I turned back around but Gladion was nowhere to be seen. The crowd was starting to shuffle out of the battle area and into the lobby.
Lillie and Hau walked up to me.
“Where have you been?” Lillie asked.
“Yeah you missed the entire battle,” Hau said. “The Masked Royal was incredible!”
“Gladion was here,” I explained.
“Gladion? That super mean guy with the permanent frown and the dark, brooding ego who we both battled against?” Hau asked.
“G…G…Gladion?” Lillie asked.
“Yeah he is this big jerk with a really tough Pokemon. He may or may not be a part of Team Skull, we’re not sure. But Alexis and I both battled him and he beat us,” Hau explained.
“Wow…” Lillie said in a whispered tone.
I studied Lillie’s face and as soon as we made eye contact, she turned away.
“Lillie? Have you meet this guy before?” I asked.
Lillie’s response was barely audible.
I tried to read her expression but her head was down. I had a feeling that Lillie wasn’t being completely honest with Hau and Me.
“Yeah come on Alexis, how would Lillie know Gladion?” Hau asked.
“I don’t know, but I thought that I’d ask. Maybe she’s heard of him,” I said.
Hau looked around the lobby as people walked past.
“Well where is he? What happened to him?’ Hau asked.
“I don’t know. He must have slipped out after the battle. He was just watching the match when I saw him and walked over to him. He said that he likes to come to these things so he can check out the competition. He also said something about how we can only trust himself and doesn’t need anyone else,” I said.
“Wow. He really is just a ray of sunshine, eh? He doesn’t seem like the fun loving type at all,” Hau said.
“We need to track him down,” I said.
“You said that he’s gone,” Lillie said still staring at the floor.
“I think we can still catch him,” I said as I began to move towards the door.
Lillie reached out and grabbed my wrist.
“You said that he was a part of Team Skull?”
“Well we’re not really sure,” Hau said.
“But he defeated both you in battle, so he’s really strong,” Lillie continued.
“I…I guess….yeah,” I said.
“Then he’s too dangerous to go after by yourself,” Lillie said.
“Lillie! Come on, he got me once, but I’m stronger now. I can take him. I have Bouncee and I passed the Trial of Brooklet Hill,” I protested.
Lillie took a deep breath, “Maybe you just need to focus on your trails and not this Gladion guy. Let the Police deal with Team Skull.”
“But…but…” I started.
“Maybe she’s got a point, Alexis,” Hau said. “He was really tough and it’s not really our jobs to take down an entire criminal organization. That’s the police’s job. We have trails to complete.”
I looked at both of them a little surprised. I wanted to stop Team Skull and defeat Gladion more than anything, but it was distracting me from my trial. Maybe that’s what I needed to be focused on.
I sighed. “Yeah I guess you’re right.”
There was a bit of silence as the rest of the crowd. We started to make our way out of the Battle Royal Dome out into Royal Avenue.
“It’s super cool that you completed the Trial of Brookelt Hill,” Hau said.
“Thanks,” I said with a half-smile.
“You said that you got a new Pokemon?” Lillie asked.
“Oh yeah, I guess I should introduce you two to Bouncee,” I said.
I reached down into my bag and pulled out a Pokeball. I clicked it open and with a flash of red light, Bouncee was there beside us.
Steenee gave a big yawn and then looked up at Hau and Lillie.
“Hau. Lillie. This is Bouncee,” I said.
“Oh my gosh. She is so adorable,” Lillie said with a small squeal of excitement.
“Bouncee here is a grass type and helped me in the last trail. An old man gave me her for helping him return a lost Pokémon to him. And she actually evolved during the trial,” I explained.
“Wow Alexis, the coolest stuff happens while we’re not around,” Hau said.
I gave a small laugh, “Yeah I guess so.”
“Well we might as well all stay together, right?” Hau said.
I looked over at Lillie, “Is that ok with you or do you want to stay with Professor Kukui?”
“Yeah where is Professor Kukui?” Hau asked.
