Pokemon Reset Bloodlines: Melemele Grand Trial Interlude @crossoverpairinglover
Chapter 1

This is going to be a bit different. Behold the first colab of mine in Reset Bloodlines: Crossoverpairinglover-Viroro-Kun's Grand Trial Interlude!

...yes, it is very long. There was some talk of splitting it up into chapters, but honestly that seems a tad much. This was not made to be chapters but a single narrative, and I recently had a bit of a bad case of splitting a single narrative so I'm not quite eager to do that again for a while.

Also the most continuity heavy oneshot in the Resetverse I have written. So, sorry if you get lost. This ties up to a lot of the other oneshots, especially the Alolan ones. So I'd suggest reading this if you've also read the Kiawe, Gladion, Wicke & Nephew, Guzma, Hala and Hau, and Frax and Velvet oneshots, not in that particular order though.

This oneshot is just like Deathmate! And if you know anything about that, you'd can probably guess that this took a while to make. But it as does not involve Rob Liefeld, it should at least be of a better quality

I like to think we've gotten better at original character creation than the guy since the early days. At the very least, when I write characters with muscles or large tracts of land they do not resemble deformed sex mutants.

…Anyway, enough Rob Liefeld commentary, we have a story to read.

Enjoy!

A battle with a Kahuna was a rare privilege even with the societal expectations of anyone worth respect having achieved it.

You had to prove yourself worthy with trials first. Upon doing so, and for many only after winning such a battle, one could prove themselves to be a exceptional member of society worthy of lasting respect and admiration.

Frax didn't care much for the respect of others. The idea of discounted shaved ice for life or honors during traditional ceremonies for defeating the four Kahunas wasn't what drove him.

It was something else. A boundless energy that bubbled in his core, a desire to see everything the islands of Alola had to offer. To see how far his friends, his Pokemon, and himself could go.`

What he'd do after that...well that was a question he had never considered. Would be become a Kahuna? Perhaps leave Alola to see the world beyond the ocean. A league challenge perhaps, where he might find that guy who looked like him and his sister.

Not to be confused with the girl who looked like him and his sister who flew into their school a while ago to tell Kiawe that he had a job.

It was too early to think about the future though. He had to defeat Hala first, it was a long time before he could think of Ash Ketchum.

"Thank you for waiting. The damage wasn't nearly as serious as I had originally feared. The repairs shouldn't take more than a hour."

After all, the future was always changing. Just some moments ago he thought they'd need days to fix the Pokeball.

Trainer, Pikachu, and Rockruff let out shared sighs of relief as the verdict was cast, and the smiling shopkeeper turned around and returned to the back of his store, a cracked Pokeball in hand.

Three days of intense training had ended not long ago, in preparation for the battle against Hala that would occur in two days time. The forests of Melemele had provided many successful avenues for him to train with his Pokemon.

Steep hills to climb, rocks to crush, occasional ravenous hordes of Yungoos to fight off. All expected and intended.

The Salamence wasn't in his admittedly vague 'hill training' plans, but it had been an excellent battle to cap off their preparations for Melemele's strongest trainer.

As long as his mother never found out, it would be fine.

He probably shouldn't tell Lillie either. She'd probably freak out just as badly, if not more so.

Between the two she was more likely to have read about the many ways a Salamence could have actually torn him limb from limb.

Preventing that battle from being mentioned was why he stopped at a Hau'oli City Pokeball Repairshop, as the only scar said Salamence had left had been a bite mark that damaged Rockruff's Pokeball.

His mother may often be busy, but she'd notice the giant fang impression in the ball, or why Rockruff wasn't being put in a Pokeball during rainstorms.

Leaning back on a old chair in the shop Frax's eyes wandered even as Rockruff tried to goad Pikachu to play chase, only to get her tail and back in response.

They rested on a open product box containing some sort of blue spherical case. It almost looked like it could fit a Pokeball in it.

Dislodging Pikachu from her perch as he stood up (The mouse staying on the seat), he walked over to said case and picked one up.

Also reaching for Litten's Pokeball, he enlarged it and opened up the blue case. The top and bottom separated, revealing a hollow inside.

Litten's ball was placed inside the case, before Frax closed it back up.

The ball fit inside perfectly.

"I see you've found my Ball Capsules." He heard the repairman from the back speak up.

"Ball what?"

"Capsules. You see how some of my ball accessory stickers don't come from local providers?"

Uh, maybe? He wasn't really a huge proponent on growing and buying local so he wouldn't know a Alola Made stamp from a Child-proof Stamp.

He probably should figure that out before he considered serious dating.

"Those are imports from my kin over in Sinnoh. They're these special stickers called seals that create special effects when you combine them with a Ball Capsule and a Pokeball. Coordinators are particularly fond of them, though apparently there is a wrestler of some fame who also uses them for entrances."

Interesting...Did he have enough change for some?

The door rang with the arrival of a second customer, as a duo of footsteps entered the shop.

"Give me a moment and I'll be right with you. I need a place I can safely stop on my current repair job. If you are the kid about the ball repair and replacement it's done. Your Pokemon is back in the Premier Ball and the temporary Pokeball is fully usable again."

"Good." Said the young man who had entered the shop.

"Um!" his Umbreon chimed in.

The man stared at everything with an intense frown, one that married his face in a strange way. Though aside from that, there was something... odd about him.

"Rawf!"

Rockruff appeared to agree.

He stared at him, trying to figure out what about this guy felt familiar.

A green eye darted his way, giving a glare.

"What?"

If he knew what it was, he would know why he was staring.

"What, you never see a 'Haole' before? I'm hardly a tourist."

Frantic hand waving was his response to that comment.

"No no no not at all. I would never use that word and that wasn't it at all. You just look kind of familiar for some reason and I was trying to figure it out why."

Haole. A term of unpleasant origin and context. Most commonly used by native Alolans, particularly from Ula'Ula, to describe those who weren't native Alolans who lived in Alola. It wasn't necessarily a slur, but there weren't really many other ways the new customer meant it as.

"Yes, I'm sure I do." He drawled.

"Not like that! I mean the only people I know who have your skin tone is my Principal and my friend, and you aren't making horrible puns so you can't be like him and you are much shorter than Lillie is..."

"Lillie?" The boy repeated.

"Yeah..." Was Lillie an odd name outside of Alola? Or did he know her from somewhere?

An ex boyfriend perhaps?

"You know her?" He pressed on it, even as his Umbreon was giving body language that shouted 'stop before you do something stupid'.

"She's my friend." Frax declared. A nice looking friend but a friend none the less.

"A friend huh...enough to do social activities with her I take it?"

That was...an odd way to go at it? What did he mean by that?

Classwork? Lunch? Potato-sack racing?

"I guess..." Though he felt like potato-sack racing with Lillie would go horribly wrong and lead to not only them losing, but at least one damaged foot.

"Like swimming perhaps?"

"Uh huh." What was this guy's deal exactly? Jealous ex?

He didn't even know Lillie had a jealous ex.

After past beach days were confirmed, the older boy of shorter height began to slowly glare at him. His eyes slowly narrowed into slits, or was that just his imagination.

"Where were you on the day of..."

"Um!"

"Okay sir, I've got your balls ready!"

Both Pokemon and Repairman interrupted the...whatever was going on as the eyes left their slit formation and he walked to the counter where a Poke and Premier ball lay in wait.

He swiped both, apparently having already paid. The repairman wasn't glaring at him for cash anyway.

"Say kid, I got a brief look at the Pokémon inside, can't say I recognize it. What is it exactly, some sort of Mudkip?"

"No." Was his only response before turning and walking back towards Rockruff, Pikachu, and himself.

As he replaced the Premier Ball on his belt the short teen looked ready to resume glaring, only for a loud knocking to ring through the building. This elicited a sigh from the teen, and a look of exasperation from the Umbreon.

"...I'd deal with you, but I have run out of time. Life has decided to give me a timer, and it can find me anywhere. You better not oogle Lillie.."

Not oogle...what?

Before that declaration could be clarified the boy opened the door, where a black arm popped out and grabbed both him and Umbreon and yanking them outside. The sound of a large bounding form echoed as he was taken away.

By something.

"...Lillie's ex is a strange, strange little man." Was all he could say about what just happened.

"Rawf."

"Pika." They were in agreement it would seem.

Though would the next 45 or so minutes have anything as interesting as whatever it was that had just happened?

Velvet knew that the best way to win a battle was a solid strategy and knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses. Her brother was always the guy who thought on the fly and crafted strategies no one would ever think of, but she always preferred to know what she was doing before a fight.

Thus, some training under the best Pokemon expert of their class was the most efficient way to prepare for the Grand Trial. In theory, at least.

And seeing how she'd been at Sophocles' house for a good thirty minutes and they had yet to work on her team, doubts were rather justifiable.

"Hmmm! Mom's Malasada are just the best, don't you think?" Sophocles asked with a big smile, eating the sweets on the plate four at a time. Next to him, Togedemaru snuggled and ate chunks of Malasada as well.

Velvet gave a quick nod as she munched with much better manners. "Yeah, they are great, but I think you are forgetting something right now."

"Oh no, don't worry! I know we have our evaluation to do, but running at low energy will get us nowhere, don't you think?"

Velvet rolled her eyes and grabbed one of her Pokeball, sighing. "I guess."

To Sophocles' credit, he devoured the rest of his Malasada in roughly one minute and a half, and led Velvet towards his new laboratory, not that she'd be able to tell given it looked exactly the same as the one in his old house.

She wasn't sure if she'd call that impressive on his part, or somewhat unsettling.

"Alright, let's not waste too much time." Sophocles took a deep breath and sat in front of his computer. He inserted several keys as he eyed Velvet. "We haven't worked much together, so I don't have a comprehensive list of data about your team, but going by what Frax told me and your battles, I think I have enough to discern your battle style and work on ways to improve it. You have followed that training program we had decided, right?"

"Yes, I've made sure to keep my team in top shape for the last few days, training them on withstanding their weak points but without going overboard with it." Velvet smiled. "And I also brought them to the Pokemon Center on the way, just to be extra sure."

"Excellent. When I had to work with Frax for his rematch with Tapu Koko, he just overworked his Pokémon to the point of exhaustion and there was little to no data to use in the end…" Sophocles grumbled, then shook his head and focused back on his PC. "Anyway, you said you were planning on using your Persian, Cutiefly and Raticate, right? Kinda risky to use two newly evolved Pokémon in a row. Why not use your Magnemite?"

"I considered it, but given Kahuna Hala specializes in Fighting-types, it's better to avoid that. My whole team is already weak to Fighting as it is, better to have at least one advantage where I can get it."

Magnemite was also the slowest of her Pokemon. She wasn't sure if she wanted to fight the raw power of Hala's Pokemon without a speed advantage.

"Yeah. I would've been able to help you better with Magnemite, though. Electric types I get." Sophocles opened his mail and tapped over the desk with his free hand. He raised an eyebrow. "Hm, seems like he's late. We will have to wait a bit."

Velvet got closer, frowning. "Wait for what?"

Sophocles sighed and turned the other way. "I asked my cousin Molayne for some help. He's a Trial Captain over at Ula'Ula, and their Kahuna specializes in Dark-types."

He remained silent for a bit, then stared absentmindedly at the screen while waiting for the e-mail. Velvet observed him, and then noticed Sophocles clenching and unclenching his hands rhythmically, and most importantly his sad gaze.

"You look troubled. Something wrong?" She crossed her arms.

Sophocles widened his eyes and turned around, arms raised and mouth agape. "N-n-no no no! Everything's fine, really! Don't worry!"

Velvet just stared. Sophocles remained still, then the arms drooped down, his mouth closed, he sighed and rubbed his cheek. "Is it that noticeable?"

"Just a bit." Actually it was quite obvious, even Frax could pick it up. Without looking for it specifically.

She inched closer and stared straight into Sophocles' eyes. "So, since we are waiting anyway, what are your problems? After some weeks ago, you should know not to keep everything bottled up."

"I know, I know." Sophocles pouted, leaning on his arm. He gazed to the side. "It's just… I don't like to contact Big Mo for this kind of stuff. He's a busy Trial Captain and I feel like I'm wasting his time."

"To call him 'Big Mo', you must be close to him." Velvet eyed a framed picture to the side of the desk, depicting Sophocles and a lankier guy with glasses smiling at the camera. "I'm sure he enjoys talking with you. This is him, right?"

"Yeah." Sophocles turned to the picture himself, nodding.

He grabbed it, observing himself and then Molayne. "Still… he's the administrator of Alola's PC network, works at Hokulani Observatory, and is also the Steel-type Trial Captain of Ula'Ula, all at the same time, and he's been since he was sixteen. He's a hard-worker and earned his positions through sheer talent, and is widely respected in all his fields of work."

Silence fell, interrupted only by Sophocles' sighs. Velvet squinted.

"And…?"

"And... he wants me to be his successor." Sophocles clenched his grip over the picture. "He's almost at the end of his tenure, so it should be anywhere between one or two years from now."

Velvet beamed and jumped off her chair, fists pumped. "Really? That's wonderful! Congratulations!"

Silence continued. Velvet's expression quickly morphed into a frown. "You really aren't excited for it, are you?"

A weak smile formed on Sophocles, one that showed excitement, but also something else.

Unease.

"Why would he choose me, of all people? I mean Kiawe I understand: He's cool and tough and his grandpa was a Kahuna, but I'm none of those things." Sophocles' lips curled downward, losing any confidence as he placed the picture away and balled his fists. "I'm weak, Togedemaru prefers to play around rather than fight, Charjabug is lazy, and I just waste my time here gathering useless data and creating inventions no one cares about. I'm just… wasting time, when Big Mo was already a Trial Captain at this point."

Silence fell again, Sophocles' fists still clenched shut. Velvet smiled and patted his back.

"Come on, don't knock yourself too much. Your inventions are pretty good, not to mention helpful."

"You don't need to lie to make me feel better, Velvet." Sophocles almost smiled before he turned back to the screen. "And even then, there are people much better than me at that. Like Citronic_Gear."

Velvet turned to the screen as well. "Citronic who?"

"A kid I met on an Electric-type specialists forum, he's from Kalos."

Kalos, the region with that war three thousand years ago? The one with all those performer girls and odd tasting puff food?

Sophocles opened a tab and entered a web address, quickly reaching 'Citronic_Gear''s profile, with a happy Shinx as its avatar. Sophocles sighed yet again.

"He lives in Lumiose City and has already won several science fair prizes for his inventions. And that's not all." He faced Velvet again, extending his arms at his sides. "You know the Prism Tower? That huge shiny tower right in the middle of the city? He helped improve its design a few years ago!"

"Woah. Seriously?" And here she thought the certificate of recognition she and Frax got a while ago was impressive.

"Yeah, crazy, right?" He placed both hands on his desk and stared towards the Shinx. "And not only that, the current Gym Leader is training him to be his successor. He seems to be doing well, too."

He frowned and glared at the keyboard. "He's literally me, but better in any possible way. Everyone works far harder than I do, and I instead just… just…"

"Hey, calm down." Velvet tried to put a hand over his shoulder, only for Sophocles to dodge it.

He chuckled and rubbed his neck. "I-I'm calm! What are you talking about?"

Velvet squinted at him again. Sophocles stopped, sweat running over his face, until a ping went off. He instantly turned around and went back to the mail.

"Oh, look, Big Mo has replied. I think we can start the evaluation now." He pressed a few buttons, opening the mail and copying its contents in his holo-laptop's hard drive. He turned back and smiled. "Take your Pokémon out, and sorry for making you wait."

Velvet kept looking at Sophocles, his forced smile and uneven breathing quite easy to notice. She shook her head and grabbed her Pokeballs.

If he didn't wanted to talk about his problems any more, it was better not to force them out. She would've helped him out in due time, she was sure of that. Until then, she couldn't lose sight of her main goal.

Her chosen Pokémon appeared, and the evaluation began.

Evaluation time had been over for a while now.

She had the information, she had the training, and now she had only to wait.

One day of rest, then a Grand Trial after breakfast.

Could she be more ready for it? Perhaps, but outside of spending years punching rocks at Lanakila's summit instead of having a social life or reading what else was there for her to do?

The only factor she could have done more with is time frankly, and Hala had taken long enough to accept their challenge that asking for more time would be many things, but nothing positive.

Questioning preparedness was pointless, she'd simply have to have faith in herself, her brother, and their Pokemon.

That was all she could add at this point.

"Alola!"

Velvet came to a stop at the call, turning around to find a smiling bluenette waving her down.

"Alola!" She greeted back. Lana smiled, darting over to her for a conversation spoken in words as opposed to shouts.

As Lana got close Velvet tried not to note how short the girl still was: even with puberty she was still short. It really annoyed the girl, especially after Sophocles edged her out early in their first year of schooling together.

Avoiding making it obvious that she had to look down at her, Velvet noted a package in hand.

"You got a package?" Perhaps she'd have an opening to mess with the girl. It would be nice to mess with her instead of her messing with Frax or Lillie for a change.

"Yes. It's from my dad."

Lana's simple statement ended thoughts of teasing.

It had taken them a while to learn where Lana's father was at. They had never seen him, and he had never gone to any event at school. Nor had it ever come up in conversation casually.

It wasn't until somewhat recently that they found out what was up.

Lana's father and mother were still together, but he was rarely in Alola. He worked overseas at a energy facility run by Altru for most of the year, only being back for a select few holidays.

Ever since the twins were born apparently, and from what she had sort of gleamed it was because they had not been expecting twins.

The twins could be little fanged demons sometimes, but it was probably best they never picked up on that little fact. Ever.

"So, what did he send you?" Velvet took a careful prod into this potentially tricky issue.

Lana shrugged, and only then did Velvet remember that this wasn't like asking Lillie about her parents. Lana was a lot less defensive about it, they had simply never asked and she had never said anything about it until they did.

Points to the Rotomdex for that one. It had stayed home simply to avoid Sophocles's many screwdrivers.

"It depends, he sends a lot of things he finds around. Books, clothes, jewelry, things like that. Mom wears the earrings he got her a lot."

So she wouldn't know until it was opened, probably at her place.

Thus, Velvet and Lana walked together along the shore, their discussion drifting away from Lana's father and towards the trial, with Lana confirming she'd be there, just like Sophocles did. Velvet couldn't deny to be happy to hear they'd set aside their time to watch her and Frax's Grand Trial, the first step towards their future.

Velvet paused, a frown darkening her face. She sighed and turned back to Lana.

"Say, what do you plan to do once school's over?"

With that fact stated the two walked along the shore for a few minutes, small talk passing by of little substance along an assurance from Lana she'd be there for the trial.

That was nice. Sophocles had also promised his presence for it, though it did raise a question.

