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[Original draft of Chapter Three]

Chapter Three
Flatter

The morning he was supposed to leave for Ula’ula Island, Grimsley made it to the Marina twenty minutes early. He waited inside the terminal until the intercom announced the ferry to Ula’ula was about to leave. He boarded the ship and stole a seat next to the window. Once all the passengers were inside, the ferry took off. During the ride, Grimsley looked outside as the water splashed in small waves. Sometimes a water Pokémon jumped out, and flocks of Wingull and Pelipper went soaring by.

The ship made it to Ula’ula Island when it was close to sunset, stopping at Malie City’s terminal. He got off the pier and headed out, as the other passengers from the ferry passed around him. Grimsley ignored the Pokémon Center and Malie Gardens, and when he reached the city gates his jaws dropped.

The city’s architecture gave off a Johto vibe, which astonished him. He first checked in an inn to drop off his bags, and then walked around city square. His shoes slapped against the cobbled streets, and the light posts lit up as he passed them. As he continued to stroll, Grimsley glimpsed at the various shops and restaurants still open. He eventually stopped in between the Malie Community Center and the Malie Library. Grimsley remembered the receptionist at the Tourist Bureau back in Hau’oli City had talked about this place. He drew out a breath and stepped inside the library.

Bright lighting washed over inside the building, like sunlight hanging over the beach. Many shelves filled with books stretched across the hall. The library clerk at the desk watched as the patrons read their books or used the computers in silence, several of the tables and couches already being occupied. Grimsley went to the male clerk to ask where he could find books about Tapu Bulu, and he told him to go to the second floor. He headed upstairs, and more bookshelves loomed over him. More tables and couches were scattered.

Grimsley found the section on Alola‘s guardian deities after looking for a few minutes and flipped through some of the books. There was one book, Tapu and the Kahunas, that mentioned how the tapus choose someone as a kahuna, that acted like a leader of sorts, for their island and grant them with sparkling stones that were used to activate Z-Moves. He then picked up another book, The Guardian Deities of the Islands, that had some brief mentions of each of the deities—Tapu Koko, Tapu Fini, Tapu Bulu, and Tapu Lele. Grimsley skipped the other tapus and read Tapu Bulu’s section.

Guardian Deity of Ula’ula Island, dual grass and fairy type. Considered one of the laziest deities, but it could control plants and use its horns to do heavy damage. A drawing of Tapu Bulu depicted the Pokemon having a large shell with different marks and two large horns. Its lower body had a bell-like tail, and it strikes a huge resemblance to a bull. Grimsley absorbed that information for a moment, his finger tapping at that particular page. He was reminded of one of the legendary musketeers, Terrakion, also known for their great strength.

“I see you’re taking a great interest towards Tapu Bulu,” someone asked from behind, pulling Grimsley from his thoughts. He shifted his head to see a man dressed in a vest over a shirt and pants. His brown hair was kept neat and slicked, and his grey eyes sparkled with great interest in him. Grimsley chuckled.

“I just dropped by Alola recently for a vacation, and I was very curious about this guardian deity of yours. In one of the brochures I read, Tapu Bulu resides in the desert and is likely the cause of destruction on several sites.” Grimsley handed him the brochure he got back in the tourist bureau, and the other man looked through it for a few seconds before he nodded.

“Indeed, you’re right Tapu Bulu did that. It’s said to be furious over how our people devastated its land.” The man’s eyes then grew wide. “Oh, silly me, I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Iokua,” he said, stretching his arm.

“Grimsley. Nice to meet you, Iokua,” Grimsley said, and the two shook hands.

“Since you’ve only just visited, there’s a lot more books that give an indepth look at Alola’s history and culture that I can recommend.” Iokua gave out an awkward chuckle and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m the librarian here, but this library was founded by a late friend of mine. He and his daughter moved the books here, and they let the public read them at their own leisure.”

Grimsley hummed in acknowledgement. “Ah, I get it. That’s very generous of them to do that.”

“Indeed,” Iokua said, grinning. His eyes then lit up. “Say, I’m heading to the Sushi High Roller for dinner now, would you like to join? That restaurant has some top class food.”

After taking a minute to consider his offer Grimsley said, “That would be lovely. I would be glad to.” He put the book back in the shelf, and then he and Iokua left the library together.

