Chapter 16: Dominion Advances
Space distorted. Warped as a force nudged aside everything within range of it to create a void. That void was when filled with a flash of violet light as Elio stood there, his body eclipsed by the outstretched pinions of the Moone Pokémon as the Teleport was complete.
Touching down, the Champion found himself at the entrance of Diglett’s Tunnel at the south end of Heahea City. The pavement road turned sharply and gave way to one made of grass and dirt. It would lead into the heart of the tunnel carved into the mountains that split it off from the coastal city of merchants, Konikoni.
“Piii…” Nebby growled as she peered into the darkness.
“Yeah, I know,” Elio said. He didn’t need Rotom to translate the fact that Nebby wasn’t comfortable in such a confined space. “Return to your ball for now. I’ll leave it in an active state, so you can stay aware of the situation.”
Though it wasn’t necessary, all things considered. Maybe it was because Nebby’s species was once that of an Ultra Beast if those legends in the Library were anything to go by, but even if her ball was in an inactive state she could get out if she wanted. But for now, she allowed herself to be Returned.
“That was fast,” a feminine voice drew his eyes. He turned to see that Olivia was approaching him from behind, the short-sleeved jacket draping her torso rustling with every step she took. “I expected you to take a little longer to get ready.”
“I’ve been expecting the call since yesterday, so I was ready to go just in case it appeared somewhere with a larger population,” he explained as Rotom poked its antenna out of his backpack. Taking into consideration what he knew, he had already swapped out his team to be able to deal with the threat a Nihilego presented. “The tunnel wasn’t one of them, though. That could be a problem.”
Olivia nodded slowly as her dark brown eyes folded in. “Judging from the damage at the Golf Course, there’s a strong risk of a cave-in should it unleash that level of power here. However, it’s better that a confrontation occurs here rather than one of the cities. I’ve already gone ahead and evacuated the workers in the cave, but…”
She then turned her gaze to him and her eyes softened. “I’ll be coming with you. Not that you aren’t capable, but there’s no sense in letting you take the risk on your own.”
“I don’t mind, but will you be alright if there is a cave-in?” he asked. Nebby could connect with his thoughts, so if she sensed he was in danger she could teleport him out. And Rotom would stay in his backpack to hitch a ride and translate what was said, so he’d be ready in if it decided to attack.
“It’s sweet of you to worry, but I’ll be fine.” Olivia smiled. “Shall we head in then? If we manage to finish this quickly, we can stop by Mallow’s restaurant. I’ll treat you to a meal.”
That said, the Kahuna of Akala Island and Champion of Alola ventured into the tunnels carved out by man and pokémon. The dark caverns were illuminated by artificial lights, the sound of drilling off the beaten path absent and instead replaced by an unsettling quiet. It was almost haunting, really.
“Where to look?” he muttered to himself. Elio suspected the Nihilego was going to find him no matter what, given he was also a Faller. But, ideally, he should know where it would be coming from so it didn’t catch him by surprise.
“If it’s these caves then it would be best to ask would be a local pokémon,” Olivia said, prompting him to look over his shoulder to see the Kahuna looking around for something in the dark. She then smiled and called out in a sing-song tone, “Diglett, it’s Olivia.”
Elio shifted his gaze to the distance, where he could make out a trio of golden strands sticking out of the dirt that seemed to quiver as the sound waves reached it. The dirt around it parted as a half-buried Mole Pokémon stuck its head out, blinking while its hairs wobbled. “Dig?”
She waved it over. “Come here for a bit, will you?”
The tiny thing dove back into the ground, vanishing from sight entirely for a moment before popping back out right next to her. It then rubbed its head against her ankle affectionately. “Diglett!”
“It’s nice to see you too.” Olivia crouched down to carefully pet the tiny pokémon along its side before she pulled out a Big Root from her coat’s pocket and placed it down in front of the Alolan Diglett. “Can you help lead us to a pokémon that you haven’t seen in the tunnels before now?”