"Lana…..what are you planning to do when school is over?"

Both stopped walking, the seaside road empty but for the two of them and the sun that loomed towards setting, starting the formation of Alola's famous red and orange tinted sunsets.

"That's sudden." Lana observed.

"I guess it is, but Sophocles talked a bit about his future earlier and it sort of came back to the surface just now. I mean Kiawe's done this year and the rest of us next year, and he's already have a plan. Trial Captain, then he'll go get into professional dancing. At dance college, or wherever you study dance. Frax's thinking of it now too, freakin' Frax. Sure it's just 'maybe I'll go and challenge the Pokemon Leagues', but it's something. I've got nothing."

The last part came out with a accompanying increase of unease. Lana cocked her head in a manner that reminded her that she was related to Harper and Sarah.

"You could do the same. You both are into battling."

A sigh came before her response.

"Sure, but there's a difference between him and I."

"Yes, you have boobs." Lana deadpanned. "They are very large and enviable."

"That, and just how Frax gets along with Pokemon. Frax doesn't have to really do anything to get Pokemon to join him. He doesn't have to battle any of them, they just join him on their own accord. Pikachu, Rockruff, Munchlax, all of them just join him on their own. Even Butterfree joined him willingly, it stuck to his arm the entire contest and wouldn't get off."

Frax spent the rest of the day flailing about with a Caterpie stuck to his arm. He had not won the contest as a result. Not that she had won it either.

"You're starting to sound like Rotom." Lana pointed out, "You're not going to start shouting about errors are you?"

That had been an annoying episode.

"No, but for him it would be easy. He could just walk from…..give me a port would you?"

"Slateport City."

"Slateport, that's Hoenn right? Well he could just walk from Slateport across Hoenn to the league there and he'd have an entire team of Pokemon join up with him without any fights, perfectly happy and working well with him."

Lana had that look on her face mid way through her statement. The sort of look that came with her mischief, though she wasn't sure what mischief she had had. Unless there was something funny about walking?

"Me….other than Meowth I had to fight and catch everyone."

"And that is strange how? This is hardly a case of Frax being normal, capturing in batlte is how it normally works" Lana reasoned.

"All of his Pokemon chose to do so, they want to be with him. With my Pokemon, who knows if that is what they really want?"

Lana was silent for a few moments, before….

POKE!

"Ow!" she was jabbed in the stomach.

"I'd have done your head, but I can't reach up there. You are overthinking things, seriously it's like all the thinking Frax doesn't do makes you overthink. If you are worried about not knowing if a Pokemon would want to travel with you doing who knows what, it is not your job to worry about that alone. If you catch a Pokemon who doesn't want to battle, you'll pick it up quickly enough. That's how we know what Pokemon are Ride Pokemon. You aren't unobservant, Frax isn't that unobservant. Very people are that unobservant, most of the time that sort of thing is because they don't care instead of them not noticing."

"If you don't have a clear idea of what you want to do, that's fine. You don't have to have your future mapped out already. Kiawe's just weird that way, and he's probably going to get really frustrated when something gets in his way. Because something will, that's life."

Velvet noted Lana pause for a calming breath before she continued.

"I know what I want to do. One day I want to travel the world and see all the sea has to offer. Maybe Popplio and I will master bubbles to the point we can drift through the sea. Maybe I'll buy a boat and travel the world. Perhaps I'll work on a shipping boat, or even the Navy. You don't need to plan every step of the way, you just need to know where you want to end up."

Lana paused again for a moment before shrugging.

"Though I have to admit I like the 'buying my own boat' idea best, but I can live with the company of sailors if all else fails. I certainly wouldn't mind."

Lana had a smirk at the idea.

"You do know there are these things called fraternization laws, right?" Velvet pointed out.

"Again, that's why my own boat would be the best option. No by-laws for what I do or do not do with the strapping men of the world."

Both girls broke into laughter.

"You've been reading those history books again, haven't you?" Velvet eventually stopped laughing long enough to question where Lana got the idea.

"If a king in a canoe somehow got to do it, who's to say I can't with a motorboat?"

Laughter returned after that one.

Frax had never been a patient guy. The moment he had come of age to be a trainer, he had literally thrown himself into the forest to catch some Pokémon, and returned with a Pikachu and a Rowlet by his side. Also a sprained wrist and a cut on his ankle, but that wasn't important.

Thing was, he wasn't the kind of guy that liked to just sit around and go nothing. If he didn't have school to attend, he would've probably already explored all of Alola and then some. As such, it was no surprise that he slept for no more than a couple of hours that night and spent the rest of his time planning new strategies for his whole team. Then Velvet threw a pillow at him and told him to stay quiet, so Frax went for a morning stroll to refresh his mind and getting into the right mindset for the Grand Trial.

Once he was done, he entered back home and barely suppressed a yawn. Seeing his mother leaving her room, he raised an arm. "Morning."

"Oh, you are here. We were wondering where you had gone," Jasmine said, smiling.

Frax quirked an eyebrow and turned around. "We?"

"Alola, Frax!"

Frax turned around in confusion as he saw Mallow beam at him from behind the kitchen, the green haired girl and Steenee juggled several ingredients and meshed them together in a bowl even as they waved his way.

"Huh, Alola Mallow." Frax blinked, then faced his mother again. "What is she doing here?"

"Well, today's an important day for you and Velvet, the least I could do was make sure you had the best breakfast possible to be fired up and ready for the Grand Trial. Plus, she volunteered to help." Jasmine smiled and crossed her arms.

Mallow smiled as well, nodding. "It's the least I can do for my friends."

Frax stared first at his mother and then at his friend. He joined on the smiling. "Thank you!"

"You are welcome." Jasmine glanced at the clock, then sighed. She rose from her chair and grabbed her bag. "I need to go, my shift is starting. Don't worry though, I will definitely be in Iki Town when the Grand Trial will start. Give Velvet a good luck for me, alright?"

"I will." Frax patted his chest, then waved at his mother. "Good work!"

"Same to you!"

And with a wave of her own, Jasmine Lono rushed out of the house and left her son and Mallow alone. Once she left, Frax sniffed the pleasant smell in the air and walked closer to the kitchen. He looked over to the pot, then turned back to Mallow and Steenee cutting up some vegetables.

"So, what are you preparing?"

"That's a secret." Mallow giggled and winked at Frax. "But I'm sure you will be shocked by it!"

Frax paled and widened his eyes, sending a horrified gaze toward the pot. "You aren't making an electric stew again, I hope…"

"Heheh, don't worry, I'm experimenting with something else. I won't create an unique flavor if I just try the same thing over and over, after all."

"Oh, right, your dream." Frax sighed in relief, then perked his head up."How is that going?"

"Mostly the same as last time." Mallow grumbled as she tossed the vegetables inside the pot and closed it. "I feel like I'm stuck in the same place and nothing I do seems to matter."

"Sorry to hear that."

Mallow smiled again, and regulated the flame under the pot. "Oh, I'm not going to give up just yet. It just means that I need to try harder, that's all."

"That's the spirit." Frax pumped his fists. "I can't wait to taste it, no one cooks better than you in Melemele!"

"Good to know." Mallow folded her arms. "I can't disappoint my customers, after all. Especially not the next Island Trial Champion!"

"Heh, I will do my best." Frax chuckled and rubbed his neck, sending an uneasy gaze to the side.

Mallow quirked an eyebrow, studying Frax's face. "Something wrong?"

"Oh, don't worry. I was just thinking."

Mallow and Steenee's glance quickly morphed into a horrified expression. Frax pouted in response.

"Come on, I'm not that dumb!"

"Well, it's still strange to see you think in depth." Mallow grabbed a chair and sat in front of Frax, as Steenee jumped at her side. "If you want to talk about it, I'm here."

Frax seemed to consider the offer, which almost horrified Mallow and Steenee further before he nodded and looked back at them.

"I was just thinking of that time Velvet and I searched for Oricorio flowers, back when I caught Munchlax." Frax crossed his arms, frowning. "I told you of what happened in Poni, right?"

"Yes, you were surrounded by a horde of strong wild Pokémon and had no choice but to escape."

"Yeah, but that's not all. The reason Velvet was able to fire her Z-Move and buy us some time was that something had paralyzed the wild Pokémon with fear. I didn't get a good look at it, but it was huge and black, and it looked really evil."

Mallow tilted her head. "A Pokémon?"

"It really didn't look like one." Frax felt a sense of dread crawling behind his skin as he instinctively balled his fists. "The point is, these wild Pokémon were already crazy strong, to the point a Breakneck Blitz didn't do much to their leader. And somewhere in Poni, there's something that scares them."

He shook his head, then glanced at his palms. "Even just in Melemele, there's a lot of Pokémon that are much stronger than me and my Pokémon, and trainers too."

Mallow shared a look with Steenee, then turned back to Frax in concern. "Are you worried that you won't reach their level?"

Frax looked back up, confused. Then, Mallow's question sunk in, and he raised his eyebrow.

"What? Not at all!" He flashed his newfound grin. "I will train and become stronger than all of them! I will defeat anyone on my path, and become the greatest trainer Alola has ever seen!"

Mallow sighed in relief before she smiled as well. "Typical Frax. It's great to see you so driven."

"Pokémon battling is all I'm good to do, I'm not smart like Velvet after all." Frax gave her a sheepish grin, which only widened as he punched the air. "But that doesn't mean I'm gonna give up! I will show Kahuna Hala that I'm ready to move on with the trials! And then I will gain enough money for mom and make sure she doesn't have to work all the time!"

Mallow and Steenee let out a chuckle at once, then returned serious as she inched closer to Frax. "So, do you plan to take on Totem hunting or something? There aren't much avenues for trainers here in Alola."

"Not sure yet. I guess I will know once I finish the Island Challenge." Frax shrugged, glancing outside the window.

"Going with the flow as usual?"

Frax nodded, hands behind his neck. "I don't like to overthink the future, it's better to focus on the present."

"That's also true." Mallow nodded back. Then, her smile widened. "Well, good luck for the Grand Trial, then, I'm sure my stew will-"

Right then, a pungent odor wafted in. An odd blend of grape jelly and mustard, with a hint of lemon. Both Mallow and Frax flinched and turned towards the pot.

"Oh no!" Steenee closed the fire and Mallow raised the the pot's lid. The smell worsened as a cloud of steam left as well.

Oddly enough it now smelled like engine exhaust mixed with tobacco smoke and pumpkin.

Mallow had no words, and neither did Frax. She slapped her own forehead, and Steenee sighed.

Thankfully Munchlax was able to dispose of the results before anyone was able to bear witness to it. Munchlax seemed pleased in any case, though that was hardly a show of quality.

Munchlax would eat anything, and only spat out non-organic material, and even then Munchlax still ate grits.

When Velvet finally woke up, she found it pretty weird that their breakfast amounted to just a few crackers and some water, and also why Frax seemed rather disappointed as they ate.

Nonetheless, the Lono twins consumed their measly meal, took all they needed, and walked out of their house and to the north, towards Iki Town.

Hala took a long breath, his coffee emitting steam beside himself as he stared at the computer monitor.

Hala,

An old friend got back to me. I have the thing you wanted.

The Skulls are up to something. Thought I'd let you know. Not sure what, probably going to be a pain in our asses one way or the other.

Nanu

Below it was a single sentence, blue amidst the default black text of the computer.

It wasn't the old Alolamail account, but a different provider, and somewhat unprofessional in the way it was set up. But if Nanu's sources were correct, this was his email.

His son's.

A distant alarm sounded. Hau's alarm. How much time did that leave him?

Half an hour maybe?

That should be enough time. Enough for him to get this done.

A finger reached for the keyboard, tapping on D. Than E, and A, and R.

Dear.

Hala took a swig of coffee before looking at his progress.

Why did this seem like a greater trial than the one he was going to give today?

Remembering the time limit he had beyond 'grandson finding the shampoo and the faucet', Hala forced his hand towards the first letter in his son's name.

He had many things to do today, and this was the first of them.

By far it was the hardest.

Hala went to check out the ceremonial battlefield.

It was always wise to ensure that nothing had gone wrong with it overnight. His predecessor had taught him the value of ensuring that Grand Trials were not offset by the town drunk vomiting on it.

It had never happened to him, but he had been told that interrupting battles to wash the place off and roll the drunk away angered Tapu Koko.

It was the reason Iki Town was dry, though the deity had no problem with drunken idiocy elsewhere on the island.

It was amusing for it so long as it did not happen on things it liked.

The morning air revealed the ancient stone platform, a relic even before the two ancient Alolan dynasties reigned, a place where ancient Alolans would settle disputes with ritual combat long lost to the ages.

It was clear of disgusting things needing removal, though it was not vacant. There was a young man sitting on the edge of the arena, arms crossed in the way kids did these days.

An Umbreon was at his side, looking far more patient.

Hala did not recognize the youth. He didn't look like a tourist.

Tourists did not have ripped clothing, and they tended to be either joyful for being on a tropical island, or confused as to how they got in a remote town with no hotels.

This boy was neither.

"You're him, right?" The boy asked. He didn't have a notable foreign accent, further suggesting that he was a resident of Alola.

"Well I am a man last I checked." Hala joked as the Umbreon looked amused.

The boy stood up, revealing a somewhat shorter lad. It would take a few years of shrinking on his end for the boy to look him in the eye.

"The Kahuna. That's you, right?"

"Correct." Wasn't it obvious? Everyone said he looked like a Kahuna. He didn't look like a pale policeman after all.

No one had ever left a vampire movie, seen him, and tried to stab him with a stake. Said moviegoer was still under restraining order from being within 30 feet of Nanu.

The boy reached for his pocket and pulled out a Z-Crystal. It was steel grey.

"Ilima did hand me that report yesterday: you were the one who fought that rogue Totem Magnezone." It wasn't a question. Ilima was always good at filling out the minute details.

The moves and Pokemon used by the trainer who had confronted Magnezone, the origin of the magnetic energy that had affected a local Magneton (a vacationing scientist of debatable sanity), three likely origins of the Z-Crystal the Magnezone had acquired, and the fact that the trainer had a patched up sock.

"I have to pay my bills somehow. This crystal was only a unexpected boon. I wish to learn how to use it."

"I see, the Z-Move stances for Corkscrew Crash…." Hala stroked his chin for a moment.

"I must admit, it has been some time since I worked with that Z-Move. I will require a bit of time to refresh my knowledge, and I have a Grand Trial to administer today. Tomorrow perhaps?"

The boy was silent for a moment before nodding respectfully.

Hala had to admit he wasn't expecting that. He was expecting more frustration, maybe a bit of rage. Perhaps some moaning.

"Well then, I guess I'll see you then." The boy moved towards the village exit, but stopped just moments before Hala's hand touched his shoulder.

"Why be so hasty? The trial isn't that far off, and if you are interested in Z-crystals it is hardly bad for your interests to see what a grand trial with me could be like. I see Olivia's crystal on your ring, clearly you have some interest in the island challenge."

"You're making it harder on yourself you know." At the boy's comment Hala gave a hearty chuckle.

"Believe me boy, I have no reason to want anyone to lose. I like winning, but that's all I get from it. A bit of satisfaction, nothing more nothing less. I'm hardly like one of those Gym Leaders who lose their jobs if they lose too much. I like it when people prove themselves. Since you are here however, perhaps I can show you around. I can tell you haven't had breakfast yet, perhaps I could introduce you to an old acquaintance of mine who recently moved back here from Kalos. He's been working on Alolan-Kalosian fusion, and I must say it has grown on me."

He was trying to work on being a tad less….what was the word young people used...defensive maybe? Or was that an older word.

As he couldn't think of the kid word he'd use it.

Defensive, towards foreign changes to Alolan culture. Before he took any of Kukui's ideas to heart, perhaps he could learn to literally stomach it.

Also he could use more coffee, and his old school friend's Slurpuff always sniffed out the best coffee beans at market.

"...It's not too expensive, is it?" the boy eventually questioned, resulting in a good chuckle straight out of the gut.

"I'm the Kahuna, I'm a walking discount."

Iki Town had always been a quiet place with very few inhabitants. There weren't many occasions that could bring life to the quiet locale, with few exceptions. The festival in honor of Tapu Koko, the Island Trial Champion celebration ceremony, and any Grand Trial hosted by the Melemele Kahuna were among said exceptions.

Neither the trial-goers nor Kahuna Hala had taken their place on the platform yet, but a small crowd was forming around it regardless: acquaintances of the Lono family, people involved among the Pokémon School, and even simply curious passerbys. Ahead of all of them, a small group of teens chatted with each other, with a sunny green-haired kid joining them from the crowd.

"Alola! Nice to see you are already here!" Hau beamed and waved to his classmates, his Popplio walking alongside him.

"Alola, Hau." Lillie nodded, holding Snowy tight as she eyed the platform. "Is something wrong? I thought the Grand Trial would begin by now."

"Oh, Tutu is just praying for the blessing of Tapu Koko with Frax and Velvet. Just tradition, you know."

Lillie blinked, head tilted. "The blessing…?"

"Before each Grand Trial, it's customary to pray for the guardian deity, whether it's the Kahuna, the trial-goers or both." Kiawe chimed in, arms folded. "It's a way to ensure that the Tapu approves of the battle."

"Oh, I see." Lillie nodded with a smile. "Alola's culture is so fascinating."

"Speaking about it, didn't Tapu Koko appear to Frax and Velvet already?" Mallow asked, staring towards the clear sky above. "Do you think it will show up to cheer for them or something like that?"

Kiawe shrugged. "It's possible, though that'd be the least of their concerns right now."

Everyone nodded at once, glancing back towards the platform.

Hau stepped ahead, hands behind his neck as his bright smile lighted up his face. "I heard Tutu is going to use one of his best teams for the fight. We're in for an awesome battle!"

"Wouldn't that be too much?" Lillie frowned. "I mean, they only cleared Ilima's trial so far, right?"

"Well, they are fighting together and this match will be very important for their future. I think it makes sense to go all out."

"Their future…" Sophocles repeated, his gaze shifting towards the ground. He quickly shook his head and pulled up a smug grin, puffing his already rotund chest. "Anyway, Sophocles Labs helped out Velvet with a training regime and a few strategies. That, plus Frax's unpredictable fighting style, should be their key to victory."

"Tutu knows what to expect and has a few tricks ready as well." Hau wore a matching grin, arms on his hips as he watched over the platform again. "You shouldn't underestimate him. Frax and Velvet are my friends, but he's on a whole other level than them."

"You really have a high opinion of your grandfather." Lana turned to Hau as she set her Popplio down to play with the other Pokémon. His grin turned sheepish and joyful as his eyes shined brightly.

