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Moonlit Blossoms

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Laurelin, May 1, 2018.

  1. Laurelin

    Laurelin Member

    Last edited: May 22, 2018 at 9:58 PM
  2. Laurelin

    Laurelin Member

    Moonlit Blossoms
    A Pokémon Journey

    ---
    Prologue
    The Seeds of the Future

    In Mulberry City, as it was in all cities around the world, the end of day by no means signalled an end to activity. This was no different in a small, street side room of an average apartment on the sixth floor of the complex, where a young teenage girl had just taken her place in front of her desk in order to deal with the bundle of papers that lay there waiting for her. One of her delicate, pale hands picked up the first page of the stack, her eyes already scanning the top of it even as she was lifting it closer to her face.

    “Alolan Trainer Passport, required information,” the girl read aloud, before silently continuing past the title to the thick blocks of legalese printed underneath it, all written in that driest type of Kantonese only a government bureau could get away with.

    Once she’d reached the bottom of the page, she put it back on the desk while bravely resisting the urge to let her head drop down alongside of it. Stalling wouldn’t do her any favours, after all, as there was no getting out from under this task. She’d sworn to help reduce the workload the preparations for the coming move had dumped on her mom, even if it meant – and here she couldn’t help but give an audible groan – doing her own paperwork.

    Now that said paperwork was actually in front of her, however, she was having second thoughts.

    Fortunately for her, the next page had a lot less of the overly complicated legalese and far more of blank fill-in space. Looking up from her papers, the girl scanned her neatly ordered desk for her pencil case. As she reached out for it, her attention was drawn to the picture frame that stood in the vicinity. Her attempt to grab a pencil was temporarily aborted in favour of tenderly letting her fingers run along the black frame, the photograph it held showing the girl with an adult man and woman, all three of them smiling at the camera.

    “Not much longer now, papa,” she muttered quietly, her lips forming a wistful smile to contrast the carefree, joyous one she sported in the picture.

    Shaking her head to dismiss the memories that’d welled up at the sight of the photograph, she steered her mind back to the task at hand. She grabbed a pen – a nice, baby blue one that had zubats drawn on it – from her pencil case, then focussed on the document again.

    “Please fill in the following information,” the girl read aloud, using the index finger of her free hand to follow along the text as she read.


    “Easy enough,” she said, before putting her pen to paper and writing down her name with carefully drawn, elegant letters.


    With that taken care of, she moved on to the next item, reading aloud as she went along and scribbled down the required information.

    “Date of birth and place of birth… Seventeenth of June, year 59 A.W. in Pewter City Central Hospital.”

    “Sex. That’d be female last time I checked this morning.”

    “Length, weight and… blood type, huh? Guess I’ll have to ask mama for my medical records.”

    “Place of residence? Ehm, I’m pretty sure I wrote down our new address somewhere around here…”

    Things went on like that for a while, until the door of the bedroom, which had already been standing slightly ajar, was pushed open further by a small figure slipping inside. Laurelin, who had her back to the door and was wholly immersed in her work, remained unaware of the shadowy figure that was silently creeping up on her, at least until the intruder gracefully leaped onto her shoulder.

    With a shriek that she would later staunchly declare had not been uttered, no sir, the startled teen turned towards her attacker while at the same time trying to lean away from it, causing her to lose her balance and fall from her chair with all the grace of a magikarp splashing on dry land. Her shadowy assailant, not wishing to join her on the floor, jumped off her shoulder in mid fall to land with far more grace on the girl’s desk.

    Groaning, Laurelin pushed herself back up from the floor, then turned her head to send a withering glare up at her attacker.

    “Slippers!” she growled through clenched teeth, while firing daggers at her mother’s meowth with her eyes. “How many more times do I need to tell you not to do that?! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

    The Pokémon on the receiving end of her reprimanding looked down on her from its perch on high on her desk in a manner that perfectly conveyed how incredibly not sorry it was, then gave a careless meow as it began to lick the back of its front paw.

    Knowing the battle was lost, Laurelin sighed in defeat and climbed back to her feet, after first grabbing her pen of the floor, which she had dropped during her fall. Once she was once again seated in her chair, she glanced at the Pokémon now occupying her desk without a care in the world and shook her head.

    “Honestly, what are we going to do with you?” she said, trying – and failing – to sound stern. “Things are already hectic enough around here without you adding more chaos to the pile, mister.”

    Slippers paused briefly mid-lick to give her a sideways glance, then unperturbedly continued his impromptu washing session. Laurelin all but rolled her eyes at his antics, knowing full well her words were but wind. Meowth were mischievous – and more than a little vain – in nature and expecting them not to be was like expecting the tide not to come up.

    With a soft smile on her lips and a goodnatured sigh, she reached out to pet Slippers between his black-tipped ears, which finally earned her the privilege of the feline’s attention, as he abandoned his washing in favour of leaning into her hand.

    “Did mama send you here to supervise me, or did you simply come to startle me because you were bored?” Laurelin asked, while letting her fingers wander to the left of where she’d been petting him so they could start scratching him behind one of his ears.

    Slippers let out a noise that sounded like a cross between a needy whine and a delighted purr, which was his way of telling her to stop wasting time asking questions about such unimportant matters when said time could instead be spent on giving him more scratches. Shaking her head in bemusement, Laureling obliged, letting her fingers probe through his short fur until they found that one particular spot behind his ear that never failed to get the meowth purring like a car engine fresh out of assembly.

    “I guess mama’s been too busy lately to give you the attention you need, hmm?” she said, watching as the feline’s tail contently furled and unfurled itself, the clearest sign of the little delinquent’s approval of her ministrations.

    Slippers hummed something that may or may not have been confirmation of Laurelin’s question, then abruptly decided it had received a satisfactory amount of scratches for now. Walking out from under her hand, he sauntered to the edge of the desk, from where he nimbly jumped over onto the teenage girl’s bed and unabashedly made himself comfortable on the pillow.

    He, of course, ignored the raised eyebrow on Laurelin’s face as well as the flat stare she was sending his way.

    With a defeated sigh, Laurelin turned herself back to her desk, deciding she’d finish up her paperwork first and worry about freeing her pillow from thieving felines later. She was nearly finished, anyway, having managed to fill in most of the required information aside from some obscure facts she’d probably have to ask her mother about. Barring those, all that was left was gluing a passport photograph in the indicated space.

    Opening the top drawer of her desk, Laurelin fished out a small folder containing several prints of the photograph her mother and her had had made for just this purpose. Though they were all the same, she nonetheless carefully went through them all to make sure none of them were damaged, then picked out the one that had the least fingerprints on it.

    For a moment, she held the small square picture in her hand, studying the face on the photo that stared back at her.

    A delicate, oval-shaped face, with a small nose and a pair of blue eyes, framed by long, straight hair, golden blonde with side swept bangs. Skin that was, besides the modest collection of freckles on both cheeks, mostly flawless, though rather on the pale side. All of it coming together to form a picture of a girl that was neither extraordinarily plain nor notably beautiful. Just an average teenage girl the likes of which could be found a dime a dozen in the world.

    Laurelin was perfectly okay with that.

    About the only aspect of her appearance in the picture that truly stood out was the sandy trilby hat perched on top of her hat, mostly because it was something one wouldn’t immediately suspect a girl her age to wear. The stylish hat, with its black band with golden buckle, seemed more suitable for an adult. Not very surprising, given that it’d been her dad who’d picked it out for her.

    Taking a glue stick – green, with a cute little spinarak drawn on it – from her pencil case, Laurelin hummed a soft melody to herself as she slathered the back of the photograph with the sticky adhesive, before carefully putting it in the designated box on the page. Her task complete, she leaned back in her chair with a pleased sigh to overlook her handiwork. The photograph had been pasted in its box with pinpoint accuracy, none of its four sides going so much as even a hundredth of a millimetre outside their boundaries.

    Perfect!

    As she waited for the glue to dry, Laurelin went over her paperwork one more time, to ensure she’d filled in everything correctly and hadn’t made any errors anywhere. It’d be extremely embarrassing to have her name misspelled on her very own Trainer Passport, after all, or something similarly unfortunate.

    Once everything had been checked and double checked and the photograph was as securely attached to the document as a shelder to a slowpoke’s tail, she bundled them all together, switched off her desk lamp and rose from her chair. She’d done her part as best as she could, now all that was left was handing the entire ordeal over to her mother to fill in what few missing details that remained, then send them off with all the other necessary papers for their move.

    Papers in hand, Laurelin left her bedroom in search of her mother, sending a look to Slippers in passing that promised she’d deal with him when she returned, though whether or not the Pokémon curled up on her pillow had at all noticed her silent vow was questionable at best. After a short trip through the narrow hallway of their small apartment, she found her mother in the living room in the middle of ironing the laundry while watching the evening news.

    “Finished already?” her mother asked, when she noticed her entering the room.

    “Just about,” Laurelin confirmed, unable to prevent some pride creeping into her words. “There’s only a few medical details about you and papa that I didn’t know that I couldn’t fill in.” She went over to her mother to hand over her work.

    “That’s my girl,” her mother praised, a smile on her face. She set aside her flatiron and began to neatly fold the flowery blouse she’d been working on, while Laurelin stood next to her patiently waiting for her to finish.

    Looking at Johanna Kementari, it was easy to see the family resemblance between her and her daughter. They had the same shape of face, though Johanna’s forehead seemed larger due to a lack of bangs hiding it from view and her skin was more tanned than the pale tone of her child. Both had long hair, though Johanna’s tresses were thicker and even longer than Laurelin’s and dark brown instead of blonde. She also had a bit more muscle to her compared to her daughter’s lithe frame and if her length was any indication, Laurelin still had quite a growth spurt ahead of her.

    Once her mother had finished folding the blouse, placed it atop the pile of finished laundry and turned to face her, Laurelin handed her the stack of papers. Johanna began to quickly skim through the document, her eyes scanning the pages but not really reading what Laurelin had written there, confident the girl had filled everything in correctly. She only stopped at the places Laurelin had left blank, nodding in silent understanding upon learning what information was required there.

    “I see. Well then!” she declared as she reached the end of the document and shuffled it back into one neat folder again. She turned her head back to her daughter. “I don’t blame you for not knowing those things. Goodness, I think I’ll have to dig up your father’s old records to fill some of those in!”

    She went over to the table in the kitchen – the apartment where they lived being one of those where living room and kitchen were combined into a single chamber – and put the documents down next to an unstable tower made of too many thick, heavy folders.

    “I’ll fill them in once I’m done ironing so they can be send off to Professor Kukui along with the rest of documents he sent us.”

    Laurelin nodded. “Thanks.”

    Her mother rejoined her at the ironing board before the television, then stood there for a while doing seemingly nothing but stare at her with a gentle smile on her lips and a soft look in her eyes that appeared torn between nostalgic and sad.

    “What?” Laurelin asked, casting down her eyes and shifting nervously on her feet. She’d never been the best at keeping eye contact.

    “Nothing,” her mother replied, with a shake of her head. She reached out to lay her hand on Laurelin’s head. “Just a mother being all silly and emotional because her little girl is finally old enough to become a trainer.”

    “Only three years after every other kid in the region,” Laurelin added dryly, though good naturedly.

    Johanna pulled back her hand and crossed her arms. “Yes, well, I will not be one of those irresponsible parents who let their eleven year old children run off on their own into the wide world without any supervision. For my own sake as much as yours, I’d worry myself into a nervous breakdown.”

    “Grandpa and grandma let you go when you were eleven, though,” Laurelin reminded her.

    “Only because they were convinced I’d come back begging to be let inside on the evening of the same day I left,” her mother replied. She let out a short laugh into her hand and gave her daughter a knowing look. “They were right.”

    The both of them laughed, until Johanna’s expression turned more serious. Before Laurelin could protest, her mother had pulled her close into a warm embrace.

    “Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly keen on letting you go now that you’re fourteen, either,” her mother admitted. “I only changed my mind after Professor Kukui explained to me in detail all the things that are done to ensure young people like you are safe while undertaking this ‘island challenge’. He seemed very understanding of how I felt.”

    Laurelin looked up in surprise. That was a new piece of information. “Really?”

    “Really,” Johanna confirmed. She released her child from her embrace, then held her at arm’s length by the shoulders so she could look her in the eye. “So you be sure to thank him in person once you meet him, alright?”

    Laurelin nodded. “I will.”

    She glanced aside to the television. The evening news had just ended and the announcer was announcing the next program; some old black and white film from before the war. Laurelin turned back to her mother.

    “Speaking of challenges and Pokémon,” she said. “I’d like to go to bed now, so I’d really appreciate it if you could liberate my pillow from Slippers so I can end the day without a fury swipe to the face.”

    “Oh dear, I did wonder where he’d wandered off to,” Johanna sighed, her shoulders slumping. “With all the things I have to take care of for the moving, I simply haven’t been able to spend as much time with him as I should. He might have decided his odds of getting the attention he craves were higher if he went to you. I hope he hasn’t caused you any trouble; attention or not, he should know better than to cause any.”

    Laurelin shook her head. “It’s fine, mama, I figured that was the case,” she said, before mentally adding: “Though he did nearly give me a heart attack.

    “He’s probably feeling the stress of moving as much as we do. Once it’s all behind us he’ll probably be back to his normal self,” Johanna said. She put her hand to her chin in thought. “I hope Alola will agree with him, though. I’ve read the meowth there are different from the ones we have here in Kanto. Hopefully they won’t give him any trouble over it.”

    “I’m sure he’ll be fine. Probably will get used to our new home faster than we do,” Laurelin replied, before her face was split by a huge yawn. “Going to go and get ready for bed now.” She leaned in and gave her mother a kiss on the cheek. “Goodnight mama.”

    “Goodnight, dear,” her mother said, smiling. “I’ll make sure Slippers’ taken care of by the time you’re done.”

    “Thanks.”

    Laurelin left the living room and headed for their tiny bathroom to make herself ready for bed. She brushed her teeth, then changed into her pyjamas, a wonderfully warm, cottony specimen, deep blue in colour with the most adorable of tiny mareep printed all over. Childish and more than a tad unoriginal, perhaps, but Laurelin truly couldn’t care less. Some things were classics for a reason!

    After brushing her hair, she went back to her room to find that her mother had been true to her word, for Slippers was nowhere in sight. She walked over to the window by her desk, brushing the curtains aside just enough to take a peek outside. The traffic down on the street had died down to the normal level for the night, while most of the windows of the apartment building right across the street had gone dark. In the cloudless sky above, a crescent moon shone, surrounded by innumerable twinkling stars. Mulberry City was setting itself up for another night.

    Satisfied, Laurelin let the curtains fall back into place and went to her bed. She brushed off any hairs of Slippers’ fur she could find as best as she could before climbing in. As she reached for the light switch adorning the wall above her bedside table, her eyes briefly lingered on the things laying atop said table.

    Three books, each of them about Alola; two travel guides, one an abbreviated history of the region. There was also a copy of the latest issue of the region’s primary newspaper. ‘Aether Foundation looking to expand into other regions, says president Lusamine’, the headline read.

    Laurelin turned off the light.