They entered the Sushi High Roller shortly after. The smell of steam rice, fish, and other foods invaded his nose. A sushi bar was set aside on the left— where one cook was making the food in front of the people occupying there— and the regular tables spread out on the right, a small bridge in the middle of the restaurant. Most of the seats had been taken by the other customers. Iokua went to the man at the cashier stand and asked for a table for two. The man took them to a table before Grimsley and Iokua looked through the menu for a couple minutes. The both of them ordered the z-kaiskei samurai set, and over half an hour later, the waiter brought out a tray of miso soup, tea, and other dishes in nicely patterned square plates. Grimsley’s other side dishes were sushi, vegetables with beef, and cake for dessert. Taking several bites of his meal, Grimsley liked how the soup warmed his throat and the sushi and vegetables firm but easy to chew. The meal reminded him of his mother’s cooking.

“Oh wow, so you’re actually an Elite Four member from Unova?” Iokua asked during their conversation. He gulped another piece of his sashimi dish, which consisted of salmon, octopus, and tuna. “I thought I recognized you from somewhere.”

“Perhaps from the news, since I’ve been in the limelight on occasion.” After he finished sipping his soup, Grimsley lowered his head and had his lips in a grim line. “My family used to be immense in great wealth, but that all fell apart after my father died.”

A frown crossed Iokua’s face. “I’m sorry to hear that. That must be tough for you and your family.” He ate the last pieces of his sashismi, then said, “Alola demolished the monarch system generations ago and we have kahunas instead looking over the islands. Like the Elite Four of your region, they’re strong trainers respected by many.”

Having finished his main dishes, Grimsley started chewing on his cake, which was sweet and soft against his tongue. “Yes, one of your books did mention that. Who’s the kahuna of your island?”

“Right now that would be Nanu, and he’s a dark type trainer. He’s actually my father!”

Grimsley almost choked when he heard that. Back in Melemele Island, Ronald had told him this island’s kahuna specialized in dark type Pokémon. And right now he was having dinner with his son. He swallowed his tea to wash the food away inside his throat. Iokua looked at him with wide eyes and asked Grimsley if he was all right, only for him to wave it off and regain his composure.

“To be honest, the reason I came to Alola in the first place is so I can find some interesting battles to partake. Perhaps he could be the opponent I’ve been looking for.”

“He should be, I’m certain.” Iokua chuckled, then he took some bites of his own cake. “If you’ll be sticking around Ula’ula for a while, Acerola is one of the trial captains here. She’s the daughter of the friend I mentioned earlier.” He then asked Grimsley if he knew about trial captains and the island challenge, and after he said yes Iokua continued. “She often visits at the Aether House, so you should go there if you want to meet her. It’s not that far from Tapu Village.”

“Aether House?” Once more, Grimsley blinked in confusion.

“It’s a residence that belongs to Aether Foundation, an organization that protects endangered Pokémon and promotes conservation. Acerola can tell you more about them.”

“That is fine with me,” Grimsley said. He then asked directions to Tapu Village and Aether House, which Iokua told him he could take the bus from here to Route 12, but once he reached that route he could either ride a Mudsdale to get through that area or ride a flying type to get to Tapu Village faster. After that, just a little further until he reaches Aether House from there. When Iokua had finished, Grimsley smiled in satisfaction. “I should be able to make it there with not much trouble. You have my uttermost gratitude.”

“Hey, it’s no problem at all.” Iokua’s face then softened. “Once you make it there, do say hi to Acerola and my dad for me.”

“I’ll make sure to tell them that then.” Grimsley glanced at the clock on the wall, now 9:05pm. “I think I should head out. I would like to catch an early morning bus tomorrow.”

“Oh, absolutely. I need to get back home myself. And don’t worry, I’m paying for all of this,” Iokua said and winked.

They left as soon as Iokua paid for the meal. Once outside, both men said goodbye and shook hands. Grimsley watched as some people passed by Iokua while he headed home. After a minute or so, Grimsley started to go back to his inn, musing how Iokua was a nice gentleman. He looked forward to the next part of his trip tomorrow.

xxx

After Rachel's Golduck had rested in the police station overnight, Nanu went to check on the Pokémon to see that he looked much better. Almost all of the cuts and bruises had been healed, his forehead wasn't as hot as yesterday, and he regained some of his color. During breakfast, Golduck was able to gulp down his food, which pleased Rachel greatly. His package of potions and other stuff did come in earlier than expected, but Nanu suggested to her that Golduck should relax one more day to regain his strength more, to which she agreed.