"Why wouldn't I? He's the best trainer in Melemele Island!" He pumped his fists, and his Pokémon mirrored him. "Beating Tutu is my goal. Soon, I will start the Island Challenge as well and stand on that platform, facing Tutu at his best. And I'm gonna put my all in defeating him, no matter the result."

Sophocles' expression softened as he casted a glance downward again. He could feel a knot on his throat as Hau talked, his bright grin almost unbearable.

He turned away, instinctively balling his fists. "It must be nice to have such a defined goal."

"It's not that defined or anything, really." Hau gave a shrug and a chuckle as he rubbed his neck. "I just want to get stronger, and Tutu's the strongest there is. And once I will defeat him… well, I guess I will think of something then, you know. I don't think there's anything bad with that, going with the flow and all that stuff."

Sophocles cocked his head to the side. He considered Hau's smile for a good while before turning another way. No matter what happened, he always managed to be so… sunny and optimistic. He could count on one hand the times he had seen him demoralized or worried about something, and even then those moments were brief and fleeting.

"Going with the flow, huh," he repeated.

Hau nodded again. "Yeah. There isn't anything better than just shut off your brain and living the moment."

"That definitely sounds like you, Hau!" Mallow said.

Hau giggled. When her words finally sunk in, he widened his eyes and gave the girl a half-lidded stare. "Wait, what's that supposed to mean?"

Everyone else, including Kiawe, allowed themselves to chuckle at their friend's expense. After a brief frowning, even he joined them.

Sophocles remained still for a while, blinking. He then pulled up a grin and joined his friends. He still had a lot of time before to worry about his Trial Captainship. Maybe 'going with the flow' until then would've been a good idea.

Their laughter only got cut off when they noticed the crowd buzzing to attention. The classmates paused and turned around, noticing the source of interest: Kahuna Hala, Frax and Velvet were coming from Mahalo Trail, all looking fired up and ready to fight.

Velvet took her place on the battlefield alongside Frax, staring down the grinning Hala.

There was an energy about him she couldn't quite say they had ever seen from him before. Being on this battlefield seemed to invigorate him with energy, even dial back time a bit for him.

It was a lot like how Hau acted when he knew Malasada was around. More than ever she could see the resemblance between grandfather and grandson.

Professor Kukui walked to the center of the battlefield, a serious look upon him.

"This Grand Trial match is about to begin! Behold Alola, two trial goers who have proven themselves of strong will and heart, of sharp mind and wit! The Kahuna had judged you both worthy of a final test!"

"This will be a full battle, with the Kahuna Hala using six Pokemon and the challengers using three Pokemon each. The battle will be over when one side no longer has Pokemon able to battle!"

"Very well!" Velvet shouted in tandem with both brother and Kahuna, as Hala held out a pair of Pokeballs: One Ultra and the other a regular one.

He threw up both of them.

"Come forth!" he declared as the Ultra Ball burst forth, revealing a large blue Pokemon. Muscular, it had white gloves and a spiral themed stomach.

"Poliwrath, the Tadpole Pokemon and a final evolution of Poliwag!" She heard Rotomdex declare, the little metal friend floating around them displaying images of Poliwrath and rapid text boxes that she could barely catch half the time from all the floating around.

"Poliwrath are said in folkore to have taught all Alolans how to swim in the ancient past, and archaeological evidence supports this. In modern times, they are often used to teach young children to swim. They are immensely muscular."

So that was his first Pokemon? Was he trying to get Frax to use Pikachu or Rowlet early, or did he have greater threats hidden for later.

A chill wafted over her as she recalled that Kommo-O was part fighting type. Would such a Pokemon appear?

The Pokeball burst open, revealing the second Pokemon. Velvet would like to think she wasn't the only one surprised by what came out, and the mutterings of the onlookers confirmed this.

"What?"

"The Kahuna has that Pokemon, I have never seen it before?"

"Has it ever battled in a Trial before?"

"He is taking this seriously, right?"

"Of course he is, that is his serious Poliwrath. His chill Poliwrath has a scar."

"Ro!" The second Pokemon declared, giving both her and her brother 'bring it' in universal body language.

"Riolu, the Emanation Pokemon. Riolu live in remote regions but are prone to working well with humans if they encounter and befriend them. They sense auras and use them to sense the emotions of those around him." Rotomdex stopped his data giving for a moment and had a question mark flash on screen.

"Error. No record exists of Hala using a Riolu at any point in his life. Lucario is similarly unknown. Error. Error."

Hala was still grinning. Clearly he had something up his sleeve with this.

Regardless of what it was, they'd find a way through it.

"Raticate go!" Her first Pokemon was sent out for today, revealing her large rodent, fangs bared in a display of challenge.

She ignored the mutters from the crowd about type advantage.

"Butterfree, I choose you!" A park ball from her brother flew out, revealing Butterfree. The crowd approved of the choice.

"Begin!" Professor Kukui declared. She wouldn't waste a moment.

"Use Bulk Up!" Raticate shimmered red as the boosting attack went into effect. With this battle, she'd need all the defense she could get.

"Use Air Cutter!" Frax called as she was taken a back.

Air Cutter? Since when did Butterfree know that move?

It knew Gust.

Did they learn it while doing 'hill training'?

Butterfree's wing flaps released dozens of bright wind slices, all flying forward in a great storm of sharp force.

"Protect Poliwrath!" She first thought Hala was using bad grammar, or possibly antiquated grammar given how hard it was to tell the difference at times, before she saw Riolu dart in front of Poliwrath and hold its paws out. A blue wall of energy formed in front of said paws, prepared to block the air cutter.

"Focus Punch!" Poliwrath held up its right arm as red light gathered upon it. As the protect finished blocking the cuts it faded and Poliwarth charged forward with the punch, ready to strike at Raticate.

"Switcheroo!" She countered as Raticate glowed black before being replaced with a white lab coat….

Oh dear.

The Focus Punch slammed into the jacket, even as her Raticate leaped at Poliwrath from behind from a now completely shirtless Professor Kukui.

He looked less annoyed at her for it, and more at the whispers in the crowd that followed his loss of shirt.

"Hyper Fang!" Raticate's front teeth enlarged into a powerful blade for this boosted attack.

"Swift!" Swift? Since when could Butterfree learn Swift? Even as her Raticate got in close for a bite attack and Poliwrath continued to punch her teacher's signature garment, a band of stars began orbiting around Butterfree.

Had that replaced Tackle, again as a result of her brother's decision to go into the hills?

"Quick Attack!" Hala interrupted her pondering of her brother's team and their new movepool.

Riolu sped perpendicularly at Raticate, intercepting from the left as Raticate came straight at Poliwrath. Glowing white from the rapid attack, Riolu punched Raticate in the left cheek pouch, knocking him out of the attack and onto the ground with a thud.

Meanwhile Poliwrath began spinning around its trapped hand, creating a spinning shield of white lab coat fabric. Several Swift stars imbedded themselves into the fabric and got stuck in it, though a few did slip through and strike regardless.

Hearing her professor sigh at the loss of one of his jackets for good, even as Hala let out a enthusiastic battle chuckle.

"Good, good. You've shown not only good tactics for avoiding dangerous attacks, but also a variety in what moves you use. You both went beyond the norm. However my Pokemon are trained far beyond what you are used too young ones, and I hope you are starting to see what I mean by that."

Kukui wondered if he should hold up his ring finger to make people stop gawking at him.

He worked for his muscles, but they were not for them.

His lost lab coat aside, he had to wonder how his students would handle Hala's power, and something more.

There was something more about how Hala was fighting. Beyond having that Riolu around, which gave his team far more agility than he typically used, that jacket block maneuver was atypical of Hala, yet it was clearly trained for.

Which could explain why he couldn't find as many in bulk last time he had to go buy more lab coats.

Part of him wondered if this had something to do with his talks with Hala a while back. Did he spark a change in the old man?

If so….he hoped it didn't cost two of his best battle students in his entire career to lose.

Velvet had spent a lot of time discussing of her battle time with Sophocles, reviewing all the possible strategies the Kahuna could unleash on her and Frax. They were ready for every possible move Hala could throw at them, based on the Kahuna's previous performances. The rule number one she and Sophocles had agreed on was: 'never let Hala hit you, or you're done for'.

And due to that, Hala's Riolu was really being a pain in the ass.

"Retreat, Raticate!"

Her Pokémon nodded and zoomed away, as the baby Pokémon pursued him. At their side, Poliwrath dodged Butterfree's Air Cutters and attempted to Dynamic Punch him, and Velvet was thankful of not having to deal with two Fighting-types at once.

She then frowned and stared through Riolu; it was time to gauge its abilities.

"Riolu, Cross Chop!"

The baby Pokémon sprinted ahead, covering the distance as he held his arms crossed.

"Raticate, Hyper Fang!"

Raticate U-turned back towards Riolu, fangs shimmering and on the ready. The two Pokémon sprung towards each other.

Hala grinned. "Now!"

Velvet froze as the Riolu slid right under Raticate's large frame, while the Dark/Normal-type sunk his teeth in the air. He tried to turn back, only to see Riolu inches from his face with his arms ready.

She bared her teeth. "Switcheroo!"

With surprising dexterity, Raticate jumped out of the way, and Riolu Cross Chopped a Malasada in four even pieces. From the crowd, a scream rose from a familiar green-haired kid.

Velvet breathed in slowly, only to return on her toes as Riolu raised his arms. That was too close, and gauging his ability wasn't worth losing one of her most trusted Pokémon.

Rule number two she came up with Sophocles: 'If something unexpected happens, minimize it and work on your advantage'. A nice rule for sure, too bad she didn't know how to apply it.

The moment Velvet focused on the match again, she froze. Riolu had sprung again and blurred into a Quick Attack, straight towards her Raticate.

Velvet tried to shout something, only to see the distance again. There was no time. She clenched her fists as Raticate widened his eyes, Riolu just about to hit- and then, stray stars forced the Fighting-type to suddenly brake, jumping backwards and catching his breath.

Velvet blinked, then turned around to see Frax give one of his goofy grins and a thumbs up. She sighed in relief as Frax's Butterfree went back to keep Hala's Poliwrath busy, then pointed back at the still staggered Riolu.

"Hyper Fang!"

Raticate's fangs shined as he lunged towards Riolu.

"Protect!"

Riolu summoned the shieldand Raticate stopped right before slamming on it. Riolu grinned and readied another Cross Chop, which Raticate avoided with a backwards jump.

The Fighting-type and the Normal/Dark-type Pokémon engaged in a fast-paced game of cat and mouse, the Riolu relentlessly forced Raticate on the defensive, only taking breaks to support Poliwrath or keep him safe from Butterfree's incursions, and still finding time to keep Raticate on his toes. So far, he was proving to be the perfect patch for Hala's only notable weakness.

As Raticate dodged and ran away, Velvet thought. She had to break the stalemate somehow, but even now that she knew at least seventy-five percent of his moveset, Riolu seemed too fast to reliably counter, and she couldn't afford any risk against him. She had to remove him from the picture, but against such an unpredictable variable there was not much a planner could do on the fly.

Fortunately, she had a master on improvised strategies with her. Rule number three: 'You won't be fighting Hala alone. Never forget that'.

"Frax, keep an eye on Riolu, and leave Poliwrath to me, alright?" She nudged at her brother while keeping her eyes on the battlefield.

Frax nodded. "I will try! Butterfree, Swift!"

That was all Velvet needed to hear as a barrage of stars flew towards Riolu, whom raised a Protect just in time to block them. Butterfree circled around the baby Pokémon, unleashing the Air Cutters on him.

With the Riolu problem marginalized, Velvet glared towards the Poliwrath one. Tough, but far more manageable with her knowledge. Rule number four: 'speed is your key advantage. Hit hard and fast'.

She clenched her fists, and punched on. "Raticate, go!"

Raticate sprinted towards Poliwrath, as the Water/Fighting-type remained still.

Hala pointed upward. "Use Waterfall!"

With a swift uppercut, Poliwrath summoned a water pillar and aimed it towards Raticate as it expanded outward.

Velvet grinned. "Dive right in!"

Raticate charged forward, took a deep breath, and sprung straight inside the pillar of water. Poliwrath went wide-eyed, the crowd started murmuring, and Hala crooked an eyebrow.

All the while, Raticate swam straight towards Poliwrath, and his paw shone brightly.

"Sucker Punch!"

Raticate emerged from the Waterfall stream, and smashed his fist on Poliwrath's belly before it could react. Poliwrath was blown on the ground, and Raticate pressed himself above him.

"Now, Hyper Fang!"

Raticate's fangs shimmered briefly, before the Normal/Dark-type sunk them in Poliwrath's flesh. He screamed in pain and thrashed wildly, but Raticate's hold remained firm. Velvet's grin widened as the teeth sunk deeper.

Hala was far less impressed, and simply raised an arm. "Submission!"

In spite of the pain, Poliwrath focused and grabbed Raticate's legs. Startled, Raticate let go of his hold, and Poliwrath smashed it straight on the ground, ready to roll over him.

Velvet frowned. "Switcheroo!"

In an instant, Raticate and Poliwrath swapped places, and the Water/Fighting Pokémon's back smashed on the ground again.

"Yes! Keep going, Raticate!" Velvet shouted, as Raticate readied his fangs again.

"Hm, not bad." Hala grinned, sending a quick glance to Riolu. Then, he thrusted his hand forward. "Poliwrath, Earthquake!"

Poliwrath's hand tightened into a fist, and he swiftly smashed the platform. At the same time, Riolu leaped up, and springboarded off Butterfree's body.

Stuck in ground zero, Raticate lost his balance and fell on his back. He squealed in pain, but quickly got back on his feet.

And then saw Poliwrath charging another water pillar.

"Waterfall!"

The water hit Raticate before he realized it. With his body pressed on the hard wood, Raticate couldn't move as the stream kept up.

Velvet widened her eyes in shock, but quickly composed herself. She needed to try something, and quick.

"Use Sucker-"

"Cross Chop!"

Velvet paused and looked up. A few feet in the air, Riolu was meteoring towards Raticate, arms ready in the crossed position.

She looked back at Raticate, several ideas rushing through her head, none feasible. She winced and braced herself for the impact.

And then, a cross-shaped air current blew Riolu away and forced him to land away from Raticate. Poliwrath winced, and the Waterfall petered out.

Velvet blinked at the scene, until she glanced next to her. Frax gave her one of his dumb and wide smiles alongside a thumbs up. She chuckled and nodded, and then scanned the battlefield again.

Raticate just finished drying himself, still alert and ready to attack or escape. Poliwrath kept its defense up, while Hala shouted commands to Riolu as Butterfree kept the Fighting-type busy. Rule number five: 'Any strategical flaw is an opportunity'.

She spied her Z-Ring and furrowed her brow. It was a bit too early to waste it, and she couldn't use her trump card when other five Pokémon remained. What could she do, then?

Velvet analyzed the ground again, the state of the platform, Hala's orders and priorities, and then his Pokémon. After a few seconds, she finally noticed something.

Riolu and Poliwrath trading an angry scowl to each other before Riolu focused on his attack and Poliwrath charged a Focus Punch. She wondered why, and then remembered.

"Error. No record exists of Hala using a Riolu at any point in his life. Lucario is similarly unknown. Error. Error."

Riolu was a new addition to Hala's team. He was inexperienced, and none of his teammates had ever fought alongside him. That was the strategical flaw she was looking for.

She turned back to Poliwrath, punch almost ready, and grinned once more.

"Raticate, Sucker Punch!"

Raticate jumped towards Poliwrath, shining punch aimed and ready.

Hala grinned back. "Shift to Earthquake!"

Poliwrath's fist shone brightly as he slammed it on the floor, shockwaves coming faster and stronger than before. Raticate lost his footing and fell back on the floor, crying as each shock wave slammed him further on the ground. Velvet gulped; it was a smart move, she had to concede it.

Hala punched ahead. "Use Submission!"

Poliwrath grabbed Raticate's legs again and rolled alongside him, punching and hurting the immobilized Pokémon. Velvet gulped, but remained calm. She had to trust Raticate on that.

She took a deep breath. "Hyper Fang!"

The fangs pierced Poliwrath's shoulder once again, and the Water/Fighting-type winced in pain before clenching his hold even tighter than before.

Hala frowned, and then shook his head. "You just sealed Raticate's chances with that move. Riolu, Cross Chop!"

Just as before, Riolu lunged towards Raticate, move on the ready as Poliwrath kept him blocked and facing upwards.

Velvet remained calm and took a deep breath. "Keep biting!"

And Raticate did, sinking the entire length of his fangs inside Poliwrath's shoulder. The tadpole barely suppressed a yell, but didn't yield. Raticate continued to bite, as deep as he could.

The muffled screams became louder and then, almost imperceptibly, he softened his grip.

Velvet beamed and snapped her fingers. "Now! Switcheroo!"

As Riolu was finally going to strike, Raticate freed Poliwrath's shoulder, and grabbed his sides.

And then, Poliwrath found himself facing a surprised Riolu, with Raticate keeping him suspended. Riolu tried to recall the attack.

It was too late, and Hala's Pokémon both slammed on the hard floor; Raticate dashed to safety, and laughed at the two's expense.

Riolu got back up and blinked around; when Poliwrath did the same, however, he glared daggers towards the Fighting-type. Riolu just replied in kind as soon as he noticed it, and both scowled at once.

Hala frowned as he shifted between his Pokémon. "Focus! Don't get distracted!"

"Bulk Up, Raticate!"

Hala, Riolu and Poliwrath froze at once, then turned to the brightly shining Raticate grinning towards them.

Hala stared for a few seconds before he finally pointed ahead. "Riolu, use-"

Riolu barely jumped out of the way of an Air Cutter, with a salvo of stars coming right after. Butterfree kept the barrage of attacks up, and Riolu found himself unable to listen to Hala.

The Kahuna continued frowning, but mantained his calm as he pointed ahead. "Focus Punch, now!"

Poliwrath snapped to attention, and his fist glowed right after. Velvet chuckled.

"Just what we needed." Velvet punched her open palm. "Sucker Punch!"

Raticate's fist glowed as well, and he sprinted towards Poliwrath. Hala's Pokémon paled, but quickly frowned and tried charging his Focus Punch faster.

Tadpole and Rat ran towards each other, their fists shining more and more with each second. The crowd and trainers followed with increasing attention.

Raticate's and Poliwrath's gazes locked together, they charged their arms, and finally punched.

Poliwrath's Focus Punch dissipated as he crashed down the platform, hard enough to snap some logs. Raticate pulled back the Sucker Punch and let out a pleased squeak.

Hala's Pokémon whimpered in pain before collapsing in exhaustion.

Riolu widened his eyes as his partner fell, and an Air Cutter homed right on him. He screamed and fell on the ground, but quickly jumped back on his feet and scowled towards Butterfree.