    Once she’d gotten herself wrapped snuggly in her blankets and her eyes had adjusted to the dark, she saw a streak of pale light cast on the wall opposite of the window, curtesy of the moon entering the room through a slit in the curtains. As she lay there watching the streak of moonlight in her bedroom and with the muted noise of the city’s nightlife slowly lulling her to sleep, Laurelin idly wondered if the moon would look any different in Alola.

    She had no idea that far away, in the land she would soon call home, the same moon was looking down at the sight of a young girl, clutching a large sports bag containing a most invaluable cargo, unexpectedly getting away from the people pursuing her by vanishing in a blinding flash of light.


    To be continued.

    ---
    One of the first worldbuilding obstacles I came across as I was writing this was that I actually had no idea what year it was in the Pokémon universe. I actually don't believe it's ever clearly stated in the games or the anime, not that I recall anyway. So I took this chance to do a little bit of worldbuilding. Laurelin's year of birth is stated as "59 A.W.", where the "A.W." stands for "After War". This is a reference to the war mentioned by Lieutenant Surge in Pokémon Red/Blue.

    In the context of the games, the war the lieutenant was talking about was probably World War II, since Red/Blue didn't seem to consider the Pokémon world seperate from ours yet (Kanto being a real region in Japan and all). For my story, I decided to make that war a historic event in-universe as well. After the war ended, Kanto decided to set the year in which it ended as the start of its calendar to commemorate the end of the conflict. Since Alola didn't participate in the war, their calendar year is different, though what precicely it is I haven't decided on yet. I'll put it in the story if the story requires me to mention it.
    ---​
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
    DreamSayer likes this.
  3. Laurelin

    Laurelin Member

    Moonlit Blossoms
    A Pokémon Journey

    ---
    Chapter 1
    A New Dawn

    It wasn’t often that Laurelin found herself cackling madly, a wicked grin stretched across her face from one ear to the other, but right now the situation most definitely called for it. It wasn’t every day she stood heroically on the broad back of her trusty gyarados, racing across a river of green lemonade in hot pursuit of a blue-finned, golden-tailed milotic, after all! She’d never seen one like it before and she’d be damned if she let it get away!

    The chase had been going on for a while, for her quarry was a most worthy opponent. It had taken its pursuers on a merry ride across the world, from whipped-cream laden highlands, through the forest of breadsticks, to their current location on the green river that, if ridden to the end, would take them all the way to the fizzy lake.

    Laurelin was determined not to let it get that far, however. Their prey was tiring, while gyarados only seemed to be going faster the more they gained upon it. Soon the milotic would be close enough for her to attempt to catch it. She unhooked an empty pokéball from her belt, fingers clenching it tightly in anticipation. Almost…

    Suddenly, without slowing down, the milotic whirled around and opened its mouth. Eyes widening and realising her catch was about to attack, Laurelin shouted a hasty order to her mount, hoping it was not too late. However, she was not prepared for what happened next, as what emerged from the milotic’s mouth was not a beam of pressurised water or condensed energy, but a black shape with demonic red eyes.

    With a chilling howl as loud as a whole pack of houndoom, the shadowy creature sailed through the air, unfurling arms tipped with sharp claws in the process. In the blink of an eye, it was upon her, arms lashing out to strike. Screaming, Laurelin raised her arms in a desperate last attempt to shield herself…

    … only to lurch up from her bed when something jumped heavily onto her stomach, brusquely tearing her out of her dream.

    Gasping for breath, Laurelin looked around wildly, eyes wide like an animal backed into a corner. It took her a moment to realise what had happened and another to notice the cause of her rude awakening sitting right next to her, staring up at her with the most pleased look on its feline face it could muster. Had there been a jury present to rate the smug satisfaction in that look, it would have earned full marks across the board.

    “Slippers…!” Laurelin growled through clenched teeth, feeling her left eye twitch erratically.

    Mrrow,” the Pokémon replied innocently, bowing its head to lick its paw.

    Fingers twitching, it took every bit of her willpower to not turn her mother’s pet into its namesake right there and then. She only managed by telling herself that doing so would upset her mother and that she’d probably have to clean up the mess herself if she did go through with it. Leaning back on her hands, Laurelin let her eyes fall shut and took a moment to calmly breathe deeply in and out a couple of times in order to calm down.

    Only when she felt more properly awake and was certain she wasn’t going to reach out towards the meowth and try her hand at shoemaking, did she open up her eyes again.

    Now that she was more attentive, she immediately noticed how bright it was, the sun illuminating the room perfectly despite the curtains being closed. As she let her gaze wander around the room, she idly wondered what time it was, but when she turned her head towards her bedside table to check her alarm clock, she discovered that it wasn’t there. Nor was the bedside table it was supposed to be standing on, in fact.

    She frowned and had to think for a moment to remember why that was.

    “Oh, right…” she muttered, shaking her head at her own silliness. She had to still be half asleep if she’d forgotten about the move and didn’t recognise her new room. “Well, it’s only the third morning,” she thought. “I think I can be excused.

    A sudden yaw widely split her face in half and she stretched her arms above her head, groaning in delight as she felt her shoulders and vertebrae give a satisfying pop. When she was done, she finally turned her attention back to the crook that had pre-emptively ended a wonderful dream.

    “Did mama send you to wake me up?” she demanded, not feeling particularly forgiving yet for the sudden attack on her stomach.

    Mrr,” Slippers said, as he briefly paused to look up from his grooming to give her a nod of confirmation. Then he went straight back to using his paws to brush his whiskers.

    “In that case, you did what you came for,” Laurelin replied, before swiping at him unexpectedly with her pillow. “So get lost!”

    The meowth leaped effortlessly over her half-hearted attack with the grace his kind were known for and slipped to the floor. He spared a moment to cast a look of pity over his shoulder, and then unhurriedly sashayed out of the room, tail curling behind him.

    Laurelin tried to smother herself in her pillow.

    When her attempt at suicide through fluffiness had inevitably failed, she put her pillow back in its place and tossed the crumpled bedsheet off herself, figuring that, regardless of how he’d done it, Slippers had woken her up at her mother’s behest, meaning she’d best get up. Rubbing her tired eyes, she slipped her legs and feet out of her bed, a soft croon flowing from her dry lips when they came in contact with the cool floor.

    Though normally she slept in her cute mareep pyjamas, upon their arrival three nights ago she’d been forced to slip on a light shirt for the night instead, as her pyjamas were still buried with the rest of her wardrobe in one of the many boxes that held their belongings. This had turned out somewhat as a blessing in disguise, however, for one thing Laurelin had learned her very first night was that even after dark, Alola could be hot. Her woolly pyjamas would simply be unbearable in the tropical heat, so she’d stuck to just a wide shirt and her underwear every night since, much as it broke her heart to abandon her trusty pj’s.

    She needed to find a mareep-printed shirt as soon as possible.

    Laurelin ran a hand through the tangled mess that was her hair while letting another yawn escape, before getting up and making her way to the bathroom, passing numerous cardboard boxes still waiting to be unpacked along the way. She pulled off her cream coloured shirt and discarded it carelessly atop a footstool, then made a beeline straight for the sink so she could splash her face with cold water and drive the last of the sleep from her brain. She’d feel a whole lot better after her morning ritual.

    Fifteen minutes later, Laurelin opened the bathroom door, refreshed and ready to take on the day. Her hair was neatly combed and she’d donned an airy blouse with matching pleated skirt, their sea blue colour a perfect fit for the region. She paused in the doorway and bent down when she noticed one of the Velcro bands of the sandals she wore around the house had gotten loose. She swiftly refastened it, then for good measure also checked if her over the knee white socks were still even when she rose back up.

    That was when her mother chose to enter the room through the door that lead to the veranda. She halted midstride upon noticing her daughter closing the bathroom door behind her.

    “Good morning, dear,” Johanna said, her expression beaming. “I was going to check up on you after I finished setting up breakfast, but I see that won’t be necessary.”

    “Morning, mama,” Laurelin replied, smiling as well. “And yeah, I just got dressed.”

    She went over to her mother in the kitchen area. While her parent was busy liberating several foodstuffs from the fridge, Laurelin glanced around the room, her eyes falling on the empty dinner table that took up the middle of the living room area. The smile on her face widened and she glanced back to her mother.

    “Breakfast on the veranda again today?” she asked, though she already knew the answer.

    “Of course. Lunch and supper as well, if I have ought to say about it,” Johanna responded, her bent upper body hidden by the open door of the fridge. When she emerged from behind it, she was holding several jars and Zupperware containers with sandwich spreads in her hands. “I didn’t move halfway across the globe just to stay cooped up inside again, not with this weather!”

    Laurelin was pretty sure that if her mother’s hands hadn’t been full, they’d have been placed firmly on her hips to accompany that last statement, but had to admit her mom had a point.

    “Anything I can do to help?” she asked, while her mother moved past her, carrying her edible cargo towards the veranda.

    “Just bring the milk, if you would,” Johanna answered over her shoulder. “That and the spreads were the last things I had to fetch, so if you take it along we can pretty much start eating.”

    Laurelin nodded and quickly did as requested, then followed her mother outside.

    ---​

    “Aaah, this is the life,” Johanna said, leaning back in her plastic folding chair with a content sigh, a mug of jet black coffee held in one hand and accompanying saucer in her other. “Breakfast on the veranda, with a perfect blue sky, a cool sea breeze and a view of the ocean. What more could a woman want for?”

    “Some better chairs and a larger table, for starters?” Laurelin commented wryly, as she nibbled on her salad sandwich.

    “Oh, hush, dear,” her mother replied. She straightened her back again so she could take a sip from her coffee, while deliberately ignoring the cramped, cluttered mess that was the tiny plastic table standing in between them. The poor little thing could scarcely hold the plethora of jars, containers and woven baskets placed upon it, looking almost as if it would collapse under the weight at any minute. “They came with the house. We should be glad to have a table at all, else we’d have to eat inside.”

    “Arceus deliver us from such a travesty,” Laurelin couldn’t help but snark, hiding her grin behind her sandwich. “All joking aside, I agree about the view; it really is amazing. Beats staring at another apartment building all the time, for sure.”

    She took another bite of her food, the lettuce giving a satisfying crunch as she munched on it. Once she’d swallowed her mouthful down, she lowered her sandwich and turned her head aside to stare at the view she’d just been praising. Across the table, her mother put her cup back onto its saucer to do the same.

    Their new home was situated on the south side of a hill on the eastern side of Melemele Island, near the outskirts of Hau’oli City, the largest city on the island. From there, Laurelin and her mother had a spectacular view of the pearly white beach and the shimmering Melemele Sea to the east and the imposing height of the Ten Carat Hill to the south. They could see the various small sandbanks littering the shallows, on some of which even grew the occasional palm tree, as well as the rocky shoals further into the ocean that marked where the shallow plateau ended and the deep sea began. A gentle breeze was always riding up the hillside from the beach at its foot, carrying with it the salty scent of the sea and the cries of the wingull that were ever present above the waves.

    It was a sight that no picture in a real estate folder could do justice. The photographs included with the folders back when her mother had been deciding on their future house had nothing on the real thing. The moment she’d taken in this view with her own eyes for the first time, she’d been in love and any and all worries of homesickness had faded away.

    It really was that beautiful.

    Absentmindedly, Laurelin took another bite of her sandwich, then reluctantly tore her gaze away from the mesmerising view to spare a glance at her mom.

    “It still feels kind of surreal,” she said. “That we’re finally here, I mean. We spent so long preparing and living up to this moment, it sometimes felt like it’d never come. Yet now we’re here and it feels like only yesterday you told me we were moving.”

    “As you say,” Johanna greed. She took a red and ripe-looking berry from the fruit basket and started to peel it above her breadcrumb-covered plate. “Hard to believe it’s already been three months since we filled in and sent up all that paperwork, but here we are. I woke up this morning again wondering how much I drank the night before, because clearly this wasn’t my bedroom!”

    Laurelin laughed. “Me too! Well, minus the drinking, I guess. Wouldn’t know about that.” She sighed and went on to finish the rest of her sandwich. “I suppose it’ll start to sink in and we’ll get used to it soon enough.”

    “I’m sure it will. Especially once everything’s been unpacked and this place has been redecorated to look like home,” her mother said, after which she took a big bite out of the pink flesh of the berry in her hand, sweet juice running down her chin.

    The two of them fell into an amicable silence to eat up the rest of their meal and Laurelin went back to gazing at the ocean view, occasionally sipping from her mug of milk to wash down her breakfast. The wind played idly with her hair and the air was filled with the cries of wild Pokémon, some sounding nearby and others far away, some of which she recognised and some she’d never heard before in her life. She was looking forward to seeing them all in the flesh.

    Across the table, Johanna was watching her only child with a fond look in her eyes and the corners of her mouth tugged up into a small smile. She was glad and more than a bit relieved to see Laurelin had taken well to their new home, at least so far. Granted, it was only the third day, but given how difficult it had always been for her daughter to adjust to a new residence, even during common things like a sleepover at a friend’s house or a hotel room on vacation, things were going remarkably well so far.

    For once,” Johanna thought, “it would seem my little girl needed a change of pace as much as I did. A fresh start for the both of us.”

    Unaware of her mother’s musings, Laurelin stretched out her arm and pointed at the beach.

    “Is that roof down there Professor Kukui’s lab?” she asked, indicating towards a small, green roof that was visible just above the treeline.

    Johanna glanced at the beach. “I think so, yes,” she answered, before downing the last of her coffee and putting the now empty cup and saucer on the overly full table.

    “I wonder why he had it built there, so far from the city and so close to the sea,” Laurelin said, staring at the inconspicuous green roof in wonder. “Looks pretty isolated.” She gave a brief, sideways glance at their new house. “Not that we’re in any position to comment on that, I suppose. Still, would being that close to the ocean be safe during a tropical storm? Or if a springtide comes in?”

    “I’m sure all of those things were kept in mind when they built it, dear,” Johanna chuckled. “Since he’s coming by this morning, though, you can just ask him yourself when you see him.”

    “I almost forgot,” Laurelin confessed, rubbing the back of her head sheepishly. “To hand me my trainer passport, right?”

    “Indeed. He would have given it to you the morning after we arrived here with the rest of our residential documents, but you were still sleeping off your jetlag at the time and he said he preferred to give it to you in person,” her mother replied, as she rose from her chair and began to clear the table, now that they’d both finished their breakfast.

    “I did say you should’ve woken me up,” Laurelin muttered, getting up from her seat as well in order to lend her mom a hand with clearing the table and taking everything back inside.

    “Nonsense! You were practically dead on your feet the night before when we arrived,” Johanna said. “You needed your sleep and the professor agreed. He was slated to see you about receiving your first Pokémon today, anyway. He figured he could just as well hand you your passport at the same time.”

    Taking the fruit basket in one hand and the bread basket in the other, Laurelin followed her mother, who was carrying their used dishes and the coffee pot, inside the house.

    “I’m still kind of nervous about it. Getting a Pokémon so soon, I mean,” she admitted, while putting the baskets she was carrying on the kitchen counter. “I know the professor probably arranged it months ago, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but still…” She gave her mother a nervous smile and shrugged. “I don’t know, I guess I figured I’d have more time to get used to living here before taking the next big step.”

