coat.

I dared to peek at the ball I’d dropped. Like it or not, my starter wouldn’t make a difference in this fight. I relied on two men and ‘mon with years of experience and they failed to stop this creature from reaching us.

“I’ve demolished the very thing you were hunting,” Colress said, cold as ice. “There’s nothing for you here. Leave.”

Necrozma growled. Its voice, when it didn’t shriek, matched a low baritone.

“Please, Necrozma,” I said. “I… I know you’re in pain. But you can’t go around attacking others!”


When it screamed, it succeeded in doing more than searing my eardrums. The entire front side of my body spasmed. I-I… The world devolved into shapes and colors as if I’d been put on a whirling amusement park ride. I think my glasses fell off. I couldn’t be sure what else was happening other than the pain spreading along my spine and a bunch of shouting in the background.

Something firm and flat grabbed at my forehead and pressed into me. Was this… Pain…? Oh God, yes it was. Absolute pain, searing into my torso, in my back, in my skull. My skin simmered. Hairs stood at attention. Their pained cries would be more than enough to make me scream if I could. My mouth wouldn't move. My nose wouldn't flare. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to move. My arms locked in place. My legs wouldn’t obey me.

Light! Li-light!’

Light… Who wanted… Light? Why were they screaming at me like I could provide them a… No. I knew what they needed and why they needed it. They survived by devouring light. Light was their only source of food. But who was I? I wasn't… Somebody, was I? I knew I wasn't Necrozma. Necrozma and I were two separate beings. Necrozma atta- No, I was Necrozma! What was I arguing with myself? She had no authority over me! For as long as I could remember, I was… Was… I’m… Nec… Eme…?


Slowly, surely, I became aware of the overgrown grass field where I laid stomach-first. Leaves in towering trees rustled in the aftermath of a strong gust of wind which splayed my hair all over the place. I trembled, my mind shooting straight to remembering the roughness of a level surface being pressed to my forehead. What happened there? Where was I? Why couldn’t I move? None of my limbs would budge. Only my darting eyes, heaving lungs, and disbelieving mind would obey me. Whatever happened after that shriek from another creature, it ended with me immobilized.


Somebody spoke to me? Somebody was here?


My lips outlined a word. ‘No,’ they should have answered. I succeeded instead in giving them a short-lived whimper.

“...hat...ar…do…? Ge...way…!”


I growled in my throat. Some sort of persistent electrical din buzzed all about me. I lost my glasses when I hit the ground, giving the world further than right in front of me a slight blur, like the bulky guy in a long yellow robe standing between me and a floating creature with giant claws.

“...’re…a…stra…one ar...u? You…on’t…lay..lon..on…gra…!”

Necrozma screeched, overpowering the constant buzzing in my ears.

Hala stumbled backwards. His arm rose, shielding his face. “It’ll…ake…more...to kill me!” he yelled. He tossed back his head. “Hau, move!”

“Tutu!” Hau yelped, jumping into view. I couldn’t muster the strength to lift my head and get a proper reading of his face. What little of his features I found, like the collar of his shirt with a small loop over his chest, got smudged with a variety of darkening colors.

“Get…here! …ie…be…ay!”


“...be…ine! Go!”



An orange and yellow shape slammed into Necrozma’s blurry form.

Necrozma roared.

I couldn’t help but shiver. My vision closed in on itself, losing sight of the fighters, who clashed with a crash.



Two blurs, one red and the other blue, rushed by. The red’s footsteps shook the ground. The blue’s body whirred like a car on the highway, sending my hair into a frenzied wave for a couple seconds.

Necrozma shrieked. This horrible, horrible note echoed in my head, lingering longer than the rest of its god awful noises.

“T… Look out!”


Ever been tackled by a friend? Maybe an excited dog? An out-of-control truck? Or maybe a wrestler with a girth you hoped would never be used against you? I’ve slammed with at least one of those over the course of my life. Let me tell you now, and to have it serve as a reminder to myself: never get on the old, big-boned dude’s bad side. Except for when he gets thrown at you involuntarily. Neither of you could have predicted the hungry monster who came from an ultra wormhole to commit a couple of murders.

With me being unable to move, the unfortunate Kahuna slammed into me. I’d never know what part of him struck me in the face. What it resulted in was me being pushed into the ground against the root of a tree. My chest and stomach burst into infernos of pain. There was the scratchy touch of fabric against one of my arms and rough bark scraping the other. I clenched my muscles unsure of which of the two competing feelings felt worse to experience. This was on top of Hala crushing my right elbow and the discomfort I felt in my midsection.


Hala sprang from the ground. The poor old guy wheezed. I watched as he threw an arm in front of where I laid, his palm balling into a fist. He yelled at the monster, “If…thi…I’m…na…you…inue…rt…the…ple I…you’re…ely…aken!”

Necrozma raised its arms. Dark energy surrounded its claws. The outer layers of the attack being prepared radiated crimson.

“...eor mash, now!”

Xavier the Metagross, formerly a blue dot in the sky angling himself for his next trade of blows with Necroma, hurtled towards it. He never got the chance to get close.

Tapu Koko and Larry the Incineroar rushed in right when Necrozma’s attack finished charging. Tapu Koko’s body crackled with electricity. This made no difference when Necrozma’s attack struck the ground and exploded into a column of bright light, engulfing everyone nearby.

God. The pain. The fucking pain. Electricity sizzled in my eardrums. My entire body went limp. A million cells screamed and were silenced by the encroaching darkness. I laid there trapped in the darkness behind my eyelids. This would be how I died, wouldn’t it? I got to live a dream. I just didn’t deserve to have it stick.

Hala yowled. The ground thumped.

“Tu… Eme…!”

The sky rumbled.

“Where are…?!” the Masked Royal shouted. “Get back here!”

Larry bellowed an exacting sentiment.


Somebody else snarled. They hurried towards Hala and I. “Ka..!” they- he said. “Are you…? Can…me? …Emelie?!”

The wind picked up.

Colress grunted. His hefty glove swept across my forehead. “Royal!” he said. “The worm…clos… I-it’s leaving! Call for…! Emelie seems… But Hala…”

“Tutu!” Hau wailed. “Wake up! …me!”

“Co-coooooa!” Following this, the air whirred.

“It’s gone,” Colress said. “They’re both…”

“Tutu!” Hau cried. “Please!”

I could feel the pain in his voice overpower everything I felt in that moment.. My heart swelled for the poor kid. If Hala wasn’t doing hot, what did it mean for me? I couldn’t exactly think about this while my consciousness teetered on the edge of darkness. I squeezed my eyes with determination to stay alert.

“You there!” Colress shouted. “Call for…! I’ll do my best to sta…Hala’s…ition!”

Determination couldn’t save me no matter how hard I pushed. Darkness came and swallowed me whole and blanketed my awareness. The sounds of the world faded… And so did I.
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