I've been wanting to write this one for a while. For the past few years, majority of my written output was because of journalism, and almost all my writing energy was spent on that. But I do credit it for teaching me a lot of new things about writing, so I've long thought about writing a one-shot that blends my love for fanfic and my tolerance for journalism.
"Featuring Wally" is the result of that blend. And if we're being honest, this is probably the closest thing I will ever write to a self-insert fic, as you'll see below. The things I would do to be in Russell's shoes!
"Featuring Wally" is the result of that blend. And if we're being honest, this is probably the closest thing I will ever write to a self-insert fic, as you'll see below. The things I would do to be in Russell's shoes!
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be landing shortly. Please fasten your seatbelts and secure all loose items.”
Finally, I almost said out loud. Eight hours in a plane was just as unpleasant as I thought it would be. Sure, it wasn’t as irritating as the traffic going in and out of Mauville, but it was just as boring. The in-flight entertainment can only go so far, and it took way more effort to try to fall asleep than just accepting that I would stay awake for the whole trip.
What kept me busy—or what should’ve kept me busier—was thinking about my interview.
I’m still not sure how I was able to convince my editor, but I wanted this interview more than anything. Hoenn TV had been trying out doing long-form features for the website, and that last one featuring Steven Stone was a much bigger hit than anyone expected. Our page views reached an all-time high, and the team wanted to publish more.
So when we got the invite from the Battle Tree to interview the trainers in their roster—complete with an all-expenses-paid trip to Alola—I knew exactly who they wanted us to feature.
“His name is Wally, Ma’am,” I had told my editor. “He was one of the Champion’s rivals back in the day. In 2018 he was the runner-up in the Champion Cup, and that was the closest he came to beating May.”
“And you’re willing to fly all the way to Alola to get this interview?” she asked me. “That’s a lot of effort for one feature.”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’m not exactly looking forward to the flight,” I replied with a smile. “But this is the best chance we have of getting this feature. He’s been working at the Battle Tree for several months now, and he’s been seen doing exhibition matches with big-name trainers from other regions like Cynthia and Blue. So it’d be interesting to feature a Hoenn-born trainer that’s getting some clout abroad.”
“Hmm,” she began, tapping her fingers on her desk. “You’ll be gone for a week, with how far Alola is. You do know you’ll still have to submit something every day while you’re there, right? So no impromptu beach trips until you’ve met your quota.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I said, trying to contain my excitement. “I’ll bank a few articles before I leave, too.”
“Well, alright then,” she said with a smile. “Don’t forget to bring home malasadas for everyone.”
I treated my teammates to a round of beer that same night. If there was only one trainer in the world I wanted to do a long-form feature on, it was going to be Wally. And sure, interviewing more recognizable trainers like Brawly and Sidney was great, probably my two favorite articles I’ve written for the website so far.
But they weren’t Wally.
“Alola!” I heard the flight attendant say. “Welcome to Melemele Island!”
“Hello everyone! Welcome to the wonderful region of Alola! Is this your first time visiting?”
I put as much effort to my nod as I could, which could only go so far when you’re drained by an eight-hour flight from Hoenn to Alola plus a two-hour ferry ride from Melemele to Poni. I knew that media relations officers always had to keep their energy high in front of us, but it wasn’t exactly what I needed right now.
“Alright!” she exclaimed, which just made my headache worse. “So, before anything else, let’s have a roll call to see if we have everyone. I’m Lea, and I’m the head of media relations at the Battle Tree!”
The two other people with Lea, Kale and Alana, introduced themselves before they pointed to each of us. Five other journalists were present, and all six of us had arrived from different regions.
“OK, nice to meet all of you!” Lea said with a smile. “On behalf of the whole team, we’d like to thank all of you for accepting our invitations and heading all the way to Alola for us. We’re very excited to share with you what the Battle Tree has to offer!”
“But, I’m sure you’d all appreciate some downtime after those long trips,” Alana said, and all six of us let out a sigh in unison, which made everyone laugh. “So, we’ve already checked you in at the hotel. Have a good night, and we’ll see you in the lobby at 7:30 tomorrow morning!”
We all bade our goodbyes as we retired for the night. I was more than ready to spend the whole night in bed, as it was probably the only sleep I’d get for the whole trip.
At least, that was the plan.
It had been three hours by that point, and no matter how hard I closed my eyes or stuffed my face on the pillow, I still couldn’t sleep. I felt tired, drained even, but nothing could get my mind off the interview tomorrow.