“Dig! Dig!” The Mole Pokémon bobbed its head before it grabbed the snack with its mouth and sank under the ground with only its hairs sticking out. Then the hairs began to move, the ground lightly upturned as it made a guiding path.
“Now we just have to follow it,” she said, taking the lead.
“I’m surprised it helped you out so willingly,” Elio admitted, following behind her. “They caused some trouble a little while ago, didn’t they?”
“The Kahuna not only serves as the link between the Tapus and the humans, but also the local pokémon,” she explained. “Adding to that, they help me when I search the tunnels to mine for jewels, fossils, and evolutionary stones. So, if there’s a foreign pokémon that’s been here for long, they’d know where.”
“That’ll be helpful,” he said. “If it comes down to it, I should be able to stop it from causing immense damage to their tunnels as well. Though I don’t think it’ll have the strength to fight back much, so if I can keep it calm I might be able to lure it into a ball.”
“I’ll trust whatever you have in mind. After all, none of us want to hurt them, but we can’t overlook the damage they can cause if left unchecked,” she said. In the end, to be a Kahuna meant acting in the best interest for both the humans and the pokémon. “That said, I haven’t had much luck in finding the ones that caused trouble here before so far.”
She nodded. “There were two of them. Tapu Lele and I drove them off after a hard battle, but there’s been no signs of them so far. Without access to the Pokémon Centers, most likely they’re recovering from their battles in hiding, like the one that attacked the Golf Course.”
“In which case they’ll be active soon,” Elio guessed. In the end, he might have to look around the islands just to see if he could draw them out before they attacked again.
The talking tapered off there as they continued following the Alolan Diglett until it brought them to a section of the tunnels Elio hadn’t been to before. If he had to guess, it was somewhere away from the excavating and machinery, where it would be quieter. A place where the Nihilego could recover from the beating it took.
“It’s up ahead then?” she asked, earning a nod from the Mole Pokémon. Olivia then turned to Elio. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah,” he told her before pressing ahead until he caught sight of it.
The Nihilego was almost like a deflated balloon. It was wobbling as it struggled to rise off the ground, the membrane of its bell looking crinkled and slowly inflating. Had it been sleeping until just now?
“Easy,” Elio said, taking slow steps forward. “I don’t want to hurt you. I’m here to help you. Can you understand me?”
A soft, undulating sound reached his ears in response as it warily drifted backwards from him.
It says its hurting, zzt.
Like he’d thought, between the Battle Aura and taking those hits from Guzma’s Pokémon, it was still injured and tired. If they left it alone, it would likely take a while to recover. He crouched low and set an Oran Berry down before backing up four steps. “Eat this. It’ll ease the pain.”
It warily remained in place, waiting to see if he’d approach regardless until he took three more steps back. Then it slowly drifted forward, the tips of its tentacles dragging along the hard-packed dirt until they brushed the berry. Lowering itself until it managed to bring the berry into its bell, the fruit began to dissolve within it.
Elio waited until it was completely dissolved before he crouched back down. Then he rolled another Oran Berry along the ground to it. He didn’t want to approach it just yet, but he made sure to roll it enough so that it was halfway between them. “You can have another, if you want.”
It approached cautiously and then picked it up this time with its lower set of tentacles, bringing the fruit into its bell once again. The berry dissolved even faster than before. Then a wet sound rang out when it was done eating, rippling on his ears as it warily observed him—asking for another one according to Rotom.
“You want to go home, right?” Elio asked as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a third Oran Berry. He moved the hand holding it around to make sure that the Ultra Beast was following it. “It’s uncomfortable here for you, isn’t it?”
The Nihilego said nothing, but the way its body shifted told him that it was interested. When he did a light, underhanded toss that was meant to come up just a bit short, the Parasite Pokémon reached out to grab the berry midair before dragging the berry into its bell. It was dissolved in no time at all and the Nihilego gently gurgled expectantly.
“Here’s a fourth one,” Elio told it, holding out another one without throwing it. The Nihilego made a begging noise, but he just held his hand out a little more to encourage it to come a little closer. It began floating over to him slowly in response and Elio felt Nebby’s ball shake.