Kukui observed the downed Pokémon briefly before finally rising his arm. "Poliwrath is unable to fight any longer!"

"Yes! Great job, Raticate!" Velvet beamed, pumping her fists. Raticate grinned and flaunted himself while adjusting his fur.

Frax grinned and punched the sky before turning towards Velvet. "And one down! Good planning!"

"Let's not keep our guard down, Frax." Velvet turned serious and faced the Kahuna again. "We still have five more to go."

Wordless, Frax nodded as well and stretched his fingers. Velvet acknowledged it with a glance, and then readied herself for Hala's next move.

In the meantime, the crowd whispered and discussed the results among each other, some louder than others. Especially a certain group of kids rather close to the battlefield.

"Yes! Poliwrath's down!" Mallow smiled and pumped her fists.

Kiawe folded his arms and stared at the defeated Poliwrath. "She managed to turn Kahuna Hala's strategy against him, impressive."

"Heh, me and Velvet planned a lot of countermeasures for Hala's tricks." Sophocles grinned, puffing his chest and placing a hand over his heart.

He observed Raticate, and his grin widened. "I was the one who suggested to teach her Raticate Sucker Punch. Hala's Pokémon are on average slow with a high damage output, and as such, a move that always works if the opponent is about to attack was the most efficient strategy she could rely on. There are a few other movesets we planned, but that was our first countermeasure."

"You were the one to plan that out?" Hau asked, gulping down one of his reserve Malasadas. He smiled brightly and gave Sophocles a strong pat on the back. "That's so cool!"

"Ow!" Sophocles yelped, rubbing his back right after. Then, he blushed and looked away. "Y-you really think so?"

"Yeah!" Hau nodded, placing his hands behind his neck. "I mean, Tutu is still strong and will find a way to defeat it, but that was pretty clever, you know!"

Sophocles blinked a couple of times, not sure if Hau's words were a compliment or a complaint. In doubt, he shrugged. "Uhm, thanks, I guess."

He rubbed his hair, and turned back towards the platform. There, he saw Velvet glancing at him and sending a quick thumbs up. Sophocles stood still, until he smiled back at her.

"Hau is right, however." Lillie hugged Snowy tightly, gaze fixated on the battlers. "Now that Kahuna Hala has seen what Frax and Velvet can do, he will probably adjust his strategy accordingly."

"He will." Kiawe frowned. "Let's see if Frax and Velvet can rise to the challenge."

The group's attention turned back to the battle as Hala recalled his Pokémon, waiting for the next moves.

Hala contemplated Poliwrath's Poké Ball for quite a few seconds, holding it tight.

"You did very well, Poliwrath." He pocketed his Ball and glanced at his remaining Pokémon. "Riolu, can you still fight?"

With only a hint of pain, Riolu stood back on his legs, and gave an affirmative grunt.

"Good." Hala faced the Lono twins and smiled at them. "Many compliments for the first round. I hope you are ready for what's coming next."

Velvet and Frax nodded at once. As he saw their determination, Hala chuckled and grabbed an Ultra Ball.

"Very well." Hala tossed his new Ball. "Go, Primeape!"

The round and hairy Fighting-type that appeared on the field was glaring at them intensely.

Frax wasn't quite sure why it was. Thankfully whenever there was a question…

"Primeape, the Pig Monkey Pokemon."

…there was a Rotomdex to answer it if they wanted it to or not.

In this case, they did.

"Primeape are very angry Pokemon who are angered by virtually everything. It is said in some places that if you make eye contact with a Primeape, the resulting rage will result in your violent demise. If a Primeape gets too angry they will die shortly after, though before death their strength is said to rival that of Legendary Pokemon. Legend has it that King Keōua of the Kamehameha dynasty once killed an evil Lugia that was trying to destroy Ula'Ula Island, after the defeat of Tapu Bulu at Lugia's hands in an previous attempt to save the island, by poking his prized Primeape with a stick repeatedly and pointing it at the Lugia."

So he should probably not look Primeape in the eye then. While that would probably get Primeape disqualified, it would also cost him his face.

He liked his face.

Two fast fighting types were going to be tricky to deal with, but they would not be the worst.

After all he was sure Velvet had noticed too: while both Poliwrath and Primeape had performed Z-Moves before (Riolu hadn't), the aura that usage had left was miniscule compared to the other three Pokemon Hala had in reserve.

That move was always hanging in the wing. They had to be careful for it, even with the possibility of it coming out now from Primeape.

Speaking of which…

"Twister!" Might as well put being attacked by a random Salamence to use.

The purple gust formed in front of Butterfree even as he felt a few people question the use of such a move. The draconic twister was pushed forward by a powerful final flap, charging towards the fighting types with sizeable force.

"Throw Riolu through the storm!" Hala commanded.

With what, Fling?

Moments later a glowing blue light began to fly through the twister, growing brighter as it came towards him.

It exploded out of the storm as Riolu, still propelled by Primeape, flew towards Butterfree, Protect slowly fading as it got closer.

Too close to use ranged moves, but perhaps…

"Use U-Turn!" He'd hate to bust out his surprise so soon, but it was either that or let it hit Butterfree with a speed enhanced attack.

"Stop it with Ice Punch!"

Ice Punch!?

Riolu's fist was surrounded by a miniature blizzard moments before the punch landed, engulfing Butterfree in a miniature icy storm.

It was a lot more intense than anything Snowy blew around.

His own storm dissipated as his Butterfree fell, leaving only a slightly muffled Primeape.

Butterfree plopped on the field, struggling up but caked in ice.

That Riolu had to go down. End of story.

"Aerial Ace on Butterfree!" Primeape roared as it charged towards Butterfree, fists glowing blue.

"Hyper Fang!"

Raticate intercepted the attack, leading to a clash of fangs and fists as Butterfree managed to mostly get back up.

"Use Air Cutter as soon as Raticate…now!" He didn't even have to suggest Raticate jump for the rat to jump up, leaving an open space and a charging angry monkey to be blasted with a series of sharp wind slices.

Primeape howled in fury for the impact, both in pain and in rage.

"Excellent." Hala declared of the unspoken teamwork.

"However, do not think that alone can win you this trial. Primeape, Screech!"

Riolu plugged its ears just as Primeape inhaled, before unleashing a massive sonic blast right their way.

It struck more than Butterfree and Raticate though: Frax covered his own ears in pain from the sonic attack, a action his sister and Pikachu were also doing.

He didn't wince his eyes shut though, which allowed him to see Riolu, even while holding its ears shut, glowing white.

Quick Attack.

Frax yelled for a retaliatory attack, but even he couldn't hear himself say it. He could see Velvet try the same, probably with Sucker Punch, only for Screech to similarly drown it out.

The white, still ear plugging Riolu slammed into Butterfree awkwardly, but the attack still sent Butterfree flying out of the arena and into Kiawe.

Kiawe caught her, nor did he fall, but he did not need the Professor to make the call that followed.

"Butterfree is unable to continue!" Kukui declared seconds after the Screech ended as to actually be heard.

"Ah yes, I remember that technique."

"I lost my own grand trial to it."

"The bane of his double battle challengers. The sound keeps the opponent from reacting or hearing from their trainer, and then the partner Pokemon to Primeape goes in for the kill."

"See what I mean about Tutu?" Hau grinned at his grandfather tieing up the score.

"I'll admit, I was not expecting that one. All the data I had on Hala didn't have him use that technique in years." Sophocles cringed at the failure of his data.

"New ideas and older ones all at once." Kiawe mused as Butterfree was sucked away by Frax's recall.

"You sound wistful about it." Lillie noted as Kiawe frowned.

"It's something my grandfather said about challenges. The best trainers never forget what works, but also never fail to find new ways to battle. Using them in tandem is what creates success."

"His sayings come up a lot." Lana noted in a suspicious voice.

"Well he said a lot things." Kiawe declared defensively. He had a book of them in his room. It was part of his therapy after his grandfather passed.

"...It's still too early to call. Like Hau said, they are tied up now, and Riolu's got to be getting tired. It will be easy to take the lead again." Mallow observed.

"True, but Raticate can't go on forever either. This match is still in a stage of flux where advantage is not fully in effect yet. You won't be able to figure out who is in control of the match for a while."

The next voice got all of their attention, as a young blond man in torn up black clothing was standing with them now, arms crossed and watching the battle with an intense expression. An Umbreon was at his feet, yawning a bit.

"Gladion?" Lillie asked the newcomer, who nodded.

"Gladi who?"

"Gladion. That's my name." The teen told Sophocles, but before they could ask more about who he was the battle was about to resume.

Frax held Butterfree's ball up sadly.

"Good job. That Ice Punch really caught me off guard." And it would still be a problem. With Ice Punch all of his Pokemon bar Pikachu and Litten would be weak to that Riolu.

He had already decided he didn't want to use Litten in this battle. Litten was watching the fight with their mom, along with Rockruff and Munchlax.

Okay, Munchlax was probably asleep, but Litten was not on him. He didn't want to risk getting them forced into this battle.

It hadn't been on the last test, but he remembered the notes. Hariyama could use Whirlwind, and the last thing he needed was for Hala to randomize his team. The odds would not be in his favor then.

That left Pikachu and….

He turned to her, sitting on his shoulder. Would she be willing to…

She shook his head.

No.

In this battle it would come to a head with Hariyama. To battle such a Pokemon they'd need their full power.

Pikachu was his most powerful Pokemon. It would fall to her to clinch the win then.

Until then, he had one more Pokemon to use.

He'd just have to avoid Ice Punch, and the Aerial Ace.

The crowd murmured as he went for his second Pokeball, and even Velvet looked at him in confusion.

"Why is Rowlet's Pokeball blue, and covered in stickers?" Velvet questioned as he prepared to throw the capsule ball.

"Because he was insistent on making a grand debut."

"...Hala has seen Rowlet before." Velvet pointed out as the ball was thrown, bursting open in mid air.

The light that generally accompanied a released Pokemon came out, as well as a rain of pink petals that dramatically fell towards the arena, orbiting the still forming white light.

As the light hit the field, it exploded in a burst of white light that sent the petals flying in all directions as the Pokemon that had appeared slowly, dramatically stood up, eyes closed.

"Fraxinus…." Velvet harshly questioned as the Grass-Flying type stood up in full.

"Hill training had surprising success." Frax nervously chuckled, "Also, he insisted on a full surprise reveal."

The eyes then dramatically opened in such a way that could only have been well practiced.

"Dar!" Declared the Dartrix.

"Interesting….Aerial Ace!" Hala declared as Primeape charged at the revealed evolution, blue fists glowing.

Dartrix didn't move however, even as Primeape got closer.

"Frax…."

"It's….better to let him do what he wants. Trust me." He learned that the hard way, and he was pretty sure there was a lesson in class a while back about 'trainers working with their Pokemon's personalities, not against them'.

He had to use that lesson with Dartrix. A lot.

Moments before the Aerial Ace struck Dartrix darted to the side of the attack. To many it would seem like an effortless dodge: the art of a true master stepping aside a common attack and letting it fail.

Those who knew what to look for, they could pick up that it wasn't as easy as Dartrix made it look, and that it wasted a bit of energy and time for additional coolness points.

"Steel Wing!" Frax called as Dartrix's right wing glowed metal white.

The wing was slammed into Primeape from behind, knocking the ape down to the ground.

"Ice Punch!"

"Not this time: use Sucker Punch!"

Hala's next command drew the attention of his sister, who covered it with a dark powered counter attack. The dark blur that was Raticate charged at Riolu, who avoided the attack with a leap into the air.

Dartrix followed this movement for a while, before giving a dismissive scoff and a swipe of his bang.

"Take Riolu down with Razor Leaf!" Dartrix gave a low hoot in response before pointing his left wing at the approaching blue blur, the tips of said wings glowing green.

Sharp glowings leaves were promptly fired from said tips, flying like green bullets towards Riolu, who was struck by the leaves again and again.

Riolu charged forward more and more, but about halfway to Dartrix it fell, the Ice Punch dissipating away.

The Professor watched Riolu for a few seconds, even as Primeape stood up behind Dartix and prepared to strike with a second Aerial Ace.

Dartrix hopped out of the way of it easily, avoiding said attack even as Kukui made his call.

"Riolu is unable to continue!"

Sophocles jumped on his feet, fists pumped and a bright smile on his face. "Yes! They regained momentum right away!"

All the other classmates nodded along and sighed in relief. All except Mallow, at least, as she tilted her head and stared in confusion at Dartrix flaunting himself and giving exaggerated bows to the crowd.

"Is it just me, or does Dartrix feel different?" Mallow scratched her head and squinted at it.. "I thought he was a serious battle maniac. Did he hit his head on a rock on the mountains?"

"Some Pokémon can change personality upon evolving. Scientists are still debating if it's due to maturity, reformatted brain patterns upon achieving a new form, or other reasons, but it happens."

Everyone turned around towards the speaker, the black-clad and scowling blond that was apparently called Gladion, and Lillie's brother to boot. Many eyebrows were raised at the punk that just walked out of a goth clothing store speaking like a college professor.

Said goth aimed a carefully sharpened glare at them. "What? It's stuff every trainer should know. I thought you all went to a Pokémon School."

No one replied, but by their mutters and groans he clearly didn't win any sympathy awards from that.

And in particular, Sophocles grumbled and turned to Lillie. "You know, your brother is ru-"

She gave him a quite icy stare, which could've probably frozen even Snowy. Sophocles shuddered and raised his arms.

"-dite! Quite erudite!" He nodded to himself repeatedly while sweating profusely.

Lillie gave him a nod, and then returned to her sunny and much calmer smile before turning back to Frax's Dartrix. "What Gladion said it's true. A lot of Pokémon change personality after evolving, whether as a species-wide pattern or in singular cases. It's not unlike how people tend to change as life goes on for them."

"So, now Frax is stuck dealing with a snobby and showy fighter for the future?" Lana asked, holding her Popplio tightly.

Kiawe nodded, folding his arms. "It's one of the main trials a trainer must face in their journey. We need to learn to accept our Pokémon and their whims, just like they need to work alongside us and ours. It was one of our last few lessons, after all."

Everyone else looked back at the Dartrix once more, only to switch to the Alolan boy shouting how proud he was of him from the edge of the platform, just as proud of his Pokémon as ever. And then, they all grinned at once.

"Frax can do it. He's a dumb guy, but his heart is in the right place for these matters." Lillie rubbed Snowy's head as she nodded again. "Just like how he and Velvet can pass through this Grand Trial."

"I wouldn't say that so readily. Kahuna Hala still has four Pokémon active, counting the Primeape." Gladion scowled, observing the still rather calm Kahuna of Melemele. "It's when a fighter is cornered that you discover their true value, and the Kahuna has yet to play all his cards."

Hau beamed and raised his arms in cheer. "You said it! Tutu will win!"

Gladion grumbled and turned away as the Kahuna's grandson literally radiated cheerfulness, and he and everyone else turned to the ongoing Grand Trial.

As Hala recalled his newest Pokémon, he smiled at his Ball while holding it tight.

"You did magnificently, Riolu. Take a nice rest." He put it back on his belt before facing the two trialgoers with an impressed grin. "I must say, you two are truly proving your worth so far."

"Thanks!" Frax grinned and punched ahead. "And we're just getting started here!"

Velvet went for a simple and respectful nod. Hala chuckled at the twins, then traded a serious grin with them.

"That's good to know, since I'm just getting started as well." He pulled up another Poké Ball and tossed it. "Crabrawler, it's your turn!"

The Ball opened, and there appeared a diminutive, purple and blue crab with a boxer posture, standing to the side of the much larger and rougher Primeape. Rotom rotated around it and fulfilled his duty.

"Crabrawler, the Boxing Pokémon. A Fighting-type. It punches so much that its pincers can fall off from repeated usage, and said pincers' meat is highly regarded by culinary experts for being highly nutritious and extremely tasty."

So, they would've to be wary of punching moves. Good to know.

Whispers rose from the crowd, most of them confused and a lot of them interested, all about the unevolved and weak-looking Pokémon ahead. Frax blinked as well, but Velvet didn't waste time to study it. Evolutionary stage meant nothing for a Pokémon's strength, and Hala's Riolu proved that quite well.

Rule number twelve: never let your guard down, not even for a second.

Both pairs of Pokémon studied each other, all waiting for the first move. No one dared to jump the gun, each trying to predict what the other could come up with.

Then, Frax took his chance and pointed ahead. "Alright, let's go! Dartrix, use Pluck!"

With elegance and aplomb, Dartrix strode towards Crabrawler with his beak aimed to strike. He twirled and charged, then jumped, rotated in mid-air, and then dove below.

The Crabrawler barely moved out of the way, and Dartrix fell face-first on the floor.

Hala took his chance and charged his fists. "Dynamic Punch!"

Crabrawler's first glowed a blinding white as he charged the hit, and uppercutted Dartrix right on the chin. The Pokémon was blasted to the other end of the battlefield, and rose wobbling in place.

Frax paled, as his Pokémon continued to turn around with a goofy grin on his face. "Dartrix! What's going on?"

"Be careful, he's confused! He might hit himself!" Velvet clenched her jaw as she stared at the Crabrawler, then pointed its way. "Raticate, Hyper Fang!"

Raticate flew at the Fighting-type, fangs on the ready. Hala remained calm and folded his arms.

"Swagger!"

Crabrawler extended its arm and crooked its pincher at Raticate with a smug grin. Raticate fell in front of it and snarled, before he flinched and rubbed its head.

Hala grinned. "Now, Power-Up Punch!"

The orange fist connected, and Raticate's back cracked the platform. He rose back up with a low whine, before he shot a confused yet angry glare at Crabrawler. Velvet cringed, while Hala appeared quite pleased.

She focused on her Pokémon quickly. "Raticate, stay behind! Don't attack yet!"

Her Pokémon didn't listen, and with a Hyper Fang glistening it ran towards Crabrawler.

"No!"

"Double Team!"

Raticate was surrounded by several copies of Crabrawler, and his fangs dug right into one. The Normal/Dark-type widened its eyes as it lost balance.

Hala punched onward. "Primeape, Stomping Tantrum!"

The Pig Monkey Pokémon slammed his foot on the ground, and blew Raticate skyward. Velvet's Pokémon fell on his back, squealing in sharp pain. The shockwave sent Dartrix falling on the ground as well as it tripped, his weight pressing right on the injured Raticate.

Frax stared on with his mouth gaping. "What was that?"

"Stomping Tantrum is a move that grows more powerful if it catches the opponent off-guard as they fail a move." Velvet frowned back at Hala. "That was the plan, right?"

The Kahuna nodded, arms folded as he stared back at them. "I erected a wall ahead of you. It's your task as trialgoers to surpass it."