It was my first time ever meeting him! I’ve never missed a tournament of his on TV, and when he made it to the finals two years ago, I used one of my leaves just so I could watch it live. Sure, seeing all his Pokemon get beaten one by one by May’s overpowered team hurt a little, but getting the opportunity to see Wally live was a dream come true!
But not only was I going to see him in person, I’d get to talk to him, too! I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t know how I could keep my cool and get all the answers I need for the article. I didn’t even know how I could give him my gift in the middle of everything that was happening!
“Couldn’t sleep either, huh?”
I was snapped out of my thoughts by one of the other journalists, who looked like she had the same idea of spending the night looking at Poni’s open sea. Her name was Nina, and she was the Sinnohan journalist of the group. And that was all I knew about her.
“You’re Russell, right? The one from Hoenn TV?”
“Yup,” I replied. “And you’re Nina from the Pokemon News Press.”
“One and only,” she said as she sat down next to me. Our legs were dangling over one of Seafolk Village’s many docks, and the cool sea breeze kept us cozy through the night.
“Nervous about tomorrow?” she asked as she withdrew her cigarette box from her pocket and lit one. She motioned me to get one, to which I had to politely refuse. My teammates had nudged me to try one when I was still the newest recruit, and I had to wash out the disgusting taste from my mouth for the rest of the day.
“More excited than nervous, really,” I said, almost laughing at myself for the answer. “But the nerves are definitely there.”
“That’s always a good mix,” she said as she took a long drag. “Who are you interviewing?"
“His name’s Wally,” I replied almost too excitedly, like I hadn’t been awake for almost 20 hours. “One of the professional trainers from our region. Bit low-key, but he made waves before as our Champion’s rival.”
“Ohh, I’ve watched a match of his before,” she acknowledged. “He came close to becoming Champion that one year, right?”
“He sure did,” I said, the reality of that loss taking out any excitement away from me. “Probably not something I should bring up when I talk to him tomorrow, though.”
“Probably not,” she said with a laugh as she took another drag. “I’m assuming you’re excited coz you’re a big fan of his?”
I looked at her with a surprised look. “How did you know?”
“You talked about him with the same excitement as those media relations people had earlier today,” she said with a slight smirk. “And it’s two in the morning.”
I let out a sigh. “That obvious, huh?” I needed to get better at hiding my excitement whenever the discussion turned to Wally. All my teammates brought him up if they wanted me to shut up at this point.
“How about you?” I asked, more than happy to change the subject. “I’m assuming you’re here for Cynthia?”
“Yup, Ms. Greatest Champion of All Time herself,” she replied as she took an exceptionally long drag from her cigarette.
“You don’t sound too excited.”
“That’s because I’m not,” she said with a laugh. “I mean, sure, I’m glad I get the chance to interview her. But there’s been so many articles written about her that it almost feels pointless, you know? Like, how am I gonna make a convincing feature that everyone and their mother’s already read a version of?”
I could only stare at her in response. I never thought about it that way, and I kind of regret hearing about it, since now that’ll be another thing at the back of my mind while I’m writing my articles.
“Well, my editor told me that if I can’t help comparing my writing to that of other people, I just have to keep reminding myself that no one’s gonna write like I do,” I said, trying to sound as inspiring as my editor. “And, well, that’s not really something that a perpetually nervous writer with low self-esteem wants to hear, but at least I know that whatever I write is gonna be one-of-a-kind. And I think that will also apply to your feature on Cynthia.”
“Huh, cheesy,” she said with a slight smile. “But well-meaning all the same. Thanks.”
I smiled in return as she finished her cigarette. “We should probably get at least a few minutes of sleep. You don’t want to look like a mess in front of Wally, do you?”
“I know,” I said as I felt a well-timed yawn coming in. “Good luck with Cynthia tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” she said with a wave. “And I hope Wally’s just as amazing as you think he is.”
He will be, I almost said out loud.
“And this right here is the Battle Tree!”
When the website said that the Battle Tree was the biggest tree this side of the world, they weren’t kidding. When I looked up, its leaves blocked the entire sky from view, only letting small rays of sunshine seep through. The whole area felt like it existed entirely separate from the rest of the world.
“It might not look like it from the outside, but there are a lot of platforms hidden behind the leaves for trainers to battle on,” Lea continued. “We’re still building the space for spectators, so right now all our exhibition matches happen in the arena.”
I was just about to ask where the arena was when we were led down the back of the huge tree. Kale filled the silence with more facts about the Tree, like how the residents of Poni view the Battle Tree as sacred grounds made specifically for Pokemon battles, and many other tidbits that I wasn’t able to jot down.