“He’s around here somewhere but I’m sure he’s busy at the moment,” Lillie said. “I’m sure he won’t mind if we all head out together.”
“Great! Let’s go,” Hau said.
“Yeah, but where?” Lillie asked.
“Captain Lana told me that I needed to head towards Wela Volcano and meet a Captain Kiawe for the next trail,” I said.
“Volcano?” Hau and Lillie asked in unison.
“Yeah apparently he is some kind of Fire-type trainer,” I explained.
“I guess the volcano makes sense then,” Hau said.
“Well I guess we should start on our journey, then,” Lillie said.
I turned to her, “Do you know how to get there?”
“No exactly, but I’m sure it’s hard to miss a giant volcano,” Lillie said.
“Yeah you have a point there,” I said with a laugh.
“Well come on ladies, let’s go,” Hau said with a smile.
We all started to walk towards Route 7.
The thick green grass became thinner and thinner as our path changed from soft dirt, to a rocky road. The ground around us was rockier and rockier and it became hotter and hotter. The island heat on the beaches was one thing, but this was worse. This was much hotter and it seemed to radiate from everywhere. Especially the ground we walked on.
I pulled out Bouncee’s Pokéball and there was a red flash of light. Now she was inside where the heat wouldn’t bother as much.
“Sure is hot out here,” Hau said wiping sweat from his brow.
“Yeah you’re not kidding,” I said.
“At least we know we’re going the right direction,” Lillie said.
“Yeah that’s true,” I said.
“How much farther?” Hau asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess we’ll know when we see lava.”
“I don’t really like the sound of that,” Lillie said.
There was a muffled noise from within Lillie’s bag.
“I don’t think Nebby likes lava either,” Lillie said.
We all burst out into laughter as we approached closer to the volcano.
Our path then diverted in two directions. In front of us was rocky, but level, path and to our left was a steep, rocky path. We all looked up and we could see a billow of smoke high up in the air.
“Well no lava, but I have a feeling this is where we need to go,” I said.
Lillie and Hau both gave a nod.
We made our way forward as the ground became tougher and tougher to climb. Hau and I had to help Lillie climb a few small cliffs and I ended up slinging Lillie’s bag over my shoulder. Nebby bounced around a lot as I tried to climb. Eventually we came to a small clearing with patches of tall grass. This grass was browner then usual.
Hau went forward and ran his hand over the grass and small particles of ash fell off revealing a little bit of green underneath.
“Wow. That’s pretty cool,” Hau said looking down at his soot-covered hand.
I looked ahead and the path seemed to curl around the volcano going up towards its peak.
Lillie was doubled over breathing hard.
“You ok, Lillie?” I asked her.
“Yeah I’m fine. I just need a breather,” Lillie said.
All the hiking mixed with the quality of air was affecting all of us. Both Hau and I were also breathing hard.
“Maybe we should head back,” I suggested.
Lillie looked upset, “No Alexis. You can’t stop now.”
“Yeah Alexis, we’re almost to the top,” Hau said.
I looked at Lillie.
“I’ll be fine,” Lillie said.
I gave a small nod.
“Woah! What’s that?”
Lillie and I looked over at Hau who was staring out into the tall grass.
“What was what?” I asked him.
“There’s something out in the grass. I just saw something move,” Hau said.
“Like a Pokemon?” Lillie asked.
“Or maybe a person?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” Hau said. “But if it’s hiding in the tall grass, it is probably a Pokémon.”
Lillie and I walked over to Hau and began looking out into the tall grass. The grass reached up to our waists and looked pretty uniform. Small specks of ash continued to fall from the sky and we tried our best to brush it off of us. I felt bad for Lillie who was coughing the most and had the most ash stains on her white clothes. I continued to carry around Nebby in Lillie’s bag.
“There! I see something,” Lillie said through a series of coughs.
Hau and I looked out at what she was pointing at. There about 50 feet out in the middle of the grass was shifting in the grass.