The next day after lunch, he and Rachel had their battle, a three on three battle outside in Route 17. Dark clouds formed the sky, but there was no rain yet. Nanu had used Sableye, Krookodile, and Persian while his opponent's Pokémon were Manectric, Turtonator, and Golduck. They were on their last Pokémon, both Golduck and Persian staring at one another and with cuts and bruises all over their bodies. A darted gaze swept over Rachel’s face while Nanu remained calm. They gave out their next commands.

Golduck's tail was shrouded in torrential waters, and smacked Persian on the side. Persian screeched and fell on the ground, but she picked herself up immediately, and shook the grass off her fur. Nanu's Pokémon lashed out her head and the gem on her forehead glowed, which shot out a beam of purple and black circles that laced together and scorched Golduck's chest. Golduck wobbled for a moment before he was able to regain his balance.

“Shadow Claw, now!” Rachel ordered. Nanu could tell she was desperate with the way her voice choked up and how her jaws clenched. He didn’t go easy on her since the start of the battle, and he wasn’t going to do that now.

“End this with your own Shadow Claw, Persian!”

Both opponents had their claws surrounded in a dark aura, and they rushed at each other like two swordsmen in a duel. After they raised their claws and slashed at one another, Persian and Golduck stopped at opposite directions from when they started. A breeze started to pick up, and several more seconds passed until Golduck collapsed and not getting up. Persian's legs shook, but she managed to lift her head and grinned in satisfaction.

Rachel gasped and rushed to her Pokémon’s side. She cradled him in her arms and stroked his forehead. “Are you okay?” she asked, and her Pokémon gave her a weak thumbs up. Relieved, she nuzzled her cheek against Golduck's.

“Here, he'll need these,” Nanu said when he and Persian reached her. He handed Rachel a few potions and berries, which Rachel accepted. She sprayed one of the bottles onto Golduck's skin, and like a couple nights ago his marks and cuts started to fade. He looked to be in much better shape than when he got beaten up by Team Skull.

“You did an awesome job out there, Golduck. You deserve a long rest,” she said, and then recalled her Pokémon. Rachel stood up and faced Nanu, beaming at him. “Even though I lost, that was a great battle and I learned a lot.”

“You aren't too shabby yourself there, kid. Get a little stronger, and we can do a rematch soon.”

“Of course!” Rachel said, and then silence fell between them. From a near distance someone was clapping, and Nanu turned around to see Acerola beaming at them.

“That was a great battle, you two!” she said. “I couldn’t take my eyes off when I first started watching it.”

“What are you doing here?” Nanu asked, the pitch in his voice slightly high.

“I came here to visit you, Uncle Nanu, but it’s great to see Rachel here also!”

“Acerola!” Rachel’s face brightened. “You’re not going to believe what had happened to me the past few days.” She explained the incident to Acerola, Nanu listened in as he sprayed some potion on his Persian. His Pokémon purred and rubbed onto his leg.

“Uncle Nanu scared those Team Skull grunts and helped make Golduck feel better?” Now facing Nanu, Acerola said, “Wow, that was very generous of you to do that “

Nanu shrugged. “Eh, it’s part of the job description.”

“Oh?” Acerola craned her head and offered him a closed lip smile. “Police officer, kahuna, or both?”

“Doesn’t matter. Depends on what needs to be done.” Nanu’s eyes darted and his shoulders hunched.

Rachel was taken aback by his response, then she said, “Well I’m happy that my Golduck is safe and sound thanks to you. I’ll be leaving now, but I can’t wait to rebattle you!” She grinned at them and made her leave. Nanu watched her go for a minute, frowning.

“Is something wrong, Uncle Nanu?” Acerola asked, tilting her head. After he released a shuddered breath, Nanu faced her.

“I don’t know. I should feel good helping that kid out and she’s a decent trainer. And yet…”

“Hm, maybe you’ve been working too hard being both this island’s kahuna and police?”

Nanu shook his head and bent down to scratch Persian’s chin. “I’m sure it’s not that. Team Skull mostly kept themselves inside Po Town except on some occasions, and I don’t see trial goers make it past this island as of late.”

Acerola pursed her lips and tapped her chin. “When was the last time you visited Tapu Bulu?”

That caused Nanu to flinch. He stopped petting Persian, the cat Pokémon growling in disappointment, and stood back up. Rubbing his head, he said, “Don’t know. Perhaps six or so months ago?”

Acerola pouted. “Isn’t one of your jobs as island kahuna to make sure the island tapu’s altar is looked over?”