After a few minutes, we arrived at a clearing with markings that signified that it was used for battles. Near one of the sets of bleachers was a long table, with six empty seats spread out behind them. We were all directed to sit in that set of bleachers, and once we made ourselves comfortable, Lea took her place in front of the long table. I saw Kale and Alana take their place in the opposite ends of the bleachers, both of them holding a camera.
“Alright, so once again, welcome to the Battle Tree!” Lea said with a smile. “We’re so glad you’re able to join us in our first-ever international media briefing. We hope you help us in promoting our amazing battle facility to all trainers around the world!”
I then remembered one other condition I had to keep in mind when writing my feature—I have to incorporate promotion of the Battle Tree somehow. Here’s hoping I don’t forget it over all the praise I have in store for him.
“We aren’t going to do all the promoting ourselves, though,” Lea continued. “Here to help us promote are some of our top trainers!”
As if on cue, we heard a cry from the sky, and three large shadows suddenly appeared on the battleground. Seconds later, three large figures swooped down, and it took a second for it to register that those three figures were Pokemon. At the center was one of the largest Pidgeot I’ve ever seen, its mane almost gleaming at the rays of sunlight hitting it. To its left was a Braviary, which immediately tended to its wings once the dust from their fall settled. And to the Pidgeot’s right was a Garchomp, which looked just as terrifying in person as I expected it to be.
I didn’t even have time to process why these Pokemon would suddenly swoop down on us when I noticed people coming down from their backs. At the center, a brown-haired man in a black button-down shirt and green shorts and a purple-haired lady were walking toward us. From the Braviary came a guy with an unbuttoned lab coat who I immediately knew was Professor Kukui and a kimono-clad guy with messy hair who reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And from the Garchomp came a tall, black-dressed woman with long blonde hair, who I can only assume was Cynthia given that she was tending to the Garchomp. And behind her was—
Ahh! It’s him! It’s him! I almost said aloud, but I clenched my fist as hard as I could to make sure I wasn’t making any unnecessary noise. He was much shorter than Cynthia—he was probably the shortest of the bunch, or maybe just a bit taller than the purple-haired woman. He was wearing his signature gray long-sleeved polo and baggy pants. And his olive green hair was just as spiky and messy as it looked in the photos.
He was talking to Cynthia, probably thanking her for letting him ride on her Garchomp. Or maybe they’re continuing to discuss high-level battle tactics that they started talking about when they were waiting on her Garchomp. Or maybe they’re going over what they’ll be saying in the presscon. Or maybe—
“Well, that was certainly a flashy entrance!” Lea said as the six trainers took their seats behind the long table. “Let’s give them a round of applause!”
I may not know every trainer on that table, but none of them deserved a weak applause from nine people. Especially Wally.
“Alright!” Lea said with the highest energy I’ve heard from her. “So, I’m sure our wonderful journalists already know who you are, but just in case there are some gaps, let’s get started by asking our Battle Tree trainers to introduce themselves and tell us what they do in the Tree.”
“I’ll start, then!” said Blue, who sat in the center and was just as assertive as I imagined him to be. “I’m Blue, but I’m sure you all know that already. I was once the Champion of the Indigo League, but I now work as the leader of the Battle Tree challenge with my partner, Red. And I gotta ask, where are the Kanto and Johto journalists?”
I saw both of them raise their hands, the KRBN reporter rather hesitantly and the JRBN reporter almost too excitedly.
“There you are!” Blue said with a lot of gusto. “You better have the best articles to come out of this presscon, you hear? And don’t worry, my partner will be joining us for the interview later.”
I could almost hear their sighs of relief. Red was notoriously media-shy, so it was always a treat when there was a new article or report published about him. And I’m pretty sure the KRBN and JRBN editors probably only allowed their reporters to fly to Alola because they promised an article featuring Red.
“Alola, cousins!” started Professor Kukui, who sat next to Blue. “The name’s Kukui, and I’m a Pokemon Professor who occasionally goes to the Tree to have some fun battles! I also started the Alola League, so I’ll be talking about the context of the Battle Tree and why it’s something all the trainers in your region should be visiting soon. And on behalf of the League, I want to give a big thank you for coming to our beautiful region!”
“Bonjour! The name’s Sina!” the purple-haired girl began. “I’m a trainer from Kalos! My friend Dexio and I originally went to Alola for some much needed vacation time, but we ended up prolonging our stay because of the Battle Tree! Really excited to meet you all later!"
“Hmph, name’s Grimsley,” said the tall man next to her, and I immediately recognized the name. He’s a member of the Unova Elite Four! “Frequently battle in the Tree. Glad you all made it here safe and sound.”