    Johanna put their dishes into the sink and turned on the faucet, then turned to her daughter and reached over the counter to put a hand on her head.

    “I think that’s perfectly normal,” she assured her child with a comforting smile. “Like you said, you’re being asked to adjust to two major changes in your life practically at the same time. Anyone would be nervous because of that, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

    Pulling back her hand, Johanna briefly turned back to the sink to turn off the faucet, then focussed her attention wholly on her daughter again.

    “Even Professor Kukui admitted as much,” she continued. “He said normally he’d have waited at least a week to give you the time to settle in, but wanted to hurry things along this time because of some upcoming festival in the nearby town up the hill. How it’s supposed to be this celebration for young trainers and their Pokémon and how he would’ve been sad to see you left out, so if he gave you your first Pokémon a bit sooner than planned you’d have a few days to adjust to each other in time for the festival.”

    “I think I do recall the travel guides mentioning a festival being held around this time of year on Melemele,” Laurelin said slowly, scrambling her brain for more details, to no avail. With how many books and travel guides she’d devoured in preparation of moving to the region, the numerous facts and bits of knowledge she’d picked up on had all started to blur somewhat together.

    “Not that we have to go, of course,” Johanna was quick to add. “It all depends on how comfortable you are with the idea, a week from now. I think the professor merely wants to give you the option to go as trainer, if you want to, instead of having to wait another year. That being said…”

    She went around the counter and up to her daughter, putting her hands on Laurelin’s shoulders and looking down at the girl, a serious but kind expression on her face.

    “If you truly feel that you’re not ready yet to receive your first Pokémon, there’s nothing preventing you from holding it off for now until you are,” she said. “I would hate for you to feel pressured into doing something you don’t feel comfortable with yet and I’m sure the professor’s opinion is no different. In the end, you’re the one who has to take care of your partner, so you’re the one who gets to say if you’re ready to have one or not.”

    Laurelin could practically feel herself glowing from the warmth and love in her mother’s words and she threw her arms around Johanna in a grateful hug.

    “Thanks, mama.”

    “You’re welcome, dear,” Johanna replied, smiling as she returned the embrace with one arm and used her free hand to pat her child on the back of her head.

    “Still, I’ll be alright. I mean, I’m nervous and all, but I’m sure I can handle it,” Laurelin said softly, with her head pressed closely to her mother’s chest, as she listened to her mother’s soothing heartbeat. “I’ll take it slowly, one step at a time, and see how it goes. If I ever do feel like it’s all too much, well, you’ll be there to help, right? Besides, I’d hate for the professor to have gone through all that trouble to get everything ready for me early, only for me to turn him down.”

    “Of course I’ll help if you need me to,” her mother assured her. “And I’m sure Professor Kukui would understand completely if you asked for more time. In fact, I have no doubt he’d prefer you to do that than accept a Pokémon you’re not ready to care for. Looking after Pokémon is part of his job as a professor, after all.”

    “Yeah, I know,” Laurelin replied. “But I’d still feel bad about it.” She looked up at her mom and smiled. “So, nervous or not, if the professor offers to give me my first Pokémon, I’ll accept and take care of it as best as I can.”

    “I know you will,” Johanna said, tenderly brushing Laurelin’s cheek with the back of her hand. “You always seemed to do well with other people’s Pokémon, after all.”

    “Except for Slippers,” Laurelin muttered under her breath.

    “What was that?” her mother asked.

    “Nothing, nothing! Just wondering where Slippers went! Didn’t see him at breakfast, after all, heh heh…”

    “Ah, I believe I saw him slip back into my room after he came back from yours,” Johanna explained, while untangling herself from Laurelin’s embrace. “He likes lazing around in his basket ever since we arrived, probably because it still smells of our old apartment and makes it feel familiar and safe in this new environment. He needs to adjust to his new home as much as we do, after all.”

    “I’m sure he does,” Laurelin sighed, trying not to let too much rancour seep into her words.

    “Well, let’s just leave him to it,” her mother said, oblivious to the dreams of vengeance brewing inside her daughter’s mind. “We still need to finish cleaning up breakfast. Can you start on the dishes while I bring the rest inside? I only hope a wild Pokémon didn’t get brave and run off with one of our last jars of berry jam from Kanto while we were talking…”

    Laurelin nodded and made to go to the kitchen sink, while Johanna went back to the veranda. She’d barely finished washing the first plate, however, when the doorbell rang.

    “That has got to be Professor Kukui,” Johanna said as she re-entered the room, her eyebrows raised in surprise and her arms laden with things from the breakfast table. “Go let him in, Laurelin, I need to put these back in the fridge.”

    “Got it,” Laurelin replied.

    She hastily dried off her hands with a kitchen towel and hurried towards the door, nerves rising in her stomach with every step she took. She’d never really spoken to the professor before, aside from a few brief moments over the phone where she’d told him to stay on the line while she went to fetch her mom. Knowing that he was the man responsible for having her registered as a new trainer and for receiving her first Pokémon and that he was now most likely behind that front door, she suddenly felt very self-conscious. She prayed she’d not mess up the first impression she gave him.

    Laurelin took a deep breath to steel herself, then opened the door.

    “Alola! Good morning to you, yeah!”

    The words were spoken by a tall man, standing relaxed on the porch with one hand in the pocket of his classic white lab coat, while his other hand tilted up the visor of the white sports cap on his head in greeting. The wide smile on his face, showing off near perfect pearlescent teeth, was so brilliant Laurelin almost had to shield her eyes to prevent herself from going blind.

    “Ehm, good morning,” she replied uncertainly, caught somewhat off-guard by the boisterous greeting. “You’re… Professor Kukui?” She glanced at his sharp face to try and match it to the photograph she’d seen in a travel brochure of Alola, but found it hard to tell because of the wide sunglasses he was wearing.

    The man nodded and his smile, somehow, grew even wider. “That’s me!” he confirmed, proudly tapping his chest with his free hand.

    The innocent gesture, however, also drew attention to the fact that he was wearing no shirt underneath his lab coat, which promptly coloured Laurelin’s cheeks redder than a corfish. She really did her best not to stare, not wanting to be rude, but what was a developing girl to do when suddenly confronted by a view seemingly straight out of an athletes magazine? She was as fallible as the next girl!

    Mercifully, Professor Kukui seemed unaware the effect his bare chest and chiselled abs were having on the girl before him. Either that, or he was under the impression the impressive blush she was sporting was simply a result of not being used to the Alolan heat yet.

    Not missing a beat, he leaned in a bit closer, while stroking his small, neatly kept goatee with the hand not in his pocket. “Now, unless Miss Johanna suddenly grew a couple years younger and coloured her hair since I last saw her two days ago, I’m guessing that’d make you Laurelin, yeah?”

    “Yes sir,” Laurelin answered, nodding her head. She let go of the door and performed a polite bow for the professor. “Laurelin Kementari, pleased to meet you.”

    Perhaps she was being a tad too courteous now, but she felt she had to make up for letting her eyes feast upon him so shamelessly a minute ago. Fortunately the professor still seemed unfazed by how things had gone so far, to her great relief.

    “Pleasure’s all mine!” Kukui replied, as he leaned back again, now with both hands stuffed in the pockets of his coat. “And please, feel free to call me Kukui! Too young to be a sir!” The wide grin from before returned at that last bit, before his expression shifted into something a bit more neutral. “Now then, Laurelin, did your mother happen to mention I’d be dropping by this morning?”

    “She did,” Laurelin confirmed, nodding again. “We were expecting you, although…” She briefly glanced over her shoulder into the house, then turned back to the professor with a bashful smile on her lips. “Maybe not this early.”

    Now it was the professor’s turn to look apologetic.

    “My bad! Shouldn’t go assuming everyone’s as much of an early riser as me, especially when they’re still new to the region!” he said, scratching his neck sheepishly just below the knot of dark hair emerging from under his cap. “I can come back later if now’s not a good time?”

    “No, no, it’s no trouble at all!” Laurelin hurriedly assured him, not wanting the professor to think he’d inconvenienced them. “We’d just finished breakfast when you rang.” She pushed the front door completely open and stepped aside. “Please, come inside.”

    The professor nodded gratefully and stepped past her into the house, taking a moment to wipe his shoes on the therefor intended doormat in the entrance, while Laurelin closed the door behind him. She then followed him into the living room, where her mother had just finished putting the remaining foodstuffs from breakfast back into the fridge.

    “Good morning, Professor Kukui!” Johanna smiled from behind the kitchen counter when she saw her daughter and their guest enter the room.

    “Hey there, Miss Johanna!” the professor replied with a grin of his own and a casual wave of his hand. “Sorry about barging in at this early hour, in all my excitement I forgot you’re probably still getting used to the shift in time zones!”

    “There’s no need to apologise, professor,” Johanna said kindly. “It’s we who should apologise for keeping you from your own work with all this time you’ve spent helping us.”

    “Nothing that couldn’t wait, don’t worry!” Professor Kukui responded, brushing off her concerns. “There’s never no time to lend a Helping Hand to people who could use one, yeah! Especially to my new neighbours!”

    “That may be, but we’re in your debt either way. Please do not hesitate to call on us should you need anything in the future, both Laurelin and myself would be more than happy to help in whatever way we can,” Johanna insisted, giving a grateful bow as she spoke, which she held for a couple of seconds.

    “I’ll be sure to let you know, though I feel I’ve got to add that I already have a capable assistant helping me out at the lab,” the professor said, after which he crossed his arms and gave a good natured laugh. “Still, thanks for the kind words. Feels good to know your efforts are appreciated, yeah!”

    “You’re most welcome,” Johanna smiled back. “With that said, can I offer you anything? I’m afraid I haven’t really had the opportunity to properly stock the pantry and the fridge yet, so choices aren’t as extensive as I’d like, but I can still give my guests something cool to drink.”

    The professor held up his hand apologetically in declination. “That’s most gracious, miss, but in truth I don’t plan on staying that long. Made an appointment with Kahuna Hala in Iki Town that I’d like to get to as soon as possible.”

    Johanna nodded in understanding. “Some other time, then,” she said, before glancing at Laurelin, who’d been politely keeping to herself in the background during the entire exchange, then back to the professor. “You’ve met my daughter Laurelin?”

    “Sure did!” Kukui confirmed, as he planted his hands on his hips and turned himself around to face the girl in question. “I was very happy to, in fact, after I missed her during my previous visit, yeah!”

    “I’m very sorry about that, professor,” Laurelin apologised, bowing again. “I told mama she should’ve woken me up.”

    “Don’t be silly, girl,” the professor kindly admonished her. “You’d had a long day, moving to a new region, new home, new climate! Bad case of jetlag too, from what your mom told me! That’d knock out anyone, no matter how tough! Some rest was just what you needed!”

    Since her mother had said pretty much the same thing not even half an hour ago, Laurelin didn’t argue. She had to admit they were probably right, anyhow.

    “From the looks of it, it did its job, too,” Professor Kukui added, as he looked Laurelin up and down. “You feeling better now, yeah?”

    The teenage girl nodded affirmatively. “I do, thank you. Still adjusting a bit to the shift in time zones, but we came prepared to make that go as smoothly as possible.” She glanced sideways to her mother with a bit of envy in her eyes. “Mama’s handling it better than me, though, I must admit. She acts like we didn’t move halfway across the world at all.”

    Johanna planted her hands firmly on her hips and puffed up her chest proudly. “I’m just that tough, dear!” she boasted, smiling triumphantly. “As if there was any way I could take it easy when there’s a paradise out there waiting for me to explore it!” Her enthusiasm faded somewhat as she scratched sheepishly at her cheek. “Well, that and there’s simply too much work that needs to be done, between unpacking and getting the house in order.”

    Her words caused Laurelin’s expression to drop, the girl now looking like she felt guilty for not having helped her mother more during the past two days. Which didn’t surprise Johanna much, sadly; her child had always had the habit of feeling responsible for the problems of those close to her, even when it wasn’t needed. A quick change of topic was in order.

    “But enough about that!” she said, as she turned her gaze towards Kukui. “Professor, since you’re in a hurry and we’d hate to keep you, shall we get to the reason for your visit?”

    “Of course, of course!” he replied, his wide grin shifting into a more neutral, calmer smile. He reached into a wide inside pocket of his lab coat and pulled out a small, rectangular booklet bound in stylish green leather. “Laurelin, let me start by giving you this, yeah! Make sure to keep it on your person at all times from now on!”

    Laurelin felt her heart widely try to escape her chest as she gingerly took the little booklet into her trembling hands, handling it with the same care as one did an archaeological artefact, as if she was afraid that it would crumble to dust if she so much as breathed at it. With a rapidly growing lump in her throat, she observed the ornate gilded seal of Alola on the front and marvelled at its intricate beauty, before her eyes trailed lower, to the three words underneath the crest. There it stood, with undeniable clarity:

    Alolan Trainer Passport

    With bated breath, she opened booklet to its first page, where she was greeted by the passport photograph she’d picked out three months ago staring back at her. Next to it were listed her basic personal details, such as her name, address and date of birth. The paper on which it was all printed had a nice tropical motif decorating it, but what truly caught her eye was the very official looking stamp at the bottom of the page. Accompanying it where another three words that made her heart once more skip a beat:

    Official Pokémon Trainer

    Laurelin swallowed hard and looked up from her passport into Professor Kukui’s broadly grinning face.

    “Congratulations, Laurelin!” he said. “You’re an officially licenced Pokémon trainer now!”

    Though she wasn’t about to get teary-eyed, the moment certainly made Laurelin feel emotional and she clutched the passport to her chest as if it was the world’s greatest treasure, struggling to find anything to say all the while. Finally, with a helpless shrug of her shoulders, she gave up on trying to find those perfect, special words and just went for something far simpler, but every bit as heartfelt.

    “Thank you, professor.”

    Kukui simply smiled in response.

    “Well, they certainly made these things look more expensive than they were in my day,” Johanna commented, having come up behind her daughter and now marvelling over her shoulder at the passport in her hands. “I might just get jealous.”

    “Green isn’t your colour, mama,” Laurelin said with a teasing grin, before continuing to browse through her new treasure. The next few pages following the first contained the more in depth personal information about herself and her parents that she remembered filling in on the document all those months ago. Beyond that, however, the remaining pages were left completely blank. She looked back up at Professor Kukui in confusion.

    “Why are most of the pages empty?” she asked.

    The professor gave her a knowing grin, his hands once more on his hips. “That’s where the stamps serving as proof of completing the various trials of the Island Challenge will go!” he explained. “You can see how far every trainer in Alola got on their challenge by looking at the stamps they’ve collected, oh yeah!”

    Laurelin frowned as she flipped through the pages again and noticed over half of them were empty. “Judging by the number of blank pages, I’ll have my work cut out for me,” she muttered, wondering, somewhat discouraged, just what the Island Challenge entailed. The numerous books on Alola she’d read had been suspiciously vague on that subject.

    Johanna put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders and gave them an encouraging squeeze. “You’re worrying too much again, dear,” she said. “You’ll only discourage yourself if you look solely at the finish line. Just take it slowly, one step at a time.”