Velvet felt her blood freeze, while Frax clumsily tried to lead the confused Dartrix to battle. She shook her head and thought, shifting between Hala's Crabrawler and Primeape.

The strategy Hala put up worked pretty seamlessly, but the Kahuna made a mistake: in setting up Dartrix and Raticate for defeat, he blew all of Crabrawler's hand in a few minutes. With nothing to surprise her with, she could mount a counterattack.

The problem, of course, being to find out what that counterattack was, especially as several other Double Team copies surrounded Raticate and Dartrix.

Hyper Fang was simple but easily deflected, Switcheroo was risky while Raticate still felt the aftereffects of confusion, and Bulk Up was nigh useless with Swagger already maximizing Raticate's attack power. Her only reliable move was Sucker Punch, and for that they had to wait.

Fortunately, their chance came right after.

"Crabrawler, Dynamic Punch!"

As all the crabs rotated their arms in unison, Velvet snapped her fingers. "Raticate, Sucker Punch!"

Raticate sprung ahead with his own fist ready, aimed, and punched the Crabrawler about to hit him.

The Crabrawler disappeared right after. Raticate and Velvet froze at once, and then Velvet saw another Crabrawler charging from behind.

She glared at it and clenched her fists. "Switcheroo!"

As swift as usual Raticate disappeared, and Crabrawler punched out a familiar white and blue striped shirt instead. While Raticate leaped from behind the now bare-chested Frax, Velvet could hear more than a few comments being made about his physique.

She gritted her teeth and rubbed her forehead. She would repay him his shirt later, but at least now she and Raticate were-

"Power-Up Punch!"

Velvet froze again as Crabrawler rotated Frax's shirt above its head, folding it into a whip and lashing right at Raticate's feet, sending the Rat Pokémon sprawling. The Raticate backed down swiftly, but Crabrawler continued to charge the whip-lash in case Raticate got too close.

Velvet was surprised at that turn, until she understood the problem: Hala was probably waiting for a move like that, and she fell right for it.

She gulped, trying not to think of how their chances of victory grew increasingly slimmer.

No one knew what to say, as Crabrawler's newfound whip allowed it a much larger area control, and putting the still confused Raticate and Dartrix even more at a disadvantage. While everyone remained at a loss of words, Sophocles decided to act.

He pulled off his shirt, rotated it and aimed at the platform. "Here, Velvet! Use this!"

"It won't work."

Sophocles flinched and clumsily tossed it up, with the shirt falling back on his head. He moved it out of the way and faced Gladion with a quizzical look.

"As I said before, the battle is in a state of flux. Any advantage can be overturned easily." Gladion scowled towards Velvet, a hand over his face. "The girl's mistake was to rely on the same strategy twice. She can't afford to use Switcheroo like that again."

Kiawe furrowed his brow. "Kahuna Hala knew what to expect and anticipated her move, you mean?"

"Yes, but it's also a sign of a much worse problem. She's smart and resourceful, but the unexpected can easily wreck her plans."

Lillie blinked. "How can you say that?"

"I faced her once already. She's good, but not as flexible as other trainers. And that will be her downfall if she's not careful." Gladion scowled, while Umbreon perked his head up to watch better.

Everyone fell silent again as they focused back on the battle. As he put his shirt back on, Sophocles grimaced towards Velvet, really wishing that they'd predicted more eventualities together the previous day.

He knew, however, that Velvet could make it. And he was ready to cheer for her with all his strength.

Velvet took a deep breath as she studied the battlefield once more. The Primeape continued to give Dartrix a hard time, and Crabrawler's newfound weapon was only worsening the situation. All the while, they had to constantly be on their toes for Dynamic Punch or Swagger confusing the heck out of their Pokémon, Double Team leading into Stomping Tantrum, and both Pokémon being general nuissance capable of dealing massive damage while their Pokémon waddled around like drunken idiots.

Yeah, things were pretty bad.

The one bright spot of the situation was that Raticate finally snapped out of confusion, and while Hala's Crabrawler continued his cowboy impersonation Swagger was seemingly off-limits. Now all they needed was to get that weapon off its hands, and for that she was at a loss. Which meant it was time to apply rule number three again.

She eyed her brother, whom still had to react about being shirtless and to the many interested stares he elicited from the girls in the audience. She thought it was for the better, before focusing on what mattered.

"Frax, do you think you can do something for that Crabrawler?"

Frax nodded. "I think so, Dartrix has stopped wobbling."

"Be careful of its attacks. We can't afford to get our Pokémon confused."

"I'll do it!" He jabbed ahead. "Dartrix, use Razor Leaf!"

Crabrawler pulled up the shirt to tank the sharp leaves, all while Velvet and Raticate focused on the remaining Primeape. She grimaced at the ensuing sense of deja vu.

She shook her head and tried not to think of recycled ideas, and instead focused on Primeape. Nullifying Stomping Tantrum was her priority, especially with Raticate already pushing his endurance to the limit.

And thus, she pointed again. "Hyper Fang, now!"

"Aerial Ace!"

Raticate charged on with teeth ready, while Primeape rushed with his fist glowing brightly.

They got closer and closer, almost about to strike, and then-

"Switcheroo!"

Primeape and Raticate traded places, with Aerial Ace meeting the ground and Raticate's teeth ready to sink.

Hala just chuckled. "Seismic Toss!"

Primeape caught Raticate and leaped upward, twirling on himself before slamming the Normal/Dark-type down at terminal velocity. Velvet's Pokémon cratered on the ground, splintering some of the old logs out of sheer impact.

Velvet cringed as her Pokémon stood back on shaky legs. As an attack that made use of gravity to increase damage, Seismic Toss wasn't affected by the usual type chart of damage and depended solely on the Pokémon's strength. That didn't mean the attack didn't hurt like hell or wasn't something worth worrying over, of course, but it was a small relief.

Velvet focused, arms folded. With that, Hala's Primeape had used Aerial Ace, Screech, Stomping Tantrum and Seismic Toss. With that, Hala's whole hand was revealed.

The girl grinned. With all the data in place, she finally had a chance to truly shine.

"Let's recover, Raticate! Use Hyper Fang once more!"

Raticate would've done that, were it not for Dartrix tackling it from the side and tossing it back on the ground. Velvet flinched, then realized how Dartrix was wobbling around and glared back to her brother.

Frax smiled sheepishly and rubbed his neck. "Uhm, sorry. It happened again."

Velvet grumbled and focused back on the match, where Raticate was trying to stand back up and Crabrawler's twirled its ruined shirt-whip overhead while staring at her Pokémon.

She froze, running several strategies at once: she had quite a few options and her first priority was to avoid Swagger, so she could-

"Stomping Tantrum!"

While Dartrix hapzardly float up before the shockwave struck, while Raticate was blown up in pain. Velvet, however, seized the moment.

"Sucker Punch!"

Raticate adjusted itself swiftly and bulleted towards Primeape, paw shining. Hala's Pokémon tried to punch again, but Raticate decked him first and crashed him on the platform's logs.

Velvet tried to consider her next step, but someone else proved faster.

"Dartrix, Pluck!"

Dartrix floated elegantly ahead of Raticate, then started pecking at Raticate with all the expertise of a finely trained sculptor. Primeape had no escape as Frax's Pokémon made a pained canvas out of it.

Velvet was a bit puzzled, and then it hit her.

Until then, she approached the battles with Hala's Pokémon as if they were separated instead of embracing the double battle. Even if she knew she was fighting with Frax, she constantly fought only one opponent as a time.

The key to face Primeape didn't lie in her alone, but in her and Frax together.

Velvet grinned and focused on Crabrawler again. Before continuing with Primeape, she had to deal with him and his makeshift weapon first.

"Go towards Crabrawler! Use Hyper Fang!"

Crabrawler pulled up the shirt again, only for Raticate to tear its way through the clothed defense and aim his Hyper Fang right at the crab.

"Power-Up Punch!"

Crabrawler let go of Frax's shirt and charged his orange fist. Velvet almost panicked, before Raticate managed to tilt out of the way and duck on the ground. With no target left, Crabrawler's fist splintered the platform further, cracks forming on the logs as pieces wood flew around.

A shiver ran down Velvet's spine at the power in display. Going by the damage, that Power-Up Punch must've shot Crabrawler's attack through the roof. Maybe it could even have the Iron Fist ability for extra power. Any hit by one of those punches would've been the end for Raticate.

She shook her head and put her mullings aside. She knew exactly what to do.

"Raticate, Switcheroo!"

One second later, where Raticate stood now was Dartrix, while Raticate leaped off a very injured and angry Primeape.

Frax blinked in confusion, before he saw the hole on the platform and then Crabrawler. "Oh, right! Dartrix, Feather Dance!"

Dartrix raised a wing dramatically and danced at a non-existent tune, circling all around Crabrawler and letting its feathers and glue themselves over Crabrawler's pinchers. The crab tried to Dynamic Punch the nuissance away, but the pompous Pokémon continued his routine as if Crabrawler wasn't there.

Primeape shook his head and readied his foot for another hit, only to find Raticate's paw right in its face.

The Sucker Punch sent Primeape sprawling on the platform, and Raticate leaped and trapped the Pig Monkey Pokémon with ease. Hala's Pokémon thrashed around, but Raticate's hold remained firm.

Velvet's grin widened as she snapped her fingers. "Now, Hyper Fang!"

"Dynamic Punch!"

Raticate and Velvet grimaced as they turned around and found Crabrawler about to strike.

"Steel Wing!"

Like a knight in shining armor, Dartrix flauntered in front of Raticate and raised his wing, turning it into a handy shield of metal feathers. Swing and iron met at once, as both Pokémon pressed against the other in a bid to victory.

Velvet's dread melted away as her confidence returned, and she pointed back to Primeape. "Keep going!"

Primeape screamed in pain as Raticate's teeth sunk in his arm, never stopping even as the angry Pokémon threatened to rip them off.

Meanwhile, Hala continued to observe Crabrawler and Dartrix's stalemate. And then, he raised an arm. "Double Team!"

The crab's copies surrounded both Lonos' Pokémon again. Raticate jumped in surprise, enough to loosen his hold.

And then, Primeape grabbed Raticate into one of his own. The same one as before.

Velvet grimaced as Primeape leaped again, twirled in place, and-

Dartrix flew magnificently into the air while twisting around, then pecked back at Primeape; the Fighting-type grunted in pain, and Raticate freefalled towards the ground.

Velvet snapped back to attention and focused on Crabrawler as Raticate landed with ease. All these target changes were starting to keep her unfocused and antsy, but as each Crabrawler aimed towards Raticate with Power-Up Punch on the ready.

She steeled her gaze and clenched her fists. "Sucker Punch!"

Raticate's fist glowed brightly and rushed ahead. In the meantime, Velvet studied through every copy, analyzing each of their movements, and then understood.

They were really all unnaturally still, except for one.

She snapped her fingers again. "Hit the one behind you!"

"Stomping-"

Raticate took a sharp U-turn, and between momentum and position it slammed Crabrawler away, right towards Primeape.

Hala withdrew his order, but it was too late. Primeape and Crabrawler fell on each other and rolled over the platform, while Velvet grinned. Hala's rhythm had been broken!

"We're regaining ground, let's keep it up! Hyper Fang!"

"Keep up Pluck, Dartrix!"

The twins' Pokémon leaped towards their opponents, biting and pecking at them in a flurry of attacks. As their partners managed to whittle at their opponents' health, Velvet felt a tinge of relief washing over her.

And then she noticed Hala's soft grin, and she paled again.

The Kahuna pointed back at the twins. "Overheat!"

Dartrix and Raticate stopped their assault as Primeape started to glow white and Crabrawler hid under a hole in the platform. Both Pokémon and Frax were confused, but Velvet was quick on the uptake.

"Jump!"

Raticate leaped away right after, as Primeape glowed brighter any second. Velvet would've sighed in relief, if a shrieking squeal didn't catch her attention.

And then she saw Primeape holding Dartrix as he was ready to burst, and she froze. Neither she nor Frax knew what to say, as Primeape's glow grew blinding; Velvet tried to come up for some plan, but nothing came as time ran out. Until Raticate disappeared from sight, at least.

Velvet wondered where he went, and then saw him in Primeape's clutches and Dartrix up in the air, the Switcheroo complete.

She wanted to yell him to run away, hit Primeape, anything, but the shock was too great. Raticate grinned at her with a confident gaze.

And then, Primeape's energy burst out, and the platform went ablaze.

Everyone shielded their eyes as the shockwave and heat came, the booming explosion the only thing they could hear. It took several seconds before things quieted down and smoke rose up; everyone stared on as it slowly cleared, with Velvet in particular gulping and squinting her eyes ahead.

As the smoke dissipated, everyone could see Primeape mostly uninjured, Crabrawler and Dartrix getting back on the platform, and Raticate standing on shaky legs and scorched all over. Velvet paled again, as her Pokémon fell on the platform defeated.

Kukui contemplated it for a short while before finally raising his arm. "Raticate is unable to fight anymore!"

And as Velvet observed her downed Raticate, she really didn't know how to feel.

She shook her head vigorously and focused back on the battle, recalling her Pokémon and observing his Poké Ball. Raticate had fought well, and Dartrix was probably a better option to keep in the fight than it.

"Thank you," she said before putting it back. Then she observed her opponents again, and rubbed the sweat off her face.

They weren't in deep water yet, but they were now at a disadvantage, especially with Hala unleashing a fifth move. And without Switcheroo, she and Frax had lost an important asset.

Persian and Cutiefly both had their own disadvantages now, and for all she knew Primeape could have had a sixth, seventh, maybe even an eighth move.

She pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath. No, she couldn't lose her focus or think in hypotheticals now. She needed to focus on what she knew, and that wasn't good. Maybe they really had no-

"Hey, Velvet, relax!"

Velvet snapped out of her thoughts and turned around, finding Frax beaming at her and giving a thumbs up.

"We've got one more Pokémon than Hala! We can do this!" He said, his smile growing even bigger and dumber just as always.

Velvet almost chuckled at how optimistic her brother was: even in the face of defeat, he would always manage to find some sort of hope. It was just another of the many things she envied about him.

But still, he was right. Even if the current prospects looked grim, she needed to try again. And thus, she had to take a risk.

She grabbed her second Ball and tossed it. "Go, Cutiefly!"

The Bug/Fairy type materialized and buzzed in place. Velvet cleared her throat and pointed ahead. "Use Stun Spore!"

Cutiefly started buzzing around at high speed, sending the paralyzing mist towards Hala's Pokémon. The Kahuna didn't appear particularly troubled.

"Blow it away!"

Crabrawler and Primeape nodded before unleashing Stomping Tantrum and Dynamic Punch on the platform. The ensuing shockwave proved strong enough to blow the Stun Spore back, with Cutiefly just quick enough to dodge its own mist.

Velvet paled again as her attack was blown away. And then, she noticed Primeape and Crabrawler leaping towards Cutiefly, Dynamic Punch and Aerial Ace ready. She tried to order a response, but nothing came up.

Thankfully, rule number three was still in effect.

"Pluck, Dartrix!"

Dartrix flew at Crabrawler and tackled it to the ground to peck him safely. The crab Pokémon managed to avoid most of the hits, but Dartrix's assault was keeping him busy enough.

Velvet sighed in relief as she focused on Primeape again. She took another deep breath as she stared at him. "Silver Wind!"

The fine dust blew right against Primeape to minimal damage, and no change to Cutiefly's status. Velvet grimaced, and then almost lost it when she saw Primeape glowing white again.

"Protect!" Velvet shouted, while Dartrix and Crabrawler broke their stalemate and ran to hide.

The blue barrier managed to hold on against the blazing inferno; as smoke rose Primeape tried to lunge for another Aerial Ace, but Cutiefly managed to fly away before the attack hit. Shortly after, the battle resumed.

All the while, as Cutiefly attempted to avoid any hit by Primeape, Velvet was out of ideas. She could try to use Fairy Wind or try again with Stun Spore, but they could've just blown something again to nullify her attack. She could've tried to just use Protect to blow the attack back, but it was a predictable strategy and she couldn't use more of those, and-

She winced as Primeape managed to land an Aerial Ace on Cutiefly, and her Pokémon splattered on the platform. She cringed as Primeape charged his fist for another hit and rushed towards her Pokémon.

And then, Dartrix came to the rescue again, holding his mighty Steel Wing like a knight's shield. Primeape's fist clanked over Dartrix's feathers, and Frax's Pokémon took over that battle.

Velvet couldn't help but notice Dartrix's fighting style. Even when executing the simplest of moves the Grass/Flying-type continued to add some dramatic flair to it, even when it almost costed him getting hit or allowed the opponent to get a way. It was a highly inefficient way of fighting, and yet somehow Dartrix still continued on.

She couldn't help but wonder why. What did he have to gain from acting that way? Why didn't he try to fight more efficiently? Why-

And then, the answer came to her. It was just how he was, and he couldn't change mid-battle a fundamental part of his being.

And the same applied to her. Maybe her strategies were really too repetitive, rigid and she didn't have enough flexibility to adapt them quickly? That wasn't a problem to solve in the heat of battle. They needed to win, and the best she could do was to fight at her best. Any kinks in her strategies could be fixed later.

Velvet stared back at Primeape, and ran through her mind everything she knew about it. All she saw it doing, all that Cutiefly could do. And yet nothing came to her.

"Primeape, Overheat!"

And then, Primeape glowed white again. Velvet grimaced as she got ready for another full powered blast- but then, a strategy formed.

She grinned and punched her palm, then shared a nod with Cutiefly and aimed back at Primeape. "Move forward!"

"Tackle him and use Protect!"

Cutiefly did as requested, getting up close to Primeape and bonking on it. It didn't even phase the Fighting-type, but that was not their intention.

Hala didn't understand it either, until Cutiefly raised a Protect inches from Primeape's face. Only then the Kahuna flinched.

The blast engulfed the platform again and slammed straight on the Protect, bouncing back towards Primeape. The Pig Monkey Pokémon screamed in pain as the heatwave blew him on the ground.

And then, Velvet snapped her fingers. "Stun Spore!"

The paralyzing dust fell over Primeape unopposed, and the Fighting-type's body stiffened immediately. Velvet could barely keep her grin from widening.

She turned serious again, however, as she gave another order. "Now! End this with Fairy Wind!"

Primeape tried to jump to the side, but the paralysis held him still. The pink mist blew him back on the platform with a pained scream, strong enough to shatter some logs.

Hala's Pokèmon tried to get back up, but he fell on his face as he tried to. Velvet beamed, while Kukui observed quietly.

And then, he raised his arm. "Primeape is unable to continue!"

Among the friends of the Lono twins, cheers went up.