“It is, but I don’t think there’s nothing to worry about. You know how freaking long it takes to get through Haina Desert?”

Her hands on her hips, Acerola stared at him in disbelief. “Uncle Nanu…”

Running his fingers through his hair, Nanu asked, “You want me to go to the Ruins of Abundance, huh?”

“Yup!” Acerola said, grinning. “Besides doing that as your duty as kahuna, perhaps Tapu Bulu can give you some guidance, too.”

After he pondered over Acerola’s suggestion for a moment, another long sigh left him. “Fine, you win. Tapu Bulu is probably angry at me for not visiting for so long.”

Satisfied, Acerola cheered and twirled around. “Great! You can even drop by the Aether House to see Becky and the kids!”

Nanu groaned. “Well, I’m not looking forward to those brats playing with Persian’s head like last time.” As if agreeing with him, Persian hissed and her fur bristled.

“I’m sure the kids will be well behaved,” Acerola said with a chuckle. Her grin grew bigger. “Oh yeah, before I forget, Uncle Iokua told me that Aunt Cora and the baby are doing fine!”

Upon hearing that, Nanu’s stomach sunk. Iokua and his wife were expecting their first child within a few months, but Nanu hadn’t talked to his son much about that. He pulled in a deep breath and glanced over his shoulder at the police station. “You wait here, let me get some stuff before we leave.”

When he was chosen to be this island’s kahuna several years ago, Nanu knew he wasn’t allowed to turn it down. And now it was time for him to pay back his due once more.

Xxx

The next morning, Grimsley took the 8 am bus from Malie City to Route 12. Only a handful of people occupied the seats. A couple conversed in low voices while everyone else was quiet. During the forty minute bus ride through Route 11, he looked through the window, seeing several trainers and Pokémon already up training outside with the tall grasses and palm trees towering over them. He also spotted some wild Pokémon flocking around; some he recognized, like Ledian and Paras, while others he didn’t, like the one that looked like a mongoose and another that resembled a koala. Grimsley overheard from the people behind him that those were Yungoos and Komala.

When the bus made it to Route 12 and stop, Grimsley got off his ride. Compared to Route 11’s lush grass and trees, Route 12 looked more barren with rolling hills and rugged boulders up ahead. Dust and sand swirled in the air, causing Grimsley to cough. To his right, he spotted a stable with a fenced large field, a variety of Pokémon staying around. Some like Ponyta and Tauros ran around in abandon while other Pokémon slept through the afternoon. Flying types like Pelipper and Flygon flew up high, making sure to not stray from the area. Several folks were getting on large horses that Grimsley assumed would be the Mudsdale Iokua had mentioned to him last night. He approached to a woman in riding gear looking over a Flygon and a Skarmory.

“Excuse me, Miss, but would this happen to be where I can borrow a Pokémon to take me to Tapu Village?”

“Yup, you have come to the right place!” the lady said as she faced Grimsley, flashing him a wide grin. “Route 12 has steep hills and Route 13’s climate is just as rough, so you’ll need flying Pokémon like Flygon and Skarmory to help you.” She patted the Flygon’s forehead, the dragon nuzzling against her cheek. Behind her, the Skarmory squawked and flapped her wings.

“Well, that’s a relief. I’m Grimsley.”

“Hanna,” the woman Hanna introduced herself. She and Grimsley shook hands. “So you said you wanted to go to Tapu Village? I’m more than happy to take you there,” she said, then Grimsley told her that would be appreciated.

Hanna helped him hop onto the Skarmory, and then she took one of Grimsley’s bags and jumped onto her Flygon. With everyone ready, Hanna whistled and both her and Grimsley’s Pokémon began flapping their wings and took off, Grimsley holding on the reins tightly.

While they were riding their Pokémon, Grimsley’s body shook uneasily and his stomach flipped whenever the warm breeze picked up. Sweat rolled down on Grimsley’s forehead and back of his neck. He often glimpsed down below, seeing some trainers and Pokémon gathered around the dry grass. Grimsley could see Blue Mountain and what looked like to be a power plant on top from a far distance. An hour into their ride, he heaved out a long sigh.

“I must admit, this route is very bare for my taste. There isn’t much to see here save for Blue Mountain?” Grimsley asked, and Hanna shook her head.

“There’s a secluded beach here also, but nothing special compared to Hau’oli’s beachfront. Most people that stick around this region come here to train and catch Pokémon.” Hanna jerked her head away for a second, then she asked, “Curious, any reason you want to go to Tapu Village?”