It seemed like everyone was waiting for Grimsley to say more, but when it became clear that there was nothing else, Cynthia cleared her throat and directed the attention to her.
“Good morning, everyone,” she said with a smile. “I’m Cynthia from the Sinnoh region. I frequently travel around the world to hone my skills, but when I encountered the Battle Tree, I couldn’t help but take the opportunity to meet a diverse pool of trainers. And I haven’t been disappointed.”
She then turned to her right to face Wally, giving him an encouraging smile. I saw Wally close his eyes, take a deep breath, and face the crowd with a wide smile.
“H-hello everyone!” he said, his voice slightly deeper than I expected. “My name’s Wally, and I’m a trainer from Hoenn! Uhmm, I started training in the Battle Tree to become stronger, just as strong as everyone else on this table!”
I almost applauded out of habit—I always applaud for Wally when he gets screen time—but I went with just squeezing my hands together. He had literally only said three sentences, none of which were addressed to me specifically, and I could already feel my heart beating fast.
How was I going to survive the interview?
“Russell! You’re up next in this platform!”
I wiped my forehead for what seemed like the hundredth time in the last hour. Lea and her team were able to reserve two of the Battle Tree’s five platforms for the afternoon, so we had to take turns with our one-on-one interviews. Blue and Red were using one of the platforms for their joint interview with KRBN and JRBN, so we knew that was going to take a long time. Sina had already finished her interview with the reporter from Lumiose Press, and Grimsley’s interview with the Unova Times reporter was ending sooner than expected.
“Looks like you’re finally gonna meet him in person,” Nina said. “Nervous?”
“Of course not!” I said as I felt my heart beat even faster. “OK, maybe a little.”
“Heh, I wouldn’t have believed you anyway,” she said. “Don’t worry. You’ll do great.”
“Thanks,” I said as I took another deep breath. “Can’t wait to read your piece on Cynthia, too.”
“Heh, you will have to wait a bit,” she said with a smile. “But thanks. Got a lot of extra research done last night after you pepped talk me out of my slump. Have a few unique angles I wanna try.”
“That’s great!” I said with as much enthusiasm as possible. I don’t think I would find an online article on Wally that I haven’t read, so I was pretty set in the question department. It’s just a matter of asking them.
As I said that, the reporter from Unova Times went out of the platform, his expression a mixture of confusion and frustration. I could only imagine what kind of weird answers he’d have to work with for his article.
“OK, Russell,” Alana called out. “This platform is yours for the next hour.”
“Thanks, Alana,” I said, making all the effort to keep my cool. “Oh, before I forget, could I ask for a few photos of Wally from his exhibition matches? And from the presscon earlier today if they’re ready?”
“You’ll get them in your email by tomorrow morning at the latest,” said Alana with a smile. “Good luck with the interview!”
“Thanks,” I said as I entered the room.
The room was wholly enveloped by leaves, with the ground being a mixture of a wooden platform and some fallen branches and sticks. There was some sunlight trickling into the enclosure, and even if I wasn’t part of the visuals team, I knew this was great lighting for a photo shoot.
At the center were two chairs and a table, with both chairs already visibly moved away from their original spots. I took a seat in the one facing the entrance and brought out my notepad, a tape recorder, and my phone, which only served as a backup recorder. I left my backpack open near one of the legs of the table, triple checking that I had my gift inside.
Even if my notepad was filled with bullet points of research and prepared questions, nothing could have prepared me for the moment Wally walked out of the side entrance. I felt my smile immediately widen, and all the times I cheered for him behind a screen suddenly played in my head.
“Hi!” I said almost too loudly as I stood up from my chair. “My name’s Russell! It’s so nice to meet you!”
“H-hi,” he said with a cautious smile as he extended his hand for a handshake. “I’m Wally.”
Yeah you are! I heard myself say.
“U-uhmm, before we start, I w-want to make a request, if that’s alright,” he said with the same expression as he took a seat, his eyes looking in all sorts of directions and trying to avoid my gaze.
“Sure!” I said, making my tone as approachable and understanding as possible.
“I-if it’s alright, can I have Gallade by my side for the entire interview?” Wally asked, looking like he was pleading. “H-he helps me calm down when I’m nervous.”
Absolutely! I screamed inside my head. Gallade, Wally’s starter Pokemon that he caught as a Ralts, was almost a package deal whenever I saw Wally in tournaments and exhibition matches. Wally was one of the only known trainers in the world that was able to mega evolve Gallade, and I’ve watched countless numbers of amateur tournament analysts online who could only stare in awe when Wally fought so effortlessly with Mega Gallade.