Nebby, calm down. He directed his thoughts to the Moone Pokémon. I know you don’t like them in your territory, and especially not Nihilego. But this one hasn’t hurt anyone yet, it’s just scared of being in someplace unfamiliar and wants to go home. Just give me a chance, and if it does bond with me you can force it off.
Nebby settled down in her ball, leaving Elio to work as he finally gave the berry a light toss when the Nihilego was within three yards. It deftly plucked the berry out of the air and immediately took it within its bell to consume. Elio then silently slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a miniaturized Beast Ball this time.
He wasn’t sure how the Ultra Beast sensed the world around it, but it could clearly recognize a pattern. The Beast Ball had been stored with them long enough to have its scent masked by the berries. Between that, the similar coloration, and its lack of experience with this world, he should be able to fool it… and if not, he had Nebby.
“Here you go,” he said, holding it out with a closed fist and facing downwards. “Last one.”
The Parasite Pokémon drifted closer again as he brushed his thumb over the button to set it in an active state and then tossed it upwards. The Ultra Beast naturally reacted by grasping and forcing it into its bell, causing the capturing function to trigger. The Nihilego was then sucked into the Beast Ball abruptly and it fell to the ground.
Miss Wicke said that the Beast Ball should be at least more comfortable to this Ultra Beast, given that Lillie’s mother had originally had them commissioned to capture a Nihilego, Elio reasoned silently. It probably won’t try to break out. But get ready just in case, Nebby…
“Whew.” Elio breathed out a sigh of relief as the ball went still. It was captured without a fuss.
“That was a little more reckless than I’d like,” Olivia said. He turned to see that she had her own Ultra Ball out, likely getting ready to act if he had been slow. “It worked out this time, but I don’t think the rest will be as easy.”
“I know, but I really didn’t want to beat down on an already injured pokémon,” he said, turning to the ball and reaching for it. “Come on, Nihilego. Let’s get you back—”
He didn’t get the chance to finish before the dirt beneath the Beast Ball erupted. A long, sinuous body jutted out of the ground and it took a moment for Elio to recognize it was a Pokémon. One that he hadn’t seen before. In that moment, it grabbed Nihilego’s ball in its mouth, and then dove right back into the ground.
It stole Nihilego! The moment that thought registered Elio reached for the Nebby’s ball. “Get it back!”
The Lunala burst free, filling up the space between Elio and the hole as its pink eyes turned crimson. A wave of telepathic power washed through the ground, probing it for the life beneath the surface. Then Nebby used Psychic in earnest, gripping the serpent in a telekinetic stranglehold before ripping it out the very ground with enough force that the spray of dirt this time was like a geyser going off.
The captured pokémon strained as it was then floated in place. It was a serpent like an Arbok, only it had longer fangs the color of blood, with matching eyes. And the tail was shaped like a blade, partially red and sharp-looking to boot.
Rotom snapped a photograph. Pokémon data not found in the local database, zzt. Remotely accessing national database. Accezzing. Accezzing. Accezzing. Data found, zzrt. Seviper, the Fang Snake Pokémon. Native region is Hoenn, with sightings in Unova and Kalos—
“Later Rotom,” Elio said, eyes fixed onto the Seviper’s mouth. The ball was missing. “You didn’t swallow it, did you?”
“Ssss-ssseee…” It let out a low, hissing sound as it glared at him in a way that Nebby didn’t appreciate given she stretched its sinuous body out straight and began to wrest its maw open against its will.
“You don’t need to hurt it, Nebby,” Elio said before she could go too far. “We’ll have Melon put it asleep and then take it with us—”
His words were smothered when wall next to them exploded as another pokémon emerged, plowing through solid stone in a display of sheer force. It was a large pokémon whose green hide covered it like armor with spikes jutting out. Elio recognized this one from a documentary he’d seen on Johto—a Tyranitar.
“RRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAHHHH!” The roar it let out threatened to deafen them all as the Armor Pokémon was abruptly wreathed in a veil of shadows that billowed out. Then it threw it itself forward, directly towards the Legendary Pokémon.
Nebby only had enough time to bat her trainer away with a wave of psychic energy before the attack connected and the shadowy aura violently expanded. Her pained screeched was drowned out by a thunderous crash as she was driven into the opposing wall by the rushing pokémon hard enough that a plume of stone fragments and dirt obscured their forms. Only one silhouette moved afterwards, and it wasn’t hers.
“Nebby—” He was about to recall her when a firm grasp on his arm jerked him back. It was all that saved him as a flash of venomous light scythed where his torso had been, a Poison Tail from the muscular and sinuous serpent that had been freed from the psychic grip that held it captive. He fell back into Olivia’s arms and she held him close while tossing out her own Ultra Ball.
“Ferrin, Magnet Bomb!” The ball burst open and out came her Probopass. The female Compass Pokémon appeared between the humans and the opposing Fang Snake Pokémon and immediately dispatched her Mini-Noses, whose eyes turned orange as they flew towards the target. The moment they got close they detonated and blew the serpent backwards. “Now, Dazzling Gleam on the other one!”
“Passs.” Facing the larger Armor Pokémon as its narrowed eyes fixed onto the newest target of its rage, the Mini-Noses took up a triangular formation before unleashing prismatic rays from their noses. Each one slammed into the hard armor of the Tyranitar… only for it to not even flinch as they broke against its hide and left rainbow-hued streamers to tear into the ground around it.
Zzt? That should’ve been Super-Effective! Rotom noted, only to then point its appendage over to the entrance where it burst through. The Zzzzzeviper is escaping!
Elio finished recalling Nebby into her ball before twisting his head to see the slithering serpent vanish beyond the entrance. If they lost Nihilego now then… no, he couldn’t let that happen. He grabbed his Ride Pager and then shot out towards the opening.
“Cover him, Ferrin!” Olivia ordered as the Tyranitar twisted its head towards the boy and lunged with fangs shrouded in darkness. The Compass Pokémon rocketed forward to intercept it, using its magnetic field as propulsion to bring the bulk of its mass crashing against the relatively lighter pokémon.
The blow managed to knock it off to the side from the momentum. The levitating drones then spread out and unleashed lancing rays of argent light. They slammed into its hard body and kept it pinned down.
“Sorry, but I have to leave this one to you!” Elio said over the hum of the Flash Cannon attacks as he flipped through the selection of available Ride Pokémon. Tauros had trouble turning and Mudsdale was better in rough terrain than a place like this. So that left…
“Just be careful!” Olivia shouted in response.
“Same to you!” He pressed the button as he jumped through the opening and there was a flash of light. His ride gear materialized over his body and a Stoutland appeared beneath him. Gripping the handles, he then directed the Big-Hearted Pokémon to give chase. “Don’t let that snake get away!”
The Stoutland barked and then took off as fast as it could.
Elio felt guilt weighing down his stomach as the sound of the battle between Olivia and that odd Tyranitar grew distant while they navigated the tunnels. That darkness around it felt like… hatred and malice and sadness and pain. Such negative emotions, bundled together so thickly that they took on a tangible form, had almost suffocated him when it hit Nebby.
I’m sorry, Nebby. He passed that thought along, feeling the touch of her mind to his as he reached for another two of his Poké Balls while keeping his eyes on the slithering Seviper. We’ll handle it from here, so just rest for now. Okay?
The Fang Snake Pokémon briefly glanced back as the sound of one of the balls bursting open signaled the release of Kou, who swooped past it and then whirled around to intercept it from the front. The serpent bared its fangs and lunged to Crunch down on the Bat Pokémon in response, only for the Crobat to twist out of the way while releasing an Air Slash that slammed into the serpent. It was sent sprawling into a mining cart hard enough that the metal audibly crunched inwards on impact.