“To be honest, Tapu Village is a short detour before I head to my true destination, the Aether House. I want to meet with this lady named Acerola. ”

“Oh, so you want to meet with Acerola?” Hanna titled her head and pressed her lips. “You look too old to be participating in the island challenge.”

Grimsley grimaced for a second, and then he chuckled and rubbed the back of his head. “Oh no, I’ve never even heard of that type of challenge until I came here. I just want to discuss with her some things in relation to this island.”

“Oh, I see. But yes, she’s usually at the Aether House or that abandoned supermarket. Acerola’s a very sweet girl, I’m sure she’ll be happy to talk with you.”

Grimsley made an indifferent grunt, and then went back looking at his surroundings. He made sure to straddle onto his Skarmory tightly.

Eventually Grimsley and Hanna passed through Route 12 and onto Route 13. Route 13’s terrain looked just as dry as the last route, but there was still some vegetation on the ground and trees growing. There was a small oasis where several folks gathered, and up ahead was Haina Desert, which he and Hanna ignored for now. He and Hanna also passed by an area where several trailers parked. A short time later they finally reached their destination. As soon as their Pokémon landed on the ground, they hopped off.

Most of Tapu Village looked empty saved for several houses and small shops, some large totems, and the ruins of a stone wall or building. There was more green life here than the last two routes with grass and palm trees growing in several spots. Despite not much to see, Grimsley could see several people here basking in the scenery. He took several steps, and then halted a moment to see several guys in hard hats and uniform blocking the path to Mount Lanakila. Grimsley assumed some kind of construction was going on, so he and Hanna ignored that and moved further along.

They passed by the Pokémon Center. He looked at his left to see a large patch of grass where some Pokémon hid themselves in. He spotted two Pokémon that caught his interest. There was one that looked like a Sandshrew but was light blue instead of the yellow ones he was used to seeing and his body structure similar to an igloo. He sat down on the grass chewing a berry. The other Pokémon, a blue furred Vulpix, kept trying to catch a Snorunt. Like the Sandshrew, Grimsley never saw this particular type of Vulpix before.

“Say, Hanna, are those Vulpix and Sandshrew?” he asked her, pointing at those Pokémon for her to see. She turned her head in his direction and nodded.

“Ah huh. Alola has some Pokémon like Geodude, Vulpix, and Meowth that may look different from the ones you’ve encountered, so they’re often called Alola forms.”

“Alola forms? Similar to like Sinnoh’s Shellos and Gastrodon and Unova’s Deerling and Sawsbuck?”

“Kinda. The majority of the Alola form Pokémon have typings vastly different from the regular Pokémon. Take Meowth for instance. Usually they would be normal type, but here ours are dark type.”

“A dark type Meowth, huh? Then that means there are more Pokémon of that typing than I anticipated.” Grimsley smirked. “Come to think of it, I battled against a trainer with an Alolan Graveler a few days ago.”

“Oh, you did?” Hanna grinned. “But yeah, there’s plenty more Alolan Pokémon you have yet to see!”

Grimsley only nodded, believing that would be the case. He and Hanna began heading back to where Flygon and Skarmory had been waiting for them. He gazed around his surroundings, and then he sighed and shook his head. “There isn’t much going on in Tapu Village. Such a miserable state.”

Hanna chuckled, unoffended by Grimsley’s statement. “Maybe so, but this site still attracts tourists due to a story how Tapu Bulu caused destruction in that village. Because of that, most of the people here are mindful of keeping this region clean.”

“I read about that not that long ago. Also, apparently Tapu Bulu resides in Hania Desert, am I right?” Grimsley asked, and Hanna shot him an impressed smile.

“Yes, that would be so.” Hanna placed her hands on her sides. “I’ve never been to the ruins, but I’m sure Kahuna Nanu can show you if you happen to find him.”

Grimsley swallowed and his mouth twitched. Forcing a smile, he said, “I’ll be sure to talk to him about that, but first I need to see Acerola.”

“Right,” Hanna said with an acknowledging nod. “Anyways, you would need a Mudsdale to help you get through that desert’s tough boulders and nasty sandstorms. There’s a stable close to there that you can borrow that Pokémon from. Just ask for either Carlos or Yvonne.”

“Carlos or Yvonne, I’ll make sure to remember that,” Grimsley said, then a short silence fell between them. While he pondered over about Tapu Bulu and Aloan Pokémon, Grimsley started tossing his coin up in the air. After several tosses, Skarmory screamed and caught the coin with her beak. He glared, and pointed his finger at her. “Hey, that’s my coin you slimy bird!”