    “Your mom’s absolutely right!” Professor Kukui agreed. “The Island Challenge, no, being a trainer’s no fun if you never stop to live in the moment! It’s all about the journey, not so much the result! Even if all those pages remain blank, as long as you had a fun time and took good care of your Pokémon, that’s all that matters, yeah!”

    “I guess so,” Laurelin conceded, the smile returning to her face.

    “However, can’t rightly do that if you don’t have a Pokémon, yeah?” the professor added. “So let’s get a move on to Iki Town! If we leave now, you can meet with the Kahuna, get yourself a real nice Pokémon and bring it home just in time for lunch!”

    Laurelin looked uncertainly from the professor to her mother. With the excitement over being officially recognised as a trainer subsiding, she felt the nerves at the prospect of her first Pokémon creeping back in.

    “I think that sounds like a wonderful idea!” Johanna interceded, a bright smile on her face. She gave her child a comforting pat on the shoulder. “You knew it was scheduled to happen today, so you might as well do it now! That way you’ll have plenty of daytime left to get to know your Pokémon and help it settle in. It’ll be a day well spent!”

    Laurelin still looked a bit nervous, but her mother’s smile and good cheer were infectious, making her smile again. “Alright, if you’re okay with it, mama,” she said with a nod of her head, before turning to Professor Kukui. “Will we be walking there, professor?”

    Professor Kukui crossed his arms and nodded affirmatively. “Yup! The road to Iki Town’s unpaved and the hobs make it so it’s not all that fun a trip by car. But on foot we can take the scenic route so I can show you some of the sights and get you more familiar with the island, yeah!”

    Johanna let out an appreciative hum. “That doesn’t sound like so bad an idea, either,” she commented. “With all the work unpacking and putting this place in order, neither of us have done much exploring yet. Laurelin went for a walk yesterday, but I don’t think she went much further than the crossroad.”

    “You’re more than welcome to join us, of course, miss,” Professor Kukui invited her. “It’d be my pleasure to introduce you to some of the good townsfolk and I know there’re many looking forward to make your acquaintance!”

    “As wonderful as that sounds, I’m afraid I’ll have to decline,” Johanna replied apologetically. “There’s simply still too much for me to do around the house and none of it can really wait if I want this place to look and feel like home within an acceptable timeframe.”

    Laurelin cast a worried glance at her mother. “If it’s too much, I can stay here to help,” she offered, genuinely concerned for her parent. “That Pokémon won’t vanish if it has to wait a few more days.”

    “Absolutely not!” Johanna said with a firm shake of her head. “I didn’t sell our old apartment and move halfway across the globe just to have my daughter be stuck inside the house again. Not with this beautiful weather! I can take a break once the work is done, but you should be out there enjoying yourself right now.”

    “Well, if you’re sure…” Laurelin responded, looking like she did want to go but still feeling conflicted about leaving her mother to do all the work.

    “I am,” Johanna replied simply. She gestured towards the door of Laurelin’s bedroom. “So go grab your things and get ready to leave. The professor didn’t free up his own valuable time just to watch you be indecisive at the last second.”

    Laurelin nodded and hurried towards her room, seemingly feeling quite relieved that the decision was taken for her.

    “And don’t forget your hat!” her mother called after her. “You’ll need something on your head to shield it from the sun. I probably don’t have to tell you, but it can get quite a bit hotter here than we’re used to. I don’t want to see you get sunburnt the very first time you leave the house for more than half an hour.”

    “I’ll make sure to put on suntan and bring the tube with me, mama!” Laurelin shouted back over her shoulder. Then she quickly slipped inside her room and closed the door behind her before her mother could send any more good advice her way.

    Five minutes later she was back in the living room, trilby hat proudly adorning her head and suntan lotion properly applied to her bare arms . Since she’d known she was in for a bit of a walk, she’d switched out her sandals for her favourite pair of blue, comfy sneakers. With Velcro, so she didn’t have to worry about her laces coming undone. A white satchel bag was slung over her shoulder, containing the things she had to bring along on this trip.

    Professor Kukui, hands on his hips and nodding to himself, looked her up and down until his eyes fixed on her headgear. “Woo, pretty stylin’ hat you got there, girl!” he said, approval in his voice.

    “Thank you,” Laurelin replied, as she glanced up at the brim of her hat. “It was my father’s.”

    “It suits you,” the professor remarked.

    “Take this with you as well, my dear,” Johanna said, as she held out a small bottle of water which she’d fetched from the fridge while her child had been in her room.

    Laurelin accepted the bottle and put it in her bag, next to her tube of suntan cream, her wallet, her trainer passport and a spare key of the house. After ensuring that everything was in its proper place, she closed her bag and turned to the waiting figures of her mother and the professor, as ready as she’d ever be.

    “All set?” Professor Kukui asked.

    Laurelin nodded affirmatively. “I think so.”

    Johanna stepped forward, put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes. “Laurelin, make sure you listen well to the professor, alright? He knows the island better than you, so stay close to him and do as he says. I don’t want to hear anything about you giving him a hard time or getting into trouble when you get back, understood?”

    “You don’t have to worry, mama, I’m not a kid!” Laurelin said. “I’ll be on my best behaviour, I promise.”

    “I know you will,” her mother replied. She reached up and took off her child’s hat so she could place a kiss on her brow, then put it back again. With that taken care of, she turned towards the professor. “I’m entrusting my girl to you, professor. Please take good care of her.”

    “She’ll be just fine, miss, no worries!” Professor Kukui said confidently. He looked at Laurelin and grinned. “Off to Iki Town then, yeah?”

    The girl gave another affirmative nod. “Yeah!”

    Satisfied, the professor made his way towards the front door, Laurelin following close behind.

    “Good luck and hurry back so I can meet your new Pokémon!” Johanna called after them. “Be sure to make it a cute one!”

    “I will!” Laurelin replied, then followed the professor outside.


    To be continued.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
  4. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    I really enjoyed reading this because I liked the detail. I felt I was able to envision myself in Laurelin’s shoes. I also like you you captured Professor Kakui’s vibrant personality through his dialogue.

    This is me being nit picky, but on the sentence where it says “suicide from fluff” I’m not sure if suicide is the right word. It’s a strong negative word that conflicts with fluff. Maybe change suicide to fluff instead.
     
    Laurelin likes this.
  5. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    I don't think I've seen you around before; welcome to the forums! And you've made a pretty impressive entrance, huh. I'm not actually sure I've seen a straight novelisation of SM yet, although maybe that's because I haven't been looking; either way, this seems like a fun one. There's a lot to like here, from the richness of the coastal Alolan setting to your dead-on characterisation of Kukui; I think I particularly like how characterful your pokémon are. Often when pokémon are interpreted as more animalistic, and even sometimes when they're not, they can kinda come across just as adjuncts to their trainers, but that's clearly not the case with Slippers; he is absolutely and emphatically his own cat, and if he's any indication, it's going to be a delight to see how you handle Laurelin's pokémon, when they arrive.

    I think if I were to offer some critique, it would be that you have a bit of a tendency towards overwriting. There's two different things feeding into that – one, that there is a lot more description, going into much more detail, than is necessary for the story to work, and two, that you sometimes overload your sentences a bit. Readers are excellent at filling in blanks without realising, and you can get away with basically just suggesting appearances; I'm not saying you need to do that here, but having so many inset descriptive passages that give us large amounts of excess detail kind of slows down the pace quite a bit. As for the overloading issue, I'll illustrate that with an example:

    Almost every noun here has an adjective attached; there's nothing wrong with modifiers, but packing so many into so short a space makes the sentence slower and harder to read. You also describe every single action that Laurelin takes, which is again just something that slows things down; the same thing happens when, for instance, she takes a bite of her sandwich, crunches it, swallows, and finally lowers it again. As with description, readers are pretty good at filling in the blanks when it comes to that kind of thing; you can get away with much less description than you have. Addressing these issues would help with the pacing, too, which would be an added bonus.

    But that aside, this looks like a promising start. Your Kukui, for instance, is brilliant; you've captured both his speech patterns and his so-laid-back-I'm-almost-horizontal character perfectly – plus, he makes atrocious move-related puns, which is just fantastic. I also like the inventive use of quote tags to show the form Laurelin fills out; I'm always interested to see people embracing the medium they're working with in cool ways. I'll definitely have to keep an eye on this to see where it goes!

    Finally, here are a few typos I spotted, along with a couple of line-by-line reactions:

    That should be “taken her place” or similar, and “lay” rather than “laid” – you need the intransitive version of “lay”, to get technical for a moment.

    Superb pun! But languages are typically capitalised in English, so that should be “Kantonese”.

    “Magikarp” is spelled with a K rather than a C.

    You'd normally say “on” the veranda rather than “in”.

    Noun phrases used as modifiers should be hyphenated. So like, you'd say “this berry looks ripe”, but also “this is a ripe-looking berry”, if that makes sense.

    Titles like “professor” are capitalised – there are several instances of “professor Kukui” that should be “Professor Kukui”, as well as “miss Johanna” for “Miss Johanna”.

    This is a mildly controversial one, and you could make a case for ignoring it, but “nonplussed” properly just means “bewildered”, rather than “unfazed”.

    That should be “bated” breath – the idea is that the breath is restrained (“bate” is basically a short form of “abate”) in some way, rather than infused with some kind of lure.

    As it stands, this doesn't quite make sense – putting commas after “wondering” and “discouraged” would help.

    Anyway, like I said, I'm looking forward to more, especially seeing your take on whatever starter pokémon Laurelin ends up with. Keep up the good work!
     
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  6. Laurelin

    Laurelin Member

    Thank you very much for your comment. One of the things I'm always worried about in my writing is if my readers will be able to properly envision the scene or events I'm describing, so it is relieving to hear that I succeeded. I'm glad you were able to enjoy the story. =)

    Not going to lie, your comment made my day, both for your kind words as well as for giving me exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for to improve my writing, so, thank you very much! I am indeed relatively new to the forum, in fact this fanfic was pretty much the reason for signing up; I figured that if I was going to write a Pokémon story, it would be best received and placed in a Pokémon community.

    I'm happy that my portrayal of Slippers was well-received. I have to admit I didn't set out to make him anything special or the like, he sort of just wound up being like that as I wrote the chapters. I think all the stories of cat owners might have influenced me during the process, heh heh. ^^" Still, as I said, I'm glad you liked him and now I pray that Laurelin's future companions can live up to the apparently high standard I've set for myself. I'll certainly try my best!

    That's a very valid point and admittedly a problem that I think is somewhat inherent to my personality. I'm always afraid of not providing enough detail to my readers, constantly worried whether or not they'll be able to envision the scene properly. It's hard for me to tell when there's enough detail or when there's too much of it. Which, coupled with me being a bit of a perfectionist, results in a tendency to get rather wordy and lengthy. I'll try my best to work on it, but feel free to point out again in the future if I go overboard again, or if the opposite should happen and I describe too little. Like I said, it's a flaw I'm aware of, but will need some guidance to help correct or ammend.

    It was a bit of a relief to read that I did Kukui right, I have to admit I was afraid I was overdoing it with his manner of speech and his numerous "yeah!"s. It was a constant balancing act between keeping it true to how he is in the games and anime without falling into caricature of the character. So I'm glad to hear both you and ChloboShoka say that you thought I handled him well. I can only hope I'll manage to do the same for the rest of the canon characters, especially Lillie later on.

    Thank you for this. I've applied the corrections were required, plus you've also taught me some rules of the English language I wasn't aware of yet. I did of course use spellcheck and proofread, but it was inevitable that some would slip through the cracks. Should there be any others, here or in the future, that I have or will overlook, please do not hesitate to point them out.

    Again, thank you very much for your kind words. You've encouraged me to keep on going with this story and I sincerely hope I won't disappoint. I'll do my best, if nothing else!
     
  7. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Dreamzone Trainer

    Prologue Review

    You seem new around these parts, so, I decided to give this story a try and honestly, I'm impressed by the prologue alone. Your use of description is definitely on point, and while you struggle to find a balance between purple prose and adequate prose, you succeed in doing the latter more; kudos for that.

    The character interactions felt really natural and draws one in quickly. I liked the bit with the cat, and even something as monotonous as putting in a bunch of details into a form didn't feel boring here.

    This story is neat, and I'd recommend it to anyone.
     
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  8. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Welcome to the forums! It's always nice to see a new journeyfic pop up around here; they're my faves, and this is looking like a solid one. It's interesting that you chose to start the story back in Kanto rather than after the move, where the games start, but it allows you to spend a bit more time on Laurelin's relationship with her mother than stories where the protagonist is off immediately to the Professor's. I'm curious to see whether Laurelin's relationship with her mother will be important throughout the story.

    I think Laurelin will be a good character to follow on a journey. She seems like a solid, decent person, but also one who has room to grow. She's a bit on the hesitant side for a journeyfic protagonist, and I think it's going to be fun to see her bounce off a loud personality like Hau, or how she deals with Lily, who can also be a bit timid. Watching her develop will be a pleasure.

    I think Slippers is the star of the show thus far, tbh. He's so wonderfully catty, and his personality brings out a somewhat grumpy side of Laurelin that we haven't otherwise gotten to see much of. You definitely do a good job of capturing the cat/owner dynamic there, and it's very entertaining to read.

    I was a bit confused, though. In the first chapter you sometimes refer to Slipper as "he," and other times as "it." I think it'd make more sense for you to decide whether to go with the gendered pronouns or not and stick with it.

    Right now, things are moving a little slowly for me. It's been more than 10,000 words, and Laurelin hasn't even seen her first pokémon yet! A sedate pace isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in this particular story I think it comes a bit more from including unnecessary information rather than because the additional words are adding a lot of depth to the story.

    There are a fair number of scenes where I think you might be able to cut things down. The first that comes to mind is when Kukui first shows up and is just kind of exchanging pleasantries with Laurelin and her mom, all that stuff about jet lag... Small talk is an important component of most real-world conversations, but you don't usually want to replicate real-world dialogue in writing. You want to cut it down to the good stuff, what's actually relevant to the story. Laurelin talking with her mom about potentially not taking the early starter was another bit that seemed unnecessary to me; I thought Laurelin's uncertainty/reluctance about the journey had already been pretty well established, so I wasn't sure what that conversation added. Other stuff like Laurelin needing to go back up to her room to grab stuff before setting off with Kukui or waiting while her mother folds laundry are true to life, but don't do much in service of the story aside from slow it down.

    Your sentences can get bogged down as easily as paragraphs or larger scenes, too. This sentence is a good example:

    There are a TON of adjectives in this sentence. The structure also gives them a kind of a sing-song quality because of the repeated adjective-noun structures. There's nothing wrong with adjectives in general, but you want to make them count! Ones I see potentially not pulling their weight here are "tired" (if she's rubbing her eyes, the fatigue is kind of implied) and "dry," because what does the moisture level of her lips have to do with anything else in this sentence?

    It's also a bit weird that you specify that Laurelin slipped her "legs and feet" out of bed, especially because the "they" in the next clause suggests that she actually kneeled (because her legs were coming into contact with the floor as well as her feet) rather than just standing up. Also, the crooning makes it sound like Laurelin is weirdly into the coolness of the floor.