"That's three down, they are half way there!"

"They still have four Pokèmon, they are in the lead."

"They aren't out of the woods yet, far from it."

The reverie of Lana and Mallow was cut short by Gladion, who was frowning as he looked into the battle with an eye much like that of Sophocles.

Unlike Sophocles's eye, it did not seem like it would be distracted by pastries.

"If you're trying to say that 'it isn't over yet', I do know that. I'm not an idiot."

"You don't look particularly unintelligent, so I'll agree until you prove me otherwise. However it does not take much to see my point is more than a come from behind victory."

Mallow leveled a glare at the unflinching older sibling until the other older brother coughed.

"As…rude as he's being, I can sort of see what he is referring to. While it is true that Hala has only three more Pokèmon left, they actually have the exact amount of fresh Pokèmon on hand. Both Dartrix and Cutiefly have been battling after all."

Kiawe's point was acknowledged by everyone present, really sinking it that it wasn't over yet.

And with that Hala sent out his fifth Pokemon, and Gladion cursed under his breath.

Lillie shooting him a curious and scandalous glare for his use of language .

The moment Hala's second-to-last Pokémon materialized on the platform, everyone went silent.

At a first glance, the pink and black Pokémon with a bright smile appeared to be completely at odds with Hala's team and specialty. But any inhabitant of the four Alolan islands knew better than that, and what kind of monster that creature truly was. Even Rotom did a double take and sounded fearful as he detailed information on the new entry.

"Bewear, the Strong Arm Pokémon. Considered by many to be the strongest non-Legendary Pokémon of the Alola region, its cuddly appearance hides a merciless monster ready to crush people in the loving embrace of death. Raising a Bewear is not recommended unless you have a clear idea of what you're doing."

Evaluating their new opponent, Frax felt a chill ran down his spine. Hala was definitely a trainer that knew exactly what he was doing, and seeing how Velvet froze near him, she most likely agreed.

And yet, in the face of their new opponent, Frax couldn't help but grin. They already triumphed against three of Hala's Pokémon, and no matter what he had in mind, they would triumph once more. As he flaunted his wings over the platform and took a refined battle stance, Dartrix appeared to agree. He was still unused by his Pokémon's new antics, but he wouldn't let that distract him.

Before he or Hala could order anything, however, Velvet pointed ahead. "Stun Spore!"

Cutiefly buzzed forward without a pause, the golden dust spreading from its wings to Hala's Pokémon.

Hala didn't appear concerned. "Hammer Arm!"

Bewear didn't slam his fist on the ground: instead, he did so in the air, unleashing a powerful current that blew the Stun Spore back. Both Cutiefly and Dartrix were sent astray by the air, narrowly avoiding the paralyzing dust on the way.

Frax widened his eyes. "What the-"

"Crabrawler, Swagger!"

Remembering that strategy and seeing Cutiefly in Crabrawler's line of sight, Frax was quick to act.

"Dartrix, stop him!"

Dartrix soared through the air while twirling and flaunting his beautiful wings, beak ready for a Pluck as Crabrawler enticed Cutiefly, only for Bewear to leap towards him and force the Grass-type into a tight grip, fierce enough to make him chirp in pain as he thrashed around.

"Dartrix!" Frax yelled, his Pokémon still trying to escape. He glanced at Velvet for help, only to grimace as he saw that Swagger had its effect and Cutiefly was now wobbling in the air erratically.

The boy gulped and went back to Bewear, the grip only tightening and inflicting more damage. It was probably Bind, but it looked far harsher than any he had seen before.

Frax clenched his fists. "Steel Wing!"

Dartrix's wings turned to sharp metal again, grazing right on Bewear's fur. Hala's Pokémon appeared mildly bothered if at all as he kept crushing the Grass-type. Frax was speechless, but had no time to dwell on it as he saw Crabrawler charging at them, his right pincer glowing in the light of Dynamic Punch. Frax cringed, no ideas coming to him.

"Use Fairy Wind, Cutiefly!"

Frax turned around to find Velvet's Pokémon flying overhead, ready to attack even if it still wobbled. And then it forgot to attack, attempting to ram into Crabrawler instead.

Hala's Pokémon blurred into several Double Team clones, and Cutiefly splattered over the ground. Velvet seemed to grimace, and Hala and his Pokémon appeared slightly amused.

And that's when Frax grinned and seized the moment.

"Razor Leaf!"

With how constricted he was, Dartrix could only manage to blast a few leaves in an erratic patterns and random targets, be it the sky, the ground, Bewear, Crabrawler or even himself. The slashing leaves seemed to have no effect, until several hit Bewear right on the face, enough to make him wince and loosen his Bind.

Dartrix flew out to safety, a pained expression on his face as he haphazardly fluttered above ground. As Frax saw his messy feathers and few bruises, he could tell that his friend was probably on his last legs, even if he could still fight. But at least, he was fine for now.

"Thank goodness-" Frax tried to say, until he saw behind Dartrix and called out "Steel Wing!"

Dartrix turned around dramatically, wing raised skyward and coated in metal right as Crabrawler's Power-Up Punch smashed on it. The blow was too strong to withstand, and Dartrix flew straight towards Bewear.

Hala folded his arms. "Double Edge!"

Bewear sprinted shoulder-first towards the flying Dartrix, elbowing him powerfully. Frax's Grass-type squealed in pain as he cratered back on the platform, snapping a few logs.

"Dartrix!" Frax yelled. His Pokémon attempted to get back up, even if his wince and low cry didn't paint the best of pictures.

"Stun Spore, again!"

Frax snapped back to attention and looked up, where a still dazed Cutiefly braved the confusion and doused Crabrawler in the paralyzing dust, with sparks flaring out of the crab's body. Velvet's Pokémon managed to fly out of the way before Bewear or Crabrawler could hit in retaliation, but at least something good came out of that.

Hala still didn't appear too concerned as the surprisingly healthy Bewear held a battle stance and Crabrawler retreated to safety, glancing over at the Lonos and their Pokémon.

"You're rather impressive, that's for sure." Hala opened one of his eyes and stared through the twins. "But only the best trainers can find a way to overcome my Bewear. Let's see if you're among them."

At that, Frax and Velvet traded a glance, uncertainty in both their eyes, before the two went back to the battlefield: neither of Hala's Pokémon had moved yet while theirs remained airborne, though Crabrawler had blurred into a series of Double Team clones.

"So... you got any idea, Velvet?" Frax gulped.

Velvet narrowed her eyes. "I can't do much until Cutiefly snaps out of confusion. And in any case, that Bewear is scary. It probably has Fluffy as an ability."

Frax recalled it from one of their previous lessons: it was an ability that made the Pokémon weak to fire, but halved any contact damage in return. Considering how Bewear seemed just fine even after using Double Edge, Velvet was probably right.

That was a problem, with how all the moves that Dartrix had were contact-based, and how Cutiefly was unreliable. Even a Z-Move wouldn't have helped against the damage halving. Suddenly, Frax really wished to have brought Litten along for the ride.

Frax adjusted his hat, taking a deep breath and grinning at the challenge. If Bewear's defense was a problem, then they just had to lower it.

"Feather Dance!"

Dartrix quickly got back into the groove to actually dance as his wings glowed, then fired the glowing feathers to Bewear in between each step.

"Hammer Arm!"

Another air blast, and all the feathers stopped and fell harmlessly on the floor, none of them touching the still motionless Bewear. Frax frowned, and only then did he realize that Bewear didn't move much throughout their fight so far. Was that part of Hala's strategy? Was Bewear more of a passive fighter than an active one?

Frax gritted his teeth: thinking and strategizing was more Velvet's thing, but even he could understand that Hala put them against a very tricky challenge. And on their side, they only had a now snobby bird and a confused bug on the field.

Before he could think further, he saw Crabrawler charging back at Dartrix with a glowing orange fist, which Dartrix only narrowly jumped away from. His Grass-type then turned back to Frax, and trainer and Pokémon locked eyes. It was only then that Frax noticed Dartrix's gaze.

There was a fire burning in them, a very familiar one. The same one he saw in a young and rambunctious Rowlet in a forest, the day he became a trainer. The same Pokémon he fought many battles with and gained the respect of. Frax couldn't help but smile at that. He might've become more than a bit snobbish since he evolved, but deep down he was still his old Rowlet. And he knew that old Rowlet would've tried to win at all costs.

Frax grinned once more, playing with the rim of his hat as he glanced at Velvet. "How much time do you need before Cutiefly can fight again?"

"I think a few minutes," Velvet said, as Cutiefly's flight patterns slowly returned normal.

Frax's grin widened. "It will be enough."

He concentrated and observed the battlefield again. He didn't know how effective his plan would be, but they had to try. He and Dartrix traded another glance and a nod.

And then, Frax pointed ahead. "Go for Pluck, Dartrix!"

Thus, his Grass-type soared back at Hala's side of the battle, beak shining and aimed on Bewear.

Hala stretched his palm. "Hammer Arm!"

Strong and quick came another air blast from Bewear. But both Frax and Dartrix were ready for that.

And so the boy punched skyward. "Ride the wind!"

Dartrix outstretched his wings and let Bewear's air blast carry him away until he could U-turn and fly back, Pluck ready to strike the Normal/Fighting-type.

"Keep him away, Bewear!"

Frax's smile grew bigger as Bewear tossed other Hammer Arm-induced air bursts, which Dartrix dodged by flying through them and letting the wind carry him over, dancing in the sky with beauty and grace. But no matter how complicated and superfluous each movement was, Dartrix was closing further and further the distance from Bewear, never letting any burst slow him down. In the end, snobbishness aside, he truly was the same Rowlet he knew inside.

As Frax's smile split his face, Dartrix reached mere inches from Bewear.

Hala frowned just barely at that. "Bind!"

Bewear was ready for another crushing hug, but right as Dartrix was about to strike, he sharply turned up and away from Bewear, leaving it to grasp air. Hala's brow furrowed, at least until he stared down at his Crabrawler, now staring wide-eyed at the incoming Dartrix.

He almost gave a chuckle as he sweeped a hand through the air. "Double Team!"

"Razor Leaf!"

Crabrawler tried to blur into copies, only to wince as the paralysis struck. He would've tried again, but Dartrix's storm of leaves rained all over and around him, sending the Fighting-type back on the platform's hole. Frax pumped his fists, and even Rowlet flaunted himself as he floated down.

"Hammer Arm!"

The sweeping air shoot came from behind, too quick for Dartrix to avoid as he was blasted towards Crabrawler, the Fighting-type out of the hole and with a Dynamic Punch ready.

"Double Edge, Bewear!" Hala ordered, punching forward.

Bewear took his stance and readied himself for another tackle, just as Crabrawler prepared his uppercut. Dartrix tried to regain control of his flight, all while Hala's Pokémon continued to close the distance.

And yet neither Frax nor Dartrix seemed worried. Instead, they beamed at each other.

"Fly around, and Steel Wing!" Frax said, shaking a fist to the air.

With a quick flutter of wings, Dartrix soared ahead and then back down, enough to reach Crabrawler's back and grab him with his wings. Wings that quickly turned to hard metal, one that Crabrawler struggled to break free.

All while Bewear was too close to halt the Double Edge.

The Strong Arm Pokémon's elbow slammed right onto Crabrawler, and him and Dartrix were shoot straight out of the platform and on the ground below. The crowd parted as the two Pokémon fell, a small but thick cloud of smoke raising from it.

And as it cleared up, everyone could see both Crabrawler and Dartrix sprawled on the ground, passed out and defeated.

"Both Crabrawler and Dartrix are unable to continue!" Kukui declared, both arms raised.

Frax considered Dartrix's passed out form, and especially the proud and victorious grin it sported. He gave another smile of his own as he recalled his friend, clutching it as a wordless thanks. His eyes went back to the battlefield, where Cutiefly was finally back in shape and Bewear still stood, seemingly angrier for how it was played.

The Lono boy's gaze went to Hala afterwards, and at the remaining Poké Ball he had to use. The battle was about to turn even more complicated, but he, Velvet and now Pikachu wouldn't surrender so easily.

"Pikachu, I choose you!"

Velvet idly noted her brother's first Pokemon dart off his shoulder and spark her cheeks as Hala threw the last Ultra Ball on him.

It was certainly not least, seeing as the Pokemon within was…

"Hariyama, the Arm Thrust Pokémon. A Fighting type. Hariyama's impressive bulk is actually all muscle. When its muscles are flexed, they are hard as a rock. It is said that one hit from a Hariyama can send a 10-ton truck flying."

Yeah, that. Thank's Rotom.

This was the final stretch, and it was looking about as appealing a last stretch as a run up a mountain's harshest slope.

There wasn't a clear target. She could see clear as day the aura that surrounded both Bewear and Hariyama.

They'd been doing Z-moves for years; it was perhaps the thickest aura she had ever seen around any Pokemon between the two.

Either could use the Z-Move.

"Rest!"

Though in the meanwhile she suspected they'd have to be most concerned about Hariyama, seeing as Bewear closed its eyes and began glowing green.

Not that such a move being used was good news either. There went the hopes that Double Edge would start catching up with it.

"Swift on both of them!"

Her brother's first command had Pikachu jump into the air and spin around, releasing a swarm of stars at both of them.

"Fairy Wind on Bewear!"

Cutiefly buzzed out her own attack.

"Wide Guard!"

Hariyama stepped in the path of the Fairy Wind, palms glowing as a shimmering barrier formed. The Swift petered out upon impact, while the Fairy Wind made impact upon Hariyama.

It wasn't as dramatic a reaction as one might prefer, but she could tell the damage was felt.

"Rock Tomb!"

A stone began forming between Hariyama's massive hands, before being thrown right towards Cutiefly.

She began to mouth Protect, but before she could Pikachu was charging right for it.

"Mega Punch!"

Pikachu's glowing fist collided into the attack, shattering it into hundreds of pieces that scattered around the field and gave her an idea.

"Blow them forward with Fairy Wind!"

Just below Pikachu's height Cutiefly blew her attack, catching the stone fragments and sending them flying at Hariyama with the extra bit of fairy glitter that she was sure would really make them sting.

"Arm Thrust!"

Hariyama countered this with a rapid series of strikes. It reduced the impact of the attack, though again as before she could say with some certainty it did feel them.

"Thunderbolt!"

Her brother's Pikachu was three moves she recognized from before as the electric attack flew for Hariyama, though before it could land a pair of arms grabbed themselves around Hariyama and threw the Pokemon into the air.

The electric attack burned the battlefield, while Hariyama landed back in place with a loud thump, with Bewear standing behind completely healed.

This wasn't going super well.

"Belly Drum!"

It took all her will power not to use a swear word that Lillie had never heard before as Hariyama began beating itself.

This couldn't get…she stopped herself before she invoked such words again…

"Pain Split!"

As Bewear placed both arms around Hariyama's head, she couldn't stop herself from cursing.

Lillie mouthed the word her friend just uttered in confusion, unsure of the meaning and the point of the word.

"I'm confused."

Mallow however was more confused as to what had warranted the swear being used.

"That would explain your lack of pants."

Mallow stared at Lillie's brother for that remark, though before he could explain Sophocles clarified.

"Belly Drum is a move that raises a Pokemon's power to scary levels, but you have to give up a lot of energy to make it work. Pain Split is a move that can restore health if you use it the way Bewear just did. So Hariyama has a ton of power, and the cost you'd normally have to pay to do so is negated. Still, I can't remember seeing any data of this combination ever being used before by Hala."

"Tutu's filled with surprises, isn't he?"

"Like a haunted house."

Lana's quip only furthered the confusion present between Lillie and her words, Mallow and Gladion's snark about her clothing choice, and when Hala had the time to come up with all the new ideas.

The only good thing about the situation she could possibly say about this was that it did make Bewear vulnerable again.

They'd need to hit that thing before it went to sleep again!

"Bewear use…"

"Quick Attack!"

Before Bewear could hear the command Pikachu slammed herself into it.

It didn't seem to do much, though she did notice something.

Pikachu had attached herself to Bewear's fur.

"Be?"

"Thunderbolt!"

Faster than she had ever seen unleashed before, and even stronger than she had ever seen as well, the Thunderbolt illuminated the battle field like a second sun.

And it kept doing so for longer than she had ever seen it continuously used.

"Grr…Knock Off!"

Hariyama began to move towards the pillar of electrical force without any fear, as she knew what she had to do.

"Stun Spore!"

As the dust began to fly she heard Hala growl again as he realized what was the best move he had left to do.

"Poison Jab!"

Wave a purple glowing hand, blowing away the Stun Spore and slamming Cutiefly with a purple gust.

The gust storm knocked Cutiefly to the ground.

"Cutiefly is unable to battle!"

Seconds later Pikachu leapt off Bewear, the electric pillar of doom fading away as Bewear fell face first to the trial platform floor with a loud thump.

"Bewear is unable to battle!"

"What? That's it? After all the trouble it seemed to gave them, it took only a few hits to win?" Mallow asked, head titled.

Gladion passed a hand through his hair. "To equalize their health with Pain Split, Bewear had to give his own to Hariyama. Not to mention, Fluffy only halves contact damage, even if Pikachu was grabbing him the attack didn't count as contact-based."

Sophocles rubbed his neck. "It seems almost disappointing, in a way."

"Not every win will be flashy and important, especially in a full battle." Gladion clenched his fists as he observed the Kahuna thank his defeated Pokémon. "Unless you're one of those Coordinators or Performers from other regions, the priority of a trainer is to win the battle, not put on a show. One needs to grow stronger and stronger, until one has the full power to face their tomorrow and protect anyone they care about. It's a lesson everyone learns one way or another, no matter how much suffering is needed to understand it."

Lillie continued to stare at her brother, and the others did the same. His claims seemed almost comically exaggerated, and yet, they could all feel some touch of personal pain inside, like he truly believed his own words there.

That awe only lasted until Hau chuckled out between bites of his current Malasada. "Wow, you sound intense. You practicing for a modern movie reboot or something?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Gladion asked, murderous stare trained on Hau.

The students allowed themselves a brief chuckle before they let the argument die, concentrating again on the battle. With only one Pokémon left for everyone, Frax and Velvet would need to do everything in their power to win.

As Hala recalled his penultimate Pokémon, Velvet took her time to evaluate the situation. Bewear's defeat was almost strangely quick and anti-climatic, but that shouldn't have led them to cry for victory already. Sure, Hala only had one Pokémon left, but it was also Hala's strongest and most reliable partner, and there was still the Z-Move issue at hand. With her, Frax and the Kahuna left with one Pokémon each, a Z-Move was not a question of if, but when.

Velvet took a deep breath and grabbed her final Poké Ball, clenching it tight. And then, she threw it. "Go, Persian!"