“This Skarmory likes shiny objects, so be careful showing anything like that to her.” As Hanna faced Skarmory, she said to the bird, “All right, Skarmory, give the gentleman his coin back.”

The Skarmory flapped her wings and let out a disappointed squawk, but nonetheless she obliged by spitting the coin out onto Grimsley’s palm. His mouth twitching in disgust, Grimsley wiped the spit out with his sleeve. He put the coin away.

“The Aether House isn’t too far, only less than half an hour bus ride from here. There should be one stopping here soon.”

With an appreciated smile, Grimsley said, “You have been wonderful guiding me through parts of this island.”

“Not a problem!” Hanna’s grin widened, her teeth showing. “Oh, before I go, you should have this.” She pulled out a small device from her pocket and handed it to Grimsley. “It’s a ride pager where you can call out Pokémon to help you out in all kinds of areas you won’t be able to get through yourself. For instance, some Pokémon like Mudsdale can get through places like Route 12, but you might want a water Pokémon to help you get through Alola’s seas.”

“A ride pager, huh? Well I’m sure this will come very handy,” Grimsely said, putting the ride pager away.

“It should!” Hanna said as she hopped onto Flygon. She then offered him best wishes on the rest of his journey and took off with both Flygon and Skarmory. Grimsley gazed up at the sky for a while until he couldn’t see her and the two flying Pokémon anymore, then he decided to get something to eat from the Pokémon Center first before waiting for the bus.

After Grimsley finished his meal, he caught a bus ride that was traveling through Route 15. There were only a few people taking seats, so this ride too has been a quiet one for him. This route wasn’t that much different from Route 11 in which there were some tropical greenery and Pokémon running around. When the bus driver announced that they stopped at Aether House, Grimsley jumped off of the bus.

He could see a lone white building, with a star symbol on top, situated on a hill. The “Aether House” sign was pinned from several feet across of him. He trekked through the path upwards, his shoes slapping onto the soft ground. Grimsley then reached the building and faced the doors, which slid open automatically for him, and stepped inside.

“Hello, is anyone here?” Grimsley asked as he looked around. Some couches and tables had been spread out, white lights shrouding everything inside the hall. Several doors stood in front of him, and in the middle of the hall there was a reception area where a woman in a white uniform and a large ape-like Pokémon covered in white and purple fur overlooking the computers. When he approached them, the lady offered him a warm smile while the Pokémon stared at him in great curiosity and grunted.

“Hello there, welcome to the Aether House! I’m Becky, one of the employees from the Aether Foundation. What brings you here to our shelter?”

Grimsley’s eyes shifted, his palm resting on the back of his neck. “Yes, well, I heard that Acerola visits here often, and I was wondering if I may have a word with her.”

“Oh, Acerola? She’s away at the moment, but should be here very soon. You want some water while you wait, Mister…?”

“Grimsley. And if that isn’t much trouble, that would be appreciated.” Grimsley took one of the seats, his elbow plopping on the table’s surface. Becky handed him a glass of water a minute later and he gulped it down, the liquid cooling his slightly dry throat. Becky’s Pokémon was behind her.

“Has Acerola returned yet?” someone with a child voice suddenly asked, and Grimsley looked over his shoulder to see two children approaching him and Becky. Three Pokémon trailed behind them, Grimsley recognized one of them as Elekid and the other Yungoos. The last one he never saw before, the Pokémon covering itself in a white cloth, as if pretending to be a Pikachu.

“Not yet, Hunter,” Becky told him. “This gentleman, Mister Grimsley here is waiting for her, too.”

“Oh, okay! I’m Hunter, and this here is my friend Gracie,” the boy Hunter said, pointing at the girl next to her. Gracie greeted Grimsley with a cheery “Hi!” and both children beamed at him. He smiled a little back at them, but then he blinked when he felt his black scarf being tugged. Grimsley looked down to see the Yungoos chewing on the fabric.

“No no no, my clothes aren’t for you to eat,” Grimsley said, glaring at the moongose. He pulled the scarf away from him, and Yungoos cried in disappointment. That was when the other Pokémon disguised as Pikachu used her shadowy claw to yank at his hair, causing him to scream. “Stop this strange creature from grabbing my hair!”