“What is that?” I asked.
I took a step forward into the grass and the ash clung to my legs and clothes.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Hau asked.
I turned back to him, “How else are we going to figure out what is out there?”
“I don’t like this, Alexis,” Lillie said. “Maybe you should leave Nebby with me while you look.”
I nodded and took the bag off of my shoulders and handed it towards Lillie.
Just then there was a sound behind Hau and Lillie and this shape leapt between us. The creature grabbed the bag with its mouth and ripped from my hands.
“No!” Lillie yelled.
It was too late. The bag flew from my hands and the creature disappeared into the grass dragging the bag behind it. At that moment the other rustling in the grass started moving towards the bag thief.
“It was a diversion,” Hau yelled.
“No! Nebby!” Lillie yelled.
“Come on,” I said.
All three of us took off running through the grass. We didn’t care about all the ash splashing up at us as we ran. We just had to get that bag back.
The large area of grass moving had to be the thief while the smaller area was the accomplice to the crime. We were closing in on them but they seemed to be able to navigate the grass better than us. They zig-zagged through the grass while we tried to keep up with them.
After a bit of chasing, we made our way to a small clearing where instead of tall grass, there were a few large boulders.
Lillie, Hau, and I came to the clearing and saw that there were two, lizard-like creatures up on the boulders. One of them was clutching Lillie’s bag in its jaws.
“Hey give that back!” Hau yelled up to them.
“Don’t hurt Nebby,” Lillie cried out.
I pulled out Rotomdex.
“Bzzzt. Hello Alexis, how can I help you? Bzzzt.” Rotom asked.
“Identify those Pokemon thieves up there,” I said pointing to the two Pokémon up on the boulders.
“Bzzzt. Give me one second. Bzzzt.”
“Bzzzt. Salandit. The Toxic Lizard Pokémon. Salandit is a lizard Pokémon which has a orange-red line down its body which can flare up when the Pokémon attacks. Salandit can also emit toxic gas and flames from the base of its tail. Females have the ability to release pheromones that attract males of all species and can even control Pokémon for a short period of time. Bzzzt.”
“Salandit, huh?” I said pocketing The Rotomdex.
“Alexis, what are we going to do?” Hau said.
“Salandit!” One called out and released a blast of purple gas which covered all of us.
We all began to cough and wave the gas from our faces.
“Salandit! Salandit!” The Pokémon seemed to be laughing at us.
“That’s not funny,” Lillie said as the gas cleared.
There was a bunch of muffled sounds from within the bag.
“Nebby!” Lillie yelled.
The one Salandit continued to hold onto the bag as the other stared us down.
“Give us that bag back,” I yelled.
The Salandit opened its mouth and released a ball of fire which landed between Hau and I.
Hau fell backwards into a puff of ashes.
The Salandit began laughing again.
“Oh you think that’s funny? Two can play at that game.”
I reached into my bag and pulled out a Pokéball.
There was a red flash from the Pokéball and then Smokey the Torracat was in the clearing with us.
“It’s time to fight fire with fire,” I said. “Smokey use Ember!”
Smokey planted his feet and then unleashed a stream of fire from its bell. The bell chimed as the fire struck the Salandit who wasn’t holding the bag.
The Salandit shuck its head and looked back at me. The attack didn’t really do anything.
The Pokémon opened its mouth and a stream of purple gas covered both Smokey and me. I started to cough.
“Smokey, use Bite!”
Smokey jumped up onto the boulder and clamped its jaws onto the Salandit.
“Direct hit,” I yelled.
The Salandit struggled to free itself from Smokey’s jaws.
“Now use Fire Fang!” I yelled.
Instead of attacking the Salandit, something weird started to happen. Smokey opened its mouth and the Salandit escaped its jaws. Smokey just stood there, not moving, with its mouth wide open.
“Smokey. What’s going on? Attack!” I yelled.
“Alexis, look!” Lillie pointed at the other Salandit.