One of her main battle partners materialized on the field, looking as fierce and as dorky as usual. Hala gave a glance to both his opponents, clearly considering them before he pulled off a grin.

"Very well. It comes down to two against one." The Kahuna stretched his fingers, his expression turning cold. "Don't believe you have already won, however. Hariyama, take your stance."

Hariyama did so, one arm protruded outward and one foot extended away, his whole body tense. Velvet and Persian continued to observe, trying to discern what Hala had in mind, attempting to understand-

"He's open now! Pikachu, Quick Attack!"

Before she realized it, a familiar yellow blur speeded through the ruined platform, zooming for Hariyama. Velvet widened her eyes at that.

The Kahuna instead grinned, sweeping his hand. "Vital Throw!"

Hariyama tilted his body just enough for Pikachu to miss, then swiftly grabbed her by the tail and slammed her on the ground in one fluid motion. Wood splintered all over, and Pikachu squeaked in pain.

Frax froze at that, but Hala was far from finished. "Poison Jab!"

Hariyama's free hand glowed purple, and Velvet frowned.

"Power Gem!" she yelled, and Persian aimed his a shining gem.

The incoming blast made Hariyama pause, only for him to raise Pikachu to shield himself from the energy beam. Frax's partner cried further as the twins could only stare, and then Hariyama threw her skyward like a used towel.

Frax bared his teeth at that. "Pikachu, Swift!"

Pikachu rebalanced herself and glared at Hariyama, spinning her tail and sending the stars raining. Hariyama only crossed his arms and tanked the hit with only mild annoyance.

Velvet punched forward. "Play Rough!"

Persian tossed himself towards Hariyama, paws ready for multiple hits. Hala still appeared unfazed.

"Poison Jab!"

Hariyama's hand was quick and surgical, and Persian fell backwards on the wood, his body surrounded by an unhealthy purple hue and no damage delivered. Velvet cringed, while Hariyama raised his guard.

"Thunderbolt!"

Pikachu blasted the Electric-type move as soon as her feet touched the ground, fulgurating Hariyama on the spot. Frax pumped his fists, at least until Hariyama snapped to attention and rammed straight on Pikachu.

The Vital Throw ensued again, with Pikachu grabbed and tossed towards Persian before anyone could react. Both Pokémon screamed, even more cracks forming on the point of impact, no doubt thanks to that Belly Drum.

As Pikachu and Persian slowly got back up, Velvet's eyes couldn't help but go over their fresh injuries and their pained expressions. They only received a few hits, and yet they hit harder than any other. The Lono girl's eyes went back to Hala, his imposing presence towering over hers. That was the power of a Kahuna, one that could be only perceived in a battle. Even after seeing many of Hala's battles, it was only then that Velvet truly realized what kind of opponent she had ahead.

She tried to gulp down her worries to no avail. And then, he heard a familiar jiggle at her side.

"We've got a big match ahead of ourselves, right?" Frax asked, one hand raised and a cheeky grin on his face. "Let's win this, Pikachu!"

"Pika!" she declared in response, raising the opposite hand and in spite of her damage. Frax then nodded, and pointed back ahead.

"Mega Punch!"

As Pikachu's fist shone brightly and she rushed on the offensive again to be met with a parrying arm, Velvet shook her head and slapped her cheeks. That wasn't the time to get distracted on who she was facing, they had a battle to win.

And so, she jabbed ahead as well. "Double Team!"

Several copies of Persian surrounded Hariyama, all battle-ready. Velvet and Frax shared a nod, all while Hala waited and Hariyama took back his stance once more.

"Pikachu, Quick Attack into Mega Punch!"

Pikachu bolted forward once more, a shining trail behind her and a shining fist ready to strike. Hala studied them catiously, and Velvet waited. Pikachu drew closer, and closer, and then-

Velvet snapped her fingers. "Switcheroo!"

One second later, Pikachu was replaced mid-jump by Persian, claws ready to dig into Hariyama.

"Play Rough!"

"Close Combat!"

Paw met punch, and a blast of air breezed through the battlefield. Hariyama and Persian glared into each other, bright orange punch and pink-coated paw trying to best the other, all while Persian's complexion turned more and more purple. Persian's strength was fading, and Hariyama's Close-Combat was closer to strike.

And then, a yellow blur ran at Hariyama's shoulders, a fist homing right on his back; Hariyama grunted in pain as Pikachu backed away, letting go of the Close Combat and allowed Persian to jump back, hiding among his copies once more. Both Frax and Velvet took a deep breath, while Hala seemed no less calm than before.

Frax then frowned, and punched the sky. "Thunderbolt! Let's defeat him!"

Pikachu's cheeks sparked in affirmative, but before she could fire Hariyama barged in and slapped her away with Knock Off, and she flew straight on Persian once more.

The two Pokémon slowly and weakly rose back up as Hariyama dusted himself off, and Velvet couldn't help but see him and Hala, both still as calm as ever. Even with all the moments where he seemed angry or caught off guard previously, the Kahuna didn't seem to mind at all the disadvantage at all. Velvet frowned: maybe instead of a liability, knowing that both of their Pokémon would only aim for his ace was an advantage compared to splitting his attention between two of his own Pokémon. And considering that both Pikachu and Persian appeared on their last legs, that theory was probably more true than she thought.

Hala then clapped his hands together, a sincere smile on his face.

"You're putting an admirable effort so far." Once again, he turned serious as he stared right at them. "But do you have what it takes to overcome a Kahuna at his full strength?"

Velvet wondered what the Kahuna meant, until her eyes fell on the shining brown Z-Crystal on Hala's Z-Ring. And when he started a familiar series of poses, there was no need for an explanation, moreso when Hariyama started to do the same. And then they started punching at the same tempo.

She froze and quickly checked her surroundings. Persian was still poisoned, and by the way he barely stood up, probably wouldn't have fought for long, while Pikachu was fine but very much banged up. With the incoming Z-Move, their disadvantage was only bound to increase. She gulped; they had to win, with any means necessary. Her eyes fell back to her Darkinium-Z, and she clenched her fists. The decision was obvious.

She shot a glance to her brother, hand held high. "Frax, stay away from this."

"What? Do you want to match Kahuna Hala with Black Hole Eclipse?" Frax tilted his head.

Velvet didn't reply, instead seeing Hala and Hariyama punching ahead at the same rhythm. She quickly sent Persian a knowing glance and went through the familiar motions of Black Hole Eclipse, raising her arms in a wavy and eerie pattern as quick as possible. But the energy felt different, for their purpose was different. Neither she nor Persian thought about defeating Hala; their goal was to enhance, not to overwhelm. And as Velvet's power transferred to her Pokémon, she stared on at Hariyama.

"Let's go, Persian! Z-Switcheroo!"

No black hole formed, as the transferred energy melted into an aura all around Persian: she could feel the power passing on to her Pokémon, his legs ready to run and a satisfied grin on his face. She could hear people be confused, some even baffled by what she did, but Velvet didn't care.

Even Hala and Hariyama seemed puzzled, interrupting their Z-Move for the briefest of seconds. Enough for Velvet to act.

"Feint Attack!"

Persian sprinted into a ran, far faster than before and ready to disappear. Right then, Hala and Hariyama sent the final punch.

"All-Out Pummeling!"

The flurry of giant energy palms flew straight towards Persian and Pikachu, fast and sweeping throughout the whole arena. Frax and Pikachu did their best to dodge, all while Persian continued to blur in and out of view.

A palm, a dodge, another, a blur, and so on. Persian was narrowly avoiding each and any part of Hala's Z-Move as it flew towards them, always closing in the distance with Hariyama more and more. Velvet and her Pokémon knew what to expect: they had studied how All-Out Pummeling worked with Sophocles and she recalled Hala's Grand Trial with that Pancham kid. They key to dodging was all in their speed, and with Z-Switcheroo they had that on their side.

Hariyama's punches grew faster and larger, and Persian's run tighter and more frantic. Even Pikachu was having trouble dodging the thick barrage of Fighting-type energy as the move reached its climax. Velvet bit her lip when Persian almost crashed into a fist, inches from reaching Hala. Velvet narrowed her eyes; they had to do it, keep Hariyama distracted while Frax worked his magic to victory. Persian would fall soon, and they all knew that: if they needed to sacrifice themselves so Frax could win, then they would. He was always the smarter of them in a pinch.

And then they were there, Persian mere steps from Hariyama, a giant energy fist the only thing between them. Persian sprung up, ready to switch the Feint Attack for a Power Gem.

But he didn't jump high enough, and the fist was right ahead.

Velvet paled. The impact was imminent, and Persian couldn't stop it.

"Quick Attack!"

And then, a yellow blur slammed into Persian, knocking him to safety as the All-Out Pummeling finally exhausted itself. Velvet stood still, words failing her, even moreso when she recognized Pikachu ontop of Persian and helping him stand. She turned towards her brother, head tilted and eyes blinking.

"Frax?"

"What were you trying to do, Velvet?" Frax asked, far more serious than usual.

"I was trying to leaving you an opening, and-"

"And what? Get defeated on the way?" Frax narrowed his eyes, hand over his chest. "This is not my Grand Trial, it's our Grand Trial. We're walking on this path together, as family and trainers, and there's no way I'm gonna leave you behind!"

And then he gave one of his goofy smiles to her, extending his other hand to her. "Let's win this, together!"

Velvet's glance lingered on Frax's outstretched hand. He was always a sentimental and kinda corny guy at times, but in that situation, in that moment, Velvet didn't care. He wanted them to win together, to move forward as one.

And by grabbing his hand and holding it tightly, Velvet did too.

"Let's do it," she said with a grin of her own.

The Lono twins turned back to Hala and Hariyama. Kahuna and Pokémon were clearly tired after that Z-Move, but neither appeared ready to give in. Hala jabbed ahead, no less intense than before.

"Close Combat!"

Hariyama sprung forward with his hands ready, as Pikachu and Persian kept their guard up. Hariyama raised a fist, the Lonos' Pokémon readied their paws.

And then Hariyama punched the ruined platform repeatedly. The old wood finally gave up, and splinters and shards of wood exploded upward as Persian and Pikachu were catapulted skyward. Hariyama remained still, ready to catch them after the inevitable fall.

Neither of the twins was gonna allow that, though.

"Swift!"

"Power Gem!"

The barrage of stars and the rocky ray blasted at once towards Hariyama. Hala grinned at the challenge.

"Deflect them all!"

Hariyama pulled off another Close Combat, each star and ray meeting a fist as all shattered against the Fighting-type's might. All while Hariyama kept an eye on the freefalling, weakened Lonos' Pokémon.

Frax and Velvet traded a glance, and nodded. The battle would be over soon, and they had to win it.

"It's time to end this." Frax held his Z-Ring high, beaming at his partner. "Pikachu, get ready!"

Pikachu yelled in affirmative, and started to emulate Frax's movements as he formed a 'Z' with his arms, the energy already overflowing from the boy. Hala's gaze turned stern.

"Hariyama, use Focus Blast!"

As the Fighting-type charged the spirit bullet, Velvet snapped to attention. She needed to cover for her brother, and as the bullet was fired, a risky gambit popped up on her mind.

And so, she pointed at it. "Switcheroo!"

Persian seemed confused for a second, until he understood. And then, he disappeared.

One second later, he was right in front of Hariyama, with the Focus Blast flying far away from Pikachu. Persian looked pained, but he still grinned with audacity.

Hala sweeped his hand. "Poison Jab!"

"Play Rough!" Velvet punched onward.

Poison and Fairy energies clashed in the middle, paw and fist pressing against each other to overpower the opponent. Persian winced away the poison, but still held his own against Hariyama's power.

And as the clash continued, a loud cry rose up.

"Breakneck Blitz!"

Hala and Velvet perked their heads up to see Pikachu meteoring down to the ground, a powerful white aura engulfing her fully as she sped up her descent.

Hala punched forward. "Close Combat!"

Instead of a flurry of attacks, Hariyama only channeled the power in his hands and held them up, just as Pikachu slammed into him. The impact was loud and powerful, wind surging from the impact all around Iki Town.

But neither Pikachu nor Hariyama yielded, with Hala's Fighting-type keeping her and Persian at bay. What was left of the platform cracked even further, sparks of power lighting up the battlefield. But no matter the Z-Move's power, no matter the fatigue, no matter the pain, Hariyama still stood firm.

Frax stared on, tired but driven after the Z-Move. Velvet instead observed, thinking of a way to break the stalemate. Pikachu was powerful, very much so, but Hariyama was on a whole other level. She needed a way to break through his defense.

And as Velvet smiled, she knew what to do.

"Feint Attack!"

Persian swiftly blurred into speed and readied an attack at Hariyama's back. The damage was negligible, almost pathetic, but Hariyama still winced at it. And in that split second, his Close Combat waned.

Pikachu closed the distance and slammed onto Hariyama, radiating pure power.

And an explosion thundered throughout all of Iki Town, with a cloud of smoke engulfing the once battlefield, shrouding the combatants.

Suspence filled the air as the smoke slowly cleared, Frax and Velvet holding their breath as they saw Pikachu and Persian jumping back, proved, tired but still up against all odds. And then, they could see another silhouette, standing proudly against them.

The twins felt their blood freeze, not knowing what to expect, with their Pokémon still ready to continue the battle if needed.

And then, Hariyama collapsed on the ground, unconscious and defeated.

No one knew what to say at that, spectators and trainers all observing the new development with surprise. Professor Kukui, however, knew exactly what to declare.

"Hariyama is unable to battle. The winners of the Grand Trial are Frax and Velvet Lono!" he said, smiling and pointing at the two challengers.

The two didn't react immediately, their eyes traveling to the defeated Hariyama to the still standing Pikachu and Persian to finally themselves. Only then did the realization finally hit.

"We made it." Velvet beamed. "We made it!"

"We cleared Hala's Grand Trial!" Frax punched ahead.

And then, without prompt, Frax and Velvet shared a high-five and hugged each other tightly, with Pikachu and Persian doing the same. All around them the crowd flared up, with their friends and their mother louder than everyone else. The twins basked into the attention with a big happy grin until their gazes went back to Hala. The Kahuna recalled Hariyama with a proud look on his face, almost bursting into laughter at the result. Right then, another one of the Iki Town denizens brought him a small box and one of his spare haori, which Hala quickly gave to the still shirtless Frax. Velvet could hear a rather familiar groan from the crowd at that.

"You two are really something. You managed to break through every wall I placed ahead of you, and came out victorious. I was really impressed by your bravery, Frax, and that Z-Move was unlike anything I ever saw, Velvet," the Kahuna said, shifting between the two.

Velvet folded her arms, a prideful smirk on her face. "I've been wondering for a while about if Z-Moves could be used with moves that don't actually do damage. It was worth a shot."

"New twists on known strategies. I can understand that."

"You've been doing that too, Kahuna Hala, right? That Riolu was new."

Hala laughed at that, eyes to the sky. "What can I say? It's a time of change for our islands, and we all have to make effort to walk towards the future together."

The Kahuna faced the trial-goers again, opening the box with a happy grin: inside, Frax and Velvet could see two Z-Crystals, of the same kind as Hala's own.

"And it's hoping for a bright future that I'm proud to bestow the Fightinium-Z upon you."

Frax and Velvet grinned as well as they grabbed their tokens of victory. They then rose them up together in sync proudly.

"Yes! We completed the Melemele Grand Trial!" they declared at once.

"Pi-Pikachu!"

"Persian!"

"Kokooooooooooo!"

Hearing the familiar cry, everyone turned their eyes up to see Tapu Koko observing them. It lasted nary a moment before he flew away, with Velvet almost sure to have seen him holding a glass of beer in his hand as he did so, but didn't think much of it.

Kukui walked closer to the two, adjusting his hat. "Looks like Tapu Koko approved of your Grand Trial. That's a good sign."

Frax, as expected, pumped his fists and grinned again, with Pikachu hopping back on his shoulder.

"Great!" He cupped his hands around his mouth, staring skyward. "You hear me, Tapu Koko? Next time we face each other in battle, We're going to give you the duel of a lifetime! And we're gonna win!"

Velvet could hear several voices from the crowd, some surprised, some old people calling Frax blasphemous, but the majority just taking his boast in stride and laughing. Both twins turned their attention back to their new Z-Crystals, their smiles not wavering.

They still had a lot of work ahead, but for now, they made a step forward. And that was all that mattered for the time being.

As the crowd continued to cheer and clap at the Lono twins' victory, their classmates found themselves grinning wider than everyone else.

"And of course, Frax and Velvet won! Just as expected!" Mallow said, a fist raised skyward.

"I really thought Tutu had this in the bag..." Hau appeared mildly disappointed, but it was all gone when he shrugged and took another bite of his Malasada. "Oh well, he still did his best."

Gladion seemed to grin for a split second, before his scowl returned and he faced the other way. "Mph, not bad at all. They have large room for improvement, but they're rather promising."

"They always manage to reach their goals, no matter what they are." Lillie smiled as she watched the two, only for her eyes to travel downward as she hugged Snowy tightly. "I wish I could be as strong as them..."

Sophocles' eyes went back to his classmate. He knew that Lillie hid a lot of pain and worry behind her cheery and sometimes stern exterior, but it was still surprising to see that side of her bubble up to the surface. He couldn't say he didn't relate, however.

Gladion's expression softened just a bit as he walked closer to his sister. "Speaking of, Lillie... how are you?"

Lillie seemed taken aback by the question, but she quickly regained her smile.

"I'm fine. Though, you sure could drop by more often." She puffed her cheeks with the cutest attempt at a death glare at that. It failed.

"I've got my reasons." Gladion sighed and turned around, observing a newly-fixed Premier Ball in his hand. He rose the other in salute. "Stay safe... and tell the Kahuna I watched the whole battle."

And with that, Gladion left as soon as he came with nary another word. No one commented until the boy had left the outskirts of Iki Town and their field of vision.

Hau put his hands behind his neck and turned to Lillie. "You know, he sure acted much nicer towards you."

"Gladion has always been like that. He's all obnoxious and annoying on the surface, but he can be quite friendly and nice once you get to know him."

Lana shrugged. "I'm definitely not gonna miss him, though."

A nearly unanimous nod ensued. Even Lillie chanced a chuckle at that, letting Snowy down on the ground.

"With this, Frax and Velvet have completed one fourth of their Island Trials, right?" she asked, glancing again at their friends.

Kiawe nodded. "Yes. They only have Akala, Ula'Ula and Poni to go through. There's no real time limit, so they can do them at their own pace."

"Knowing Frax, I'm sure they'd be done by the end of the school year."

While everyone else continued to chat, Sophocles remained silent, his eyes still on the trial-going twins. That was an important step for their dream, the road to become what they wanted to be, and they stopped at nothing to make it. He grinned widely at that, pumping his fists and facing his other friends again.