“Now pin it down by the tail and mouth, Melon!” Elio ordered as he tossed out the second Poké Ball and released the pokémon inside. The lights from above cast a shadow as the energy state was converted into a round mass of bulk that came down on the rear section of the Seviper’s body hard enough that the ground shook.
“Sevvviiiipppeerr!” The Fang Snake Pokémon shrieked in pain, thrashing as it tried to get free. Then, as the shadow loomed over its head, it whirled around and spat the baleful, venomous liquid that was Toxic towards the face of the female Snorlax.
“Lax…” The Sleeping Pokémon wiped it off, not remotely bothered. Immunity was one of the reasons Elio brought her in the first place to deal with Nihilego. She finished leaning forward and then pinned its head down to the ground with both of her stout paws.
“Now, use Yawn,” Elio said, pulling Stoutland to a stop as Kou fluttered in the air next to him. “We’ll take it to the Aether Foundation and have them get Nihilego out while its asleep. They should also be able to find out who its trainer is and what they did to that Tyranitar.”
“Snorrrlax…” Melon opened her mouth to release the sleep-inducing bubble. It smacked the Seviper that struggled to get away, drowsiness washing over it. She held it down until the jerking slowed to a crawl and then stopped.
That was when Stoutland started barking.
Incoming! Rotom’s translation drew their eyes up to the air where the lamps strung up by orange cords ran along the ceiling. It was there that what looked be a black Poké Ball burst open. The purple and grey plates that were like armor shook the earth the moment the Nidoking landed and it let loose a mad roar that echoed off the walls.
Melon’s attention fell onto the new threat as darkness burst from the near-invisible gaps in its plates and it tried to run all of them down. The Ride Pokémon immediately forced itself to move and dart out of the way to avoid its rider coming to harm while Kou flew upwards, inadvertently leaving Melon exposed to the full-brunt of its attack. The moment it connected, that darkness expanded like an explosion going off and she was sent crashing into the floor behind her.
Elio regained controlled of Stoutland as Kou flew back towards him. “Melon, are you okay!?”
“L-Lax…” Her body shuddered as she tried to push herself back onto her feet, still willing to fight. But the blow had hurt her badly enough that she was barely able to move. Much less take the next hit as the Nidoking stomped towards her with a raised fist that was shrouded in bright light—a Mega Punch.
Elio recalled her, holding out her ball and triggering the Return function. Red light speared out and converted the Sleeping Pokémon back into her energy state in time to avoid the hit that blew out the ground as the condensed power was unleashed, resulting in a geyser of dirt that covered it. Noticing the absence of its target, the Nidoking’s seething gaze fell onto Elio and darkness wrapped its frame once more. “Kou, use Haze!”
The Bat Pokémon responded by exhaling a thick, dark mist that rolled over the battlefield they’d turned the cavern into to create an obscuring veil. The maddened Nidoking still charged into it, only to find emptiness as the trainer and his pokémon vanished. That was when the Crobat swooped in with a shriek, fangs bared.
The Nidoking brought its venomous horn around and lunged forward. The point pierced through the comparatively soft-bodied pokémon and its form unraveled, only for there to be a burst of pain as what felt like a solid slab of metal struck the side of its head. The blow was hard enough that the pokémon staggered a few steps back, despite its massive frame. The pain only doubled as the Acrobatics attack that followed made everything disappear as the wings caught its unprotected face next. “NIDOOOO!”
Momentarily blinded, the Drill Pokémon thrashed madly as shrieks began to bounce off the walls. More than one, it sounded like there were dozens, if not hundreds of Bat Pokémon surrounding it. A fact that it bore witness to as its vision returned, filled with countless purple figures fluttering within the lingering veil of smoke.
It lashed out against them all as they swooped in—swinging its armored claws to bat them aside, thrusting its venomous horn to impale those that came towards its face again, and whipping its massive tail around to crush those that were caught in its wake. The thrashing was only stopped when a blade of wind cut across its head hard enough to flinch it, and something caught its tail in an iron grip.
