Chapter 6: Back in Alola 2
Morning light speared through the open roof of the cavernous grove that was known as Verdant Cavern, where rushing water carved out the stone into paths and left the moist cavern rich in moss. Ilima and Hau, with their Smeargle and Incineroar respectively, entered in the wee hours of the morning, just after sunrise. In each of their arms were baskets of berries, two in the case of Incineroar, gifted from the nearby berry field to feed the Pokémon there.
“Just set them down in front of those dens,” Ilima said, pointing towards the entrance of three large rocks hollowed out by powerful fangs as his Smeargle went off towards a different one. “Those are the dens where the Yungoos live. I’ll set the one by the entrance to the Totem Den.”
“You got it, Captain.” Hau turned to his starter pokémon and gestured his head towards the other two dens in the back. “Can you get those for me?”
The Incineroar nodded and lumbered towards the dens, leaving the Kahuna’s grandson to head towards the remaining one. Once he set it down, Ilima whistled loud enough that the piercing and shrill sound resounded throughout Verdant Cavern. A breath later, out came the hungry hordes of Loitering Pokémon to swarm the baskets for berries.
“These little guys weren’t around when I did my trial,” Hau said as he watched them go at it. Some ravenously bit into the berries with their sharp teeth, tearing open the skin to devour the ripe interior in a frenzy that left their cheeks and noses covered in juices. Others, older ones, seemed to take the berries and bring them inside of their den. “What happened to the Rattata?”
“They’re in the dens that we’re leaving alone for now,” the Trial Captain explained. “My trial is the only one on this island since it serves as two instead of one, depending on the time of day. It also means that I’m responsible for keeping both the Rattata and the Yungoos in check. If I don’t feed the Yungoos during the day and the Rattata at night, they’ll start attacking each other and the Totem Pokémon will get involved.”
And when that happened, he was also the one in charge of quelling their violence. It was the duty of the Trial Captain, appointed by the Kahuna, to oversee the Totem Pokémon. It wouldn’t do to have them go on a rampage.
“Wow, so you have to do the work of two Trial Captains, huh?” Hau whistled as the Yungoos continued taking their fill until a pair began to threateningly chitter at one another over an Oran berry. It then turned to squabbling as they howled at one another, and finally violence as they began to nip and scratch at each other as an entangled mass of fur and teeth. “Whoa! Calm down guys, there’s enough to share!”
Hau managed to snatch them both up and hold them apart by the scruffs of their necks as they continued to flail about until a larger one came out and screeched at them. They immediately stopped struggling and instead sulked as best Hau could tell. To be safe, he set them down on opposite ends. They began to hiss at one another again, but the larger one hissed at them in warning and that settled them down for good.
“I admire your dedication to keeping the peace, but that was somewhat risky,” Ilima warned him. “Those teeth can do some real damage, even though the ones around here have been semi-domesticated so that they know better than to attack humans. It would have been better to have one of your pokémon calm them down.”
“Good point.” To his credit, Hau looked somewhat abashed as his gaze shifted to his starter Pokémon.
The male Incineroar, Kamala, was watching curiously as some of the Yungoos carted their berries into the Totem Den, while the basket in front of it was already empty. Then his ears twitched and his head wheeled around towards the large moss rock. The Heel Pokémon began to lumber over until the Yungoos, all of them, stopped what they were doing and began to threateningly hiss towards him.
“Ah, what’s got them all riled up?” Hau wondered as they began to leap forward, just enough to try and drive the Heel Pokémon away. If that didn’t work, they would begin to attack. “Kamala, come back over here. We’re not here to pick a fight.”
Kamala let out a low, guttural sound that bubbled up in his throat as he gave the rock a piercing glance with its emerald eyes. As chill as he was as a Litten, he could get vicious in a serious fight.
“C’mon, buddy,” Hau called again. “They’re not going to be much of a match for you. You really want to pick on a couple of Pokémon that don’t even come up to your knees when we’re getting ready to face Elio and the Elite Four?”
Kamala huffed, not at all intrigued by the prospect. He sought challenge after he’d evolved. So he turned his back on the Yungoos and made his way over to his trainer.
Ilima watched the scenario unfold with his hand on his chin, observing their behavior. “How strange. I could understand if they were being territorial with the Rattata, but this is a first.”
“Maybe they’re just antsy because they’re hungry and this is the first time we’ve been around in the morning?” Hau suggested, patting his starter on the back. “Kamala can be kind of menacing since he got so tall.”