Becky gasped and immediately picked the Pokémon up, then set it down on the floor. Before Grimsley had a chance to relax, he grimaced when Hunter and Gracie grabbed his long scarf and began to wrap it around his face like a mummy. He and Becky cried out for them to stop, but they didn’t listen and went ahead with their prank. His face now covered with his own scarf, Grimsley grumbled over how he couldn’t breathe and waited for Becky to finish with unwrapping it. Once she was done, he gasped for air and glared at the two children. Hunter and Gracie giggled while Becky heaved out a deep sigh.

“Sorry about that,” Becky said. “Mimikyu and the kids just wanted to play.”

“Ah, so the Pikachu look alike is a Mimikyu.” He glimpsed back at the Mimikyu, who skidded on the floor while making some scratchy voices. Grimsley then fixed his gaze at the large ape Pokémon in front of him. “And what species is that Pokémon?” he asked, pointing at the beast.

“That’s an Oranguru.” A proud smile pulled on the corners of Becky’s lips and she patted his shoulder. “An intelligent Pokémon that can distinguish from an experienced trainer and an inexperienced one.”

“Is that so?” Grimsley lifted his head and stroked his chin. “They can tell by the way a trainer behaves, I assume?”

Becky nodded. “Usually, yeah, though I heard Oranguru will already know the minute a trainer comes to them.” She looked over her shoulder at Oranguru, who just grunted.

Grimsley gulped more of his water, then said, “A friend had mentioned to me that one of the Aether Foundation’s goals is to protect the Pokémon from any harm. I take it this is the purpose of this shelter?”

“Ah huh.” This time it was Gracie who responded. “Acerola, Becky, and many others have been super nice to the children and Pokémon here!” Next to her, Hunter grinned and Becky nodded in agreement.

“They have been sweethearts in return and I love watching over them. I wouldn’t trade this job for the world.”

Upon hearing their praises, Grimsley frowned and his fingers tapped on the table. Memories of Team Plasma resurfaced as he was reminded how several members preached over Pokémon’s freedom and safety above all else. Then again, Team Plasma’s agenda was a ruse thanks to their leader, and the people within Aether Foundation probably do want to save Pokémon out of the goodness of their hearts. It was still too early to judge at this point.

“Heeeey guys, we’re home!” another voice said, distracting Grimsley’s thoughts. He rose out of his seat and turned around to see two people entering the building. One was a teenage girl dressed in a tattered dress and a golden bracelet on her arm, her unruly purple hair barely above her shoulders. The other person she brought with her looked to be several years older than Grimsley from his grey hair and sunken face. He was dressed like a police officer with a badge attached on the sleeve of his shirt, and a small stone hung around his neck that sparkled with the lighting in the hall. For some reason, he couldn’t stop staring at the man and his presence made his skin tingle in electrical spurts.

“Acerola!” both Gracie and Hunter cheered. They rushed over to hug her, Acerola embracing them back. Yungoos and Mimikyu joined them also, the Pokémon tugging at Acerola’s dress.

Grimsley soon approached them, and when Acerola noticed him she grinned and place one hand on her hip.

“Oh, a visitor? Alola, I’m Acerola, and this guy here is Uncle Nanu!”

Grimsley’s mouth fell open and his shoulders stiffened. He didn’t expect to see the kahuna himself this soon. Nonetheless, he smirked at them.

“It’s a pleasure to meet the both of you. I’m Grimsley.” He shook both Acerola and Nanu’s hands. “Iokua from the Malie Library told me a little bit about you two,” he told Acerola when facing back at her.

“Oh, so you’ve met Uncle Iokua!” Acerola said, her smile widening. “Did you get to check out my father’s books back there?”

“I did, and his book collection is marvelous. I’m glad I had dropped by there.”

Nanu snorted, his hands in his pockets. “Huh, I don’t think we’ve ever met before. Are you from this region?”

Grimsley shook his head. “I’m just merely a tourist wanting to know more about Alolan culture and maybe find a good battle or two.”

“Wait, so you’re a trainer? And those pokéballs are yours?” Gracie asked, pointing at the pokéballs attached on the knot tied around Grimsley’s waist.

“Oh, oh, can we have a battle?” Hunter asked, bouncing up and down.

Giving him a sad smile, Grimsley said, “Unfortunately, I’ll have to kindly decline your offer there, Hunter.” He folded his hands on his lap. “I’m actually a very strong trainer and I don’t seek battles that will net me an easy win.”