    All in all, you obviously have an eye for detail, which is fantastic. However, too many details is as bad as too few; nothing stands out when everything's described with the same degree of care, and the point of adding description is to highlight what's most important in any given scene. So I think what you need to do is get a bit ruthless about asking yourself what parts of your story are truly important, and which are mostly about moving characters or trying to detail the specifics of things like the clothes characters are wearing. It's definitely hard, and it takes a long time to really get a sense for what belongs and what doesn't, but as it stands I think the fic would really benefit from shedding some of the extraneous prose. Ask yourself what you really need to specify and what readers can safely assume. Like, characters opening and closing doors as they move around is one of those things readers will take for granted is happening as appropriate, people picking stuff up from the table and bringing it inside after a meal likewise, the mechanics of picking food up, biting into it, and putting it down again... On their own these are all little bits of narration, only a few words or a sentence at best, but just by trimming them I think you'd really free up the rest of your narrative to shine through.

    Like I said, though, attention to detail isn't a bad thing! The opening scene with Laurelin pondering over her application, checking and re-checking it to make sure that it's right, takes a while, but it emphasizes Laurelin's personality, very effectively showing her meticulous attention to detail. I really like the scene with Laurelin and her mother out on the Veranda, because you make Alola sound gorgeous in that scene, and I think that gives some great atmosphere and is very appropriate given the emphasis on the natural world in the Gen VII games. Details like the spinarak glue stick and Laurelin's mareep-print shirt are also cute and give a sense of who she is as a person. It's just like, maybe you don't need to spend a paragraph on her pyjamas, you know?

    In any case, it's really anyone's guess where the story could go from here! I don't know how closely you intend to stick to the in-game plot and whether it'd be SuMo or USUM even then. The little news broadcast about Lusamine might indicate something different's going down, or it could be totally innocuous. One way or another, I think this is going to be a fun story to follow. Good luck with your writing, and welcome again to the forums! If you're interested in some other fics to read, you might enjoy Love and Other Nightmares or The Legendarian Chronicles, both of which are also trainerfics. Or you could check out the fic currently up for the Review Game; help another writer out, and get a review in return.
     
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  9. Laurelin

    Laurelin Member

    Thank you kindly for your review, I really appreciate it!

    I'm really heartened by the positive reception I've gotten for the format of the prologue. Since the game opened up with a video message of Professor Kukui asking you, as the player, about details of your character, my intent was to translate that scene to the story. That's how I eventually got to the idea of centering it around the paperwork, since it provided a unique way to introduce my readers to my main character and her personal details, while also adding in a little bit of worldbuilding with there being paperwork required to fill in to settle in a new region to begin with. I'm glad that worked out well.

    Also happy to hear that about my character interactions. Simply conversing with people is something I have difficulties with even in real life, so trying to write out dialogue that feels like a natural conversation is extra challenging for me. Reading I did well so far is such a relief.

    Slippers seems to be universally loved so far! It's wonderful to know I managed to create a character with such a minor role and give it enough personality to still have it be well-received and noticed.

    Thank you again for your review!

    Thank you for the warm welcome and the lengthy review! I'm truly honoured.

    As I mentioned in my reply @DreamSayer , technically the games start in Kanto as well, with the player character receiving a video message from Kukui to let you fill in their personal details. So that's where that idea came from, but I also thought it would be useful for my readers to provide a glimpse of what Laurelin and her life were like before the move so they can compare it later on to how she is and develops in Alola.

    I'm glad you mentioned Laurelin's relationship with her mother, since that is something that I plan to develop over the course of the story. After all, the relationships between the characters will pretty much be the meat and bone of this story, since if I was just planning to recount the events of the game, well, people would be better of just playing the game (it's good!).

    Giving voice and personality to a silent protagonist like in the games is always a careful balancing exercise and seeing how people wuld receive Laurelin as a character was the one thing I was the most nervous about when I posted this. She had to be her own person, not just a stand-in for me or the player character, so I had to give her her own strengths and flaws, not all of which have been shown yet. She's not a self-insert by any means, but I will admit I did give her certain traits that I posses myself.

    I'm looking forward to writing about her adventures and development as much as you are to reading about it! :)

    Another fan for Slippers, haha! The pressure really is on now to make Laurelin's future team just as memorable and well-received. ^^" I have to admit that his personality is based entirely on the stories I've heard from cat owners, since I don't have one myself.

    Thanks for mentioning the "it" and "he" mixups, I'll have to go back and correct those. I definately meant to refer to Slippers as a he.

    This is something I was afraid of and a valid point.

    My own personal attention to detail will always be my own Achilles' heel, I'm afraid. As I mentioned in my response to @Cutlerine , I'm always afraid of not providing enough detail and description for my readers to be able to picture the events and characters the way I hope to convey. Since I'm terrible at judging my own work, it's hard for me to tell when I'm just painting a scene and when I'm dragging things out.

    Which kind of applies to the pacing as well. Since the characters and their relationships are the cornerstone of this story, I want to write out their conversations whenever I can so my readers can get as complete a picture of how they think, behave and talk as possible. It's hard to tell for me personally when a scene or conversation is necesarry or not, since to me, it all feels necesary.

    I'm as eager to get to the good stuff (the Pokémon and the battles and the adventure) as everyone else, but I also don't want to rush things. I do hope for a bit of patience on the part of my readers. I just finished writing the next chapter, which turned out lengthier than I expected because I absolutely wanted to at least cover up to Laurelin meeting Lillie in it, but at the same time I can already reveal that Laurelin will not be meeting her starter Pokémon in it, which I intended from the start to happen in chapter 3.

    I did try to be mindful of using too many adjectives, however, and I pray it'll be noticable once I post chapter 2.

    Well, now you succeeded in making my own sentence appear weird to me! XD I'll try to remember to go back and change it when I can.

    Again, some very valid critique here. I can only repeat what I said and that I tried to watch my descriptions and usage of adjectives very carefully while writing the next chapter. I dearly hope my efforts will pay off and I'll continue to strive towards improvement in the future as well.

    Good point about the pyjamas as well. Like you said, I thought it could give another bit of insight into Laurelin's character, but I concede an entire paragraph was probably overdoing it. Sorry!


    I don't see any harm in revealing right here that this will mostly be telling the SuMo story instead of the USUM one, since I enjoyed that one much more character-wise and it's those characters and their relationships, especially Lillie's with her family as well as Laurelin, that I want to expand upon in this story. I do have plans for USUM, though, but for now those are still far off and I'm taking things one step at a time.

    Thank you again for the very thorough, in-depth review and your warm welcome!

    Now onward to post the next chapter.
     
  10. Laurelin

    Laurelin Member

    (Note: Due to character limitations this chapter is divided across two posts.)

    Moonlit Blossoms

    A Pokémon Journey

    ---
    Chapter 2
    Close Encounters of the Alolan Kind - part 1

    One thing Laurelin had learned quickly, as she and the professor steadily made their way up the hill, was that Professor Kukui was every bit the person her first impression of him had pegged him as. This made him quite fascinating to observe, if she had to be honest.

    He seemed so laidback, especially given the way he sauntered besides her as if he was just on a casual stroll in his backyard and not a tropical forest full of wild Pokémon that could jump out at them at any moment, she almost couldn’t picture him ever being in any kind of hurry. But then he’d open his mouth and talk to her with such fervour and energy in his voice that his words blew over her with all the subtlety of a hurricane to the face.

    That might have sounded annoying, but she found it really wasn’t, much to her own surprise. She’d never been very good at conversing with loud or noisy people; they tended to tire her out rather quickly and the more tired she got the less tolerant she became. Yet despite this, she wasn’t growing irritable at all right now. Quite the opposite in fact, as she found the professor’s boisterous passion as they talked rather infectious.

    Perhaps her tolerance stemmed from the fact that Professor Kukui was just nice. That might perhaps have gone without saying, as nobody not nice would’ve gone to the lengths he had to help them with their move to Alola, but there was still a difference between how someone was on the phone or via email to how they were in person.

    From the moment she’d opened the front door, almost everything the professor did had basically confirmed the impression of him she’d formed in her head: that of a nice person. The kind of someone you wanted as your neighbour, so to speak. In a way, his boisterous way of talking only added to this, giving him this almost childlike innocence and honesty, while the laidback ease with which he carried himself lent him the credibility of an adult, someone who knew what to do when something unexpected happened.

    It seemed so bizarrely contradictory, in a way, not to mention complicated, but then again people were complicated. That was exactly why she so often had trouble dealing with them, after all. Bottom line was, she could deal with the professor. Liked dealing with him, even, for she’d quickly come to the conclusion that, loud or not, he was pleasant to be around.

    As soon as they’d set off, he’d been nothing but considerate towards her, though not in a condescending manner. He’d adjusted his gait to hers, letting her set the pace without nary a word or remark, despite her knowing full well that he could probably go a lot faster. Instead he’d stuck to her side and begun engaging her in some friendly small talk, while somehow managing to never make her feel put on the spot and self-conscious the way talking to strangers usually did.

    Technically he wasn’t a stranger, not truly, but even so she hadn’t actually met him in person until today, so it still somewhat counted. Usually that’d make her quiet and withdrawn, but Kukui’s amicable personality had made her relax and feel at ease at a rate that was, by her standards, astonishingly quick. Before she’d even realised it’d happened she found herself conversing with him as if she’d known him for years.

    She wondered if he was just that good at socialising or if her mother had actually given him some pointers on how to engage with her. That’d be cheating.

    Something to ask when I get back, I guess,” Laurelin thought.

    Smiling softly, she glanced to her left at Professor Kukui, still casually keeping apace and now with his hands folded behind his head and a big grin on his face as he answered her previous question of how his morning had been by recounting how he’d wrestled with a rockruff before he’d even had breakfast.

    “Is that an Alolan Pokémon?” Laurelin asked curiously.

    “Yes,” the professor answered. He let his arms drop back to his sides. “They’re very popular in Alola, especially amongst younger trainers, since they’re loyal and easy to raise. Even more so here on Melemele, being native to it. You can find them in the wild on Ten Carat Hill, though I’ve been told there’s a population on Poni Island as well.”

    “What do they look like?”

    Kukui stroked his goatee in thought. “A bit like a growlithe, only brown and not as big, with a natural collar of rocks. I’d introduce you to mine if I had him with me, but I left him back at the lab.” He gave her an apologetic smile. “Not to worry! As I said, they’re very popular, so you’ll run into a trainer with one sooner than later, yeah!”

    “I think I’d like that,” Laurelin admitted. “A Pokémon suitable for beginning trainers sounds right up my ally. Based on their name and description, I’m guessing they’re rock or ground types?”

    “Rock-type, yes,” Professor Kukui confirmed.

    Laurelin nodded and filed the information away for later. Then a frown formed on her face as she recalled something else the professor had told her. “Why were you wrestling with yours, though?” she asked, casting an inquisitive glance his way.

    “Because the only way to properly experience a Pokémon’s powers is by sparring with them, oh yeah!” he replied, laughing loudly. Seeing the incredulous look the girl at his side was giving him, he elaborated: “The various ways Pokémon use and express their powers is my field of study as a Pokémon Professor. Observing them in action is a big part of that.”

    “I… I suppose, but letting them be used on yourself? Isn’t that incredibly dangerous?” Laurelin asked, sounding not very convinced. She’d seen enough tournaments on television to know the devastating power Pokémon could wield. Handling them with respect and care was something that had been hammered into her and her fellow children back at school over and over again because of that very reality.

    “Well, I only go for a tumble with them when they’re still young and small like rockruff,” Kukui admitted, rubbing his neck sheepishly. “Anything bigger than that would probably end up being as dangerous as you said. I don’t think my wife would appreciate it very much if I tried to wrestle with a machamp!” He laughed again.

    Laurelin’s eyes widened slightly in surprise. She hadn’t known the professor was married.

    “Probably not. I know mama always got upset with papa whenever he did something risky and he never did something as dangerous as wrestling with a Pokémon! I can only imagine mama’s face,” she said, the smile on her face threatening to waver once she realised the subject she’d broached. She hurriedly tried to divert the professor’s attention before he picked up on it. “But professor, what is it exactly you’re trying to learn?”

    “Whatever I can!” Seeing the unimpressed look his answer earned him that said that that much was rather obvious, he laughed for the third time and held up his hand in a placatory gesture. “You’ve probably heard this being said at least once when you were in school, but despite humans and Pokémon having lived together for a very long time, there’s a lot about them that we still don’t understand.”

    Laurelin nodded. It was true, the scientific study of Pokémon was still practically in its infancy.

    “Because there is so much we don’t know yet, we Pokémon professors usually choose a specific branch of Pokémon study to specialise in. The way Pokémon use and develop their powers is mine,” Kukui continued. “Ever since I was a kid I wanted to know how they do the amazing feats they’re capable of, so when I discovered during my studies that that was actually one of the least understood aspects of Pokémon science, I knew I’d found my calling.”

    As she listened attentively, Laurelin noticed something had changed about the professor. It was subtle, to the point she wasn’t sure if he was even aware of it himself, but he was definitely… calmer, for the lack of a better term, though still as impassioned as ever. Honestly, she couldn’t think of it any other way than like a teacher giving a very calm and comprehensive lecture while being very enthusiastic about the subject matter.

    Which might actually be quite apt. Being a professor, it was very likely that he’d been asked to give a lecture at schools before. She remembered quite well how Professor Oak had taught a class at her school one afternoon when she’d been a child. She hadn’t been able to talk about anything else for days, much to her parents’ despair.

    Realising her mind was wandering, she pulled herself from her thoughts to pay attention to the professor, who was still talking.

    “We’ve been aware of what Pokémon can do from the moment we started to live alongside of them. It’s even believed now that we started to live together because of their many capabilities and we’ve certainly benefitted greatly from them,” Kukui said. “With Pokémon, we could combat drought, till our soil and grow our crops more effectively and protect ourselves from their wild counterparts. All of that you’ve seen at school, of course, it’s all well-known and documented. It’s how they do those things that we don’t know and that I’m trying to figure out in my studies.”

    Laurelin tilted her head sideways curiously. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean by ‘how’, professor. I thought all Pokémon have an instinctive understanding on how to use their powers on a most basic level from the moment of their birth. Then they learn more complex and intricate ways as they go through their lives in the wild or by being raised by a trainer. Did I learn it wrong?”

    “No, no, you’re completely right of course, but that’s not really what I meant,” the professor replied. “When I say we don’t understand yet how Pokémon powers work, I mean that it’s still a mystery as to how they fit in with our current understanding of physics. We have a model that works to explain why everything on our planet works the way it does, but we’ve yet to find a way to reconcile that understanding with what we know of Pokémon and their abilities.”

    That flew right over Laurelin’s head, making her blink and stare at the professor uncomprehendingly.

    Seeing this, Kukui was reminded of the age of the girl he was talking to. “Ah, I’m sorry, Laurelin,” He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “I got so excited about this that I forgot for a moment that you’re still only fourteen. My bad, yeah?”

    “It’s okay, professor!” Laurelin said quickly, noticing he had slipped back into his usual manner of speaking. She wondered idly if he was aware of it. “I was the one who asked in the first place. You’re probably tired of me peppering you with all these questions, anyway.”