“…Perhaps so,” Ilima conceded, though with a hint of uncertainty in his voice. “Very well. For now, we’ll head back to the city and give them a chance to settle down before I return later on to check on them. If they’re still aggressive then, I’ll have to take action before the Rattata get involved as well. In the meantime, I’ll treat you both to malasadas as thanks for your help before we begin training again.”
“Whoo-hoo!” Hau cheered, a bright grin on his face. The Incineroar’s demeanor also changed, with the Heel Pokémon licking his lips at the thought. Hau had shared many malasadas since they’d been partners and the Incineroar had gained a mighty need for them.
They all made for the exit of the cavern, feeling the eyes of the Yungoos on them the entire way. Once they were outside of it, Ilima set the barricade down in front of the entrance to the cavern to stop anyone else from wandering in. Then they proceeded to walk back to Hau’oli City.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Watching the trainers and their pokémon disappear down the hill leading towards the city, a male Yungoos huffed as he darted back into Verdant Cavern and towards the large, mossy rock. Climbing behind it revealed the youngest of the group of strange pokémon that had settled into the cavern, the very same one he had basically been relegated into babysitting to keep out of trouble…which was a challenge, given that it kept sneaking out to explore the island. The Yungoos believed that it was a female, since their group as a whole gave off a scent that made a lot of the younger male Yungoos try and curry favor with them—hence that fight earlier between the brothers.
With them gone, she rose to her full height and ran her digits over her antenna nervously. She had gotten curious at the arriving trainers and slipped out of the Totem Den, where she should have remained with the others, and nearly gotten caught. Since one of the orders they had received was to keep the trainers, including the Trial Captain, unaware of their presence, they had turned on the hands that fed them.
It was risky, but at least it ended with no conflict.
Standing on top of the rock, he chittered at her for being so reckless. He understood that she was young and curious, many of their young were after all, but all of the constant running and keeping her out of trouble was tiring. The only reason he did it was because he was ordered to by their leader, the Totem Gumshoos, after her older siblings came in like a pair of Tsareena and stomped both the Totem Pokémon, while their progenitor managed to sway the rest with her scent.
She dipped her head in response, eyes and antenna drooping as she mumbled an apology. That sole act caused another uproar from the other Yungoos around them, directed at him for making her look sad. Many flung sand at him, knocking him about until he curled up to shield himself.
His charge quickly snatched him up and held him close as she released her own pheromones. While it was weaker than her siblings, due to only molting once, it served to calm and render them docile long enough for her to use her long legs to walk over them. She apologized again as she headed back to the Totem Den, gently trying to brush the sand out of his fur.
He only let a rumble leave his throat as they passed through the threshold and into the Totem Den. The Yungoos found it unpleasant since the chamber felt weird, but apparently it felt similar to the strange group’s home. They could absorb the same energy in it that made the Totem Pokémon stronger and store it for when they entered a battle.
Inside of the den, they found her siblings getting ready to spar with one another. Both had their arms out in front and legs in a readying stance as they synced their breathing together. The youngest of the group sat with the Yungoos in her arms and watched as they began.
The middle-aged one opened with a fearsome and blinding kick, bringing her rear leg around and twisting her hips to strike the oldest’s head faster than the Yungoos could track with his eyes. The impact was hard enough that it kicked up a breeze, yet it was blocked as the oldest brought her arm up for a Quick Guard. The defensive aura wrapping around her arm shielded her from the impact of the strike beautifully.
Undeterred, the middling pulled her leg back and thrust it forward twice with a Double Kick. The first of which passed by the eldest as she tilted her shoulder to avoid being kicked in the chest, and the second one she dipped her head so that it passed through empty space. Before the middling could angle her leg down for a Stomp, the eldest snapped her own rear leg around for a Low Kick and knocked her leg from beneath her.
Letting out a minor hiss of pain as she fell backwards, the middling rolled backwards to avoid the impending counter Stomp that was hard enough to leave a small crater despite how lithe their kind’s feet were. Then she snapped back up to see that the eldest was still in a defensive stance, waiting for her.
The middling then began swaying to her side as she bounced from feet-to-feet in a rhythmic manner. Her body slowly glowed with sparkles coming off her, empowered by the mystifying Quiver Dance. She then rocketed off the ground with a Jump Kick.
Bringing up another Quick Guard, the eldest intercepted the strike, only for the middling to bring her other leg around for a Feint-empowered strike that shattered the defensive shield and allowed for the attack to connect. The blow made the eldest take a few steps back, shaking her head to clear it as she tried to ignore the stinging of the blow until she saw another Jump Kick flying towards. Then the oldest sibling was gone, leaving the white blur that was the middling to crash against the wall.