Patches of black-and-white were the last thing the Nikdoking spotted before it was pulled off its feet and whirled around in a circle. The rotations built up momentum until it was abruptly flung into the cavern wall, hard enough that the solid stone cratered. Hurt and enraged, the Drill Pokémon peered through the dissipated Haze to see the face of its true opposition.
The Bat Pokémon hadn’t been the only thing lurking in the dark. The Daunting Pokémon had been called into the fight, given the urgency. Cracking his knuckles, Pancho stood between the Nidoking and his trainer while taking on a boxer’s stance.
“We’re going all out, Pancho!” Elio crossed his arms as a fierce, orange light began to radiate from his wrists. Punching the air with righteous fury, the energy from within him flared to its peak. Then it was focused through the Z-Crystal into the Daunting Pokémon.
Every muscle in the Drill Pokémon’s body tensed, its attention drawn to Z-Power that shrouded the Pangoro. Accepting the challenge, the shadowy aura around it thickened until the pokémon beneath was almost completely obscured. Devoting every ounce of its enforced rage and anger into power, it exploded in movement with the most powerful Shadow Break it could to run them all down as the All-Out Pummeling was unleashed through piston-like jabs.
Every hit met the oncoming mass of shadows as it drew closer, the air shaking from with every impact and battering it down. The body beneath the veil was exposed as more and more of it was whittled away by the overwhelming power, leaving the armor-like body to feel the force of the blows strike through. The penultimate strike managed to completely blow the last of the shadow aura away by the time it was within mere feet of the Daunting Pokémon.
Yet, it didn’t stop. The Nidoking kept moving its body that had been battered by the Z-Move headfirst and readied a Mega Punch, even as it bore witnesses to the fact that the Pangoro was rearing back with a chambered first that gathered the remainder of his Z-Power to do the same. Attacking without regard for its own care, the Nidoking struck out with the fist brimming with power—
—only for the blow to be magnificently cross-countered by Pancho as he read the telegraphed punch. The moment his fist connected, the air ruptured for a final time. A shockwave hard enough to rattle Elio’s bones from a distance was let loose as the remaining Z-Power all came rushing forward in a stream of power that swept up the Drill Pokémon.
The orange surge thrust the Drill Pokémon right back into the wall that it had been wrenched itself free of earlier, leaving the entire cavern to shake as it was blown through the solid stone this time. The collapse of loose rubble on top of it drowned out both the Champion and his pokémon’s pants from the exertion. Yet the rubble that had collapsed over the Nidoking burst apart as it forced itself out not even a few seconds late.
“Oh, come on!” Elio was exasperated as the Drill Pokémon stomped out of where it had been buried. It had taken their best blow headfirst and was still moving. At least until he readied to give Kou the order to attack with another Air Slash, whereupon it staggered and fell to one knee.
The Nidoking glared at them with heavy eyes as it swayed. It stilled wanted to fight. But its body couldn’t hold up any longer. The fearsome pokémon collapsed after a final snarl, landing face-first with a thud.
It didn’t get back up.
There wasn’t any thrill of victory or excitement as the Nidoking laid unconscious. Only relief that it was over and… pity. Whatever had been done to it had turned it into the same kind of thing that Tyranitar had become—a relentless machine that kept attacking—until its body broke down.
But he didn’t have time to lament its fate as Kou screeched before throwing himself into Elio’s body, knocking him out of the way as a Psychic blast instead met the Bat Pokémon in his place. The Crobat was immediately sent flying into the nearest mound of excavated dirt and then slid down, unconscious, as a purple beam connected to the Nidoking.
“Kou!” Elio whipped his head around as Pancho stood in front of him for protection to see the Drill Pokémon had been recalled by a man dressed in a miner’s outfit. The hard-hat covered his face from view while another foreign pokémon hovered in the air next to him, along with the dozing Seviper. “Were you the one who did that to these Pokémon!?”
The only answer he received was the man flinging a Smoke Ball as Rotom turned to snap their picture, obscuring them from view. The rattle of Nebby’s ball preceded her forcing it open, bursting out and taking form above him. She used her own psychic powers to disperse the smoke, only to reveal that they were gone.