“Yes, of course!” I said after catching myself staring a Wally for a bit too long. “Whatever makes you comfortable.”
I saw Wally take a deep sigh of relief. “Oh, thank you!” he said as he took out a Poke Ball from his pocket, grasped it tightly, then threw it upwards in a casual manner, almost like he was absent-mindedly throwing up a baseball and catching it himself. As it reached the peak of the throw, a burst of light popped out of the Poke Ball, and Gallade materialized right next to Wally, already on one knee and one of his arms leaning behind Wally’s back.
It took everything in me not to squeal like a little girl. Not only do I get to interview my favorite trainer in the world, but I’ll also get to see his ace Pokemon protect him like a valiant knight!
“Uhmm, hello, Gallade!” I said. “Glad you could join us!”
Gallade made a formal bow in reply, and I wish I could ask him to do it again while I recorded a video.
“Alright, my turn to make a request,” I said. “Is it alright if I record the whole interview? It’ll allow me to keep the article more accurate when it comes to your quotes.”
“Uhh, sure!” replied Wally. “Whatever would make your job easier.”
“Thanks!” I said as I opened both my recorder and my phone. He’s so considerate! I heard myself add.
“So, first thing’s first: On behalf of Hoenn TV, thanks for agreeing to this interview!” I said, something I’ve been trained to always say, but applied now more than ever.
“But on a more personal note,” I continued, “I’m really excited to conduct this interview, as I’ve been wanting to write a feature on you for a long time!” That one I didn’t need any training to say.
“Aww, thank you!” he said shyly. “I admit, I was confused when Lea and the other media relations people told me that someone from Hoenn TV wanted to interview me. I’ve never been featured by myself alone!”
“All the more reason why my team wanted this to happen!” I said, “my team” really just a stand in for “I”. “But as you said, while there haven’t been articles about you alone, you’ve been featured in several articles about tournaments both in and out of Hoenn, probably more than any other trainer from our region. Can you tell me more about your decision to participate in different tournaments and battle circuits around the world?
“Oh wow, you’ve read all those articles too?” Wally said shyly. “I thought I’d be the only one interested in them.”
I also watched every tournament, I contemplated on saying, but decided against it. Even the ones where you didn’t reach the quarterfinals, and especially the ones where you won!
“Well, I was a very sickly kid,” Wally continued. “I had very weak lungs and an even weaker immune system, so I didn’t really go out and travel that much. But when I went on my journey, I became much healthier. I’ve never wanted to do anything as a kid more than travel around the world, so when I heard that there were a lot of other tournaments outside Hoenn, I decided to travel around the world to hit two Taillow with one Rock Throw.”
“And you’ve done very well!” I said, meaning every word of it. “Just last year, you emerged as the victor in the Fighting Type Expert Tournament invitational, where you even beat out Korrina’s Mega Lucario! Gallade, you were so amazing in that fight!”
I saw Gallade perk up at the comment. If only I could get his thoughts on the matter!
“Heh, he says thank you,” Wally said as he gave Gallade a pat in the back. “Korrina’s Lucario was one of the strongest opponents we’ve ever battled, so it was definitely one of the most memorable wins, especially since I don’t think anyone expected the result. I remember Brawly telling me that he won a bet against Bruno and Marshal for that match!”
“Hah, that definitely sounds like something Brawly would do!” I said with a laugh.
“Ah, right, you would know!” Wally acknowledged. “You were the one who wrote his feature, after all. It was a really well-written article!”
I felt my cheeks turn red. “Y-you’ve read it? Th-thank you!”
“Heh, you’re not the only one who’s been doing research!” Wally said with a wink. “Brawly’s feature was my favorite, but I also enjoyed your articles on Sidney and the Battle Chatelaines!”
I could’ve passed out right there. Wally, the one and only Wally, has read my articles? And not just one of them, but all three of the features I’ve written? If there were any doubts I had about becoming a journalist, they all just disappeared with that statement.
“Th-that’s really encouraging to hear!” I said, mentally telling myself to calm down. “B-but back to what you said earlier. When you participate in these kinds of tournaments, how much does the profile of your opponent affect you? Like, would battling with a famous Gym Leader like Korrina be different than, say, battling a random challenger here in the Tree?”
“It’s definitely something on my mind,” he replied after a few moments. “It’s hard not to think about it when you see trainers you’ve watched on TV on the other side of the platform. Even here in the Battle Tree, I get to work and battle with legends like Blue, Red, and Cynthia! So yes, it does affect me, but in a very good way, as it makes me want to win the battle even more.”