The crash itself was loud, throwing up a spray of stone fragments and rubble. The middling pulled herself out of the impact crater and winced, having clearly hurt herself. But her eyes were fixed on the eldest, who was flickering from position-to-position, having bolstered her speed with an Agility.
Hissing in anger, the middling clasped her hands together and produced a white sphere that she then thrust-kicked. The sphere exploded into a gale carrying silver crescents of power. The Silver Wind attack missed despite the coverage, passing through an afterimage and slamming into the walls… including the one they were under!
The Yungoos let loose a shriek as he realized they would be stricken as one of the silver crescents bore down on them. But before it could connect, the eldest was in front of them. Faster than his eyes could track, she brought her leg upwards and shattered the silver crescent into loose, glittering powder.
She then turned towards the youngest, who had curled down and braced for impact, and inquired if she was okay. Once she got a nod in response, she turned back towards where her other reckless sibling had been and found the spot empty. She then looked around until she felt the air shift from above and found the middling rushing down for them, having used a Bounce to get that high.
Letting out a hiss of her own, she held out her hands as they shone with a white light and then released countless stars that rocketed up to meet her. The Swift attack connected, slamming home with enough power that they knocked the middling out of her attack and sent her tumbling to the ground. The eldest one then went over, pulled her up by the arm, and then marched her over to apologize to the youngest as she held the Yungoos in her arms.
The middling did the opposite. She plucked the Yungoos from her arm and held her down with one foot, leaving the youngest pinned as she dangled him in the air. All while she chided her for goofing around instead of training so that they could take back their territory.
The Yungoos struggled fruitlessly, but that only seemed to annoy the middling. She threatened to Stomp him, much to the dismay of both him and the youngest, until the eldest smacked her on the head. It startled her enough that she lost her grip and he fell down to the ground.
He took that as a cue to leave and immediately scurried out of the Totem Den, away from the terrifying one. He didn’t stop until he was far down the slope and away from them, closer to the rushing water that had carved out the deeper portions of the cavern. Then, and only then, did he stop running and collapsed by the water in exhaustion and fear.
Panting, he wondered exactly why it was him who had to deal with this. Things were so much easier when all he had to do was show up, grab a berry to eat, and lounge around. Now he was hungry and still covered in a mix of sand and silver powder that left him feeling filthy.
Sighing, he crawled into the water’s edge and laid down on the slope with his head sticking out. Letting the running water clean his fur as he ruminated on the good times in the past, he drifted off to sleep until a gnawing in his stomach roused him. The Loitering Pokémon yawned, showing his teeth, before getting ready to pull himself out of the water and finding that he wasn’t in it anymore.
Instead, he was on the shore and sitting on a rock further out with a few berries in front of him. Next to him was the youngest, curled against the wall and her eyes closed as she slowly breathed in and out whilst asleep. Had she been watching him sleep and brought him food as an apology for earlier?
He huffed at the very thought of that being enough… but supposed he could do worse if he had to be stuck babysitting.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Plumeria’s feet were aching by the time she made it back to Route 13 from visiting Po Town.
The abandoned town that had been the haven of Team Skull had been mostly cleared out, barring the three numbskulls and their Spinda in the Pokémon Center there. Unlike most of the others, they didn’t have homes to return to. So they stayed in the place and made themselves comfortable in the rooms there until they could get enough money to chase their dreams.
Plumeria could relate to them. She didn’t have her mother and father either after they’d gotten themselves locked away, not that they paid all the much attention to her before then. She only had her granny, who had taken her in when she was a runt from overseas, and it hadn’t been easy moving from Orre to Alola to live with a relative she barely knew.
Still, the rest of her dumb little brothers and sisters were scattered now that Guzma had disbanded them and it was her job to look after them. So she’d been checking on them over the last few days. They were mostly going back to their old lives and, while she was happy they were all managing given that occasionally they were too dumb for their own good, it still left her feeling a bit down.
When she arrived in Alola, she was treated like she didn’t belong and hated it. It was only when Guzma showed up that she really made a friend, even if he was a couple of years older than her. When they formed Team Skull as a place for outcasts like them, they also made a place where she could be who she was and belong with them. Now that they were disbanded, she was again without a place.
I should have known it wouldn’t last though, she thought to herself as she got into viewing distance of her granny’s camper and found Molo and Lanai outside of it. The two of them took it after themselves to watch over her granny out of a sense of loyalty to the former Admin of their group, with Molo guarding the outside and Lanai keeping her company. Plumeria was appreciative of them for it.
Lanai spotted her eventually and ran over. “Big Sis, that old dude Nanu showed up with some nerdy-looking guy! They’re inside talking to your granny!”