The man. The Seviper. The foreign Pokémon. Nihilego… all of them were gone.
The moment that realization set it, Elio felt his heart in a vice.
He’d failed utterly.
“Elio!” a voice called, echoing from the path he’d taken to get here. Eyes turned to see that Olivia was clinging to her Probopass as it levitated through the tunnels towards them. The three Mini-Noses were floating around in a defensive formation in case of another attack. “Are you okay?”
“I couldn’t get Nihilego back,” he confessed, returning Kou and Pancho into their balls while Nebby hovered over his shoulders. “A man who was in a miner’s outfit attacked us with a strange Nidoking and stole Nihilego right from under us. Then he disappeared using a psychic pokémon I haven’t seen before.”
She stepped down onto the ground as her Probopass came to a stop. “But you’re okay, right?”
“Yeah, but I still couldn’t save Nihilego even after I promised to get it home.” His hands balled into fists as he looked down to the ground, his expression obscured by his hat to hide the tears that gnawed at the corner of his eyes. He knew that whatever reason they’d kidnapped it for, it wouldn’t be good. Not after he’d seen the other two pokémon. “If whatever that man did to that Nidoking and Tyranitar is done to Nihilego… then its my fault for not helping it.”
Olivia’s lips fell into a soft frown before she gently laid her hands on his shoulders. “Champion or not, we all fail sometimes. Even if we do our best. What matters is that we try to do better going forward.”
Nebby, likewise, lowered her head. Her mind was still linked to his and so she knew the weight of his guilt. She brushed against his cheek in an effort to cheer him up, despite her own disdain for the Parasite Pokémon. “Mahiii.”
Elio swallowed the lump in his throat before he caressed Nebby’s head in return. “… I should report this to those two from the International Police. They might know something about what’s going on since those pokémon aren’t native here.”
The Kahuna’s lips turned up in approval. “You do that. I’ll talk to the other Kahuna, the local miners, the police, and have Molayne check the log of the PC System to see if any of those pokémon were registered into the local system by tourists or healed in a Pokémon Center. We’ll find whoever is responsible.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Ann sat on the edge of her bed in the Hano Grand Resort with her fingers dancing over her laptop, a cord running from the USB port connected to the portable transfer station on the nightstand.
She had gone on the tour of the Aether Foundation earlier to have a chance to get her Porygon-Z into their systems. Now she just needed to set up the relay network so that the data could be transmitted beneath their rather impressive security without notice once it got through the firewall. After that she just needed to do an analysis to find out just how many skeletons were hidden in this so-called conservation organization’s closet.
She was only just finished setting up the device when the abrupt appearance of Agent Arlo and her pokémon drew her attention. Her Beeheyem made a series of noises to announce its arrival as floated over, the sleeping Seviper being set onto the ground in front of her through its psychic power. “What happened?”
“There was interference from the Champion and local…Kahuna, was it?” He removed his stolen hard-hat, revealing yellow eyes that were more common in his native homeland of Orre. “I was forced to use both of my shadow assets in Reverse Mode. They were both defeated but the mission was a success.”
The shadow assets were pokémon that had undergone Shadowization. It was a process developed by Team Cipher before they integrated with the remnants of Team Rocket, after both organizations had been crippled. In recent years they had made numerous improvements to the process—including the creation of Shadow Balls, which integrated Snag-Tech into them. That allowed them to instantly turn a stolen pokémon into a shadow one, ensuring its immediate compliance to whoever owned its ball, though it was only as effective as an Ultra Ball and far costlier to produce.
Shadow Pokémon were stronger and faster than normal ones. Type disadvantages became a thing of the past, and in the process of enter Reverse Mode their strength increased further at the expense of damaging their bodies and driving them into a berserker rage that would attack just about anything but the trainer. They made for the perfect weapons to use in battle because of it.