    “Never apologise for asking questions, Laurelin,” the professor replied, surprisingly serious. He absentmindedly stroked his goatee as he tried to think of a way to explain what he’d meant. “Let me illustrate with an example. Many rock-types, like rockruff, defend themselves by making boulders of varying sizes and shapes to throw at their opponent. We’ve taken many samples from these boulders back to the lab and all tests concluded that they were real, bonafide rocks. We could even use them in construction if we wanted to!”

    He turned his head to look at the girl at his side. “Now I’m asking you: where did those boulders come from? How do rockruff and other rock-types make these rocks, some of which have been measured to weigh more than a ton, appear out of thin air?”

    Laurelin frowned and crossed her arms. The professor had raised a good question, certainly one she’d never thought about before.

    “I don’t know,” she admitted after giving it some thought. She glanced curiously at the man at her side. “And you don’t know either?”

    “Just so!” Professor Kukui replied. He didn’t seem very upset about that, however, as he put his hands on his hips and grinned his usual wide grin. “That’s why I’ve dedicated my life to finding out the answer to these questions, yeah!”

    “And letting a Pokémon tackle you will help you do this?” Laurelin asked innocently.

    There was a brief pause as the professor stared at her, blinking light an owl in the sunlight, before he burst into loud, hearty laughter. He stayed in it for a while, too, making Laurelin huff and cross her arms. She didn’t see what was so funny about her question, she’d been nothing but earnest asking it. She puffed her cheeks.

    Seeing this, Kukui tried to compose himself and held up his hands in apology. “Ah, so sorry about that, Laurelin, I wasn’t laughing at you!” he said, while trying to catch his breath. “I’d just forgotten all about that, that when the first thing you asked after my little lecture was that, it just struck me as funny, yeah!”

    “I don’t get what’s so funny about it,” Laurelin grumbled, arms still crossed. “You just told me I should never apologise for asking questions, too!”

    “You’re completely right, of course,” Kukui said, as he sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. “Please accept my apologies, I meant no offence.”

    Given that he looked and sounded genuinely apologetic, Laurelin relented and nodded, her arms dropping back to her sides.

    “To answer your question, discovering the workings behind Pokémon powers is only a part of what I do, of course,” the professor explained. “I’m also interested in other aspects of it, such as how powers develop as Pokémon age or after they evolve, or how they can vary between individuals of the same species. My little tussles with rockruff and the other Pokémon at my lab fit more in that field than in my study of the underlying principles.”

    Laurelin nodded quietly. That sounded sensible. “Do you learn much from these exercises?”

    “Oh, most definitely!” he replied, smiling as he stared straight ahead. “There’s always more to discover, so much so that I don’t think we’ll ever finish learning. Every Pokémon is different, after all, just like every human is different. The things I learn and discover from my experiences with my Pokémon could be very different from everything you’ll learn from your own, once you begin your Island Challenge.”

    “I suppose that’s true,” Laurelin admitted. Then she suddenly recalled something else at his mentioning of the Island Challenge. “Speaking of the Challenge, though, mama told me to thank you when I could for giving me the chance to take it.”

    “Oh?”

    Laurelin nodded. “Mama admitted that if she hadn’t talked to you about everything the islands do to ensure the safety of the trainers undertaking the journey, she probably wouldn’t have let me go, not until I’m a few years older still, at least,” she explained. She gave him a most sincere and grateful smile. “So, thank you, professor. For that and everything else you’ve done for us.”

    Kukui laughed. “I see! Well, in that case, you’re most welcome, yeah! Makes me feel good to know I gave a bright young girl like you a chance for adventure!” He returned her smile with one of his own. “Are you looking forward to it?”

    “Very much so,” Laurelin replied, giving another affirmative nod. “Though I have to admit I’m also really nervous. It’ll be a great chance to see all the islands, since I’m still so new to the region, but because I’m new I also don’t really know the local customs and culture yet. I’m already not very good around strangers even without that. On top of all that, I’ll also have to deal with the responsibility of caring for my Pokémon and getting along with them, too, as well as care for myself! It’s just, the prospect of all of that is a bit scary, or, well, really scary if I have to be honest, even if I still really want to go through with it.”

    She fell silent when she felt the professor’s hand on her shoulder and looked up to see him smiling encouragingly at her.

    “It’s perfectly normal to feel that way, Laurelin, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise,” he said. “You’re not wrong; it is a lot of responsibility you’re being entrusted with and I completely understand that the prospect of that may seem daunting, yeah. I think everyone who undertook the Island Challenge felt the same way you do on the eve before they began, myself included.”

    Laurelin raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “You were nervous, too, professor?” she asked incredulously.

    “Oh yes! I was terrified of receiving my first Pokémon,” Kukui admitted. “They are living beings, after all, with their own personality, wants and needs. What if the Pokémon I chose didn’t like me? What if we couldn’t get along, or it didn’t like the food I got or the sleeping arrangements I’d made for it? I didn’t get a wink of sleep the night before I had to go to the Kahuna! I stood before old Hala looking like a ghastly!”

    As the professor let out another bout of laughter, Laurelin mulled over what she’d just been told. A lot of the things he had said were questions she’d asked herself before, doubts she was still harbouring even right now, this very moment, as she was on her way to receive her first Pokémon. She just had trouble imagining the professor, of all people, suffering from them. He seemed so carefree yet confident at the same time, she couldn’t picture him feeling doubts about anything, least of all himself.

    Another pat on the shoulder pulled her from her thoughts.

    “Pokémon are a responsibility, that much is undeniably true,” the professor said, sounding almost fatherly as he looked Laurelin in the eye. “But the first part of taking good care of them is to see them as not just that. They will be your responsibility. They will also be your partners, your companions and, hopefully, your lifelong friends. If you keep that in mind and treat them accordingly, you’ll never go astray.”

    Laurelin bowed her head and nodded, letting the words sink in.

    “And if you’re still feeling doubts, then just take a look at that trainer passport in your bag, yeah? It doesn’t have your name on it by mistake,” Kukui added with a wink. “If you didn’t qualify for beginning as a trainer, trust me, it wouldn’t have gotten that stamp of approval. Unless you’re saying the Kahuna and me made a mistake, yeah?”

    Laurelin looked back up and shook her head, feeling a smile tug at her lips. “No, professor,” she said. “Thank you.”

    Kukui pulled back his hand from her shoulder. “It’s what I’m here for!” he replied, looking very pleased with himself. “After all, it’d be no good if your anxiety kept you from having a good time. The Island Challenge is meant to be something young trainers can enjoy. A chance to bond with their Pokémon while seeing all the beautiful sights of Alola, yeah!”

    “Of which there are many, I’m sure,” Laurelin commented, the smile on her face widening as she looked around at the forest jungle and the myriad of dazzling colours and tropical noises that surrounded them. At least until she saw the sun peeking through the overhanging foliage and was reminded of how much she was sweating right now despite walking in the shade.

    “I’d probably enjoy them more if it wasn’t so hot…” she grumbled, mostly to herself. A quick glance at her wristwatch revealed that it wasn’t even eleven in the morning yet, meaning the temperatures probably hadn’t reached their peak yet. She opened her bag to fetch her bottle of water for a much needed sip.

    “If it’s any consolation, the weather doesn’t get much warmer here in Alola than what we’re having right now,” professor Kukui said, feeling sympathetic to the girl’s plight as he watched her chug from her bottle of water. “You’ll adjust to it soon enough.”

    “I hope so,” Laurelin replied, as she put her bottle away again. She glanced at the path ahead, then to the tree leaves above that provided them with such welcome shade. “I don’t suppose we’ll be walking beneath the trees all the way to Iki Town?”

    “I’m afraid not,” the professor answered apologetically. “The tree line gets a lot less dense as we get near closer to the town. The last stretch to the village we’ll be out in the open under the tender care of Alola’s sun. By my estimates we should actually be getting out of the deep jungle quite soon.”

    “Joy,” Laurelin muttered. She sighed deeply, her head and arms drooping. “At least it means the dealers in sun lotion won’t be going out of business any time soon.”

    The professor laughed. “Chin up, girl!” he cheered her on. “If the thought of helping the salesmen of Alola provide for their families doesn’t strengthen your resolve, then just think of the Pokémon waiting for you once we reach the village, yeah! Once you’ve got your new friend by your side, you’ll be too happy to even notice the heat!”

    “That’d certainly be nice,” Laurelin dryly quipped. In truth the reminder that she’d soon be making a once in a lifetime choice did distract her from the heat, though perhaps not in the upbeat manner Professor Kukui had intended. Despite all the assurances from her mother and the professor, she couldn’t fully shake off the nervousness building in her stomach with every step she took.

    Ready or not,” she thought, her hands clutched tightly around the strap of her bag. “Soon I’ll be a real trainer.

    ---​

    Iki Town turned out to be a lot smaller than Laurelin had expected. With its less than twenty houses, she found it a bit of a stretch to even call it a town. More of a village or a hamlet, really, not that there was anything wrong with that. It certainly held a lot of quaint, rustic charm, with streets that weren’t even paved and lots of green. The houses were all made of wood in what she assumed was traditional Alolan architecture and design, feeling somewhat old yet looking like they were very cosy and homey to live in. She couldn’t spot anything along the lines of shops or businesses, however, leading her to suspect the people of the town probably went down the hill to Hau’oli City to do their shopping.

    Speaking of the inhabitants, there were more of them than Laurelin would have guessed based on the number of houses, though she noticed most of them tended to be of middling age or older. The few children she spotted, on the other hand, were all very young, with none older than ten or nine years. What they all had in common, however, was that they were dressed very colourfully, with light shirts or breezy summer dresses fitting the warm climate.

    They also all seemed to know Professor Kukui.

    All of them.

    Laurelin knew it would’ve been impossible for any visitor to go unnoticed in a small village like this, but it seemed literally every person in town came out of their house or dropped what they were doing just so they could wave or shout a greeting at the professor. The way he happily – and loudly – waved or called back at everyone – all by name, too – told her this was most likely a common occurrence, too. At the very least, he was obviously used to being the centre of this kind of attention.

    She, however, was not and she found herself almost automatically sticking closer to Professor Kukui’s side. She bowed her head so her eyes went hidden behind the rim of her hat, trying to distract herself from all the staring by focussing on her shoes.

    “Feeling a bit people shy?” the professor asked kindly, when he glanced at her and noticed her behaviour.

    Laurelin gave a barely noticeable nod. “I’ve never been comfortable around crowds,” she admitted, her hands clutched tightly around the strap of her shoulder bag. “I always feel self-conscious whenever I’m in one, like every single person in it is staring at me and judging me. It’s… it’s unnerving.” She made a weak gesture towards the people on the street. “I know it’s really you they’re looking at and that they all mean well, but, well, I can’t help it. Sometimes it’s like I’m afraid they’ll all think I look stupid and will burst out laughing at me at any moment.”

    Kukui’s face became a mask of worry. “You don’t have to worry about anything on that front. The people of Alola are the most warm and open people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, that much I can assure you,” he said, voice laced with sympathy. “Still, if you think you’re likely to have a panic attack, inform me the moment you start to feel off, yeah?”

    “Oh, no, no!” she quickly replied, shaking both her head and hands wildly. “It’s nothing like a phobia or a serious medical condition or anything! Just a bit of social anxiety I’m trying to overcome, really! If it was anything serious like that you’d have read it on my medical record, we wouldn’t have left out something like that!”

    “Well, that’s certainly a weight off my chest,” the professor said, smiling once more. “Your mother entrusted you to me and if I had somehow skipped over something important like that while going over your records, well, that’d be an unforgivable blunder on my part, yeah!”

    “I’m sorry for making you panic, professor,” Laurelin apologised sincerely.

    He waved it off, quite literally, with a motion of his hand. “Nothing to be sorry about, I’m just glad you’re fine,” he assured her, before giving her another pat on the shoulder. “Hang in there a little longer, yeah? We’re almost at the village square, which is where I agreed to meet up with old Hala and my assistant.”

    Said village square was situated at the highest point of the village, near the northern edge of the town where it bordered on the jungle. Surrounding it where several houses with large, opulent gardens, but the true eye catcher was the large stone arena in the middle of the square. Despite looking fairly weather-beaten and showing signs of damage from other sources, there was still something about the dark grey structure that made it feel imposing.

    As they approached it, Laurelin saw that the road they walked on went around the arena before continuing north and vanishing into the jungle. Curiously, she glanced at the professor.

    “What lies beyond there?”

    “Hmm?” Professor Kukui was confused for a moment, his thoughts seemingly having been elsewhere, but caught on quickly when he saw her pointing to where the road entered the forest. “Ah! That takes you onto Mahalo Trail, the road which leads to the Ruins of Conflict. That’s where the Guardian Deity of Melemele, Tapu Koko, is said to dwell, but you’ll need the Kahuna’s permission if you want to visit.”

    By now they’d reached the edge of the arena, where they came to a halt. Professor Kukui was looking around with a frown on his face, clearly trying to find someone.

    “Speaking of the Kahuna, I thought old Hala would be here waiting for us,” he muttered to himself, as he put his hands on his hips and glanced around the square. “No sign of Lillie either.”

    “Maybe we’re early?” Laurelin suggested. She’d join the professor in his search but since she had no idea what Kahuna Hala looked like, there’d be little point in that.

    Professor Kukui thoughtfully stroked his goatee. “Perhaps,” he admitted, though he didn’t sound or look very convinced. After glancing around the town square one last time, he turned back to Laurelin. “Guess we’ll just have to wait a bit, yeah?”

    And so wait they did, with Laurelin taking the opportunity to find some shelter in the shadow of a couple of palm trees, where she downed the last of her water. She made a mental note to look for some place to refill it later for the trip back home, lest she risk showing up before her mom looking like a dried fig. She sat down on the grass to give her tired legs and feet some rest, leaning back on her hands while the professor remained standing.

    Ten minutes passed, during which they didn’t see a single living soul in the square, aside from an old couple returning to their home and a flock of wild spearow flying by overhead, but of the Kahuna or the professor’s assistant there was still no sign. Kukui finally had enough.

    “I’ll go see if he’s home,” he told her. “You can wait here, I won’t take long.”

    With that said, he jogged towards a large house at the top of some stairs in the north-west corner of the square. It was noticeably larger and more elaborate than any of the other homes in the town, which Laurelin supposed made sense in light of who she now knew lived there. Given that, as far as she understood it, the Kahuna’s were like the Alola region’s equivalent to the Gym-leaders she was more familiar with, it only made sense they’d get the biggest residence.

    She watched as Professor Kukui arrived at the doorstep and knocked, though she had no way of knowing if anyone responded or not. In any case, nobody seemed to open the door, so the professor decided to invite himself in and went inside, the door apparently not being locked. Two minutes later he emerged back outside, still alone, and began to make his way back towards her. As he got closer, Laurelin saw that he looked visibly troubled.

    “Nobody at home. Not even a note,” he said, once he was close enough for her to hear him. “Can’t imagine where he could’ve gone. It’s possible he got called away for an emergency, but it’s highly unlike Hala to not leave a notice if that was the case.” He crossed his arms, his fingers idly tapping against his skin. “Lillie seems to have vanished, too.”