“I tried to stop them,” Molo said. “But granny told us not to be rude… and then gave us pocket-money to go get some food while she talked in private. But we didn’t spend it.”
“…Alright, I got this,” Plumeria said. “Go get something from the café in Tapu Village. You two look like you’ve been out in the sun too long. We don’t need you passing out.”
They consented and ran off as she walked up to the door of the camper and entered inside. No sooner than she did, the male Stufful that had been lying on the makeshift bedding nearby rose up and greeted her with a cheerful sound. He was happy that she’d returned.
She would have picked him up, if not for Nanu sitting on the couch with a scrawny man that had blond hair and glasses. “Who are you and why are you here?”
“My name’s Molayne.” The scrawny man stood up and held a hand out for her to shake. “So, you’re Plumeria? It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She stared him down instead for a moment, before judging him as no real threat and then turning to Nanu. “Why you bugging my granny? If you got something you want to complain about, then come find me. Don’t bring her into this.”
“Be polite, Plumeria,” her granny chided her before turning to the two other men. “Forgive my little flower, please. It’s an honor to have a Kahuna and Trial Captain grace us.”
“Trial Captain?” She practically balked as the words came out and gave the man a once-over again. “Never seen you before.”
“I’m a former one,” Molayne explained. “My cousin has the position now, while I just manage the Observatory and Storage System for Alola. But I went through my island trials around the same time that Kukui and Guzma did, before he dropped out. Did he never mention me?”
“No,” she said rather bluntly as she crossed her arms. “Anyway, what’s a former Trial Captain and the Island Kahuna want with us, if not to cause problems?”
“Well, there’s something we were hoping you could assist us with,” Molayne said. “Tell me, how much did you know about the original Team Skull?”
“Granny told me a lot of the old stories when I arrived here, including about them,” Plumeria answered. “They formed around the former Kahuna of Ula’ula Island because he didn’t like the idea of being bound to serving the whims of the Tapu just because he was chosen and tradition dictated it. Eventually, Tapu Village was leveled, leading to the battle between the four Tapu and Team Skull at the time.”
Supposedly, the former Kahuna was former royalty as well. Even after the roles of royalty fell out with Kahunas taking their place, occasionally they overlapped. However, the Kahuna didn’t want the job since it meant being chained to the island and the whim of the Tapu for the rest of his life, so he ignored its desires and allowed the island to drift from the path the Tapu set, with the village at the base of Mount Lanakila being the primary one.
Then the supermarket was built, destroying an old tree that stood there for ages and was supposedly sacred to Tapu Bulu. It finally acted towards the offense by leveling the entire village in retaliation, and Team Skull rose up around the Kahuna, who was said to have lost something dear to him in that incident. Then they stormed the desert to face Tapu Bulu, only to be met with all four of the Tapu and struck down for it.
The Kahuna was ousted from his position, but then was supposedly cursed because of it as well. He died sometime after that as eternal rain and gloom hung over Po Town. It was known as the wrath of the Tapu and served as a warning against going against their wills, fickle as they may be.
After she’d finished recounting that, Nanu decided to speak up. “So then you must know that the name of Team Skull isn’t exactly something most people would throw around lightly. Especially on this island. Even so, you were the one who came up with that name for the second group, weren’t you?”
“And what if I was?” she asked, practically challenging him as the Stufful pushed against her leg in a bade for affection after being abandoned to that motel not far from here and only recently adopted by them. Thankfully, he was trained by whoever had him before, so he didn’t bowl her over in the process. She crouched low and stroked his head to appease him.
“What we want to know is why you chose that name?” the former Trial Captain asked. “You had to know that name carried a bad reputation from the start.”
Plumeria scoffed at that. “Maybe it did to you two, being a part of the traditions of Alola. But to us it carried a different meaning. They were a group of people who felt the traditions and Tapu were unfair and outdated, outcasts who fought to change them and were labeled as being wrong because they failed. We took up their name because we felt the same. All of us were outcasts because of how things worked, the traditions and everything, and we wanted to change them.”
“Except that you were a bunch of kids who didn’t know how difficult it would be to do that and could only rebel by causing mischief,” Nanu said. “Once everyone realized that it was a bunch of teenagers running around and calling themselves Team Skull, they stopped taking you seriously. The only ones who did were the ones who flocked over to that town Guzma claimed to have taken over when it was all but abandoned. And once they were there, they were too stubborn to go back.”
“Watch it, Old Man,” Plumeria said in warning as her eyes narrowed. “Because if it’s a fight you want, we can go outside.”