However, they also had their weaknesses. A Shadow Pokémon lost its independence and became nothing more than a shell of its former-self. The will to act of their own initiative outside of battle was broken, which made them useless for complicated or intricate work. They also couldn’t used Mega Stones for some reason.
The two Shadow Pokémon that Arlo carried were the two he’d snagged himself from an Ace Trainer, who was a candidate to compete against the Elite Four. She didn’t have any doubts that he outright set them to be released in Reverse Mode from the start to accomplish the mission. So for both of them to have been defeated spoke heavily of the opposition.
“Plug them in and I’ll send them with the Ultra Beast while you work on your report,” Ann ordered. Since Shadow Pokémon were illegal to own without a license, let alone the use of Reverse Mode, the authorities would obviously be on the lookout for the pokémon in question. They would have to use the portable station to send them away to recover, which would take time given how extensively damaging Reverse Mode was on the Pokémon’s bodies.
While he did so, Ann looked over her Seviper’s body and found his injuries to be deep. “They did a number on you, didn’t they?”
Her gentle touch roused the Fang Snake Pokémon from his slumber. Flicking his tongue out to taste the air, only the familiar scent stopped him from attacking. He then let out a retching sound as he started to regurgitate the Beast Ball unprompted so that he could be returned into his own ball to make the pain stop.
Ann grabbed a towel to clean it off, taking the unique shape and coloration into account. Then she set it inside of the remaining slot on the ball transfer platform and double-checked the network with her laptop before activating the transfer. The Beast Ball and Shadow Balls were transformed into data and sent through the cord into the network.
I guess that means that ball was made to be compatible with the same systems that normal balls use then, she mused silently while returning her Seviper into his ball as the transfer was completed. Truth be told, she had been worried it wouldn’t go through since there was no telling how it was constructed without the schematics. And those would take time to decrypt depending on how secured the data was once her Porygon-Z retrieved it. Well, hopefully that should quiet Lovrina down for the moment.
“Can you put in a requisition for additional shadow assets and Shadow Balls?” Arlo asked. “From what I overheard and observed, there were more Ultra Beasts. I believe that if we snag some of his pokémon to use as incentive, we could have that naïve child they call a Champion capture these creatures for us. With any luck, we could also obtain the Legendary in his care as well and gain a foothold in this region.”
She briefly entertained the thought. Arlo was well-positioned due to his success rate on missions, so if he managed to succeed in obtaining whatever remaining Ultra Beasts there were and a Legendary there was no doubt in her mind that he would be promoted to an Admin position. Ann herself would also likely be put into a higher position—an Executive position right beneath the Leaders.
Yet, despite how tempting that may have sounded, Ann refused out of pure pragmatism. Being too ambitious was just setting yourself up for a fall, especially when you underestimated a trainer just because of their ages. That’s how Team Rocket and Team Cipher were undone in the past, and she wouldn’t let the organization born from their ashes meet the same end because she wanted to climb the ranks.
“Our original mission was to gather information that would further other plans, the Ultra Beast was just an opportunity that we capitalized on. There’s no need to endanger the mission by attempting something that ambitious when we have no way of obtaining them without direct conflict.”
“…Very well,” Arlo conceded, bowing his head. “What would you ask of me next then?”
“For now, it’s best if you lay low until things die down and your shadow assets are returned.” She turned her attention back to her laptop. “Let the Champion go about his business until Hari finishes gathering information on this Guzma individual and we decide how we’re going to approach him.”
From what they could tell he was a somewhat infamous figure on the island as the leader of a team of misfits that supposedly disbanded recently. He obviously knew more about both the Aether Foundation and these Ultra Beasts, given he knew exactly what it was and what was needed to capture it. He was a resource they could tap without drawing too much attention.
Hari had a way with talking to people and getting them to let their guard drop. And she was young enough to ask around without drawing suspicion unlike Ann, who had recently turned thirty. That made the younger agent the best-suited to the task of gathering information under the guise of a mere tourist.
And even if he was reluctant to talk, Beeheeyem was immensely useful for making people more agreeable.
They’d get the information they needed either way.