The Salandit that was holding the bag in its mouth was waving its tail back in forth like I’ve seen Lucky the Meowth do before it pounced. As the tail wagged back and forth, pink dust seemed to fill the air.
“The pheromones!” I shouted.
I then looked over at Hau who was still laying in the grass. His eyes seemed to be glazed over as he just laid there motionless.
“The Salandit is controlling them somehow,” Lillie said.
“Come on, Smokey, snap out of it!” I yelled at Smokey but it didn’t change its expression. It was like it couldn’t see me.
The Female Salandit began wagging its tail faster and then Hau stood up. He was like a zombie as he reached out and grabbed Lillie’s arm.
“Hau, what are you doing?” I said as I tried to pry him off of Lillie.
“Torra!” Smokey and the Male Salandit both turned to me and opened their mouths preparing for an attack.
I thought quickly and pulled out Smokey’s Pokéball.
There was another flash of red light and Smokey was back in his Pokéball safe and sound.
The Female Salandit didn’t like that very much and ordered the Male to attack us. The Male opened its mouth and hit us with another cloud of purple smoke.
Lillie, Hau, and I all began coughing and I took this opportunity to break Hau’s grip on Lillie. Hau fell backwards again and landed in another patch of ash-covered grass.
“Alexis, we need to get Nebby back and break Hau out of its spell,” Lillie said through spurts of coughing.
“I have a plan,” I said.
I pulled out another Pokéball.
“Go, Mud Puddle!”
There before us was Mud Puddle the Mudbray.
The smoke cleared and I was starring down at the Salandits. The female continued to spray its pheromones into the air.
“Try all you want,” I said. “Those pheromones won’t work on Mud Puddle here. She’s a girl just like you.”
Both Salandits let out a hiss.
“Let’s finish this, Mud Puddle,” I said. “Use Bulldoze!”
Mud Puddle jumped forward and slammed her hooves into the ground causing small fissures in the ground. The rocks began shaking and the two Salandits fell backwards off the rocks. The bag rolled forward and it started to fall towards the ground.
“Nebby!” Lillie ran forward and caught the bag before it fell to the ground.
The two Salandits climbed back up on the rocks and glared at us.
“Bring it on,” I yelled. “I could do this all day!”
The two Salandits looked at each other and then turned and disappeared over behind the boulders.
“I don’t think they’ll be bothering us any more,” I said with a smile.
“That was amazing, Alexis,” Lillie said with a large smile on her face. She clutched the bag in her arms.
“What happened?” I heard Hau moan as he laid in the tall grass.
It took a few minutes both we all eventually made it back to the mountain path. We sat up camp for the night and pitched some tents. Hau and I tried our best to clear the ash from our clothes while Lillie was focused on making sure Nebby was alright. It seemed like Nebby was fine minus a few bumps from being inside the bag as it was dragged through the grass.
Hau walked over to Lillie.
“Hey Lillie, I’m really sorry about what happened back there,” Hau said.
“That’s ok Hau, I know that wasn’t really you,” Lillie said.
“I wonder why they stole your bag,” I said.
“Maybe they thought it was food or something,” Hau suggested.
“Maybe,” Lillie said. “Either way I’m just glad that Nebby is safe.”
“Yeah that’s the important thing,” I said.
“I think I’m going to go to bed,” Lillie said.
“Goodnight,” Hau and I said as Lillie carried Nebby into her tent.
“So are you ready for your trial tomorrow?” Hau asked me.
“Yeah I think so,” I said. “As long as I don’t have to fight any more of those things.”
“Yeah hopefully not,” Hau said.
“Well we better get some sleep if we are going to climb up the rest of this volcano tomorrow,” I said.
“Yeah, plus I’d like to get out of this ash,” He said brushing ash from his hair.
“Me too,” I said.
Hau and I both walked towards our individual tents and closed them up for the night. It took me a while to get comfortable on the rocky ground and in the heat, but eventually I felt myself falling asleep as I dreamed of a boiling lake of molten lava.