Her granny looked shocked at the blatant disrespect. “Plumeria, apologize!”
“I won’t listen to him talk that way about those kids I watched over or our boss like that, Granny,” she said, rising to her feet. “Yeah, they were stubborn idiots a lot of the time. But they chose to stick around because they weren’t being judged because they didn’t live up the unfair expectations pushed onto them. They needed somewhere to go and we gave them a place to belong.”
Neither one denied it. They just listened.
“And the island trials weren’t the only traditions we rebelled against either,” Plumeria continued. “We took in anyone who was an outcast because they didn’t conform to the island ways. Whether it was because they didn’t behave a certain way, or look a certain way, or didn’t come from the islands. We looked out for them, even when it was tough and we had to get our hands dirty. So I’ll never apologize for that.”
“…It’s good to see you really have such strong convictions,” Molayne said, adjusting his glasses by the bridge. The glare of the light hid his eyes in the process. “And you’re absolutely right.”
The shock of his admission left Plumeria stunned. “What?”
Seeing her reaction brought a small smile to his face. “Like I said, I traveled around with Kukui and Guzma when we were younger. Though we didn’t think much of it at the time, when Kukui and I looked back on how Guzma changed because he couldn’t live up to the expectations placed on him to be the best among us, we realized that as great as the traditions were, they could also leave people behind.”
“If you knew all of that, why didn’t you do something sooner?” she demanded.
“Because we couldn’t just give up our traditions and throw away part of what made us who we are,” he explained. “So we decided to find a road between them. That’s part of why I worked so hard on getting the Storage System up and running, while Kukui dedicated himself to bringing a Pokémon League here. Pokémon link people around the world through a common interest, which allows for them to become more diverse and accepting.”
He then turned to Nanu. “Isn’t that right?”
Nanu sighed wearily as he stood up and rubbed his neck, only to slouch over and place his hand in his pockets. “The Kahuna were also in agreement that some of the traditions don’t mix well with the present day, such as needing to be an Alolan native to participate in the island trials. So we worked with these guys to get some of them changed, such as that any trainer under twenty-one can partake in an island trial.”
“It wasn’t that way when I got here,” Plumeria pointed out.
“Change takes time,” Molayne stated. “But now it’s come to fruition with the latest Island Challenge Champion also being our first Pokémon League Champion. Kukui’s choice proved that once someone else was given a chance that they could rise to the occasion and become great for Alola.”
A knot of guilt stirred in her stomach at that. The very thing she hated was being fought against by the people they rebelled against. If they had succeeded in crushing him, then she would have only been reinforcing the traditions.
“…Well, what does this have to do with me now?” she asked, her tone a little more hesitant upon realizing that fact.
The former Trial Captain looked over to her granny, who nodded, and then dropped a bombshell. “We want you to enter the Pokémon League.”
There was a long, pregnant pause at that as she looked at all three of them in the face. Her granny looked proud. Molayne’s were closed as he kept smiling. Nanu… well, just looked tired as always. “You’re not messing with me, are you?”
“Not at all,” Molayne assured her. “You’re under the age of twenty-one by about two years, and you’ve lived on the island for over a decade now. Who better than the person who suggested the name of Team Skull in the first place to participate and show that the traditions have changed for all of those kids who you watched over?”
Her lips pursed as she actually thought about it. Personally, she felt that it was too little too late for her own sake. She’d been shunned in her youth because she wasn’t native to Alola and wasn’t permitted to have the same chances their little Champion had now. But, at the same time, it wasn’t about her.
It was about those she considered her little brothers and sisters, who had been scattered when Team Skull separated. They disbanded without accomplishing anything in the end, failing to keep the promises of change that Guzma and she made to them. More than anything, she wanted to correct that so that it didn’t feel like it wasn’t a waste, and to make them proud of being a part of Team Skull.
“What would I have to do to get a Z-Ring?” she asked. Unlike Guzma, who had earned a Z-Ring before he threw it away, she didn’t have one. She’d never taken the trials and the Poisonium-Z crystals she had were ones her Grunts had found, much like the ones they’d gathered for Guzma.
And she had a strong suspicion that Nanu would be reclaiming those eventually.
“We may be pointing out an opportunity for you, but you’ll have to earn it under your own power,” the Kahuna said as he pulled an object out of his pocket and set it down on the table. “You know where to find me. Try not to take too long, but don’t be in a rush, okay?”
He then left out with Molayne, leaving Plumeria to stare at what was left behind. It was an Island Challenge Amulet. The unspoken message carried:
If you want to get a Z-Ring, beat my Grand Trial.