    Laurelin curiously titled her head. That was the second time he’d mentioned that name. She had a hunch who he was referring to, but still decided to make sure. “Who’s Lillie, professor?”

    “Ah, sorry, I didn’t mention that, did I? Lillie’s the name of my assistant. She’s a sweet lass, about your age. Very reliable, for all that she’s a bit shy, yeah,” Kukui replied, sounding distracted. “Which is why it’s so odd that I can’t see her anywhere, either. She’s not the type to wander off by herself and I’m sure I mentioned this is where we’d be meeting…”

    The professor sighed and bowed his head, quietly mulling over his options. Eventually, he seemed to come to some sort of decision, raising his head and turning back towards Laurelin.

    “I’m terribly sorry about this, Laurelin, but would you mind waiting here a bit longer while I go ask around in town if anyone knows where either of them went? It’s not that I don’t want to let you tag along, but I’d rather one of us stay here in case they get back in the meantime.”

    “It’s alright, professor, none of this is your fault,” she assured him with a smile. “And I’m fine with remaining here. It lets me stay out of the sun a bit longer, if nothing else.”

    That got a faint grin out of the man. “Looking at the bright side, eh?” he chuckled softly. “Alright then, I’ll try to be quick about it. Should Lillie get back while I’m away, tell her where I’ve gone, yeah? She’s always dressed from head to toe in white and wearing a big hat, so you’ll have no trouble recognising her.”

    “I will,” Laurelin promised.

    Kukui gave her a grateful nod, then jogged away back down the hill to the more crowded parts of the village. Laurelin marvelled at his ability to do so in the sweltering Alolan heat, but then again having lived here all his life this was probably normal for him.

    At least she understood now why he didn’t wear a shirt under his lab coat.

    With a sigh, Laurelin leaned back on her hands and surveyed the empty town square. She hoped the professor would be back soon, preferably with the Kahuna in tow, since she wasn’t sure how much longer she could handle the wait. One couldn’t just dangle a girl’s first Pokémon before her nose like this and then yank it away at the last second and not expect her to get a tad impatient. She was nervous enough as it was, she could do without an extra delay to make it worse.

    Her eyes drifted to the stone arena in the centre of the square and she wondered if she’d ever have a battle there. She could probably head over there right now and indulge in a little bit of pretend, if she wanted to. There was nobody around to witness it, after all!

    The idea made her smile, but she knew better than to act upon it. For one thing, the thought of someone catching her as she pretended to have a battle in the arena was enough to make her feel mortified. For another, she didn’t want to risk accidentally doing something that might not even be allowed. The arena was likely an important monument, so stepping on it when you had no business being there was probably frowned upon.

    Besides,” she thought to herself. “Starting today I’ll be a trainer, there’s no need to play pretend when I might get the chance for to do a real battle there someday. I live her now and it’s not like I’m in a hurry. There’s no rush.

    Laurelin was pulled from her thoughts by movement on the other side of the arena. A person emerged from between the bushes near the Kahuna’s house and stumbled onto the street. Based on what she could make out from where she sat, Laurelin thought the person was a girl, dressed all in white and wearing a wide hat on her head and a large bag over her shoulder.

    This appearance triggered alarm bells in Laurelin’s head, who realised that she was most likely looking at Professor Kukui’s assistant Lillie. She scrambled to her feet and quickly looked around to see if there was any sign of the professor so she could alert him of the other girl’s return. Unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen, so she focussed back on his assistant.

    A frown appeared on Laurelin’s face when she saw that Lillie was heading for the Mahalo Trail. Why was the professor’s assistant going there instead of waiting in the town square where she was supposed to meet up with Kukui? Why the Mahalo Trail? The professor had mentioned something about needing the Kahuna’s permission to go that way, hadn’t he? Was the other girl unaware of this, or had she already received it?

    The whole situation seemed rather off to Laurelin and she cast a longing look in the direction the professor had ran off, wishing he’d come back. No such luck, however, making her realise she’d have to handle this herself. Which meant she had to do one of the most frightening things there was.

    Walk up to a total stranger and talk to them.

    Steeling herself, Laurelin ran towards the other side of the square, hoping to get over there in time before the professor’s assistant could set off on the trail. She could call out to the other girl, of course, but she was far too self-conscious to draw attention to herself like that.

    She cheered inwardly when she saw that the girl she presumed to be Lillie had stopped for a moment – seemingly to talk to her bag, of all strange things – giving her hope she’d make it. Said hope didn’t last very long, however, as Lillie set off on the Mahalo Trail the very next second. By the time Laurelin arrived, the other girl had already vanished from sight, swallowed by the thick jungle.

    Slowing down her pace and then coming to a halt at the entrance to the forest, Laurelin cursed her luck and her own social anxiety. If she’d just been able to open her damn mouth… She shook her head and dismissed those thoughts, realising they’d do her no good right now. What she needed to do was stay calm and think.

    A girl, most likely Professor Kukui’s assistant Lillie, had set off into the jungle. So, now what?

    Laurelin turned her head towards the town, her brow furrowed as she gnawed pensively on her lower lip. The most logical thing to do would be to just wait until the professor came back and then inform him of what had transpired. She’d promised to stay here and wait for him, after all, and if he came back to find her gone as well because she’d decided to chase after his assistant that would no doubt make him more than a little panicked and worried.

    Slowly, almost reluctantly, she turned to look at the path vanishing into the jungle. She knew, in her head, that staying where she was would be the responsible thing to do right now and yet for some reason she felt compelled to go after the girl. There wasn’t any rational thought to it, just a feeling of urgency in her gut that seemed to grow stronger with every second that ticked by. Like something bad was going to happen if she didn’t follow.

    Before she even realised it, she’d made a step towards the trail.

    What are you doing, Laurelin?” she asked herself, even as her feet took another step forward. It appeared her body had already made up its mind even if her own mind was still undecided. Realising she was stalling, Laurelin made her decision.

    Whether or not it was the right decision, she didn’t know, but what she did know was that she was worried because the professor’s assistant had gone off into the jungle on her own. If it turned out later that the girl had ran into trouble out there while she stood here doing nothing being all indecisive, she’d never be able to forgive herself.

    Her mind made up, Laurelin nodded to herself, clutched her hands tightly around the strap of her bag and, after one last glance over her shoulder towards the town square, set off to find Lillie.

    ---

    (Continued in the next post due to character limitations.)
     
  11. Laurelin

    Laurelin Member

    Moonlit Blossoms
    A Pokémon Journey

    ---
    Chapter 2
    Close Encounters of the Alolan Kind - part 2

    Laurelin kept a strong pace as she marched along the trail, knowing that because of her hesitation to take action before she’d given Lillie a head start of at least several minutes. It was fortunate indeed then that it was noticeably cooler here than it had been in the village or further down the hill, as otherwise she’d never have been able to keep up this tempo.

    Despite this good fortune, Laurelin still found herself sweating heavily mere minutes after setting off, for the path ran steeply uphill in such a way that she knew she’d be feeling it in her calves later on. At certain points the trail was even so steep that stairs had been hewn out of the hillside in order for people to be able to cross the difference in height. Compared to this, the earlier climb up the hill to from her home to Iki Town now seemed like a pleasant walk in the park and she found herself wishing she hadn’t drank all of her water yet.

    There was little point in mourning past decisions, however, as any energy spent doing that could have been spent climbing instead, so Laurelin carried on without complaint. Still, she had to admit it would have been nice if she at least had an idea of how much further she had to go, but sadly the Mahalo Trail was a very windy one, with sharp s-turns galore as it snaked its way up the hill. Combined with the dense foliage surrounding the path on either side meant that she could never see much further ahead than a hundred metres at most.

    About the only way she could tell that she was getting closer to somewhere was the sound of rushing water from further up the hill, which steadily grew louder as she progressed. That wasn’t much of a help, though, as it just made her thirsty while simultaneously reminding her that she was out of water.

    If trekking across the islands for the Island Challenge is going to be anything like this, I’m getting second thoughts,” she thought with a wry look on her face, while trying to blow a stray lock of hair out of her face.

    Roughly fifteen minutes went by, during which Laurelin failed to catch any glimpse of her quarry, making her wonder just how fast the other girl must have walked or if there was a side trail she had missed somehow. Fortunately, the trail was becoming less steep and the rushing water now sounded very close by, making her suspect that she was getting near those ruins the professor had mentioned. Hopefully she’d find his assistant there.

    As she approached another turn in the road, Laurelin suddenly looked up when several vaguely familiar, raucous cries made themselves heard above the tumult of the waterfall. A few seconds later, they were followed by something that made her blood run cold in a way no amount of Alolan heat could hope to fix.

    A girl screamed.

    Laurelin didn’t hesitate for even a moment and took off running towards the sound.

    The trail ended at a wide ravine, spanned by a narrow bridge made out of wood. The waterfall she’d been hearing during the entirety of her climb was now finally visible, its waters feeding the river flowing beneath at the bottom of the crevice. The sunlight reflected off the myriad of droplets that splashed up from the rocks, creating a dazzling display of rainbow colours at the foot of the fall.

    Any other time, Laurelin would have taken a moment to marvel at the scenery, but admiring the beauty of nature was about the last thing on her mind right now. All she cared about was finding Lillie, while praying to Arceus the scream she had heard wasn’t caused by something dreadful like the girl slipping into the ravine.

    Palpable was her relief then when she saw a lone, demure figure standing right next to the bridge, seemingly unharmed. An open sports bag laid abandoned on the ground at her feet. Letting out a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding, Laurelin hurried herself over to the other girl.

    Up close, she could see Professor Kukui really hadn’t been kidding with his hurried description of his assistant. Everything she wore was white, from her wide brimmed hat, to her frilly dress all the way down to her socks and dainty shoes. Even her skin tone matched, being even paler than Laurelin’s own. The only exception was the girl’s blonde hair, which was a few shades lighter than Laurelin’s golden locks and reached until just past her frail shoulders.

    Appearances could wait, however, as Laurelin was far more concerned about the other girl’s condition. “Are you alright?” she asked, while checking the girl up and down for any signs of injury. Further relief flooded her being when there were none she could see at first glance.

    Startled, Lillie’s head turned towards Laurelin with a snap, allowing the latter to see the former’s round, delicate face and vibrant green eyes for the first time. For a brief moment, the two of them stared at each other in silence, Lillie in surprise and Laurelin with worry. Then, the spell was broken when Lillie swallowed hard and spoke.

    “H-help…” she said, her voice so quiet Laurelin had to strain her ears to hear it. Her whole body trembled like a leaf, while she pinned Laurelin in place with a pleading gaze, the entirety of her body language screaming hopelessness and desperation. “Please help! Please save Nebby!”

    Before Laurelin could say anything in response, a series of squawks caused both girls to turn their attention back towards the bridge. The noise came from a flock of wild spearow circling the air above the ravine, while beneath them a tiny shape was huddled against the creaky planks roughly in the middle of the bridge, which Laurelin presumed was the birds’ target.

    Some things are the same no matter where in the world you go, it seems,” she cursed inwardly, thinking of the infamous aggressive nature and foul temperament of spearow.

    She was proven correct when one of the spearow broke off from the flock and made another pass at its chosen prey. Lillie screamed and Laurelin clenched her fists as the wild Pokémon’s talons missed the small shape on the bridge by a hair’s width. That had been too close.

    “Nebby can’t defend itself,” Lillie said, her voice quavering as she fixed her pleading gaze on Laurelin once more. “Please help… I… I’m too scared! My legs… they feel like they will give out if I try to take a step…”

    Laurelin had to admit that Lillie didn’t appear to be exaggerating there; the poor girl was white as a bedsheet and shaking so hard she had to cling to one of the support posts of the bridge to stay on her feet. She was clearly not capable of going anywhere or doing anything.

    Biting her lip, Laurelin glanced over her shoulder towards the trail leading back to the village. There was no time to get help; those spearow would keep attacking and they would hit their target sooner or later. Yet, without a Pokémon of her own, what could she do against a whole flock of the blasted birds?

    She shook her head. This was no time to be indecisive; if she hadn’t wasted so much time earlier deliberating whether or not to go after Lillie she might have caught up with the girl sooner and done something to prevent this from happening. She was responsible here, at least in part, she had to do something!

    Laurelin turned to Lillie. “Don’t worry,” she said, while trying to give the other girl the most confident smile she could muster. “I’ll go get your Pokémon, so you just wait here, okay?”

    Without waiting for a reply, Laurelin stepped onto the bridge. She wobbled when she felt it shift beneath her feet, her arms quickly reaching out to grab onto the railings to keep herself steady. Apparently stability hadn’t been on the top of the priority list when this thing was built, but she couldn’t let that deter her.

    Carefully, step by step, Laurelin shuffled towards the still-shaking little figure in the middle of the bridge. The entire time she kept a careful eye on the spearow above, ready to bolt towards her destination or defend herself in any way she could at a moment’s notice. Fortunately the aggressive birds were hanging back for the moment as they tried to assess whether or not this new bipedal creature was a threat to them or not, allowing Laurelin to reach the centre of the bridge unopposed.

    Made it this far,” she thought as she knelt down next to Lillie’s Pokémon. “Now to get this little guy and make it back.

    With one last glance at the spearow, Laurelin shifted her attention to the tiny creature before her. One thing she could say straight away was that she had never seen anything like it before. Granted she was still brand new to Alola, but she’d skimmed through some books about the region’s Pokémon before coming here and she was quite sure she’d seen nothing in there like what she was looking at right now.

    If she was forced to describe it, she’d say it looked as if someone had plucked a cute cloud from the night sky and given it a black face with the most adorable little eyes and cheeks, with two small arms that ended in two more, smaller clouds, complete with star like sparkles in them, instead of hands. The poor thing was shaking just as badly as Lillie had; no doubt scared half to death.

    Laurelin bowed down to try and pick the unknown Pokémon up, unaware that the spearow had been waiting for just such a moment.

    She heard a loud series of squawks followed by Lillie screaming for her to watch out and looked up to see one of the bird Pokémon diving straight towards her. She only just managed to twist her upper body sideways in time and the spearow soared right past her head instead of hitting her full in the face. Even so, she couldn’t avoid it completely and drew in a sharp breath when one of its talons managed to scratch her cheek.

    Still the danger was not over, as the rest of the flock was coming down for a pass as well and Laurelin knew there was no way she could get away from there in time. With escape not an option, she crouched over the little cloud Pokémon – Nebby, she believed Lillie had called it – figuring she could at least use her own body to shield it from harm.

    As her shadow fell over it, Nebby, who had been holding its eyes firmly shut all this time, now opened them and looked up to see Laurelin looming over it.

    Pew?” it chirped, causing Laurelin to glance down at it.

    “Don’t worry,” she said, trying to give it the same confident smile she’d given Lillie even as another spearow flew by and grazed her arm in passing. “I won’t let them harm you.”

    In truth she didn’t feel as brave or courageous as she pretended to be, but Nebby didn’t have to know that. She’d only done it to try and make it feel more at ease and if she had succeeded then that was really all that mattered. That didn’t mean she was looking forward to being attacked by wild spearow, but of the two of them she was running the least risk of serious injury here.