“That’s great to hear!” I said. “And now that you mentioned it, I’ll use your answer as a segue to talk about the Battle Tree. Can you talk about what led to your decision of working for the Tree, and how you’ve decided to stay on as one of its frequent trainers for the past few months?”
“Well, your question is actually a much better segue than you think!” Wally said, his expression much more calm than it was only a few minutes ago. “After I won the Fighting Type Expert Tournament, I flew back to Hoenn to spend some time with my family and prepare for the next Championship Cup. But when the plane landed, I saw that I got an email from none other than Red himself.”
“Whoa, that must’ve felt amazing!” I said wide-eyed, as I noted down with two underlines that Red did communicate to others if it didn’t involve talking.
“I couldn’t tell you how fast my heart was beating when I saw the notification,” Wally said, placing his hand over his chest. “And when I read the email, I almost fainted! I re-read it at least five times a minute that day, since I couldn’t believe that a legend like Red would ever notice an unknown trainer like me.”
But you're not unknown! I wanted to scream.
“It actually took me a whole day to respond back,” Wally continued. “I knew I wanted to do it, but it also meant laying low from tournaments for a while. But since it meant getting the chance to train under Red and Blue, I’d be crazy if I didn’t accept the offer!”
“I’m sure everyone in the Battle Tree is glad that you accepted it!” I said encouragingly, to which he gave the sweetest smile in reply. I had to take a deep breath to move on to my next question, but I knew I wasn’t going to get that smile out of my head anytime soon.
“Well, as you said, there are a lot of trainers from all over the world who now work in the Battle Tree,” I began. “As someone who joined the Battle Tree for that very experience, how has it been training with all these global personalities?”
“It’s been amazing,” Wally said, and I noticed that Gallade was nodding in agreement. “Seeing all these trainers that I’ve admired from afar, and meeting many other new trainers that have different strategies and battle styles, it’s the best learning experience a trainer could ask for!”
“Any memorable experiences you’d like to share?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve received a lot of tips from Ms. Cynthia,” Wally said with a mixture of shyness and pride. “It started with me asking for tips on how to raise a Garchomp, and now we often have warm-up battles in the morning. Imagine having Cynthia, one of the best trainers in the world, as your warm-up partner! That alone has made working here so worth it.”
“I bet there are a lot of trainers around the world who want to be in your position!” I said, although if I were a trainer I’d want to be in Cynthia’s position. “Then again, a seasoned trainer like Cynthia wouldn’t be having those battles with anybody. She definitely sees something special in you if she wants to train with you so often!”
“Heh, I don’t know about that,” he said shyly. He always made this look whenever he received high praise in the video interviews I’ve seen of him, and I couldn’t believe I was seeing it in person.
“But really, training with incredible people like Ms. Cynthia, Mr. Blue, Mr. Red, and everyone else here is what makes working for the Battle Tree so worthwhile,” he continued. “And I really hope other trainers from around the world take the same opportunity by visiting us.”
“Well said!” I complimented. The media relations officers sure gave him a great quotable quote for the Battle Tree. At least it made things easier for me to focus on the more important parts of the article.
The conversation focused on the Battle Tree for more time than I wanted, but I at least had enough material to at least write a section for the Tree. At this point, my notebook was full of words that were either scratched off, underlined, encircled, or some combination of the three, and I still had a lot of questions to go through.
“Let’s reel things in for the next few questions,” I began. “You said that when you were a kid, you were always indoors because of your illnesses, which obviously isn’t true nowadays. What has traveling around the world meant to you, besides being able to participate in all these tournaments?”
“It means the whole world to me,” Wally began, but then realized what he just said and followed with, “no pun intended.” I didn’t even catch the pun, but that quote was definitely going into the article!
“When I was a kid, I would spend my time in the room reading about faraway regions and the Pokemon within them,” he continued. “Since I couldn’t go out myself, I would read every book that my parents got me and put a lot of notes all over them. I even asked for a globe, so that I could mark the regions that I wanted to visit when I grew up.”
“So the start of my journey with May helping me catch this guy,” he said as he gave Gallade a pat in the head, which made the Pokemon growl softly. That’s definitely something I’ll be relistening to over and over again! “That day was the most important day of my life. With Mr. Norman lending me his Zigzagoon and May being by my side, I still remember it like it was yesterday. Because it was that day that really gave me the drive to start working harder and pushing myself more, and it was what made all my dreams of traveling around the world into a reality.”
I had to hold back my tears. I already knew that story like the back of my hand, but something about the way he answered the question made it hit even harder.
“That’s really great to hear,” I said, noticing that I’ve been keeping the conversation silent for a while. I quickly scanned my notebook for my next question. “Since you already brought her up, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your rivalry with the Hoenn Champion.”