“I don’t care!” Hunter pouted, clenching both of his fists. “My Elekid and I are always seeking out battling so we can get stronger.” Beside him, his Elekid jumped up and down in anticipation, tiny sparks coursing out from his body.

Becky approached Hunter, squeezing his shoulders. With an awkward laugh, she said, “I think the kids and I should leave you three alone. Let’s go, Hunter, Gracie.”

Both Hunter and Gracie let out upset noises. Becky gathered the children and Pokémon, taking them back inside one of the rooms. Nanu dragged in a sigh and shook his head.

“Kids, I tell you, always eager to battle,” he said as he sunk himself on one of the couches. “I’ve had my fair share of Pokémon battles where trainers think they’re all hot stuff but ended up embarrassing themselves.”

“But you still enjoy doing those, don’t you Uncle Nanu?” Acerola flashed him a grin. “Battles are one way a Pokémon and trainer bond together!”

Nanu responded with a side glance at Acerola and a “hmph” under his breath. Grimsley stared at him for a minute, his fingers jerking. He was then reminded of his conversations with Iokua and Hanna, and said, “Say, Kahuna Nanu—”

“Just Nanu is fine,” he interrupted him, a bored expression on his face. “I’m not all that wild on formalities.”

Grimsley made a fake cough, then said, “Right, Nanu. Anyways, I had met someone who told me about Tapu Bulu’s residence over at Haina Desert, and that you’re the perfect person to ask. Perhaps you could bring me there and show me around?”

Acerola gasped in shock, her eyes wide, while Nanu grimaced. The kahuna rose out of his seat and approached Grimsley, glaring at him.

“You think I’m gonna just take some random trainer to one of Alola’s most sacred places? I recall you saying you’re ‘merely a tourist’ only a few minutes ago.”

Smirking, Grimsley wiggled his finger and said, “Ah, but I’m no ordinary trainer. Have you heard of Grimsley Thomas of the Unova Elite Four? You’re looking at him right now.”

Both Acerola and Nanu narrowed their eyes at him, as if not believing him at first. After Acerola gave a closer look at Grimsley, she beamed.

“Silly me, I didn’t recognize you at first because of your white streaks and you looked several years older now. So you’re really Grimsley of the Elite Four!”

Grimsley let out an appalled gasp, crossed his arms, and said, “Oh come now, I don’t look that old!” This was the third time he had been called that, so of course his pride got hurt a little.

Unlike Acerola, Nanu didn’t look impressed, his lips pressed flat. “Even if you’re a king of some faraway kingdom, I’m still suspicious. The Tapus aren’t Pokémon to be taken lightly.”

Having calmed down from Acerola’s comment about him looking older, Grimsley said, “While meeting your island’s guardian would be a treat, that is not what I desire. I just want to see how the Ruins of Abundance looks, nothing more, nothing less.” When Nanu didn’t respond and still stared at him, Grimsley said, “Still not convinced, huh? How about we let chance decide for us, then.”

“Huh?” Acerola blinked, tilting her head in confusion. Nanu raised his eyebrow.

Grinning in amusement, Grimsley pulled out a coin from the sleeve of his kimono. “Heads or tails. The one you choose will be us not going to the Ruins of Abundance while the other option will be us going there.”

“Oh, a coin toss? Sounds fun!” Acerola said.

Nanu stared at him funny, as if he was insane. He then said, “You know what, I’ll play your little charade. Tails.”

In that instant, Grimsley tossed his coin up and grabbed it in the air. He opened his palms to reveal the coin landed on heads and chuckled. “Looks like I win! That means you have to take me to the Ruins of Abundance.”

Nanu folded his arms against his chest, his brow furrowed. “Haina Desert can be confusing to get through, so I think it’s best if we wait until tomorrow to head out.”

“Are you staying anywhere?” Acerola asked. Grimsley told her that he might be staying at the Pokémon Center over at Tapu Village. Her face lit up. “Since it’s getting late, why don’t you stay here for the night? That way, we can leave together in the morning and I can even show you my island trial site.”

After pondering over Acerola’s offer for a minute, Grimsley said, “That sounds like a shining idea. Sure, I’ll sleep here for the night.”

“Great!” Acerola clapped her hands and her feet bounced. “You can take the room at the far right, and there should be some fresh pajamas in the drawers. We can just order some pizza for dinner.”

“I appreciate it, thank you very much the both of you,” Grimsley said with a small smile and bowed his head. Today he did travel for a while and was already overwhelmed upon his visit in the Aether House , so some rest would be good.

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