    Laurelin hissed through clenched teeth when another spearow clipped her head with its wing, though thankfully her hat protected her from most of the blow. She stole a brief glance to the skies above and grimaced when she saw three spearow diving towards her at the same time.

    This… is going to hurt.

    She was so focussed on the oncoming bird Pokémon that she didn’t notice that, upon seeing her protect it, Nebby’s wide-eyed narrowed with determination. Before Laurelin even realised what was happening, the tiny Pokémon began to glow so brightly she had to close her eyes or risk being blinded. There was a soundless explosion of blue light followed by the startled squawking of the spearow and a loud gasp from Lillie.

    When the light died down and Laurelin could open her eyes again, she noticed that there was no more bridge underneath her.

    She was also falling.

    There was not even enough time to scream or panic as the fast flowing currents of the river below rushed up to meet her. All Laurelin could do was grab Nebby, who was falling along with her, hug him tightly to her chest and twist herself in the air so that she’d hit the water first and give the little guy the tiniest of survival chances. As for herself, she had no idea how deep the river was, but given how rapid its waters flowed and the numerous boulders dotted the riverbed, she doubted it would matter much.

    I’m sorry, mama,” she thought, closing her eyes and waiting for the splash.

    Only, it never came.

    At the same moment Laurelin had begun to plummet towards her watery fate, a streak of golden light had arrived out of nowhere in the skies above the broken bridge. Like a bolt of lightning it raced down towards the river, knocking aside the remaining disoriented spearow as it passed them like they were nothing, before sweeping the falling girl from the air just as she was about to hit the water.

    When she opened her eyes again, Laurelin found herself being held in the arms of a mysterious Pokémon, one that eerily resembled a drawing of the legendary Guardian Deity of Melemele Island she had seen in a travel guide once. Looking vaguely like a man, with black skin and a set of spines instead of legs somewhat resembling the tail feathers of a bird. Each of the arms holding her was adorned with a great shell, like two halves of a grand, domelike shield, and ended in hands with two large claws.

    Seemingly entirely unhindered by the weight it was carrying, the strange Pokémon arced back towards the edge of the ravine above, crossing the distance in one swift blink of an eye. Before Laurelin was even capable of processing what was happening, she had already been safely deposited next to a speechless Lillie at the base of the now ruined bridge, her unexpected saviour landing a stone throw away.

    Silence reigned as the two girls and the mysterious Pokémon regarded one another, with the latter staring at Laurelin specifically, its piercing eyes boring straight into the girl’s own. Later, Laurelin would struggle to describe the way that experience had made her feel.

    It was like the creature was looking straight into her soul, with all there was about her laid bare before its eyes. She had never felt more exposed and vulnerable in her life than during that moment, but even though she desperately wanted to, she could not look away, for the will of her mysterious rescuer was stronger than her own. She was small, tiny even, while the other was great, ancient and powerful beyond all measure.

    Just as Laurelin thought she might very well pass out from sheer intimidation, however, the spell was broken. Whatever it had seen must have satisfied it, for the strange Pokémon gave her an almost imperceptible nod, then reared back its head and let loose a fierce, challenging cry. Sparks of electricity danced across its body as it shot upwards into the air like a bolt of lightning and vanished as suddenly and swiftly as it had arrived.

    For a while, Laurelin and Lillie both stared off in the direction the Pokémon had gone, still dazed by the encounter.

    That ended when the adrenaline pumping through Laurelin’s body faded away and allowed her brain to finally catch up properly. The reality of what had just transpired, especially the danger she’d only narrowly escaped from, came crushing down upon her like a heavy load, making her let herself fall flat on her back on the rocky ground. She didn’t care if it’d get her clothes dirty or sand in her hair; her whole body was shaking and she needed a moment.

    Sweet Arceus above, that was too close,” Laurelin thought and she covered her face with her hands. “If that Pokémon hadn’t come when it did… That could have ended very badly. How in the world am I going to explain this to the professor? To mama?!

    “U-uhm, are… are you okay?”

    Laurelin dropped her hands and glanced out of the corner of her eyes to see that Lillie had knelt down next to her, looking very worried. The girl was clutching the brim of her hat tightly in one hand while the other was fidgeting nervously with the hem of her dress. Seeing all of what had just happened must have done a severe number on the poor girl’s nerves.

    After taking a few deep breaths, Laurelin pushed herself back up into sitting position and turned her head towards her companion. “Don’t worry,” she said, while conjuring the most carefree smile she could muster on her face. “I’m alright. Still shaking and in denial of what happened, but alright.”

    Her words seemed to lift a tremendous weight from Lillie’s shoulders, which slumped in relief. “I’m so glad… When I saw you fall I thought-” she began, only to stop when she took a good look at the other girl’s face. Her eyes widened in panic and she pointed at Laurelin’s cheek. “You’re bleeding!”

    Laurelin remembered one of the spearow had managed to nick her skin in passing and reached up to touch the spot. When she pulled back her hand, her fingertips were coloured red.

    “Huh, must have gone deeper than I thought…” she muttered. Opening her bag, she fished out a paper handkerchief to wipe off the blood. As she did this, she saw that Lillie was still staring at the cut cheek, practically oozing with guilt.

    “Don’t worry about it,” Laurelin tried to assure her. “It’s just a little scratch, nothing major. It doesn’t even really hurt.”

    Hearing this didn’t seem to make Lillie feel any less guilty. “That… that doesn’t make it better!” she insisted, her head bowed and her face hidden from view by her wide hat. “You still got hurt trying to help me, while I just… stood there, too scared to do anything.” When she looked back up her eyes were filled with guilt and shimmering with unshed tears. “I’m so sorry! Please, forgive me…”

    “I’m telling you, it’s alright!” Laurelin replied kindly and patiently. “I’m not blaming you when it was the spearow that attacked first. That’s not your fault. I’m not even angry at your Pokémon for destroying the bridge, even if it did scare the life out of me, because it was just trying to defend itself.”

    Well, scaring the life out of her might have been a bit of an understatement. That moment when she realised she was falling, she’d been well and truly terrified. She’d really believed, for one awful moment, that she’d been about to meet her end and never see her mother again. No doubt she’d need some time in private later to get over that, but right now there was no need for Lillie to know that. The girl looked tormented enough as it was and Laurelin felt no desire to make it worse, especially when she really did not blame her.

    “I’m so sorry about that…” Lillie apologised again, her hands clasped together in front of her face. “I don’t think it can control its own powers very well yet, but I know for sure that Nebby was just…” She gasped, her eyes widening as she suddenly remembered something. “Nebby?!”

    Laurelin, who’d actually forgotten up until now about the reason why she’d risked her life in the first place, looked down to see that the adorable little Pokémon was no longer in her arms. She jumped to her feet at the same time as Lillie, the panic from before returning with a vengeance. Where had it gone? Had something snatched it away while the two of them weren’t looking?!

    Pew?

    Both girls whirled around to see the subject of their worries floating calmly next to the spot where that strange Pokémon had stared at them a few minutes ago. As if feeling them stare, Nebby turned around to wave at them with its little cloud hands, its face the most perfect expression of innocence and happiness one could imagine.

    Lillie sighed and shook her head. “Oh you! Giving me a scare like that only minutes after the last one!” she chided her little friend, sounding equal parts relieved and exasperated. She picked up her bag from the ground and slung it back over her shoulder, before making her way to where Nebby was floating. “Honestly, making us worry when…” She trailed off when her eye was drawn to something sparkling on the ground right next to the tiny Pokémon. “What… What is that?”

    She bent down and picked it up. Her curiosity piqued, Laurelin came over to look at the object now lying in Lillie’s hands. It was a stone, coloured in varying shades of grey like any ordinary rock, and fairly flat in shape. More peculiarly, there were symbols carved out of its surface. The first and biggest was either an arrowhead or a boomerang, while the second one, situated beneath the first, was a diamond-shaped indent in the stone, overlaid with a lightning bolt, or a very stylized Z.

    Laurelin tilted her head sideways and frowned. “Is it… sparkling?” she asked, when she noticed the stone seemed to gleam even without any sunlight hitting it.

    Wordlessly, Lillie nodded, then turned the stone over in her hands to see if there were any more markings on it, but the underside was just plain rock. “It feels almost… warm somehow,” she commented, as she trailed the arrowhead with her slim fingers. Her facial expression was just as puzzled as Laurelin’s own. “Did Tapu Koko drop this?”

    “Tapu Koko?” Laurelin echoed, glancing up from the stone. “You mean the Pokémon that saved us? You know what it is?”

    Lillie seemed startled, as if she hadn’t meant to say that out loud. Now that she had, however, she couldn’t just ignore the other girl’s question. “Oh, um, I’m… I’m pretty sure that was the Guardian Deity of Melemele Island, Tapu Koko,” she said softly. “It matched the description Kahuna Hala gave me.”

    Laurelin felt her eyes go wide. So, she hadn’t been wrong thinking it resembled the drawing she’d seen in one of her books. It really had been one of the four Guardian Deities of Alola!

    Well, what do you know?” she thought, a wry smile on her lips. “The first Alolan Pokémon I see and it was a legendary one. It’s a pity mama will probably ground me for life once she hears what I did to encounter it, because otherwise I no doubt couldn’t wait to tell her all about it.

    “A-anyway, if it really was Tapu Koko who left this stone behind, then this stone must belong to you,” stammered Lillie, pulling Laurelin from her thoughts. She extended her hand holding the stone.

    Laurelin glanced at it, then at Lillie’s face. The other girl had the look of someone who wouldn’t budge on something on her face.

    “Well, if you insist,” she said, seeing no reason to refuse. She took the offered stone and gingerly put it away in her bag. She had no idea if it had any use, but if nothing else, it would make for a nice keepsake of her encounter with a legendary Pokémon, even if she had to nearly die to get it.

    Once that was taken care of, she turned back to Lillie. The girl dressed in white was clutching her big sports bag tightly in her arms as if it were a lifeline, looking lost and unsure of what to do next. As Laurelin tried to think of something to say that would make the girl feel more at ease – no easy task given how she wasn’t a top tier conversation partner herself – it occurred to her that despite everything, they still hadn’t introduced themselves to each other.

    Putting on her most warm, inviting smile, Laurelin held out her hand. “You’re Lillie, right?” she said, trying to sound casual and friendly. “Sorry if I’m making a wrong assumption, it’s just that you match the description Professor Kukui gave of his assistant. My name is Laurelin, pleased to meet you.”

    “Ah! Um, yes, I am Lillie, it’s nice to meet you too,” Lillie responded, sounding a bit taken aback by the sudden casual turn the conversation had taken. Hesitatingly, she shook the offered hand. “You know the professor?”

    Laurelin gave an affirmative nod. “He’s helped my mama and I a lot in moving to Alola,” she explained. “He came by again this morning to give me my trainer passport, then took me along to meet with the Kahuna in Iki Town to receive my first Pokémon.”

    Lillie’s beautiful green eyes turned into saucers and she clasped her hands before her mouth in shocked realisation. “Oh no! The meeting! I was supposed to wait for him in the town square!” She folded her hands neatly together above her knees and made a deep but hurried bow for Laurelin. “Thank you again for saving Nebby. I’m terribly sorry to leave so abruptly, but I have to go back now before the professor thinks I’m missing!”

    “I’m afraid it’s a little bit too late for that…” Laurelin replied, smiling awkwardly while sheepishly rubbing the back of her head.

    The words caused Lillie to emit a soft whine and to become, if it were possible, even more frazzled. She looked around in search of Nebby and found it on the ground between them, where the little Pokémon had been amusing itself greatly by slaloming between their legs while the two girls were conversing. Relieved that it hadn’t wandered off again, Lillie knelt down next to the cloudlike creature.

    “Come on,” she said. She zipped her sports bag fully open and held it out towards her little friend. “Into the bag, Nebby.”

    Nebby looked at her curiously, tilting its entire body sideways in the most adorable of fashions, while gently waving its poofy hands back and forth. “Pew?

    “Please, I’ve had enough excitement for one day,” Lillie begged. “Let’s go back to the professor before those spearow show up again.”

    The mentioning of the beings that had just attacked it made Nebby’s eyes widen in dismay. “Pew!” it cried, before diving straight into the waiting bag.

    With her companion safely inside, Lillie zipped her bag shut again, though she did leave a groove through which Nebby could get fresh air and look outside. To be honest, she hated having to keep her in such a small, confining space, wanting nothing more than to let the tiny Pokémon roam free outside like it wanted to, but she knew it wasn’t possible. She couldn’t protect it when it was outside the bag, which the incident just now with the spearow had once more reminded her of.

    With a sigh, she stood back up and nervously turned towards Laurelin. “Please… I know I have no right to ask anything more from you, but please… Could you not tell anyone about this?” She gestured weakly towards her bag. “About seeing Nebby, I mean. People aren’t supposed to know it exists…”

    Laurelin looked from the bag to Lillie. She’d never seen a Pokémon like Nebby before and if it was as rare or unique as she suspected it was, then there were probably a lot of people out there who would love to get their hands on it for unsavoury purposes. She’d only been a toddler at the time, but the memory of Team Rocket and their crimes had still been fresh in Kanto’s collective memory even years later. That’s just the way the world was.

    “My lips are sealed,” she solemnly promised, while looking the other girl straight in the eye.

    Lillie let out a heavy sigh of relief. “Thank you.” Then, she took a deep breath, straightened her back, nodded to herself and turned towards the entrance of the Mahalo Trail that’d take her back to the village. “Right. Time to go.”

    Thus she took off, yet barely had she taken one step on the path, or her courage seemed to fail her and her posture wilted like a thirsty flower. Nervously, she glanced back over her shoulder at Laurelin.

    “Um…”

    Laurelin, who already had an idea of what the problem was, patiently walked up to her until she and Lillie were standing nearly shoulder to shoulder. “Shall we go back together?” she asked. “The trail’s quite long and there’s no telling what kind of wild Pokémon are hiding out there in the jungle. Could be nothing, too, of course, but after those spearow, I’d rather not take my chances, so it’s better if we don’t go alone, right? What do you say?”

    For a moment, Lillie simply stared wide-eyed at Laurelin, as if she had trouble understanding what she’d just heard. Then, however, her expression slowly morphed into a grateful smile and her eyes for the first time that day gleamed with genuine happiness.

    “I think I’d like that,” she answered softly.

    Together, the two girls began the walk back to Iki Town.


    To be continued.

    ---​
    If anyone's wondering why Lillie wasn't at the town square when Laurelin and Kukui arrived, it's because Nebby got out of the bag and ran off, hence why she emerged from the bushes later on.

    Also, apologies to anyone disappointed that Laurelin didn't meet her starter yet. I'm afraid that was always the plan, however. The first chapter was an introduction, the second she would meet Lillie and in the third she'll finally receive her first Pokémon. So just hang in there a little longer!

    I also tried to cut down on the excess adjectives and descriptions in this chapter. I hope it's at least a little bit noticable.


    Also, also, the length of this chapter will be an exception, rather than the rule.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2018 at 10:11 PM

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