“Heh, it’s not really a rivalry,” he quickly corrected, which I expected to hear. “Especially since our skill levels are probably as far as the distance between Hoenn and Alola at this point.”
“Sorry, I mean your friendship with the Hoenn Champion,” I said with a smile, to which he nodded in approval. “You already talked about how she helped you at the start of your journey, but I can imagine that isn’t the only benefit of training with May, both before and after she became Champion. How have your experiences with May shaped you into the trainer you are today?”
“Wow, that’s a good question!” he acknowledged, and I could feel myself melt on my seat. “Well, the battles I had with May during our journeys were definitely learning experiences, especially with how she always steamrolled through my team. It inspired me to work much harder, knowing that I could be as strong as her one day.”
“That obviously hasn’t happened,” he added, laughing at the thought. “But I’d like to think that it’s good motivation to keep bettering myself until I’m strong enough to beat her. It almost happened one time, you know?”
I definitely knew, and I had to make my sigh of relief as muted as possible. I told myself I wouldn’t bring up this battle since I was afraid of making him uncomfortable, so I was definitely happy that he was bringing it up himself.
“Two years ago, I made it to the finals in the Championship Cup, and she was the only one standing in my way,” he continued. “Even if I knew I was going to be defeated in the end, I was happy to show May how much I’ve improved, and it was also my own way of saying thanks for helping me become a trainer.”
“How do you think your journey would have changed if you won that battle?” I asked.
“Well, for one she’d definitely take the title back from me as soon as she could,” he said with a laugh. “But more seriously, it would be a very interesting experience for me, since the Hoenn League Tournament is much flashier than the tournaments I usually take part in. I would’ve definitely stayed in Hoenn because of the position, though.”
“But really, I don’t think I could ever handle the pressure that came with the title,” he added. “After May won that battle, I saw all these fans and media people swarm her, and I felt a bit relieved that I wasn’t getting the same treatment. Even here, whenever we have demonstration matches and public tournaments, I see Mr. Blue and Ms. Cynthia get approached by fans and the local press all the time. I mean, I won’t say I’m not jealous, but I’m also more than content with staying on the sidelines for the most part.”
I could feel my heart beating even faster. This is it, Russell, I heard myself say. This is the perfect time to give it to him!
“W-well, I have a request, then,” I said, grasping my hands together and taking a deep breath. Wally only looked at me curiously at the statement, and I saw Gallade having the same confused expression.
I then reached into my bag and took out a large brown box, wrapped in a green ribbon that was as close to Wally’s hair color as possible. Both Wally’s and Gallade’s confused expressions turned into ones of surprise, which only made me more excited to tell them what was inside.
“For the next few seconds, is it alright if you step out of the sidelines and act like Blue and Cynthia?” I said hurriedly, taking quick glances of my notes from his last answer. “And entertain a big fan of yours?”
“Y-you got this for me?” he asked, his voice the most excited I’ve heard it in the entire interview.
“Y-yeah,” I said, and I’ve never felt my cheeks burning more in my entire life. “I, uh, I’m a bit of a huge fan of yours. And when I heard that the Battle Tree was inviting Hoenn TV to have an interview with you, I knew I had to be the reporter to do it.”
“Russell, that’s…” he began, and I swore I saw his eyes become teary. “Th-thank you!”
“Y-you can open it!” I said as I slid the box closer to their side of the table. “I hope you like what’s inside!”
Wally quickly opened the box to find an assortment of goods I bought back in Hoenn: a box of Lava Cookies, a Ralts Poke Doll, and a throw pillow that was a similar color to his hair, as well as a Green Scarf and a bag of Liechi Berries for Gallade.
“I, uhh, I’m really overwhelmed,” Wally said, taking deep and steady breaths. “I’ve never gotten a present like this from someone. I hope it didn’t cost you a lot to put this together!”
“Don’t worry about it!” I said, even if it did take quite a cut from my latest paycheck. I especially had to shell out a lot for those Liechi Berries, since a merchant in Slateport insisted that he harvested them from Mirage Island himself. It was the best present I could think of for Gallade, and I thought them being from his home region would make him love the present even more.
True enough, once I saw Gallade excitedly grabbing one of the berries and taking a bite, all those Pokedollars were more than worth it.
“This is so weird,” he said in between laughs. “But I’m really grateful! I’ve only ever taken photos with other people who said they liked how I battle, but those were usually because I hung out with more recognizable trainers after the event.”