"Then that means we should get to work, too!" Sophocles declared, louder than usual.

Everyone faced the chubby kid, confused.

"What do you mean?" Lillie asked, adjusting her sun hat.

Sophocles' grin widened. "We all have dreams and goals we're working towards, right? Frax and Velvet are putting an effort towards their own, and we can't sit on our thumbs. They're an example, and we need to be as good as them."

The other students continued to give him a puzzled stare, dead silent. Sophocles' grin turned sheepish and he scratched his neck, averting his gaze. "S-sorry, guess it was weird, huh?"

Mallow raised her hands. "Oh, no, it's just... I didn't expect you to be this bold, Sophocles."

Sophocles blushed at that, rubbing his neck oce again. He twirled his thumbs and gulped. "Well, I was thinking that we're their classmates and their friends, and seeing them succeed like this is making me fired up."

"I think Sophocles is right." Kiawe stepped forward, holding a fist. "We all need to progress on our own paths, and better ourselves every day."

The chubby boy turned around, seeing Mallow, Lana, Hau, and even Lillie nod along with Kiawe's words. His eyes lit up and his smile grew even wider, and then his eyes fell back on Frax and Velvet once again, and on the haori Frax wore. A symbol of a future Kahuna, perhaps, or maybe something more and different. There were many paths ahead for them all, and they just needed to pursue them.

As the crowd continued to compliment the Lono kids' results and the few unrelated people started to walk away, the eclectic gang started to move towards Aina Restaurant in Hau'oli City, where Mallow had bragged to offer a kingly lunch in honor of the victorious trial-goers, which everyone took to heart. And so, with everyone laughing and cheering together, they followed the young cook and the twins to the restaurant.

They had no idea what to expect from the future, but one thing was sure: together, they would definitely be able to make their dreams a reality, no matter what might lay ahead.

The next morning Frax was up bright and early, watching the sun reflect off the new Z-Crystal on his ring with pride.

It was the first big step into the future, whatever that would be for him.

Kahuna, challenging a league somewhere far away, perhaps even challenging the league he heard the Professor mention wanting to create here, maybe even just finding that guy who liked him from Kanto and battling him.

He'd find out what it would be sometime in the future, he just had to keep going.

In the corner of his eye he watched his Pokémon spar, with Rockruff avoiding a Bite from Litten before countering with Rock Throw.

Litten avoided the rock barrage with a few nimble steps before firing back with Ember, which struck Rockruff.

"You guys really want to be up for next time, don't you?"

It wasn't a question really meant to be answered, nor did they give any indication of hearing it. Litten merely slashed at Rockruff with Fury Swipes before getting a Tackle for it.

Next time was a while away, but that didn't mean they could simply stop practicing. The Kahunas weren't exactly some layered system of talent that got progressively tougher, but they were prone to throwing new challenges at you.

This time was a double battle, but next time it could be something completely different.

First step in preparing for next time would probably be mastering the new Z-Crystal, though that would require having a Fighting-type move.

Something none of his Pokémon had at the moment, though could they learn…

A shadow passed over his head, interrupting his thoughts and the training bout Litten and Rockruff were having as said shadow's owner landed in front of them before turning around and pointing at his Z-Crystal with a red clawed finger.

"Haw!"

The Hawlucha's call was a challenge brought upon by the crystal on his wrist. Perhaps it wanted to see how strong a trainer who had earned the crystal was.

Perhaps it was interested in seeing if it made him worthy of it.

Or perhaps the Hawlucha was bored and wanted a fight. Regardless, it was a battle.

"Alright, Litten!"

His Fire-type darted in front of him as the first battle of his post Grand Trial began.

A few days later, at Night

Waves struck the hull in the star lit night as the ship moved towards the island.

If one did not the know of the sound of waves striking metal by heart, they would be forgiven for not noticing its approach.

The ship was not moving towards the island's major port, nor did it have bright lights signaling its arrival.

It moved with calculated motions, digital charts of the island's hazards and port of call guiding its direction and speed.

If one saw it, they'd only notice a darker shape in the dark gloom of night. They would not see the Verich Shipping logo on the side of vessel.

Nor would they be able to see the interior, where the lights were very much on.

The room was sparse, but occupied.

Dozens of men, none standing out as either too tall or too short, too thin or fat, stared at the projection that ghosted itself to the wall.

Standing next to it was a man, dust colored hair adorning his head and a plain face. A scarred hand, the most interesting thing about him, pointed to the projection as it showed a map of the Alola Region.

Labeled on the map were such places as Malie City, Heahea City, Hau'Oli City, and the Seafolk Village.

"This is the last review. After this I have programmed the computers aboard the computer to delete all traces of our plans. Should this ship fall into other hands, our plans will not be compromised. Only human error will be a threat to it after that point, and handling that is why I'm here."

The men tried to avoid the serious expression on the face of their presenter. These men were no stranger to risky situations, but it was rare that they dealt with someone who was making the threat of silencing them clear.

Gonzap was many things, but killing the men under him was something he was not known for after all.

Not this man.

He pointed to the monitor as it changed from the map to a line up of Pokemon. From Alolan varieties of Exeggutor, Raticate, and Golem, to native species such as Toucannon, Salazzle, and Crabrawler.

"Alola is an isolated region known for rare Pokemon species and divergent evolutionary paths for many species found elsewhere in the world. Beyond the mere Pokemon the humans of this region are similarly odd. As people who have never been conquered by the outside world even as their monarchies rose and fell, this is a land of unique oddities. It is also a region that is unallied. Unlike operations elsewhere, this land is not bound by treaties of protection by either Trainer nor Ranger. As such it has been decided to expand the plans of Cipher by taking this land as our own, like most of Orre."

The men were already aware of this plan, so they didn't cheer. The speaker appreciated it.

"Responsibility for this operation has been relegated to Capriccio. His familiarity with subterfuge and subtle take over makes him uniquely suited to this operation, and thus his plans are now being put into play under my supervision."

They did not need to be given examples of what the man was known for. The third eldest of seven brothers and one of the six who went into crime, Capriccio established himself as one of the world's most dangerous criminals following the Aurumburg incident. Not even out of his teenage years at the time, Capriccio had entered the home of one of one of Kalos's oldest and richest families as a gardener.

In a matter of months every Aurumburg was dead and their billions had gone missing.

That was the start of his long and prosperous, and most of all effective, criminal career where he specialized in sneaking into rich companies or groups and destroying them rapidly from the inside.

His most newsworthy escapade in recent years was his elimination of a group of the International Police who were after him. He and his organization replaced everyone in a small town in Johto with themselves, lured them in, and brutally killed them all in a single night.

The townsfolk were later found stuck in a basement, only kept alive to give details for the ruse. The G-Men only got them back alive because they had moved in too fast to give Capriccio the time to kill them.

That was the operation that had put the speaker, Stradivarius, on the radar of international crime stopping organizations. He had been the second in command of that operation.

"I've worked with him many times in his operations, and as such I will act as middleman and acting supervisor during the initial operations. After establishing an area of control, the full force will be moved in under Capriccio's personal command to finish the operation with the aid of the in-progress SD-0100, Darkrai. The operations specifics are as follows."

The projector image became that of a chart: showing a pyramid formed of images and names.

"Cipher's operational goals in Alola will be the elimination and replacement of key figures in the Alolan government and social order. In the case of elimination, we are to ensure we can influence the replacements to Cipher's will, though the operations does allow for the subjugation of present individuals via controlling methods. I've been gathering information on them for months now, and will be giving you a final reminder of them now. Supplement this with personal observations and conclusions following landfall."

The slide show turned to that of a large man in yellow.

"This is Hala. He is the Kahuna, or spiritual leader and guardian of historical and cultural order. A Kahuna in the modern times shares power with local and island-wide governing bodies, though they retain significant influence in all areas. Politicians are of a lower priority due to their controllable natures and the manipulation of elections, so eliminating or subjugating the Kahunas is of the highest importance. All Kahunas are S-Rank priorities."

The average politician was B-Rank, with some who were particularly influential and known to be of strong moral principle A-Rank. In the chart S-Rank was the highest threat level to deal with, and it was not populated with just Kahunas.

"Hala is a Fighting Type specialist, further specializing in slower, bulkier fighting types. The only exceptions is his use of members of the Mankey evolutionary family, so plan accordingly. He is known for being quite friendly and helpful, we are suggesting using this aspect to set up assassinations."

The image flashed to reveal a woman and a young teenager smiling at them, oblivious to the intentions aimed at them.

"In addition these are his known family members. His only son left him years ago and is currently proving difficult to track down, but his daughter-in-law and grandson are present. Capriccio suggests the potential use of them as hostages to force compliance, though he notes it is difficult to predict how Hala will react in this specific scenario. He is known to be the most staunch of the Kahunas to traditions, and likely is bound to honor and diligence and other aspects that could make him sacrifice his family to ensure the safety of everyone else in Alola. Also given his advanced age, it is quite possible the stress would kill him and render them useless. So Hala is primarily suggested to be eliminated, not subjugated."

The image flashed to something the gathered criminal element preferred to the older man: a stunning local woman.

"Olivia is the newest of the three known Kahuna. She is the Kahuna of Akala Island, which is the main source of Agricultural output for this island. While specialty products are required to be imported, a vast amount of the food supply is grown in Akala's volcanic soils. As a result of this Akala must be secured as to force starvation pressures of resisting islands. Olivia herself specializes in Rock-types, though as opposed to Hala she is known to specialize in unusually fast ones. While she does have many slow rock types like Probopass and the Alolan Golem, her main Pokemon are members of the Lycanroc line."

The image flashed to reveal both a bipedal red Lycanroc, and a brown quadruped Lycanroc, flanking Olivia.

"Do not assume speed is assured against them. As the woman is known to struggle with finding someone to enter into a romantic relationship with, there are no known people to hold hostage for her. We are unsure if she has any living relatives, and all informations we could find of her earlier years is many injuries resulting from pubescent clumsiness, so we suggest defaulting to elimination. The most effective manner we have determined for this is to seduce her, and stab her when her guard is down. I am certain that we are not want for volunteers?"

All but two of the men nodded. The two who did not were known for having a wife and boyfriend back home, and as such their decline was expected.

The image changed to a tall man in black and white, a large gold chain hanging from his neck.

"This is Guzma of Ula'Ula island. This man was encountered by an early scouting program, prior to Capriccio's appointment to the Alola Operation. During it, he forced the scouting parties premature end and retreat without any Pokemon. He uses Bug-Pokemon."

The man was joined by a Masquerain and a large armored bug.

"I assume that Masquerain is familiar to you, but his main Pokemon is not so I will explain. This is a Golisopod, a dual Bug and Water type that is known for great physical power. However it is usually slow, so speed is an effective countermeasure. Usually being the key word, our reports suggest it can move faster than usual early on for reasons that we are still uncertain about."

A question mark replaced the Masquerain as the report continued.

"Our reports identified this man as the Kahuna of Ula'Ula Island. He identified himself as such, as his power was sufficient. However further research puts this claim into question to lack of records and collaboration of his claims. Attempts to find the identity of the Ula'Ula Kahuna has been thwarted by protection and restriction programs that block the search information. The program resembles that used by classified International Police information, and is currently being circumvented. This will take time, and regardless of what his actual status is his power and his knowledge of us makes him a S-Rank threat."

The question mark was replaced by a hoodlum as he continued.

"We were, however, able to determine that he is connected to a local gang known as Team Skull. They are mostly harmless, though we have data on a known leader of the organization to explain during the A-Rank threats. A takeover of the organization is suggested, with both the recruitment of or elimination of the leaders of Team Skull, up to and including Guzma depending on his connections, being acceptable under the plans…..."

Unbeknownst to them, even as their silent ship grew closer and the briefing continued, it was coming more and more into danger.

"...Other than her vast riches and scientific knowledge, her main threat comes in the form of her vast organization. Known as the Aether Foundation, it boasts a sizeable employee force and is currently playing host to at least one Ranger whose facial features we do not currently have. As such the woman and the Ranger are class A threats, and the organization is to be supplanted and both of them eliminated, quickly enough as to prevent a signal being sent to bring in any meddling from the Fall City folks."

The image of the tall blond woman was replaced by that of a shorter woman with pink and yellow hair dressed in black.

"This is the other notable Team Skull member mentioned earlier. Her name is Plumeria, and she is known to specialize in Poison-type Pokemon such as Crobat and Salazzle. We don't have much information on her past as to allow proper analysis, but she does have yellow eyes. Yellow eyes are not native to Alola, and are in fact a lot more common in Unova, which is something if nothing else on her possible history."

"She is known to prefer fast Poison Pokemon, as suggested by the mention of Crobat and Salazzle. A Salazzle is a Alolan Pokemon with the ability to poison anything, even Steel types. Assuming Team Skull and her own loyalty cannot be swayed, plan her elimination with the knowledge that a prolonged confrontation will only end in extensive toxicity."

"Now, we begin with the trial captains. These individuals are related to the Kahunas in function, but differ in a number of ways and are functionally minor outside of traditional coming of age practices in the region. The eldest is named Molayne, who has been on Cipher's radar ever since we traced his programs and tech support to the thorns known as the Kids Grid that have been causing some problems for us…"

The ship began to slow as it reached the obscure dock. The planks of said dock were rotting and missing in places, but most noticeable was the simple fact that dock was not what it was supposed to be.

Vacant.

"...He has some connections to the Kalos Region, but otherwise his focus on Normal Types is the main thing to take away. In working to take him down, remember that none of his known Pokemon are known for taking hits, but his Smeargle could prove tricky." The slide changed from a pink haired youth of fair attractiveness to that of a tall teenage girl with glasses and marks under her eyes.

"This is the only Trial Captain on Akala Island at the moment, though we have recently gained intelligence that suggests she is training a second. What data we have on this Kiawe is at the end of the A rank threats, present there only if for the fact his grandfather was the predecessor of Olivia, Koa, and thus could be a wise elimination to remove an obvious rallying point for a Kahuna to replace our puppet. Ignoring him for now, this is Iolani Pueo, the Flying Trial Captain…."

Whispers and mutterings shot up mid-speech, causing Stradivarius to cease for a moment and glare at them.

"Yes, she is a good looking teenage girl, now stop gawking. You didn't do so with Olivia, and I fail to see what is so much more appealing about…"

"That's not it sir, someone changed the slide."

At that the lecturer checked, and in deed someone had replaced all the data points on the girl (her birth date, the fact that her mother was dead, her known Pokemon, etc), with a single phrase.

Kill on Sight.

"Odd…...there is only one person who should be able to edit this." And why would Capriccio be so blunt about a girl?

It wasn't like she broke his son's heart or some other acceptable reason: Capriccio had no children nor interest in even getting near the process.

What warranted this?

"Well….I know the rest of the information on her by memory, so I'll continue. She was the last appointment of Koa to the position of Trial Captain and…"

KNOCK

The knock against the door startled all present, for a very simple reason.

There was no reason for the door to be knocking.

"...Was it the wind?" One man asked weakly.

KNOCK KNOCK

"That wasn't wind." Stradivarius declared as the door swung open.

"Huh? The door wasn't locked?! Now I feel like an idiot, which makes me mad! Do you want to know what happens when I get mad!?"

The figure who stepped forward had sprung straight out of their lecture.

In the narrow ship passage he had to slump in order to avoid hitting the roof. A pair of mismatched gold glasses stared down at them, even as a Pinsir stood behind him, displaying a threatening clammer of pincers behind him.

Beside him was another figure straight out of their lecture: the woman Plumeria. Her position suggested she was the one who opened the door, and beside her floated a Gengar.

Behind them was a legion of punks, many of them holding Skarmory feathers like swords. None of them were doing it correctly, but it was still vaguely threatening.

"Ya see, I was told by a little bird friend o' mine that a bunch of you freaky bear punks were going to pop in tonight. Can't say I really want that, so I got ta' thinking. I got a legion, I got nothing on T.V tonight that isn't a rerun, and we have a freeloading bird that keeps shedding sharp feathers everywhere. So, I thought I'd use them, and take all ya stuff. How's that sound?" Guzma grinned wildly as the punks behind him shouted a war cry.

"Never!" One of the men shouted back as Guzma eyed him.

"Ya' getting smacked first. Attack!"

And with that, in the confines of a ship, Team Skull attacked.

The next day found two messages waiting on a pure white computer with gold trimmings that only one person used.

Said person was using it, even as the room was cooled by the many ice blocks strewn around.

The first related to a successful night operation, which she gave an approving nod to as she read. The second though, truly made a wicked smile cross her face.

It was a program she had been working on, and it had just been activated.

ULTRA SPACE DISTURBANCE DETECTOR. DISTURBANCES DETECTED ON AKALA ISLAND. READINGS MATCH DATA ON ULTRA BEAST COSMOG

Below it was a map of the island, with several glowing markers indicating where teleportation was detected.

Brooklet Hill, Lush Jungle, Hano Golf Course, Diglett's Tunnel, behind the Battle Royal Dome…..

It was here. Now she simply needed someone to get it for her.

She moved to respond to the first message, but stayed her hand.

No. This needed a different touch.

She left the console, even as the corner of her eye noted a new teleport instigation, this time to a offshore rock.

She reached for her phone as she walked, the contact already dialed as she reached her elevator up.

"Oh Wicke, could you send your nephew to my office when you have a chance today. I have something I think he'd be a real help with on my end." Lusamine asked the assistant branch chief with all the friendliness she could muster.

END ONESHOT

Well first time doing a co-write like this. Should be interesting, wonder if you can tell when Viroro's and I change hands? Hope this goes well, co-writes are an new experience certainly.

Had a few goals going in: The Trial, give Sophocles a bit more to do, put Type: Null in a Premier Ball because the anime has good ideas more often than many thing, and it expanded to cover a lot more, etc and expand from there. Tis how it goes I suppose.

Pikachu's defeat of Bewear was basically zapping it for a longer term shock. Think Drake Dragonite or Alain Metagross if you want an idea of what the attack looks like, as opposed to the shorter term zapping that is more common. It's a question in universe, so thought I'd answer for it out of it.

The Hawlucha is not Ash's. Frax is very similar to Ash in a lot of ways, from personality to genetics, and they tend to attract similar Pokemon…if he catches it. Viroro has a few oneshots planned after this so it'll be up to him really.

Anyway Olivia's youthful clumsiness is a reference to her anime self, and that is where the tripping gag stays. She doesn't do that the current time, though she is as touchy feely as her anime self depends on the guy who wants to do an adaption of the anime Akala arc really. It was more salvageable than Skyla's anime only quirk at least, as I was willing to have it exist in this timeline.

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