“Well, could you spare this fan of yours a quick photo?” I said, my mouth already hurting from how widely I’ve been smiling for the past few minutes.
“O-of course!” Wally said as he stood up and went to my side of the table. I quickly saved the voice memos on both my recorder and phone and slowly stood beside Wally. I could only hope that Wally didn’t notice how shaky I was as I took the photo.
After a few shots, I then took a deep breath and asked, “Is it alright if Gallade also joins us?”
Without Wally even saying a word, Gallade disappeared from his side of the table and teleported right behind us. I silently wished I was recording the whole situation while I took a couple more selfies, Gallade making this really innocent smile right behind us that was just as cute as Wally’s.
“Ah, no wonder you guys were taking so long!”
I immediately pocketed my phone at the sight of Cynthia, standing with her arms crossed near the entrance of the trainers.
“Oh, Ms. Cynthia!” Wally said as he waved at her. “Sorry, is it your turn to be interviewed already? We’ll wrap this up now.”
“Heh, it’s okay, Wally,” Cynthia said with a smile. “I’m assuming from the huge gift box on the table that Russell is a big fan of yours?”
“Y-yes, I am,” I said, amazed at how Cynthia was able to remember my name.
“Ah, in that case,” Cynthia began as she approached us. “Come on, hand over the phone. I’m sure you’d want a proper photo.”
I couldn’t even blurt out a “No, it’s okay, thank you,” as Wally took the phone from my hands and excitedly handed it over to Cynthia. I was at a loss for words as Cynthia took the photos—here I was, taking a picture with my favorite trainer ever and his ace Pokemon, and the person taking those pictures was one of the most famous people in the whole world.
“Th-thank you so much, Ms. Cynthia,” I said as she handed over the phone. “And Wally, before I get kicked out of the platform by Alana, I just wanted to say thank you so much for the interview. I can honestly say I really enjoyed it, not just as a journalist but also as your biggest fan. I hope you enjoy the presents!”
“Thank you for such an interesting interview!” Wally said as he shook my hand and pulled me in for a hug. “And I definitely will!”
I walked out of that platform in a daze, not even remembering the words that Alana and Nina told me right after. All I could think about was how the past hour felt like it was a dream, and how all the words and sentences of the article were already coming together in my head.
“There you are!”
I heard Nina call out from behind, and shortly after, she was sitting beside me again in the same Seafolk Village dock where we met several nights ago. She once again lit a cigarette and motioned me to get one, to which I once again politely refused.
“Where were you? I didn’t see you the whole day!” she asked as she took a drag. “Still on a high from your interview yesterday?”
“Heh, you could say that,” I replied. “I spent the whole day finishing the article.”
“What?!” she shouted, and I heard a faraway Wingull squawk in response. “You’re telling me you finished an entire feature in less than 24 hours? Research, transcript, draft, photos—everything?”
“I’m just as surprised as you are,” I said matter-of-factly. “Well, it isn’t the first longform piece I had to finish in under 24 hours, but it’s definitely the first that wasn’t because of a deadline.”
Nina took another drag. “That’s crazy! Did you even go out of your room? Did you even breathe some of that fresh Alolan air?”
“Well, I’m doing both of those things right now,” I said with a smile. “But yeah, it was just eleven straight hours of writing today. And several cups of coffee.”
Nina only laughed in response as she finished her cigarette and lit another. “Well, I still say that’s better than the tour we had.”
It was my turn to laugh. “That bad, huh?”
“I mean, there were a lot of great photo opportunities, but they weren’t worth spending an entire day over,” she explained. “There's only so much interesting stuff you can get from an empty burial site, you know?”
“You mean the Ruins of Hope?” I pointed out. “Isn’t that supposed to be where the guardian deity resides?”
“Well if it really was, it would’ve been great to catch a glimpse of it instead of staring at an empty tomb for several minutes,” Nina complained as she took a long drag. “And don’t even get me started on that canyon!”
“I won’t ask, then,” I said with a laugh. “What I will ask is how your interview with Cynthia went.”
“It was great!” she replied, her tone much more optimistic. “She said the phrase ‘I’ve never been asked that question before’ three times. I think that’s a great sign, right?”
“It definitely is,” I said sincerely. “So you see a unique angle in mind?”
“Not one I can write in the next eleven hours,” she said as she finished her second cigarette and lit a third, and I could feel the judgment from her stare without looking at her.
“Like I said, not a common occurrence,” I said almost defensively. “But as you probably know, this interview was a little, well, special.”
“Heh, special is probably underselling it,” she said in between drags. “But at the very least, are you happy with what you wrote?”
I knew the answer right away. “The happiest I can ever be.”